Berzerk by Michael Thomasson

Posted: February 2, 2005 from an original 1980 Review

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-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Berzerk: By Michael Thomasson -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Coins Detected in Pocket!" You've been playing Berzerk for almost a quarter-century. You have also never completed Berzerk in almost a quarter century. How can I be so sure? The game has 64,000 different boards. With the average Berzerk player clearing five rounds, that equates to 12,800 quarters and a lot of free time! This month's installment of "Just 4 Quix," will investigate this fantastic game and ow it came to be. Berzerk (whose title stems from a series of books called "The Berzerker Stories" by Fred Saberhagen, in which androids were determined to extinguish the human race) was designed by Wizard of War creator Alan McNeil at Universal Research Laboratories (URL), a division of Stern Electronics. Stern ultimately manufactured 37,620 coin-ops, making Berzerk Stern Electronics best seller. Berserkers, are the automated killing machines which were armed with weapons powerful enough to sterilize a planet and programmed eons ago by a now extinct race to denude the galaxy of life. Dark alleys on unfamiliar planets were good places to avoid; this was the first time in standard years that the shortcut was tried. Unfortunately, the Berserkers took notice of exception and began their killing rampage. People who dealt with such devices on a regular basis called them handpads, or more commonly just paddies. They were common helpful machines until they were manipulated by the unscrupulous and made into killing machines. Another Story Line: Berzerker - Robots Long ago, in a distant part of the galaxy, two alien races met--and fought a war of mutual extinction. The sole legacy of that war was the weapon that ended it: the death machines, the BERSERKERS. Guided by self-aware computers more intelligent than any human, these world-sized battlecraft carved a swath of death through the galaxy--until they arrived at the outskirts of the fledgling Empire of Man. Berzerk was set to be a monochrome game since color was a luxury when the project began, but when rival Williams released Defender in color, Stern changed their display format to use a color overlay board. "Chicken! Fight like a Robot." A great strategy for surviving Berzerk involves using the lack of robot intelligence to your advantage. Berzerk robots make human-like mistakes, such as destructively colliding into one another, bumbling into an electrified wall, or accidentally taking another robot down while firing at the human antagonist. Even the master robot, Evil Otto, will crush members of his own army to gain the upper hand in trying to vanquish the human player. Points are scored for the demise of a robot despite the means of destruction, so a calculating player can score BIG by taking advantage of these nuances! To add a touch of humanity to the inept robots, McNeil gave speech to the machines. At the time, speech chips were outrageously expensive and the LPC coding cost around $1,000 per word to have compressed. As a result, sixteen words were carefully chosen so that they could be combined in different combinations. "Get the Humanoid!" The robot's mission in Berzerk was to destroy the human race. To some extent, the robot army was chillingly effective. In January of 1981, the first recorded video game fatality resulted when 19-year old Jeff Dally suffered a massive heart attack directly after scoring 16,600 points on a Berzerk cabinet. Fifteen months later a similar fate affected 18-year old Peter Burkowski when he collapsed and died of a heart attack immediately after entering his initials in the top ten list for a second time in a quarter of an hour at the Friar Tuck Game Room in Calurnet City, Illinois. "Got the humanoid! Got the intruder!" During testing, players would dawdle and not leave a particular maze. There was nothing to push the player forward after destroying the robot army. So, McNeil introduced an indestructible yellow smiley-face dubbed, "Evil Otto," that would enter the maze and attack if the player did not leave the room. Named after Dave Otto, a sadistic security chief that tormented McNeil by "smiling while he chewed you out," the character is unusual in relation to other games of the period in that there is no way to destroy him. While the initial smiley sprite graphic was not meant for final production, the idea of players being fearful of a smiley face seemed so absurd and wicked that McNeil left Otto as he was when Berzerk entered into manufacturing. "The humanoid must not escape." Frenzy, the 1982 sequel, was ordered to use up surplus circuit boards. It introduced walls that could be destroyed and rocket laser fire. You're not seeing double, as the game also permitted a pair of Evil Otto's on-screen simultaneously in later rounds. This time, Otto could be destroyed with three well-placed shots only to return again even faster. Less than 12,000 units were released before Stern closed their doors as a result of financial trouble. I'll end this column with the infamous lyrics of Buckner & Oracle's "Goin' Berzerk' song from their "Pac-Man Fever" album - "I think I'm going Berzerk ... would you like to come too?" Berzerk Board Game Publisher: Milton Bradley 1983 - Family version of the Arcade Game Can you survive the Frenzied attack of the robot army? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Back N Time Classic Video Game Site: Link ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Twin Galaxies High Scores: Link ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Best World Record: Berzerk, Arcade, Slow Bullets Rank 1 Score 119,340 Player Ron K Bailey Shelby, NC United States Date Achieved Tuesday, November 09, 1982 Birth: 02/07/1939 Verification Method Referee Score Status Active ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Berzerk Variation: Slow Bullets Platform: Arcade Rules: 1 100.00 % 178,500 Ron K Bailey 08/30/1982 Referee 2 69.29 % 123,680 Donald Hayes 06/07/2003 Referee 3 66.86 % 119,340 Joel D West 11/09/1982 Referee 4 55.13 % 98,410 Mark Robichek 01/10/1982 Referee 5 36.07 % 64,380 David Nelson 06/07/2003 Referee 6 33.48 % 59,770 Glenn Dickenson 04/05/1982 Referee 7 29.37 % 52,420 Ron Corcoran 05/13/2001 Referee 8 26.02 % 46,450 Walter A Day 12/26/1982 Referee 9 23.88 % 42,630 Bryan L Wagner 06/07/2003 Referee 10 21.18 % 37,800 Robert T Mruczek 11/18/2004 Referee -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Klov Berzerk Information below:


Manufacturer: Stern Year: 1980 Class: Wide Release Genre: Shooter Type: Videogame Monitor: Orientation: Horizontal Type: Raster: Standard Resolution CRT: Color Conversion Class: unique Number of Simultaneous Players: 1 Maximum number of Players: 2 Game play: Alternating Control Panel Layout: Single Player Ambidextrous Controls: Joystick: 9-position optical Buttons: 1 Sound: Amplified Mono (one channel) Description Humanoid player runs through maze-like rooms, destroying robots while avoiding their fire. The indestructible Evil Otto is the game's timer, forcing the player to move on. One of the first talking games, remember "Get the Humanoid!"? Berzerk Cabinet Information The upright cabinet features a patented "board drawer" that allows the boards to be serviced from the front of the machine. Both the upright and cocktail cabinets feature fantastic artwork on the back glass using Marvel comics-style graphics. The look of terror on the humanoid's face (lower left side of the back glass) can often resemble the person playing the game. Conversion Berzerk can be converted to Frenzy by replacing the ZPU-1000 with the ZPU-1001. Both games use the same power supply, video boards, sound boards, wiring harness, cabinet, and control panel. Game Play In each and every maze, the humanoid must destroy all robots using his laser gun without touching the deadly walls, colliding with a robot, or getting hit by any of the lasers fired by the robots. After the humanoid has destroyed all the robots, he must escape through one of open doorways before Evil Otto appears. If Evil Otto appears when there are still robots, he will bounce very slowly. But after all the robots are destroyed, Evil Otto will be bouncing even faster. The humanoid must escaped before Evil Otto gets him or he is done for because Evil Otto cannot be killed. Berzerk Although the robots are supposed to be destroyed by the humanoid with his laser gun, the robots are not very smart and can also be destroyed whenever they run into each other, touch the deadly walls, get hit by their own lasers or get run over by Evil Otto. But no matter how they are destroyed, the player gets the credit and scores points. A bonus score is given if all the robots in the maze are destroyed. But if there any robots are left in the maze when the humanoid escapes through one of the open doorways, no bonus will be given. The game has a voice synthesizer that speaks for all the actions in the game. For example, it says "Chicken! Fight like a robot!" if the humanoid exits the maze before all robots are destroyed, "Intruder Alert! Intruder Alert!" whenever Evil Otto appears, and "The humanoid must not escape" when the humanoid exits the maze after all robots are destroyed. The game has 64,000 different mazes, each with a level of difficulty that constantly increases. Miscellaneous Play a JAVA emulated version of the game by visiting More on Berzerk Link Berzerk Link Trapped on a planet called Mazeon (because of all the mazes on it) you are relentlessly pursued by a gang of robot thugs. The leader of these mechanical heavies, Evil Otto, takes a real delight in your predicament. You must race through the mazes, dodging and shooting, as Otto and the others chase after you. Conquer one maze, and you'll find yourself in another. It's enough to drive you… crazy! Technical Berzerk was originally designed for the 6809E CPU, until it was discovered that the processor did not work properly. The board was then redone to run on a Z80. The speech was done using LPC coding, which cost $1,000 per word to compress at that time. The game also originally had a monochrome monitor, but when Defender was released in color, the company re-considered their display approach and re-designed the display using a color overlay board. Trivia Berzerk was Stern's first major video game success. It was made in both upright (approx. 37500) and cocktail (approx. 1200) models. It was also one of the first talking games -- remember "Get the Humanoid", "Chicken! Fight like a Robot", "Intruder Alert!", or "Coins Detected in pocket!"? Perhaps the greatest stroke of genius in the game is the robot intelligence. Plaudits to designer Alan McNiel. These robots make human mistakes. Robots will run into each other or the deadly walls, shoot each other or get squashed by Evil Otto and the player gets the points, no matter how the robots die. It is the mark of a pro who uses this to his advantage. Evil Otto can be considered one of the most intimidating video game villains of all time. He is, and even travels through walls, preventing a player from loafing in the room. He resembles a bouncing smiley face, and has been called a "Malicious basketball" by some. According to one of the designers, Tony Martin, Berzerk suffered a bit in sales due to frequent breakdowns of it's original giant sized optical 8-way joystick. Approximately 4200 orders were canceled by distributors and operators whose machines were frequently down from the opto-stick. Stern issued free WICO leaf switch sticks to operators after they had so much trouble with the optical stick, but this still hurt sales. Berzerk shares a rather chilling distinction of being the first known game to be blamed for an actual player's death. In January 1981, Jeff Dailey, a 19-year old Berzerk player, died of a massive heart attack right after playing his favorite game. His score was 16,660 (A very respectable score but disturbing for obvious reasons). On an equally distressing note, in October 1982, 18-year old Peter Burkowski, a physically healthy person who was alcohol-free and drug-free, inscribed his initials in Berzerk's top ten list twice in a matter of only fifteen minutes. A few seconds after that, he collapsed and died of a heart attack as well. Berzerk's sequel Frenzy was produced in the form of a kit (less than 500 made) an upright (11,430), and cocktail (839). Frenzy featured walls that could be shot through, and Evil Otto could be had with four shots, but would return and travel even faster after he reappeared. Frenzy In some European countries you were able to find the game translated in its respective language. For example, in Spain the voice said "intruso alerta, intruso alerta", "el humanoid no debe escapar", etc. Fixes Stern released an 8-way joystick replacement kit since many of the original optical sticks failed on these machines. Legacy Berzerk Frenzy Frenzy Frenzy Frenzy Manuals Manual 34 Pages, 2855 KB File ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Frenzy Info. Link --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Player 2 Stage 5: The Golden Age Link --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The early '80s. Arcade Videogaming's apex. The industry is at its peak creatively and financially, and is looming large in the popular culture. Videogames are making a killing, and Game Gods are being born. Chicken! Fight like a robot! Yet another Chicago-based pinball company, Stern Electronics enters the arcade videogame scene with a vengeance with 1980's Berzerk, an early entry in the maze game genre. Alan McNeil has just finished work on pinball game Meteor, and the brass decide he and his team are ready to take on video. Working at Stern subsidiary Universal Research Laboratories in the suburbs of Chicago, McNeil has an idea for a game based on a dream he has had of playing a B&W robot game, as well as the classic BASIC game "Robots" (aka "Daleks" in the UK, from the salt-shaker shaped villains in their popular SF TV series "Doctor Who"). While games like Atari's Indy 800 and Taito's Galaxian have ushered in color graphics, Stern amazingly sees color as a fad and Berzerk's video hardware initially matches McNeil's black and white dream. But as more color games start hitting the market, the system is quickly retooled to follow suit. In the game the player guides the onscreen runner through a series of mazes while avoiding the indigenous population...up to 11 robots each screen, spewing laser death. The humanoid must make his way past his adversaries to the exits at the top and sides of each screen, armed with only his own laser gun and his intelligence. The robots, however, are as dumb as posts...they often get in the way of each other's shots or bump into one another, all such actions causing quick disintegration. Also for the player to avoid are the electrically charged walls, which spell destruction for all who touch them. And added to the mix is Evil Otto, pure malevolence in the form of a smiling, bouncing ball, used by designers in lieu of a forced time-limit to keep player from loitering in a room after the robots have been eliminated. He gets his name from Dave Otto, a sadistic security chief who had terrorized the Berzerk creator during his tenure at game maker Dave Nutting Associates by locking McNeil and his fellow employees out of the building to enforce a noon-hour lunch, as well as piping "beautiful" music into every room. As the game progresses the robots get faster and Otto makes his appearance sooner. McNeil also draws inspiration for the game from Fred Saberhagen's Berzerker series of SF novels about a race of murderous robots built by ancient beings, designed to destroy all life, and the band of Earth descendants who battle them. Along with some impressive character animations on the running humanoid and the shifty-eyed robots, Berzerk features groundbreaking speech synthesis, in the form of a National Speech microchip. 16 words are mixed up into a pool for the phrases, such as "Intruder Alert! Intruder Alert!", "Chicken, fight like a robot!", "Destroy the humanoid", "The humanoid must not escape", and the famous attract mode accusation "Coins detected in pocket!". It isn't a massive vocabulary, but with the cost of digitization at $1000 a word it's the best the company can afford. During the test-market phase at a Chicago singles bar, Berzerk proves to be a major attraction indeed. Upon release the game goes on to become the biggest arcade hit for Stern, selling upwards of 50,000 units. A new building and three shifts are required to keep up with demand as 300 units are produced a day. This in spite of a dodgy optical joystick with the game that has to eventually be replaced by a Wico stick. Unfortunately, it also goes down in the history books as the first videogame to apparently kill a person. 18 year old Peter Burkowski is in Friar Tuck's Game Room in Calumet City, Ill. for about 15 minutes on Saturday April 3 1982, and puts his initials up twice on the high score list on the Berzerk machine there. He then turns to put a quarter into another machine and falls to the ground. He is dead within half an hour. The cause of death is a heart attack, and while an autopsy finds previously undetected, two-week-old scar tissue on Burkowski's heart, the coroner does not rule out prolonged stress from the videogame as the triggering factor. Despite the negative PR (which, lets face it, probably increases sales), Berzerk is followed has left the company by this point, in order to use up surplus circuit boards left from Berzerk. It sports a slight increase in graphical quality, along with play improvements like walls you can shoot through, improved robot AI, reflecting laser shots and multiple Ottos. 3000 units are eventually shipped. In 1981, Atari licenses Berzerk for the 2600 for a cool 4 million dollars and produces an amazingly faithful home version for their console, resulting in a big videogame hit. Alan McNeil's salary for that year? $30,000. While Stern themselves never quite reach the upper echelon of game producers like Atari and Midway, they are however one of the bigger secondary players in the arcade market, with titles including Astro Invader (1980), Scramble (1981), Super Cobra (1981), Amidar (1982), Bagman (1982), Pooyan (1982), Tutankham (1982) and Cliff Hanger (1983). Thanks to Alan McNeil for his additional information provided for this entry. berzerk.avi - Berzerk movie clip (185K) --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Frenzy Link I've been a Berzerk fan for twenty years, but only recently did I discover this sequel called Frenzy, and I'm glad I did. This brilliantly executed game retains the classic Berzerk gameplay while adding additional strategic elements. You still control a man running through a series of mazelike screens, attempting to escape the clutches of Evil Otto and his robot minions. Enemies close in fast at the beginning of each round, so those first few seconds are critical. Your man is impressively animated, especially when he's taking aim or getting zapped. Unlike the menacing robots of the original game, these look more like skeletons with big heads, and they are accompanied by roving tanks. Robot AI has been improved dramatically, and they deliberately avoid giving you a clean shot at them. But the biggest change is the addition of both destroyable and reflecting walls, which add subtle strategy. For example, missed shots will sometimes hit their mark after a ricochet, and occasionally you'll have to shoot your way out of an enclosed area. You can even shoot Otto now! But beware - this makes him very angry, and he comes back twice as fast. The game continues momentarily after you die, so even after losing your last man, the robots sometimes can inadvertently earn you an extra life - just when you thought the game was over! I found Frenzy to be just as fun as Berzerk, if not more so. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- A Berzerk Review: Link --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Good Lord this game is hard!! For the uninitiated, Berzerk is all about running through a series of mazes while shooting robots and avoiding a diabolical smiley-face named Evil Otto (the first video game boss?). While your first instinct is to be aggressive, patience is often better rewarded as the robots eventually tend to shoot each other or run into walls. Occasionally you can destroy all of them without even taking a shot. Avoiding one-on-one confrontations is a good idea, because these guys are accurate shots! Even their explosions will kill you, so keep your distance. The control suffers a bit thanks to the Atari 5200 joystick that keeps you moving long after you want to stop. Nifty voice synthesis delivers classic lines such as "Chicken! Fight like a robot!". Berzerk is always a good time, and with 11 levels of difficulty, this has got to be one of the most challenging Atari 5200 games ever. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Manufacturer: Stern Year: 1982 Class: Wide Release Genre: Labyrinth/Maze Type: Videogame Description A humanoid advances through many mazes by shooting as many robots as he can while being pursued by Evil Otto. Various phrases and sound effects can be heard throughout the game. Know anything about this game? Why not contribute a description? Thanks! Cabinet Information The unique thing about Stern cabinets of this era was that they had a board access area on the left front of the machine. The access panel could be opened by releasing a latch just inside the left side of the coin door and the complete board set, which was mounted on a sliding panel, could be pulled out for servicing. Conversion The game can be converted to Berzerk by swapping ZPU boards (i.e. the CPU/motherboard). The games use the same power supply, video board, sound/speech board, and control panel. Game Introduction Basically, Berzerk and Frenzy are the same game, but Frenzy has more to do. You not only go through many mazes with varying amounts of robots and firepower, but you go through actual rooms, each different. Plus, you can shoot through the segmented walls to create an exit, bounce shells (so can the robots) off of the solid walls, and shoot Evil Otto for points and make him dissappear, but beware because each time he comes back he moves faster than before, to the point you can't out run him. If you stay in one of the rooms too long, another Evil Otto comes at you from a different direction along with the original one! Also, the robots are much smarter than in Berzerk. Game Play Shoot at as many robots as you can before they come after you. Watch out for Evil Otto who comes in from where you started on the screen. Be careful of robots shooting through the segmented walls as well as there are not as many places to hide as in Berzerk. In Frenzy, scores are usually higher since the game varies in difficulty. Berzerk becomes difficult very quickly, but Frenzy's challenges seem to come in random waves. Trivia This was one of Stern's last games so its production run was small compared to the number of Berzerk machines made.
Berserkers Star, Fred Saberhagen Thanks for enjoying Berzerk, hopefully you will take a look at Frenzy as well. Link -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Thank you, Paul Dean, Spy Hunter Champion June 28, 1985

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hit Counter Underwear only classics video game tournament A new look at video gaming: On Monday, June 6th, 2005 the LVHRD Foundation organized its latest adventure -- GMHRD: Underpants-Only Video Game Tournament. Members journeyed to Williamsburg, Brooklyn for a night of friendly video competition and strict dress code. Guests to Barcade, a unique Brooklyn concoction of classic 1980s-era video games and select American beers, were not allowed to enter the venue until they removed their pants. A complimentary "pants check" was available, as well as a variety of LVHRD branded underpants, in case certain visitors came unpreared. Wigs and helmets complimented the uniform, in accordance with the event's inspiration, drawn from ancient Greek sporting traditions. Despite an early evening torrential downpour and L-Train issues that continue to plague the residents of Williamsburg, the crowd was solid (nearly 200 members) and boisterous in their half-naked revelry. Berzerk Girl Berzerk red head The tournament consisted of three rounds, where twelve able competitors showed their skills on a surprise variety of arcade games. Only the highest cumulative scorers qualified for subsequent rounds. As one member aptly described it, GMHRD presented a night of "geeking for Glory." None came closer to this ecstasy than the victorious Mims Wrightwho defeated runner-up Erin Sparling in a 2-0 head-to-head victory in the tournament's final round. Tim Arnold - Berzerk Arcade, 3330 E. Tropicana Avenue, Las Vegas, Nevada Tim Arnold - Classic Pinball Arcade Mouse Trap, Berzerk, Missile Command January 16, 2006 - Tim Arnold has now opened a pinball classics arcade with 4400 square feet and Tim hopes to accommodate over 200 classic pinball machines on Tropicana Avenue, in Las Vegas, Nevada. This is an arcade which is open to the public with many novelty machines from yesteryear. Pinball Hall of Fame The Pinball Hall of Fame is now open at 3330 E Tropicana Avenue, Las Vegas. Opening times are 11am to 9pm. Map Mouse Trap & Berzerk Thank you! Paul Dean