Next Book Chapter - Robotron: 2084 - Need Assistance

Bill Loguidice's picture

Well, it's beyond crunch time now and we're in danger of having to drop some chapters if we don't pick up the pace, so we need your help now more than ever. I've been jumping around a bit in the book and just threw a bunch of notes in the Robotron: 2084 chapter. I would love to hear about all your favorite games with Robotron-like 360 degree independent movement and firing, be it in the arcade or at home, to ensure that I don't miss any. It would also be a big help if I could hear a good listing of Xbox 360 and PS3 downloadable games that make use of the Robotron-style control scheme, as there are legion. It would really save me a ton of research. Thanks so much, guys!

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Rowdy Rob
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Space Dungeon

The only game I can think of with true Robotron-style movement/firing was the arcade game "Space Dungeon," which was spun off in home versions. I primarily played it on the Atari 8-bit. It was a kind of cross between Robotron and Berserk.

TRON had a similar system where movement was controlled by the joystick, but the firing arc was controlled by a paddle.

I think many of the Ikari Warriors-style games had similar systems too I recall a game I used to play called (I think) "Wild Western" with a similar 360 firing arc too.

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Bill Loguidice
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Dual Control Games
Rowdy Rob wrote:

The only game I can think of with true Robotron-style movement/firing was the arcade game "Space Dungeon," which was spun off in home versions. I primarily played it on the Atari 8-bit. It was a kind of cross between Robotron and Berserk.

TRON had a similar system where movement was controlled by the joystick, but the firing arc was controlled by a paddle.

I think many of the Ikari Warriors-style games had similar systems too I recall a game I used to play called (I think) "Wild Western" with a similar 360 firing arc too.

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Thanks. I actually have Space Dungeon for the Atari 5200 and it comes with a coupler for authentic dual stick control. I forgot it came in an arcade version.

It's not so much the 360 degree arc as it is independent movement and firing I'm after at this point. Certain games used rotary joysticks, but that's not what I'm after either. Basically completely independent controls. This is of course possible on any system with a dual joystick configuration, though some games have mapped the secondary controls to four face buttons, which achieves something of a similar effect.

I forgot about Tron, thanks!



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Matt Barton
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I must admit, this is one

I must admit, this is one I'd opt for dropping if it came down to it. I never really enjoyed it as a kid, and don't really see why it's so great - though I know a lot of people (ahem, Shane R. Monroe) praise it to no end. I just don't see it myself.

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Bill Loguidice
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Robotron
Matt Barton wrote:

I must admit, this is one I'd opt for dropping if it came down to it. I never really enjoyed it as a kid, and don't really see why it's so great - though I know a lot of people (ahem, Shane R. Monroe) praise it to no end. I just don't see it myself.

The goal is not to drop anything. This will be a short, quick chapter. It's important. They all are. Regardless, I don't mind having a few chapters of a couple of pages.



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Chris Kennedy
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Hey Bill

Good luck with the time crunch.

I never really saw the appeal of Robotron 2084. I must have played it back in the day, but it got filed into the back of my mind. If someone asked me about it years later, I would say "oh yeah. That's an old arcade game," and that was about all I knew about it. I've listened to retrogaming radio, and Shane is the first person that comes to mind when I hear Robotron because I think he is the only gamer I know that likes it. I only mention this because Matt already did, and I had to laugh.

Where does Robotron stand in gaming history? Ms. Pac-Man? Check. Galaga? Check. Robotron? "...you mean with Rick Hunter and the huge ship that could transform?" Some games stand alone in their class. You could argue that Pac-man style games (Super Pac-man, etc) may have improved upon Ms. Pac-Man (which improved upon Pac-Man), but Ms. Pac-Man gets the nods. Numerous vertical scrollers can take Galaga to lunch, but scroller fans will continue to play Galaga. I think Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga have just cemented themselves as staples of their genre.

Robotron? I think it has been greatly improved upon and somewhat forgotten. There are several other games that have created a gaming formula only to be outgrown by a new game that expands on those ideas years later. I believe it was Scott Sharkey of 1up.com's Retronauts that once gave examples of evolved game types that oftentimes overshadow their gaming ancestors. One example he used was "why play Double Dragon when you can play Final Fight?" Say what you will about which one you might prefer - nostalgia being an obvious ingredient -, but you have to acknowledge that Final Fight does make a lot of improvements upon Double Dragon.

So what about Robotron? This is one particular game where I have to chime in Sharkey-style with "Why play Robotron when you can play Smash TV?"

Smash TV was an arcade game that could easily swallow your quarters - not necessarily because it was so much fun, but because it was hard. Or at least that is how I remember it. When I really took to liking it was with the SNES version a few years later. A college roommate of mine had it for the Super Nintendo, and it turned into a 2 player co-op *staple* for us. It represented a high-paced game that required good, coordinated teamwork in order to get through it with 2 players. If you had two people that knew what they were doing, it maintained a pretty high energy level for you. Simple words like "cover", "yours", "help", and "AHH!" were all that were needed to help direct your teammate. After you beat the game, it would unlock an even faster mode for you to play (at least on the SNES). That upped the energy level even more. I assume you guys are familiar with the game, so I am not going into the gameplay details. It is simply an example of the aforementioned evolution of a genre. In this case, the "multi-directional move and shoot."

I realize that there are probably tons of people that couldn't care less about that double joystick, crazy movement sort of game, but I would say Smash TV is a great example of a two player cooperative game - something that is oftentimes hard to find nowadays.

(Speaking of crazy and double joystick, Crazy Climber is an interesting arcade game worth mentioning. It doesn't really fit into your 360 degree shooter classification, though)

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Rowdy Rob
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Why Robotron is important (well, from a gaming perspective)

I think what Matt and CkRtech are not getting about Robotron speaks more about what kind of persons they are than the qualities of Robotron itself. Matt and CkRtech may very well be primarily CEREBRAL-based people, and Robotron doesn't really have much to offer for the cerebrum portion of the brain.

Robotron may very well be the pinnacle of the arcade "twitch game." (In my opinion, it is!) It is all about instinctual motor-skill reactions, and nothing else. Yes, there was a backstory to the game, but it really didn't matter; it was all about the player reacting on pure instinct. Most arcade games of the time offered this to a large degree, but Robotron was an all-out assault on the cerebellum; only the most "lizard-brained" among us would go very far! In my opinion, there's never been another game like it on the "twitch" level, saving the "clones" such as CkRtech's fave "Smash TV."

If you like a game where you can sit back, sip a cup of coffee (or adult beverage), and play a game, Robotron isn't for you. It is possibly the most fast-paced game ever created (while still humanly playable), and required not only your full attention, but also for you to shut down just about every portion of your brain except the pure instinctual portion.

There's nothing like Robotron in modern games. Robotron comes at you full force, and you have to react to the game on the microsecond level. There's so much information to process that you cannot really think about what you're doing, you just have to "let go" and let your instincts do their thing. And by "letting go," there was a definite sense of exhilaration, almost an adrenaline-fueled "high." Most arcade games were going for this "high," but Robotron was aiming right for the adrenal gland!

It doesn't come across today with "emulators" and such, but back then, when you had MONEY at stake, there was a sheer pulse-pounding adrenaline that fueled the terror of being assaulted from all sides, every enemy visible to you on the screen at once. In fact, the 2D, everything-on-one-screen simplicity was what made the game more powerful, and cannot really be improved upon with modern scrolling, 3D first-person gameplay. It is a game that really cannot be improved upon, save for perhaps crisper graphics(?).

As I've said, Robotron is arguably the pinnacle of the "twitch" game, a relic of a lost game era where the goal wasn't so much to immerse you in an alternate reality so much as pump you up with an adrenaline high. There's no modern game that I can think of that is so fast-paced and keeps your adrenaline pumping for such sustained periods. As such, I consider it a classic (even though it was actually too much for my cerebral-handicapped brain), and I feel may warrant attention in your book.

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yakumo9275
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as far as twitch factor

as far as twitch factor goes, defender wins that for me. I never liked robotron and its ilk.

dual stick control wise, the only other game I pumped quarters into that ran two sticks was karate champ ^_^

-- Stu --

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Bill Loguidice
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Robotron

Certainly part of the reason for inclusion was the game's design, but it was also influential to many developers. I know it's a stretch, but I thought it was also important to include for the POC of independent movement and control, which I think is critical in this world of 3D games, where the camera can at times be considered a controllable character. This is one of those games, like a DDR or Pole Position, mentioned in the book, where the controls are as important as the games themselves.

Karate Champ is a good one. I was going to keep that only in the Street Fighter II chapter, but it's certainly worth a mention here briefly as well.



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Matt Barton
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I did have an interesting

I did have an interesting experience with Robotron. I'd never played it at the arcades and thus never got the dual joystick part of it. Then, much, much, later, I got a dual X-Arcade (I need to take that thing out of mothballs!!) and fired up Robotron. It was definitely a totally different game with the two sticks. It takes special coordination to handle it. Battlezone and other tank games were also much easier (or least different) with the setup.

I could see lumping Robotron in with the Defender chapter if it could be done easily.

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Bill Loguidice
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Groupings
Matt Barton wrote:

I could see lumping Robotron in with the Defender chapter if it could be done easily.

In retrospect I would have lumped more games together, like Pong and Spacewar!, but we pretty much have to stay the course now and just write. I'm actually happy that we jumped around in our writing, as chapters will be "randomly" two to six pages, not counting images (which will probably add one to three pages to each in the final book). Seems like purely by accident, we'll have reached a good mix and balance. If we had written in a linear fashion, the chapters in the back would have received short shrift, whether they were supposed to be or not (meaning some chapters were always meant to be short, and some long).

I expect to finish the Robotron chapter today. There will be a few other short ones too, like Pole Position and Star Raiders, among others, with the rest probably being roughly mid-size, with only one or two remaining of the long variety.



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