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HSC01 Round 1: Astro Battle

Astrocade High Score Club

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#1 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 2, 2016 6:48 PM

The Astrocade High Score Club was originally started on the Balley Alley Yahoo Groups forum on January 31, 2016 in message #14180. Starting with Round 3, the HSC will now take place in the AtariAge forums.  This is the original message that I posted to the Bally Alley group when I began the HSC:

I've wanted to have a high score club for the Bally Astrocade for a LONG time. These types of clubs are either quite formal or rather laid back. We're going to be laid back.

Normally, there will be a poll on which game will be played each round, but to kick things off, I'm going to pick the first game-- one that anyone should be able to play easily enough. The game this round is "Astro Battle." You know, the "Space Invaders" game.

 

Astro Battle

manual_astro_battle.jpg

Season 1 - R 01 - Astro Battle.gif

 

The "Astro Battle" cartridge ROM image (called "astrobat.bin") is part of this archive:

 

http://www.ballyalle...deROMCollection

 

The "Astro Battle" manual is here:

http://www.ballyalle...stro_Battle.pdf

Can't be bothered to read the directions... then watch this video review of "Astro Battle" by "Nice and Games:"



The rules for the Season 1, Round 1 of the Bally/Astrocade High Score Club are:

  1. Play "Astro Battle" for high score on the "Intermediate" skill level. You can cheat easily enough by playing on an easier level. Please, don't do that.
  2. Game round lasts two weeks.
  3. This round (Round 1) ends at 8pm Mountain Standard Time on February 14'th.
  4. Points are awarded 1-10 points.
  5. Post a picture of your score. In MAME press F12 and the screenshot gets placed into the SNAPS directory. On real hardware, well, just snap a picture that's, at least, semi-clear.

That's it. Play on real hardware or under emulation. All players of any skill level are welcome! If you're anything like me, then you'll soon learn that competition makes a game FUN!

 

Round 1 closed on Sunday, February 14'th at 8pm (Mountain Time)

 

NOTE: Round 1: "Astro Battle" has ended. A chance to post a score will happen in later "catch-up" rounds this season. Since the first two rounds of this Astrocade High Score Club took place off of AtariAge, I will be re-posting some of the interesting topics that showed up during the two week round.

Adam



#2 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 2, 2016 7:02 PM

This follow-up post was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by me on February 1, 2016 as message: #14191.

I've now played a few rounds of "Astro Battle" on the "Intermediate" difficulty setting.  That level is harder than I remember!  Here's my current score:

"Astro Battle" - 2,730 points

 

Astro Battle (2,730 Points).gif

I've also attached a screenshot taken with MAME.  I hope to get a much better score, but I wanted to get a score posted to hopefully inspire some folks to start blasting!

Confused?  Not sure what's going on in the incredibly-complex game?  Here are the important bits directly from the manual:

"Invaders from space are attacking your home planet. You command a battery of missile bases hidden in protective bunkers. Enter varying skill levels, from novice to professional, in this home version of one of the most challenging and popular arcade games of all time. The invading hordes never stop coming.  See which one of your friends [or Bally Alley discussion group member!] can reach the highest score."

Scoring:

The point value of the 32 invaders from top to bottom are:

4th row - 40 points
3rd row - 30 points
2nd row - 20 points
1st row - 10 points

When you hit a parent ship, you will be awarded 100, 200 or 300 points!

Okay, group members: play "Astro Battle," else I fear that all is lost.  Shoot some baddies and defend the universe from those crazy, hostile aliens from the 70s that your parents warned you about!

Adam


Edited by ballyalley, Wed Mar 2, 2016 7:14 PM.


#3 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 2, 2016 7:06 PM

This follow-up post was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by me on February 1, 2016 in message: #14196.
 

I always thought that a high score club would be very hard to do.


It might be hard to run this high score club.; I don't know. I figure that if I don't try to do it, then I'll have to keep waiting for someone on my block to buy an Astrocade at Montgomery Ward. Yeah-- not gonna happen!
 

When I was younger, I seem to remember rolling the score over on several games. My biggest ones, if I remember correctly were Bally Pin, Galactic Invasion and Space Fortress.


Uh-oh. That sounds like competition! I haven't rolled a game's score over in decades. I've never rolled an Astrocade game. How long did it take you to flip the scores on those games, Ben, do you remember?

At least with "Astro Battle" there is no chance to roll the score over. Your game will be over before you reach about 10,000 points... when the Invaders land and the game ends (no matter how many bases you have left!).

Adam


Edited by ballyalley, Wed Mar 2, 2016 7:13 PM.


#4 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 2, 2016 7:08 PM

This follow-up post was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by me on February 2, 2016 as message: #14201.
 

"Space Invaders" (Should be exactly the same) - 4210


Good score. The game is pretty tough. I'm going to play on real hardware this week with an Astrocade hand controller and see how I do in comparison to using MAME and a 2600 controller. I know that constantly firing the Astrocade's hand controller trigger wear out my finger (I don't use that controller enough to be used to it).

Should we be paying any attention to which wave we reach?
 

I can upload the video to my site or YouTube if you want to see it.


Yes, I won't like to see what your video quality looks like... and possibly steal (uh, I mean, borrow) game-playing tips.

Adam


Edited by ballyalley, Wed Mar 2, 2016 7:13 PM.


#5 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 2, 2016 7:12 PM

This follow-up post was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by Chris++ on February 2, 2016 as message #14212.

Okay. After several Astro Battle sessions, I reached what I feel is a reasonably high score, for someone who's only played the game once or twice in the past:

30

(Difficulty Level 4 / Professional)

Not bad, right? I blasted three whole aliens! Oh, come on...don't tell me that's not going to set back their military plans.

Of course, I played a few more times, and achieved a more realistic, less leg-pulling score:

6,040
(Difficulty Level 4 / Professional)

 

CF_02-02-16 (Cropped).jpg

My apologies for the dimmed colors in the attached photograph. I discovered early on that the program jumps back to the menu almost immediately after the game ends; so in the case of the screen shot, when I had accidentally let the aliens land (oh, don't you worry -- I played a get-even game right away, and showed 'em what-fer), I pressed the P key, which pauses MESS and dims the playfield.

The game is much faster than I expected, at least on the latter two difficulty levels. I like it!

Also: I've said this before, and I'll probably say it again, but I love that Astrocade color palette. It's like...yellow is Super Yellow, red is Glowy Red, etc.

I *know* that some or all of you can beat my score. Come on, men! There are some evil graphics that require de-rezzing! (Blowing an obnoxious trumpet)

To that effect, here are some tips at which I arrived while playing:


1. USE THE SHIELDS. If you play these slide-and-shoot games like I play them, you're accustomed to impatiently firing through the nearest shield, "getting it out of your way" in order to quickly eradicate the left-hand alien column or two, thus lengthening the entire formation's marching distance to the next vertical drop. At the higher difficulty levels in Astro Battle, however, it's just not worth it. After you fire, get under the closest shield to wait out the duration of your projectile. The shields are whittled down from above quickly enough as it is; you'll thank yourself for letting them float unaccountably in the night sky for as long as possible.


2. GET LUCKY. No -- leave that woman alone! That's not what I'm talking about! Luck is unfortunately a factor when it comes to your score, in the form of Mystery Ship frequency. (It's also known, depending on the console, as the Command Ship, the UFO or the Unsettlingly Mobile Dinner Plate. Okay, maybe I made up that last one.)

Seriously, this is the only Invaders variant I know of that features utterly random appearances of the big guy, unless there's something major that I'm missing. On a couple of occasions tonight, I cleared two entire waves of Invaders before I saw a single Mystery Ship. In other instances, three in a row flew by, with only the briefest intervals between them.

If you've lost even a single cannon when you realize that you've cleared a couple of waves without a Dinner Plate in sight, consider restarting the game. Nailing a few in a row can mean a thousand-point difference, depending on the other random aspect: the point value. I've tried shooting the thing in the center, at the very edge, etc., and I've determined that it's not like in (for instance) TI Invaders; the point value doesn't depend on how close to the center you hit it.


3. DON'T GIVE UP ON BORDER SHOTS. If you think that you've missed your chance at the present Mystery Ship because it's gotten very close to the edge (down by the cornerrrrrrrr...sorry. Great tune), don't shrug and let it go if there's the slightest chance that you can safely move to the border and squeeze off one more shot. You'll be surprised at how many Mystery Ships you wind up hitting this way. They each remain visible, shootable and within the range of your cannon for a longer duration than in any other such game I've played, in terms of traversed screen space vs. the relatively high speed of your shells. You can move so far to either side that there would just about be room for one more cannon between your actual cannon and the periphery.

I've hit more Mystery Ships by stubbornly zipping all the way over and firing "just one more shell at that damn thing" than I can count. You'll see half of the explosion when you nail it as it starts to exit the screen, but you'll certainly get all of the points!


4. DON'T SWITCH FOCUS FROM THOSE ENEMY BOMBS. When the Mystery Ship happens to be flying above Invaders at any given time, resist the temptation to shift your focus from the latter to the former, especially at higher difficulty levels, when the little bastards are bombing very frequently. If there's *any* chance that you might be hit while moving your eyes to the Mystery Ship -- or the Invaders themselves, for that matter -- fire using your peripheral vision, keeping your unwavering attention on those falling bombs. Trust me on this one. You can play quite a long game by doggedly concentrating on enemy fire, even if you employ no other particular tactic.


5. GET RID OF ALL BLUE INVADERS EARLIER THAN YOU NORMALLY WOULD. That is, earlier than you'd be likely to wipe out the two lowest rows (entirely) in arcade Space Invaders, 2600 SI, etc. Due to the size of these particular aliens, one row-drop is relatively large; the bottom baddies will be teasing your hair before you know it. (I'm aware that most cannons don't have hair. I was trying to be clever.) In later waves -- and right away, at higher difficulty levels -- those lowest meanies bomb constantly, so you don't want to let them get so low that there's no time to evade their bombs. A balance must be struck between clearing out entire columns (lengthening the amount of time to the next row-drop) and eliminating the threat of low-marching Invaders.

My vague pattern while achieving the score above was to take out the two leftmost columns (again, always taking full advantage of the shields while waiting to fire again), and then note how close to the shields the Blue Meanies have gotten. If they're just one row above them -- or lower, of course -- I take them *all* out before I return to obliterating complete columns. This might seem counterintuitive, but it's worked well for me. Once they start a wave positioned halfway into the shields, I only take out the single leftmost column before focusing on complete Blue Meanie removal.

Having stated all of the above, I'll submit the friendly reminder that the aliens don't bomb at all once they've reached an altitude just above the cannon -- unless I've been extremely fortunate! Speaking of the bombs...


6. NOTE THE ENEMIES' FIRING RHYTHM. Here's a possible scenario: You've only got two or three Invaders left. They're moving so fast that they're ludicrously stretching the definition of "marching." Stay out of the way for a moment and notice that their bombs are falling at regular intervals. There's a precise rhythm to enemy bombing at all times, but it's most easily noticed (and taken advantage of) when you've only got one or two surviving columns to worry about; the intervals between bombs are simple to observe when you're free to pay attention.

Use their predictable firing tempo to determine when to stay out from under them, and when to slide in, blast one, move away immediately, get accustomed to the bombing rhythm again, and time your movement to blast another one.


7. DON'T BE DECEIVED BY THE "PROFESSIONAL" DESIGNATION. I played quite a few games at Difficulty Level 4, and I wasn't paid a single penny!

Chris++



#6 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 2, 2016 7:16 PM

(Note: This follow-up post was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by Ward Shrake on February 4, 2016 as message #14223.)

I'm firing up this game for the first time (in about thirty gazillion years) and am finding my initial scores are closer to Chris's first attempt than the later one. Ahem. I'm finding that I'm actually sucking so badly at this game that I gave up on the higher levels, for a bit, and am starting out in the first couple of levels to better get the timing again and so on, and re-learn this variant's timing and various control / reaction nuances and so forth.

I'm partly figuring my constant serial deaths are maybe partly due to it being played in emulation. The sharp, unblurry pixels are somehow off-putting. And also, playing via keyboard (very unfamiliar control interface, to me) feels OK after re-defining some keys; but still feels weird to me. But mostly I'm of the current opinion that the eyeball-to-screen distance is way too close to the PC's monitor, compared to playing such games on real hardware. There's something about that which just feels off, or wrong, or plain weird. I'm used to be able to take in the whole play-field at a glance. Harder to do, close-up.

There's also: not having played this invaders variant in a LONG time!!!

It's fun, though. I'm enjoying actually playing some of these cool oldies, even if I'm sucking badly in terms of scores or levels reached.

Thanks to the push this little competition has caused in me, I ordered one of those cool-looking Astro-adapter devices. That will either help play-ability, or at least be a lot of fun! I picked up a 2600-dapter, too. Fun old-new stuff!

Ward Shrake
 



#7 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 2, 2016 7:34 PM

(This follow-up posting was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by me on February 4, 2016 as message #14226.)
 

I played a few more times, and achieved [6,040 points on Difficulty Level 4 / Professional]


That's a great score. Don't forget, everyone, that you only have to play on the "Intermediate" level. Of course, you can play on any level you want for practice or fun.
 

The game is much faster than I expected, at least on the latter two difficulty levels. I like it!


Yes, "Astro Battle" is very fast. The Professional level is nearly out of control. I can't imagine scoring 6K when the aliens are moving around and firing so quickly.
 

I love that Astrocade color palette. It's like...yellow is Super Yellow, red is Glowy Red, etc.


The 256-color palette of the Astrocade is supposed to be really close to NTSC color standards. That's why the ZGRASS unit, which was used in broadcasting, used the Astrocade chipset: it conformed the NTSC as it was supposed to do it. The Amiga, years later, also used remarkable good NTSC standards: it also was used in TV broadcasting. I guess if a computer excels at something very market specific, then programmers and users will make sure to take advantage of that hardware for that particular market.
 

I *know* that some or all of you can beat my score.


With over 6,000 points, Chris is getting close "Astro Battle's" score ceiling. The "Arcadian" used to publish high scores in the "Scoreboard" (part of the "Game Player" column). There is no score that I can find for "Astro Battle," but the highest score printed for "Space Invaders" (the same exact game with only the name changed) is Stan Kendall's score of 7,045 points. This score was originally printed in December 22, 1983. By the end of the "Arcadian's" printing in 1986, no one had beat it. That's not to say that 7,045 points is the absolute top score for "Astro Battle," but it does show you that there will be diminishing returns for Chris. While Chris tries harder to squeeze an extra couple hundred points from his "console," we can march right up from our lowly scores in the high-hundreds (I'm looking at you, Ward!). Soon we'll be able to double or triple or scores. Chris may already have nearly topped-out: that's good for us and bad for him.

(Yeah, I'm talking sh*t here! That's half the fun of playing videogames, right?)
 

Come on, men! There are some evil graphics that require de-rezzing! (Blowing an obnoxious trumpet)


Remember Chris, this is just a game. Those aren't real aliens. Still, I'll follow your call into an Astrocade battle anytime.
 

USE THE SHIELDS.


I despise the shields so much that I've actually hacked "Astro Batltle" to remove them (that's not the version I'm playing). Those shields end up getting blasted anyway, so I figure that they're just in my way. Then again, Chris' score IS about three times higher than mine. Maybe I oughtta pay more attention to his saintly advice.
 

GET LUCKY [with the UFO]


I don't know how often the UFO appears-- but it does seem random. As Chris observes, the place where you hit the UFO doesn't seem to matter either. Maybe it's related to time or points? Back in 2011, disassembled Astro Battle." It's not even close to fully commented source code, but maybe an experienced Z80 coder can look at it and figure-out how the game spits those motherships, UFOs, and/or dinner plates out at us players.

http://www.ballyalle...urce/battle.asm

I'm not saying we cheat by looking at the game's code... but balancing the odds in our favor sure would be helpful.
 

consider restarting the game.


Back when I first got my Astrocade (in the mid-90s) I was visiting Richard Houser (he published the "Sourcebook" for the Astrocade in the early 80s). He told me some fun stories, and it was from him that I learned that there was and end to "Astro Battle." He said that people would play and compete for "Astro Battle" high scores at Astrocade meetings. He said that if they ever missed a UFO, then they would hit Reset. People would play the game for what he called the "perfect score," which was reaching the end of the game without missing any UFOs. I seem to recall that he said this would always result in the same score. If that's true, then maybe when the UFOs appear is random, but the total number of UFOs to appear in a given game isn't random (maybe that total number is always the same?).
 

DON'T GIVE UP ON BORDER SHOTS.


I like this idea in theory, but in practice, I end up getting myself killed by trying to reach the edge of the screen at the last moment.
 

the aliens don't bomb at all once they've reached an altitude just above the cannon


I have not noticed this before. On the 2600, the aliens can nail you from whatever level they are one, right? Have you noticed that we're comparing this game more to the 2600 version then to the arcade version of "Space Invaders?"
 

I played quite a few games at Difficulty Level 4, and I wasn't paid a single penny!


That's weird. I think that your cartridge defective. Back when I was growing up, I gave up my paper route when I noticed the coins falling out of my Astrocade when I played "Astro Battle" with the difficulty set to "Professional." Once my eleven year-old self started paying the mortgage with my "Astro Battle" earnings, it was all my parents could do to keep me in front of the Bally Arcade. Day and night, night and day, I fired away at those nasty aliens. Oh, how they used to ground me when I'd whine. I'd say, "I'm tired of playing videogames-- I wanna go outside!" Yes. This really happened. Somewhere. (Just not in my life or universe.)

Adam



#8 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 2, 2016 7:38 PM

(This follow-up posting was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by me on February 4, 2016 as message #14231.)
 

I'm firing up this "Astro Battle" for the first time (in about thirty gazillion years)

First off-- welcome back to the group, Wardster. You've not made a post here since May 21, 2008. That's certainly a long time-- although at least it's not "thirty gazillion years." It's nice to see that a truly good game, despite it's age (or perhaps because of it?), can get people having fun on a competitive (and friendly) level.
 

[I] am finding my initial scores are [low]

We take all sorts here in this High Score Club-- including terrible game players like Ward. Okay, that was a low jab! Just kidding. I guess I'll feel the pain when Ward wins the round, eh? I like the idea of playing for kicks-- you know, to HAVE FUN. If you have fun and score pathetically low, then still post what you get. What's the worse that we'll do? Point fingers at you and laugh? Well, yes, that is the worst we'll do!
 

I [...] am starting out in the first couple of levels to better get the timing again and so on, and re-learn this variant's timing and various control / reaction nuances and so forth.

I highly recommend Ward's strategy: get used to the game by playing on a level that lets you live long enough to enjoy yourself. I should use this tip too, but no!... I insist on just getting whipped over and over.

Although "Space Invaders" created its own genre, even games like "Astro Battle" (that are based on the original game's idea) are quite different from the "same" game on other systems. Sure, all shooters boil down to, well... shooting. But it's the timing that's key in any videogame, and "Space Invaders" is no different in that respect. In real estate it's all about: location, location, location. In the videogame universe, at least with arcade-type games, it's all about: timing, timing, timing!
 

unblurry pixels are somehow off-putting.

I never thought that I'd see that phrase in print. Why not just scream the truth, "I love watching videos on my VCR using my CRT TV!" Sarcasm aside, I really know what Ward means when he says that the crispness of the Astrocade's picture just doesn't go down well with him when playing under emulation. The lack of scanlines when playing games under emulation makes older game systems look blockier than they should look. The fuzzyiness that is NTSC helps to smooth the edges on pixels that are, let's be truthful here: big. Yes, folks, the Astrocade has really large pixels. But it's got 256 colors! And four controllers. And, well, we love it anyway.
 

playing via keyboard [...] still feels weird to me.

This game should play okay with keyboard alone. You've only got two movements: left and right. Add another button for firing and you're done. The Astrocade has a great controller, but because it has a "paddle" built-in it, some games can't even be played with the keyboard alone. Try playing "Gunfight" using the keyboard and mouse at the same time: see how fun that particular setup turns out to be for you.
 

There's also: not having played this invaders variant in a LONG time!!!

I haven't played this game much in a while either. Even when I was disassembling the code, I didn't play much. I'm glad that this is giving me an excuse to play a console I love, but hardly play.
 

I'm enjoying actually playing some of these cool oldies, even if I'm sucking badly in terms of scores or levels reached.

That's the goal: fun. If you get a good score too, then great, otherwise, just share your game playing experience. When someone does better than you, then see if you can get some advice to improve your score, or at least to not be so terrible...
 

Thanks to the push this little competition has caused in me, I ordered one of those cool-looking Astro-adapter devices.

Good for Ward for getting an adapter to use real Astrocade controllers. I suppose Ward won't get his adapter before this round ends on February 14'th, but there will always be the next round and the next game. In the meantime, he can always use the keyboard control as a worthy excuse for coming in short in the "Astro Battle" points department.

Adam


Edited by ballyalley, Wed Mar 2, 2016 7:44 PM.


#9 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 2, 2016 7:42 PM

(This follow-up posting was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by Chris++ on February 4, 2016 as message #14234.)

First of all, my apologies for playing at the Professional level. (Not that it did me any good, considering that I have a corrupted ROM image that doesn't cause my PC to spit out money! Back to the paper route for me...) I must have glossed right over the request that we all play at the Intermediate level. I'll submit a new score within a few days.

It's incredible that somebody once reached over 7,000 points, especially if he was playing at the Professional level. Once the aliens begin waves while stuck halfway into the shields, it's largely a matter of luck -- in my case, anyway -- that they'll be stopped before touching down. Even when the lowest-row bombing ceases, clearing away the Blue Meanies only leaves room for the aliens above them to begin dropping bombs, which are too fast by that point to consciously dodge. During the last two or three waves, I found myself picking off the aliens from one extreme side or the other. Moving beneath the center of the formation is suicide by that time. I only exceeded 6,040 because I played about twenty games in a row.

Now that Adam has informed me that they're not real aliens, I hope that I can get angry and determined enough to beat my Professional score! (Logic dictates that my score at the Intermediate level *should* be higher than what I achieved at the Professional, but I should stop my friendly shit-talking until I'm absolutely sure...)
 

I have not noticed this before. On the 2600, the aliens can nail you from whatever level they are one, right?


Yes -- those awesomely animated jerks can continue bombing, no matter how low they get.
 

Have you noticed that we're comparing this game more to the 2600 version then to the arcade version of "Space Invaders?"


Yes! It's probably because we have more experience playing that version than the original. I also like it more than the original. The coin-op feels sluggish and somehow painstaking compared with the faster, more colorful, more lively VCS version. There's a bit of bias here, too, as VCS Space Invaders was the first home game I ever played on a programmable console. I didn't even *see* the arcade game for several months afterward (at the least).

Chris++



#10 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 2, 2016 7:45 PM

(This follow-up posting was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by Chris++ on February 4, 2016 as message #14235.)
 

I like the idea of playing for kicks-- you know, to HAVE FUN.


Hear, hear. I rarely pay attention to my scores when I'm playing video games. I like to have fun in the moment, rather than getting frustrated about a potential final number. You only go around once, after all. In short, we agree. The reason I'm "competing" in this Astrocade club is that it's fun to talk about the games with the scant few other like-minded people on the planet -- those who "get" why we would be having fun playing relatively obscure games from the seventies and eighties. Pac-Man? Asteroids? Pshaw! Anybody can discuss *those* perennial chestnuts! We'll enjoy the coolness of the little-known...uh...Space Invaders.

Well, you know what I mean.

Chris++



#11 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 2, 2016 7:47 PM

(This follow-up posting was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by me on February 5, 2016 as message #14237.)
 

We'll enjoy the coolness of the little-known...uh...Space Invaders.


The Astrocade's cartridge library is rather small, but we'll see about pleasing Chris by choosing a less-well-known game than "Space Invaders" for the next round.  MAME doesn't support tape games, so I'll make sure to choose games from the Astrocade's small cartridge library. This way, everyone, even those without an Astrocade, can participate playing the same game.  Maybe the next game should be from a third-party.

Adam



#12 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 2, 2016 7:49 PM

(This follow-up posting was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by me on February 5, 2016 as message #14250.)

I just hooked-up one of my Astrocade to a TV and I've been playing "Astro Battle" on it. I still haven't beaten my previous score, but if I do (when I do?), then I'm pretty-sure that I'm not going to be able to take a picture of the screen. As Chris has already noted, pretty-much as soon as you die the game returns to the main menu. To take a picture of the screen with my camera, I thought that I'd use the Astrocade's built-in pause function (pressing the 'C' key on the keypad), but that doesn't work with all games-- and, as I've just discovered, the pause doesn't work with "Astro Battle" at all. Besides, I'd forgotten that when a game is paused, the screen gets blanked-out (goes black).

If anyone playing "Astro Battle" on real hardware comes up with an easy method to take a picture of the screen before the menu appears, then let me know.

Adam



#13 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 2, 2016 7:50 PM

(This follow-up posting was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by me on February 5, 2016 as message #14252.)

Ah-ha!  Look out!  I just beat Chris' previously high score on a real Astrocade.

"Astro Battle" - 6,690 points (real hardware)

Season 1 - R 01 - Astro Battle (6690)(Cropped).jpg

I may have been able to get a few more points into this game if I hadn't been scrambling to get a picture of the screen before I was actually dead!  I timed how long you have to look at your score before the game returns to the menu.  You have one second.  That's it.  Boo!  Anyone want to hack the game and add a pause so that we can get a picture of the end-score?  Of course, on real hardware I'd have to burn myself the game to an EPROM-- but it might be handy for MAME users too.

If I had managed to kill these last few aliens on the screen my game would have ended anyway, as the next wave of invaders would have landed and my game would have been over.

Here are the current "Astro Battle" scores:

6,690 - Adam
6,040 - Chris
4,210 - Lance

Today is Friday-- hopefully a few more people get a chance to play "Astro Battle" over the weekend.  Don't forget, there is still over a week left to play.  Who is gonna knock my score off the top of the board?

Adam



#14 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 2, 2016 7:58 PM

(This follow-up posting was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by me on February 5, 2016 as message #14259.)

Since I've been playing quite a few games of "Astro Battle" on the real hardware today, I figured that I'd make a few observations:

1) Level 1 Score Keeping - My highest score on level 1 is 1,840. That's really good-- nearly double my normal/average score for that level. Of course, that's because I was lucky with something like five UFOs appearing on that round on level 1! The high initial score didn't help my final score though. I ended up with something like 2,500 points.

2) Frozen Shots - Lance Squire once modded "Astro Battle" to have animated shots, which looked great, but which brought forward a bug.  Sometimes the enemy's shots would freeze while they were falling.  Lance noted that after looking at the code he couldn't understand why shots didn't freeze in the regular game.  While I was disassembling the game in 2011, and playing it a lot, I noticed that under emulation the shots did VERY rarely freeze in "Astro Battle".  I said I'd never seen shots freeze on real hardware.  That's not true anymore.  This evening, while playing a real cartridge version of "Astro Battle" on an Astrovision, Inc. era Astrocade, I did did have one enemy shot freeze and stick "on" while it was falling.

3) Double UFO Explosions - If I shoot a UFO on the VERY far left of the screen , about 25-40% of the time there is a an explosion of a UFO in about the top-middle of the screen too. It looks like two UFOs explode at once. I'd like to capture that on video.

4) The Last Shot - If I lose a base after I fire a shot (but before it hits anything), then most of the time my shot isn't cleared. When I'm given a new base, then my shot can still continue on its way and it can kill an invader. I think that this might be done on purpose, but it is strange rule.

5) Warped Sound - A few times when I hit a UFO it exploded with a weird warble-like sound effect. It sounded cool-- but it also sounded very-much like a bug.

6) Indestructible UFO - Sometimes when I fire and hit a UFO it doesn't get destroyed. At least, I THINK, that this is happening. It looks that way to me, but maybe I'm just barely missing the UFO...?

If anyone is interested in some fun reading material on "Astro Battle," then revisit the Bally Astrocade discussion group archives. The time-period to look into is when I began disassembling the game at the beginning of August 2011. This got Lance and Richard Degler interested in the game, and their was quite a flurry of chatter about the ins and outs of the game. Some good posts to start on are:

1) "Astro Battle 'Lives' Cheat/Hack" (Message #10998) - This will teach you how to get up to 255 lives with a simple ROM hack.

 

https://groups.yahoo.../messages/10998

2) "'Astro Battle' Scoring" (Message #10999) - Some notes on scoring, including the max score.

 

https://groups.yahoo.../messages/10999

 

Next week I'd like to comb through those five-year old "Astro Battle" posts to try to make a coherent article about "Astro Battle."

Adam



#15 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 2, 2016 8:01 PM

(This follow-up posting was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by Chris++ on February 6, 2016 as message #14264.)
 

"Astro Battle" - 6,690 points (real hardware)


Awesome! Great job! I think you should even get extra points, for having an Astrocade that didn't overheat before you reached that score.

Nah, I can't even bring myself to talk shit in our usual funny fashion. I'm proud of you for sticking to it until you beat those invaders into submission. I know whose house I'll be staying at if our borders are finally overrun!

That's a near world-record score, too. Holy cow. Congratulations.

Chris++



#16 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 2, 2016 8:05 PM

(This follow-up posting was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by Chris++ on February 11, 2016 as message #14274.)

Enter your vote today! A new poll has been created for the ballyalley group (but the poll is now closed)

 

Which of these two cartridge games to you want to play for the Astrocade High Score Club, Season 1, Round 2:

1. "Bally Pin" [aka "Astrocade Pinball"]
2. "Space Fortress"

Thanks!

Adam



#17 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 3, 2016 11:35 AM

(This follow-up posting was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by me on February 11, 2016 as message #14275.)

Season 1, round 2 of the Astrocade High Score club begins on February 15'th. This time I'm placing two cartridge games up for a vote. You get to decide which one makes it by voting at the Ballyalley discussion group. Both of these games will play fine under emulation. The two choices are:

1) "Bally Pin" (1979) - also known as "Astrocade Pinball"



2) "Space Fortress" (1981) - This is a port of the arcade game "Space Zap."



You can vote for the game here (you'll have to log-in to vote):

https://groups.yahoo...ls/poll/3218555

 

Note: the poll for the Astrocade HSC Round 2 is closed.  "Space Fortress" won the poll (4 to nothing) against "Bally Pin.

If anyone is interested in trying a BASIC game for a bonus point, then I'm willing to take some suggestions (or make some). Bonus games can't be played under emulation, so they'll probably never be a main game (unless MAME eventually supports tapes).

Don't forget to post your final high score for round 1's game, "Astro Battle," by the evening of February 14'th. No last minute playing on Valentine's day or you're gonna get in trouble with your sweetheart!

Adam



#18 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 3, 2016 11:37 AM

(This follow-up posting was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by Brian Ciesicki on February 12, 2016 as message #14277.)

I did this score last week. I’m nowhere near the top, and may have inadvertently selected one skill level too easy, but I wanted to show how well I could capture video on a real Astrocade. I split the RF into a straight CRT video and a feed to a VCR, where it’s converted to Composite, and then from there went sdtraight to a Hauppauge Rocket. A Rocket records straight to a USB Flash Drive. Then I transferred the video into iMovie, and then uploaded to Youtube:



See the evidence of my score, and I didn’t have to fumble with a camera to take the picture as the score went off. Plus there’s evidence that I used skill 2.

The secret to it working to play without ping is to have a powered RF Splitter. I found one on Ebay for $8.00 US including shipping.

Brian “tripletopper321” Ciesicki



#19 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 3, 2016 11:41 AM


(This follow-up posting was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by me on February 13, 2016 as message #14281.)
 

if you select the level with the keypad, it might not register any evidence of the level you selected in the video.


I hadn't thought of that before now-- it's an interesting point to make when we're talking about high scores. Then again, the level of difficulty selected isn't shown in a game's high score screenshot either. If someone's gonna cheat, well, then they're isn't really much I can do about it.
 

It’s just that the paddle selection is too fine, like there may be over 100+ positions on the dial and ONE (out of 100+) of those positions is the number 2.


For comparison purposes, I just tried using my currently-hooked-up controller and to selections from the Astrocade menu. I had no problems choosing a game from the main menu on a real system. Turning the controller's knob slowly or quickly made no difference-- the transition from one choice to another (0-9) worked fine. That's with a known good controller. Now, in the past, with other not-so-good controllers, I have had problems making a choice from the menu, in a way that is very similar to what Brain describes.
 

Or is there something wrong with my paddle? [...] what can be done at a DIY level?


Cleaning the pot should fix the difficulty making a menu choice. Be careful opening up and putting back together the Astrocade controller. It's very easy to strip the screws on the Astrocade's controllers and cartridges. The plastic used is The basic instructions that I posted on February 2 of this month should be helpful to you:

https://groups.yahoo.../messages/14205

I can't explain why your controller's knob works well under the built-in game, but not under the menu. My guess is that the routine used to read the pot's value for a menu choice and for "Gunfight" acts differently on the same data.

Adam



#20 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 3, 2016 11:43 AM

(This follow-up posting was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by Brian Ciesicki on February 13, 2016 as message #14284.)

My component capture test without the annoying logo is available at:



Brian Ciesicki

#21 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 3, 2016 11:45 AM

(This follow-up posting was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by Lance Squire on February 13, 2016 as message #14287.)

 

I played multiple times yesterday and recorded every play.

Best I could get was 5170. Play video being processed by YouTube now...

During one of my plays, I had a very strange glitch I've never seen
before, I'll post the link to that video when it's up too.

Lance



#22 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 3, 2016 11:47 AM

(This follow-up posting was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by me on February 14, 2016 as message #14288.)

I'm glad that Lance posted another score.  Looking forward to seeing the video with the glitch.  It's interesting that the more we play this game the more weirdness that we're seeing in it.  Hopefully some other people post some scores by tonight's 8pm deadline.  Everyone knows how to play the shoot-the-invaders games, so give it a go!

Don't forget to vote for the next game ("Bally Pin" or "Space Fortress"):

https://groups.yahoo...rBy=DATECREATED

So far three people have voted, and "Space Fortress" is in the lead: 3 to nothing.

Adam



#23 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 3, 2016 11:53 AM

(This follow-up posting was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by Lance Squire on February 14, 2016 as message #14289.)

My 5170 Score video:

 

Astro Battle (5170 Points)(Lance).gif



The hook-up is Bally to Cable box. Coax tv out to TV for play. AV out to
Capture device. Capture device to computer for recording.

Glitch Video:



Enjoy!

Lance

 



#24 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 3, 2016 11:57 AM

(This follow-up posting was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by Chris++ on February 14, 2016 as message #14290.)

I've finally played at the difficulty level that I was supposed to choose to begin with. I wasn't able to exceed 5,930 (see attachment), but as my other submitted score was reached under the wrong setting, this more recent one will have to count as my official entry. I don't mind; it's still not a bad showing!

CF_Intermediate (5930)(Chris Federico)(Cropped).jpg

Luck is far too involved when it comes to the appearances of that score-making-or-breaking saucer. Also, while I didn't mention this before, I also think that ultimately starting the invaders on the ground, which of course enforces an inevitable game-ending no matter how well the player's doing, represents an unaccountably goofy design decision. This is the only marching-invaders game I know of that can't theoretically go on indefinitely.

But any game's shortcomings are going to grow more apparent as one plays it with frequency. Besides, I like to focus on strengths, as engaging any video game entails meeting it on its own merits, in its own self-contained world. To offset the luck factor, I found myself waiting until the final alien had zipped to a very low position before blasting him and ending the wave. This gave the UFO a lot of time to decide to make an entry, especially in earlier waves. It worked well. I wish that I'd happened upon that tactic before writing my long e-mail last week, so I could've shared it along with the other tips.

I also wish I'd realized that my shoot-the-UFO-near-the-border recommendation applied more at the right periphery than the left. For some reason, it disappears beyond the latter more quickly.

None of the perceived flaws above hold a candle to my real grievance, which actually has nothing to do with the game-play itself. We've discussed this before, but I have to wonder why the swift disappearance of the playfield, along with the final score, wasn't noticed by the programmer or pointed out by a play-tester. I actually scored a bit higher in my previous game, but I didn't remember to press the P key in time.

Anyway, that was fun! Ready for more! Time to vote, fellas!

Chris++



#25 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 3, 2016 12:00 PM

(This follow-up posting was originally posted to the Bally Alley Yahoo group by Lance Squire on February 14, 2016 as message #14291.)
 

... I also think that ultimately starting the invaders on the ground, which of course enforces an inevitable game-ending no matter how well the player's doing, represents an unaccountably goofy design decision.


You might note that if you are holding the trigger when the final wave is appearing, you will shoot the invader on top of you before the game ends.

Lance



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