|Developer(s)||Xanth Software F/X|
|Platform(s)||Atari ST, Game Boy, Game Gear, SNES|
|Release||Atari ST: July 10, 1987|
June 23, 1991
July 31, 1992
June 15, 1993
MIDI Maze is a networked first-person shooter for the Atari ST developed by Xanth Software F/X and released in 1987 by Hybrid Arts. The game takes place in a maze of untextured walls. The world animates smoothly as the player turns, much like the earlier Wayout, instead of only permitting 90 degree changes of direction. It has been suggested that MIDI Maze introduced the concept of deathmatch combat.
The original MIDI Maze team consisted of James Yee as the business manager, Michael Park as the graphic and networking programmer, and George Miller writing the AI/drone logic. The game uses the built-in MIDI ports on the Atari ST for networking.
Up to 16 computers can be networked in a "MIDI Ring" by connecting one computer's MIDI-OUT port to the next computer's MIDI-IN port. Unless the computers are looped correctly, more than 4 players slow down the game and make it unstable.
Graphically the game is very simple with a humorous twist. The game area itself occupies only roughly a quarter of the screen and consisted of a first-person view of a flat-shaded Pac-Man-like maze with a crosshair in the middle. All players are shown as Pac-Man-like smiley avatars in various colors. Bullets are represented as small balls.
The game is started by one designated "master" machine, which sets rules, divides players into teams, and selects a maze. A number of mazes come with the game, and additional mazes can be constructed using a text-editor.
MIDI-Maze II and MIDImaze Plus
An improved variation, based more closely on the original MIDI Maze, was MIDImaze Plus from Robert and Werner Spahl, featuring a compass and more detailed info on players.
WinMaze, based on MIDI-Maze II, supports up to 32 Windows-based players networked via LAN, includes a number of enhancements from the original and claims to be "The best MIDI-Maze II clone ever!". WinMaze is authored by Nils Schneider (with thanks to Jens "Yoki" Unger, who provided socket classes and created the first server version), while Heiko "phoenix" Achilles provided the game's graphics.
A Game Boy version was developed by the original developers, Xanth Software F/X, and published in 1991 by Bulletproof Software (now Blue Planet Software), under the title Faceball 2000. James Yee, owner of Xanth, had a vision to port the 520ST application to the Game Boy. George Miller was hired to re-write the AI-based drone logic, giving each drone a unique personality trait. It is notable for being the only Game Boy game to support 16 simultaneous players. It did so by connecting multiple copies of the Four Player Adapter to one another so that each additional adapter added another two players up to the maximum - seven such adapters were needed for a full 16 player experience.
A SNES version, programmed by Robert Champagne, was released the following year, supporting two players in split-screen mode. The SNES version features completely different graphics and levels from the earlier Game Boy version. A variety of in-game music for this version was composed by George "The Fat Man" Sanger.
A Game Gear version, programmed by Darren Stone, was released to the Japanese market. It is a colorized version of the monochrome Game Boy edition, supporting two players via two handhelds connected by a cable.
A version for the PC-Engine CD-ROM, simply titled Faceball, was also available in Japan. A multiplayer networked version for the IBM PC was prototyped, but never released. Faceball was nearly completed and built for Nintendo's Virtual Boy console, but it was canceled.
Entertainment Weekly picked Faceball 2000 as the #5 greatest game available in 1991, saying: "The Game Boy meets virtual reality (i.e., artificial, computer-enhanced, first-person perspective). In Faceball 2000, you assume the identity of a Holographically Assisted Physical Pattern Yielded for Active Computerized Embarkation — or HAPPYFACE — and hunt down your opponents. You can play alone or link up with as many as three additional players. More fun than real-life tag, and much more stimulating." Faceball: 2000 was reviewed in 1994 in Dragon #201 by Sandy Petersen in the "Eye of the Monitor" column. Petersen gave the game 2 out of 5 stars.
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