Bizarre Facts and Trivia
Did you know...
- The first version of Hell Fighter was written approximately a decade
- The program was originally titled 'Ship1' and let you fly a little
asteroids style vector graphic ship around the screen.
- The screen did not float. That is, you could move your little ship
around the screen. And if you went off the edge, it appeared again on the
other side. Just like the old asteroids.
- This first version of Hell Fighter was developed on a 16 Mhz 286 system
with an amber monochrome monitor system.
- Hell Fighter is the author's first game written for the IBM PC. His
prior games were written for the Apple II and Apple IIgs.
- The author developed 'Ship1' at home when he wasn't in school for about
2 years. Eventually adding another ship. The two ships were flown by a
player on either end of the keyboard.
- More ships were added. And the game was modified to allow the view
point to float along with your ship. It would be several years before
scaling was added. Before that point, it only had what is now the closest
zoom in. Because you couldn't see other ships until they were very close, a
sort of HUD system was used to overlay a radar display over your ship's
position. This was the predecessor to Hell Fighter's modern HUD display.
- The Gatling Cannon was Hell Fighter's first weapon, and it did appear
in the 'Ship' games. Its original incarnation, however, was nowhere near as
flashy. It was silent (as the whole game was) and sprayed out single yellow
pixels which were actually quite difficult to differentiate from the stars.
It took 50 hits to destroy the other ship.
- Development ended on the game when it was 'Ship18' and the source code
sat on the hard drive and backup tapes for approximately 4 years.
- The author initially started developing Hell Fighter again with the
prospect of selling it as a commercial game.
- The first public release of Hell Fighter was given the version 'Hell
- Eventually the 'v0.1' part was ignored and release versions became known
as 'A1', 'A10', etc. Pronounced 'Alpha One' and 'Alpha Ten', etc.
- Eventually, I realized that Hell Fighter really wasn't going through a
typical development cycle. It made no sense for all of these to be alphas.
Starting with 'v17.0' the Hell Fighter releases became major releases with
the '.X' part refering to debug releases or minor upgrades.
- The first public release of Hell Fighter was in black and white and
could only be operated with a joystick. It wouldn't be in color until
- Hell Fighter has had a powerful multi-voice sound system since the first
public release. It has always been strong in the field of sound.
- Hell Fighter was doing 256 voice polyphony (in addition to the full
graphic game) at a time when the best _dedicated_ tracker available could
handle 16 voices and the best games available could do 4 (8?) voices. It
would be some 4 years before the commercial market would catch up.
- Capital ships were never part of Hell Fighter's initial design. They
were grafted into the system very late in its development.
- In versions prior to A1, the ships each had all of the weapons in the
game. And it took around 20 keyboard controls to fly a fighter. It was
wisely decided that this was far too complicated and too powerful. Imagine
facing a fighter with a gatling cannon, lasers, SWAT missiles, Heat Seekers,
VSGM missiles, Rockets, boosters, and a cloak. Later versions spread these
capabilities over several different fighters.
- What's a VSGM missile, you ask? It's pronounced 'Vasgam', and it stands
for Very Small Guided Missile. This was the original name for the
'Scatterpack' missile system.
- The Skunk Bomb got its name during the author's roommate's birthday.
'The Skunk' is an affectionate nickname for him. There were approximately
40 people in attendance. And his roommate had gotten very drunk at dinner
on sake bombs. After dinner, everyone was standing around outside deciding
what movie to attend. Then, as the author watched.. a sphere of No
People(TM) expanded around the birthday boy. Until everyone had evaded
seemingly spontaneously to a radius of approximately 20 feet. 'The Skunk'
had broken wind, and the effect on this large boisterous crowd was not
unlike a shockwave at ground zero. The author noted that the effect was
highly similar to the weapon system he was coding at the time. And thusly,
the 'SMTN Skunk Bomb' got its name. SMTN, btw, stands for SubMunitions
- The Archer was originally called the Dragon, and the Dragon was
originally called the Zeuss. The Wyvern was originally called the Scythe.
The Flea was originally called the Sprint. The Hydra was originally called
- The Hell Fighter, Archer, and Fire Blossum were the first fighters in
the game, in that order. The Flea came a little later. All of these ships
were hand drawn pixel by pixel. Around the time of the first public
release, these were recreated as 3D meshes and rendered out.
- The Hell Fighter and Archer 3D models very closely match the original
hand drawn graphics. The Fire Blossum changed, but retained its general
outline. And the Flea changed completely. The gallery has a picture or two
with the original graphics.
- The early ships didn't have shields. When shields were first
introduced, you had to hold down a key to put them up. This later became
automatic and shields became a very incorporated part of the game.
- Hell Fighter was locked at 12.8fps until A14 and then once again for the
initial Win32 release of v20.0.
- Hell Fighter's setup screens were originally in text mode. Graphics
modes were only used for the battle itself.
- The explosions were random squiggly vector graphics until A8 when they
became expanding circles. They became animated bitmaps with A13.1.
- A5 was the first public release which could play 'networked'. It could
play two players over a modem or serial cable.
- Hell Fighter was able to play over modem for a few months about two
years before A5. But that ability was lost over time.
- Hell Fighter had no battle editor until A4E4
- The HUD display heading and velocity markers are actually the original
vector ships used in the 'ship' games drawn by the very same old code. Look
at them by themselves... they're modelled after the old Asteroids ship!
- The sound of the autocannon was produced by the author banging the
microphone against his forehead.
- The sound effect for the Gatling Cannon is a WWII 50cal machine gun.
The sound effect for the Mass Driver is a 9mm German Luger. The sound
effect for the Guass Cannon is an M16 Rifle. The sound effect for the
Impact Cannon is a M1 Abrams main gun. The sound effect for the 350mm is an
old coastal fort cannon. The sound effect for missile launches is a time
compressed Blue Angels fly-by. The sound effect for rocket launches is a
time compressed SR-71 Blackbird high speed fly-by (minus the end part where
the microphone is nearly destroyed by the shockwave).
- The original A1 public release version of Hell Fighter was sent in email
to a select group of people. It just so happened that when it was UUENCODEd
the install package was 666 kilobytes in size. This was somewhat creepy for
a program named 'Hell Fighter'.
- In Hell Fighter, there are 384 degrees in a circle. Why 384 and not
360? Because 360 doesn't divide evenly by 24, 16, and a lot of other useful
numbers which Hell Fighter uses a lot. Why else?
- There are 24 bitmaps per zoom level per fighter graphic. That is, the
graphic can be turned to one of 24 angles. Originally, the fighter could
only actually face one of 24 directions!
- The Hell Fighter universe engine (no matter what the displayed frame
rate is) operates at 12.82 frames per second. Why 12.82? Because Hell
Fighter's frame timing originally came from the DOS tick counter. Which
triggered an interrupt about 18.4 (an odd number with its own history) times
per second. So it should have been 18.4 instead of 12.82, right?
Unfortunately, early versions of Hell Fighter were quite slow. And the
actual frame rate fell below 18.4fps without the author knowing it. The
universe was tuned while the game was running below its proper frame rate.
When the game was sped up later on, the author found that it was suddenly
going to fast! So the 'official' timing was lowered to 12.8 fps to
compensate. The newer timing system, you see, was rather based on binary
numbers. 12.8fps is 128 divided by 10... the closest he could get to the
right speed. Then when it was converted to Win32, the timing became based
on milliseconds per frame. 12.8fps is 78.125 milliseconds per frame. Since
the Win32 functions don't take fractions, this was rounded to 78ms. Which
puts its current frame rate at: 12.82 fps. Weird, huh?
- The name 'Hell Fighter' was suggested by a member of the BBS system the
author was running at the time. Prior to that, the game was simply referred
to as 'My Game'. The author has been unable to find out this person's
- Most of Hell Fighter's original designs were created while the author
was quite bored in math class.
- The author routinely got into trouble for working on Hell Fighter rather
than his math homework. Or for working on Hell Fighter designs and
equations rather than class assignments during school.
- Hell Fighter relied on complex mathematics several levels above what the
author was supposed to be studying at the time.