I was thinking of how fun 4-player games on the Atari could be, and thought about Warlords (or Castle Crisis for us 8-bit users) and Steeplechase (was there ever a port/clone on the 8-bit?) and M.U.L.E. (which I've only really sat down and played with anyone -- one person -- once, sadly). And the other day I was looking at a page of multiplayer games for the Atari, most of which were either Multijoy (which I don't own) or GameLink (I cobbled my own out of two SIO cables and a paperclip, years ago) -- Maze of AGDAGON on the latter, for example.
One of the multijoy games was a Tetris clone, and I got to thinking -- one could TOTALLY do Tetris with paddles. Rotate the knob left/right to slide the piece, and press fire to rotate it. Perhaps 'twitch' the knob for movement (i.e., spin knob left, then recenter, then left again, to slide the piece left twice). And perhaps (a la "Mouse Trap" on the 2600, or the touch interface on my Android cellphone), a "push-and-hold" interface: press fire to rotate, press-and-hold fire to drop the piece.
I kept thinking... what other games would work ok with paddles? Obviously racing games (paddle works ok as a steering wheel -- see: Night Driver). Asteroids could be ok. You couldn't thrust (unless that push-and-hold idea was used), but then, when I played 2600 Asteroids as a kid, I specifically tried NOT to thrust... it usually meant certain death.
So what about a space game where you rotate and thrust, but don't shoot? And so we have it, I spent this evening ignoring my wife (well, she's putting together a blog, so she was ignoring me) and my son (he went to bed early -- well, early for him), and hacking away -- in TurboBASIC XL, no less -- to create my initial rough prototype of "4-Paddle Lunar Lander".
Screenshots and ATR disk image download here: http://www.newbreeds...e.com/padlandr/
Excuse the poor graphics. The only "art" I had time to do was the six 8x8 player shapes (5 directions, 1 explosion) for the lander. They're even stored as DATA statements. Ouch! Oh, and in the future, the moon is made of tic-tac-toe games. Anyway...
So it's pretty basic. Press FIRE on the main menu if you want to join the game. Someone presses START, and the game begins. Whoever lands on a 'landing pad' (flashing hash symbol) earns a point for that round. Try not to crash into non-landing-pads. Also be sure to land on landing pads without being tipped to one side, and don't descend on them too quickly.
The game is in TurboBASIC XL, as I said, but even then it was a bit slow. So I used the TBXL compiler and runtime, and it's pretty snappy... The disk has MyDOS on it, boots into the TBXL runtime (RUNTIME.AR0), which then loads the game (AUTORUN.CTB). TBXL interpreter (TBASIC.COM) and the game source (PADLANDR.TBS) are included, as well.
The web page I linked to above has some of my thoughts on how the game could be improved. No idea whether I'll have the time or inclination to do so. Whatever I end up with, though, I'll be showing off at my Atari Party. (I got my wife to play a round with me, and she immediately flew off the screen and got stuck underground. So at least it's funny to play, if not fun. )
Hrm, I guess I'll attach an ATR and some screenshots to this post if I can. I'm still not used to these newfangled web forums. (comp.sys.atari.8bit forever!)