IntroductionHey, let's play an Atari 2600 game!
We all remember the Atari 2600. It came out in the late 1970s and had games that looked kind of like this:
... and then it went under in the Great Videogame Crash of 1983 and videogames were dead until the NES brought in a new rennaissance three years later.
This is a filthy lie. The Atari 2600 wasn't discontinued until 1992 and received some level of commercial development all the way through its lifespan. It was a last-gen also-ran by the mid-1980s but even so, about half the games I remember most fondly from the console are post-1983.
That includes Solaris, which came out in 1986, the same year that Super Mario Brothers and The Legend of Zelda did. It looks rather nicer than the earliest games:
It's also kind of interesting because it's technically beatable, and it's also in that weird anti-sweet spot where it's too simple to get a real remake, and too complicated to work as a casual game.
In 1979, an Atari employee named Doug Neubauer wrote a game for the Atari 400 (a full-scale home computer) called Star Raiders. It was a mix of first-person space combat and galactic patrol not unlike the old minicomputer Star Trek games. (For the modern incarnation of those, Netrek has had you covered for awhile.) Some time later, Atari decided they wanted to do a similar game as a tie-in to the movie The Last Starfighter, but that fell through. The project targeting the home computer market was ultimately released as Star Raiders II, and the project targeting the Atari 2600which was a one-man job from the original Star Raiders developer Doug Neubauerbecame Solaris.
Goals of the LP
There will be two strands within this LP thread, interleaved.
The first strand is about playing the game and has the following goals:
- Win the game. This will involve savestating, because while the game is beatable and has a notional goal, it's not designed to be beaten.
- Map the entire game world. It is possible to win without doing this, but we're going to sort out everything we can and try to work out a solid route along the way.
- Show off the game. It's actually fun! I'd like to have that come across and also demonstrate things well enough that people who play it later could actually play it instead of just flail around.
Format of the LP
I'm hoping to get at least one game update in per week, and one tech post in each week as well until I run out of topics. If I have a session where the update is pretty much one "normal" playthrough, I will also post a video at the end, but the only thing you'll miss if you stick with the screenshots will be some kickass sound effects and a sense of how everything fits together in realtime. That's actually quite a bit, so you'll want to watch the videos.
Solaris has some glitches. I will show off the ones I know of, but when I'm building a route to win the game, I won't rely on them. Every other systematic run I've found exploits them, but as far as I know I didn't trigger any when I beat it myself awhile back. I hope to prove it can be done glitchless as part of this run.
All right, let's rock
Buckle up, folks. We're going to break a game in half live.
Table of ContentsGameplay Strand
- Part 1: Mission of Mercy
- Part 2: Distress Call
- Part 3: Process of Elimination
- Part 4: Armed Reconnaissance
- Part 5: Theory to Practice
- Part 6: Shenanigans
- Part 7: Plight of the Navigator
- Part 8: Acceptable Casualties
- Tech Post 1: Introducing the Atari 2600 VCS
- Tech Post 2: The Penultimate Technique (aka The Venerable Six-Digit Score Trick)
- Tech Post 3: The Quadrant Scanner
- Tech Post 4: The Status Window
- Tech Post 5: The Flight Screen (aka Fun With HMOVE)
- Tech Post 6: Q&A
- Tech Post 7: Doug, Mel, and the Modern World