Author Topic: Rascal Robots - Electronic Arts Ozark 1986 Release for PC and compatibles  (Read 3978 times)

Hi All, First post and I hope I am within the rules by bringing my auction to attention. I also thought I would post some pics and commentary about this very unusual game - probably the only game with no solo play!! If anyone wants a scan of the manual before I sell, send me a PM.

Shameless promotion first; here's the ebay link

This is a very weird game - requires no less than 4 players and there is no solo option. It is perhaps one of EA's most disastrous releases. The creator had this to say about it:

"Robot Rascals" was my most experimental game and as far as I know is still the only computer game published by a major publisher that had no solo-play option. Admittedly, the solo opponent built into my games was never very good but Electronic Arts in '86 was a lot more willing to take risks than they were since. What I tried to do with "Rascals" was find the minimum set of elements that would still make a multi-player game that was fun. It had some similarities to "M.U.L.E." but I tried to get rid of anything that made "M.U.L.E." initially a bit daunting and hard to learn. In "Rascals" there were no prices, no money, no commodities. What it became during development was a scavenger hunt for items buried in the playing area. Your avatar (a robot that your frat house or sorority entered into the contest) could "scan" for items like the "binary boot", the "digital donut", etc. It was terminally "cute". It used subtle but simple elements that players could learn easily and master as time went on. For instance, when asked to scan for an item, the robot spun around twice pointing until it pointed in one of the 4 main directions. It turns out the faster the robot turned was a cue as to how far the item was which the player could use to decide if it was better to go to a teleport station or to walk that direction immediately.

I've always enjoyed inventing these type of subtle visual and audio cues for players and have been impressed repeatedly at how satisfying it is to players to "learn" them and leverage them in their performance in the game. Not to beat this idea to death but in that same visual effect (the spinning and pointing), the fact that the robot pointed only in the four ordinal directions also offered the player another opportunity to exercise their "insight". A player as they gained experience would walk their robot in the direction pointed for a while and then scan again. If this resulted in point in a direction perpendicular to the original direction then the player knew the item they were looking for was diagonal from them and they could cut their search time significantly. Now, from a design point of view this wasn't a major breakthrough but I was amazed at how this little "skill" gave play-testers from grade-school age on up to adult a certain satisfaction when they mastered it. It told me that a good game is as much about making the "process" of play interesting as making the "goal" of winning meaningful.

There were a couple of other quirky attempts at making this game accessible. It included two decks of cards. One deck was of the items that were stored in the playfield. This was the way players found out what items they needed to find in order to win the game and it allowed players to keep their list secret from each other. (Hidden information is difficult to accomplish when all players are sharing the same computer without the silly device of hiding their eyes at certain times). The other cards were "luck cards" that had things like "Steal a card from any player" which let you pick a card from them and return one you didn't want. There was also a "Pass the trash to the right" which allowed all players to mess with each other's list of items to get to win. Taken together these items made a very simple game become intriguing. I think it was a successful experiment although the sales that EA was able to generate (despite a worthy marketing effort) were disappointing. It didn't have a solo-play option was everyone's rationale for the "failure". I can't argue with that but I also think the fact that it didn't have an identifiable "genre" or audience certainly didn't help. I thought of it as a "Family Game" but that's evidently not a demographic that turns up at retail outlets.

I'd be curious to know if anyone has played it or has any memories. I'll add some pics soon in addition to the listing if anyone wants a closer look.

Cheers all!