March 2013 Update!- The global online leaderboard was re-activated in March 2013. Visit http://norrish.force9.co.uk/robotron/ for scoreboard and free download.

  • Important for Win7 64bit OS- Edit mechatron.ini and adjust hmode=1 , then save the change
  • Right click the mechatron.exe, troubleshoot compatibility, Troubleshoot program, click Next, highlight Windows 98, click Start Program, click Next, click Yes to Save settings, click Close

 

Introduction

Visually spectacular! Stunningly crisp game-play!  If you have been playing Robotron for the past 3 decades, get ready to be blown away by what can only be coined in spirit as the real Robotron II.

  • One of the rare games where it is just as fun to play doubles and watch the breathtaking action unfold on the playfield.
  • Remember the first time you saw the 3D spectacle of Tomb Raider or Mario 64?  Wellllll, get ready to feel that same excitement when you embark upon the Mechatron: 2154 quest.

Ray Norrish- Developer

My Mechatron Story- as told by the UK’s Extreme Master Robotron player, Sir Paul Spriggs:

  • After years and years of mucking around with Mame i got a bit bored with it. I was looking for newer games to play but couldn’t “tune in” to newer stuff.
  • The main cause of my boredom is that I felt very alone as I was the only person I knew who still played the 80s classics, and I lacked any challenge or motivation as a result. I felt like a dinosaur.  All that changed in the spring of 2012 when I connected with a load of guys world-wide who re-invigorated my interest. I finally had people on my wavelength who shared my interest (and could kick my @$$ on the games!)  (editor note- GUS and MOS, I think he’s talking about you…)
  • About 3 years before this however I found a retro remake site, which had hundreds of homebrew remakes of old arcade and console classics.  I checked out the Defender remakes and found nothing at all of interest. There was even a Defender with Penguins! (Defenguin?) · I also had a look at some Robotron clones and came across several woeful efforts until I found a game called “Mechatron 2154.”
  • At the time i couldn’t actually play the game as the controller I was using couldn’t be picked up by the game, so I had to use a standard small windows USB thing, that was rubbish.  I did however see the potential of the game using what I had, although I couldn’t get past wave 10 as I couldn’t control the damned thing.
  • I emailed the author, a rather nice chap called Ray, and asked if he could do something with the joystick options. A few days later I booted it up, it recognized my Robotron controller and bingo – I was in business. · I played the game in earnest, as it was different enough from Robotron to maintain my interest, however still had the “feel” of the game, which all other clones couldn’t do at all.
  • I emailed Ray with a few hints, as after a while the progressive game speed became ridiculous, and unplayable.  One example is that Grunts would run faster than you could, which made death inevitable if there was a group of them as you couldn’t outrun them or shoot them quick enough
  • I told Ray that , in my opinion, one of the best things about Robotron is when you are utterly trapped, there is no hope, but you somehow manage to fight your way out of certain situations. The rush you get and satisfaction you get from such escapes keeps you coming back for more. His game after a point just became totally un-playable , and therefore eventually all interest was lost as there was no point in continuing with the game. The balance wasn’t quite right.
  • He tweaked it here and there though, slowed down the progression to about level 10 Robotron speed and it was damned near perfect.
  • I remember emailing Ray and telling him what a fantastic game he had written, and did he have any other retro-style classics in the pipeline.  He told me at the time (if I remember correctly) that he was happy with his work, but disappointed in the lack of interest in this kind of retro thing and therefore wouldn’t be doing any more.  I was disappointed but fully understood where he was coming from.
  • I am hoping that Robotron players who are blissfully unaware of this game give it a go. Hopefully it may persuade Ray to write some more stuff!
  • Go on : Download and give it a go!

Interview with Ray Norrish – Nov 2012

What was your first experience with an arcade game?

· Growing up in a seaside town, where there was a concentration of amusement arcades gave me exposure to a lot of arcade games from an early age. I recall the earliest games such as space invaders and phoenix etc. but the earliest really great games I remember passionately were ones such as robotron, defender, q-bert, mad planets and so on. · The first encounters (space invaders, galaxians etc.) were something of a revelation – I remember the earliest invaders with plastic tape on the screen to make the graphics look different(!) and the pure buzz of getting the highscore (even before you could put your 3 letter moniker in – you just had to have a witness 🙂

How did you become aware of Robotron?

· We didn’t have a Robotron in our town (we never did get one) – it was in the arcade in the next town over.  An expedition to the next town introduced me to delights such as Gyruss, Q-bert, Mad Planets and many others. · We had a defender in our town, which a few of us were good at – good Defender players were revered – you could walk into the arcade and people really would gather around to see a “good” player step up to Defender. Mind you, a good player was one who could deal with a few mutants or get over 100K.. not a lot of good players in our neighbourhood.. · If I thought I was one of the Defender elite in our town, when I first saw the Robotron machine, I was absolutely in awe. The machine is deceptively smaller than the others around it.. it’s pumping out the most unbelievable sounds (it must have been on top settings) and I couldn’t see the machine for people around it. When I saw it, it was a video game for the big boys.. it looked hard, I couldn’t work out what the hell was going on for a while – I just couldn’t take in what I was looking at. The guy playing it was sweating. He was actually in physical combat with the game. The first time I played it, I didn’t even want anyone to be in the vicinity – I felt I would be ridiculed. I don’t remember being a bad player and eventually becoming a competent player, but I remembered the fantastic feeling like no other game when you drew people around you to look on in amazement because you are somehow in control of this frenzy of pixels which at the time almost made no sense to the uninitiated; this absolutely mental, ridiculous riot of an arcade game where somehow you can survive amongst utter anarchy… it’s incredible. I don’t think any other game then or since captures the essence of what an arcade game is.

Development Background

  • I always wanted to develop software since my first exposure to computers in 1981. I learned BBC basic and some 6502 and CPM at school at this time and after leaving school, I did pursue a career in computer related areas.
  • I didn’t do anything outside of work (educational software) until the Atati ST came out in 1984? and started writing a game on that (which came to nothing when I lost my source code) so I traded up to an Amiga and got seriously involved in that platform, leading onto audio and music development mainly and working for leading development companies such as psygnosis and infogrames.

Key to Development

  • The key to my incentive for developing this game was that I consider it to be the perfect arcade game. I have developed a lot of emulation in my programming life; imitating something from one platform to another – the game itself is pure – I think it’s not just about the game, but the finite constraints in which if functions are incredible.
  • Even from my experience of re-developing it with the resources I had available humble me. How the hell can that game be running on that hardware.. it staggers me.

Interesting stories

  • The game proto was a joke where I had a picture of my son holding 2 plastic guns and you could move him around with the original sounds from the robotron arcade game. This was where the thought to make a fully fledged remake of the game came from. Also, after not writing any game related software for over 15 years, I wondered if what I was developing with at the time (delphi) was capable of making an arcade game.
  • Delphi (essentially object Pascal) is not really appropriate for this. Most of the challenges I faced writing this game came from selecting the wrong language / development platform and severe problems with the direct X engine I used (unDelphiX) which was originally by some Japanese guy, and already several years old (and unsupported) by the time I came to use it.
  • As seen in the history text of the game, there was a 12 month pause in the game development while I worked with some guy in czech republic to improve, almost remake the engine to allow me to finish the game.
  • Still, I had to use assembly language in certain areas to keep the game fast which seems farcical in hindsight, but that was the way it was. Other problems with developing the game were delays in obtaining graphics. I had teamed up with a guy from Belgium to make the game and his graphics were very good (all produced from 3d models in blender) but at some stage in the project, he split from his girlfriend and lost interest. I was unable to continue without him and lost an entire year until he re-engaged.
  • Other problems were the lack of interest generally e.g. trying to get people to test it and feed back constructively. If no-one is interested in the end product it makes it difficult to get motivated and finish the game.
  • Eventually, you encounter people as nostalgic or just keen as you are for the game. The folks at retro-remakes were helpful and gave positive feedback (I think the game is still a favourite of the editor, even now) and there were plenty of people in the end helping out in one way or another – making levels, game icons, good constructive feedback etc. · I was contacted by a guy from x-arcade at some point who had seen the demo, and he was keen to see the game shipped with their controllers
  • At the time. I was optimistic of getting a free controller or something, but no. This is where the x-arcade preset controls came in.

What were a couple of the most surprising or unusual things that happened to you as a result of publishing your game?

  • One of the most surprising things was that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was at my own game! Quite soon, I wasn’t able to get on my own world high scores board.
  • People really seemed to like the game, which was what it was all about really and I still get enquiries and emails to this day.
  • Nothing much happened to me, game development-wise, · I started on an I-robot remake which got to about 40% and got tossed in the cupboard.
  • It’s just great to see people getting some enjoyment from my hard work 🙂

What did Sir Paul do to the credibility of your online scoreboard?

  • Haha! Great question. A lot of people emailed me to say someone is cheating and asked I sort that out and reset the world high scores.
  • He wasn’t cheating (not that I can tell) as I put a lot of stuff in there to prevent that.
  • Modified level sets can’t participate in online high scores and when a score is submitted, it sends a lot of other information about the game – version, level set, stats etc. Which reminds me – the stats could prove interesting 🙂

Does your game have an end, a point where the score or waves roll back to 0, or any easter eggs for the player to discover?

  • Originally, I didn’t even code anything for level 256 looping as it was made impossible to finish. Level 256 was simply IMPOSSIBLE. · However, Spriggsy persuaded me to loop the game again at level 256. I really can’t recall if it is just a vanilla reset or it’s harder again from level 0.
  • Regarding easter eggs, I think everything is documented. You can take screenshots with the 0 key and there were some switches in the config to work better on some older FPUs. Of course, the level editor gives you free access to control everything so there’s not much left.
  • A little thing I remember – look at the codes on the PCB chips on the high score entry screen 🙂

If you had three things you’d like to tell the Vid Kidz Eugene Jarvis and Larry DeMar, what would it be?

  • I wouldn’t presume to tell them anything 🙂
  • However, their original games are beyond words. I know they appeared at a formative time in my life, and perhaps they helped to shape the rest of my life in the career choices I made. Whatever else, these games were ahead of their time in so many ways.

Tips, tricks, or Youtube clips-

Tips from Ray:

  • The main tip is to keep moving, generally circumnavigating the screen. The enemies tend to align themselves to your current position so don’t stand still! · To maximize score, concentrate on collecting humans – when you are collecting 5000 point humans, that’s half a life, so take risks at this point.
  • Don’t let the spheroids or quarks deploy their payloads if possible, unless you are harvesting points.
  • On crazy levels, don’t stop shooting. It helps sometimes to use the initial teleportation sequence to quickly plan a route to the edge so you limit the amount of directions you can be attacked from.
  • Finally, just watch an accomplished player on youtube – hopefully with commentary.

Tip from Sir Paul

  • The only person to “loop” the game. He made level 303 with a shot accuracy of 35%. He got 9,999,825 in 1hour and 7mins.
  • “Shoot first, and ask questions later!”

Sir Paul in Newcastle upon Tyne sporting a Robotron 30th Anniversary shirt at the 2012 London Olympics

When does Mechatron quit getting harder?

  • The game gets harder all the time. Check the curves by loading the level (default.rld) into the level editor. You can see everything there. The prog behaviour was what I said: they forget their target occasionally. Adds some randomness
  • The difficulty is quite granular. For instance, you will see the deploy time decreases on quarks etc. Similarly the accelerator for the grunts (and all) increases. Although the level set contains the exact amounts of enemies each level, the behaviour is different. Incidentally, it was Sean Riddle who supplied the level info (he is credited if you look)

How to deal with the Progs, per Ray:

  • The progs are hard – I’ll give you that. Mental even. I remember programming in some stuff that made them “forget” their tracking occasionally just to make them a little less lethal. I can also say that they will plan routes that avoid electrodes, so that may help?

Tech note from Ray regarding finnicky issues with newer computers:

  • It’s slightly annoying that the game plays so differently on fast PCs. It employs a system that was supposed to help it play faster on SLOW pcs called “timer based movement”. This is a method where everything is moved according to where it “should” be in 1/60 second, regardless of how fast the computer could work out where that was. It worked up until 64 bit, which wasn’t able to be factored in at the time. In hindsight, developing in the normal way would have meant it would work just fine now that PCs are kick @$$

Click HERE to return to the Starting page for learning Robotron, the basic concepts apply to Mechatron, as well…with a few twists, like the ghost progs and springy spheroids…..get ready!!!!


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