Blagtron: The Resurrection!

Sometimes, pretty odd things happen. Yesterday evening, after I wrote the Quest for the Rings post, I kept thinking about old games for a time, and after a while I recalled a game I wrote very, very long ago (think early 90s), that I used to play with two separate groups of friends, and that we enjoyed a lot at the time. I then wondered: could I find it somewhere? No, finding it here would be a lost cause: the game was written on a 486, and later on a Pentium, and those machines of mine are long gone. At the time, there was no Internet to speak of, much less the concept of online backups, so there wasn’t any hope there. But I did remember uploading it to ftp.cdrom.com in the late 90s…

Its name was “Blagtron“. Yup, I was young, back then. 🙂

Well, some quick googling, and I found it. 🙂 The version that still exists, and that I include (with some tweaks) later in this post, is the latest one, in English (I seem to have missed a couple of phrases when translating it from my native Portuguese, but those are minor — and, anyway, there’s very little text in the game). The question then was whether it would work in DOSBox. Amazingly, it did — though, to enable sound, I had to replace an included file with one from an old version of Sound Blaster 16 drivers; this, fortunately, had been a problem for other DOSBox users before, and therefore the solution was easy to find. A few more minor changes (unfortunately, I don’t have the source anymore, as I said, so major alterations aren’t viable), and here it is: a repackaging of Blagtron 3.0.1, which works without problems on a default DOSBox installation.

Blagtron
Blagtron, running under DOSBox, in 640x350 EGA mode. Modes up to 800x600 are available -- not to look "better", but to extend the play area.

As you can see from the screenshot above, Blagtron is a “Tron-like” game — hence the name. You can’t ever stop, just turn around, and you leave behind a trail wherever you go. Touching a trail left behind by any player — including yourself — means instant death, and the goal is to be the last one standing. The main feature distinguishing it from other “Tron-likes” is the 4-player support — yes, all on the same keyboard –, though you can play a 2- or 3-player game, or even practice on your own. There’s also a 2 vs 2 team option.

I remember this game being quite fun and addictive to play in groups — though it’s the kind of game that can bring out the worst in people, when they lose… you have been warned. 🙂 The only caveats to playing it now, under DOSBox, is that the automatic speed detection may need some manual adjustment, and you must close DOSBox to exit the game — originally, you needed to use CTRL-Break, but that doesn’t seem to work under DOSBox. Again, I’d fix it now if I had the source, but that is not the case. For details, (including how to run it in DOSBox, though if you’re familiar with it you won’t have any problem) read the included README.TXT file.

Well, here is the game itself, a “massive” 52KB zip file:

Again, please take a look at the readme file for instructions (tip: run SETUP.EXE before running the game itself, and the game’s speed may then need manual adjustment; all of this is explained in the aforementioned file) and solutions to possible problems. I appreciate praise comments and constructive criticism (bug fixes, unfortunately, can’t be dealt with until I eventually program a new version of Blagtron from scratch, in a modern language ((perhaps Java, so I can release a multi-platform version, and eventually adapt it to Android phones and tablets?))). For the history behind this game, read on…

The History of Blagtron

It was a long time ago, but I think I still remember… the original version of this game was programmed by me in 1989, when I was 15 years old. That was the first year I had Pascal programming classes at school; until then, I had only programmed in Sinclair BASIC and Z80 Assembly, and a little GW-Basic later. The game was originally programmed in Turbo Pascal. Over the years, I kept making small improvements to it, and the final version included: up to four players, with the option of playing in teams (2×2), a setup program, compatibility with most PCs’ speeds, SVGA support (up to 800×600), and optional Sound Blaster sound (a simple “woosh” sound for turning around, and a death sound; the first one was me blowing into a microphone, and I think the second one was from an old DOS game). This last version (1994) was compiled using Borland Pascal 7; I think I did some experiments in this game with object-oriented programming, but I don’t know if any of that was included in this version.

I eventually released the game (still in Portuguese) to a couple of Portuguese BBSs, and I think I even included the Pascal source, but that version seems to be lost forever; at least, I can’t find it by Googling. In the late nineties, I translated the game to English and uploaded it to ftp.cdrom.com, if I remember it correctly, and that’s the version I “rediscovered” yesterday, after 15 years. Unfortunately, there’s no source anymore, so I can’t change anything in the game.

Due to its simplicity and 4-player simultaneous gameplay, Blagtron was actually very popular at a time among my friends; when we met at one of our places, we found it a very enjoyable and competitive game. I think it can still be very fun to play, though having 4 people at one keyboard is more difficult than it used to be… and, if you’re on a notebook (without a numeric keypad), you should probably stick to 3 players.

As for the name… it was a spur-of-the-moment joke. Don’t ask; I was young and foolish then. 🙂

2 thoughts on “Blagtron: The Resurrection!”

  1. “I think it can still be very fun to play, though having 4 people at one keyboard is more difficult than it used to be…”

    Are you suggesting we’re fat now?

    Because we are… 😛

    1. I was thinking more in terms of such a thing being somewhat common 15-20 years ago (I remember our long afternoons playing Gauntlet II for hours on a monochrome XT, four players at a time, with no joysticks or gamepads), but, as far as I know, relatively unseen these days. Now, virtually all multiplayer games on the PC are networked, so it’s just one person per computer, while on consoles we use multiple gamepads.

      But, yes, that would also be a good theory. 😛

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