atari email archive

a collection of messages sent at Atari from 1983 to 1992.

On creating and distributing bar video games in 1984

The idea is to cast a fly rod, with fly, at rising fish. If the player manages to get close enough to a rising fish then the fish takes the bait and the player receives points based upon the size of the fish.

This is an interesting brainstorm on the market for bar games, including an idea for a fishing game!

Bar Games and Passive Brainstorming

(1 / 2)

Greetings and Salutations!

I have decided to try and use the junk mail list for possibly
constructive activity, such as a passive brainstorming session about the
new games market that seems to be virtually untapped and waiting for
someone to do just that.  The market being referred to is "Bar-Games". 

To start the session off, I would like to present some of my analysis of
the market place, existing games in that market, features that the games
should have or not have, and some possible game ideas.  Hopefully this
will help trigger your imagination and you will share these ideas with
your co-workers and myself by using the mail system (@sys$mail:junk).
Even if you might be responding to just one person's comments you should
send the response to all so that we might share your ideas and comments.
Afterall, that's what brainstorming is all about. 


Local neighborhood bars where people get together to socialize is as yet
an untapped market.  These bars are not of the same nature as the bars
that are located in this area (and south) in that they are predominately
centers of social interaction.  They tend to be of a more quiet nature,
except for some of their patrons.  The patrons are not into playing
games, especially video type, but do play some games as part of their
socializing.  They go to these establishments to watch television to see
major sporting events or just visiting friends.  They are definitely
casual game players. 

The games are sometimes owned by the establishment and sometimes handled
by an operator.  It is possible that we may have two product lines, one
for sale to the owner of the establishment which may or may not have a
coin mechanism, and the other more traditional variety (for us) to be
sold to and handled by an operator. 

Games that are sold to the establishment owner would have to be very 
reasonably priced and be very reliable.  A more expensive game might 
also be sold but would have to last a very long time.  i.e., such as a 
pool table.

One approach to non-coin games might be to sell them to breweries or 
liquor manufacturers with, of course, their product names all over them 
which they might give or sell to the establishments in a similar fashion 
to beer signs.


The patrons of these bars do play such games as pool, shuffleboard,
dice, cards, darts, etc. These games have certain properties that I feel
must be in our bar-games if we are to be successful in this marketplace.

Some of the features that these games have are as follows:

1.  There is no time limit associated with the game.  That is, each
player has an unlimited amount of time to setup at each turn.

2.  They are multi-player games that may be played by a single player, 
but are more "fun" with two or more players.

3.  Each player has a turn.  That is, they don't play simultaneously.

4.  In some of the games, a player must make use of what is leftover 
from the previous player's turn.  This adds a strategy to the game.  
Unlike our existing games where each player has their own playfield 
results or starts fresh with a new set of circumstances whether or not 
there is another player in the game.

5.  They are competition games, i.e., not cooperative.  Individuals 
competing against each other.

6.  A player is NEVER competing against the machine.  The machine is the 
mechanism by which a player either competes with himself or with other 

7.  There is an element of chance in the game.  Skill is not the only 

8.  Fast eye-hand coordination is not a factor.

9.  The games are relatively noise free.  Sound is not a big factor.

10.  They are not involved strategy games.  The strategies involved are 
fairly simple and straight forward.  They are definitely not head games.

11.  To play most of the games the players must physically move to the 
game itself.  The games are not physically located where the people sit 
to drink and converse.  This would eliminate the concepts of a cocktail 
table or a bar top unit.  The games that are played where the patrons 
sit are very small physically, i.e., dice or cards.


1.  The type of games that should not be done are those that try to
duplicate any of the existing games, i.e., a video pool game. 

2.  The game should provide activities that can't be done with the
existing games, i.e., Anti-gravity.  The game could be similar, but must
be different. 

3.  There should be an element of chance to the game.  This would allow
less skilled players to compete in a reasonable fashion. 

4.  The type of controls that the game uses should be simple and
straight-forward to operate.  The use of joysticks should be eliminated
from consideration as they seem to represent the arcade style of games
and that would put-off the players we are trying to reach.  The controls
should be limited to buttons, whirly-gig, trackball, and/or a
spring-loaded lever type. 

5.  Video games could easily be done with an 800 chip set. 
High-resolution graphics and sophisticated sounds are not necessary nor
are they desired by the players.  Lower resolution CRTs could be used
helping to keep cost down. 

6.  Kinetic games should not be too large or noisy.  They should make
use of lights for attraction and for game play. 

7.  Light type games, ala wall-games, might be made smaller and use LEDs
as opposed to incandescent lamps.  Back-lit graphics should be kept
simple and minimal. 

8.  Video and kinetic type games would probably have to be in
stand-alone type cabinets providing areas in or on the cabinet for
placing drinks and have a place for ashtrays. 

9.  Behind-the-bar type games would have to be light type (a form of
wall-games) that are fairly small and simple with probably no audio or
very little. 


1.  Arithma-cubes - a dice game

This could easily be a wall-game or a video game.

There are four (4) dice used.  The players decide whether the highest or 
the lowest score wins.  There are foUr math functions that must be used 
add, subtract, multiply, and divide.  Each "throw" of the dice the 
player must use one of the die numbers and one of the math functions of 
their  choice.  Each of the math functions may only be used once.  The 
game is over after each player has had five (5) "throws" of the dice.

The player must pick a starting number out of their first throw.
Thereafter the picked number must be used in conjunction with a selected
math function that operates on the first or the previous result for that
player.  After the last player has used their last math function, the
game is over and the winner declared. 

During the game each players score might be graphically as well as
numerically displayed.  This would give the players visual feedback as 
to the relative standings of each player during the game.

The game should be able to handle a minimum of four (4) players.

2.  Game #2 - This is where your ideas start!  

Two more Bar Games for your comments

(2 / 2)

The Fishing Games for Bars

Video Game

This is a casting game that involves a joystick type control except that 
it has two encoder wheels for two way rotation.  The control revolves 
around a shaft out of the side with a button activated by the thumb.  
I'm not sure what to do for right or left handed players.  The control 
also has a 30-45 degree left-right movement for lateral casting control.

The idea is to cast a fly rod, with fly, at rising fish.  If the player 
manages to get close enough to a rising fish then the fish takes the 
bait and the player receives points based upon the size of the fish.  
The size of the fish can most often be determined by the player by the 
amount of splash that the rising fish make.  The larger fish will tend 
to make a smaller amount of water disturbance.  Some of the fish will 
jump completely out of the water, others might just show their dorsal 

The target area might be indicated by the maximum size of the water 
rings generated by the rising fish, i.e., the larger fish making the 
smaller disturbance would be a more difficult target and thereby being 
worth more points.

Losing the hook, i.e., by snagging something or losing the fish loses
the player a life.  A bad cast might catch a fish anyway if the cast at
least reaches the minimum target.  A cast that is released on the
backward swing will always foul on a tree, bush, rock or maybe, just
fall to the water behind, i.e., it's random, but most likely it will
cost the player a hook.  A bad forward cast (too short) will cause the
player to catch a CARP that will cost the player points.  A cast that is
too long might catch a minnow (or a Bluegill) and be worth very little. 
Or maybe the bad cast is recoverable and the player tries it again. 

The fishing could be done on a lake environment or a stream for making 
the targets more difficult, i.e., fish are in pocket water.

The fishing could be for bass which would involve snags and targets of a 
more difficult nature.

The type of fishing could be selected by the players at the start of the 
game or during the attract mode.

The game is over when a number of fish have been caught, or when the
hooks are all lost, or ... 

Mechanical Game

This is a fish landing game that uses a feed-back joystick, but has no 
video.  Instead the game uses back-lit fish pictures or images and a 
string of LEDs for feed-back to the player and audience.

The feed-back joystick is the rod which has a thumb controlled release 
button for the cast.  The cast is really a start the rotating selection 
of the type of fish being caught.  The amount of forward speed the 
player puts on the control determines the rate of cycling the selection 
arrow goes through before coming to rest on the selection.  The player 
does not really make the selection, but affects the selection process.

The selection of fish might be Marlin, Shark, Salmon, Trout, Bass,
Bluegill, Minnow, and definitely a CARP (catching the CARP might cost
the player points or some penalty).  Each will have a different point
value, length of fight, and force of fight. 

There will be a string of LEDs that will reflect the force of the cast, 
and the force of the fish's tug on the pole.

The player will get 3-5 fish per game.  The play is started by a player
gripping the control and depressing the button with the thumb.  Forward
movement of the control and the release of the button will start the
selection cycling of the lights behind the selection arrows to the left
of the set of fish pictures or images.  The selection cycling will slow
down of its own accord and rest on the selected fish.  The selected fish
is worth a number of points scaled to reflect the size of the fish being
represented.  A Marlin might be worth 1000 points and a minnow 100.  The
selected fish will be hooked and begin fighting the pole.  The player
must try to keep the pole as centered as possible so as not to let it
contact the ring switch.  If the front or sides of the ring switch makes
contact with the pole the fish gets away and it is the next players
turn.  If the back of the ring switch (i.e., the stick is pulled all the 
way back) makes contact with the pole, there will be a delay before the 
fish gets away.  This will allow the player to pull all the way back, 
momentarily, on the control without losing the fish, but if held back 
too long the fish is lost.

Each fish will fight for a predetermined amount of time.  The time will
vary depending upon the size of the fish.  The fish will be considered
landed if the player maintains control for this time duration.  The
points awarded for the fish will be determined by the length of time
that the player plays the fish.  The player receives points up to the
maximum for the size fish selected and possibly bonus points for landing
it.  If the player loses the fish (the pole makes contact with the ring
switch) before the fish is done fighting, the player is awarded the
points earned up to that time.  The length of time, points earned and
bonus at landing are determined by the size of the fish that was
selected on the cast.  Then the next player gets a turn.

While the fish is being played by the player the string of LEDs should 
light in a series to reflect the amount of pull the player is fighting 
to provide the player and onlookers with control feed-back.  The harder 
the pull by the fish causes more LEDs to be turned on.  This will 
provide for the player and the audience a visual indication as to what 
is happening with the control.

This game should be a 1-4 player game.  This will require 4 sets of 8 
segment displays for scores.  The rest of the needed indications for the 
players will be done in back-lit graphics, such as, who's turn, fish 
lost, and any other needed messages.
Message 1 of 2

Aug 30, 1984