Robotron: 2048 | Early Arcade History

Robotron: 2048 (known as Robotron) is arguably one of the most iconic games released in the 80s. With a gameplay that presented itself to be ever-difficult and a rich plot, the game was still praised for its simplistic nature. Inspired by George Orwell’s novel Nineteen eighty-four, the plot of the game is that of a cybernetic revolt in which robots turn against humans and start to take over the world. A homage to Orwell’s novel comes from the name of the game, as it was decided that 1984 a year to the games release to be believable, the year was changed to 2084 instead.

The aim of Robotron is to defeat the attacking waves of robots (called Robotron), and each wave is successively made up of various enemy robots and obstacles. All whilst rescuing surviving humans and avoiding obstacles and enemy fire. The player is able to earn a life after achieving a specified number of points. Moreover, points can be gained by destroying enemies and saving humans that will occasionally appear in the waves on oncoming Robotron. A level of difficulty is added to the game as if a human is left by the protagonist, a ‘Brain’ robot can brainwash the human who will subsequently be made into an enemy and is called a ‘Prog’. The human aspect of Robotron was an addition made to the game as a further motive for the player.

In addition to the difficulty shown so far, the game proved to have an innovative gameplay, as the cabinet used two joysticks to control the protagonist. The left joystick controlling the characters movement with the right controlling the direction in which the character fires. The game has been widely praised for is challenging gameplay compared to earlier competitors such as Space Invaders and Galaxian (in which enemies only attacked from one direction).

In Robotron, each enemy was designed to differ from each other, as this would increase both the difficulty and excitement for the player. The simplest enemies are called Electrodes and Grunts. Electrodes are quite simply stationary objects which prove to be lethal to in-game players. Whereas Grunts chase the player by plotting the shortest path to them. The enemy Hulk was inspired by an enemy in Berzerk, they are large and indestructible robots. Another enemy, are the Levitating Enforcers, these are enemies that constantly shoot back at the protagonist. This was an interesting concept, as having a player that continuously shoots at the player encourages them to keep moving so the Enforcers miss them, but therefore putting the player in a position of risk of attack from another robot, thereby, keeping the game fast-paced. A Spheroid is an enemy robot that continually generates Enforcers, again keeping in-line with the fast-paced nature of the game. Tanks fire projectiles which bounce around the screen, which as a level of difficultly to Robotron as this is another hindrance to the player. And finally, Quarks are the enemy that produces tanks throughout a wave.

The reception to Robotron was a huge success, selling 19,000 arcade cabinets in a year. The cabinet version of the game is a well-sought collector’s item, making it one of the most collected arcade games in the world. Even further, in 2008, the game was credited with Guinness World Records, listing 11th in the category ‘Arcade Game in Technical, Creative and Cultural impact’.