Take Flight with Long-lost Wings

by Scott Stilphen


In 2005, I had the chance to meet with Wings designer Stuart Ross to archive this previously unreleased Atari 2600 game (read the full interview).  Here's what he had to say about it:

The development time was about 16 months.  I remember trying to figure out how to roll stuff on the radar screen appropriately, because you couldn’t actually track the radar screen to the map.  It was too complicated. So I came up with this little algorithm that would state what should happen, but it required 55 bytes.  To do all the things in 3-D in Wings required vectoring objects, but you can’t do trig in that thing with only 10.5k, so it was all a “guestimation”.  The real trick was, how do you roll something on the screen when you bank the airplane, because you want the objects to move.

The game was basically finished (although marketing wanted clouds added…which were never implemented).  We were about 2 weeks from having Wings ROMS manufactured when CBS pulled the plug.  They even had some promotional material ready (hats and scarves), as well as a TV spot!



Prototype version #1

Display type – NTSC (279 lines)

Notable features:


Left joystick - Press FIRE and push UP to throttle up the engines. Press FIRE and push DOWN to throttle down.


Right joystick – Once you’ve cleared the end of the runway, or reached an altitude of at least 60 (whichever comes first), your weapons display will appear, and your score counter will start running (at a steady pace).  Push DOWN to change between gun and missile sights. Push UP to fire weapon.  Guns have unlimited ammo; you only have 2 missiles.


Airspeed - When taking off, nose of plane will lift up when airspeed is at least 512.  Once airborne, you need at least 1535 to maintain your altitude.  If it drops below this, the readout will start to flash/beep.  If it dips below 780, the plane will nose-dive.  The maximum speed is 8000 (at this point, the plane will break apart).

Altitude - You need to maintain at least 512 (feet), otherwise the readout will flash/beep.

Fuel - Higher you throttle the engines, the more fuel you burn.  Once it drops to 1500, the readout will flash/beep.).

Runway: Different colored markers on the runway tell you how far you are from the end.  The colors go black –> brown –> pink –> dark red –> medium red.



Prototype version #2

Display type – PAL (310 lines)

Notable facts:


Left difficulty switch turns music off (B) or on (A).


The colors were changed to green –> yellow –> red –> orange+white.


The bar gauges don’t appear (most likely turned off in the code).


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