December 31, 2016

Lost Gems: "Frantic" for Colecovision

Now that the holidays are almost over and Christmas has come and gone, I feel like I can share a project I've been keeping under wraps for a couple of months.


Several years ago, Scott Huggins and Joseph Kollar teamed up to create a game called Frantic for the Colecovision. Loosely based on the Berzerk sequel Frenzy, Scott and Joe hoped to create somewhat of a Super Frenzy for the Colecovision. Adding in things like rescuing hostages, zapping laser turrets, power-ups and a cool communicator sequence between levels. All the while maintaining the spirit of its predecessors.


"THE STORY

5 words took 240 hours to travel across space. "Landing party captured on Mazeon" was all it said but it only took 5 hours for the mission to get started. This was the third Interstellar Organization ship to go to Mazeon to try and establish an embassy with the Automazeons but it seems to have suffered the same fate as the first two. Capture and imprisonment at the hands of the Automazeon robots called Eviscerators.

Based upon your skill and rank you've been picked to lead the rescue mission in prison complex Rallok 96. You're equipped with a hand laser and teleportation tags for the prisoners. Blast open the prisoner cells and tag the prisoners to immediately teleport them to the rescue ship in orbit around Mazeon. There are 25 rooms spread out over 5 levels in Rallok 96 and you'll need to get all 3 keys to exit a room after saving the prisoners. You can leave prisoners behind but you'll be sacrificing them to the Eviscerators. There are five generations of Eviscerators guarding Rallock 96 on the various levels. The IO recuse ship will communicate with you between levels regarding your progress."
- Scott Huggins


I really enjoy Frenzy as most of my friends know, so I was of course interested in this as soon as I had learned about it. I did all the reading I could on its development and to my dismay, eventually learning of its abandonment. I couldn't imagine living without this on cartridge after knowing about its existence. I asked around, but finally gave up hope on seeing it released.

I guess the guys just got busy with life and had to let the project slide. Time passed and a little progress would be made, but finally, development came to a halt. I'm sure lots of us have been in a similar situation at some point in our lives. I know I have. In fact, it's taken me maybe 20 years to finally have the means and know-how to begin making myself and others game cartridges.


Well, now that I'm more confident in my creations, I decided it was probably time to tackle making Frantic into a physical cartridge. I had boards fabricated by Elecrow, received the clear shells from TeamPixelboy and decided to top it all off with laser printed clear labels.

I created 4.5 of these cartridges(yes, one copy is still sitting on the bench!). I gave copies to my two friends Mike and Tom and a copy to Mr. Scott Huggins. This coincided with the holidays encroaching, so I chose to give Tom and Mike their copies for Christmas. I love giving surprise gifts out of nowhere, so it was really fun for me hearing the responses I received.

As far as the game being "unfinished", well... I have spotted a couple of small graphic glitches, but haven't gotten far enough to know if you can complete all 25 rooms in this version of the ROM. I believe you can and it also feels complete enough for me to really enjoy playing it.

The game is really fun and it's an interesting take on the Berzerk/Frenzy franchise. Frantic totally deserves to be finished and given an official commercial release.

So far, I have gotten to I believe the 7th or 8th room. I find it very challenging, but Scott assured me it's not that difficult, once you learn how to use the power-ups to their maximum potential. I'm not all that great at Berzerk and Frenzy, so it's not too surprising! I will fight on!


I think most people that tried this game out, most likely used an emulator or Atarimax Ultimate SD Cart, but that wouldn't do for me. I needed to give this game a proper place in my gaming library, thus the need for the cart.

I am very thankful to everyone above and everyone that helped me out in some way or another in this endeavor. It's great I was able to get into contact with both Joe and Scott. Being able to give Scott his own cartridge was a good feeling. I really believe it's important to show gratitude in this life and although Joe politely refused his copy, it's nice to know he is aware of my appreciation.

And not to toot my own horn, but before anyone sends me an email asking if this cart is available for purchase, sadly the answer will be no. I have no plan to sell any copies of these, unless I get an email from the Scott and Joe saying they'd like to see that happen. My suggestion, if you're interested in a copy for yourself is either making your own or figuring out some way to finally get this finished and given an official commercial release.

The original thread on AtariAge can be read here and it should have everything you need to get going.

Take some time to check it out! Happy Holidays!

Cheers

Besides handling the game graphics and level designs, Joseph Kollar also designed a box cover.

December 12, 2016

Lost Gems: "Blaster" for Atari 8-Bit Home Computers


Over the past couple of months I have been studying up on the ins and outs of cartridge creation for various systems. It's been pretty crazy... In my never ending quest to learn about all things video games, here begins the first of possibly many Lost Gems posts. It's about the unreleased Atari 8-Bit game Blaster.

I'm really interested in unreleased/prototype games. I think a lot of this started when I watched the movie Cloak & Dagger for the first time and never saw the game released. It still has me searching for those lost gems years later!

I printed some A8 PCB's recently and chose a few games that I've been curious about. For this cart I ran with the gray XE case. I realized quickly I need to brush up on opening those cases. They use plastic clips instead of a screw like the early brown A8 carts and I broke off a few of the tabs. Nothing some super glue couldn't fix, right?

"Few people even remember, much less have actually seen a Blaster arcade machine.  This unique 3-D shooting game was actually the unofficial sequel to Robotron: 2084 (set in the year 2085).  Unfortunately the powerful 3-D graphics used in the game made it very expensive to produce, so only a few hundred were made (estimates say around 500).  Another problem was that while Blaster was gorgeous to look at and fun to watch, it was a very difficult game to play.  Few players were skilled enough to reach the end, and as most arcade operators know, overly difficult games don't make much money (such was Gravitars fate).  The odd 3-D style graphics also tended to confuse people and scare away potential players (this was 1983 after all).  This is a shame because games like Blaster and I, Robot were really ahead of their time." - AtariProtos.com

I highly suggest reading the article over at AtariProtos.com, as they do a better job than I can do on its history and gameplay.

Blaster for the A8 rules! It really is a shame this game wasn't released back in the day. I believe it really could have been a hit for the Atari 8-Bit line. The 3D animation is done very well and it's a lot of fun to play. Simple to learn, but continues to give my hands a workout going for bigger scores.

Here's some gameplay footage of the A8 version:


I love the crazy Deathriders in the Outer Space stage(1:45 in the video above). They really crack me up riding those rockets! And I also love the animation and sound effect when the Z-15 Fitershipz come into the playfield(1:27 above). Awesome stuff!

All of the stages really work well together and it's a blast trying to catch the floating astronauts while destroying everything in your wake. The sounds are very arcade like at times too and it feels like a polished title IMO.

If you have an interest in Atari 8-Bit games and haven't played Blaster, you really owe it to yourself to check it out. It's fun to watch the video, but even more fun to play.

My thanks to the following for their helpful information:

AtariProtos
PixelsPast
Atarimania

P.S.

If you're curious what the Arcade version looks like, check out this video: