Towards the end of our first cycle of Atari A to Z, we came across an interesting little first-person maze game called Way Out, developed by Paul Edelstein and published by Sirius Software.
That game got a sequel! And like all good sequels, it provides more of the same, but better. Specifically, it provides split-screen competitive two-player action (with an optional AI-controlled computer opponent) and an unconventional but nonetheless effective control scheme that provides us with one of the earliest ever examples of “strafing” in 3D.
It’s also a very early example of a game that George “The Fat Man” Sanger contributed to; his distinctive music was a mainstay of ’90s PC gaming and beyond, so it’s interesting to see where his “roots” lie!
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Mention early first-person perspective 3D games to someone and they’re most likely to picture a “gridder” — the projection of a 2D map into a fake 3D perspective, through which you move by “step”, one cell at a time.
The reason for this is that it was the easiest way to create a 3D effect without actually having to do any real “3D” — hell, one of the earliest and most famous examples of this was on the humble ZX81 in the form of 3D Monster Maze. And indeed this style of presentation (if not necessarily the exact execution) remains popular today for many first-person perspective dungeon crawlers from both Eastern and Western developers, allowing for intricate, interesting level design without the need for complex 3D modelling.
Some talented coders in the early 8-bit era figured out ways to get more natural movement through these “projected 2D” maps, allowing you to rotate through angles other than 90 degrees and move relatively freely. One such example on the Atari 8-bit was 1982’s technically impressive Way Out (sometimes stylised as Wayout). The creator of this game, one Paul Allen Edelstein, remains part of the games industry to this day, albeit now with a specialism in video and audio compression technology rather than 3D graphics.
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