Psychology of Enemy Design

Robotron is one of the few 8-bit games from the arcades which have a richly dynamic group of enemies.

Although the enemies and their shots are based on randomization, they are finely balanced and crafted so the player effectively experiences an anthropomorphism as if the enemies have devious intentions toward the player.  Malicious and evil intents.  If you ever had a penchant for paranoia in believing an arcade game cheats the player…well Robotron is high on that list of wicked games.

That is the beauty of the artisanry behind the programming of the various enemy behaviors used to foil the success of the player.  The player will have to earn their title as hero, because as we all know….The Robotrons always win…..and those Vid Kidz are an evil adversary….

Programmed Enemy Awareness


  • Player Awareness by Design
    • Innanimate object, randomly generated closer to player at wave start as waves progress
  • Player Perception during Gameplay
    • Electrode placement helps take out Grunts for the player
    • Feels like they are intentionally placed on escape routes at times, which slows the player down while shooting them out of the way, giving the enemy time to zero in and take you out.


  • Player Awareness by Design
    • Directly seek out Player’s X/Y coordinates
    • Quicken as wave progresses
    • At fastest speed, unable to outrun player on Horiz and Vert
    • Able to outrun player on diagonals
  • Player Perception during Gameplay
    • Claustrophobia
    • At times it is beneficial to kill swarms of grunts at a diagonal.  Since they move faster on diagonals, they also get shot down faster.


  • Player Awareness by Design
    • Totally unaware of player’s X/Y coordinates
    • Randomly moves in curvey snake like pattern
    • They aren’t actually aware of being in corners, when they end up there
  • Player Perception during Gameplay
    • Spheroids always make a stop in corners, so easy to predict an ambush
    • Feels like they are predatorial in kamikaze behavior on player at wave start


  • Player Awareness by Design
    • Aware of player’s X/Y coordinates
  • Player Perception during Gameplay
    • Feels like they intentionally take up corner positions to triangulate the player


  • Player Awareness by Design
    • Seek out player’s X/Y coordinates with random trajectory, speed and a player-based vector change
    • Slide along walls
  • Player Perception during Gameplay
    • Catch player off guard and overwhelm with shots
    • Flow of sparks pushes player to corners where other enemies can take the player out.
    • Dangerous to move along walls in presence of sparks
    • By constant change of direction, the shots go where the player is no longer positioned
    • Super deadly to outmaneuver when mixed with cruise missiles and tank bullets


  • Player Awareness by Design
    • Totally unaware of player’s x/y coordinates
    • move in fast diagonals and take random 90 degree turns
  • Player Perception during Gameplay
    • Feels like they are predatorial in knowing exactly when to turn into the player
    • Feels like they are predictive in being able to avoid being shot down.
    • They always end up along a wall so can predict their future location to pick them off
    • Dangerous to be too near, due to the quick 90 degree turns
    • Easiest to kill off when shooting at diagonals


  • Player Awareness by Design
    • ????  Randomly and slowly progress toward the player’s X/Y coordinate
  • Player Perception during Gameplay
    • Feels like they know how to hide behind Hulks


  • Player Awareness by Design
    • Random offset trajectories shot toward player
    • Random shots are faster based on distance from player, farther=faster
    • Deadly bounce and double bank shots
  • Player Perception during Gameplay
    • Feels like being the target of a billiards cue ball where shots are slightly predictive in being right where the player is heading


  • Player Awareness by Design
    • Seek their targeted human
    • Will seek player when humans are gone from maze
  • Player Perception during Gameplay
    • Most Deadly Opponent due to their cruise missiles

Cruise Missiles:

  • Player Awareness by Design
    • Randomly zig and zag toward the player
  • Player Perception during Gameplay
    • Feels like a missile will intentionally pop out from a brain the brain is killed
    • Player can outrun missiles by strategically running in diagonals
    • Missiles have advantage on killing player if player runs along a wall
    • Patient straight-line firing gives player advantage in removing swarms of missiles

Programmed Humans:

  • Player Awareness by Design
    • Move at high speed in horizontal and vertical directions
  • Player Perception during Gameplay
    • Feels like they can get ahead of player ready for ambush
    • Running along wall with direct Horiz or Vert firing gives player advantage in taking them out.


  • Player Awareness by Design
    • Sometimes target a human, sometimes target the player
    • Sometimes have no target and walk aimlessly (actually a bug)
  • Player Perception during Gameplay
    • Annoying nusance
    • Feels like they intentionally block enforcers and spheroids
    • Feels like they are positioned to help block shots at Brains
    • Cruel ability to quickly wipe out humans which removes bonus points from maze.

Copyright © 2012. All Rights Reserved.