Astrosmash

INTELLIVISION CARTRIDGE [#3605]

Release #23 October 15,1981

Also released by Sears

Working titles: Rocks, Meteor! + Avalanche

Design & Program: John Sohl

Package Illustration: Jerrol Richardson


Instructions Posted Here

1981 CATALOG DESCRIPTION

Spin. Blast. And drop into hyperspace to avoid a killer asteroid shower. Power on. Attack computer engaged. Fire a quick burst at the alien antagonists. Got 'em!

Now take a deep breath and relax. But only for a fractino of a second, because more trouble is on the way.

You're all alone in a hostile universe of tumpling asteroids and homocidal aliens. You've got the wits and the speed, but you're awesomely outnumbered.

With a little practice, you may survice . . .

  • Battle aliens and tumbling asteroids
  • Hyperspace feature
  • Unlimited scoring potential

PRODUCTION HISTORY

Astrosmash started out as a clone of the arcade game Asteroids, called Meteor!. The game wasn't very big, so John Sohl used the extra room in the cartridge to come up with a variation called Avalanche using the same graphics and sound effects. At the last minute, afraid of a lawsuit from Atari, the Mattel lawyers killed the Asteroids-like Meteor!. Rather than risk introducing bugs by deleting code, John simply put a branch around the opening-screen menu straight into the Avalanche! variation, which was released under the name Astrosmash.

John admits he wasn't sorry to see Meteor! go -- he hadn't been happy with the game, much preferring the Avalanche! version.

Astrosmash quickly became one of the most popular Intellivision games thanks in large part to a very simple tecnique John programmed in: like most arcade-style games, Astrosmash gets faster and harder at higher levels, but unlike most arcade-style games, as you start to lose lives, the game gets easier again. The game then is never too easy or too hard, making it extremely addictive and making it possible for even a beginnter to play a single game for over an hour.

The popularity of Astrosmash was such that late in 1982, it replaced Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack as the cartridge shipped with the Intellivision Master Component. By June 1983, the last date for which figures are available, 984,900 copies of Astrosmash had been shipped, making it the most widely distributed cartridge by any of the Blue Sky Rangers (trailing only the APh produced Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack and Major League Baseball cartidges). John Sohl was rewarded with a plaque from Mattel and a  better offer from Activision, which he took (after finishing B-17 Bomber).


An Aquarius version was also released, as was an M Network version called Astroblast for the Atari 2600. A musical adaptation, Melody Blaster, ws released for the ECS Music Synthesizer. An obsene version, called...well, we can't tell you what it was called, was developed for in-house use only. The Story of this version can found in a TRON Solar Sailer FUN FACT.


BUG: There's no check for the score overflowing -- beyond 9,999,999 points, the scoring routine starts displaying negative numbers, letters and other ASCII characters. (Ironically, the catalog description promises "Unlimited scoring potential.")

BUG: John simply branched around the code for the Asteroids version of the game; the code is still in the cartidge. Verrrry rarely, when there's a glitch hitting RESET, the Asteroids version will show up on screen. (This would be a dandy Easter egg if it were intentional or reliably repeatable, but it's neither.)

PLAYING TIPS: From Intellivision Game Club News, Issue 1, Fall 1981:

Here is some extra ammunition from John P. Sohl, creator of Astrosmash. [Note: this issue was the only time that Intellivision programmers were publicly referred to by name until the inclusioin of credits on cartridges late in 1983. The same issue mentions Mike Minkoff as the creator of Bowling.] Sohl says you'll be unbeatable if you follow three basic rules: don't get hit, shoot anything that moves and never take risks unless you have to.

Sound easy? It is if you practice Sohl's special tecniques for hitting your targets.

  • To hit rocks, fire two shots rapidly. The first will split the rock, the second will explode both smaller fragments. If you are threatened by a rock and a spinner, go for the spinner.
  • Shoot the fastest falling spinners first. Aim carefully; the extra moment you take aiming usually pays off with a hit on the first shot. Go for spinners at any cost -- if one reaches the ground, you've lost.
  • Guided missiles are easy to shoot, hard to evade, so shoot them high on the screen before they give you trouble. If you miss, they'll follow you around. THe only way toget rid of them is to lure them off the edge of the screen and use the hyperspace to get away.
  • The UFO will appear when the score is over 20,000. It shoots torpedoes at your laser base wherever the base is when the shot is fired. So keep moving and you will avoid 90% of all UFO torpedos.

Precision aiming is important. To get the highest scores, Sohl says to leave the anti-fire on and steer with the directional wheel using the firing button to get off extra shots as you need them. Keep on shooting!

FUN FACT: The unused Asteroids-version code was recycled in the game Space Hawk.

FUN FACT: Late in 1981, Mattel held a series of local "Intellivison Video Challenge Tournaments" in Washington, DC, Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles, benefitting Variety Clubs International. Contestants competed for prizes (Grand Prize: an RCA projection TV) playing Major League Baseball, Auto Racing, and U.S. Ski Team Skiing. The publicity was so good, that Marketing took the idea national in 1982 with the "$100,000 Astrosmash Shootoff."

From MArch until August 11, Intellivision owners were invited to send photographs of their TV screens showing their high score in Astrosmash. Just for entering, they would receive an Astrosmash Shootoff patch, and it was announced that 16 regional high-scorers would be flown to Houston to compete for eight cash prizes.

over 13,000 people entered, and quickly it became obvious ther was a problem. First, because of the scoring bug, many of the pictures showed scores made up of seemingly random ASCII characters. John Sohl had to review the photos and, with an ASCII table, decipher the actual scores. Second, it turned out that no one in Marketing realized that Astrosmash, like many Intellivision games, can be played at slower speeds simply by starting the game by pressing 1, 2 or 3 intsead of the disc. (This is a feature programmed into the EXEC.) There was no way of telling who had legitimately obtained a high score and who had played at the easiest speed. There were reports of competitors who leterally played for days at the slowest speed, pauing the game (pressing 1 and 9 simultaneously, also programmed into the EXEC) to sleep or go to school.

Unable to decide who was legit and who wasn't, instead of the announced 16, Mattel Electronics would up flying 73 entrants to Houston for an all-expense paid weekend, September 11 & 12, 1982. THere, the entrants competed in 1 hour of timed play. 18-year-old Manual Rodriguez of Stockton, California won the $25,000 top prize with a score of 935,180.