Interview with Joe Decuir
It’s time to go back to where it all began. Our guest this week was instrumental in designing and bringing the original Atari 2600 console into our lives, as well as the pack in game, Combat. Of course, we are talking to Joe Decuir this week. Prepare yourself to take an amazing walk through history and discover what the Atari 2600 could have been.
It’s hard to image video games being as successful as they are today if it wasn’t for multiplayer. Although many games are successful as single player experiences, playing against another human in a game adds an element of competition that just can’t exist in any other way. While Pong certainly lead the multiplayer arena in the arcade (and eventually at home) there is little doubt that the Atari 2600 wouldn’t have been as successful as it was if it was not for Combat, a pack-in game developed by Atari and released in 1977.
Combat was both a tank game (inspired by an earlier Atari title appropriately named Tank) and an airplane game, allowing you to fight with Biplanes and Jets. Combat allowed for multi-directional shooting and came with 27 different variations on the single cartridge, providing different modes for the player.
The game was programmed by Joe Decuir (who would later design and program Video Olympics before becoming an early employee at Amiga computer) and Larry Kaplan who would later head to Activision and Amiga, among other companies.
Technically, Combat is impressive in that it packs the gameplay it has into a mere 2 kilobytes. That’s smaller than most e-mails that the average person sends today so you can imagine how tiny this was.
Combat was included as the pack-in cartridge with the Atari 2600 system until 1982 and eventually, a sequel called Combat 2 was in development in 1983 but because of the great video game crash of 1984 it was eventually cancelled.
The game was also called Tank Plus for the Sears version and in Canada, Zellers sold a version of it called Frontline. No matter what you call it, it is certainly, by today’s standards, a lost treasure.
Combat can be found on a number of compilation packages including the Game Room on the Xbox 360 and of course it also plays pretty well on an emulator so make sure you give it a whirl with someone you are dying to have a great competition with.
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