Matt Chat 27: Chuck Bueche's Autoduel

Matt Barton's picture

Hi, guys. I'm back this week with Origin's 1985 smash hit Autoduel!

Autoduel is understandably a cult classic, with fun gameplay and creative arsenal of powerups for your vehicle. I'd be interested to hear from folks who've played Roadwar 2000 and Roadwar Europa as well, which at first glance seem to take the turn-based approach to the game preferred by Steve Jackson Games. Enjoy!

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Mark Vergeer
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a video response

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Michael McCourt
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Yay, Origin!

Origin!!!!! *sniff* I wish they were still creating single-player worlds. :( NCSoft kinda carried some of the traditions of Origin (or at least had a lot of Origin folks working for them) but I hate the fact that they created Tabula Rasa and Auto Assault and because those games didn't do well, those games are just -gone-. If one didn't play them when they were out there, one most likely won't get to.

Great chat, Matt! I noticed the absence of the book plug which reminded me I need to order those books!

Mark Vergeer
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The plug is there - but it's at the end,

it's right at the end just before the final words...

Now this goes to show why on 30 minute shows they do the plugs and advertisements right in the middle of the show - it's obnoxious and it is remembered. The plug at the end seems to get noticed less.

So there you have it Matt - do the plug in the middle and people ' complain ' about it. Move the plug at the end and people mistakenly notice it is gone. What is a Matt Chatter to do...... ;-)

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Armchair arcade Editor | Pixellator | www.markvergeer.nl

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Michael McCourt
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ack, I didn't remember it!
Mark Vergeer wrote:

it's right at the end just before the final words...

Now this goes to show why on 30 minute shows they do the plugs and advertisements right in the middle of the show - it's obnoxious and it is remembered. The plug at the end seems to get noticed less.

So there you have it Matt - do the plug in the middle and people ' complain ' about it. Move the plug at the end and people mistakenly notice it is gone. What is a Matt Chatter to do...... ;-)

When I read this my first response was "no way!". I went and cut to the ending and of course it's there. Here's the scary part: I remembered the "Drive Offensively" line! My brain had edited out the "please rate" and "book plug!" and instead it was almost like the suggestion was inserted subliminally!!! I had no memory of being reminded, and yet, I was reminded...

Matt Barton
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Thanks for the comments,

Thanks for the comments, Mark and Michael.

In re: to the book plugging, I suspect that many folks stop the video before it is finished. Youtube tells me that most people watch these episodes for about 3 minutes before quitting. Rob had a good point--these could be people back to read comments and not re-watch, but I suspect a great many simply lose interest and move on. From a marketing standpoint, my initial spot for the plug was the best, since that's the spot just before most of them quit watching anyway (regardless if there is a plug or not, I might add).

However, it might be that placing it at the end is better, since there the only people who will see it are the "diehard" fans who are probably more likely to buy the books anyway. Would someone who only watched a minute or two be a prospective book buyer? I guess that's the big question.

I've been thinking that maybe a good thing to do would be make a 3-5 minute infomercial (not trying to hide it as such) about each book. Then I could link to these from my main videos after a casual mention ("If you'd like more information, click here...") This would probably be more effective than just a quick plug, since I could spend more time talking about the books' features and so on.

At any rate, as far as I can tell the whole thing has netted maybe a half dozen sales, if we can believe people's comments. There may be more who bought them without commenting, of course (hard to know how many). The sales figures for the books have fluctuated rapidly, sometimes going days without a sale, then 1-4 sales, and so on. The biggest spikes ever were the Slashdot reviews, which I figure brought in as many as 20-25 sales each. Obviously, not having these in bookstores and easier to find is more damaging than anything else, since casual folks with an interest in the topic will likely never hear about them. You'd have to very hardcore to even know they exist, and out of that tiny percentage, an even smaller percentage willing to buy it.

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Calibrator
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Terrible memories...

That's what I remember when I think about this game! ;-)

I had the Atari 8-bit (con)version and I felt "con'd" indeed as the game was in black & white - on PAL machines. The reason for that was of course that the Atari version relied on dithering to get color on NTSC machines. This technique doesn't work with PAL machines, though, as the colors are generated differently with this system.
As Matt pointed out in his review/video that Origin could've spend more money on the 16-bit conversions the same could be said for the PAL versions but it was likely that this wasn't really an important market back then.

The second thing that annoyed me was that the game was pretty hard and as Matt mentions: You effectively start anew each time you die. You really get punished for being 'incompetent' and this is IMHO really shoddy game design. OK - I was used to the step-by-step tactical RPG worlds of Ultima at the time (which is why I bought the game in the first place - I thought "A Mad Max RPG from Origin - how could that be possibly bad?") but I'm happy to hear that other people got the same impression.

While technically the game is pretty up to snuff - all graphics are being drawn in bitmap mode (AFAIK both the Atari and C64 versions don't deviate from the Apple II and don't make use of their character modes) - and it's quite fast: Charles 'Chuckles' Bueche was an accomplished assembler programmer as can be seen with his other Origin games (Caverns of Callisto and 2400 A.D.).

However, at some point I made a grave mistake: I somehow mixed up disks and formatted one of the game disks! It wasn't copy protected as it was also used for save games and this effectively terminated by unsuccessful auto duelling career...

A final trivia bit: The original package came with a small tool set (screwdrivers etc.) and it broke very easily: Don't ever use that to work on something! ;-)

As for the video: I like this video clearly better than most of the previous RPG installments and the reason is simple: There is much more time allocated to actual game footage, while Matt narrates more or less exactly what happens on-screen.
I think you should continue on this route, Matt.

take care,
Calibrator

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Rowdy Rob
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Autoduel and RPG/action hybrids.
Calibrator wrote:

As for the video: I like this video clearly better than most of the previous RPG installments and the reason is simple: There is much more time allocated to actual game footage, while Matt narrates more or less exactly what happens on-screen.
I think you should continue on this route, Matt.

Other than the book-plugging at the end, I didn't notice anything dramatically different in Matt's general format or coverage of the game, as compared with previous Matt Chat installments. Some games, particularly games like this, warrant extended coverage, but other games, like Super Mario Kart, don't.

I have noticed the use of relevant movie footage in the last two Matt Chats. Cool!

I'm curious about the concept of "hybrid" RPG's. I can't think of many others at the moment, other than "Autoduel," that combine arcade/action elements into the RPG mix. Perhaps the Elite-style games come to mind, but that's about it. I suppose the Zelda games might come to mind also, but it's debatable whether they are true RPG's or not. Autoduel has arcade elements, but has enough meat to truly qualify as an RPG, in my opinion.

Considering the large amount of time I played Autoduel, it's surprising how little I remember of it. The car combat sequences I remember, but that's about it.

I suppose RPG purists would balk at such action game mechanics in the otherwise cerebral game genre, but if it's fun, I'm there. I like RPG's, but I have an itchy trigger finger as well!

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Bill Loguidice
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Even though its genesis was

Even though its genesis was a turn-based pen and paper game, I think it was a superb choice to make Autoduel mostly real-time. Either way would have worked, but it made it very different and very exciting. I agree that a lot of times I consider action elements anti-RPG, but in this case I can think of Autoduel as nothing less than an RPG. I have RPGs like Roadwar 2000 and Roadware Europa that don't feature real-time elements, but I have yet to play them. It will be interesting to see the similarities/differences.

Books!
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Matt Barton
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Roadwar
Bill Loguidice wrote:

I have RPGs like Roadwar 2000 and Roadware Europa that don't feature real-time elements, but I have yet to play them. It will be interesting to see the similarities/differences.

I am also *very* curious about these. I haven't heard hardly anyone mention them for some odd reason, though. I've probably heard more about Ogre than these games. It says here that it's an adventure/strategy game rather than an RPG.

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Calibrator
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Roadwar 2000 and Europe
Matt Barton wrote:

I am also *very* curious about these. I haven't heard hardly anyone mention them for some odd reason, though. I've probably heard more about Ogre than these games. It says here that it's an adventure/strategy game rather than an RPG.

Judging by the screenshots for all systems and the manual these are strategy games.
The only scenes are map travel and car combat (both on the same overland map) and there seems to be no party with individuals but with numbers of troops. The car outfitting screens look like something in Gran Turismo (albeit much simpler of course) but not like character status screens.
And yes, the commands are similar to many RPGs (which often borrowed them from strategy games) and there is "loot" to get after a battle is won but I haven't seen any individual except "car #1" here.

Though these games have a plot to follow I also don't really see an adventure element in the sense of "interactive fiction" (being graphical or text) here. It's more of a connected campaign with several missions, IMHO.

take care,
Calibrator

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