Pierre Menard's The Asteroids
A downloadable game for Windows and Linux
The Asteroids itself.
Excerpted from the unpublished biography of my late friend Pierre Menard:
...After the failure to be hired at Sierra, he took a support staff job at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, which culminated in his tragic death in a refuse-pile dynamite accident in 2000. He appears under an obvious pseudonym in several chapters of Nick Johnson’s excellent Big Dead Place (Feral House, 2005)
As far as the public is concerned, Mr. Menard’s output begins and ends there. But this exile to the Antarctic darkness was not the end of his work in game design. He told me in an email dated September 6 1998 that he had been working in secret on a new game. (He had limited access to a computer in Antarctica, and his work was conducted entirely with pencil and paper.)
I turn now to this other work: the subterranean, the interminably heroic, the peerless. And— such are the capacities of man!— the unfinished. This work, perhaps the most significant game of our time, consists of a detailed design document detailing the single player mode, high score system, and basic control scheme of the 1979 arcade game Asteroids.
He did not want to produce another Asteroids clone —which is easy— but the Asteroids itself. Needless to say, he never contemplated a mechanical transcription of the original; he did not propose to copy it, and indeed the legalities of copyright precluded a reproduction of the code, art, and sound assets. In any case, he did not have access to the source code, and he hadn’t actually seen an Asteroids machine since the late 1980s.
‘My intent is no more than astonishing,’ he emailed me from McMurdo in September of 1998 ‘The final term in a theological or metaphysical demonstration—the objective world, God, causality, the forms of the universe—is no less previous and common than my famed game. The only difference is that the philosophers publish the intermediary stages of their labor in pleasant volumes and I have resolved to do away with those stages.'
[Rains, Logg, and Walsh(The authors of the first Asteroids)], for example, wrote:
‘GAME OVER!’ Written in 1979, this is merely an ending, limited by the computing power of the 6502 processor and reflecting the mundane arcade conventions of the time.
Menard, on the other hand, writes: ‘GAME OVER!’ The game is over. It is an astounding idea. Menard lived in a time when it was clear that games were no passing fad; thousands of games were being released each year, with no end in sight, and as for his Asteroids, a game could be restarted with the simple flick of a button. Yet Menard denies these obvious truths, and instead invites the player to live in a tiny, finite, self-contained ludic world, in which there are only asteroids, spaceships, aliens, and death everlasting. It is a meditation on the very nature of reality!
Alas! His work was cut short by the aforementioned dynamite accident, the design documents were thrown away, blasted into pulp, and shipped to a landfill in New Zealand. I have here tried to reconstruct his design and translate it into a playable game; I have typed it in, in the manner of those programs which used be to published in the back of computer magazines in the early 1980s.
Scoring is as follows:
Large rock = 20
Medium rock = 50
Small rock = 100
Large alien = 250
Small alien = 1000
An extra life is awarded every 10000 points.
The following concessions to gaming on a modern pc have been made:
**The game may be run at multiple resolutions, which can be accessed by pressing the esc key.
**A bind menu for keyboard control has been added, which can be accessed by pressing the esc key.
**The default controls have been changed from arcade controls to the following:
Turn left = left arrow
Turn right = right arrow
Thrust = up arrow
Fire = spacebar
Hyperspace = down arrow
**Support for an xbox controller has been added, though this is experimental and may not always work as expected.
Turn left/turn right = left analog stick
Thrust = A
Fire = X
Hyperspace = Y
(Players will note that this is not the most intuitive control scheme. Asteroids is not meant to have intuitive controls.)
**A splash screen has been added that looks nothing like the game, replacing the cabinet art that looks nothing like the game.
Everyone should read Jorge Luis Borges' Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote. It is only a few pages, and it is wonderful. The arcade version of Asteroids is the future, in a dark room, with the volume turned up.
Please note that the current linux build targets Ubuntu and might not work on other distributions.
Leave a comment
Log in with itch.io to leave a comment.