Rolling Thunder

1992 Atari Games

Platform: Atari Lynx

As part of the launch and release of The Games That Weren’t book, we are  adding assets and content that didn’t make it to print as bonus content to share with you.

Within the book is a detailed 10 page full story about the unreleased Rolling Thunder for the Atari Lynx by Atari Games. We speak to developer Chuck Ernst, Joel Seider and artist Robb Mariani about the development and the troubles that occurred over two separate iterations. The book also includes a specially re-pixelled Lynx screenshots from grainy magazine scans.

4 sprite sheet interpretation
Tidied up sprite sheet from Robb Mariani

Here we present a sprite sheet provided from artist Robb that he managed to save. There are also a number of magazine scans, showing some grainy screenshots, and also the adverts where Atari naughtily used NES screenshots to depict Lynx screenshots – which have for years been wrongly attributed as a result.

At the time of writing, Chuck was not able to recover the source code for the final build, but an early prototype has just surfaced in September 2020 from a YouTuber called MacRorie (thanks to Ross Sillifant for the heads up), who has recently acquired a number of prototype ROMs.

It is unknown at this stage how much is present in the ROM, but MacRorie shows a brief glimpse of the title screen and part of level 1. There seems to be some sprite glitches on the main character, but crucially there is music within the game.

After checking with Chuck, he has confirmed that this is in fact the earlier and abandoned development from Matt Markwalder, which he described as being completely broken, and his version was far more playable and smoother. It is odd that the music though was not carried over to Chuck’s version, as it seems as if it had been converted over and was there.

The surfacing of this prototype and Chuck’s confirmation, confirms that the magazine screenshots (the actual Lynx ones, not the NES ones) are from Matt’s version and *not* Chuck’s edition of the game – which is great to confirm.

It is hoped that MacRorie will share more of the prototype soon and we will try and add to this page over time to show Matt’s earlier and abandoned development. In time, it is hoped that Chuck will get his sources compiled and show his version in the future too.


3 Responses to Rolling Thunder

  1. Amazing… haven’t seen some of these images in years! Robb’s art/animation on my version of Rolling Thunder was absolutely phenomenal. Sadly, I was unable to finish the project before I left Atari in June, 1991. I have many wonderful memories of that era and my wonderful co-workers. I would like to thank everyone for their interest in the Lynx — an interesting (and relatively unknown) chapter in the history of one of the greatest video game companies of all time.

    • Good to hear from you Matt and hope all is well. Glad you got to see something of your game in action – there should be a prototype to download soon of it with any luck. Hoping that Chuck will dig his version out in the near future too.

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