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


From the silent corridors of an alien vessel in Stellar Odyssey to saving the planet in Cosmic Bomber, it was now time to turn up the heat! I wanted an andrenalin rush and I wanted it to be louder than any other TRS-80 game! No more aliens and spaceships. Neutroid was to create a surreal environment at the atomic scale.

The inspiration for Neutroid was from an interview of Tim Skelly in the October '82 issue of "Video Games". Tim was the designer and programmer of arcade "Reactor". A game played at the atomic level. With Neutroid, I loved the abstract idea of playing with atomic particles especially when the player didn't actually control the particle itself. Instead, the player controlled the environment around it in order to guide the Neutroid particle to a desired destination and outcome.

Original Story Pretext

"In Neutroid, you are at the controls of a small atomic particle accelerator or synchrotron. In it, Protroid and Antitroid particles appear. Bonus energy regions, high energy walls and deflector rods exist. The aim? Control the movement of an atomic particle called a Neutroid within the synchrotron and neutralize all the orbiting Protroids before your Neutroid becomes energy saturated. Your Neutroid starts off slow and in a low energy state but as it gains energy, it's speed increases till it finally reaches the high energy state where controlling it requires a high degree of rapid strategic thinking and lightning fast reflexes."

Game Design

The game itself starts slow and as time passes, it collects energy and begins to accelerate. The pace picks up to the point where fast reflexes and the ability to plan ahead using your peripheral vision is needed to keep everything in check. To add to the tension and atmosphere of the game, as much TRS-80 style sound effects as I could create was pumped through the 1 bit sound system. The static screenshots below just don't do the game justice.



With Neutroid, I felt I was starting to develop games which began to approach the then king of TRS-80 Model 1 game programming, Bill Hogue of Big Five Software. Bill's games were regarded as state-of-the-art and were very polished. I had set myself a goal of creating games like Big Five so I had decided on a few "standard specifications".

  1. - All games must cycle through an animated title and instruction screen.
  2. - The use of sound tables to create more complex sound effects. NO BEEPS!
  3. - Double buffering of video to reduce flicker , screen studder and redraw effects.
  4. - All keys must respond instantly.
  5. - Professionally designed and animated graphic objects and characters.
  6. - Great gameplay!

But how can you create good objects on a low resolution display such as the TRS-80 Model 1's 128x48 matrix?

No matter how low resolution the graphics system, it can still be made to look great if it is well designed and animated correctly. With good animation, the low resolution is de-emphasised. I remember drooling over the higher resolution graphics of other systems such as the Apple II but few games excited me because the overhead of higher resolution graphics made the animation of lower priority. Many games avoided too much character animation  in order to simplify the codeing and keep a reasonable frame rate of play.

Games from Big Five Software and another duo, Wayne Westmoreland and Terry Gilman proved my theory every time.

Marketing and Sales

Neutroid's best feature also proved to be it's worst. The concept of atomic particles in a user controlled environment proved too abstract for most and was proven with lackluster sales. I felt it was a far better game than many other "successful" ones but I guess I had fallen into the trap of being too innovative. People will cry for new and innovative ideas but when it comes to parting with hard earned cash, they prefer to spend it on something familiar and guaranteed.

Well, Neutroid didn't make me a millionaire either. I needed to find a more familiar game scenario yet still satisfy my desire for something new and challenging.