This is a series of blogs based on my own personal game collection. I will attempt to go through them in a chronological order according to their release date. I will also attempt to play then on their original platform using the original controllers the game was designed for. If I am unable to get the system or the game working then I will use PC emulation or another platform emulation like the Intellivision Lives! game for the gamecube
Previous entry... Videocart 12 - Baseball
Tornado Baseball for Bally Astrocade system, released in 1978
Setting up the system was pretty easy, except for finding the controllers. I remember someone stealing a box of controllers from my car years ago and having to search ebay for replacements. I had a memory of purchasing 4 Astrocade controllers and spent the past two hours in my basement attempting to prove that I my memory was real and I didn't dream about making an ebay purchase. I finally found them in a box along with my Odyssey 200 system. I didn't have this issue with the Fairchild system in my last post because those controllers were hardwired to the system.
Once everything was setup and connections were made I was finally able to play the game. Like the videocart 12 - baseball before, this game is two players only. Good thing I purchased more then one controller. Let's play ball.
From the start, I was generally impressed with the look of the game. There is no question this is a baseball game. There is an actual baseball field not just men floating in space. The background screen is green with the infield being sort of a tan to light brown color. I found it a little confusing that the baserunners and the defense players were the same color but the position of defense were as such that there was no confusing even when the bases were loaded. The one odd thing about this game is the batter is not actually rendered instead it is just a bat.
In game text is large and readable. In the center of the screen displays text of what the play was, foul,single,double, out, strike...etc
You can see an incremental increase in quality of the rendering of players. The players have arms now, but they are all the same color and no hint of a uniform. You could view them as being naked if you want to play that way. All the players on the screen including the baserunners are the same white color. There is a nice animation to the players and overall very smooth with little to no screen flicker. The base runners run along the base path instead of just flicker to each base. The animations isn't just for the offense, the infield includes animations as well. If the shortshop gets the ball you see him throw the ball to first base. The infield generally feels and act like a real baseball game. The infield adjusts and moves based on where the ball is hit. Pitches runs towards first if the first baseball has to come off the base. I have yet come across an instance where the batter beats the throw to first but it is really nice small touch that makes the game feel more real. At the top and bottom of each inning all the players on the field run towards the bottom of the screen as if they are exiting and entering their respected dugouts. This subtle addition will be copied and used in multiple baseball games in the future, Baseball for the Nintendo system is a great example.
This appears to be the first game where the standard baseball diamond field is displayed in a home console. The foul lines and pitcher's mound is also rendered. The bases are green like the background and the infield appears to be a light brown color to match the typical dirt found on real baseball fields. For a sub 1980 video game this field is rather impressive. Home plate is also rendered nicely. Home plate as you know is not the same shape as the other bases and this game displays this correctly.
The game does not render any fans in the stadium. We won't start seeing spectors in the game until the early 80's. Even though the fans are not displayed are heard. If there is a big play such as a double or a home run, You can hear the crowd go crazy in all there 8-bit glory. Once again a very nice subtle touch and another aspect of this game that will be copied and improved upon as technology of the systems increase.
Home Run Celebration
There is no cut scene for home runs. We do get to put the controller down for a second or two as we watch the base runner round all the bases. One thing I felt was a little odd was the text on the screen for a home run. It displayed the word 'Homer'. From my experience this is the only word they opted to use the slang or abbrievated version of a baseball term. I was hoping that when I hit a single the word 'Baseknock' whould have appeared but that didn't happen. I was born in in 1980 so this game came out before me. Maybe 'Homer' was a very popular term while you were at the game in the late 70's? If that was the case then why was Atari 2600's first baseball game called 'Home Run' and not 'Homer', which came out around the same time of this game and next game to play.
This game only has one camera view. All the text and game play information are displayed along with the baseball field. Both teams score is always displayed as well the current inning and batter's count. If I had to be picky I would say all this text is sort of boring. I liked the X and O graphics as symbols for the batter count in VideoCart 12 - Baseball. This game it is just numbers with one letters as the label for each category. Common in this first generation of video games, the field is in one perspective while the players are in another. The field is displayed top-down/bird's eye perspective but the players are in first person. We see the front the players and not the top of the heads. Because of this, we are to assume that all the hits are gounders as there is no depth perception.
There is no background music nor is their much in terms of sequence of sounds. A low pitch beep for a foul ball and a higher pitch deep for any sort of hit. A buzz sound for a strike and outs. The best sound effect is reserved for the crowd noise when a big scoring play is made such a triple or home run. It really is great an enjoyed the crowd noise a lot for some reason.
Gameplay - Modes
There is only one mode on this cartridge. One 9 inning two player baseball game. After you played the game you can press the 'Reset' button on the system and play all over again.
Gameplay - Defense
Standard game play for this era of baseball video games is the player controlling the defense as a unit, group of players moving together. This game is no expection and doesn't try anything new. This game you control the three outfielders. If an outfielder touches the ball then it results in an out. This is a tried and true method in video games. The infield is controlled by the computer and does a pretty good job at it. The AI in the infield is no idiot. They were even able to do a double play for me. The outfielders are controlled by twisting the joystick knob on top. As little control you have on actual fielding you have total control on the pitching. twist the joystick to add english to the ball, and pull it forward to pitch.
Gameplay - Offense
There is nothing really exciting to the offense side of the ball. The batter isn't even rendered. You just control the bat. Using the controller's trigger button you swing the bat. You seem to have control of the direction of where the ball is hit based on swinging early or late. It took awhile for me to get the timing but I eventually could hit the ball fairly well. It was common for me to recieve 5 foul balls with one batter though. I was unable to control the base runners once I reached base. I am unsure how or if I can control a hit being a single,double,triple or home run.
Rules of Baseball
A very solid game that adheres to the basic rules of baseball. There are 9 innings, 3 strikes, 4 balls. The scores can go double digits and all types of hits exists. It is so solid and I enjoyed this game so much I felt sad to learn that it fails to follow one of the golden rule of baseball. There is no ties nor crying in baseball. One of my play throughs the score was tied 10-10 and after I struck out in the bottom of the ninth inning, the game just ended and displayed a 'Game Over' text. A pretty big disapointment for me. It makes me wonder why. It is not like the system is not powerful enough to go extra innings. The previous game on the fairchild system was able to this a year before this game released. You can see that the border of the scoreboard there is only room for one digit inning.
The lack of extra inning hurts but there are some advanced mechanics of baseball that do exist in this game. For example, the computer controlled infield can preform a double play. Because there is no visible batter, the ability to hit the batter is just not there. With the lack of controlling the base running we are unable to perform any advanced plays like base stealing, being stuck in a run down or throwing an out at home. This is a technical limitation of the controller more then anything else. This generation of controllers only had one button and a joystick. Maybe with a system like Intellivsion with multiple buttons and various developers becoming more creative, we can begin to see more aspects of the game of baseball included in the video games ...Stay tuned
Video Game Innovations
- One of the first games to display the actual baseball field
- Basic AI for the infield, The infield knew which base to throw the ball, pitches covers first base if needed.
- Sound effects of the crowd during 'big' plays such as Home Runs
- Animated players, the players just didn't slide into position...there feet moved.
- One of the first to animate the players exiting and entering the field of play.