Battlezone (1980 video game)

Battlezone is a first-person shooter tank combat game released for arcades in November 1980 by Atari, Inc. The player controls a tank which is attacked by other tanks and missiles. Using a small radar scanner along with the terrain window, the player can locate enemies and obstacles around them in the barren landscape. Its innovative use of 3D graphics made it a huge hit, with approximately 15,000 cabinets sold.

Arcade poster
Developer(s)Atari, Inc.
  • Ed Rotberg
  • Owen Rubin
  • Roger Hector
Programmer(s)Ed Rotberg
Morgan Hoff
Composer(s)Jed Margolin
Platform(s)Arcade, Apple II, Atari 8-bit, Atari 2600, Atari ST, Commodore 64, IBM PC, VIC-20, ZX Spectrum
Atari 2600
C64, VIC-20
Atari 8-bit
Genre(s)Vehicular combat
First-person shooter[7][8][9]

With its use of three-dimensional vector graphics, the game is considered to be the first true 3D arcade game with a first-person perspective,[10] the "first big 3D success" in the video game industry,[11] and the first successful first-person shooter video game in particular, making it a milestone for first-person shooter games.[10]

The game was primarily designed by Ed Rotberg, who was mainly inspired by Atari's top-down shooter game Tank (1974). Battlezone was distributed in Japan by Sega and Taito in 1981. The system was based on vector hardware designed by Howard Delman which was introduced in Lunar Lander and saw success with Asteroids. The 3D hardware that drove the program saw use in following games, including Red Baron, released in 1981.[12]

Gameplay edit

Two joysticks control the player's tank. Instructions on their use are printed on the cabinet.

The game uses wireframe vector graphics displayed on a black and white vector monitor. A colored overlay tints the display green for the bottom 45 where the action takes place, and red for the top 15 where the score and radar screen are displayed.[10]

The player drives a tank using two joysticks, one controlling the right tread and the other the left. By moving the joysticks relative to each other, the tank can move forward or reverse (both moved in the same direction), turn on the spot to the left or right (one forward, one back) or move and turn at a slower rate (one forward or backward, one neutral). The right-side stick also has a fire button on top, which fires the player's gun in the direction the tank is currently facing.[10]

Gameplay takes place on a flat plane with a mountainous horizon featuring an erupting volcano, distant crescent moon, and various geometric solids (in vector outline) like pyramids and blocks. The geometric solid obstacles are indestructible and can block the movement of a player's tank while also blocking shots and can be used as shields. The action surrounds the player in all directions, including off-screen locations, forcing the player to locate the enemy using the radar display at the top of the screen. [10]

There are three types enemy craft that appear during play, one at a time. At the start of a game, the enemy is dominated by slow tanks that are not particularly difficult to hit even when moving. As the game continues, missiles begin to appear in place of the enemy tanks; these move much faster and are more difficult to hit. Finally, the much faster supertanks appear at higher levels, which are not only harder to hit but also attack more aggressively.

Periodically saucer-shaped UFOs will appear while making a distinctive sound to announce their presence; these do not appear on the radar and do not attack the user, but can be shot for bonus points. This is the only object that may appear while other enemies are already present.

There is a gameplay modification at 100,000 points if the proper conditions are met. When executed properly, the next appearing supertank will not attack but will instead retreat. A tank icon will then appear at right on qualified high score listings.

Cabinet edit

Battlezone uses 3D vector graphics viewed through a "periscope".

Battlezone is housed in an upright full-sized arcade cabinet with a "periscope" viewfinder. The viewfinder limited the player's view so that the display appeared to be naturally limited to that of the scope.[10] The game action can also be viewed from the sides of the viewfinder for spectators to watch. The game's periscope viewfinder is similar to earlier submarine shooting arcade games, notably Midway's arcade video game Sea Wolf (1976) and Sega's electro-mechanical game Periscope (1966).[13] A later version of the cabinet removed the periscope and raised the monitor to a more normal position to improve visibility to non-players and improve ergonomics for players who could not reach the periscope.[14] A smaller, "cabaret" version of the cabinet has the screen angled upwards and no periscope.[10]

The large controller handles were adapted from earlier gear-shift controllers used on racing games, modified with a new stick shape with internal ribs to make them stronger and adding rubber centering bellows. The right stick has a raised and LED illuminated fire button on top, and the controls were completed with a similar LED illuminated start button on the cabinet. There were two speakers, one each above and below the 19-inch monitor.[14]

Development edit

With the success of the Cinematronics vector graphics games, Atari's Grass Valley engineering labs decided to build their own version of a vector display system known as "QuadraScan" that offered a resolution of 1024 x 768.[15] Once it was up and running, they delivered the prototype unit to Atari headquarters where it was given to Howard Delman and Rick Moncrief to develop it into a unit suitable for arcade video game use.[16] Delman decided to reimplement the driver system using analog electronics instead of digital, simplifying it and lowering its cost.[15]

While working on the system, Delman suggested they use it to implement a version of Lunar Lander. While Delman worked on the driver hardware and Moncrief on the display system, Rich Moore wrote the software for the game.[16] Lunar Lander was released in August 1979, Atari's first vector game, but was not a great success with only 4,830 units manufactured.[15]

Another team at Atari consisting of Lyle Rains, Ed Logg, and Steve Callfee was working on a raster graphics game called Planet Grab. When they saw Lunar Lander they asked about using the same system for their game, and the result was Asteroids. Released in November 1979, it went on to be Atari's most successful game, with 55,000 units sold.[15]

With the system now proving a huge success in the arcades, Morgan Hoff organized a brainstorming session at Atari to consider additional uses for the hardware. Around the same time, Atari had also been experimenting with early 3D displays using a custom math chip known simply as "the math box", developed by Jed Margolin and Mike Albaugh. The idea of using the math box with the vector hardware seemed like a winner, and the idea of a tank game was raised at the meeting, although Hoff could not remember exactly who introduced the idea.[15]

The game's design was led by Ed Rotberg. He cited Atari's top-down arcade shooter game Tank (1974) as the primary inspiration behind Battlezone, essentially a 3D version of that game. While Battlezone also has similarities to a first-person tank simulation for the PLATO system, Panther, Rotberg said he had never played that game before but had heard of it; he said it "may have inspired whoever originally suggested the idea at the brainstorming meeting where it was proposed, but I seriously doubt it."[17]

Owen Rubin, who shared an office with Ed Rotberg, came up with the idea of making the volcano in the background erupt, and coded the animation for it.[18]

Ports edit

In the 1980s, Battlezone was ported to the Apple II, Atari 2600, Commodore 64, VIC-20, IBM PC, ZX Spectrum, and later the Atari 8-bit and ST computers. The ports to non-Atari systems were from Atarisoft. The ZX Spectrum version was published by Quicksilva.

The Atari 8-bit version was released on cartridge in 1987 in the styling of the then-new Atari XEGS.[6] An Atari 5200 port was scheduled for release in November 1983, but was cancelled.[19]

The Atari 2600 version uses raster graphics instead of vectors and has a third person view where the tank is visible.

The Atari ST port contains large parts of the original 6502 code which is emulated.[20]

Reception edit

Battlezone was released in November 1980 and was a hit. Although not as successful as Asteroids, Battlezone eventually produced another 15,000 sales for Atari.[15]

Battlezone was well received, earning an Honorable Mention for "Best Commercial Arcade Game" in 1982 at the Third Annual Arkie Awards. It was runner-up, behind Pac-Man.[21]: 76  David and Sandy Small called it "addictive" and mention the "Battlezone Tunnel Vision, which makes you drive strangely during rush hour."[22] In a more recent review, Eurogamer stated "Atari's designers came up with some incredibly inventive and interesting games before their decline. Battlezone is one of the finer examples" and rate it 8 out of 10.[23] Fox gives it a 4 out of 5 rating in The Video Games Guide, although he admits this might perturb some readers.[24] In 1996, GamesMaster ranked the arcade version 97th on their "Top 100 Games of All Time"[25]

The Bradley Trainer edit

A standard enemy tank in the player's sights in The Bradley Trainer

A version called The Bradley Trainer (also known as Army Battlezone or Military Battlezone) was designed for use by the U.S. Army as targeting training for gunners on the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.[26] It was commissioned by a consultant group of retired generals.[27]

Approaching Atari in December 1980, some developers within Atari refused to work on the project because of its association with the Army,[28] most notably original Battlezone programmer Ed Rotberg.[29] Rotberg only joined the project after he was promised by management that he would never be asked to do anything with the military in the future.[30] According to Rotberg, it took him three months of constant work to develop the prototype version of The Bradley Trainer.[27] Only two were produced; one was delivered to the Army and is presumed lost, and the other is in the private collection of Scott Evans,[31][32] who found it by a dumpster in the rear parking lot at Midway Games.

The gunner yoke was based on the Bradley Fighting Vehicle control and was later re-used in the popular Star Wars game.[30] The Bradley Trainer differs dramatically from the original Battlezone as it features helicopters, missiles, and machine guns; furthermore, the actual tank does not move but the guns simply rotate.

Legacy edit

Because of its use of first-person pseudo 3D graphics combined with a "viewing goggle" that the player puts his or her face into, Battlezone is sometimes considered the first virtual reality arcade video game.[33]

Related games and rereleases edit

Clones and inspired games edit

See also edit

References edit

Citations edit

  1. ^ a b "Video Game Flyers: Battlezone, Atari, Inc. (Germany)". The Arcade Flyer Archive. Retrieved 16 July 2021.
  2. ^ "Production Numbers" (PDF). Atari. 1999. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 January 2013. Retrieved 19 March 2012.
  3. ^ "Atari Introduces 'Battlezone' Combat Challenge Game To Test Skill, Wits" (PDF). Cash Box. November 8, 1980. p. 36.
  4. ^ a b "BATTLE ZONE". Media Arts Database (in Japanese). Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved 16 July 2021.
  5. ^ "Year-End Index" (PDF). Computer Entertainer. Vol. 3, no. 10. January 1985. p. 156.
  6. ^ a b "Battlezone". Atari Mania.
  7. ^ Dalton, Andrew (December 15, 2016). "'Battlezone' Classic Mode fulfills the promise of '80s VR". Engadget. Retrieved September 23, 2017. It's been 36 years since Atari released Battlezone and effectively created the first-person shooter in the process.
  8. ^ Staff (May 1, 2017). "A 43-year history of first-person shooters - from Maze War to Destiny 2". GamesRadar. Retrieved September 23, 2017. 1980s: First-person-shooters become commercialised: Battlezone gives life to the FPS.
  9. ^ Walker, Alex (October 26, 2012). "Evolution of the First Person Shooter". ABC News. Retrieved September 23, 2017. But the one game that many Generation X'ers will identify with when it comes to first-person shooters belongs to Atari and the green, wire-frame worlds within Battlezone.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Hanson 2021, p. 104.
  11. ^ "The evolution of 3D games". Tech Radar. 2010-07-11. Retrieved 2020-03-19.
  12. ^ Wolf 2008, p. 68.
  13. ^ Wolf, Mark J. P. (2012). Encyclopedia of Video Games: The Culture, Technology, and Art of Gaming. Vol. 1. ABC-CLIO. pp. 68–9. ISBN 978-0-313-37936-9.
  14. ^ a b Lendino, Jamie (2020). Attract Mode: The Rise and Fall of Coin-Op Arcade Games. Steel Gear Press. p. 122.
  15. ^ a b c d e f Fulton 2008.
  16. ^ a b Delman 2007.
  17. ^ Wolf, Mark J.P. (9 August 2012). "BattleZone and the Origins of First-Person Shooting Games". In Call, Joshua; Voorhees, Gerald A.; Whitlock, Katie (eds.). Guns, Grenades, and Grunts: First-Person Shooter Games. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 25-40 (35-6). ISBN 978-1-4411-4224-5.
  18. ^ Kent, Steven (November 1997). "Retroview: The Owen Rubin Memorial Gameroom". Next Generation. No. 35. Imagine Media. p. 34.
  19. ^ Reichert, Matt. "Battlezone". Retrieved 2007-07-05.
  20. ^ "Spiced up games".
  21. ^ Kunkel, Bill; Laney Jr., Frank (January 1982). "Arcade Alley: The Third Annual Arcade Awards". Video. Reese Communications. 5 (10): 28, 76–77. ISSN 0147-8907.
  22. ^ Small, David; Small, Sandy (January 1982). "The Expert's Guide to Beating Asteroids, Battlezone, Galazian, RipOff and Space Invaders". Creative Computing. p. 18.
  23. ^ Parrish, Peter (25 October 2007). "Battlezone, Tanks for the memories".
  24. ^ Fox, Matt (2013). The Video Games Guide. McFarland. p. 24.
  25. ^ "Top 100 Games of All Time" (PDF). GamesMaster (44): 74. July 1996.
  26. ^ "". Retrieved 2007-09-17.
  27. ^ a b "Army Armed with Quarters!". Next Generation. No. 26. Imagine Media. February 1997. p. 49.
  28. ^ Jung, Robert. "The Army Battlezone Q & A". Archived from the original on 31 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-17.
  29. ^ Hague, James. "Halcyon Days: Ed Rotberg". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-17.
  30. ^ a b Kent, Steven L. (2001). The Ultimate History of Video Games. Prima Publishing. pp. 153–155. ISBN 0-7615-3643-4.
  31. ^ Evans, Scott. "Bradley Trainer". Retrieved 2007-09-17.
  32. ^ "MAWS Bradley Trainer ROM set info". Archived from the original on 16 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-09.
  33. ^ Dan Harries (2002). The New Media Book. British Film Institute.
  34. ^ "Atari Lynx - Battlezone 2000". AtariAge.
  35. ^ "Review Crew: Battlezone / Super Breakout". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 87. Ziff Davis. October 1996. p. 66.
  36. ^ Dobson, Jason (May 4, 2006). "Pre-E3: Battlezone Re-imagined, Charlotte's Web, Codemasters Finds Bliss". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2010-01-29.
  37. ^ "Xbox – Battlezone Game Detail Page". Archived from the original on April 14, 2008.
  38. ^ "Wargaming and Rebellion claim Atari IPs". MCV. 22 July 2013.
  39. ^ "Battlezone Critic Reviews for PlayStation 4". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  40. ^ a b "Battlezone Hits HTC Vive and Oculus Rift with an Exciting Launch Trailer". DualShockers. 11 May 2017. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  41. ^ "3D Combat Zone - World Of Spectrum Classic".
  42. ^ "Atari Battlezone -". Retrieved 2023-07-20.
  43. ^ "/mac/game/war/00index.txt".
  44. ^ "SGI TPL View (6 bz)". Archived from the original on 2007-09-30.
  45. ^ "Shop – clockworkrobot".

Bibliography edit

External links edit