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Earth Friend (Bally/Midway) prototype vector game

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Perhaps (perhaps not) you have any information on this game?



And here is my recollection:


I personally spent hours and hours playing this game at Balley’s PinPan Alley in Schaumburg, IL.


This game had a white or yellow vector terrain. Possibly in some levels it was multi-colored with each line being a different color, like when you’d get a free life award in tempest. The general layout was like a V trench of a sort. The terrain lines were mostly horizontally drawn from left to right. There were no up/down lines. Akin to driving over a series of parallel white lines. Make no mistake, this was a 3-d flight simulator style game. Vector x,y drawing.


Imagine warping from level to level in Tempest, and instead of being stuck to the grid you can fly up and down and left and right, with banking turns. And the level is constantly in warp mode. A whole landscape to fly over. And instead of being rendered with lines of longitude like in tempest; to help give the impression of speed, Earth Friend drew the V-shaped trench scenery with lines of latitude. Perhaps imagine yourself flying through the outlying moat of a Bessel function plot. Uhm, yeh..!


Sometimes the terrain wasn’t 100% V-trench shaped though. There were some variations in it and you had to maneuver through it while blasting aliens in the air and turrets mounted on the canyon walls. This was almost a rail shooter in that you couldn’t make U-Turns or do loop-da-loops. You had 3-D freedom within limits – the game progressed and pulled you along.


After flying over terrain for about 2:16 seconds (is that accurate??) you would go to space warp scene, like a bonus level, and fly through space to do something else for a while.


I don’t recall anything about the enemies, but either their weaponry or your own emitted plasma bursts that would look like the bouncing stars in StarDance on the Apple II.


The game was smooth, almost perfectly stuck at 30fps or 60fps.

The terrain started out all white, but changed to yellow and other colors and mixed colors as the game progressed. I don’t remember anything about scoring.


The level of graphics complexity was similar to Tac/Scan, Black Widow or Tempest or Battlezone, perhaps about 20% more complex/detailed. The enemy ships were about as detailed as the ones in Major Havoc. Of course, this felt like an 8-bit game, no doubt. You know how certain programmers when mixed with certain cpu chips, can produce a series of games that have an ineffable ‘signature’ about them?? Well, this strongly feels like a 6502 or Z-80, perhaps both, or multi-processor. If pushed for a 3rd choice of chip I would put money on a 6809. Whatever was used, there was adequate processing power.


The sound seemed all synthesized, no sampling going on here! I would say this had the sound characteristics of a the AY-3-8910. It sure had tonal qualities similar to Discs of Tron, Gyruss, Tron, Frogger, Vectrex.. Definitely not a Pokey chip or the TI SN76489. Come to think of it, it also sounded similar to some of the dual tones in the Intellivision home system. I don’t recall any white noise in the game. I don’t remember what was used for explosions though.


The cabinet was all white outside and flat black inside and was available in sit-down tron-style hardware or a standard stand-up.


You had a joystick controller, push forward to go down and faster, pull up to go slower and climb. Left/right to bank. There may have been a throttle lever too. But I am not sure on that. You had a finger-trigger fire button, and I think you could either fire a secondary weapon, or select a different type with a thumb button.


I do recall the guy from Balley coming out to ask opinions of the game. *I* was enthralled with it quite a lot. And would monopolize it to the point where he couldn’t really get other folks to play it and get their opinions. But the few ones I heard were just so-so, like what’s the big dead. A ho-hum game. My buddies preferred Pole Position or Donkey Kong or those stupid fighting games (did they have those back then?) It would seem the guy didn’t give a hoot about what I said because I just showered praise left and right! At one point the arcade had two units going! Yes TWO! I recalled playing this in the summer fall of ’83 .. It was in beta testing there for a good 3 or 4 months. This was the only arcade where I played Earth Friend. The guy specifically called it Earth Friend, since the cabinet had drawings on it, but no name imprinted. The title screen said it was Earth Friend too, and not Earth, Friend, Mission.


I fear this is a lost classic though. It was coming out just right prior to the crash. And I don’t know if the prototype was removed from the arcade or scrapped with the rest of the inventory. I don’t know if Balley/Midway removed it due to non-interest. And I don’t know if a guy in Palatine bought one or not. Seem to remember something about that. But, as kids, we were interested getting to the park to launch model rockets and could care less about Big Business!

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I played this quite a lot in Galaxy World (Now a Brunswick Zone) in Carol Stream. I always thought it was a Rockola game that never made it out of test into production. I remember flying loops and stuff over the scrolling V terrain catching falling diamonds. I remember it was a very cool game and played it a lot, it was right next to Zaxxon, and back to back with Reactor, I think I gave it up for Tempest. I *may* be remembering it as better than it was just because I haven't seen it in so long, as was the case with QB-3.



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