|This page is
dedicated to the memory of Patrick Bass.
Like its 2600 cousin, the Atari 5200 version of RS Basketball
never made it into production. Why Atari couldn't get
either version out the door before the crash hit is unknown, but
it appears that they tried at least two different versions for
the 5200 before pulling the plug. While the later version
resembles the aborted 2600 version, the earlier prototype seems
to share more in common with the Atari 400/800 version
programmed by Alan Miller. Atari may have been attempting
to do a slight enhancement to the early 8-bit version before
deciding that it was ultimately too dated (the 400/800 version
was done in 1979 after all).
In its current state, RS Basketball seems to be
playable but is somewhat unpolished (much like the Atari 2600
version). The first thing you'll notice is the title screen
(or lack thereof), the player is only presented a small list of
options with the words "5200 Basketball" displayed at the
bottom. This was a common thing with many early 5200 games,
as Atari didn't get into fancy title screens until much later on.
Spartan look aside, the title does its job, displaying the
name of the game and presenting the player with a list of game
From the title screen you can choose the number of
players, Singles or Doubles mode, and the game difficulty.
While the number of players and game difficulty are fairly
straight forward, Singles/Doubles mode needs a little explanation.
In Singles mode the game is played in regular "One on One"
style, with one player moving one character and the computer or
second player moving the second character. In Doubles mode
each player takes control of two characters that sort of move in
tandem (similar to RS Tennis). When playing in Doubles mode
a special Pass option is activated on the joystick that allows the
player to pass the ball to his partner. While Doubles mode
is much more interesting than Singles mode, it is also more hectic
since the small screen tends to get a little cramped.
RS Basketball's controls are fairly straight
forward, but a little awkward (a common problem with 5200 sports
games). The fire button (as you probably guessed) is used
for shooting the ball. The bottom button will normally shoot
the ball at basket, but will pass the ball to your teammate when
in Passing Mode (Doubles mode only). The Top fire button is
used to switch players in Doubles mode, and has no function
otherwise. The top row of the keypad is used to select your
shooting mode. Pressing '1' will select a Jump Shot (used for
distance shots), '2' selects a Layup (used for close up shots),
and '3' will activate Passing mode when playing in Doubles mode.
You can also bump into the player to steal the ball, but
there is no button for this. These controls aren't bad, but
fiddling with the top row of buttons on the keypad during a fast
paced game is clumsy at best.
The graphics in RS Basketball are pretty good, but
nothing to write home about (as was the case in most 5200 sports
games). The court and stands are nicely depicted, although
the players are reduced to having blocks for heads (I guess your
opponent really is a blockhead). The 3-D quality of the
court is especially impressive as it really gives the player a
sense of depth; this is something that most prior basketball games
lacked. Also gracing the screen is a large scrolling message
bar under the court. This message bar generally shows
non-helpful hints or messages, and is mainly used by the computer
to hurl insults or the occasional compliment. This may very
well be the first case of trash talking in a video game
While the text box is obviously just a gimmick, it does add
some personality to an otherwise faceless computer opponent.
While the graphics may be finished, the gameplay
still needs a little work. The AI of the computer controlled
player is questionable at times and has an overall uneven feel to
it. One moment he will make an impossible shot, then proceed
to throw the ball up in the air in the middle of the court.
The ball physics are also a bit questionable, as it is
possible to make a basket from anywhere on the court by shooting
full force and banking it off the back wall (there is no out of
bounds in this game). The shot power is controlled by how
long you hold down the fire button, but without some sort of gauge
it's impossible to tell how hard you're throwing.
While it was not uncommon for games have an Easter
Egg hidden in them, programmer Patrick Bass found the time to add
three completely different Easter Eggs to RS Basketball. The
first Easter Egg can be triggered by activating the demo and
pressing the "5" key, this will cause the message "When Running
Into the Tropical Entropy Nightly, By Yourself, Project And Try
Reaching Into Circles Killed Because All Seems Strange" to appear.
This message may seem like nonsense at first, but If you
take the first letter of each word, you'll find it spells "Written
by Patrick Bass". The second Easter Egg is also triggered
during the demo, pressing the "*" key will toggle the word
"RealSports" which appears in the text box during the demo.
This may have simply been a hold over from the period before
Atari invented the RealSports series and the sports games were
simply called Baseball, Soccer, Football, etc. The third
Easter Egg in this prototype is a bit strange, pressing the
numbers on the keypad will produce telephone dialing tones.
It is unknown why Patrick put this in, but you can actually
dial a telephone if you hold it up to the speaker.
So why was RS Basketball never released? It
appears that it was a victim of an overly long development cycle
and a fading market. Patrick was given the task of
redesigning the game after the original programmer left in late
1982. Starting in June of 1983, Patrick was able to
completely overhaul the game and present it the review committee
by that December. Unfortunately it was decided that the game
was not a strong enough candidate for release, and RS Basketball
was ultimately canceled. However since Atari would stop all
5200 game development in less than six months due to the
collapsing game market, this wasn't a big surprise. RS
Basketball was the last title in the RealSports series before
Atari decided to drop its sports line up and concentrate solely on
||Original version (early build)
||Basketball EPROM Cartridge
||Original version (later build)
||New version (mid
level WIP) - Missing Easter Eggs
||New version (mid level WIP) -
With Easter Eggs
||New version (Final)
to 5200 Software