From Sega Retro
|System(s): Sega Mega Drive|
|Number of players: 1-2|
|Status of prototype(s): Source code found and compiled, cartridge found and dumped|
|Sound driver: GEMS|
Ship, also known as Visitors, is an unreleased Sega Mega Drive action game developed by Technopop. A basic clone of the early arcade game Spacewar!, it was commissioned by Sega of America for distribution to third-party developers as sample code for the then-new 16-bit hardware.
Two ships fight with Asteroids-like controls and a toggleable shield, all while maneuvering against the gravitational pull of the star in the screen’s center. Numerous physics and gameplay features can be altered via the options screen, like reversing the gravity or arming each player with infinite lives.
In the Fall of 1990, Technopop founder Randel Reiss was approached by Sega of America’s VP of Product Development Ken Balthaser about creating a sample game for the still-young Sega Genesis, whose code could be distributed to interested third-party developers. As Reiss would be the first American outside of Sega to develop for the 16-bit platform, his experience could greatly aid in Sega of America’s kickstarting of the American game development market. Thankfully, he accepted.
Choosing to recreate one of his favorite games - 1962’s Spacewar! - his first challenge became addressing the significantly-limited Mega Drive technical documentation he was provided, and with only Technopop’s self-developed and rudimentary development tools at his disposal. In the span of only ten days, Reiss was able to fully program Ship with a Sega logo, title screen, detailed menus, sprite rotation and scaling, and two-player gameplay. The title screen was sourced from conceptual artist Gary Jones, and sound effects were created by Reiss verbalizing them into his computer’s microphone.
Upon its completion, a single cartridge of the game was produced. Originally housed in a blank Genesis cartridge, Reiss decided to humorously affix a spare Sega of America visitor's sticker to the cartridge - fitting so cleanly it appeared like a proper cartridge label. Due to this title, and in reference to Technopop’s frequent visits to Sega, Balthaser and others began calling the game Visitors. Its source code was soon purchased by Sega of America and distributed to third-party developers interested in making games for the Sega Genesis. It also saw distribution alongside numerous revisions of the company’s GEMS music driver.
Two copies of Ship have since been preserved. The first was compiled from the originally-distributed source code, unearthed by drx of Hidden-Palace.org on September 24, 2007 as part of the release of GEMS 2.5. The second was dumped from the actual cartridge itself - discovered sometime in 2020 by Redditor executiveburrito, it eventually reached YouTuber Modern Vintage Gamer and was finally preserved on December 21, 2020 (with Randel Reiss himself confirming the cartridge’s authenticity).
|“||The game is essentially a two-player Space War. I've always been a big fan of the original arcade game and had one of the arcade games for years. In Fall of 1990, Ken Balthaser Sr., the then VP of Development for Sega, asked me, as the first U.S. based licensed developer for the Genesis, if I could make a sample game for general distribution, in source form, to the growing development community on the Genesis. Given extremely limited documentation on the Genesis, I managed to code a fully functional 2-player game, Sega logo, title screen, text menus, sprite animation - scaling & rotation, collision, animated backgrounds, number of lives, sound effects, physics, and of course the game logic.
- Main article: Ship/Technical information.
- Ship release page at Hidden Palace
- I dumped a one of a kind Mystery SEGA Genesis Cartridge video essay by Modern Vintage Gamer at YouTube