Space Race

Space Race

Company: Atari
Model #:
John Seghers
Year: 1982
Based on the 1973 Atari Coin-Op


Space Race is a simple demo game put together by John Seghers to learn how to program for the Atari 5200.  Based on the 1973 Atari coin-op of the same name, the player must get their ship to the top of the screen by avoiding asteroids that randomly move across the screen.  As this was an extremely early Atari coin-op game (remember that Pong was released only the year before), the gameplay is relatively simple.  The player is limited to only moving their ship up and down (no left or right) and the game is two players only (computer controlled opponents weren't really a thing yet).  The player who who gets more ships to the top of the screen before the timer runs out wins.


In order to learn the ins and outs of how the Atari 5200 worked, John decided to make his own version of Space Race.  Since the 5200 had four controller ports he decided to make his demo four players instead of two.  John also decided to improve the graphics by making the asteroids look like actual asteroids (the arcade game had the asteroids represented by dashes).  The demo does not contain any sounds or music yet, but given that it was simply a learning exercise there may not have been any planned.


Unfortunately the demo is unfinished and there's no way to actually control the ships.  In fact the code doesn't even attempt to read the joysticks!  All you can do is watch the ships continually move up the screen until they reach the base at the top.  If a ship hits an asteroid it will reappear back at the bottom and try again.  However since the asteroids don't move yet the ship will hit them again and again.  Eventually one of the ships will reach the top ten times and the game will end.  The asteroid placement appears to be mostly random, but the first ship will always have a clear path to the base.

While never completed or intended for release, John's Space Race demo is an interesting curiosity.  Most programmers developed person demos to learn how to program on new systems, but they were almost never preserved.  John also went on to create the 3-D Asteroids Demo which showed just how much he had learned about the 5200.

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