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Ronan Habot

Ronen is the programmer of VECTRACE & VABOOM! Vectrex games.
He is also the first to create games for the Vectrex for use
with modified Atari 2600 paddle controllers

MT> How did you become involved within the gaming and computing scene, and especially the Vectrex?
RH> When I was about 7 years old my uncle built a pong unit following instructions published in "Elektor Electronics Magazine". I was hooked immediately to what I thought was a fascinating game. Two years later I received my Atari 2600 for my 9th birthday. Due to the high price of the system and games, I was only able to play with Combat for a long while. I then saved my pocket-money and obtained more games. All together I had no more than 5 of them...

Couple of years later, I abandoned the Atari for a my first home computer: ZX SPECTRUM. Its games were easier to obtain (simply by duplicating audio tapes) and this was how I started computing... I always tried to write my own games, but, never had enough skills to get them to completion or have something within reasonable level...

Couple of years later I received my IBM compatible PC and abandoned all the previous games. With that background, I became a practical engineer and then graduated with a B.Sc degree. About 3 years ago came to the USA to work for a local company that designs and sell DSL modem chip-sets. A year later, I read an article about Atari and that brought back all the memories from the past... I then started to go to garage sales, read the newsgroup messages and then came the event that started it all: I went to the NAVA meeting (hosted by Mike Etler at Video Game Connection, Howell, NJ) and saw a Vectrex in reality for the first time ever. I played a while with Mine Storm and got hooked... On top of that, John Dondzila came with a fascinating demo of his latest creation: VECMANIA. Afterwards, it was just a matter of time... I started reading each and every tutorial I could about Vectrex programming, got the assembler and the DVE emulator, and started drawing boxes on the screen. The next step was to move the boxes with the controller and once acheived, I had an idea to my first game: VECTRACE.

MT> What are your personal favorite Vectrex Games?
RH> My favorite games are Armor Attack (great gameplay, graphic and sound). I also like to play Pole Position and Vector Vaders.

MT> Please describe your titles for those unfamiliar with your Vectrex entries.
RH> VECTRACE is my first game. The player controls a car on a 3-lane road where other car are randomly showing up. In each level additional cars show up which makes it difficult to complete. To complete a level, the player must pass predefined amount of cars within a specified time in order to qualify for the next level. If that doesn't happen the player looses a car and restarts the same level.

VABOOM! is basically an Atari 2600, Kaboom clone (with minor additions). The player starts up with 3 paddles and has to catch the bombs dropped by the man moving on the upper bar. Once in a while, a bomb will bounce back towards the man at the top, if hit, a brick (that supports the bar he is standing on) explodes. If the bridge is hit 10 times, all the bricks are gone, and the bar and the man fall down and the player gets a bonus round - where each caught bomb gives 3 times the score of a normal round and even if missed the player doesn't lose his paddle. Also, once in a while a heart will fall down and if caught, a missing paddle would be given to the player. However, catching a falling X would take away one paddle from the player and therefore puts the player into a big dilemma... In addition, a (quick) falling diamond would provide many points if caught by the player.

I'd like to take advantage of this opportunity to thank couple of guys that really helped me along the way and provided me with the support I needed to get these games done: Brett Walach, Rob Mitchell, Mark Shaker, Chris Salomon and John Dondzila - Thanks all!

MT> You configured both VECTRACE and VABOOM! to be compatible with a modified Atari 2600 paddle controller How did this idea come to fruition, and how was it implemented?
RH> Just before I completed VECTRACE, I had the idea to code VABOOM. I posted the idea on There were some replies to it (among them that Spike's Water Baloon is already a Kaboom clone and more) and then I proposed having an Atari 2600 paddle modified to be used as X pot. for the console, in order to have the same feeling of the original game -- One reponse was that I should start doing that first, I recall..., Then, Rob Mitchell took it a step further and implemented it. He then posted the instructions how to modify an Atari 2600 paddle controller for use with the Vectrex. Soon after, Rob M. sent me a paddle for development pupose and from here the rest is known... As the manufacturing of it is concerned, I don't know yet at this point who will make and sell them, but Rob M. expressed his willingness to help.

MT> What was your typical development time in creating VECTRACE and VABOOM?
RH> VECTRACE took a month from beginning to completion (I posted a demo version after two weeks). VABOOM took longer since I was involved in a tight schedule project at work with no too much spare time. Actually, the 1st (and easy) phase took about 5 weeks to complete and the rest was basically optimizations and fine tuning...

I get to work before 7:00AM and come back home after 6:30PM, I then spend some time with my family and if I have the energy, I start my Vectrex activity at arround 11:00PM. What I can tell is that creating something new and complete is really time consuming. It requires many hours spent on a lot of details that are all put together. This becomes more complicated, in my opinion, when hardware issues are involved, especially due to non-exitance of basic debugging tools (such as Osciloscope ar, a logic analyzer) available at home. But, receiving many personal emails from individuals that appreciate the work and time, questions and proposals, is what drives me forward to continue and create more. Some people even contacted me with proposals to make money out of it. I declined on the spot! Vectrex fan emails are a great reward already...

MT> You are releasing both of your games on a single cartridge. How does one obtain this gem?
RH> Mark Shaker is going to sell these games for the cost of materials + shipping. I'm now working with him to put together manuals and backcover for the storage box. As far as the modified Atari 2600 paddle is concerned, this is still an open question.

MT> A new Vectrex Multi-cart is in the works. Will it contain only the GCE releases, or will it include the "home brew" games created by yourself and others?
RH> I plan to include both original CGE releases as well as new games. I'm currently sorting through Vectrex game lists to identify which games will be included. Animaction, for this version of the multicart won't be available, but, I'm already thinking how to do that for the next version... By the way, if somebody can send me the bin file for "Mail Plain" I'll be more than happy to include it in the current multicart release... ;-)

MT> Any arcade or console pixel/sprite based games that you think would be better suited for vector format?
RH> I think that 3D (like) games are good candidates however, I'm not familiar enought to say which ones... Now, that Chris Salomon has developed his 3D "package" for Vectrex programmers, the path for porting these games is available.

MT> Can you share any memorable gaming experiences or humorous anecdotes?
RH> During hi-school I was chosen to demonstrate the computer lab on an open day for new students and their parents. I was supposed to demonstrate how the students take advantage of the brand new IBM PC by executing their own developed basic programs on them. Since I was the only one in the lab for hours (nobody was actually that interested...) I decided to kill the time by playing Space Invaders. After a while I got into the game so much that I didn't notice that a kid and his mother had stepped in and stood behind me to watch me playing. When I noticed them, I couldn't just turned it off so I asked the kid if he wanted to play. He agreed and while he was playing, I talked with his mother. I won't forget what she told me: "I see that you guys are very talented, I want my son to be the same. He will join this high school next year and I hope that one day he'll become a programmer like you guys are...". I was just thinking to myself, what if she found out that none of us at class was able to write such a game...or, even to play it properly...

MT> What's in store for the future? Anything else up your sleeve?
RH> I have a pile of ideas and dreams about what to do next. Among them, I have an idea from Rob Mitchell for an interesting paddle game, more (cartridge based) hardware development for the Vectrex, maybe a multi-player game (over the internet) and more. All that I need is time, time and more time...

Modern day programmers such as Ronan, give new life to our antiquated treasures.
Good Deal Games would like to thank Mr. Habot for taking time to create new
games for our beloved friend the Vectrex.

Have questions? E-mail Ronen.
Visit Ronan Habot's Website: My Vectrex Page


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