Nutting & Associates Arcade Vector Prototype

On the way back from Troy’s arcade party on Saturday, Chris Moore and Bill Karkula got to rehashing some of the conversation towards the end of the night and Bill got to talking about some more of his experiences calling on some of the arcade manufacturers from 1983-1986. In particular he talked about visiting Dave Nutting’s location and sitting down in the prototype cockpit of a vector arcade game. Intrigued, Bill went on to talk a little bit more about the game, and this is the little snippet I found online.

A prototype pitch by Nutting that never became Tron

Bill told us that he remembered sitting in the cockpit of a vector game that had the working name of “Earth, Friend”. It has been so long now that he couldn’t remember the specifics of the vector gameplay, but the impression he was left with that it was a really cool game. (And Bill is a pinball guy)

Well, turns out that the Mame World site had a mention of this arcade prototype, here is that blurb;

When Bally/Midway signed a deal to create a Tron video game, they were very pressed for time and needed a game quickly. They decided to let all three of their design teams (their in-house team, Dave Nutting Associates, and Arcade Engineering) take a crack at a prototype. The Dave Nutting Associates team (led by Dave Armstrong) proposed a 3-D color vector game that was deemed too complex and expensive, though it was later developed into a prototype called “Earth, Friend, Misson”.

Original Source: Mame World – Tron

So, the prototype cabinet was actually called “Earth, Friend, Mission” and was pitched to be the arcade version of the movie Tron. However, the timeframes were crunched and this Tron prototype never transpired. However, Dave Armstrong must have went on with his development team and continued to flesh out the project, including making the game into a cockpit version. I thought this little story was cool to hear about, a vector cockpit, but the fact that it has history associated with Tron makes it even cooler. Thanks to Bill to the rare piece of history.

Does anyone know where this information may have been printed that is listed here on Mame World? Who runs the Mame World website, or ran it?

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,a href=”” >Cutebutwrong, over at the MameWorld forums runs tha MAWS site. cutebutwrong [@] btinternet [dot] com

That info is culled from several sources. What you read is probably from the history.dat file, located here:

My guess is that the identity of the contributor that added that information may be lost to the annals of time.

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Well, we might find out how much history about Nutting & Associates is lost to time or not. Rumor is that Bill K. has reconnected with a former engineer and may be having lunch with that individual sometime soon. Hopefully something cool will come out of it, or maybe an interview here at this arcade game blog.

Thanks for the contact info for the Mameworld guy, funny name…

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I personally spent hours and hours playing this game at Balley’s PinPan Alley in Schaumburg, IL.

This game had a white or yellow vector terrain. Possibly in some levels it was multi-colored with each line

being a different color, like when you’d get a free life award in tempest. The general layout was like a V trench

of a sort. The terrain lines were mostly horizontally drawn from left to right. There were no up/down lines. Akin

to driving over a series of parallel white lines. Make no mistake, this was a 3-d flight simulator style game.

Vector x,y drawing.

Imagine warping from level to level in Tempest, and instead of being stuck to the grid you can fly up and down

and left and right, with banking turns. And the level is constantly in warp mode. A whole landscape to fly

over. And instead of being rendered with lines of longitude like in tempest; to help give the impression of

speed, Earth Friend drew the V-shaped trench scenery with lines of latitude. Perhaps imagine yourself flying

through the outlying moat of a Bessel function plot. Uhm, yeh..!

Sometimes the terrain wasn’t 100% V-trench shaped though. There were some variations in it and you had to

maneuver through it while blasting aliens in the air and turrets mounted on the canyon walls. This was almost

a rail shooter in that you couldn’t make U-Turns or do loop-da-loops. You had 3-D freedom within limits – the

game progressed and pulled you along.

After flying over terrain for about 2:16 seconds (is that accurate??) you would go to space warp scene, like a

bonus level, and fly through space to do something else for a while.

I don’t recall anything about the enemies, but either their weaponry or your own emitted plasma bursts that

would look like the bouncing stars in StarDance on the Apple II.

The game was smooth, almost perfectly stuck at 30fps or 60fps.
The terrain started out all white, but changed to yellow and other colors and mixed colors as the game

progressed. I don’t remember anything about scoring.

The level of graphics complexity was similar to Tac/Scan, Black Widow or Tempest or Battlezone, perhaps

about 20% more complex/detailed. The enemy ships were about as detailed as the ones in Major Havoc. Of

course, this felt like an 8-bit game, no doubt. You know how certain programmers when mixed with certain cpu

chips, can produce a series of games that have an ineffable ‘signature’ about them?? Well, this strongly feels

like a 6502 or Z-80, perhaps both, or multi-processor. If pushed for a 3rd choice of chip I would put money on a

6809. Whatever was used, there was adequate processing power.

The sound seemed all synthesized, no sampling going on here! I would say this had the sound characteristics

of a the AY-3-8910. It sure had tonal qualities similar to Discs of Tron, Gyruss, Tron, Frogger, Vectrex..

Definitely not a Pokey chip or the TI SN76489. Come to think of it, it also sounded similar to some of the dual

tones in the Intellivision home system. I don’t recall any white noise in the game. I don’t remember what was

used for explosions though.

The cabinet was all white outside and flat black inside and was available in sit-down tron-style hardware or a

standard stand-up.

You had a joystick controller, push forward to go down and faster, pull up to go slower and climb. Left/right to

bank. There may have been a throttle lever too. But I am not sure on that. You had a finger-trigger fire button,

and I think you could either fire a secondary weapon, or select a different type with a thumb button.

I do recall the guy from Balley coming out to ask opinions of the game. *I* was enthralled with it quite a lot.

And would monopolize it to the point where he couldn’t really get other folks to play it and get their opinions.

But the few ones I heard were just so-so, like what’s the big dead. A ho-hum game. My buddies preferred Pole

Position or Donkey Kong or those stupid fighting games (did they have those back then?) It would seem the

guy didn’t give a hoot about what I said because I just showered praise left and right! At one point the arcade

had two units going! Yes TWO! I recalled playing this in the summer fall of ’83 .. It was in beta testing there for

a good 3 or 4 months. This was the only arcade where I played Earth Friend. The guy specifically called it

Earth Friend, since the cabinet had drawings on it, but no name imprinted. The title screen said it was Earth

Friend too, and not Earth, Friend, Mission.

I fear this is a lost classic though. It was coming out just right prior to the crash. And I don’t know if the prototype was removed from the arcade or scrapped with the rest of the inventory. I don’t know if Balley/Midway removed it due to non-interest. And I don’t know if a guy in Palatine bought one or not. Seem to remember something about that. But, as kids, we were interested getting to the park to launch model rockets and could care less about Big Business!

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Earth Friend was a great game, I logged some serious time on it when I was a kid. There were 2 distinct different versions of it. The one that actually went out for testing was very striped down and entirely different from the first prototype.

The plot was to recover the Elements of Earth stolen by the Aliens and hidden on the surface of astroids in wormhole space. The player would warp onto grid cruise over the terrain of the astroid, swoop down and hook these yellow triangles with diamonds over them (The Elements) to recover the stolen loot. There were about four of five different alien rats that would pursue and shoot at you in formation. At the end of each stage you would exit the grid through a warp out point. This version of Earth Friend was limited in that you started at one end of the grid and finished at the other as opposed the the full environmental simulation from the original version. The game used the B1 bomber hand grip as seen on gorf/tron, though I can’t remember the button layout I think it was pretty basic, just guns and thrust.

Bit of trivia DNA got the rights to the that handgrip from Boeing after they created a working cockpit mock up for the the B1 bomber.

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Concept art for “Earth Friend” scanned from Bill Kurtz’s Encyclopedia of Arcade Video Games showed up this week online:

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