Death Merchant is a new Atari 7800 game that was inspired by an old favorite of mine, Dopewars, which can be downloaded here: http://www.bbsdocumentary.com/library/PROGRAMS/DOORS/DOPEWARS/
. 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: http://bjars.com/#My_Original_Windows_App_Projects
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: http://atariage.com/forums/topic/268566-death-merchant-a-new-7800-game/
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
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. Backpack
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
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
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
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. Dexterity
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 Fight
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. Travel
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. Lender
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. Bank
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. Rest
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. Train
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. Stats
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. Doctor
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. Buy/Sell
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. Merchant
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.