Re: [stella] Hello again...

Subject: Re: [stella] Hello again...
From: "B. Watson" <atari@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 22 Jan 2004 10:42:20 -0500 (EST)

On Wed, 21 Jan 2004, Erik Eid wrote:

> Excellent!  I do enjoy playing the occasional game of Buster Bros.; there's an
> arcade near me that has one.  (Pinball Pete's in Ann Arbor, MI, for those who
> are curious.)  I don't know what the "panic mode" is - perhaps it's in the
> Super game and not the original?  I assume it's just a case of keep going
> until you can't, rather than being level-based.

Panic Mode is only in the super version. It's what you think it is: an
open level with no platforms/ladders, just the guy and the balls bouncing.
In panic mode, you permanently have the double-shot powerup, and the only
other powerup available is the clock (freezes the balloons). Levels are
based on points, with no pause between levels.

Actually I want pauses between my levels. Why? Well, go play Nintendo
Tetris (on the NES), then compare to Atari/Tengen's arcade Tetris game.

NES Tetris has no pauses between levels, and it starts out fun, gets
boring, then gets amazingly difficult, with no breaks for the player.
It's a decent game, but doesn't have much replay value (well, compared
to some other Tetris games... it's still Tetris, so people still get
addicted to it!)

Atari Tetris has pauses between levels, bonus points, sometimes a little
animated Russian guy comes out & does a folk dance, and is generally more
fun. Each level doesn't necessarily start out harder or faster than the
one you just finished, so you don't have the sense of being asked to do
the impossible.

Imagine playing Galaga or Space Invaders with no pauses between levels.
Your thumb would fall off, your eyes would glaze over, and you'd get
frustrated after a few levels. Besides, the bonus levels in Galaga are
half the challenge of the game (that's why they're called `Challenge

I want to do a level progression something like Joust (regular wave,
team wave, regular again, gladiator wave, egg wave). Mine would be
something like... Regular level, crushing ceiling level, regular again,
squishing wall level, ??? (some other level I haven't invented yet),
then a bonus level, then repeat (possibly with variations).

> That's a good idea, and it would make your game a little different than the
> original.  You could also have platforms - even though you didn't plan on it
> - solely to act as a lower ceiling in spots.  The ceiling need not be
> straight across.

Platforms might be doable, I'll have to see just how much time I have
in the kernel, once I get a kernel written...

Also, an idea came to me yesterday... I wasn't planning on doing
powerups because I didn't want more objects increasing the flicker,
but why don't I embed the powerups in the ceiling? They appear there,
and you shoot them to pick them up. I'd have all the standard arcade
stuff (fast move/shoot, freeze enemies, shield/invulnerability, extra
life, etc)... and maybe the harpoon powerup from the arcade Super Pang
(shots that stick to the ceiling for a while & make a wall)

> Another idea would be to have each level have several waves of balloons.  They
> wouldn't have to all arrive at once.  Have you seen "Galaga Arrangement",
> which was part of the Namco Classics arcade series?  It's a modernized
> version of Galaga, done by Namco itself, and keeps the original gameplay
> while adding some interesting twists.  One of these twists is so have several
> waves of bugs arrive on some levels.  You have to hurry to get rid of one
> wave so that you can deal with the next when it comes!

Hm. That's a game for the PC, or an arcade game?

Actually, I was planning on having each level being over after X number
of large balloons get spawned. They'll spawn at semi-random intervals,
but only when there are 4 free `ball slots'. I wasn't thinking in terms
of waves of them... maybe that's an idea for a different level type.

> > The arcade game has regular balloons that bounce in parabolic patterns,
> > but it also has square balloons that ignore gravity and bounce around
> > the level exactly like the ball in Pong or Breakout.
> That's another good idea.  It would keep the player on his toes having to deal
> with two different movement patterns.

Also I thought of 2 new ball types: wide-angle (moves twice as fast in
the horizontal direction, so it'll bounce off the floor at a less acute
angle), and bombs (medium-sized balls that fall straight down, *fast*,
like the Flea in Centipede. If you shoot them, or they hit the floor,
they split into 2 regular small balls). Could possibly even have waves
of them (like the swarms between levels in Millipede).

> > About sound: [...]  The shooting noise isn't necessary for gameplay...
> I'd like to have it, even if it's just a quiet little "pfft".  Audio feedback
> would reinforce the fact that you did fire a shot, especially if you're not
> really watching the shot but are moving on to your next target.

OK, that's one vote for a shoot noise, and one vote (mine) against :)

Actually I'll probably plan to have the shooting noise, just because
people will probably expect to hear it.

A disclaimer: I'm perfectly aware that I've come up with more features
and bonuses and junk than I probably can fit into the game (even with a
large bankswitch cart, I still only have 128 bytes of RAM). The process of
design here is going to be coming up with all the ideas I can (the ideal,
abstract version of the game), then squeezing as much as I can into a
2600 cart (the actual, concrete implementation). Later on, there might
be an Atari 800 or NES version (or Gameboy Advanced, I have a friend
who's written an almost exact clone of the arcade game for the GBA,
minus all the powerups), any of which might have some or all of the
stuff that's missing from the 2600 one.

OK, I'm at work, I should do some work now :)

Archives (includes files) at
Unsub & more at

Current Thread