Roguelikes are big business today, but they’ve been around for a long time.
Much like many early games, they originated as mainframe affairs that didn’t get home ports until much later, when ambitious programmers decided to see exactly what they could get their micros to do.
A-Rogue is what happened when Robert Jung decided to take the original Rogue and rewrite it in Atari BASIC for 48K Atari home computers. He did a pretty good job considering the limitations he had to work within!
The concept of the “video game auteur” is regarded as something of a modern thing, with Japanese creators like Hideo Kojima, Hidetaka Suehiro, Goichi Suda and Taro Yoko typically being held up as some of the best examples.
But back in the Atari 8-bit era, we had our fair share of recognisable names, too. Okay, they tended to be renowned more for technical ability and prolificacy than the artistic achievement and vision that tends to get celebrated today, but there were definitely “big names” working in both commercial and public domain software.
One such example of the latter was Stan Ockers, who is sadly no longer with us having departed this mortal coil in mid-2017. In the early days of home computing, Ockers gave us a wide variety of games and software composed in BASIC, initially published in the newsletter for Eugene, Oregon’s Atari Computer Enthusiasts user group and later in Antic and Page 6 magazine.
Today’s game, Vultures III, is perhaps not his best work, but is a good example of how he could harness the limited power of Atari BASIC to produce playable and addictive games — and, like most of his other creations, provided something for aspiring programmers and designers to study and learn from.
It’s kind of strange to think that puzzle games — at least how we know them today — were a relatively late evolution compared to other genres.
Today’s Atari 8-bit title is a type-in BASIC listing from popular Atari magazine Antic, and was developed by someone who had never seen or heard of Tetris at the time. It’s a fun little puzzler, and an interesting example of the very early days of a genre we take for granted today.
It’s also surprisingly bloody hard, despite the simple concept! After a while all that nuclear waste just melts your brain, I think…