Re: [stella] Joust Pong expansion

Subject: Re: [stella] Joust Pong expansion
From: Glenn Saunders <mos6507@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 04 Sep 2003 02:54:20 -0700
At 07:13 PM 9/2/2003, you wrote:

So the first question is, will this be worthwhile?

There is no reason to do a fancy static background that doesn't interact with the ball at all, I don't think.

What would be worthwhile would be to mix in some breakout/warlords type game elements in there if possible.

I also think it's important to have more than one goal at the same time. This is a key factor in most classic games, Eugene Jarvis' in particular.

But games in general have this too. Think about the middle-game portion of chess when half the board is just a face-off of pieces on the verge of a nasty exchange.

The challenge to doing this on the 2600 is the limited sprites (if you intend to avoid flicker). But if you can drive all 5 sprites, or maybe 3 and a playfield bitmap it's more than enough to add some extra elements.

As long as it's only a single ball going back and forth, it's hard to increase the tension. When the ball is heading back to the other player, there is little left for the player to do other than to anticipate the return trajectory.

That to me is the reason why Pong, to me, is too limiting a game concept by itself to sustain lasting interest vs. things like Super Breakout with the multiball or Warlords with the defend and attack aspect.

So I would look for ways to mix in more pong-like game elements and/or more Joust-like elements.

For instance, you could have a Pterry come in that interacts in some way with the ball and/or the players.

The Pterry could be drawn with one or both missiles in such a way that it's still somewhat recognizeable.

Or let's say you take a page out of the Rampart/Warlords playbook and you have some sort of playfield bitmap. After each round, your joust players could rebuild their castles. You could use the up or down on the joystick to plot a block.

I think if you find the right extra element to add to the game it will really bring the game to the next level, while still retaining its minimalism.

At the very least, you could start off by allowing your joust players to catch the ball by pulling down or up on the stick. Then they might be able to direct the "throw" like a pitcher by pushing the stick in the chosen direction. Or maybe there could be a way to apply "english" to the throw so the ball exhibits some curve to it.

Since the basic controls only require a fire button, you aren't even limited to a joystick. You could decide to switch the controller to the driving controller or paddles (although the fire buttons on them don't lend themselves well to the rapid fire necessary to do Joust flapping).

There are a lot of things you could explore.

Maybe it could be possible to have more than one joust player vertically separated. If you went with paddle control it would make for an interesting 4 player option with the two players bouncing off eachother on each side. If you didn't need the pot lines you wouldn't have to worry about the fact that it's paddles since you'd just be reading the triggers which is the same as joystick left and right.

I'd have to say I don't see much merit in allowing the joust players to move horizontally. Not without enforcing a limit, and the joystick control signals might be able to be put to better uses than that. Having the joust player railed like that is THE key game element here, IMHO.

One of the weirder aspects, though, is that gravity effects are on the joust players but the ball is unaffected so it's like two different perspectives, overhead and side view, at once.

You might want to experiment with adding some mild gravity so that the ball has some arc to it as it's pulled downward, but that it bounces back without losing any momentum so that it doesn't stall in the middle of the screen. That might make the perspective of the game more consistent. It might make a good game option at least.

With a static playfield and gravity on the ball you might be able to get some kind of basketball-like elements in there if you could lob the ball into a U-shaped basket.

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