retro spect


MIDI Maze was an early first person shooter video game for the Atari ST developed by Xanth Software F/X, published by Hybrid Arts, and released around 1987. The original MIDI Maze team consisted of James Yee as the business manager, Michael Park as the graphics and distributed processing guru, and George Miller writing the AI/drone logic. It is mainly remembered now for the innovation multiplayer "deathmatch" combat by the construction of networks using the MIDI interface.

Up to 16 computers could be networked in a "MIDI Ring" by connecting one computer's MIDI-OUT port to the next computer's MIDI-IN port. Unless the computers were looped correctly, more than 4 players tended to slow down the game to a crawl and make it unstable.

Graphically the game was very simple with a humorous twist. The game area itself occupied only roughly a quarter of the screen and consisted of a first person view of a flat-shaded Pac-Man-like maze with a crosshair in the middle. All players were shown as 3D-rendered smilies in various colors. Bullets were represented as small balls.

The game was started by one designated "master" machine, which set rules, divided players into teams, and selected a maze. A number of mazes were supplied with the game, and additional mazes could be constructed using one of various third-party tools. The game was very popular at gatherings of Atari ST users until the end of the Atari ST era, circa 1993.

A prototype of MIDI Maze was found for the Atari 8-bit family. It is possible to connect ST and 8-bit to a network and play together. A three-day all-day MIDI Maze tournament is one popular attraction at Con of the North, a gaming convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

MIDI-Maze II and MIDImaze Plus

MIDI-Maze II was later developed by Markus Fritze for Sigma-Soft. This game was released as shareware and contained gameplay improvements over the original.

Another improved variation, based more closely on the original Midi Maze, was Midimaze Plus from Robert and Werner Spahl featuring a compass and more detailed info on players.

Faceball 2000

A Nintendo Game Boy version was developed by the original developers, Xanth Software F/X, and published in 1991 by Bulletproof Software, now Blue Planet Software, under the title Faceball 2000. James Yee, owner of Xanth, had a vision to port the 520ST application to the Game Boy. With support from Michael Park, graphics rendering techniques and communication protocol knowledge was passed on to Robert Champagne. George Miller was hired to re-write the AI-based drone logic, giving each drone a unique personality trait. It is notable for being the only Game Boy game to support 16 simultaneous players. It used a special hardware device and cables created by the game programmer, Robert Champagne. A SNES version, also programmed by Robert Champagne, was released the following year, supporting two players in split-screen mode. The SNES version substituted completely different graphics and levels from the earlier GameBoy version. A Sega Game Gear version, which is a colorised version of the monochrome Game Boy edition, programmed by Darren Stone, was released to the Japanese market, supporting two handhelds connected by a cable. A demo version, simply titled "Faceball" was also available in Japan on a CD disc for the PC Engine. A Virtual Boy version, simply titled "Faceball" was under development, until Nintendo decided to quit manufacturing the Virtual Boy. A variety of in-game music for Faceball 2000 was composed by George "The Fat Man" Sanger. A multiplayer networked PC version of the game was prototyped, but never released.

A version called Faceball 3000, written in Shockwave, was also available.


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