Genre: Arcade     Creation Date: 1983      Language: Z80 Assembly Language     System: TRS-80 Model 1


The Gladiator is a futuristic version of the Roman fighting arenas. Your goal is to survive each round of fighting in an arena enclosed in an energy barrier. Outside this barrier are cannons that track your movements and fire at you. You need to destroy them by puncturing a hole in the energy barrier with your Tobo Sphere and then send it into one of the four cannons. Inside the arena are combat droids. As you progress through each round, you will be placed against a higher level combat droid. These droids mutate down to a previous level with each direct hit of your Tobo Sphere until they are finally destroyed.

The inspiration for The Gladiator was the Walt Disney movie, "Tron" starring Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner. The movie was a bit of a flop to those expecting another "cutTesy" Disney movie but the die hard computer nerds of the day fell over backwards for it and today has become a bit of a cult classic. The sound in this game is awesome! After playing it again after so many years, I was blown over by the sound, especially considering the limited sound capabilities of the TRS-80. I honestly believe that it left many of the games on the other systems of the time for dead. The action was also frantic, carrying the tradition I started with Neutroid.

Original Story Pretext

"The scene is a 21st century colliseum and the Gladiator is beamed into the centre of the arena. But the sword and shield has now been replaced by the Body Field and Tobo Sphere and where the Gladiator once fought with dangerous animals and other skilled combatants, he is now involved with the deadly ZENUS-5 series of muto-combat droids and tracker cannons. He prepares to cast his Tobo knowing that he is outnumbered and that his opposition is determined to have him down. Only speed, skill and quick wit will carry him through the events."

Game Development

This game follows on with the philosophy of Neutroid but takes out the abstractness and replaces it with a human character versus mutating battle droids. It contains the same concepts as Neutroid, lots of complex sound, fast and frantic action and a need for quick decision making.



As all the games prior to this, all programming was done using a cassette based TRS-80 Model 1. I had to load the Editor/Assembler via tape (3 mins), the assembly source code into it (up to 5 mins), key in my latest additions and corrections (which were hand written first) then save the new source code (up to 5 mins) and finally save a compiled binary (2 mins) after which I could load the binary into memory (2 mins) and any graphics and sound table data (2 mins) to see it run.... or fall in a heap if there were bugs. Very time consuming but at the time, I hadn't experienced better and so it really didn't bother me. The time waiting for data to load from the 500 baud cassette was used to write up more code or work out a fix for a bug.

I did have one drama during this development period. I only had a 16K TRS-80 at the time and so I had run out of memory to hold the assembly source code so I split the source into two separate blocks. One contained the common subroutines while the other contained the main game code. Somewhere along the line, one of the blocks on the cassette became corrupt and unreadable. Luckily, I always kept two rotating copies of the code so I fell back a version and just had to retype in the missing parts of the code.  

Marketing and Sales

Gladiator was a great game although hard to master. It required a mastery of the arrow keys on the keyboard used to move your character around the arena. Sales were an improvement over Neutroid and I felt I was starting have some success.

The package art that I drew bears a resemblance to the electronic warriors in "Tron" which as I mentioned, was the inspiration for this game.

I was proud of Gladiator. It was a good game with some neat animation and fantastic sound effects. People were starting to see the quality in my games. If I could have had a US distributor for this game, I believe it would have been a big seller. Alas, living in Brisbane, Australia and no such thing as the internet then, all marketing was confined to clubs and mail outs of my newly created software catalogue to all my past customers. I guess I was on the wrong side of the planet.