Genre: Arcade      Creation Date: 1984      Language: Z80 Assembly Language      System: TRS-80 Model 1


Escape Zone is my first "shoot-em-up" style game. It was a style I had been avoiding up to this point, not because I didn't like this type of game but because there were so many of these already written for the TRS-80. It seemed like the easiest type to write and I had figured that another would not stand out amongs the crowd.

But what kept nagging me was the feeling that I could do something a bit different. I wanted a game with great firepower, big explosions and lots of sound so I began Escape Zone.

With Escape Zone, I took elements from classic arcade games such as the firepower of Defender, the multiple stages of Scramble, the vertical scrolling of Grand-Prix and the swooping aliens of Galaxians.

Original Story Pretext

"You have been held captive by the evil Dakors since they first captured your craft during a daring space raid. But the Dakors made a mistake of treating you just as any other human captive and so you manage to escape from confinement and have reached your escape craft. The Dakors are alerted to your escape and now there is no time to lose! Prepare to thrust your way out of the Dakors' command destroyer and into open space via a tight winding tunnel filled with deadly "Blipop" and "Bizzo" mines. Once in space, destroy the super-fast "Flipps", manoeuvre through the dangerous meteor shower and dodge your way past the "Reverso" crafts and "Putt-putt" missile ships into the safety of free space!"

Game Development

Escape Zone uses firing similar to arcade Defender. By that I mean that there is more than one laser blast at a time and instead of the fire being a bullet or "dot", it instead is a long laser line with a tail that decays as it moves away from your craft (see screenshot below right). Likewise, the game supports multiple explosions when enemy craft is hit and this can give quite a nice fireworks display.


Another feature of the game is the demo or attract mode. If the game is left untouched at the game title screen, it will automatically move on to the instructions page and then start a demo game. During the demo game, I created the effect of multiple layers by having a static title graphic superimposed over the moving game graphics below. Sort of like a large "sprite" sitting there not being affected by the action behind it. It's no big deal but I liked the effect.


Marketing and Sales

A reasonable seller but I could see that the TRS-80 market was starting to decline. Looking in the American TRS-80 publications such as 80-Micro, the number of games being advertised was approaching zero and I saw this as a sign that the games market for the TRS-80 was about to drop. By this time in 1984, high resolution color graphics was the norm and it was a matter of time before the TRS-80 would be laid to rest.

Therefore, Escape Zone was to be my last TRS-80 Model 1 game. I felt happy having created seven good quality TRS-80 games over the years. I was happy having done a nice variety of games from adventure to arcade, from top view to platform to vertical shoot-em-up. I had developed some great graphics and sound routines for the TRS-80 but it always bothered me that my target market was so small. I knew I had to set my sights higher and aim for a larger market.

I began looking towards the future and started on my quest for a new machine...