On January 30th thru the 31st, TwinGalaxiesLive.com hosted the timeless battle of man verses machine. In a 24+ hour LIVE Roboton marathon, top competitors stepped up to the plate against their fierce robotic foes in a treacherous battle to achieve the 100 million point goal.
Mark Hoff highlights this spectacular event in this detailed article:
Sixty-nine short years from now, mankind will be facing the most ruthless onslaught of mechanized mayhem that history has ever seen. Why would this happen and who could be behind such a plot to take over the very planet we hold dear???
They say behind every “evil genius” is an even more diabolical “genius” and such it is with Dr. Jarvis and Mr.DeMar. The Vid Kidz programmers who created a fleet of wickedly clever robots, aptly called The Robotrons of 2084.
Some key dates will mark the ill-fated journey toward the year when a hero will rise amongst the masses to single-handedly defend the honor of the whole of humanity.
- 1977- the year that the movie Star Wars showed the whole planet that sci-fi robots were a reality in the vision of man.
- 1978- the year we learned that Space Invaders could be dangerous..and ugly.
- 1979- the year we discovered a swarm of Asteroids could wreak havoc second to none.
- 1980- the year of Berzerk, and the power of dumb yet powerful masses of 8-bit robots.
- 1981- the year Twin Galaxies launched an International Scoreboard and defined the launch point of electronic sports.
- And finally 1982- the year when the Robotrons were realized as pixelated reality, introduced to the video game arcades on June 1st, 1982. A magical summer to remember for oh so many reasons from Donkey Kong Juniors to Dig-Dugs. (editor note- what are 2 or 3 good titles to list here, I guessed...) The “perfect storm” of assembly language programming excellence realized in the form of interactive electronic game-play.
Robotron was just one of many brilliant games offered in 1982 but what made it special was a claustrophobic charm that challenged the player in a psychological game of warfare- survive or be wiped out. A wicked game of finding offense in an overwhelming arena where you were forced to defend yourself at every angle and moment. By the fall of 1982, some elite players were finding they could play long games of Robotron, accumulating millions of points across many hours. But the game had a wicked and fatal flaw, the game would reset under specific circumstances of a robot explosion, rendering the game to reset and the player forced to restart on a fresh quarter.
By 1987 a Canadian Wiz Kid by the name of Christian Gingras had reverse engineered the roms from a local arcade, single-handedly taught himself assembly language coding, while formulating a full and complete source code for Robotron: 2084. A visit to the Vid Kidz at Williams electronics to share his insights about errors he discovered in the original design and the game saw it’s first update in 5 years! The “reset bug” was dead and gone! Hurray!
The end of the 80s also saw the end of the vintage arcade around most places in the whole world, but a few vidiots and warriors of the classic arcades were waiting in the wings, and by the mid-90s MAME had allowed them to re-energize the vigor of their youth in daily battles against those devious Robotrons. These Robo-warriors were quietly becoming lethal and extreme masters of their craft, which so happens to be the very craft we hope will save humanity in less than 70 years from the writing of this story….
In the 2000’s a new generation arrived on the scene to celebrate the classic games of yesterday’s arcades, learning the joys of trying keep an arcade machine from stealing away a hard-earned quarter without offering payback. And in this mix of generations, both young and old fans of the coin-op video game arcade, there came to be a retro-revival of 8-bit excitement. A bit of historical fun was becoming part of the pop-culture fabric of the future.
Fast-forward to the turn of the 2k10 era and Robotron was becoming legendary amongst a new breed of video game designer, players were as enthused as ever to battle their favorite nemesis on the other side of the controls and here is where the heroes of our story arrive. Dane Tullock, the people’s champ who puts lots of heart into every battle win or lose. Ken House, the long-time champ, solid and tenacious, never count him down and out. David Gomez, the ice-man cometh a maestro of perfection in the arena his abilities are feared among the lands. Gregg Hansen, the new kid a power-house in the battle to save humanity and darned if he isn’t as equally likeable with a great smile. Then you have Darrin Cormier, the quiet yet fearsome competitor who has tackled the Robotrons on every level of challenge in the arena…and come out on top. And in this line-up we have ourselves a legion of heroes that even Stan Lee would be proud to call friends.
January 2014, Jace Hall and Jennifer Zhang hosted the first Robotron 100 million point gauntlet at the Twin Galaxies Live (1337LoungeLive) TwitchTV channel, an event that played out in front of over 200,000 viewers in the course of the 24 hour endurance event, and allowed the viewing audience their first ever glimpse at what it means to “roll” the score from 99,999,975 back to zero, ON ONE SINGLE CREDIT! Something that even the mighty Vid Kid Larry DeMar had never seen nor heard of in the 32 years of the games existence. Earning Ken the honorary title as being like the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong.
Which takes us up to January 2015 where once again Twin Galaxies took the lead and played host to the second Robo-Enduro. The difference this time was that the Robo-code had undergone a fresh 2015 update by Master DeMar to give it some special features that would aid in the marathon runs. An extra place in the score to count the 10 million digit, an onscreen life counter (so players wouldn’t accidentally roll their lives from 255 to 0), and it was boldly christened as the “Tie-Die” romset in honor of Dr. J’s colorful hawaiian shirt habit. This was the first time the public had seen an official update to the Robo romset since 1987, a whopping 27 years prior!
As MC of the race’s start, Larry DeMar started the competitors off on the 24 quest. Neck and neck the competitors played on. In the first few hours, Darrin ended his exhibition of showing how Robotron could be mastered using only keys on a keyboard and a laptop, a feat of amazement. Then as the 50 million point approached the first competitor bowed out, Gregg Hansen had taken a toll on many Robots and even won a signed commemorative T-shirt but alas the power of the mechanical army won out. Dane was still in the game, proving his skills as a champion but by 54 million the physical battle drew to a close. Indeed he won a signed shirt as well….but the Robotrons had claimed 3 competitors. Two left, and they were not quitting anytime soon. David maintaining a slight lead was playing so efficiently he was forced to take small breaks to reduce his life count below the danger zone of 256, this guy was focused and solid like Gibraltar. But so was Ken, the wild-man of the bunch he had hosted a full-blown arcade party during the event, keeping focus upon his game he was also a host to a packed house and other world record holders.
After 21 grueling hours, a long night of fighting, the sun arose and the finish line was approaching, 100 million points! So close but yet so far the warriors had to traverse the last 25,000 points to reach the goal, the dreaded Goldilocks Zone. A deadly valley of death where a math anomoly in the game will award a free life for every single item that is hit in the arena. Making it easy to roll the life counter and leaving the player to earn back enough points to pay for all the lives they were gifted just prior. (Did I mention earlier that the inventors of this game were slightly diabolical…)
David was the first to reach the Goldilocks zone, he had been here before many times in practice, and he had a plan. When the lives counter started soaring he intentionally killed of his onscreen player. Keeping cool, calm and collected the ice-man survived and embarked on a fresh quest to push well beyond the finish line…How far could this guy run in the gauntlet, anyway?! Reaching the 100million first earned him the title as the Neil Armstrong of the Tie-Die romset. As Mr. DeMar noted, Ken was the first to reach the moon, but David was the first to reach this moon.
Ken rolled into the Goldilocks zone shortly after… a man of confidence, he walked into the valley of death equally confident. And the Robotrons were waiting to pounce. The wave started with many grunts and many electrodes. Electrodes that can kill the player but can also help the player by killing grunts. And those grunts they did walk, walk right into electrodes. Creating an uncontrolled situation where in moments the life counter rocketed up, higher and higher, OH NO, the count went back to zero!!!!! Toast! Leaving the goldilocks zone with only 11 men on the counter, he had earned over 70 lives in the Goldilocks Zone, which meant he would be repaying them until the score reached 2 million points. One life lost per every 6 waves in a game where even the masters die every 1.3 waves…..it was soon game over. The robotrons had claimed another victim.
Proving himself a champion of the ages, Ken came back after a brief rest to discuss his defeat with both Vid Kidz, showing he was a man of honor in the gaming arena. Proud he fought, and dignity was bestowed upon his valliant efforts in this day’s onslaught.
One hero left to save humanity, was there still hope? For another 10 hours David “The Ice-Man” Gomez prodded on, blasting everything in sight with precision and determination. 125million points fell, which was the prior top score in the gauntlet earned by himself in the fall of 2014. How much more could he endure? The finish line was firmly set at 150 million points. Powering on he showed the prowess of a true champion and hero for the ages, standing at the machine a staggering 33 hours, the finish line arrived. 150 million points on one single credit with minimal time to rest, the new mark of excellence and bar for the future competitors to challenge. Will it ever be challenged. In 69 years from now it sure better be. All of humanity is counting on another hero to save us all. Are you ready to step into the arena, yes I thought you would be. God speed, my friends, you’ll need it.
After-thought: The second annual Robo-Gaunlet was broadcast live on TwitchTV in direct competition with new era games like League of Legends and Defense of the Ancients (DOTA), yet there was still a viewership of 10,000 people…for a 33 year old video game no less! The equivalent of a sold-out arena for a rock show. Eugene Jarvis once stated that an arcade could turn a nobody into a god for the price of a quarter. Even then that meant the player might have 5-10 folks looking over their shoulder and if they were lucky a small blurb in the local newspaper. Twin Galaxies Live is effectively taking that concept from the classic age of arcades and turning it up to 11. This is going to be a fascinating adventure to watch unfold as the future of esports becomes a legacy written in the record books.