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What Might Have Been

For every project that we completed at ANALOG, there is another that for whatever reason never quite made it to the light of day.  Here is where you'll find information on these things that never were.

I'll be writing up stories here as time allows, so please check back often!

Hovercraft Commander

Wonder Wart-Hog

The Amiga Magazine

Tachyon!

Borrowing Money/Saving Money

Sunday Driver!

Crash Dive!

 


Hovercraft Commander
by Tom

It's fitting that this would be the first item in this section, because it was the first (potentially) commercial video game I ever worked on.

In 1980, a couple of years before I worked at ANALOG, I was working as a computer operator at Great Southern Savings & Loan in Springfield, MO while attending college at Southwest Missouri State University (now just plain ol' Missouri State University).  I also got to write programs for the S&L, which was kind of fun.

Anyway, I had met ANALOG publisher Lee Pappas a couple of years earlier at a science fiction convention and we compared notes on our personal computers.  I had a Compucolor II, and Lee had a MITS Altair system.  Then in 1980 some friends and I ventured to Massachusetts, to the World Science Fiction Convention in Boston, and got together with Lee again.  By now, Lee had started getting interested in the Atari computers and we talked about it a bit.

I remember thinking that an Atari computer would pretty much be like the Atari 2600 game system, which I thought kind of sucked, and wasn't nearly serious enough for what I wanted to do.   Lee was talking about doing a newsletter for the Atari computers, which also sounded not-so-interesting to me, as I was envisioning some sort of 4-page photocopied thing.

But then I started seeing some of the graphics stuff the Atari was capable of, and started to get interested.

Well, at this time one of my favorite video games was Atari's "Battlezone" and I was really into doing cool computer graphics ala the vector stuff seen on TV's "Battlestar Galactica" and in "Battlezone", and I discussed this with Lee.  We hit on the idea of doing a knock-off of Battlezone for the Atari machines.


The original Atari "Battlezone" display 

As we did with all the games we eventually knocked off for the magazine, we came up with an alternate title and backstory.  In this case, the game would be called "Hovercraft Commander" and you weren't fighting tanks as in "Battlezone" but were dealing with other hovercraft.  (They looked just like tanks, oddly enough...)

I didn't have a lot of disposable cash sitting around, so I scraped together enough to buy an Atari 400 system and cassette unit, got an Assembler/Editor programming cartridge and started trying to figure out how to write a copy of "Battlezone" that would work on it.

I had written assembly language code for IBM computers in school but had never written assembly language for microprocessors before, so it was new territory for me.  I taught myself 6502 assembly language as I went, just using a reference manual for a guide.

At this point, there really wasn't much out there as far as documentation on how to make the Atari display do what you wanted.  We had minimal information on where the "display list" (the code that controlled the video display) was, but not much more.  I started using the PEEK and POKE commands in Atari BASIC to manipulate these things and in short order had come up with a pretty good basic understanding of how to make it do what I wanted.  It was the ultimate fun in "hacking" -- Finding out how to do things in computers that were not really publicized. 

Then I started getting the code written to create 3D obstacles and tanks (I mean, hovercraft!) on the screen and drive around.

I got this game fairly far along, but because I wanted a full-screen display with enemy hovercraft and obstacles moving around, getting it all to work properly on a pretty slow 6502 processor was tough.  I used player/missile graphics for the enemy hovercraft and had a smooth-scrolling display just like the original.

because I had no disk drive, development of this project was an agonizing process!  I had to save the code out to cassette and was incredibly paranoid about having a tape go bad on me, so I always did multiple saves, which, of course, took forever.

About the time I had the gameplay starting to work, it was getting into 1982 and I started actually working at ANALOG -- And at some point we ditched the "Hovercraft Commander" concept and moved on to other things.  Maybe Lee can remember more about the decision, but the next thing I moved on to as far as a commercial product was "Buried Bucks" in late 1982.

I do remember that on one of our trips to California we met with some Atari officials and showed them the "Hovercraft Commander" work in progress with the idea of finishing up the development for them as an official "Battlezone", but nothing ever came out of that.


Wonder Wart-Hog

Coming Soon!


The Amiga Magazine

Coming Soon!


Tachyon!

Coming Soon!


Borrowing Money/Saving Money

Coming Soon!


Sunday Driver!

Coming Soon!


Crash Dive!

Coming Soon!

 

 

Klanky the Robot® TM & Copyright 1975-2013 Tom Hudson

 

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