Space Lords

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This article is about the arcade game. For the short story collection, see Space Lords (short story collection).

Space Lords is an arcade game released by Atari Games in 1992. It is a first-person perspective space combat video game. The gameplay allows the player to fly in any direction.

This multiplayer game provides each player with their own cabinet with two screens each and separate controls. Two cabinets can be connected by a link cable, for a total of four screens with potentially eight players. A single cabinet has a red ship on one side, and a green ship on the other. A second cabinet connected to the first has a blue ship and a yellow ship.


To play, a player starts the game as the Pilot of the ship, controlling the direction and speed at which the ship travels, and shooting the lasers and nukes directly ahead at whatever was in the center of the screen. Incoming nukes can be avoided using the "Hyperspace" control.

Another player can serve as Co-Pilot/Gunner (CPG) for each side. The CPG has a targeting reticle used to fire off-center at targets of opportunity. The targeting reticle does not remain stationary relative to the player's ship, but stationary relative to the surroundings, which means that it races to the edge of the screen as soon as the player's ship makes a turn, if the CPG does not compensate. The addition of a CPG enables the "Cloak" button on the CPG's side and adds one extra nuke and one extra hyperspace for the ship.

The ship's "hit points" are represented by "Energy," which slowly depletes as the game progresses, even if the player does nothing. Time, cloaking, and taking damage all deplete Energy. When the Energy bar reaches zero, the ship is destroyed, the defeated player loses one "life," and they return to the game's main menu. In the case of the ship being destroyed by enemy fire, the computer voice announces what race or opposing player had killed the player. At the end of missions, Energy replenishes, but if a player wishes to stay alive, they must destroy opposing ships to salvage Energy from them. Depending on the settings on individual machines, players start with anywhere from 1 (default) to 4 lives, with an additional life added for having a Co-pilot/Gunner. If the last life is lost, the player has an option to insert more credits to continue the game.


The game has one cyclic joystick with a trigger and thumb button and two additional buttons. What they do differs depending on the mode the player is playing in:

Joystick: flight control
Trigger: fires forward laser as long as it is held
Thumb button: fires a nuke in whichever direction the viewpoint is facing
Throttle: speed control (ships follow inertial rules; simply releasing the throttle does not stop the ship); forward and reverse
Thumb button: reverse view as long as button is held
Hyperspace button: press for rapid relocation to another spot in the arena
Joystick: targeting reticle control; the gunner can shoot off-center at targets on the screen
Trigger: fires secondary laser in whichever direction the reticle is aiming as long as the trigger is held
Thumb button: fires a nuke in whichever direction the reticle is aiming
Hyperspace button: press for rapid relocation to another spot in the arena
Cloak button: makes the ship nearly impossible to see, at the cost of Energy. This button only works if a credit is inserted for a Co-pilot/Gunner.
Pressing Hyperspace and Cloak together: both cloaks the ship, and boosts its speed to about double normal, but at a drastic cost in energy. This use of the Hyperspace button does not cost the ship a Hyperspace use.


The game is played in an "arena". Each arena in the game is spherical, and traveling long enough in one direction brings a player back to the spot he started from. Arenas have two environmental elements: nebulae and asteroids.

Players can hide in nebulae to be undetectable on opponent players' radars. The computer-controlled ships are also be fooled by this. The player in the nebula, however, has his own radar jammed, so they can not see what was approaching (if anything), and the nebulae does not stop lasers. Also when hiding, the player is not replenishing his dwindling energy stores.

Asteroids are massive spheres of rock which stops a ship and deals damage in the process. They stop lasers (though not the blast radius of a nuke), and so are the only "cover" in the game.


When the game begins, players chose whether they wish to fight head-to-head, cooperative against computer-controlled ships identical to the players', enter a general melee, fight through missions, or modify their ship. Defeated players need to add more credits in order to continue if they've lost all their lives.

In Team/Vs. mode, up to four player-controlled ships enter the combat area and fight to the death, either against each other or against computer-controlled ships identical to the players' ships. Once all enemies are destroyed, the player(s) return to the main menu. The number of computer-controlled ships increase each time players defeat the Team/Vs. arena and re-enter in the same game. A solo player may also fight the computer-controlled ships in this mode, if he desires.

The Melee mode tosses the players into an arena with any number of the computer-controlled races (but no ships like the players' except those of the players themselves). In Melee, it is "every man for himself," with the computer-controlled races even fighting each other. Alliances and truces can be formed between players, but nothing is binding. Once a player enters the arena, they are there until they die; nothing else returns them to the main menu. Upon dying, if the player still has lives remaining, they may reenter the arena if they wish. Destroying the computer-controlled ships in this mode simply "spawns" more ships to fight.

The Mission mode allows a single player ship to fight the eight alien races. Each mission requires the player to kill a certain number of the enemy. The higher a player's rank score is, the more enemies he has to kill. Each alien race has certain attributes similar to the player's ship, some have combinations:

Attribute Troids Hydrus Raptor Octons Noptera Naqar Krystar Xyclops
Speed X X X
Hyperspace X X
Nukes X X X X X
Aft View X X
Agility X X X
Cloak X

The first mission is against the easiest of the enemies, the Troids. They are slow, have no nukes, and no hyperspace capability. The next is against the Hydrus. Their tactics are similar to the Troids', but if the player fires a nuke at a Hydra squadron, it will Hyperspace away. Other enemies include the Raptors, who relied heavily on nukes of their own, the Octons, the Noptera, the Naqar, the Krystar, who are the fastest enemies in the game, and the ultimate enemy race, the Xyclops. After each mission, the player returns to the main menu. Choosing "Missions" again from there takes the player to the next mission.

After facing each of the eight races in their own missions, in the next six missions two alien races team up which the player fights simultaneously. The final mission pits the player against all eight races at once. Finishing that mission ends the game and, if the player's score is high enough, takes them to the high score board to enter their name (up to 15 characters). Only by playing through all 15 missions can a player enter his name on the high score board, even though scores are kept for all combat arenas.


In the "Modify" screen, a player can modify the number of nuclear missiles ("nukes") and "Hyperspace" uses he carries. The more nukes and hyperspaces he takes, the less power he has to distribute among Laser, Shield, Speed, and Agility. By increasing any of the four attributes, the others decrease. This customization both balances the ship and makes it easier for players to face different missions, as they can adjust their ships to deal with the particular strengths of each race. The game imposes a 10-second time limit on modifications.

In the arenas, each enemy appears as a squadron of one to three ships. Destroying the last ship in a squadron (or a player-controlled ship) produces a power-up satellite which supplies more energy, nukes, hyperspace uses, or even (rarely) an extra life. The satellites are be marked (respectively) with an E, N, H, or L. More often, the satellites are marked with a ?, which indicates an unknown resource. Flying into the satellite grants the player the power-up. Some power-ups have a "2x" or "4x" in glowing yellow characters just above them. They are worth 2 or 4 Nukes or Hyperspaces, or double/quadruple the Energy as usual. Extra lives are never multiplied.[1]

Another feature of this game is a computer-generated female voice with a British accent, which serves as the player's on-board assistant, and often relays important alerts and messages. If enough enemies are destroyed with a single shot (as with a nuke), the voice shouts anything from "Good shot!" to "OutRAGEous!!" When attacked, the voice shouts, for example, "Get us out of here!" If damage increases, the voice shouts "Danger!" or "Warning!" In addition, if a player's ship is struck by laser fire at point-blank range, a motorized hammer strikes the inside of the game cabinet on that player's side in cadence with the laser fire, to provide more feedback.

Scoring is handled on a "Ranking" basis. On a player's first "Life," each single kill is worth 1 rank point, with bonuses for 3 or more simultaneous kills. The exception to this are the players' ships (whether computer-controlled or player-controlled), which by themselves are worth the 1 rank point and 37 bonus points. Three alien ships destroyed at once yields a single bonus rank point. The bonuses increase as more ships are killed with a single shot, up to the maximum of 56 bonus rank points.

If a player continues the game after he loses his last life, he loses 20% of his total ranking and from that point on, each of his kills is only worth about 0.7 kills. Each successive continuance loses him another 20% of his total ranking, and lowers his kills' worth even more. A player can finish the game after continuing several times, but would have a score around 300, or lower. Ranks are also granted based on the player's score. The ranks in the game are Cadet, Corporal, Lieutenant, Captain, Admiral, and Space Lord. The perfect score in the game (which yields the rank of "Space Lord") is 999.9.

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