Silicon Valley Reporter
By Bill Haslacher
According to Steve Wright, game programmer, the right grip on a joystick is as important as the weapon itself. Steve has an unusual style of gripping a joystick that is worth explaining.
Take your joystick and hold the base in your left hand. Grasp the joystick so that its corner is in your palm and the red button is under your thumb.
Take your right hand and put your thumb on the top of the joystick. Now overlap your fingers with the hand holding the joystick's base. In this grip position your thumbs do all the work.
The "All Thumbs" grip will feel unnatural at first. After a time, however, you will find that this grip gives you increased maneuverability in games where quick turns are essential. By the way, Steve Wright, the "All Thumbs" grip's leading advocate, is the designer of Atari Pele Soccer. You guessed it -- Pele Soccer requires fast changes of direction.
Wright's Pele Soccer claims a couple of Atari 2600 firsts. It's the first game with a scrolling playfield. Pele Soccer is also the first game with code that is there purely for the special effects. After scoring a goal you see a fireworks show with explosion sound effects. This special effect takes up a bit of machine code . . . but what the heck.
Shot down by a joystick?
There once was a game system called Channel F. It was put out by Fairchild. The graphics were as good as the Atari 2600. But one of its "features" was a really hard-to-handle controller. It was a grip with the left- hand-turn -the- knob- style thing. Can it be that a bad controller can kill a game machine? There are enough controllers out there to choke a gamer. I asked one expert what he likes.
Tim McGuinness, fellow Hi-Res columnist and game developer, owns every controller made, so I figured he knows what he's talking about.
McGuinness likes Discwasher's Point Master. Says it's easy to change directions and that having the fire button on the top is nice.
He's not too impressed with Le Stick. And has no use for the Zircon. It is interesting to note that the Zircon looks a lot like the old Channel F controller. Later research at the Software Emporium in San Jose shows that the Zircon Video Command is indeed the Channel F controller.
In fairness, I checked out the Zircon stick as well. My own conclusion is that if you want to give the monsters an even break, then use a Zircon. I can't seem to get the hang of the wrist action either.
Clyde Grossman, an Atari programmer, says that every person has his own special game. Perhaps it's the same with joysticks.
McGuinness says the Wico joystick is bad news on diagonals, but it's sturdy. I have known the joy of playing Missile Command with the Wico Trackball and it's great. A little expensive, but what the heck. Funny thing though--it simulates a trackball by using logic circuits to pulse the direction lines. This means that when you press the secret Control-T option the Wico does not work.
Atari built the trackball capability into Missile Command but never produced the trackball. McGuinness says that price was the main obstacle a couple years back. Today's game player is a different breed and McGuinness feels that an Atari trackball is coming soon. He says Atari Home Computer owners should watch for the new Atari Pro series of joysticks. He says they will fit nicely in your hand--like the Atari 5200 joysticks.
Bill Haslacher lives in the heart of Silicon Valley. He is a regular contributor to Hi-Res.