Those lucky enough to be a teenager during the latter half of The Golden Age of Arcade Games will remember the sights and sounds of a real video arcade. For me it was always shoot-em-ups that held my attention; William's Electronics being masters of the raster based blaster, with ground breaking titles such as Defender and Robotron 2084.
There was another type of platform my teenage self found fascinating - vector displays. Those glowing, pin-sharp lines held a magic all of their own. One company dominated this arena - Atari.
This is my homage to one of Atari's classic vector coin-op games - the seminal BattleZone. Arguably the great-granddaddy of the first-person shooter.
BattleZone has been seen on most home computers down the years - so it was time for the SAM to get it too! I have tried to recreate all of the elements and features found in the coin-op. It was important to keep gameplay and in-game details faithful to the original. Hopefully I've done it justice.
START GAME ........ SPACE REDEFINE CONTROLS . K
Or read on for more information about gameplay...
A 256k SAM! Works great under SimCoupé too.
Under SimCoupé the game looks best if you choose the 'TV Aspect Ratio' setting. The graphics were designed to look correct at this ratio.
When running on a real SAM the game looks at its very best if you're lucky enough to have access to an old-school CRT monitor/TV. You can't beat the phosphorous glow of green vectors!
Like most shoot-em-ups: If it moves - shoot it!
The aim of the game is to trundle around the world hunting the enemy. The enemy is also hunting you! There is only ever one hostile enemy in the world at any given time. Sometimes a benign Flying Saucer will float around the world too - it offers no physical threat other than distraction. Big points if you destroy it!
Your Battle Tank is equipped with a single-shot cannon. Once fired you cannot fire again until your shell hits something or reaches the end of its life - which is just over 2 seconds after firing. During the shell's flight your gunsight will flash to signal that firing again is not possible. When the flashing stops your weapon is active again.
Enemies consist of the following:
Standard Tank - 1000 Points : The first enemy you encounter Homing Missile - 2000 Points : Appears after you have scored 10000 points Super Tank - 3000 Points : Appears after you have faced 5 homing missiles. Flying Saucer - 5000 Points : Appears after you have scored 2000 points
Standard Tanks move and turn slower than you, so it is possible to outmanoeuvre them. This is not true for Super Tanks - these wedge-shaped nasties move and turn at the same pace as you, making them a formidable foe.
The trickiest enemy is the Homing Missile - being much faster than you and homing in on your position with deadly accuracy. The missile's flightpath will become more erratic as the game progresses, but ultimately remains deadly accurate. Missiles start to appear after you have scored 10000 points. However, if you spend too long admiring the scenery the game will launch a missile at you just to keep you on your toes! This will happen regardless of your score.
The Flying Saucer poses no real threat - it simply floats around observing things. It does hold the highest value score, so is worth destroying if possible. However, don't let it distract you from the main enemy or you will find yourself dead! The enemy tank can shoot Flying Saucers too - and, no, you don't get the points! :)
An extra life is awarded at 15000 and another at 100000 points.
You are driving a tank, so the default controls mimic the coin-op. This means you control the left and right tracks independently. It takes a little getting used to, but once mastered it becomes quite intuitive.
This 'Twin Track' control style is the game's default.
TRADITIONAL CONTROL STYLE (Twin Track) KEYS:
LEFT TRACK: FORWARD ........... A REVERSE ........... Z RIGHT TRACK: FORWARD ........... L REVERSE ........... , (comma) FIRE WEAPON ......... SPACE TOGGLE ENGINE SOUND . F0
This control style gives the following combinations:
LEFT TRACK FORWARD + RIGHT TRACK FORWARD = FULL-SPEED FORWARDS LEFT TRACK REVERSE + RIGHT TRACK REVERSE = FULL-SPEED BACKWARDS LEFT TRACK FORWARD ------------------- = SLOW CLOCKWISE CIRCLE FORWARDS LEFT TRACK REVERSE ------------------- = SLOW ANTICLOCKWISE CIRCLE BACKWARDS RIGHT TRACK FORWARD ------------------- = SLOW ANTICLOCKWISE CIRCLE FORWARDS RIGHT TRACK REVERSE ------------------- = SLOW CLOCKWISE CIRCLE BACKWARDS LEFT TRACK FORWARD + RIGHT TRACK REVERSE = FAST STATIONARY CLOCKWISE ROTATION LEFT TRACK REVERSE + RIGHT TRACK FORWARD = FAST STATIONARY ANTICLOCKWISE ROTATION
There is an alternative control style available which uses forward, reverse, rotate left and rotate right.
ALTERNATIVE CONTROL STYLE (Rotational) KEYS:
DIRECTION: FORWARD ........... Q REVERSE ........... A ROTATION: LEFT .............. O RIGHT ............. P FIRE WEAPON ......... SPACE TOGGLE ENGINE SOUND . F0
Use the TOGGLE ENGINE SOUND key to silence the (very) annoying 'engine' sound of your own tank... You will want to do this! ;)
Only one control style is active during the game. To change the control style, and/or redefine the control keys, press 'K' anywhere during the rolling attract sequences. Once you have changed control style and/or keys they remain in force for your current gaming session, or until changed again. Control choices will also persist across game re-loads for those with a Quazar TRINITY interface. See below.
Pressing 'SPACE' (the START GAME key) anywhere during the rolling attract sequences will start a new game.
QUAZAR'S TRINITY INTERFACE:
If you have Quazar's excellent Trinity Ethernet interface attached to your SAM then your choice of keys, along with your choice of control style and also the high scores will be saved to the TRINITY's EEPROM. These settings will be automatically restored the next time you load the game - assuming your TRINITY is still attached!
BattleZone - Version 2
Found a minor bug - only visible to those using Colin Piggot's excellent Trinity interface. Pressing 'K' anywhere during the rolling attract sequences will take you to the key redefine section. If you have a Trinity attached you will see a message at the bottom of the screen informing you that your keyboard choices (along with the high-scores) will be saved to your Trinity. However, if you keep your finger on 'K' the keyboard debounce routine will cause this message to flash! So, sometimes, on pressing 'K' the prog will debounce and leave this message invisible. Debounce ended as the palette turned black. Fixed in v2.
Player re-spawn logic has been adjusted to make for a fairer game. Now you won't re-spawn with the enemy behind you until later on in a game. A closer match to the coin-op's behaviour.
Player tank engine frequency and 'throb' rate adjusted. Sounds better (subjective), but you'll probably still want to turn it off!
Initial demo gameplay sequence changed to a nicer looking sequence.
Green BATTLEZONE credit screen simplified and now includes my permanent email address.
Luckily v1 seemed to be pretty bug free. No-one has reported anything as yet. However, I do recommend that everyone 'upgrades' to v2... Especially those running a Trinity interface. If for nothing else but completeness. Oh, and a (slightly) fairer game!
Vectors can look a little 'wobbly' at times - due to precision errors in the fixed-point maths. Higher precision routines would fix this at the expense of frame rate. I chose frame rate. Hopefully this 'feature' doesn't detract too much from the overall ambience.
Frame rate is 16fps... Most of the time. ;)
The sound effects are (as always for me!) pretty simple blips and bloops - as it was on the real coin-op! Hopefully I've managed to capture the coin-op sounds reasonably faithfully.
The core of the game was written back in 2014 - a few SAM stalwarts saw the early prototype back then. Then 'real life' got in the way and the game was shelved until late 2020 - when I decided to actually make the effort to finish it.
Keep moving! Standing still, or just rotating on the spot, is a sure-fire way of getting killed!
Use the static objects as shields.
The Homing Missile will jump over static objects, so it is possible to evade it if you tuck yourself as close as possible to the back-side of an object. Beware, if the Homing Missile is even slightly to the left or right of a static object then its final turn could still get you!
Listen for the Flying Saucer - if you hear its sound then it is somewhere within your forward field of view. Your field of view extends a little way past the left and right edges of the screen.
It is easier to line up shots when reversing away from the enemy - it is also easier to 'dodge and weave' the enemy's shots while reversing too. But beware, if you reverse into a static object while running backwards from the enemy it will almost always end bad!
Enemy tanks don't fire when reversing - this can be exploited!