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HSC02, Round 2: Star Battle / Down the Trench

Astrocade High Score Club Star Battle Down the Trench Star Wars

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#1 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Feb 27, 2017 11:29 PM

The Main Game: Star Battle
 
Star Battle (Screenshot)_01.jpg
 
Star Battle is the main game for round 2 of the second season of the Astrocade High Score Club.

I've never much cared for Star Battle, but it gets quite a bit of attention in Astrocade circles. I suppose that's because the game has a passing resemblance to a certain scene from a little-known 1970s movie called Star Wars. Did I say "passing resemblance?" Let's be honest here: this game is a direct rip-off of the trench scene from the 1977 mega-hit Star Wars movie (rechristened "A New Hope").

I've always had a hard time wrapping my head around this game's control method; it somehow seems to handle, well, oddly. I'll be curious to see what other people think of this game. One neat feature of Star Battle is that in a two player game, player one controls the X (not, of course, to be confused with an X-Wing) and the second player controls the H (not to be mistaken for a Tie Fighter).


Bonus Game: Down the Trench

Down the Trench (Screenshot)_02.JPG
 
I had been thinking about choosing an adventure/RPG-type game for the BASIC bonus game this month. However, Down the Trench (released in 1979 by Sebree's Computing) is a perfect pairing for Star Battle; I just couldn't pass it up for this round. Down the Trench, like Star Battle, is another game that takes place in the depths of the Star Wars movie universe.

Other than loading this one up this evening to take some screenshots, I've not played Down the Trench before.  If it's slow and clunky (and I expect that it will be sluggish), then please forgive me; just think of playing this game as part of your education in classic gaming.

As far as I'm aware, this game was only released on tape for Bally BASIC in 300-baud format. This means that you'll need the Bally Tape interface to load it; it won't load into "AstroBASIC."


Season 2, Round 2: End of Round Time and Date

Season 2, Round 2 will last about three weeks. This round ends on Sunday, March 19'th at 8pm MST.


Star Battle

Star Battle is a 2K cartridge released by Bally Mfg. Corp. in 1979. It is part of the Action/Skills Series. It was re-released in 1981 by Astrovision, Inc. Unlike last round's game, Solar Conqueror, which was among the last games released for the Astrocade, Star Battle was among the first of them.

I do not know who programmed this game. If you have any idea, then please let me know.

In the Bally/Astrocade Game Cartridge and Hardware FAQ, Michael White states that Star Battle is a port of the Bally/Midway 1980 coin-op arcade game Space Encounters. Space Encounters was a B&W game that used a color overlay; the games does indeed look very similar (although, like Dog Patch, the arcade game's resolution is higher than the supposed home port of the game).

It's possible that Star Battle was originally going to be called Space Race, as Brett Bilbrey alludes to in his December 11, 1978 handwritten letter, here:
 
http://www.ballyalle...ec 11 1978).pdf
 
However, the Bally Videocade Cassettes 4-page catalog/flyer has a "screenshot" (more likely an artist's rendering) of Space Race that looks much more like a 1970's era Star Trek-inspired game.

http://www.ballyalle...tes_catalog.pdf

I've "clipped" the picture of Space Race from the flyer; it looks like this:

Space Race (Bally Videocade Cassettes Catalog).jpg

No version of a Space Race prototype cartridge has yet been found.
 
Here are some Star Battle iamges:

Astrocade Inc Cartridge Catalog (1982)_10 Star Battle.jpg

Star Battle (Astrovision)(Manual Cover).jpg

Bally_Box_Packaging_(Star_Battle)(Front).jpg

Star Battle (Bally).jpg

Star Battle (Astrocade).jpg
 
Star Battle (Screenshot)_01.jpg Star Battle (Screenshot)_02.jpg

Star Battle (Screenshot)_03.jpg

 
For those who are interested in tinkering with programming, a disassembly of the Z80 code for Star Battle is available here:

http://www.ballyalle...rce/stardis.asm

On October 14, 2012, "Adventurevision" posted a video of the coin-op game Space Encounters. It's a short video; take a look at it and compare it to Star Battle:



Star Battle and Space Encounters certainly do look similar, don't they?

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

http://www.ballyalle...deROMCollection

Here is a shrinkwrapped version of the box:
 
http://www.ballyalle...ade Box)_01.jpg
 
I was hoping to find a review of Star Battle, but I couldn't find one anywhere (other than the F- score that was "awarded" by "The Video Game Critic," a reviewer who seems to randomly give poor pronouncements to games he seems to have hardly played). If anyone knows of a balanced (fair) review of Star Battle, then please point it out to me. I'd be especially interested in reading any review from around the 1979/1980 era, when this game was new and the market wasn't flooded with look-alike Star Wars games.

On September 21, 2013, "ArcadeUSA" (Willie) posted a video of Star Battle:



A pdf of the Bally release of the Star Battle "manual" is here:

http://www.ballyalle...r)(300 dpi).pdf

A pdf of the Astrovision, Inc. release of the Star Battle manual is here:

http://www.ballyalle...star_battle.pdf

Here are the complete instructions for Star Battle:

 

 

Star Battle Instructions

An exciting race through space in a running battle with enemy star ships. Three dimensional screen action looks like you're plunging through a time warp on your way to hyperspace! Fire your missiles and take evasive action to avoid enemy lasers! You have full control over your spacecraft's speed and direction-- and you can play to any score for long or short games!

Star Battle (1 or 2 players)

Fly your spacecraft down a 3-D tunnel while dodging enemy lasers. Score points by firing and hitting enemy star ships.

With Star Battle, you can play to any score by choosing the number of star ships that must be destroyed. Then, it's a race against time to strike the enemy ships before they hit you!

Starting the Game

Choose Star Battle by pressing 1 on the keypad or by using remote game selection (pull the trigger on hand control #1, turn the knob until 1 appears on the screen, then pull the trigger again).

Select the number of players (1 or 2). The star ship of player 1 is designed like an X. The star ship of player 2 looks like an H.

Enter the maximum score (1-999).

Playing the Game

The hand control functions for Star Battle are:

Trigger - Launches the missiles.
Knob - Has no function.
Joystick - Steers left or right; slows the speed of the ship when pulled back; goes faster when pushed forward.

The object of the game is to hit the number of enemy star ships selected before the enemy scores that number of hits.

The star ships dart back and forth very quickly, so you must time the release of your missiles to meet the enemy ship where it is going to be next.

For one player games, the Arcade automatically becomes the enemy and flies the second star ship. Since both sides have an unlimited supply of ammunition, the action is very fast-paced.

Scoring

When a missile hits a star ship, an explosion is seen and heard, and the ship disappears from the screen. Points are awarded to the player who made the hit, and another enemy star ship comes into view.

The scores of both players are displayed at the top of the screen. Since the length of the game is determined by the score which was entered, the game continues until one player reaches that score.

Strategies for Winning

Try to fly your star ship in, out, and around, as well as behind the enemy ship to be hit. As you practice maneuvering with the joystick, you will increase your ability to target the ship you wish to hit (and you'll also be able to avoid enemy lasers!).

Playing Again

To play Star Rattle again, press the RESET button, and follow the instructions for starting the game.


High Score Club Scoring for Star Battle

Normally, up to 10 points are earned for each main game in a round of the high score club. I'd still like to do that, but I'm not sure how to do it easily for this round. Since a game of Star Battle is played to a certain score, I guess we could time our games-- but that would probably get overly-complicated.

How about this: we all play to 20 points. The final score for each player will be based by how many points they beat the computer player.

For example:

If a round ends with player 1 scoring 20 points and the computer scores 14 points, then the player gets 3 points (half the difference in scores, with scores rounding up in favor of the player). A second example: if a round ends with player 1 scoring 20 points and the computer scoring 1 point, then the player gets 10 points. Does this make sense?

This is an awkward scoring method, but it's the best I can come up with right now. Does this sound reasonable? If not, then I'm open to other suggestions.


Star Battle Bonus Points

If you play a two-player game of Star Battle to 20 points (or more), then you'll get a bonus point.


Down the Trench (BASIC Bonus Game)

Down the Trench, programmed by Timothy Hays, was one of eight programs first offered for sale in Arcadian 1, no. 9 (Aug. 18, 1979): 76. The price was $5.50 for the game on tape.

Down the Trench (Screenshot)_01.JPG Down the Trench (Screenshot)_02.JPG

Down the Trench (Screenshot)_03.JPG Down the Trench (Screenshot)_04.JPG

Down the Trench (Screenshot)_05.JPG Down the Trench (Screenshot)_06.JPG

There is a "special edition" of the Cursor newsletter, issue 3 (which is from about March 1980). This "newsletter" is basically just six pages of advertisements for Sebree's Computing. Down the Trench is featured in one ad that says:

"Down the Trench - 1 player. Six levels of difficulty. This program has [many] branches so that many things can happen. It may take you an hour to finally succeed in destroying the Death Star and move to a higher level of difficulty. After you evade the enemies laser shots, you engage your flight computer and wait to fire as a 3-dimensional representation of your target moves up on you. But that isn't all! Spectacular explosions and graphic movement with its unbeatable documentation make this a unique simulation/game. Memory left - SZ=2."

Here is a review, written by Richard DeForest, of Down the Trench (Arcadian 1, no. 11 (Oct. 31, 1979): 86.).

"In my opinion, this is the best of the games [offered by Sebree's Computing. The others are: UFO Battle, Hit the Pedestrian, Submarine Mine Field, Munch and Super Wumpus). The program demands dexterity, perseverance, and concentration to succeed in the mission. Outstanding sound and 3D graphics. A very good program utilizing the memory of the Bally. [...] All programs come with listings and complete documentation. They use all of the functions of the Bally BASIC and have several unique sound effects. Instructions are duplicated in listing and program and this uses up memory which could be put to better use.

I have OCRed, proofread and reformatted the instructions for Down the Trench. You can read the documentation here:

Down The Trench Instructions

When the game starts, you have to input a level of difficulty:

Level 1 - The hardest level
Level 2 - The lasers shoot at you 1/2 the time
Level 3 - The lasers shoot at you 1/3 the time
Level 4 - The lasers shoot at you 1/4 the time, etc.
Level 6 - For beginners

[I presume level five's laser's shoot at your 1/5 of the time.]

You can enter any number for the difficulty you want. The object of the game is to evade the enemy laser shots, then, when the lasers have stopped shooting at you, a red and green box will flash on the right-side of the screen. You now engage your flight computer by pulling your trigger, then rotate your knob right and left and the joystick up and down to line up the target in the wall. See this illustration that has arrows showing how to line the wall up perfectly:

Down the Trench (1979)(Sebree's Computing)(Pic from Manual).gif

This section is easier if your ship is kept somewhere near the center during the beginning.

When the boxes are lined up the way the picture shows, you pull your trigger to fire your photon torpedoes. If you see 'PULL OUT' at the top of the screen, your shot went through. You then immediately pull back on your joystick (if you don't, you run into the wall and lose). The screen will go back to the normal flight mode (computer disengaged) and show your ship moving out of the trench, and then the horizon of the Death Star moving down and away. Then the Death Star explodes in a fury, and you have won the game. Now try it at level 1. It takes quite a while (2 1/2 minutes, less at lower levels of difficulty) to get to the 3-dimensional 'computer Active' part. That is intentional, to make the game harder. It is not to be expected that you win in the first 20 minutes you play the game; it takes practice and concentration. Good luck! You'll need it!

You can read the game's instructions here (which include and illustration and a three-page hand-written BASIC listing of the program):

http://www.ballyalle..._the_trench.pdf

You can download Down the Trench for Bally BASIC here:

http://www.ballyalle...)(300 baud).zip


Down the Trench Bonus Points

1) Playing Down the Trench - You get a bonus point just for playing Down the Trench.

2) Highest Score for Down the Trench- You can earn another bonus point if score the highest on this game.

3) Video of Down the Trench - A bonus point will be awarded to the first person to upload a video of Down the Trench containing a full game. If the video is a video review, then you'll earn two points!

4) Create AstroBASIC version of Down the Trench - If someone converts Down the Trench to play properly from AstroBASIC, then they'll get a bonus point. When I say "play properly," I mean that the game should have the sounds play correctly.


Down the Trench (for Atari 400/800) for More Bonus Points?!?

Sebree's Computing started on the Astrocade in (it seems) 1979, but it didn't take long before Tim Hays decided to move onto a more powerful platform. He ported most of the software that was originally created for the Astrocade onto the Atari 400/800 computer platform in 1980/1981. These games, like their Astrocade counterparts, were also released on tape. Eventually Sebree's Computing released at least twelve programs onto the Atari system, most of which are quite rare. For instance, Down the Trench is rated 10 out of 10 for rarity on the Atari. It's so rare that it hasn't been archived yet!

Here is what that the tape release of Down the Trench looks like on the Atari home computer:

Sebrees Computing (Atari 8-Bit Software)_004.JPG

Here is a link to Down the Trench on AtariMania (the software has not been archived):

http://www.atarimani...rench_1692.html

Luckily, Down the Trench was published (as Trench) in the November 1980 SoftSide magazine on pages 66-67. I really like the art that went along with the type-in version of Trench:

Trench (Tim Hays)(1980)(SoftSide)(Atari 8-Bit).gif

Here's a link to that Trench in Softside magazine on archive.org:

https://archive.org/...ge/n67/mode/2up

The program is available (in Atari BASIC format) on AtariMania, here:

http://www.atarimani...ench_19675.html

I found this rare Atari/Astrocade cross-platform release of a game quite interesting, so I tried the game using the Altirra Atari 8-Bit emulator. It plays quite closely to the Astrocade version of the game. It even looks similar to that game, which you can see in the screenshots that I took:

 

Trench (Screenshot)(Atari 8-Bit)_01.gif Trench (Screenshot)(Atari 8-Bit)_02.gif

Trench (Screenshot)(Atari 8-Bit)_03.gif Trench (Screenshot)(Atari 8-Bit)_04.gif

 

Here are the instructions for Trench, from Softside:

Trench Instructions
By Tim Hays
Softside, November 1980: 66-67.

Trench requires 1 Atari joystick and 16K memory.

The object of this program is to destroy the Death Star by maneuvering your ship away from a crossfire until you reach the exhaust vent of the Death Star and fire your photon torpedoes down the trench.

In the beginning you are already in the trench, flying down the corridor at your ship's top speed. There are three laser posts located on the left and right walls, and on the floor bottom. These lasers flash by you and fire on your ship at random intervals. The frequency of the fire from the laser posts is determined by the level of difficulty you choose, (1-19), with 1 being the hardest. All three lasers will aim at you independently. Each will fire at the mid-point between you and the last spot fired upon. As long as you keep your ship moving away from the three laser shots, and keep track, you should not get hit.

You will be able to see the number of miles to go at the bottom of your screen. This will be higher at more difficult levels of play. When the distance to go reaches 20, the on-board attack computer will be activated, the lasers will stop firing at you, and the end of the trench will come into view. You now have to quickly line up the center (one pixel) of this well so that the exhaust vent is exactly in the center of your sights.

When you approach the last 30 miles, set your ship close to the center so that you can line up the approaching target more easily. When you do have everything lined up, you must fire on the vent after the bottom wall is below the bottom of your sights and the target is close enough to be hit accurately, (the computer will say, 'FIRE NOW!'). If you succeed in hitting your target, you must immediately pull back on your joystick to pull up and out of the trench. If you don't do this, you will run into the wall and be destroyed. Upon pulling out of the trench, the screen will go back to normal mode and show a window view of your ship moving out of the trench, and then switch to an aft view showing the Death Star being destroyed.

During your flight down the trench, remember that if you go too close to the sides of the corridor or the floor, you will run into them and be destroyed. If you go off the top of the screen, you will be out of the trench and your mission will be aborted.

 

 

The version of Trench that's available on AtariMania.com isn't easy for a novice to use. For this reason, I moved the program to an Atari ATR disk image called "Trench (Timothy Hays)(Atari 8-Bit).atr" and I've attached it here:

Attached File  Trench (Timothy Hays)(Atari 8-Bit).zip   11.46KB   26 downloads

This game can be loaded in an Atari emulator (such as Altirra for Windows) simply by having BASIC available, booting the system and then typing in BASIC:

LOAD "D1:TRENCH.BAS"

When the program finishes loading, type RUN to play Trench on the Atari. If you play the Atari version of the game, then you'll get two bonus points.  I realize that most people may have no interest in this Atari version of Down the Trench, but I wanted to point it out.  I'm going to exclude myself from these potential two bonus points because I've already somewhat dug into the Atari game Trench.

 

Posting High Scores

Please post all of your scores for both games here. Scores posted on the Bally Alley discussion group will not be accepted. If you post a video score, then please note the score obtained in the video-- as this makes it easier for me to keep track of all the scores.

Remember, this round ends Sunday, March 19'th at 8pm MST.


It's now time, Astrocade (and Atari?) players to take on the role of the H and X ships, make your way to the Death Star and have a little fun blowing it to smithereens.  If you play your cards right, this will be just like bullseyeing womp rats in your T-16 back home... so get cracking!

Adam


Edited by ballyalley, Fri Mar 17, 2017 2:57 PM.


#2 roadrunner OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 16, 2017 5:01 PM

Star Battle 


i won 20-7

Attached Thumbnails

  • 0017.png


#3 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 17, 2017 8:03 AM

Star Battle 


i won 20-7

 

Oh, yeah... this round is ending this weekend.  I meant to play a two-player game with my friend last night.  I totally "spaced" it.  I'll try to get in a game of Star Battle today.

 

Adam



#4 nd2003grad OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 17, 2017 2:37 PM

Adam--I fired up Ye Olde Bally to try out Down the Trench...the link leads to Space Gauntlet.  I wasn't able to track it down on Balleyalley...do you have a good link?



#5 nd2003grad OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 17, 2017 2:59 PM

I tried to get super fancy and load trench into a Atari 800 XL computer on real hardware. This was not successful, but it did load me up to a basic screen. Here is my photographic evidence.IMG_4056.JPG

#6 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 17, 2017 3:01 PM

Adam--I fired up Ye Olde Bally to try out Down the Trench...the link leads to Space Gauntlet.  I wasn't able to track it down on Balleyalley...do you have a good link?

 

I tired to fix the link in the first posting, but it's still broken (like the link is too long).  Hmm, hopefully this links works here:

 

http://www.ballyalle...)(300 baud).zip

 

If for some reason the link doesn't work here, then you can find Down the Trench in the Sebree's Computing directory:

 

http://www.ballyalle..._Computing.html



#7 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 17, 2017 3:18 PM

I tried to get super fancy and load trench into a Atari 800 XL computer on real hardware. This was not successful, but it did load me up to a basic screen. Here is my photographic evidence.attachicon.gifIMG_4056.JPG


This weekend, I'll try loading the Atari version of Down the Trench onto my 130XE using my sio2sd 1.3 (by Lotharek). I've run the game without issues under the Altirra emulator under Windows 7.

(BTW, "nd2003grad," I'm quite impressed that you're trying to play the Atari version of this BASIC game on real hardware!  I guess I shouldn't be surprised, as this high score club is on AtariAge, right?)

Adam



#8 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 17, 2017 4:19 PM

I tried to get super fancy and load trench into a Atari 800 XL computer on real hardware. This was not successful, but it did load me up to a basic screen. Here is my photographic evidence.attachicon.gifIMG_4056.JPG

 

I loaded the game using my sio2sd without issues on my Atari 130XE.  At the BASIC screen, you must type:

LOAD "D1:TRENCH.BAS"

Then, type RUN, press Return, and the game starts.

 

After finally trying it on the easiest level (19), I managed to destroy the Death Star.  Here are some screenshots from several of my games.  This game is very simple, and it's easy to spot how early this game is in the life-cycle of the Atari computer.

Adam

 

Down the Trench (Nov 1980)(Tim Hays)(Atari 800)_001.JPG Down the Trench (Nov 1980)(Tim Hays)(Atari 800)_002.JPG

Down the Trench (Nov 1980)(Tim Hays)(Atari 800)_003.JPG Down the Trench (Nov 1980)(Tim Hays)(Atari 800)_004.JPG

Down the Trench (Nov 1980)(Tim Hays)(Atari 800)_005.JPG Down the Trench (Nov 1980)(Tim Hays)(Atari 800)_006.JPG

Down the Trench (Nov 1980)(Tim Hays)(Atari 800)_007.JPG Down the Trench (Nov 1980)(Tim Hays)(Atari 800)_008.JPG

Down the Trench (Nov 1980)(Tim Hays)(Atari 800)_009.JPG Down the Trench (Nov 1980)(Tim Hays)(Atari 800)_010.JPG

Down the Trench (Nov 1980)(Tim Hays)(Atari 800)_011.JPG Down the Trench (Nov 1980)(Tim Hays)(Atari 800)_012.JPG

Down the Trench (Nov 1980)(Tim Hays)(Atari 800)_013.JPG Down the Trench (Nov 1980)(Tim Hays)(Atari 800)_014.JPG

Down the Trench (Nov 1980)(Tim Hays)(Atari 800)_015.JPG Down the Trench (Nov 1980)(Tim Hays)(Atari 800)_016.JPG

Down the Trench (Nov 1980)(Tim Hays)(Atari 800)_017.JPG

 

It's too bad I excluded myself from any bonus points for playing the Atari version of Down the Trench, as I just put some good time into it to blow up the Death Star.  The game isn't great, but it's very neat to compare this Atari version against the Astrocade original version of the game.

 

Adam



#9 nd2003grad OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 17, 2017 8:16 PM

I'll have to try again!!!! And, thanks!



#10 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Mar 18, 2017 12:30 PM

Star Battle just doesn't catch my fancy!  Here's my "best" game so far:

 

My Score - 20 / Computer Player - 9

 

Star Battle (Astrocade)(20-9)(Cropped).jpg

 

I was doing really good in this game.  The score was 15-1, and then the computer player made a fabulous come back. Stupid, computer!

 

One thing I don't like about this game is that it feels there is too much out of your control.  You're constantly moving forward and backward on the screen based on the other player's position.  I can't seem to wrap my head around the reasons for this aspect of the game play.  Maybe it comes across better in a two player game?

 

I'm trying to get my wife to play this game with me, but she's having none of it.  I can't say that I blame her, as I did just tell her that Star Battle is one of the worst games in the Astrocade's cartridge library.  Still, it would be some quality time spent together.  Well, probably not...

 

Adam



#11 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Mar 18, 2017 12:46 PM

My attempt to destroy the Death Star in Down the Trench, even on the easiest level (difficulty 6) was not successful.  Here's me running my ship into the wall yet again!

 

Down the Trench (Astrocade).jpg

 

Has anyone else managed to destroy the Death Star?

 

Adam



#12 ranger_lennier OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Mar 18, 2017 11:46 PM

I figured out how to destroy the Death Star, at least on easy. Here's my video review.

 



#13 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Mar 19, 2017 7:56 AM

Hey, folks,

 

I'm extending the round by one day.  It will now end on Monday, March 20th at 8PM MST.  Just so that you don't think I'm trying to get in more game play and I'm changing the rules for myself, I won't count any of my own scores posted after Sunday's original deadline.

 

I haven't had a chance to watch Paul's game of Down the Trench, but it's awesome to see that he made another video this round!

 

Adam



#14 BassGuitari OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Mar 19, 2017 10:39 AM

I like Star Battle, but it feels unfinished, like a proof of concept. If they took this core game and threw multiple enemies at you simultaneously, with escalating difficulty, and you played for a high score instead of racing to a max score, Star Battle might have been a killer app.

I wasn't aware of the arcade game Space Encounters before, but Star Battle could have stood to be a little closer to that game.



#15 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:34 PM

I figured out how to destroy the Death Star, at least on easy. Here's my video review [of Down the Trench].

 

I just watched Paul's video review of Down the Trench. Thanks for making that, Paul; it was fun to watch it.  How many games did you have to play before you destroyed the Death Star?

Down the Trench on the Astrocade is very similar to the later Atari version of the game. Like Paul, I found that I was easily able to avoid the shots from the laser towers by moving my ship back and forth (with the knob) and up and down (with the controller). Well, I could do this on the easiest level; it's not easy to do on the harder levels.

 

It's a shame, but I think that the first part of the game, when you're controlling your x-wing fighter, is luck based. It seems to be completely random whether or not you get hit by a laser. I was able to get to the computerized laser gun-sight screen (the second part of the game) on most games, but I was never able to destroy the Death Star. In fact, only once on the that laser sight screen did I see the part that you need to center in the gun sight. I think this is because your ship needs to be pretty close to the center of the screen when you reach the end of the trench, right before your gun sight appears. However, there is no indication about when it's going to happen. The instructions say that the gun sight appears 2 1/2 minutes into the game, but it would be nice if there was some count-down timer on-screen (like there is in the Atari version of the game).

Paul, also mentioned that the graphics in this game blink. As he said, this is fairly typical for most Bally BASIC games (especially the early ones like this). Honestly, blinking graphics are common to BASIC games on most home computer platforms from this time period. Down the Trench is a bit more "blinky," as I think your ship is being brawn using the LINE keyword in BASIC. Later Bally BASIC games had far better graphics because they would often use machine language subroutines like CHRDIS (Character Display) that were built into the on-board 8K ROM.  Programmers began using ML subroutines probably as early as 1980 or 1981.  I don't think this method of displaying graphics really caught on until a tutorial, written by Mike Skala, about how to use the CHRDIS subroutine appeared in in print.  That tutorial appeared in the following newsletters:

CHRDIS I. Arcadian 5, no. 1 (Nov. 5, 1982): 14-15.
CHRDIS II. Arcadian 5, no. 2 (Dec. 3, 1982): 37.
CHRDIS II. [Accidentally omitted paragraph from original printing of CHRDIS II]. Arcadian 5, no. 4 (Feb. 18, 1983): 72.
CHRDIS III. Arcadian 5, no. 4 (Feb. 18, 1983): 72.

 

For anyone that is curious, here is a list of direct links to Mike Skala's tutorials:

 

http://www.ballyalle....html#MikeSkala

 

Here is a direct like to the AstroBASIC version of the example program in Mike's CHRDIS tutorial:

 

http://www.ballyalle...mike_skala].zip

 

It's too bad that information about how to use the on-board ML language subroutines hadn't been made available to Bally BASIC programmers a couple of years sooner: who knows what those clever Astrocade programmers could have come up with with the knowledge easily available?

 

Adam



#16 ranger_lennier OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Mar 19, 2017 7:16 PM

The first few games I played, I kept getting hit by the lasers, before I figured out how to make evasive maneuvers. Once I started seeing the sights, I think I got the Death Star on my third try. I don't remember ever starting way off from the center, but maybe there was some luck involved. You can correct your horizontal position quite quickly by turning the knob, but the vertical movement is slower. You do need to pull the trigger to actually start the aiming section, after the screen flashes on the right. I'm not sure if there's a time limit here, but there's at least some opportunity to adjust your ship's position beforehand.



#17 ranger_lennier OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Mar 19, 2017 7:18 PM

I played a two-player game of Star Battle with billnewsome. He's better than me at this one.

 

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#18 ranger_lennier OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Mar 19, 2017 7:23 PM

billnewsome really kicked the computer's butt at Star Battle, 20-5.

 

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He also tried Down The Trench, but the force is stronger with me for that game.

 

IMG_20170319_244432477.jpg



#19 ranger_lennier OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Mar 19, 2017 8:27 PM

I had a little trouble wrapping my head around this one as well. They're definitely trying to pull off something neat with perspective and 3D gameplay, but the graphics are so simplistic, I never felt like I was really experiencing the action in three dimensions. The best I could do is start to develop an intuition for where my shots would land when I was at various points on the screen.

 

It looks like Space Encounters does a better job of this. The graphics give you a decent sense of actually flying down a trench. It's even less of a fair comparison, given that you're flying in first person and moving a target, but Atari's Star Wars arcade game from 1983 does this quite well.

 

But what I lack in force powers, I mostly make up for in perseverance. My best game I won 20-6.

 

0046.png



#20 nd2003grad OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 20, 2017 11:37 AM

Photo Mar 20, 11 23 27 AM.jpg Photo Mar 20, 10 55 59 AM.jpg Photo Mar 20, 11 29 19 AM.jpg Ah, thanks for the extension.  So, I've heard horror stories in the past about Star Battle and how terrible it is.  I've tried it an not given it any sort of chance, thinking it was really cheesy.  It's true that it's a very simple and kind of half-baked game, but once I "got it" I think it's much more solid than I've heard.  I was able to pull off 20-7.  

 

As for Down the Trench, I was finally able to get it to play on my Atari 800XL.  It's not a bad looking game at all on there, but I wasn't able to blow up the Death Star (on either).  The Bally version was extremely difficult for me to see my ship, so it was hard to play.  I didn't really care for it, but it still looked pretty good for BASIC.  Here are my photos:



#21 ranger_lennier OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 20, 2017 5:40 PM

I'm onto you Adam--you just wanted me to set up an Atari 8-bit emulator. Well, you got me. ;)

 

It was pretty neat trying Down The Trench: Remastered Edition. The extra colors and animations definitely add a little pizazz to the game. Playing with a joystick was a mixed blessing. I could more easily make fine adjustments to my horizontal position as compared to the Astrocade knob, but if I started out too far away, I couldn't get to the center in time. However, you do have a mile counter in this version, so you know when to dash for the center. I hadn't read the description of how to avoid the lasers from the Atari instructions until now. Perhaps that same strategy works on the Astrocade version. I was able to destroy the Death Star on difficult 10.

 

IMG_20170320_193009291_HDR.jpg



#22 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 20, 2017 8:35 PM

I like Star Battle, but it feels unfinished

 
I see that you played Star Battle, but you seem to have overlooked posting your final score.  If you post it tonight or by Tuesday afternoon, then I'll add it to the scores when I post them (even if I have to edit the final scores post that I make).

 

Adam



#23 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:25 PM

Round 2 of the HSC ended on Monday, March 20, 2017 at 8pm MST. Six people played the main game, Star Battle.  Four people played Down the Trench, the Bally BASIC bonus game

Final Tables

Star Battle

1st  billnewsome     20-5 15/2 = 8 pts
2nd  ranger_lennier  20-6 14/2 = 7 pts
2nd  nd2003grad      20-7 13/2 = 7 pts
2nd  roadrunner      20-7 13/2 = 7 pts
3rd  Bally Alley     20-9 11/2 = 6 pts
 ??  BassGuitari         ?? ?? = x pts (No score posted)


Remember, the final score for each player is based on by how many points the player beats the computer player, divided by 2 and rounded up.

billnewsome and ranger_lennier each score a bonus point for playing a two-player game of Star Battle.

Down the Trench

These four people (listed alphabetically) each earn an extra point for playing the BASIC bonus game on the Astrocade:

BallyAlley
billnewsome
nd2003grad
ranger_lennier


Three people played the Atari 8-bit home computer version of Down the Trench. I really wasn't sure anyone else would play the Atari game, and I was certainly impressed to see nd2003grad play the game on actual Atari hardware.  Even ranger_lennier found time to setup an Atari emulator so that he could play the game too.  I wasn't sure if I'd be the only Atari player, so I made myself ineligible for a bonus point for playing the Atari version of the game-- I guess I didn't have to do that.

BallyAlley     - Played it, but is not eligible for a bonus point
nd2003grad     - Played it
ranger_lennier - Played it, and beat the Death Star


Total points awarded this round:

1st  ranger_lennier  7 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 12 pts !@#$%
2nd  billnewsome     8 + 1 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 = 10 pts !@
3rd  nd2003grad      7 + 0 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 =  8 pts @
4th  roadrunner      7 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 =  7 pts
4th  Bally Alley     6 + 0 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 =  7 pts @


Bonus Points Key:

! - Played a Two-Player Star Battle Game
@ - Played Down the Trench
# - Highest "Score" for Down the Trench (i.e. Destroyed the Death Star)
$ - Video of Down the Trench
% - Video review of Down the Trench
^ - Create AstroBASIC version of Down the Trench (No point awarded)


Please, check your scores. ;)

Congratulations to Season 2, Round 2's winner... ranger_lennier!  He loves collecting those bonus points, and I like giving them.  It's been cool to see his videos these last couple of rounds.  Keep up the good work, everybody!  Oh, and special thanks to billnewsome for playing-- I know that he's not an Astrocade fan... but it's great that he's giving the system a chance!

As always, thanks to everyone who played in this round of the Astrocade High Score Blue. Star Battle isn't a great of a game-- but it's actually better than I gave it credit for when I originally played it back in the 1990s. I'm curious if a two-player game makes it more fun, so I'm going to try to revisit this title with my son this week (he's visiting for Spring break).  Poor kid, he's looking forward to playing the new Zelda game on his Wii-U and I'm going to force him to play a crusty 'ol Astrocade cartridge.

Playing Down the Trench on the Astrocade wasn't much fun for me, and yet... I did enjoy the time I spent with it.  This is an example of a game that isn't very exciting when written in BASIC, but it's neat to see that it was created.  I like what the programmer was aiming for, but he didn't quite reach it.  Really, it may not be his fault.  Down the Trench did receive a creditable favorable review upon release, but doesn't seem to have aged very well.  Perhaps if this game had been written a few years later, when some of the machine language routines built into the Astrocade's ROM could have been used from "AstroBASIC," then Down the Trench might have been improved.

The Atari version of Down the Trench (the "Remastered Edition," as Paul called it-- George Lucas would be proud!) is a slight improvement over the Astrocade version.  The graphics are slightly improved, but not by much.  I do like the addition of the countdown. It lets you know when you've got to be in the middle of the screen so that you can prepare to have your gun sight ready. I was pretty impressed by the explosion of the Death Star on the Atari-- I wasn't expecting it to have so much detail (for a type-in game, it really has a lot going for it).

The next round 3's main game is Muncher, a Pac-Man clone that was released on cartridge in 1983 through a few different places, notably the Arcadian, (possibly) Esoterica and Mike White. This unofficial release was originally going to be released by Bally, but it's rumored that due to the possibility of a lawsuit with Atari, they chose not to release it. Muncher is usually considered one of the best titles in the Astrocade's library, so don't miss your chance to play it.

I'm not sure yet what the BASIC bonus game is going to be, but it will be a Collect-the-Dots game, along the lines of a poor man's Pac-Man. There are a few of these available on the Astrocade, with some being better than others. Honestly, BASIC isn't really suited to these sorts of games, but it's interesting to take a look at them anyway. I'm going to play-test three BASIC games released in 1982 over the next few days: Micro-Pac by H.A.R.D, Nam-Cap by New Image, and Pack-Rat by WaveMakers. I'm also going to check if there was a Pac-Man clone type-in game available in one of the newsletters.  I can't think of one off-hand, can you?

You can join the current round, and start playing Muncher, here:

http://atariage.com/...-pac-man-clone/

If you didn't get a chance to play in this round, then come join the current round. If you did play in this round, then be sure to play in the next round too-- and please... play poorly (I need to get catch-up on some points!).

Adam



#24 ranger_lennier OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:59 PM

I can't think of a Pac-Man clone, or really any dot-eating game, published in the newsletters.

 

One pretty good dot-collecting game, and not overly derivative of Pac-Man, is The Gate Escape by WaveMakers.



#25 BassGuitari OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 21, 2017 10:49 AM

 
I see that you played Star Battle, but you seem to have overlooked posting your final score.  If you post it tonight or by Tuesday afternoon, then I'll add it to the scores when I post them (even if I have to edit the final scores post that I make).

 

Adam

Oh, I wasn't actually playing it. Just commenting. :) My Bally's packed away at the moment.





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