From the silent corridors of an alien
vessel in Stellar Odyssey to saving the planet in Cosmic Bomber, it was now
time to turn up the heat! I wanted an andrenalin rush and I wanted it to
be louder than any other TRS-80 game! No more aliens and spaceships. Neutroid
was to create a surreal environment at the atomic scale.
The inspiration for Neutroid was from an interview of Tim Skelly in the October
'82 issue of "Video Games". Tim was the designer and programmer of arcade
"Reactor". A game played at the atomic level. With Neutroid, I loved the
abstract idea of playing with atomic particles especially when the player
didn't actually control the particle itself. Instead, the player controlled
the environment around it in order to guide the Neutroid particle to a desired
destination and outcome.
Original Story Pretext
"In Neutroid, you are at the controls of a small atomic particle accelerator
or synchrotron. In it, Protroid and Antitroid particles appear. Bonus energy
regions, high energy walls and deflector rods exist. The aim? Control the
movement of an atomic particle called a Neutroid within the synchrotron and
neutralize all the orbiting Protroids before your Neutroid becomes energy
saturated. Your Neutroid starts off slow and in a low energy state but as
it gains energy, it's speed increases till it finally reaches the high energy
state where controlling it requires a high degree of rapid strategic thinking
and lightning fast reflexes."
I can't remember what I had taken to dream up a story like that! :)
The game itself starts slow and as time passes, it collects energy and begins
to accelerate. The pace picks up to the point where fast reflexes and the
ability to plan ahead using your peripheral vision is needed to keep everything
in check. To add to the tension and atmosphere of the game, as much TRS-80
style sound effects as I could create was pumped through the 1 bit sound
system. The static screenshots below just don't do the game justice.
With Neutroid, I felt I was starting to develop games which began to approach
the then king of TRS-80 Model 1 game programming, Bill Hogue of Big Five
Software. Bill's games were regarded as state-of-the-art and were very polished.
I had set myself a goal of creating games like Big Five so I had decided
on a few "standard specifications".
- All games must cycle through an animated title and instruction screen.
- The use of sound tables to create more complex sound effects. NO BEEPS!
- Double buffering of video to reduce flicker , screen studder and redraw effects.
- All keys must respond instantly.
- Professionally designed and animated graphic objects and characters.
- Great gameplay!
But how can you create good objects on a low resolution display such as the
TRS-80 Model 1's 128x48 matrix?
No matter how low resolution the graphics system, it can still be made to
look great if it is well designed and animated correctly. With good animation,
the low resolution is de-emphasised. I remember drooling over the higher
resolution graphics of other systems such as the Apple II but few games excited
me because the overhead of higher resolution graphics made the animation
of lower priority. Many games avoided too much character animation in
order to simplify the codeing and keep a reasonable frame rate of play.
Games from Big Five Software and another duo, Wayne Westmoreland and Terry
Gilman proved my theory every time.
Neutroid's best feature also proved to be it's worst. The concept of atomic
particles in a user controlled environment proved too abstract for most and
was proven with lackluster sales. I felt it was a far better game than many
other "successful" ones but I guess I had fallen into the trap of being too
innovative. People will cry for new and innovative ideas but when it comes
to parting with hard earned cash, they prefer to spend it on something familiar
Well, Neutroid didn't make me a millionaire either. I needed to find a more
familiar game scenario yet still satisfy my desire for something new and
challenging. I had to change my motivation of "me, me, me" and start satisfying
"them".... and me! :)