James Eldred at Mostly Retro has written up a review of what is, in our eyes, the crowning glory of vintage Atari Asteroids spin-off merch: Asteroids, the record album. (The AtariAsteroids.net copy is pictured above).
It’s a full-length vinyl LP, produced by John Braden at Kid Stuff Records in 1982, during the height of the first home video game console boom. The label also put out LPs for Missile Command and Yars’ Revenge, along with non-Atari hits like Pac-Man.
In addition to a time travel story, the album’s contents include:
1. Atari Theme (John Braden)
2. Asteroids (John Braden/J. Waxman)
1. Time Walk (John Braden/J. Waxman)
2. Atari Theme (Reprise) (John Braden)
Oliver at vectrexmuseum.com has just released a Vectrex Locator web-app for mobile phones, for tracking up-to-the-moment, international, on-the-go Vectrex sales and news.
The Vectrex is close to Atari Asteroids’ heart: it was a vector screen home game system released in 1982, with a spaceship-shooting-things game (Mine Storm) installed on every unit. While they were only in stores for a year or two, they have an avid following to this day, and can often be found on sites like eBay.
The VecApp is a web app, in that it resides on a server and is accessed via the internet. It’s specially designed for mobile devices, and with a data connection, appears to function as any native app would.
VecApp features include:
- Displays Vectrex collectibles on different eBay markets
- Currency converter (updated several times on trade days)
- Internal clock including seconds (using your device´s time configuration)
- Actual Vectrex News (updates when loading the web-app)
- Answers the question “What the hack is a Vectrex?”
- Hidden Easter Egg
To install it, open www.vectrexmuseum.com/mobile/ with your mobile device, then tap “Add to Bookmarks” for easy, one-tap access.
For more information, visit vextrexmuseum’s VecApp site: http://vectrexmuseum.com/mobile/vecapp.php
Two months ago, the WSJ causally mentioned that Discovery Bay Games was developing a controller for the Atari’s Greatest Hits app on iPad. There was no other mention of this anywhere. Yesterday, Discovery Bay Games issued an official press release, saying that, yes, they are in fact developing the device in official partnership with Atari.
Seattle – August 3, 2011 - Discovery Bay Games is pleased to announce it has partnered with Atari, a global creator, producer and publisher of interactive entertainment, to develop, manufacture and distribute a gaming accessory to work with Atari’s Greatest Hits App for iPad.
“With over three million downloads to date, the ‘Atari’s Greatest Hits’ App is already popular among gamers worldwide. We’re eager to build on this success,” said Craig Olson, CEO, Discovery Bay Games. “We believe our partnership with Atari will enable consumers worldwide to build upon an already amazing retro-gaming experience.”
“There’s significant opportunity to add more value and take ‘Atari’s Greatest Hits’ App to an entirely new level with an analog controller, and we’ve turned to Discovery Bay Games to do exactly that,” said Lee Jacobson, SVP of Licensing, Atari Inc. “The controller will deliver a true mobile arcade experience, complimenting classic titles including Centipede® or Asteroids®.”
There’s been a flurry of geekblog talk about the iCade cabinet for the iPad, which will turn your Apple device into a bluetooth-controlled mini arcade. But almost 30 years ago, a group of folks near Boston built the Mini-Cade to house a Vectrex.
Only seven exist. The Vectrex Museum has the full story here.
Much of arcade Asteroids’s allure is the glowing, minimalist vector screen. Instead of a standard TV monitor, which scans from top to bottom over and over again, the vector display draws straight lines from one point to the next where needed, like an oscilloscope. It can only be a simple polygon outline of one color, but it also means that the image is sharp and bright (Asteroids’s photon torpedoes leave a brilliant trace along the slowly-decaying phosphor of the screen), and simple to program (the video and sound data in the arcade version of Asteroids is just 2 KB of ROM code, and the game program is another 6 KB). It’s why we have the Asteroids locator on this site: to this day, no home version or variation of Asteroids really does the same thing.
Enter the Vectrex. In 1982, Western Technologies/Smith Engineering developed a home video game device with an actual vector display — the only one of its kind, ever. The Vectrex was released by General Consumer Electric (GCE), then bought by Milton Bradley, at the end of 1982. Its big selling point was that unlike the Atari 2600, it was a stand-alone system that didn’t tie up the television. Timing was bad, though with a glut of home video game systems hitting the market at the same time, leading to the North American Video Game Crash of 1983. One year after it hit the shelves, production for the Vectrex was discontinued, and in another year, the commercial life of the Vectrex was over.
The Vectrex came with one game built in: Mine Storm, which is like Asteroids, but with mines. The official story is this:
Tread lightly! The transport lanes of intergalactic space have been seeded with mines from an alien vessel. Use your mine destroying blaster to blow up the mines before they annihilate you! You may survive the floating mines, but beware of the fireball, magnetic, and treacherous fireball- magnetic mines… 13 fields, each one more difficult, await you!
A few years ago, Indie 3D filmmaker and DIY stereoscopic expert Eric Kurland invited me to his Secret Underground Lair in Echo Park, LA, which is filled with all sorts of 3D goodies, including a pristene Vectrex. Yes, not only does the Vectrex have a true vector screen — several of the games are in 3D! Its giant (optional) headset operates much like a lot of home 3D glasses today, alternately blocking the left and right eyes very rapidly, in sync with the display showing the left then right image. Among these games is a 3D version of Mine Storm.
It was pretty cool.
The game action wasn’t actually in 3D, but some of the mines looked closer to you than other ones.
Being such a unique and awesome device, the Vectrex has a following to this day. The Vectrex Museum website is a great resource for all things Vectrex, and is a site after our own heart. Be sure to check out their intro video, which includes an introduction from the excellent video How to Beat Home Video Games (1982), as well as clips of modern users like chiptune musician little-scale.
AtariAsteroids.net will be posting more about Vectrex down the road, in our continuing coverage of Things That Are Awesome Like Asteroids. Stay tuned.
It’s been a year since ThinkGeek announced the iPad Arcade Cabinet – the iCADE — on April Fool’s Day. Since then, they’ve partnered with ION, and the product has become real. It’s a bluetooth controller and iPad stand in one, with arcade-style buttons and joystick. It’s expected to be available in early June, 2011.
Pocket-lint.com has a list of other April Fool’s pranks that came true.
We just came across this old post on WFMU’s Beware of the Blog. They were stuck at work on the Friday before Labor Day, playing Asteroids, and decided to write about it. Includes video of one of their games.
If you’re dressing up for a gala night at the arcade, you’ll need to look sharp; and nothing says sharp shooter like this season’s Asteroids fashion accessories. Unfortunately, “this season” doesn’t update all that often when it comes to quality Asteroids-wear, but here’s a survey of what’s out there.
Vintage Asteroids merchandise seems mainly focussed around the Atari 2600. 1983 was a big year for collectables, maybe as a last-ditch effort at game sales before the North American video game crash.
The first and unquestionably most excellent outfit is the Asteroids Halloween costume.
For more casual occasions, there’s the colored blocks on blue tee-shirt.
And to add a little splash to any outfit, pick a collectable pin.
These might be tricky to track down, but to take a look at these and more Atari items from this era, visit the collection at Atari Mania.
In more recent years, the hour hand for retro pop has reached 1980 (probably past 1987 by this point), and Atari nostalgia rides the wave. Atari logo shirts are common, but what about Asteroids? Two items stand out.
First is Fossil’s collectable Asteroids watch, produced as a limited edition of 5,000 in 2005 (We have #2518). This is a quality watch, with a hefty metal body and black leather strap. It’s big. The background is an animated LCD with little Asteroids and ship. You can’t play, but a button on the side allows you to freeze the animation or let it play. It’s not that visible unless you view it in the right light (it’s not backlit), but that actually makes it look like a punk-class timepiece at first glance, which will receive compliments at work. The Atari insignia etched on top is also fairly subtle. It was $130 new, and can still be found on the occasional watch or auction site. It also takes 3 batteries: one for the time and two for the display. Of all Asteroids items, this one stands in a class of its own.
The second newly-minted Asteroids item is a woven microfiber necktie available at Ties.com. It’s not the cheapest quality tie we’ve seen, but it’s close. It IS Asteroids, though. When it comes down to it, the Space Invaders tie from Beau Ties of Vermont is probably a better pick. It’s not Asteroids, but it’s very nice. Soft. Woven. Deserves a mention.
Sadly, it seems that there’s no women’s Asteroids formalwear. Seems like earrings would be good, or a silver chain necklace made of asteroids-shaped links, or just a simple pendant. Maybe some jewelry designer can get on that. Otherwise, there’s a slew of t-shirts (and mouse pads, etc.), both commercial and homemade from custom-press sites, featuring Asteroids and Asteroids Deluxe
Know of any other good finds? Let us know.