At the beginnings of videogame consoles, it was practically mandatory to include sports videogames in their catalog. In a way is logical trying to reproduce already known games, like sports, towards their digital counterparts. With the limitations of the first home videogame consoles, particulary in the controllers, trying to reduce everything that happens in a sports match to use a single button, mantatining as possible the spirit of the original sport, was a titanic effort. Tennis, is probably, one of the easiest to adapt to videogames because there are less actions in the sport compared to others. Also easy to translate to single movements from the controller.
Maybe these were the reasons behind programmer Alan Miller‘s decision to coding a videogame based on Tennis for the company Activision, also it’s a sport he knew very well, being a frequent practicant of the sport. We have already written in this blog of two other games designed by Allan Miller for Activision como para Atari.
Platform: Atari 2600
Controller: Joystick of the console.
The game uses a vertical perspective of a very realistic tennis court, even if the lines which limit a valid serve are missing, and quite frankly, rose and purple are not exactly the first colors that you can expect at first on the virtual players and in the scoring system when it appears after winning either a point, or a set. The match of a one-player only game is to win one set, and the AI can be a really hard rival, specially if the point goes on and on, like a match between Nadal vs Federer, sorry, Borg vs McEnroe which is closer to the time of this videogame release. Even the scoring system of winning by two points of difference is respected (until deuce). Two-player games are to win two sets.
The gameplay is simple: with the joystick you move the virtual tennis player, meanwhille by being close to the ball, it swings automatically. So how close is the ball to the racquet defines the angle in which the ball is returned, if closer to the edge of the racquet, more pronounced the angle of return, difficulting the labor for the rival to return the ball. Of course, the rival can do it too, and if it’s the AI will do it very frequently. The fire button is only used to serve.
The game can be modified using the switches provided in the Atari 2600 console, either to change the speed of the game or how pronounced the angles are when the racquet hit the ball. The default is fast speed and sharp angles, even if the manual recommends to start at slow speed and not-sharped angles. Default values should not mean any problem to veteran videogamers. Specially, because the sharped shots are what allows the player to win. You see, the AI is quite skillful and quick to reach the ball. Eventually you can locate spots where if the shot is sharp enough, the AI won’t reach it, but you have to be very precise in your position, otherwise prepare yourself for a very long point.
Recommended videogame of tennis, considering is one of the first of this sport. I remember seeing it frequently in department stores in Spain during 1982, although I had not the opportunity to play it at the time, until years later in mi natal hometown, where I was considered a decent player in this game.
Colophon, Activision used to send patches (cloth) to whoever sent a photo of the game in which they achieved certain goals. To the left you can see the one of this game and press here for a screenshot with the evidence I accomplished the conditions, in this case, winning one set to the AI, which is also winning the match.
Console Icon taken from Retroarch.