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|
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 the 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 developers. As Reiss was 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!, he began with significantly limited documentation of the console, and only Technopop’s self-developed and rudimentary development tools. 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 sounds effects created by Reiss verbalizing them into his computer’s microphone.
A single cartridge of the game was made upon completion. Originally housed in a blank Sega Genesis cartridge, Reiss decided to humorously affix a spare Sega of America visitor sticker to the cartridge, with the sticker fitting so cleanly it appeared like a proper game label. Upon returning to Ken Balthaser with the completed game, it was purchased by Sega of America and its source code distributed to third-party developers and publishers. It was also distributed alongside the company’s GEMS music driver.
As the cartridge was decorated with a visitor’s sticker, and in reference to Technopop’s frequent visits to Sega of America, Balthaser and others began calling the game Visitors.
Two early builds of the game have 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. Having eventually reached YouTuber Modern Vintage Gamer, it was finally preserved on December 21, 2020, with Reiss later confirming the cartridge’s authenticity.
ROM dump status
|128kB||Compiled source code||(24 kB) (info)|
|512kB||1990-05||EPROM cartridge||(15 kB) (info)||Page|