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The History of Robotron: 2084 - Running Away While Defending Humanoids
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The History of Robotron: 2084 - Running Away While Defending Humanoids

August 4, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

Other games though, like Synapse's Survivor (1982; Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64), would offer a second option -- a second controller allowed independent firing. Unfortunately, without some way to hold the two controllers together, this meant a second player was needed to operate the controls. As described in Chapter 2 of the book, if you did have the benefit of a second player to work with, it could create some crazy fun and at the very least, with proper coordination, allow for higher scores, as players could properly evade in one direction, while firing in the other.

A scene from Tradewest's 1986 arcade game, Ikari Warriors, which made use of a rotary joystick, allowing for movement in eight directions and aiming rotation. Rotary joysticks can be considered a single-controller compromise from the dual-joystick format.

Of course, another option for an enterprising gamer was to build his or her own custom coupler, but so few games offered independent movement and firing options that it typically wasn't worth it. Although some third-party companies offered joystick stands and bases, these were not necessarily intended to hold the controller down in lieu of a player's second hand.

Atari released a coupler for its Atari 5200 console[10] along with cartridges like Robotron: 2084 and Space Dungeon,[11] but it too received little use otherwise. Around the same time, Coleco fans had holders for both of the ColecoVision's joystick controllers integrated into the platform's roller controller (trackball), but again, no software really took advantage of the setup.

Furthermore, the stiff joystick knobs offered too much resistance. This problem of resistance was not an issue on the Atari 5200, as that system's limp, non-self centering analog joysticks didn't require a great deal of weight to hold down when in motion.

A scene from Eugene Jarvis's and Mark Turmell's hit 1990 Williams arcade game, Smash T.V., which brought the dual-joystick gameplay of Robotron: 2084 to two simultaneous players in a violent game show competition set in 1999. Many home conversions of this popular game followed.

In the late 1980s, systems like the NES offered handheld gamepads with flat directional pads (d-pads) instead of raised joysticks, and coupling -- no matter how clever -- was no longer a viable option.[12] D-pads simply didn't offer the same type of stable rotational ability as joysticks did, so development of home games with independent movement and firing options was further stymied.

A scene from Mark Turmell's 1991 Midway arcade game Total Carnage, which played liked a more free-roaming Smash T.V.

[10] Released 1982.

[11] A superb translation of the obscure 1981 arcade game from Taito.

[12] Joysticks, often with weighted bases, were available, but were obviously no longer standard equipment.

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