Story behind the game from author Scott Williamson (source: AtariAge forum)
It was my first project at Atari and I co-authored it with Ed Schneider who wrote Lynx TurboSub and RoboSquash and later was a co-founder of NuFX which became EA Chicago much later. Ed had a long list of games he had made on several platforms and I hadn't shipped a title yet. We were originally hired to write games for the Tomahawk. That was the name that Sega gave their new MegaDrive system for North America. From what I know, Atari VP Larry Siegel had been brokering a deal where I believe Atari would be the North American (possibly worldwide) distributor for the system and its games. Sega was looking for an "aggressive American" name for the console, that's what led to the name Tomahawk, but we didn't like it very much. We had an office contest to see who could come up with a better name, I think the prize was a steak dinner. Steve Ryno came up with the name Genesis, either "as the console that would redefine gaming", or after the effect in the Star Trek 2 movie, either way it stuck. The deal later fell through and I don't know if Steve ever got his prize, but that's is seriously how the Sega Genesis got its name.
Anyway, I was getting ready to write games on the 68000 and when the deal fell through. The STe was in development and we were asked to make a game for it. I had done a lot of ST programming but had not written any complete games yet. I started with the technology and tools, making the tiled character graphics, sprite blitting, sound, input, etc. Ed guided me, told me what he needed, and wrote the AI code for all the enemies and their projectiles. Later I wrote the ship control, river currents, shooting and collision code. The STe had more advanced blitter and sound capabilities than the ST I recall. I also got the spectrum 512 kernel working for the 512 color title screen - not that it looked like it really was full color or anything, we were a new team and we were getting used to working with each other and the new tools. We kind of made it up as we went, I don't remember any concept art or even a design document. There were plans to port the game to the 2600, 7800, and 400/800/XL, but I don't think that ever happened.
Is was a vertical scrolling shooter where you drove your ship/boat around on a river and shot at things that were on the shore while avoiding hazards in the river and things being thrown or shot at you from land. There were also river currents and powerups, but pretty basic stuff. I drew the first ship frames which looked like an egg painted to look like a Porsche 928. I also did all the HUD art, which looks terrible - which isn't so bad for "programmer art". I got the digitized sound drivers working early but we didn't have anyone to do the sound for a long time so the game was totally full of samples of all of us in the office saying words like "pow", "zoom" "pew", "bang", etc. I loved it that way, it cracked me up.
Differences between development and final version
The development version has different scoring system, some graphics and game mechanics changes compared to the full release.
The title screen has fever shades on the logo and it lacks the full title music and scrolling credits / high score routine.
Playingarea also has some notable graphics changes (like the player's sprite and collectable items) from the final release. Gameplay is also a bit different as there are three different bars (Blaster Charges, Life Pod Integrity and Warp Energy).
In the final version player collects energy cells to complete the Warp Energy bar which allows exit to the next level. The developmentversion only requires player to go through the red gates. Also the different weapons are not yet implemented. Click the image for details.