Rescue on Fractalus
Long rumored to exist somewhere, the 7800 version of Rescue on Fractalus was finally discovered in 2004, still in the hands of the original programmers. Although the 7800 version of Rescue on Fractalus was never completed, it proves how amazing the 7800 could be if properly programmed (why didn't all 7800 games look this good?). The improvements over the 5200 version are staggering, and shows how powerful Atari's little new system was.
On this page I'll concentrate solely on the 7800 version of the game, for a complete review of how the finished game would have appeared look over at the 5200 Rescue on Fractalus page.
The first thing you'll notice upon starting up this prototype is that the there is no title screen or mother ship launch. Instead, this prototype starts with a static view of the cockpit and a black screen. To start the game, press the reset button and you'll be treated to a cool psychedelic launch sequence. Once you've recovered from the trippy colors, you will see the plant surface come into view.
The second thing you'll notice in this prototype is how incredibly smooth the fractal scaling is. The 5200 version of RoF had very little memory to work with, so the fractal algorithm didn't run as fast and wasn't nearly as refined. Since the 7800 was a much more powerful system, it was able to render the fractal generated mountains at an amazing speed of almost 6 FPS. While this might not sound like alot, keep in mind that this was 3-D in 1984! However once you've recovered from the amazing smoothness of the visuals, you'll begin to see how incomplete this prototype really is...
After a few moments you'll undoubtedly notice that the gauges and displays on your ship aren't moving or are displaying random data. It appears that only some of the gauges on your ship are functional this version, and most have not been implemented yet. Of special note is the fact that the three counters (Range, Enemy, and Pilot) slide out from the right as the game starts. This little bit of eye candy doesn't go unnoticed. Also take note of some of the humorous secret messages that are displayed in the upper right hand corner...
Altimeter, Wing Balance Indicator, Targeting Scope, Pilot Range Counter, and Compass
Thrust Level Meter, Dangerous Altitude Meter, Artificial Horizon, Enemy Lock-On Indicator, Energy Indicator, Long Range Radar, Enemy Counter, Pilot Counter, Indicator Lights, Message Display, Timer, and Score
Once you've flown around the planet and crashed into a few gun encampments or stranded pilots, you've pretty much done all you can in this version. While the visuals are all there, the actually gameplay has yet to be implemented. There is no way to to shoot, land, or rescue stranded pilots. It appears that this version was nothing more than a movement demo.
So why was Rescue on Fractalus never finished? Well it appears that Rescue on Fractalus was a victim of its own technology. To create and display all the amazing visuals at a decent frame rate, the 7800 version of RoF used a special 2K RAM chip. When the Tramiels relaunched the 7800 in 1987 they were trying to do everything for as little money as possible, and extra RAM chips were right out of the question. Therefore RoF was not one of the games chosen to be completed and released (although Ballblazer was). Perhaps if the Tramiels hadn't been so terminally cheap, Rescue on Fractalus would have seen the light day...