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Bill Loguidice's picture

Second Ever Magnavox Odyssey Homebrew in Development

Odball in actionOdball in actionThe second ever homebrew for 1972's Magnavox Odyssey console, a system we talked about here in one of our bonus chapters from Vintage Games, is now in development from the gentleman who did - appropriately enough - the platform's first ever homebrew, Odball (original AtariAge development forum topic here). This new game is thus far called, "Project Mentis", with preliminary discussion here. It sounds like a clever board game design, able to be played with or without the Magnavox Odyssey, and by either one or two players, which is why he dubbed it the "World's first single player Odyssey game". Though that's steeped in hyperbole, this is undeniably another cool project for a very unusual, but historically significant platform. While you're still in an Odyssey kind of mood, don't forget to check out the popular Chronogaming series we ran to learn more about the original games for the platform from the early 1970's.

Wipeout (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

Wipeout Overlay: Looks more intestinal than intense...Wipeout Overlay: Looks more intestinal than intense...Wipeout was the first home videogame racing simulation. I know there was nothing in the arcades in 1972 with a racing theme, and I've never read anything about mainframe versions of a racing game, either. That being said, just as we saw with Invasion and Baseball, Wipeout is more boardgame than videogame.

Addressing the videogame portion first. The overlay is a stylized racetrack, reminiscent of the twisted cargo fleet's course in Submarine. The players take turns acting as the Driver and serving as the Timer. Prior to a racing phase, the Timer uses the left controller to position their light behind the clock on the left side of the overlay. The Driver uses the right controller to control the light that represents their race car. The Driver's goal is to maneuver their light around the race track. The Timer's job is to hit the reset button (on the Driver's controller!) to "serve" the BallSpot so that it comes in from the right side of the screen, crosses the screen and hits the light behind the left side clock to deflect back across the screen and off the right side again. The Timer player does this throughout the Driver's journey around the track. The Driver starts with 30 laps in their count. Every time the Timer player hits the reset button, one lap is subtracted from the lap count. If the Driver leaves the track, they lose two laps. If the Driver's light is actually hit by the Timer's BallSpot, they lose a big fat five laps! The idea is to get around the track before the lap count evaporates entirely.

Matt Barton's picture

Matt Chat 44: Ralph Baer Interview

This week, I interview the father of videogames, Ralph Baer. I'm sure most of you are familiar with his work already, but in short he invented the "brown box" prototype that would become the Magnavox Odyssey, saved Coleco, and created the SIMON musical toy and hundreds of other cool toys and gadgets. I had a great time interviewing him. Enjoy the show! By the way, here's a link to his book page.

Invasion (1972, Magnavox Odyssey)

Invasion (1972, Magnavox Odyssey): Invasion! I would think attacking this castle from the left would be a good call...Invasion (1972, Magnavox Odyssey): Invasion! I would think attacking this castle from the left would be a good call...

The world is a small map with 12 territories, each containing a castle. Surrounding the land portion of the map is an ocean perimeter. The land part of the world gets divided up among the players and everyone gets an equal number of castles. The object of the game is to take over everyone else's castles using your armies. You can attack any castle if it is immediately adjacent to one of your castles. After capturing a castle you get to draw a loot card which gives you gold. Use the gold to buy more armies or to buy a ship which you can use to transport armies to attack castles that aren't immediately adjacent to your already conqured land.

To Attack a castle there are two phases. The External Battle and the Internal Battle. The external battle by land can be either a Direct Attack or a Sneak Attack.

The Direct Attack is the only time you directly face-off against an opponent using the Odyssey. The duel is simply this: The Attacker sends the BallSpot across the screen at the highest speed possible, and attempts to wiggle it, using ENGLISH, past the Defender who can only use their Vertical Control to block it. It IS a bit more challenging then, say, Tennis or Football, because of the high speed of the BallSpot. Really, the game is mostly on the game board and in this case, the video component is used when dice or even Rock, Paper, Scissors would have sufficed.

Baseball (Odyssey, 1972)

Baseball (Odyssey, 1972): I can almost smell the hotdogs...Baseball (Odyssey, 1972): I can almost smell the hotdogs...

Does Baseball count as America’s favorite pastime anymore? I’ve never been into the sport personally, but I feel like it was much more popular 30 years ago than it is now. That’s just my dim perception of something from which I am too far removed to make a valid observation.

Like Odyssey's Football, Odyssey’s Baseball is asking you to sort of pretend that you are playing a simulation of the game of baseball. This game is actually cooler than Odyssey's attempt at a football sim in that Baseball introduces Player Stats! -- persistent and alterable statistics for each player on your team. Ooooo! It's the first example of persistent player stats in a home videogame. However, technically, the overall design could be better said to push Baseball closer to being the first sports board game with persistent player stats to employ a videogame element.

Okay, so right, um “off the bat”, that sounds pretty cool, doesn't it? I mean, that’s what some sports geeks are into, inn'it? Statistics? Well, meet me at the corner of Nitty and Gritty and let’s get into some of the details...

Fun Zoo (Odyssey, 1972)

Fun Zoo (Odyssey, 1972): "Fun Caged Beasts" just wasn't a catchy enough title.Fun Zoo (Odyssey, 1972): "Fun Caged Beasts" just wasn't a catchy enough title.

Fun Zoo is one of the six "extra" Odyssey games released in 1972. You could get them in a box of six or buy them separately. The first one we look at is a title aimed at children along the lines of the game Simon Says. Rather than write about it the same way I wrote about Simon Says, I ran with the concept that the name "Fun Zoo" reminded me of Sun Tzu.

Ponder and deliberate before you make a move.
-Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Fun "Tzu" is an enjoyable game aimed at younger players to help them identify the written names of animals with their illustrations, improve hand-eye coordination through the use of Odyssey's controllers and employ morale crushing stratagems designed to annhilate the enemy's will to wage war.

Shooting Gallery (Odyssey, 1972)

Shooting Gallery (Odyssey, 1972): Look, bunnies and duckies! (blam! blam!)Shooting Gallery (Odyssey, 1972): Look, bunnies and duckies! (blam! blam!)

Shooting Gallery turns out to be the coolest game from the group of Shooting Gallery games. It uses a different cart (#10), which makes the playfield very different from the other three games (which use cart #9). This configuration gives you two paddles between which you deflect your target. The target, in this case, is a relatively HUGE square. I didn't know the Odyssey could produce such a large, er, "sprite"! (of course, they don't call them sprites yet.)

The idea here is to set the Target Spot oscillating across the screen and behind a row of targets on the overlay (plane, rabbit, duck or ship. ) Shoot it as many times as you can letting it go back and forth ten times before moving it down to the next target set. Player Two acts as an assistant, doing the manipulations of the controllers as well as keeping track of the oscillations. Player One does the shootin'.

Dogfight! (Odyssey, 1972)

Dogfight! (Odyssey, 1972): It’s not actually about dogs fighting!? Sheesh, are the dogs flying the plane, then?Dogfight! (Odyssey, 1972): It’s not actually about dogs fighting!? Sheesh, are the dogs flying the plane, then?Dogfight! is similar to Submarine: one player takes on the role of a vehicle operator trying to pilot their way through a winding path on the screen. The second player tries to shoot the PlayerSpot representing the vehicle. The big difference between this game and Submarine is, of course, Odyssey’s light-gun rifle add-on -- oh, and this time it’s a plane instead of a convoy of ships.

Similar to Shootout! one player pilots the plane through the winding path while the other player tries to shoot the plane using the light-gun. The players keep track of the number of hits and then switch places. The player who scores the most hits, wins.

The “plane” must follow the specific path shown by the green dotted line, starting in the top left and exiting on the bottom right. The light-gun can only hit the plane while it’s in the circular area containing the targeting reticule. This isn’t a “rule” it’s just an impossibility. Like our friend the flying lizard in Prehistoric Safari, the screen doesn’t let through enough light through the green dotted line for the light-gun to detect.

Shootout (Odyssey, 1972)

Shootout (Odyssey, 1972) overlay: Dusty little town. Quiet little life. Suddenly: BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!Shootout (Odyssey, 1972) overlay: Dusty little town. Quiet little life. Suddenly: BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

Shootout! (Exclamation point foreshadowing trend of very excited games on consoles with "Odyssey" as part of the name.) involves moving your Outlaw Gang (little white square) from window to window without getting shot by the gun-wielding Sheriff. Your Outlaws start at the upper left and move to the upper right, obliged to light each window along the way. As though a single organism, they then cross the street to the "low side" of the screen using the stagecoach as cover, then they make their way to the lower left corner where "escape" horses await.

This all takes place while your friend, parent, spouse, offspring or other loved one tries to shoot your Outlaws, and, symbolically, you! As you sneak from window to window, you can't just zip through the window at a blinding speed. Your Outlaw Gang has to stop in each window long enough for you to yell: "You'll never get me, Sheriff!" When we play, this phrase invariably corrupts into being pronounced "yoollne'ergitmesherff!" as we, understandably, attempt to say it as quickly as possible.

Bill Loguidice's picture

Casual Photos: Magnavox Odyssey 300, Questprobe/Spider-Man, Foes of Ali, Rise of the Robots, Video Chess

Today's second set of casual photos (Magnavox Odyssey 300 (1976); Electronic Arts' Foes of Ali (1995) and Absolute's Rise of the Robots (1995) for the 3DO; Adventure International's Questprobe Featuring Spider-Man (1984) for the Atari ST; and Atari's Video Chess Special Edition (1979) for the Atari 2600 VCS) are taken with my Panasonic digital camera, and, instead of telling a semi-coherent story to go along with the photos, I'll talk about each one in brief in turn. Photos to follow the commentary (I had some issues with my image processing software at work, so I was unable to finish cleaning these up).

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