are currently five Vectrex games which fall into the category of "first person"
games ... this means that the screen is a window and you are looking through it to see the
playfield. These games are:
1. Polar Rescue (1983)
2. Star Trek (1983)
3. Star Fire Spirits (1999)
4. Star Hawk (1983
5. New Trek (1983, 1999)
But where they all have a similar perspective, gameplay
control is quite different and I want to address this.
Standard control for flying machines was established by the
Wright Brothers who patented their ideas. On their flyers a lever is used to control the
elevators which control up and down pitch motion. When the lever is pushed forward the
flyer dives and when pulled back the motion is to climb. I've seen this for myself while
examining Wright flyer #3 in a museum in Dayton, Ohio. The original flyer located in the
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC is suspended from the ceiling and too
far to examine in detail. I'll take my binoculars next time I go there.
My first video encounter with this type of control was with
the game, Star Ship also called Outer Space (1977), for the Atari 2600. And even though
the graphics were bad and the gameplay was simplistic, I mastered this control. This
paid off when I later acquired Star Raiders for the Atari 800 8-bit computer (1979).
So when playing the Vectrex game, Polar Rescue (1983), which
is available on the Multicart, the control is quite natural for me because pushing up on
the lever puts the sub into a dive and pulling back on the stick makes a climb. But
the control for the Vectrex Star Trek game (1983) is backwards: Forward is up and back is
down. This is entirely wrong and thus this game has always been unplayable for me. The
Star Hawk (1983) game has exactly the same control problem too.
So when I posted this article on rec.games.vectrex, John
Dondzila came to the rescue and proposed a simple fix for Star Trek: go into the binary of
Star Trek and flip the Y value of the joystick. The result is NEWTREK.BIN which has the
control in the proper stick forward is dive and back is climb.
The final game in this discussion is unique ... The newly
released Star Fire Spirits (1999) which is found on John Dondzila's Vecmania cart has an
option which permits the proper forward (dive) & back (climb) activated by pressing
button 1 during the opening screen. Otherwise by not choosing this option, the control is
forward (up), back (down). This other control is also useful when using a digital trakball
and very playable.
So how may control be changed for the existing Star Trek and
Star Hawk games ... or how can control be reversed for the Polar Rescue one?
Well, I don't think anyone wants to open and modify their
existing controllers ... but if you have built Jay Tilton's Digital to Analog interface
circuit for the Vectrex and are using an Atari compatible stick, you can add a small
adapter or DPDT switch to reverse two wires to make this work. What you would do is switch
the wires that connect pins 1 & 2 which control up and down motion.
I have purchased the individual parts to make this small
adapter but you can buy Radio Shack item #26-264 which includes all the components:
casing, wiring and the Male/Female DB9 connectors. Then wire pins 3,4,6 & 8 straight
through and cross pins 1 & 2. Pins 5,7 & 9 would have no connection.
Or instead add a DPDT (double pole double throw) switch to
Jay Tilton's circuit and wire it to cross those two wires ...
Alternatively, you can do the same thing by opening up an
Atari stick and reversing the White wire (pin 1) with the Blue one (Pin 2). All the other
wires would be kept the same.
If you are using Brian Holscher's Digital -> Analog
circuit, then you would use a DPDT switch to reverse the +5v and -5v leads to the vertical
Ask Mark Shaker to put NEWTREK into an EPROM and mount inside
your existing Star Trek cart or make a new cart housing. NEWTREK.BIN is available on
Spike's Big Vectrex Page as well as John Dondzilla's site:
So now I can play Vectrex Star Trek and Star Hawk like I'm
used to playing all the other first person games and I'm _finally_ enjoying its gameplay
and getting higher scores!
Rob Mitchell, Atlanta, GA aka solder_guy
Thanks to John Dondzila, Mark Shaker and Chris Tumler for comments related to