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3D-Tic-Tac-Toe (Atari VCS, 1980)

Mezrabad

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Off topic, but my Xbox Live name is Chronogamer. If you play 1 vs 100 Live on the Xbox 360, then you'll know what I'm talking about. Last night, I (with the help of my lovely and brilliant wife) came in third out of a crowd of 42,000 in a Live game and won myself a copy of RezHD! Yay! By the way, if you're an Xbox Live person, please invite me to be your friend! :)

 

3D-Tic-Tac-Toe (Atari VCS, 1980)

 

I need to clear up any impressions I may have given about my feelings towards playing 3D-Tic-Tac-Toe. I wasn't dreading it because I thought it would suck, I was dreading it because it was going to require a bit more brain power than my energy levels are prepared to muster on the weekends.

 

3D-Tic-Tac-Toe is a 4X4X4 take on the traditional 3X3 version of the game. Not that I think any of you don't already know this, but it is played by you (X) and an opponent (O) taking turns placing your markers on locations in a 4X4X4 grid. The first to place four of their symbols in a row wins. In traditional Tic-Tac-Toe, there are eight ways of lining up your markers three in a row, and it's very easy to learn how to force a tie once you've played only a few games. After all, there are only nine positions to occupy. In a 4x4x4 cube however, there are now 64 slots to occupy and 76 ways of lining up your markers. You have to have the ability to plan ahead and visualize well to win against the program.

 

3D-Tic-Tac-Toe has 9 games on it. Game 9 is for you and another human to play. Games 1 through 8 are progressively harder single player versions where it's you against the program. Game 1 is the easiest, where the program only looks one move ahead and only takes a few seconds to make a move. This one isn't hard to beat, and only took me a few tries. For Game 2 the program looks two moves ahead and takes three seconds or less to make its move. This is noticeably more difficult than Game 1, but after playing for about 30 minutes I was able to improve enough to beat the program about three out of five times, more if I chose to go first.

 

Game 3, the program looks three moves ahead, and can take up to a minute to prepare its move. This is where I got my butt kicked repeatedly. Yes, I got better, in the sense, that after playing for about an hour, I got better at seeing the early phases of what the program was doing, and prolonging the inevitable loss, but lose I usually did. Over and over.

 

Game 4, 5 and 6 each look the appropriate number of moves ahead. Game 4 can take as much as three minutes to plan it's next placement. Games 5 and 6 up to 10 minutes or less. Game 7 looks ahead nine moves, and takes 10 minutes or less to do so. Game 8 will also look ahead nine moves, but take up to 20 minutes to make a decision.

 

3D-Tic-Tac-Toe is the type of game that, were I a sufficiently advanced player, I'd prefer to play on an emulator, because I could get through the "AI thinking" times that much faster. However, given my current level of play, Game 3 was as high as I was able to get. I'm just not a good enough thinker/planner to do well at this, which is exactly what I had anticipated, and what I was dreading. I can't really comment on how good the AI was, all I know was that it is much, much better at this game than I am.

 

So, this game uses the joystick. When it's your turn you move the cursor through the levels to wherever you want to place your piece, and hit the button. This is not a hard interface to learn to use. On the other hand, it does take a little practice to visualize what is going on on the board. You're playing a 3D game on a 2D screen, and while the program does manage to display everything clearly; it is up to you to get used to reading it. I played 2.5 hours and I'm still not used to reading it.

 

Like Chess or Stellar Track, my Inner Geek rejoices to see 3D-Tic-Tac-Toe on the system (Yes, I remember not liking the VCS version of Chess, but I'm still impressed that it exists on the Atari VCS). 3D-Tic-Tac-Toe oozes the mystique of "You'd better be ready to think, or you're getting your butt kicked." If I'd been playing it back in the day, when it wasn't so easy to find something else to play, I could easily see getting addicted to it, and actually improving my game over time...though honestly, that didn't happen with Chess so who knows?

 

Playing 3D-Tic-Tac-Toe for two-and-a-half hours last Saturday afternoon doesn't do it justice, but it was certainly exercise for my flabby little brain. Given how time quickly flew, I'd say I had fun playing it. However, it wasn't the type of fun that I wandered around after going "wow, that was fun!" it was more like: "Whew, the life has been drained from me, was I really playing that long? Did the sun set already? Why am I so hungry? Who are these short people calling me 'Daddy'?"

 

I recommend giving 3D-Tic-Tac-Toe a try, but be warned, the "brights" ("waaay above average" and above) among you might do alright, but the "tweens" (which is "above average" but below "waaay above average") may pull a brain muscle like I did.

 

Though I can't find my little "what to play next" grid, I know I haven't yet played Dodge 'Em, so that's getting chronogamed next.

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Videogamecritic.net rate this game an F. So I am going to agree with them.

 

Just kidding. Well I was not kidding about VGC.net giving this game an F. 3D Tic Tac Toe is a strategy game where you really have to use your brain to challenge a computer player and against people. I don't know why VGC give this game an F, is it possible that they got the difficult switch on the wrong position(one of the switch let you place marker, or turn on the AI) when they play this game? Or they are so underwhelm seeing this game look "bad". Or they just suck. This game is 2KB and I'm impressed that they were able to get the graphic, logic and computer AI at that size. The graphic looks fine to me. There are worse game then this one, like Firefly.

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Videogamecritic.net rate this game an F. So I am going to agree with them.

 

Just kidding. Well I was not kidding about VGC.net giving this game an F. 3D Tic Tac Toe is a strategy game where you really have to use your brain to challenge a computer player and against people. I don't know why VGC give this game an F, is it possible that they got the difficult switch on the wrong position(one of the switch let you place marker, or turn on the AI) when they play this game? Or they are so underwhelm seeing this game look "bad". Or they just suck. This game is 2KB and I'm impressed that they were able to get the graphic, logic and computer AI at that size. The graphic looks fine to me. There are worse game then this one, like Firefly.

 

Hey, thanks for your comment, and for referring me to that review. I've avoided reading reviews about games that would come up in my chronology anytime soon to avoid sounding like the other reviewers, but it's nice to read them after I've written mine.

 

To VGC's credit, he/she is trying to be an objective critic/reviewer of games by providing something as legitimizing as a "grade" and backing it up with his/her experienced viewpoint. I prefer to take a more Penny-Arcade-like approach, and really just talk about my particular experience so that someone else can make a decision about giving a particular game a shot or not. If they like it or not, that's up to them to decide. What's important to realize, and I thank the food critic from Ratatouille for providing this insight, is that even the very worst videogame takes more brains and hard work to design, code and promote than any reviewer would need to write a review of it.

 

Regarding 3D-Tic-Tac-Toe, someone, (I believe it was Carol Shaw who later did River Raid), worked their ass off to make this game. I'm not saying it was a necessarily good business decision to publish it, it would appeal to a very limited audience, but I do find it to be a quality game.

 

That being said, I don't disagree with VGC's rating of the game as an "F"!

 

The game has a very steep learning curve. Also, because the amount of time it takes for the program to make a move on the higher level games, there's no incentive to get much better -- as good as one ever might get, eventually, it will just take a longer amount of time to get one's Tic-Tac-Ass handed to them. Though, seriously, it's only a big deal that Game 8 takes 20 minutes to make a move if a person is good enough to beat the program on Game 7. I doubt there's many people who would face that issue. If someone was that gifted, then there's probably nobody else available who would be good enough to challenge them anyway. Waiting 20 minutes might not be so bad vs. never being able to play someone who can think at that level. On the other hand, anyone facing that issue is probably either a grand master chess player or a particle physicist with more pressing interests.

 

3D-Tic-Tac-Toe is the product of some considerable brains, and as such, I believe takes some of the same to play without getting a real headache. Whether 4X4X4 Tic-Tac-Toe, in and of itself as a game concept, is worth anyone's time or not, I don't care to debate--it's a matter of preference. (Personally, I think Sudoku is a waste of time, but it's not a bad game concept.) If one ever wanted to practice their 4x4x4 Tic-Tac-Toe game, this cart is an AMAZING port of it, (though, a Four Score mode would've been cool). So, while I may agree that 99%, maybe even 99.9% of people out there are not going to like this game at all, I think it deserves some respect.

 

LOL, I've never played Firefly. I wonder if I'll have the ability to show any respect to it when I do? heheh.

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Great review. I look forward to seeing new ones from you. Each time I read one I feel as if I'm discovering the game again for the first time.

 

I think it's important to note that these games are a product of a different time. It's easy to look back on the 2600 and remember Yar's Revenge, Pac-Man, and all the classics the platform would eventually become known for. But as a kid in the late 70's, just prior to the arcade explosion, the 2600 was really a grown-up toy. And as such, some of the first offerings were targeted at different demographics, not just kids looking to get their Space Invaders on.

 

"3D-Tic-Tac-Toe oozes the mystique of "You'd better be ready to think, or you're getting your butt kicked."

 

I love this line and I really think it sums it up quite well. As a kid, or I suppose anyone in 1980, it did have this mystique about it. The 3D graphics, the opportunity to pit your brain against a cutting edge computer, and the high tech interface really were something different. Maybe your average 10-year-old didn't care much but I could see the VCS and 3D TTT coming out during the fondue party where the 30-40 somethings would pit their brains (slightly slowed down by brandy old-fashioneds) against the computer. If it took 10-20 minutes for the computer to react to every move it probably wouldn't have been the centerpiece of the evening (that's what the fondue was for) but it would have served as a nice diversion.

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Great review. I look forward to seeing new ones from you. Each time I read one I feel as if I'm discovering the game again for the first time.

 

I think it's important to note that these games are a product of a different time. It's easy to look back on the 2600 and remember Yar's Revenge, Pac-Man, and all the classics the platform would eventually become known for. But as a kid in the late 70's, just prior to the arcade explosion, the 2600 was really a grown-up toy. And as such, some of the first offerings were targeted at different demographics, not just kids looking to get their Space Invaders on.

Thanks so much! I'm trying to approach these games, not only as if I were seeing them for the first time, but as if I haven't seen anything after them either. It's very gratifying when someone voices that they've experienced the effect I'm trying to achieve. :thumbsup: Thank you again!

 

And I agree this game was not a mainstream type of game that kids playing Space Invaders would have flocked to (and apparently the absolutely did not flock to it). I think in 1980, like today, videogames were hitting levels of "mainstream popularity" (ie Space Invaders), but there are the occasional "indie" titles that only a few people get. 3D T^3 is like a clever indie title that most people wouldn't be interested in.

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I've been following you forever but I think this is my first time posting. Great to see you back here after your sabbatical. Keep up the great work!

 

I wanted to chime in here and say this has always been one of my favorite games. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with this game and was always trading cartridges with another kid who had it. You mentioned that there was a steep learning curve, but I never felt there was--when I read the instructions just before I started playing, I understood the rules instantly just from looking at the examples in the booklet. I'd even play it on notebook paper when the cartridge wasn't in my possession.

 

To this day I still think it's one of the coolest games ever. I remember reading VGC's review of it and just couldn't believe it. I would give it a solid 'A'! I even use it in class occasionally; I'll draw the grids on the board and my students have a great time trying to use strategies and beat each other (they learned just as quickly as I did).

 

Just thought you'd like to know that this game does indeed have its fans, even if it's only me.

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I've been following you forever but I think this is my first time posting. Great to see you back here after your sabbatical. Keep up the great work!

 

Thank you so much, comments like this make me smile all week! :thumbsup:

 

I wanted to chime in here and say this has always been one of my favorite games. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with this game and was always trading cartridges with another kid who had it. You mentioned that there was a steep learning curve, but I never felt there was--when I read the instructions just before I started playing, I understood the rules instantly just from looking at the examples in the booklet. I'd even play it on notebook paper when the cartridge wasn't in my possession.

 

To this day I still think it's one of the coolest games ever. I remember reading VGC's review of it and just couldn't believe it. I would give it a solid 'A'! I even use it in class occasionally; I'll draw the grids on the board and my students have a great time trying to use strategies and beat each other (they learned just as quickly as I did).

 

Just thought you'd like to know that this game does indeed have its fans, even if it's only me.

 

That's great to hear from someone who played it back in the day and "gets" it! Sadly, while I think it's really cool, my brain just doesn't do well with it. I figured out one or two strategies that allow me to win fairly consistently on game two, but I haven't reached that with game 3 yet. It's great your students like it! I keep trying to interest my son in it, but can't pull him away from Little Big Planet, heheh. Maybe I'll try to play it with him on paper first, thanks for that idea!

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Who are these short people calling me 'Daddy'?

 

lolol

 

I've played a few computer ports of this game already. Seems like every computer hobbyist came up with his implementation of 3D TTT back in the 70s. :roll:

 

I like puzzles and being challenged, so I'm OK with games like these. But I get bored real quick, particularly because it frustrates me that I can't beat the AI in the higher difficulty settings. I just don't have the patience to become that good at it.

 

EDIT: You really should watch the Classic Game Room's review for 3D TTT:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQiKut1p_vc

 

:D

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