Captain Seahawk

1978 Atari

Platform: Arcade

As part of the launch and release of The Games That Weren’t book, we are gradually adding assets and content that didn’t make it to print as bonus content to share with you. The book contains a detailed 6 page full story about the unreleased 1970’s Atari arcade, Captain Seahawk – talking to those involved in the development, with input from Mike Albaugh, Dave Stubben and Dan Moss. Check out our growing Bonus Content page for more materials added over time.

At the time, no-one sadly had anything relating to the game (based on part of the VCS title Air-Sea Battle), or at least wasn’t able to find anything at the time of writing. Instead, we included some artist impressions to show how the game could have looked. Just before publication however, Mike managed to find the mock up produced for the banner art that was to be produced for the cabinet (Click for full size):

Mike explains that it was partly drawn and pieced together from transparencies, and was to be passed on to the production team for the cabinet design, had the game gone ahead for full production.

In addition to the recovered panel design mock up, Mike also recalled some additional details about a push for internationalisation within games such as Captain Seahawk:

“It started with a push for internationalisation, and then repeated exchange at marketing reviews:

Them: ‘Why are there no foreign language messages yet?’

Us: ‘Because you (marketing) have not yet gotten me the translations, which you had promised a few weeks/months back’

Them: ‘Oh, we’ll get on it’

… repeated _way_ too many times.

ROM was a bit limited on this cost-constrained hardware, and per above I was not getting the data I needed in anything like a timely manner, so I came up with the scheme of putting foreign languages in a separate ROM from the 2K used by the game itself. This ROM would contain up to four (three?) tables pointing to messages, with the table chosen by setting two “option switches” on the board.

If no tables were present (based on a simple plausibility check), it used the English versions in the program ROM.

But, how to test? A friend spoke Norwegian, so kindly offered to do the translations. Next time marketing came through, the exchange went something like

Them: ‘Do you have foreign languages working?’

Us: ‘Yes, for example, here is Norwegian’

Them: ‘What!? Why Norwegian?’

Us: ‘Because you have still not gotten me the official German, French, and Spanish translations, and I personally know a person who speaks Norwegian.”

I had to make some additions to the character ROMs, which stayed in, but they made me deliberately exclude them from the test that was alleged to ‘display all characters’.

It occurred to me that since the Seahawk board was just a modded Destroyer board, the Alphanumeric ROMs might be the same. And also that if you had a Destroyer game, or MAME, it should be possible to patch it to have an honest test screen.”

Destroyer arcade flyer

Plus finally, here are some hi-res scans of the Destroyer cabinet (which partly inspired Captain Seahawk, and was to be used as the basis of the cabinet design for Captain Seahawk). The flyer we purchased from Ebay during production of the book for possible inclusion as a full page.

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