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A few bees and tomatoes of the killer variety


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I've been fortunate in that several versions of "Killer Bees" and its derivatives have come my way and this post is a look at that small collection.  The original Killer Bees was written by David Rolfe as a demonstration for Mattel to show how little code was required by the EXEC to get some semblance of a game up and running.  Subsequently, Killer Bees was used by both APh and Mattel as a tool to introduce new recruits to developing for the Intellivision.  Inductees were provided with the Killer Bees source code and asked to enhance it as a means of understanding how to develop games using the framework provided by the EXEC.  As a consequence, there were many derivatives of Killer Bees, most of which have been lost.  However, it turns out there are still quite a few knocking about.


This thread is going to describe each of the variants.  Where possible, as well as a short video and description of the variant, I will include a binary that can be played on an emulator and the original source code.  It should be noted that it's not possible to use the development tools in JzIntv to rebuild the binaries from the source as the assembly language used by APh is different to (some of the original developers would say better than) that used by modern tools.


With that said, let's dive in.

KILLER BEES - David Rolfe - 01BeesRolfe.zip

This is believed to be the original version of Killer Bees, written by Talkin Horse Inc (aka David Rolfe) in 1978.  The "game" comprises a Running Man from Baseball who is stung if he carelessly walks into a static swarm of bees (referred to as a Mine in the source code).  When stung, the man changes from blue to tan.  After 6 seconds the man becomes unstung and reverts to blue.  From the source it seems David intended this to happen after 2 seconds, however, because the EXEC ticks every 20th of a second rather than every 60th, this actually takes three times longer than expected.  The only sound in Killer Bees are the key clicks sounds generated by the EXEC as it processes controller inputs.  David published the source code to this version on his personal website in 1999.


KILLER BEES - Mattel - 02BeesMattel.zip

This version of Killer Bees has been retrieved from the Technology Associates PDP-11 disk archive.  The other contents of the disk suggest that this version was received from Mattel rather than APh.  It's clearly quite an early variant with a file date of April 1979.  This version converts the Mine into an animated bees swarm of bees that chase the player.  "Ouch!"  is written to the screen when the player is stung, and the player's avatar moves faster than David Rolfe's original.

KILLER TOMATOES! - 03Tomatoes.zip

Based on comments in the code, it appears that David Rolfe's original Killer Bees was tidied up by John Sohl on his return to Mattel having been seconded to work on Astrosmash at APh's offices in the fall of 1980.  John reworked Trivia / Killer Bees renaming it "Killer (Trivia II)" in the process.  Perhaps this is when it acquired the name Killer Tomatoes!?  Killer Tomatoes! is attributed to TRIVIA PRODUCTIONS and appears to be similar to David's original.  The Mine has been changed to flash red and yellow, but otherwise the gameplay is the same.  However, the comments in the source code have been extended quite a bit with references to Your Friend the EXEC.

MAN DIVES! - 04ManDives.zip

Attributed to "ONE MUSKETEER", Man Dives! was posted to Atari Age by Steve Roney and seems to be closely related to Killer Tomatoes!  The source code is very similar and, other than the black background, the only significant change in game play is to replace the Baseball Running Man with a Football derived Running Man.  Whilst the title suggests he is supposed to be diving as he moves, it looks more like he is repeatedly falling and picking himself up to me.

SOUNDT / SOUND TESTER #2 - 05SoundTester2.zip

Sound Tester or SOUNDT was originally written by Bill Goodrich in 1982.  It is a Killer Tomatoes! derivative designed to test sound effects and a pre-cursor to Mr Sound! written by Daniel Bass.  This version dates from the end of February and was recovered from the Technology Associates PDP-11 archive.  It would seem that SOUNDT allows the definition and testing of two sound effects, which are stored in RAM. The sounds are activated using the bottom action buttons, and it is believed that the sounds can be defined using the controller keypads.  Unfortunately this version of the code is incomplete and the missing functions mean that sounds cannot be altered.  The binary included here has been built with calls to these functions commented out.  No sounds are built into SOUNDT, so a macro in the configuration file will load two simple sound effects into RAM, allowing the program's playback behaviour to be demonstrated.  Looking at the actual Killer Bees game within SOUNDT, the mine/bees are not enabled, and so your Baseball Running Man has the freedom of the screen.

WAY TO GO, JOE - 06WayToGoJoe.zip

Way To Go, Joe (WTGJ) is a derivative of the "Mattel" version of Killer Bees, complete with animated swarm that chases your Running Man.  WTGJ was written by Joe Jacobs in August 1981 and this version was found within the Technology Associates PDP-11 archive under the name JOE.ASM.  The major enhancement made by WTGJ is the addition of sound effects taken from Math Fun and SNAFU.  These play periodically as the bees move, and also pretty insistently whenever the Running Man is stung.  In addition, Joe has increased the running speed of your protagonist and cut some of his run animation, giving him a rather stuttery gait.  When you run off the screen edge, your avatar now reappears at the centre.  Finally, the bees have been changed to be red, rather than the yellow of Killer Bees.

DEBUG KILLER TOMATOES! - 07DebugTomatoes.zip

Debug Killer Tomatoes! has version 2.0 of Rick Koenig's Intellivision debugger embedded within it.  The source code is contained in three files dated between May and June 1983.  These files were supplied by Mattel to Technology Associates in June 1983 along with a Magus test harness to help Joe and Dennis to debug Bump N Jump.  In addition to the code itself, we also have instructions for the use of the debugger in the file BUG.TXT.  This version of the debugger is a precursor to the one found in World Championship Baseball as it does not provide the disassembly of the current instruction and has slightly different controls. In terms of Killer Tomatoes!, in order to play the game it is necessary to "Fast Run" the debugger using the 0 key on the right hand keypad.  At this point it becomes clear that in addition to the Mine, which rapidly flashes red and white, there are two black, inverted A characters printed on the screen.  The Running Man, who positively sprints round the screen, can also be stung by these.  To return to the debugger press the lower right hand action button on the left controller.

CRAZY CLONES '81 - 08CrazyClones81.zip

This is the original and unfinished version of Crazy Clones released on Intellivision Lives!  For obvious reasons this version of the binary is not included. No source code has currently been found for this version, however, using the source for Crazy Clones '83 it has been possible to rebuild a plausible set of files.  These illustrate how the '83 version builds on this variant.  Interestingly, the final four functions in the code (listed in UNKNOWN.ASM) aren't found in the '83 version of Crazy Clones.  They have been reverse engineered from the binary.  None of these functions actually seem to be used by the game.  This can be demonstrated by crazyClonesMinimal.bin which is built without them.  Most of the redundant code seems to have been taken from Melody Blaster, one of the Tron titles and Astrosmash.  Presumably this redundant code was removed during the construction Crazy Clones '83 (below), hence why it is missing.  In this version of Killer Bees the your Running Man must catch clones. Doing so kills them and scores 10 points.  The "Mine" chases you around the screen in a similar manner to the bee swarm and will kill you, ending the game if it touches you.

CRAZY CLONES '83 - 09CrazyClones83.zip

This is a second and much more complete version of Crazy Clones, which according to the title screen dates from 1983.  The source code for it was provided by Steve Roney.  It is believed that this version was the work of Keith Robinson, or someone who was working with him.  This is evidenced by the Tron Solar Sailer font used on the title screen and a comments in the source code.  The source code supplied was incomplete, but the missing functions have been reverse engineered allowing the full game to be rebuilt.  Whilst the game is a variant of Killer Bees, a sophisticated title screen and group play mechanic have been added using code from Solar Sailer and Party Line.  It is speculated that this variant was being worked on as a potential Party Line title.  It is not known why Keith released the simplified 1981 version of Crazy Clones on Intellivision Lives!, rather than this more interesting version.

If you've gotten here, thanks.  If you want more, I've added a summary of the various versions of Killer Bees to the latest version of the Intellivision Development Description along with some other new information on Roklan development.

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