Space Lords is an arcade game released by Atari Games in 1992. It was a first-person perspective space flight combat simulator. The gameplay allowed a player to fly in any direction he chose. It is notable in that it was, in fact, a multi-player form of an arcade game. Each cabinet had two screens, each with separate controls for individual players. Two cabinets could be connected by a link cable, for a total of four screens with potentially eight players. A single cabinet would have a red ship on one side, and a green ship on the other. A second cabinet connected to the first would have a blue ship and a yellow ship.
To play, a player would start the game as the Pilot of the ship, controlling the direction and speed at which the ship travelled, and shooting the lasers and nukes directly ahead at whatever was in the center of the screen, and using the "Hyperspace" control to evade incoming nukes (which the player would be alerted to by way of a warning alarm).
It was also possible for another player to serve as Co-Pilot/Gunner (CPG) for each side. The CPG had a targeting reticle he controlled to fire off-center at targets of opportunity. The targeting reticle did not remain stationary relative to the player's ship, but remained stationary relative to the surroundings, which meant that the reticle would race to the edge of the screen as soon as the player's ship made a turn, if the CPG did not compensate. The addition of a CPG also enabled the "Cloak" button on the CPG's side and added one extra nuke and one extra hyperspace use to the ship.
The controls on the game were:
Main cyclic joystick: flight control—Trigger: fired forward laser as long as the trigger was held—Thumb button: fired a nuke in whichever direction the viewpoint was facing Throttle: speed control (ships followed inertial rules; simply releasing the throttle would not stop the ship); forward and reverse—Thumb button: reverse view as long as button was held Hyperspace button: press for rapid relocation to another spot in the arena
Main cyclic joystick: targeting reticle control; the gunner could shoot off-center at targets on the screen—Trigger: fired secondary laser in whichever direction the reticle was aiming as long as the trigger was held—Thumb button: fired a nuke in whichever direction the reticle was aiming Hyperspace button: press for rapid relocation to another spot in the arena Cloak button: press to make the ship nearly impossible to see, at the cost of Energy (This button only worked if a credit was inserted for a Co-pilot/Gunner.) -- Pressing Hyperspace and Cloak together would both cloak the ship, and boost its speed to about double normal, but at a drastic cost in energy (This use of the Hyperspace button did not cost the ship a Hyperspace use.)
The ship's "hit points" were represented by "Energy," which would slowly deplete as the game progressed, even if the player did nothing. Time, cloaking, and taking damage all depleted Energy. When the Energy bar reached zero, the ship was destroyed, the defeated player would lose one "life," and he would return to the game's main menu. In the case of the ship being destroyed by enemy fire, the computer voice would announce what race or opposing player had killed the player. At the end of missions, Energy would replenish, but if a player wished to stay alive, his only real option was to destroy opposing ships in the hopes of salvaging Energy from them. Depending on the settings on individual machines, players would start with anywhere from 1 (default) to 4 lives, with an additional life added for having a co-pilot/gunner.
Arenas had two environmental elements, nebulae and asteroids. Players could hide in nebulae and not be seen on other players' radars. The computer-controlled ships would also be fooled by this. The player in the nebula, however, had his own radar jammed, so he could not see what was approaching him (if anything), and the nebulae did not stop lasers. Also, hiding meant that the player was not replenishing his dwindling energy stores. Asteroids were massive spheres of rock which could stop a ship and deal some damage in the process. They would also stop lasers (though not the blast radius of a nuke), and so were the only "cover" in the game. Each arena in the game was spherical, and traveling long enough in one direction would bring a player back to the spot he started from.
Once the game started, players chose whether they wished to fight head-to-head, cooperatively against computer-controlled ships identical to the players', enter a general melee, fight through missions, or even modify their ship. Defeated players would need to add more credits in order to continue once they lost all their "lives."
In Team/Vs. mode, up to four player-controlled ships would enter the combat area, and would fight to the death, either against each other, or against computer-controlled ships identical to the players' ships. Once all enemies were destroyed, the player(s) would return to the main menu. The number of computer-controlled ships would increase each time players defeated the Team/Vs. arena and then re-entered in the same game. A player could also fight the computer-controlled ships solo in this mode, if he chose.
The Melee mode would toss the players into an arena with any number of the computer-controlled races (but no ships like the players' except those of the players themselves). In Melee, it was "every man for himself," with the computer-controlled races even fighting each other. Alliances and truces could be formed between players, but nothing was binding. Once a player entered the arena, he was there until he died. Nothing else would return him to the main menu. Upon dying, if the player still had lives remaining, he could reenter the arena if he wished. Destroying the computer-controlled ships in this mode simply "spawned" more ships to fight.
The Mission mode allowed a single player ship to fight the eight alien races in the game. Each mission required the player to kill a certain number of the enemy. The higher a player's rank score was, the more enemies he had to kill in the missions. Each alien race had certain attributes similar to the player's ship, some had combinations:
The first mission was against the easiest of the enemies, the Troids. They were slow, had no nukes, and no hyperspace capability. The next was against the Hydrus. Their tactics were similar to the Troids', but if the player fired a nuke at a Hydra squadron, it would Hyperspace away. Other enemies included the Raptors, who relied heavily on nukes of their own, the Octons, the Noptera, the Naqar, the Krystar, who were the fastest enemies in the game, and the ultimate enemy race, the Xyclops. After each mission, the player would return to the main menu. Choosing "Missions" again from there would take the player to the next mission.
After facing each of the eight races in their own missions, the next six missions would team up two alien races for the player to fight simultaneously. The final mission pitted the player against all eight races at once. Finishing that mission would end the game and, if the player's score were high enough, would take him to the high score board to enter his name (up to 15 characters). Only by playing through all 15 missions could a player enter his name on the high score board, even though scores were kept for all combat arenas.
In the Modify screen, a player could increase or decrease the number of nuclear missiles he carried ("nukes"), and increase or decrease the number of "Hyperspace" uses he would carry. The more nukes and hyperspaces he took, the less power he had to distribute among Laser, Shield, Speed, and Agility. By increasing any of the four attributes, the others would then decrease, as well. This customization both balanced the ship, and made it easier for players to face different missions, as they could adjust their ships to deal with the particular strengths of each race. The game imposed a 10-second time limit on modifications each time the player returned to the main menu and chose "Modify."
In the arenas, each enemy appeared as a squadron of one to three ships. Destroying the last ship in a squadron (or a player-controlled ship) produced a power-up satellite which supplied more energy, nukes, hyperspace uses, or even (rarely) an extra life. The satellites would be marked (respectively) with an E, N, H, or L. More often, the satellites were marked with a ?, which would be either Energy, Nukes, or Hyperspaces. Flying into the satellite granted the player the power-up. Some power-ups had a "2x" or "4x" in glowing yellow characters just above them. Those would be worth 2 or 4 Nukes or Hyperspaces, or double/quadruple the Energy as usual. Extra lives were never multiplied.
Another feature of this game was a computer-generated female voice with an English accent, which served as the player's on-board assistant, and often relayed important alerts and messages. If enough enemies were destroyed with a single shot (as with a nuke), the voice might shout anything from "Good shot!" to "OutRAGEous!!" When attacked, the voice would shout, for example, "Get us out of here!" If damage increased, the voice might shout "Danger!" or "Warning!" In addition, if a player's ship were struck by laser fire at point-blank range, a motorized hammer would start striking the inside of the game cabinet on that player's side in cadence with the laser fire, to provide more feedback.
Scoring was handled on a "Ranking" basis. On a player's first "Life," each single kill was worth 1 rank point, with bonuses for 3 or more simultaneous kills. The exception to this were the players' ships (whether computer-controlled or player-controlled), which by themselves were worth the 1 rank point and 37 bonus points. Three alien ships destroyed at once would yield a single bonus rank point. The bonuses increased as more ships were killed with a single shot, up to the maximum of 56 bonus rank points.
Once a player died, he would lose 20% of his total ranking up to that point in the game, and from that point on, each of his kills was only worth about .7 kills. Each successive death would lose him another 20% of his total ranking, and would lower his kills' worth even more. In this way, a player could finish the game having continued several times, but would have a ranking around 300, or lower. Ranks were also granted based on the player's score. The ranks in the game were Cadet, Corporal, Lieutenant, Captain, Admiral, Space Lord. The perfect score in the game (which would yield the Rank of "Space Lord") was 999.9.