INTELLIVISION CARTRIDGE [#5305]
After Night Stalker was finished, game cartridges began getting larger in size, so Steve proposed Ms. Night Stalker, a 12K sequel that would include the web and all the other features he had wanted, including multiple weapons (bazookas to blast through walls!), multiple scrolling mazes and smarter robots. Marketing shelved the idea and Steve was assigned to program Space Shuttle instead, which may have been a contributing factor toward Steve leaving Mattel and the game industry not long after.
Mattel Electronics released M Network versions of Night Stalker for the Atari 2600, the Apple II and the IBM PC. (The Atari 2600 version was called Dark Cavern.) A version was also released for the Aquarius Home Computer System.
PLAYING TIPS: From Intellivision Game Club News, Issue 4, Winter 1983:
PLAYING TIPS: Night Stalker is a favorite of Blue Sky Ranger Steve Roney (Space Spartans, B-17 Bomber). He plays the game with a controller in each hand -- one to run, one to shoot -- since buttons and disk cannot be used simultaneously on one controller.
Steve adds: "Another trick to bagging the later robots has to do with there being only one moving object available for the robot bullets. If you wait just above the place where the robot appears and dangle your feet where the robot can see, the robot will shoot below your feet. You can then safely drop down and quickly get off all three shots to nail the robot before his bullet gets all the way across the bottom!!!!"
FUN FACT: Russ Lieblich was proud of his sound effects for Night Stalker, especially the constant heartbeat. Whenever he heard someone playing the game, he'd run into their cubicle, grab the volume control on the TV, and turn it up full.
INTELLIVISION CARTRIDGE [#5356]
Although originally announced as part of the red-boxed Action Network, the game was released in 1983, after the "network" concept was dropped. Pinball was released in a purple box.
TRON Deadly Discs
INTELLIVISION CARTRIDGE [#5391]
Mattel Electronics bet a lot of dough that the movie would be a phenomenon. A state-of-the-art special effect film about video games, the hottest trend in the country -- how could it miss? Well, it did. The lukewarm reception the movie received did little to boost interest in the six TRON games Mattel released (four originals, two conversions). TRON Deadly Discs, though, was a strong enough game in its own right to garner good reviews and word-of-mouth; it went on to sell over 300,000 copies -- a respectable number, but only about a third what Marketing was hoping for. Ironically, the original production run was planned to be 350,000, but at the last minute it was increased to 800,000. "The reason for the increase," explained Marketing man Dick Baumbusch in a June 1, 1982 memo, "is due to the anticipated popularity of the Tron film and the fact that we will feature it in a commercial this Fall. Also, the international demand for Tron will limit any downside risk." It was this type of forecasting that put Intellivision where it is today.
In answer to a frequent question, there was no connection between the production of Mattel's TRON video games and the arcade games TRON and Discs of TRON. A separate company had licensed the arcade rights to the movie and there was no communication between them and Mattel.
Early catalogs listed TRON Deadly Discs (under its working title TRON I) as a Space Action Network cartridge; it was actually released as part of the Action Network.
An M Network Atari 2600 version and an Aquarius version were also released.
BUG: There is a trick that pretty much lets you rack up unlimited points, as first pointed out in a letter Mattel received November 3, 1982 from Steven M. Little, an Intellivision owner in Minneapolis: "Once you are able to open the top left and top right doors, which enables you to go in one door and out the other...just step out the right top or left top door and stay there...90% of the enemy discs go through you and your man is not hit or destroyed. If you stay at that position, you can reach a score of 1,000,000 very easily by just breaking the enemy's discs and...throwing your disc just enough to keep only one enemy on the board at all times. Once you reach close to a million points, don't destroy any more warriors. Just hold your disc in the block mode and break discs. If you do get hit just go back and forth for repair. (Never throw disc to destroy warrior for you may get a replacement that carries the stick.) I went from 1,000,000 to 10,000,000 with no problem."
PLAYING TIPS: From Intellivision Game Club News, Issue 5, Spring 1983:
PLAYING TIP: This is the favorite Intellivision game of Blue Sky Ranger David Warhol (Mind Strike). He plays with one controller in each hand -- one for maneuvering (thumb on disc), one for throwing (thumb on keypad). "If you like Deadly Discs with one hand controller, you'll love it with two," he says. "Try it now and thank me later."
EASTER EGG: Deadly Discs fan Dave Warhol put together his own private version of the game, replacing the enemy warriors with the hot dogs from BurgerTime. He called the result Deadly Dogs. If you want to play it, it's hidden in the INTV Corporation release of Dig Dug: press 47 (4 and 7 simultaneously) on both hand controllers and press reset. The Deadly Dogs title screen will appear.
INTELLIVISION CARTRIDGE [#5392]
Note: Despite what the above early catalog description says, TRON Maze-A-Tron is a one-player game.
An M Network Atari 2600 version was developed, but the results were so different from the original that the release name was changed to Adventures of TRON.
Lock 'N' Chase
INTELLIVISION CARTRIDGE [#5637]
Mike Winans almost killed himself trying to fit the game into 4K. He finally proclaimed it couldn't be done and, reluctantly, 6K was authorized. Mike managed to just squeeze it into the 6K, although the control of Lupin wasn't ideal. (In the arcade game, the thief is named Lupin, a nice touch of personality that Mattel left out of our version.)
When the game was released, press and customers complained about how difficult it was to control Lupin. (You had to time turns precisely, or Lupin would stop dead.) The problem was considered bad enough that a running change was ordered: after the 6K cartridges were sold out, improved 8K versions would be released. By this time, Mike had transferred to the Design & Development department, so Julie Hoshizaki was assigned to make the improvement. The improved versions aren't marked on the package; the easiest way to tell if you have an improved version is to watch what happens when a cop catches Lupin. In the arcade game, Lupin collapses into his hat -- an animation there wasn't room for in the 6K version. The collapsing animation is in the 8K version.
An M Network Atari 2600 version and an Apple II version were also released. IBM PC and Aquarius versions were announced, but never completed.
FUN FACT: In the arcade version, the thief is named Lupin, but not in the Mattel Electronics version. Why not? In the early 1900s, French author Maurice LeBlanc wrote a series of books featuring Arsene Lupin: Gentleman Thief. The books became popular in Japan, where they later inspired a series of comic books that were even more popular. The problem: the comic books were not authorized by LeBlanc. At the time, it was difficult enforcing a French copyright in Japan, so Lupin entered Japanese culture, eventually becoming synonymous with the word "thief." The copyright was enforced in the United States, though, where the Japanese Lupin comics developed a following. In English translations, the name Lupin is often changed to Rupin to avoid the copyright problem. For the game Lock 'N' Chase, Mattel avoided the copyright problem by leaving out the name altogether.
FUN FACT: An insignificant typo almost caused Mattel to dump tens of thousands of dollars of perfectly good ROMs and to delay the release of Lock 'N' Chase by several months. Why? First, some background:
The legal department required programmers to include an ASCII copyright notice somewhere in every game so that it could be read if someone dumped the cartridge's object code. Traditionally, if there was room, the programmer would also include his or her name. (It was forbidden to hide your name in the game such that it could ever show up on screen, but object code was OK.) For Lock 'N' Chase, Mike included his, Peggi's, and Bill's name in the code. The day the game was to be shipped to the ROM factory, the three of them went to lunch to celebrate. At lunch, Mike realized for the first time that Peggi's last name is spelled "Decarli." He had spelled it "de Carli" in the code. No problem; he went back after lunch, corrected it, then bid everyone farewell and went off to his new job in Design & Development.
What Mike didn't know was that Bill Fisher, who was in charge of coordinating with the factory, had copied the finished game off of Mike's hard disk during lunch and shipped it out.
Three months later, ten thousand plus ROMs were finished. Sample chips were sent back from the factory. Bill loaded one into a ROM reader, then compared the chip's checksum to the checksum of the archived version on Mike's hard disk. To Bill's horror, they didn't match. There was a bug in the ROMs!
Programmers started playing the game for hours on end, trying to see how bad the bug was -- would the game crash? Marketing needed to know instantly if the game was releasable. Should they toss out tens of thousands of dollars worth of chips and lose at least three months time, or should they risk the bad publicity of sending out a bug-filled version?
Finally, after a couple days of panic and anxiety, they asked Mike to come up from Design & Development to help track down the bug. After working on the problem for awhile, he slowly remembered lunch that day three months earlier. Learning how to spell Peggi's name....
Mike went to the archived version of the game, changed "Decarli" back to "de Carli" and recompiled the program. Now the checksums matched. Crisis averted, the cartridges went out.
INTELLIVISION CARTRIDGE [#5638]
Gabriel particularly objected to the packaging. In a memo to Marketing (August 31, 1982), he wrote: "...the packaging and instructions do not in any way indicate that the game and graphic content of the cartridge is extremely simplistic...I believe that Mattel Electronics is going to be exposed to very unfavorable comment when consumers discover that the quality of the cartridge is in many ways reminiscent of early Atari games." In answer to this memo, Marketing had a label added to the front of the package reading, "Specially designed game for children over 4."
An M Network Atari 2600 version of the game was also submitted by APh. It was rejected.
INTELLIVISION CARTRIDGE [#5787]
BUG: Due to a timing error in the Intellivision II, the bubble sounds don't have their full effect when the cartridge is played on that system.
FUN FACT: Designer Ji-Wen Tsao got the idea for the game from the Chinese proverb "Big fish eat little fish."
FUN FACT: In animating the sea creatures, Ji-Wen was unsure how a crab moved. After she was unable to find a real or videotaped one, cubicle neighbor Steve Sents (TRON Deadly Discs) brought his pet tarantula into the office for her to use as a model. We aren't sure if it was any help as a crab model, but it sure creeped out the other programmers.
FUN FACT: Everyone thought it would be a great gag to use the song Mack the Knife ("Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear...") for the "game over" music. Andy Sells put together a hilarious arrangement of the song which was used in the prototype version, while the Mattel crack legal team looked into getting clearance to use it. We had never licensed a song before, so they weren't used to tracking down rights, but they finally found the owner: Warner Communications...parent company of Atari. Andy wrote an original tune to use instead.