Ricochet revealed

by Bernie DeKoven on March 3, 2014

Thanks to the ceaseless efforts and stalwart devotion of Highretrogamelord89, founder of the YT Retro Games History Museum and ruler of Retropia, you can now watch, in color, and with sound, a video of Ricochet, the first computer game I designed (1981), and what was probably one of the first new strategy games to be designed specifically for computers. It came on cassette or cartridge, and there were versions in 4- and 8K.

I was what some people called a “concept designer.” The game was programmed by J. W. Connelly. (The idea that the concept design and the program design didn’t have to be done by the same person was innovative then, and, sadly, remains innovative now.)

There are “canons” on all 4 corners of the grid (well, they look more like empty spaces, with 5 cannon balls lined up along the sides). The ones on the top and bottom of the left side are yours, the the ones on the right are your opponent’s (computer or human). On your turn, you can either move one of your pieces or shoot one of your canons. If a canon ball hits a piece, it ricochets off that piece, and turns that piece 90 degrees. If it hits either of the two bunkers or tanks (the pink and green spool-like things behind your pieces), you or your opponent get a bunch of points. If it hits your opponent’s canon, you’re one canon away from winning, unless it hits your own canon, in which case you’re not.

I think I might have been inspired by Nok Hockey, one of my favorite games, and the only camp woodcraft project I even undertook that I genuinely enjoyed.

The clever marketing people at Automated Simulations (later Epyx) called it “The strategy game with bounce.” You can find a scan of the manual here, where you can learn more about the many variations and subtly significant handicapping systems available for further strategic delving.


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{ 5 comments }

Bryan Alexander March 3, 2014 at 8:25 am

Very cool, Bernie!
I enjoyed puzzling out gameplay from the video.

Bernard De Koven March 3, 2014 at 8:28 am

Thanks, Bryan. There’s a link to the documentation – http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-400-800-xl-xe-ricochet_4378.html – if you want more insights into the design. I tried to make it as open as possible to user-selected variations and exploration. I really enjoyed how the design process engaged my imagination. A great experience for me.

Bryan Alexander March 13, 2014 at 9:47 pm

It was written in BASIC? sweet!

Elyon March 3, 2014 at 8:50 am

Wow, it’s been a long time. What a great idea the game was. Would still be popular today if updated. This is the first time I think I ever looked through the documentation (ok, more like scanned or glanced), with your playful manner and deep observations of fun. And I was listed as first playtester! What an honor.

Bernard De Koven March 3, 2014 at 9:01 am

I believe you were my first play-tester since I started the Games Preserve.

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