A Geekster’s Paradise Part 3

Underneath the Tiger’s Claw in the Box was this:


Early 16-bit Windows gaming was a leap forward in what you had to do to get it to run, but also a big step backward in terms of graphical quality. Windows 3.1 abstracted a lot of what hardware could do through virtual device drivers.  This had a benefit in multiple programs could use the hardware at the same time, as opposed to MS-DOS based programs which had to run one at a time due to their exclusive hardware access.

So because MS-DOS got direct access to things like the Video card, you could have high performance, great looking games.  But Windows was often relegated to whatever your Video driver color depth ran at (usually 16, sometimes 256 colors) and a much lower performance capability. An analogy to all of this technobabble is that a minivan is optimized to get a group of people somewhere, while a Ducati is optimized to getting one person there, awesomely.

This meant the vast majority of 16-bit Windows games were turn based strategy games, and one of my favorites was Robosport. 

When I brought up my treasure trove of game manuals to E and Major Nelson and got to Robotsport, E actually squeed when I mentioned it.

I remember that!” He said, “you had to pick the right robots and program them to beat each level. “

This is what made the game endless hours of fun.  Graphically it was very simple, but the play mechanics had tons of combinations.  You basically had 5 types of robots, and you program them to take actions within the isometric view of the “arena” to take out the enemy robots. At the beginning of each turn you survey the overall layout of the arena.  Things we take for granted in turn based play or real time strategy games today were available in Robosport by programming your robots.  You would program their path, stance, guard, shoot, attack, rescue, etc. 

It was also the first game I’m aware of for Windows that had cross platform Multiplay.  You could play over a modem with friends running Robosport on MacOS or Amiga.

I spent many hours playing Robosport, naming my robot teams (I always used names and themes from Silent Running, and delighted in using the quote “Poor Louie god bless him; he’s not with us anymore” when the bot named Louie got killed.)

One last note about this particular manual.  Go back and look at the picture of it.  Notice the first line of the Installation section: “Please make backup copies of your Robosport disks.  Really.  You want to do this.”  Ahhh those were the days.

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