David Braben - 1987
Machine: Acorn Archimedes, and others
Genre: Vehicle Shooter
To demonstrate the power of the mighty Archimedes, the folks at Acorn asked David Braben (co-author of Elite) to design them a game. The result, Lander, was bundled with every Archimedes much to the delight of school children across the UK. Lander was so impressive that my computer teacher, who was squarer than the five and a quarter inch floppies he’d throw at us when we misbehaved, made us play it for half a lesson when he introduced us to the machine. We’d never seen a game so fast, so 3d and so hard to control.
The control scheme was notoriously difficult, it was like the controls for asteroids updated for a 3d environment; one button fired your thrusters and you moved in which ever direction you were pointing in which was, more often than not, straight up or straight at the ground. The mouse movements controlled the direction the ship faced in and a high level of precision was required.
It was a fitting demonstration of the Archimedes’ capabilities and great fun but not exactly a game as you had nothing to do but fly around and crash (often). Luckily Lander was just a demo of the full game Zarch which added enemy invaders to battle and lots more.
This was a groundbreaking piece of programming; solid 3d graphics were incredibly rare at this time because they were generally slow and jerky but the speed of Zarch changed the games industry’s perception and the slow shift away from sprites was begun. So popular was the game on the Archimedes that versions were brought out for the Amiga, Atari ST, PC and (incredible though it may seem) the ZX Spectrum under the name Virus. It’s a great game on any format but the Archimedes is far and away the best.
Jakey 21 Mar '08
Frintier Developments' Zarch page - The Zarch page on the developers' website.
Zarchman - A free crossbreed of Zarch and Pac Man for Windows.