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Messages - Atarius Maximus

Death Merchant is a new Atari 7800 game that was inspired by an old favorite of mine, Dopewars, which can be downloaded here: Dopewars is a DOS based text-only drug dealing simulation game and I used it's gameplay in this re-imagining of the original, along with some graphics and gameplay additions to give it a bit more of an RPG-like feel.  It’s a 48K game written almost entirely in 7800basic, there are some assembly subroutines for the 24-bit math calculations.  For the curious, I also wrote a Win9x version of Dopewars back in the 1990's, it was closer to a clone of the original.  It won't run well (if at all) on Windows 7+, but fee free to check it out and download it on my home page here:
The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world, and the object of the game is to survive for 31 days and earn as much money as you can in the process by buying and selling survival gear.  You set out with a $5000 loan for a month in the abyss, looking to earn as much money as you can while surviving your journey.  You’ll have to deal with random events that occur when travelling that can help or hinder your progress.  When the game starts, you’re presented with a main menu of options at the bottom of the screen:  Buy, Sell, Bank, Stats, Travel, Doctor, Train, Fight, Lender, and Rest.   On the top half of the screen you’ll see your current stats, your cash, and your current location on the left side, and on the right side you’ll see all of the items available for trade, the current prices, and the quantity of each that you currently own.
Progressing in the game requires that you travel, that's what triggers the start of the next day.  Certain options are only available in certain cities so you'll need to travel to specific destinations based on your current needs in the game.

While the game has been tested and seems to work fine, this is not likely to be the final release and there may still be some undiscovered bugs. I may make revisions and post updates in the coming weeks (months?) as I make tweaks to the game. Updates will be posted on the Atari Age forums here:  Certain stats may be adjusted as I play more to try and improve the balance of the game.  There’s a lot going on, and I’m still working on making sure the game isn’t too easy or too difficult. 
This game does not feature any AtariVox speech nor does it offer high score saving, and I’m aware that in-game sounds are somewhat limited. In that regard this game stays true to the spirit of the original. ;) I’m limiting myself to 48k with this game (mostly because I’d need almost a complete re-write at this point to use bankswitching), and adding those features isn’t possible due to space constraints.
Below is a description of all the player stats and menu options to get you started.  For emulation I highly recommend Mame over ProSystem, the colors look bad in ProSystem with this game. Mame is much more accurate. 
Statistics and Consumable Items
Knives are needed when you get attacked when travelling or when you start a fight.  If you don’t have any knives, you will not be able to continue fighting or initiate a fight.  Knives can be acquired by purchasing them from the Merchant or by randomly finding them when you travel.  You may break or drop a knife when fighting.  You start the game with 25 and and carry up to 99.
Health (HP)
Your health, or hit points, must remain positive or the game will end.  You can lose health in two ways:  by travelling when your Stamina has reached zero (-2 per day), or when you are attacked and hit by an enemy (-1 per hit).   The only method to increase your health is to visit the Doctor in the city of New Vegas.  You will be charged a random fee for your visit.    You start the game with 99 health points, and the max value is 99.
Your backpack is an extremely important item in the game, managing the amount of space you have is critical to success.   You start out with a small backpack with enough space to hold 50 tradeable items.  Your knives and food have their own inventory limitations and do not affect the amount of backpack space you have.  When travelling, you may have an encounter with the Merchant, who will sell you a larger backpack that increases your usable space from 50 to 99.  You may only buy the larger backpack one time per game, 99 is the maximum number of items you’ll ever be able to carry at once.  As the ability to store items is key to success in this game, it’s recommended to upgrade your backpack at the first opportunity.
Food is necessary to maintain your Stamina level.  Food can be acquired by either Resting at the safe house in Bedford, purchasing it from the Merchant (who appears randomly when you’re travelling), or by randomly receiving rations when travelling.   If your food supply falls to zero, you have an additional daily stamina drop of -1 in addition to the normal drop of -3.
Stamina reflects your overall energy level.  It affects your ability to fight, and also your health when it reaches zero.  You cannot start or continue to fight if it reaches zero.  You will lose 2 stamina for every day that you travel.  The only way to replenish your Stamina is to rest in the safe house for one day, which is located in the city of Bedford.
Charisma has two main effects in the game.   Making purchases from the Merchant is what increases your Charisma.  Once your Charisma reaches a certain level, you will receive more and more free items from the Merchant with every purchase you make from him.   Higher Charisma levels will also start reducing the interest payments you make on your debt.
The higher your dexterity, the more likely you are to win a fight.  You start out with a Dexterity value of 10, and will earn 1 bonus point for every criminal gang you defeat, and 5 bonus points every time you purchase professional training.
Menu Options
Fighting is random or manually chosen.  You may be attacked when you’re travelling to a new city, or you can manually start a fight from the main menu at any time and in any city that you’re currently in.
When entering a fight, you will encounter a random number of criminals in a gang.  During the fight, additional criminals may enter the fight, prolonging the battle, and in some cases you may not be able to escape and must complete the fight until you’ve exhausted your Stamina or knives, your Health is depleted, or you kill all of the gang members.   Hits and misses are determined randomly, however the more often you fight the more likely you are to win (as your Dexterity stat increases).    When you defeat an entire gang of criminals, you will gain a dexterity bonus as well as some cash and extra knives.
Travelling is a requirement in the game in order to progress.  Travelling to a new city offers fluctuations in the price of goods, allowing you to make some big profits if you’re lucky.  It will also result in many different random events occurring.  Random price events may occur on some goods, resulting in dramatic price increases or price drops, you may find some money, food or knives, you may be attacked by a gang, or you may be stopped by the Merchant.
The Lender is the antagonist of the game, you start off owing him the amount of money that you start the game with.  You Start with $5000 in debt and immediately have that much available to you.  It’s a one time loan, you cannot borrow any more money during the game, you can only pay him off. Interest is charged daily, but the amount of interest he charges is modified by your Charisma and the number of days remaining in the game.   Once Debt is paid down to zero, no additional interest is accrued and you are done with the lender for the remainder of the game.
Money can be deposited to prevent it being taken from you in a robbery when travelling, and also to accrue interest.  Any deposits into the bank will result in a $500 per day interest payment, which increases to $1000 a day once you have more than $10,000 in your account.  You cannot spend money that's in the bank, it must be withdrawn first and you may only visit the bank when in the city of Lost Angeles.  There is no fee for Bank transactions.
Resting in the safe house in the city of Bedford is the only way to replenish your Stamina, and is also a way to increase the amount your food rations. Resting is free, but it does cost you one day of game time.
Training is offered in the city of New Salem.  For a fee, an expert will instruct you in the ways of knife fighting, which results in a +5 Dexterity bonus every time you train.  Training costs a random amount of credits. You can train as many times as you want up to your Dexterity limit, at which point the trainer is no longer available.
The stats screen is informational and does not affect the outcome of the game.  It will display some additional in-game statistics:  the number of times you've trained, your total Dexterity bonus, your total Charisma Bonus, the number of gangs you’ve killed, the number of days you’ve rested, and the number of bank transactions you’ve completed.   You can freely go back and forth from this screen with no penalty, and it can be accessed when in any city.  The stats screen is also the "Game Over" screen when you die or run out of days, which you can use to track your scores and stats to try and do better the next time around.
The doctor can only be visited in the city of New Vegas and is the only way you can replenish your health.  The doctor charges a random fee, and will restore your health to the full amount (99).
The doctor is only available if your health is below 99 and you have enough credits to pay him.
You can select items to buy or sell only one item at a time.  Move the joystick up and down to select the item you’re interest in, then move the joystick left and right to change the quantity of the item you’d like to buy or sell.   You will not be allowed to buy more of an item than you can afford, and you will not be able to sell more of an item than you posess.   The space available in your backpack is also verified, you will not be able to purchase more items than you can carry. After an item has been bought or sold, you are taken back to the main screen.  The Buy and Sell screens can of course be accessed from any city in the game.
The Merchant randomly appears throughout the game, generally around 0-3 times, but it's random. The items he offers are the same every time, and the prices are static throughout the game.
The Merchant is the only way to purchase a bigger backpack, and the only way to purchase Knives and food.  You gain Charisma with every purchase you make from the merchant.  As your Charisma increases, the Merchant will give you more free items with every purchase.   As your Charisma increases, the amount of interest you pay on your debt to the Lender decreases.
Homebrew Chat / Re: New Atari 2600 Homebrew - CrackBats
November 08, 2015, 02:42:17 AM
Pretty cool!  It's not really a homebrew though, it's a hack of Activision's Crackpots. :)
The Portland retro gaming expo has come and gone and I was excited to see Dungeon Stalker featured at the AtariAge booth.  Al will have the game available at the AA store sometime in the next week or so.  I found one picture of the game at the AA booth and I thought I'd share it here. :)  It'll be available complete with a box and manual and some amazing artwork by David Exton.
Retro News & Chat / Re: Classic Game Fest
July 27, 2015, 15:41:11 PM
I love the pictures, TrekMD.   It's really cool that you got some extra time to talk to HSW (and got a pic with him), I'm envious. :)  Al does a great job, and he spent a considerable amount of extra time for me working out the details to get the audio mixed properly from the Atari console itself and the AtariVox for Dungeon Stalker, just so the audio would only come from the Commodore 1702 monitor's speaker.  I'm not sure how he finds the time to do everything that he does.
Cool, thanks!

Here's a picture of the game on cartridge that Al at AA shared with me, he's of course taking it with him for the demo at his booth.  It looks great!
Quote from: "TrekMD"Picutres?  That's the plan.  :)
Jealous! I live in St. Louis, Missouri, about a 12 hour drive or so from Austin, but my schedule won't let me attend. 
Homebrew Chat / Re: New Atari 7800 Homebrew - Boom!
July 18, 2015, 05:09:05 AM
No one has taken me up on my offer yet, but I'm hoping for a whole lot more games with RevEng's 7800basic in the future.  You may have already posted about it, TrekMD, but there is another game in development named "Graze" from AA user Mord that looks great... it's in the Homebrew forum at AA.

7800basic is amazing, and I'll be making another game in the future I'm sure, and I'll certainly share it here too. :)
There have been changes and updates to the game since my original post here.  The game is now a release candidate and is now complete unless any bugs are found.  I'm attaching the latest binary and instruction manual.  For those in the USA, Albert from AtariAge will have Dungeon Stalker up and running at his booth at the Classic Game Fest in Austin, Texas next weekend, and the plan is to have a general AA release of the game on cartridge with a new manual designed by David Exton (and likely a box) at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo in Oregon in October 2015. 
Wow, this looks amazing.  Please take my money! :)
Thanks!  I was going to post about Diamond Drop too, but saw that TrekMD already did. :)
I wanted to share my latest game in this forum too for those that don't frequent the AtariAge forums. I posted it there last week.  It's an homage to the original Intellivision Night Stalker.  AA user RevEng and I have been working on this for many months.  It has High Score Cart support as well as support for the AtariVox with lots of speech samples, high score tables for each skill level, and uses the higher resolution 320A mode on the 7800.  It's still a WIP but is nearing completion.

Below is an guide to the game/instruction manual. 


Your character is a female archer stuck in a dungeon with no way out, your only option is to fight and try to survive.  As you gain points, you will level up and face increasingly more difficult and dangerous enemies in the dungeon.  The object is to fight as long as you can and get as high a score as possible. 


Strategy is the name of the game!  Below are some tips to help get you started.

Because you are smaller than the enemies in the dungeon, it is possible to dodge their shots when they fire at you in a vertical passage.  You can also fire near the bottom of a horizontal passage and quickly move out of the way of oncoming fire.   

Be careful when you're shooting at bats as it's very easy to fire underneath them and miss them completely. 

If an enemy fires a shot near the top of a horizontal passage - you can easily duck into the passage below their shot and get a shot off to take it out.  Enemies can't fire again until their current shot is off the screen. 

Plan your moves in the Dungeon carefully and always be mindful of your path to the treasure, sword, quiver, and bunker.  It's key to try and plot the safest path to your destination.

Bats are a quick way to rack up some points and level up more quickly, but watch out! The next path to the quiver when you run out of arrows could be a dangerous one.

When you get to an enemy that blocks your arrows with theirs, it's key to get the vertical placement of your shot just right.  Take them out from around a corner after they fire so you can see where their arrow is, then shoot just above or below it.


Dungeon Stalker features high score saving to the High Score Cart and the AtariVox/SaveKey.  Each of the 4 skill levels available has it's own top 5 high score table and will save your scores automatically to the HSC or AtariVox/Savekey, depending on which one is plugged in.  If both are plugged in at the same time it will save to the High Score Cart only.  If you don't have either plugged in the high score tables will still work, but you will lose the data when you turn your system off or change skill levels in-game.  When you select a skill level from the main menu, it will change the menu option to view the high score table to the currently selected level.  When you achieve a high score, you will be taken to the high score entry screen to enter your initials and your score.  You will also be ranked!  Can you achieve the rank of Supreme Warrior?

Dungeon Stalker also has speech support for AtarVox.  The game has over two dozen speech phrases that are used at various points throughout the game.  Note that the AtariVox is physically too large to fit in to the 2nd joystick port of the Atari 7800, you will need to Buy a Sega Genesis extension cable in order to use it.

Dungeon Stalker features a main menu with several selectable features.  The top menu line is to select your skill setting, the second line lets you view the high score table, the third line is for starting the game, and the fourth line is for selecting color.  Push up and down to select a line.  Arrows indicate if a menu item can be changed to the left or right, and a button indicates that the option is activated with the fire button.  On the main menu of Dungeon Stalker you can also select from one of 8 different background colors:  Blue (the default), Green, Brown, Grey, Orange, Purple, Red and Yellow.

Dungeon stalker also features an attract mode.  If you don't make any selections for a period of time you will enter 'Demo Mode', where you will see the game play by itself for a while.  Demo mode is completely silent at the moment, there are plans to add music to that mode.

Skill Settings

Dungeon Stalker has four skill settings.  The default skill setting is standard.

Novice: You start with unlimited arrows on level 1 with 6 lives.
Standard: You start with 8 arrows on level one with 5 lives.
Advanced: You start with 7 arrows on level two with 4 lives.
Expert: You start with 6 arrows on level three with 3 lives.  All enemies have the large shot blocking arrows all the time and the bunker starts out in the blasted state, so you have no protection from the beginning of the game.

Your Weapon

You are equipped with a bow when you start the game, and with the default options you will start with 8 arrows on the standard skill setting.  You will notice that as you get low on arrows you will hear your heartbeat increase in speed and volume.  It's stressful to get low on arrows!  The bow shoots arrows a bit high on the bow, which is intended.  You'll see why when you try and make a quick shot around a corner at a quickly approaching Skeleton Warrior.


The sword - The sword will appear randomly and give you approximately 20 seconds of invincibility.  You cannot be harmed by enemies or frozen by bats or spiders.  You will flash when you have this powerup, and will flash faster as you get closer to it running out.  You will also hear a countdown timer sound that increases in speed as you get closer to the powerup running out.  "God" will also appear in place of your lives remaining on the status bar.  You will get 200 points for collecting a sword powerup.

The Treasure - The treasure randomly appears and only stays on the screen for a limited time.  It gives you 500 points and after you collect 5 you will gain an extra life.  The maximum number of lives you can have is 9.  If you have an AtariVox plugged in, you'll hear a random speech pattern indicating you've earned an extra life.

The Quiver - The quiver will appear when you have run out of arrows. It will appear in a random location in the Dungeon.  The quiver will contain between 5 and 8 arrows, it's random every time you pick it up.  Note that the quiver will not appear on the Novice skill setting as that setting will give you unlimited arrows.

The Bunker

The Bunker is where you start the game and initially you are protected from all dungeon enemies.  They cannot shoot you or enter the bunker. After reaching level 4 it will be partially destroyed and it will no longer block enemy fire, however enemies will still not be able to enter it. The bunker will change visually when it's broken, the top will appear to be blasted.  The bunker starts out in the blasted state on the Expert skill level and remains that way for the entire game.

The Spider Web

Be cautious in the spider web.  It will slow your movement by 50% making you much more susceptible to enemies.  Occasionally the treasure will appear in the spider web so you'll have no choice but to enter it.


There are 5 types of enemies in Dungeon Stalker, described below.  You will notice that later in the game some enemies will change color after being shot one time rather than dying.  That's because they have more than one hit point.  They will require two shots to kill.  If you are at very close (think point-blank) range to an enemy and hold the fire button down, you will automatically fire two arrows to quickly take an enemy out.  It's a risky move!

Demon Bat - The Demon Bat aimlessly wanders the map.
Snake - The snake will usually choose a path that moves toward the player, and is faster than the Demon Bat.
Skeleton Warrior - The Skeleton Warrior is the fastest enemy in the game.  It will always move toward the player.  On Level 5, it shoots a powerful, larger arrow that will block your arrow shots if they collide.
Spider - Wanders the maze and will steal one arrow from you if you touch it, and freeze you for a short period of time.
Bats - Wander the maze and will freeze you for a short period of time if you touch them.

Level Progression
You will progress through 5 levels as you fight to survive in the dungeon.  Each time you level up you will face increasingly more difficult and faster enemies.  Once you have reached level 5 you will remain on that level for the remainder of the game.  As you get to the higher levels the bats will start to disappear, letting you focus on the more difficult task of taking out the enemies stalking the dungeon.  Note that on the Advanced and Expert skill settings you start out on level 2 and level 3 respectively, but still start a new game with zero points.  It will take longer to level up on those skill settings.

  Level 1:   00,000 Pts 
  Level 2:   15,000 Pts 
  Level 3:   30,000 Pts
  Level 4:   50,000 Pts 
  Level 5:   80,000 Pts   


  Treasure=500 (Pick up 5 for an extra life, maximum of 9)
  Demon Bat=300
  Skeleton Warrior=1000


The game has variable jumping, the longer you hold the button down the higher you jump. It's an important strategy to use to do well in this game. :)
Yeah, I just posted a suggestion to the author to add the high score to the title screen, that'd be a big improvement.  I played a few more times and haven't gotten past 31 yet, the most recent high score I saw posted was 57.  That would take some practice, the difficulty ramps up pretty quickly, especially when you have to avoid the ninja stars moving up and down the screen.
Looks like you just have to be careful to not hit the fire button when you die, once you do you go back to the title screen and can't see your high score.  So far I've managed to get to room 30. :)