Parsec (video game)
Screenshot of the ship being navigated through a refuelling tunnel.
|Developer(s)||Jim Dramis and Paul Urbanus|
|Genre(s)||Shoot 'em up|
Parsec is a computer game for the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A. Perhaps the best-remembered of all TI-99/4A games, it is a side-scrolling shooter, programmed in 1982 by Jim Dramis (who also programmed the popular TI-99/4A games Car Wars and Munch Man) and Paul Urbanus.
The player in Parsec pilots a spaceship through sixteen differently-colored levels of play which scroll horizontally over the screen. The objective is to avoid being shot by an enemy ship, colliding with any flying object and/or the ground, and destroy all enemy ships without overheating one's laser cannon.
Three waves of fighters attack, alternating with three waves of cruisers. Enemy ships enter the screen one at a time. A ship flying off the left edge of the screen wraps around to the right side and attacks again. A new fighter can appear with others still on the screen, whereas a new cruiser will not come until the previous one is destroyed. The fighters pose only the threat of collision, while the cruisers fire on the player's ship. The fighter types are named Swoopers, LTFs (Light Triangular Fighters), and Saucers. The cruisers are called Urbites, Dramites, and Bynites. Each level ends with an asteroid belt, in which an array of asteroids advance on the ship and must be avoided or shot. At the end of each asteroid belt, any remaining asteroids are cleared away and the color of the ground is changed, then a new wave of Swoopers begins. Starting with level 4, the Swoopers are preceded by a random number of Killer Satellites, which come without the usual computer warning.
The Urbites and Dramites appear to be named after the developers of the game, while the Bynites were apparently named after Don Bynum (the manager of TI's Personal Computer Division) or possibly named after the fact that they have invisibility (by night). In fact, Paul Urbanus signed Internet posts as late as 2005 as "urbite".
Parsec represented a leap forward in game technology for the platform, using the superior 'graphics 2' mode of the TMS9918A processor (making it incompatible with the older TI-99/4) and optionally, the speech synthesizer. The game had a number of features:
- An exhaustible fuel supply which must be refilled by navigating through refueling tunnels.
- A choice of 3 "lift" settings, each corresponding to a different control sensitivity and offering a differing balance between large-scale maneuverability (e.g., for combat situations) and small-scale maneuverability (e.g., for navigating through refueling tunnels).
- The danger of overheating the laser and thereby destroying the ship by firing too often over a given interval: Aspects of the game's difficulty curve include a reduction in both overheating threshold and cooling rate as the player advances to higher levels.
- Smooth single-pixel horizontal scrolling: Numerous ground sections randomly appear to represent an infinite landscape. The landscape includes images including but not limited to enemy ships; the Texas Instruments logo; and the programmers' initials and nickname, respectively (JED / URB).
- Warnings from the "on-board computer" of each impending attack wave. These include an alarm sound and flashing text, as well as a spoken warning if the speech synthesizer is connected, except concerning the approach of Killer Satellites, which start appearing after the third asteroid belt at the beginning of level 4 with no warning at all. The manual incorrectly states that they appear at the end of each level, starting with level 4. In some Parsec cartridges, the warning text misspells Asteroid.
The optional speech synthesis, although advanced at the time, adds drama to the gameplay: Although it warns of advancing enemy craft (except for Killer Satellites) and of low fuel levels, both of these features are duplicated by on-screen visual cues and are easily predictable by an experienced player. The sole exception is in the asteroid belts between levels, whose length increases with the level number: The speech synthesizer provides a spoken countdown not duplicated by any on-screen display, such that without the speech synthesizer there is no indication of how long the asteroid belt will last.
Quotations (with optional speech synthesizer)
- "Press fire to begin."
- "Alert! Alien craft advancing!"
- "Alert! Ships attacking!"
- "Nice shooting."
- "Good shot."
- "Great shot, pilot!"
- "Laser on target."
- "Enemy destroyed."
- "Warning! Time to refuel."
- "Congratulations." (when refueling, i.e., at halfway point of refueling tunnel)
- "Nice flying." (after exiting a refueling tunnel)
- "Extra ship."
- "Caution! Asteroid belt."
- "Countdown... 5... 4... 3... 2... 1... Advance to next level."
- "Sorry, you are out of fuel."
- "Twenty Questions with the Voice of Parsec" (PDF). 99'er Magazine - Feb 1983. Retrieved 12 September 2012.