The Main Game: Star Battle
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
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 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.
I've "clipped" the picture of Space Race from the flyer; it looks like this:
No version of a Space Race prototype cartridge has yet been found.
Here are some Star Battle iamges:
For those who are interested in tinkering with programming, a disassembly of the Z80 code for Star Battle is available here:
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:
Here is a shrinkwrapped version of the box:
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:
A pdf of the Astrovision, Inc. release of the Star Battle manual is here:
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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:
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):
You can download Down the Trench for Bally BASIC here:
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:
Here is a link to Down the Trench on AtariMania (the software has not been archived):
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:
Here's a link to that Trench in Softside magazine on archive.org:
The program is available (in Atari BASIC format) on AtariMania, here:
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:
Here are the instructions for Trench, from Softside:
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:
Trench (Timothy Hays)(Atari 8-Bit).zip 11.46KB 50 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:
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!
Edited by ballyalley, Fri Mar 17, 2017 2:57 PM.