Red Baron (1980 video game)
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|Cabinet||Standard upright, cockpit|
|Sound||POKEY and discrete circuits|
|Display||Horizontal Orientation. Black and White w/ color overlay Vector Size: 19"|
Red Baron is an arcade game developed by Atari, Inc and released in 1980. A first-person flight simulator game, the player takes the role of a World War I ace in a biplane fighting on the side of the Allies. The game is named after the nickname of Manfred von Richthofen, German flying ace. The game utilizes the same monochrome vector graphics and similar arcade hardware as Atari's own immensely popular Battlezone; both were developed at the same time. Like Battlezone, the player is presented with a first-person view of the action. Both Battlezone and Red Baron required additional hardware, an "Auxiliary" board, to perform the mathematical computations required for simulating a 3D environment.
The game is divided up into many rounds, although most are repetitive in nature. Most rounds are divided into air combat (shooting from one to three airplanes in formation) and ground combat (two zeppelins and multiple ground targets). While the game does not feature accurate flight physics (it is not possible to crash the plane directly into the ground, for instance), the vector-rendered mountain ranges serve as solid objects and flying into or through them causes the player to crash and lose one life. The mountain ranges do not impede attacks, either from the player or the enemies, and can be shot through. Enemies include: formations of enemy biplanes, zeppelins, pillboxes, turrets, and enemy buildings.
Red Baron adjusts its own game difficulty by maintaining a consistent average game time from the last 32 games played. The NVRAM stores top three scores as well as average game times. In other words, this game has "adaptive difficulty". The goal of this feature was to adapt to the skill level of the typical player at that location and prevent excessive game times.
Battlezone and Red Baron upright versions share the same cabinet. In Battlezone, the player looked through a window that was shaped like a tank periscope. Side-view windows were available on both sides for people not playing the game to watch the action. Battlezone utilized a two-way mirror to superimpose the monitor display (mounted horizontally) on a tank "interior" background. Although Red Baron uses the same cabinet as Battlezone, no mirror is used and the monitor is mounted vertically, with the player viewing the display directly. Battlezone had two joysticks that only went forward and backward, and one button to fire (mounted on the right joystick). Red Baron had one analog joystick and it moved in all four directions, with the fire button mounted on the top of the stick.
The Battlezone game and the Red Baron games both used the same "Analog Vector Generator" (AVG) circuit boards and by switching the PROM's they could be interchanged (with very minor jumper additions). Red Baron and Battlezone use different auxiliary boards which are not interchangeable. The Battlezone game came out about one year before the Red Baron game.
When a player shoots down an enemy biplane at maximum distance, the "Charge" theme can be heard. Other than that, there is no music in the game, though there is a sound effect that is supposed to represent the "engine" of the player's plane.
Electronic Games reported that Red Baron was not successful in arcades despite "gorgeous quadra-scan graphics and magnificent audio frills", and expressed hope that "this marvelous flight simulator with a combat theme will re-emerge in home format some day". While playing Red Baron in 1982, Bill Stealey and Sid Meier decided to create what became MicroProse's first game, Hellcat Ace. The company later obtained the unit they had played as a memento.
An emulated version of Red Baron was released as part of the Atari Anthology title for Xbox, PlayStation 2 and Windows in 2003. This version included parts of the cabinet art surrounding the game screen.
- Pearl, Rick (June 1983). "Closet Classics". Electronic Games. p. 82. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
- "MicroProse Captures "Red Baron" as Corporate Momento". Computer Gaming World. June 1988. p. 9. Retrieved 3 November 2013.