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foxbat

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I don't think anyone has the true story on that one.  The plausible stories I've heard:

 

- It was the codename for the Indy game.

- It was a plane/jet based game that got cancelled -- never made it past the prototype state. 

- It was the codename for Realsports Baseball. 

- It was a game in the works, but the programmer left for a different company.  Took all traces with him/her. 

 

That second one sounds the most plausible. 

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That second one sounds the most plausible. 

 

I agree with you on that for sure. These are where the cracks start to show in Atari and the whole industry as it was back then. So much vaporware was announced, touted in catalogs, magazines and at trade shows. How many cool things have we seen with Atari that never came out? Atari 2700 RC VCS, Atari Cosmos, Atari Mindlink, Atari 7800 Keyboard Computer, probably close to 100 games across all the systems, all announced and never released. That was bad show. It disappointed a lot of people and tarnished Atari's reputation.

 

You'd hardly see this today. Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, they're all tight-lipped about what's coming out until it's time to announce something. Tech giants like Apple and Google are notoriously secretive. I'd bet you this tight-lipped tech culture we're in today is to some degree a result of Atari contributing to the collapse of an entire industry because of their slack practices.

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I agree with you on that for sure. These are where the cracks start to show in Atari and the whole industry as it was back then. So much vaporware was announced, touted in catalogs, magazines and at trade shows. How many cool things have we seen with Atari that never came out? Atari 2700 RC VCS, Atari Cosmos, Atari Mindlink, Atari 7800 Keyboard Computer, probably close to 100 games across all the systems, all announced and never released. That was bad show. It disappointed a lot of people and tarnished Atari's reputation.

 

You'd hardly see this today. Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, they're all tight-lipped about what's coming out until it's time to announce something. Tech giants like Apple and Google are notoriously secretive. I'd bet you this tight-lipped tech culture we're in today is to some degree a result of Atari contributing to the collapse of an entire industry because of their slack practices.

 

Companies can still make the same mistake.  I'm thinking about Blizzard specifically and their project "Titan". 

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Companies can still make the same mistake.  I'm thinking about Blizzard specifically and their project "Titan". 

 

I'm not saying companies don't make the same mistake, I'm saying the majors in the tech industry are far more secretive today because they've learned from industry-crushing mistakes of the past.

 

Smaller companies still do this. You mentioned Blizzard with Titan, that's a great example. The biggest one that comes to mind is the Phantom video game console from Infinium Labs. They announced it in 2003, Wired had it listed as vaporware in 2004, and they milled around through the end of the decade not doing much. What you don't often see are industry leaders, as Atari was at the time, making this mistake over and over and over.

 

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Hi, guys.

 

My first post here.

 

Here's some info for you to clear things up about Foxbat.

 

 

According to Keithen Hayenga (who was involved with 5200 Foxbat), it turns out the war game was to be a strategic contest and not an action one:

"Yes the producers of Foxbat originally wanted a 2600 game because that was where the money was at.

I'm not for sure who was ever assigned the title because I think almost all of the 2600 programmers just said they weren't interested.

When they asked me, I said yes, but I was only interested in doing 5200 stuff.

One of the managers suggested we do something like Eastern Front on the 800 and we got permission from Chris Crawford to use his code.

When we showed the Hollywood guys the difference in the graphics that were possible they went right along with it.

I forget how atomic bombs were mentioned in the story, but there was supposed to be something about them in the game. (It seems to me that when there is a good idea in Hollywood, there seems to always be another studio that comes out with another movie with a similar topic. So I wonder if Dark Horse Productions knew about Wargames having the line, "Shall we play Global Thermonuclear War?" in it and were influenced to do something similar.) 

It wasn't my favorite feature so I worried about how to put it into the game.

I came up with a number of neutral countries having stashes of atomic weapons and if you were the first one to push the button, they all fired on you for breaking the taboo.

The producers seemed to like the idea.

It seemed like if there was one spy movie, there would soon be another spy movie.

There were 2 movies made at the same time about Tombstone for crying out loud.

But when it came to movies about war games, only one got made and it wasn't Foxbat.

The only thing I got out of it is that someplace I have a treatment for Foxbat lying around.

A treatment is sort of a plot outline with some chapters fleshed out to give the feeling of the dialog or characters so that movie investors can get an idea of what the movie they are about to invest in will be like.

In the treatment there is a scene where the people putting on the game are showing it to the general who is one of the central characters. 

The general asks who designed the game and they answer that they had the best designers like Keithen.

So I was almost mentioned in a movie.

I think most of what you [scott Stilphen] mention is based on the Russian Foxbat fighter.

Clint Eastwood's Foxbat movie was about stealing one.

If someone heard the name of Dark Horse Production's Foxbat as a basis for a game, I could see how the first thought would be about air war.

But I don't know how the producers came up with the name of Foxbat.

There was no flying involved in the movie by the time I was involved and I knew of no game design that had that as part of a design.

There sure were enough different groups inside Atari coming up with ideas that someone could have been speculating about just such a project, but I didn't know about it.

To give you some idea of where I was going with the project, let me give you the plot of the movie:

The main character of the movie is an exceptionally good war game player who lives in a warehouse on the wrong side of town.

He falls in love with the sister of a gang leader.

This leads him to give the gang leader tactical advice that lets his gang win a number of gang fights.

Meanwhile, a prominent game company is putting on a national contest for their latest war game.

A prominent West Point general gets involved and becomes one of the favorites to win the contest.

Our war gamer hacks into the game and is winning.

Since he has hacked in, nobody knows who he is and there is suspicion that it might be a KGB plot. 

The general has his intelligence officers trace the tap back to the warehouse and they organize a helicopter assault to capture the gamer.

The climax has the rival gang having figured out why they were loosing and are attacking the warehouse themselves and it is on fire as the helicopters come swooping in.

Instead of capturing the gamer, the general winds up rescuing him and the girlfriend.

So the game we were creating was to be that game that they were playing in the movie.

We hoped to have game graphics in the movie that would be the actual game shots.

What we showed them was Chris Crawford's 800 game, Eastern Front, and they quickly saw that the 5200 had much better graphics than the 2600 and had no objection of me moving the target game machine to the 5200.

I never really got any code of my own going before the project was cancelled.

I was mainly studying Chris's code. (He created many more Russian units that appeared in the game. He then play tested it to come up with a number of units that counterattacked the Germans, which was the human player, to make the game very challenging, but with just enough success that there was the hint that you might be able to win.) 

So other than playing Eastern Front on the Atari computer to get a feel for the game, I don't think I even moved the code from the 800 over to our 5200 development stations. 

There was one thing that I was experimenting with on paper.

Crawford's map elements and army units were square because that was the shape you got with caracter graphics.

I had played enough board games to know that hex grids gave a better feel for movement on the board.

The graphics mode would still be the character based squares, but I would have the graphics of one square include diagonal lines that would blend with the square next to it to be a hex shape overall.

But then if I had a character that was an army unit, I had to create a number of stamps for that one army unit that included an edge that was a river, and one that was a forest, and another for snow.

So to be able to build any arbitrary map it was going to just take too many combinations of stamps. 

You’d think this would be a great task to have an artist helping me with, but I don't think we ever had one assigned.

I did work with Jerome Dumurat on 5200 Real Sports Baseball and Michael Kosaka for Tempest, but I didn't work with Alan Murphy.

Hanging around the graphics area I did know Alan and Mimi Doggett. I thought they were a great group of people.

Just as none of the other programmers were eager to program that game, I’m not sure any of the artists were enthusiastic either.

So I was the only one that I knew of to waste any time on 5200 Foxbat."

 

 

Keep up the good work.

Cheers,

 

Rom Hunter (head VCS section AtariMania)

 

8)

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Hi, guys.

 

My first post here.

 

Here's some info for you to clear things up about Foxbat.

 

Rom Hunter -- welcome to the site, hope you stick around!  Your first post comes as a timely surprise, at least to me -- I've actually been working on putting together an article about this game.  Just a few weeks ago I managed to track down one of the screenplay authors -- he was able to give me a synopsis of the script and talk a bit about why the movie project was shelved.  I hope to have something finished to share with everyone in the next week or so!

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The info Rom Hunter posted came from me, in an email conversation I had with Keithen Hayenga.  Here's all the current info I know about this title:  http://www.ataricompendium.com/game_library/unreleased/unreleased.html#foxbat

 

 

 

Although "Foxbat" is NATO's name for the Russian MiG-25 fighter plane and Electronic Games touted it as an air combat game, the 5200 version was planned to be a strategy game.  A 1981 Canadian brochure lists this with the same product number as RealSports Baseball and states that it would be available in December (1982).  It also notes the title is a trademark of Dark Horse Productions.  Mentioned in Electronic Games in June 1982 (page 25), incorrectly stating that Foxbat was the original name for Raiders of the Lost Ark!  Also mentioned in Electronic Games, September 1982, page 38 - "One of last summer's biggest hits - as both a film and a Marvel-created comic - was the Lucas-Spielberg creation, 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'.  So anxious was Atari to get this hot title into its 1982 catalog that Atari bounced its promising air combat contest, Foxbat, into the following year's schedule."  Also mentioned in issue 5 of A.N.A.L.O.G. (pg. 37) and listed as two words ("Fox Bat").  Keithen Hayenga talked about this at CGE14 and mentions it was to be a tie-in to a movie that would have been similar to Wargames, but was cancelled when that movie was released.  From Keithen Hayenga: "Yes the producers of Foxbat originally wanted a 2600 game because that was where the money was at.  I'm not for sure who was ever assigned the title because I think almost all of the 2600 programmers just said they weren't interested.  When they asked me, I said yes, but I was only interested in doing 5200 stuff."
Edited by Scott Stilphen

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The info Rom Hunter posted came from me, in an email conversation I had with Keithen Hayenga.  Here's all the current info I know about this title:  http://www.2600connection.com/faq/vcs_nr/vcs_nr.html#foxbat

 

Hi Scott -- glad to see you come by!  Your site has been invaluable to me more times than I can count, and the 2600 carts I purchased through your site a while back were great -- many thanks.

 

Now that my Art of Atari interview/article is in the rear-view I can once again focus on the new information I learned about Foxbat.  On the advice of the author I also tried contacting one of the film's producers (i.e. one half of "Dark Horse Productions") with the hopes that he might be able to share more information about an Atari licensing agreement, but it's now been a long while with no reply.   :(   So I think I'll just go with what I have.  No doubt I'll be citing your correspondence with Keithen Hayenga, too -- it'll be great to be able to include some of his insight into the project as well!

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