In the same era as the lost release of Pyramid of Time, Firebird were also to release another Activision game on their Silverbird label…
Zzap first mentioned news of the game in issue 26… “Hot on the heels of the latest Activision re-releases come four more golden oldies – Futureball, Pyramids of Time, Pitfall and BreakStreat.
The former is an odd sort of game, where the player takes controll of a ball and has to escape from a network of pipes before water floods the whole system. Strange but true, and you only have to wait a month to find out more!”
The game according to Richard Hewison was a proposed followup to Ballblazer, but although an Activision title… it doesn’t seem to have even been released by themselves.
Although rumoured to be a Ballblazer sequel, GTW64 learns that it was in fact nothing to do with the game. It was in fact a re-imagining of an earlier Activision game for the Colecovision called Steamroller – which itself didn’t get released until 2000. This was confirmed by the game’s developer, Glyn Anderson – who designed and developed the game with Peter Kaminski, with Russell Lieblich on SFX/Music.
The general idea of the game was translated into a race in space, using a space station/arena to tie levels together and show progress through the game. After this refresher design was proposed, it was given the green light to go into production. Although the game was completed, Activision suddenly decided not to release it – for reasons sadly unknown at present.
So that explains the original release and we know also that the game was completed and that Firebird were sent a complete version. So why did Firebird never release it?
It is believed that there were mastering problems with the three unreleased Activision titles and getting them onto tape. Ironically it was only the three unreleased games that were a struggle to master, so it could be related to the format they were sent over as from the US.
As for finding the game – the hunt begins in full now that we have some credits. Unfortunately it is looking bleak already, as both Glyn and Peter no longer have a copy of the game – though they are asking around people they know to see if anyone else has a copy. Additionally, Russell Lieblich sadly passed away some years ago and may have been the best hope of recovering the game.
We hold out hope though that some day this may surface – it sounds like a unique and fun game which could be a missing gem in the Activision catalogue. Will we ever find out?
Contributions: Peter Weighill, Richard Hewison, Glyn Anderson, Peter Kaminski
Glyn Anderson talks about work on Futureball:
“”Futureball” was developed by me and Peter Kaminski for both the C64 and the Atari 800. We did both the programming and the art. We shared most of the code between the two systems, but where there were system-specific elements, Peter tended to focus on the C64 and I tended to write the Atari 800 stuff.
Our sound effects were created by Russell Lieblich. I don’t remember there being any music, but if there was, then Russell composed that, too. The game was a reimagining of an earlier Activision game for the Colecovision called “Steamroller”, which was designed and programmed by Dave Rolfe. Peter and I really liked Steamroller, and wanted to port it to the C64/Atari 800; however, marketing didn’t think it would sell on those platforms “as-is”. Peter and I preserved the original gameplay, and translated the concept into a race in space and added the space station/arena to tie the levels together and show your progress through the game. This new concept got the green light.
This was one of my favorite games among those I’ve created, and I was disappointed that Activision decided not to publish it. By the time we finished the game, the thinking of marketing was that gamers were moving away from arcade action style games in favor of adventure games and RPGs.
I’m sad to say that I don’t have a copy of the game for either platform. Does it survive? Can one get a copy for play on an emulator?
The game was completely unrelated to Ballblazer. The only similarity is the word “ball” in the title. It was a reworking of Steamroller, as I mentioned below. The game mechanic consisted of flying a space ship through a 3D maze of tubes (not a network of pipes, as on your page – although I can understand the confusion) competing against the other player to retrieve objects (moving spheres of various values – hence the “ball” reference) and avoid obstacles.
There were ways to confound your opponent, with obstacles, bombs, and carefully timed collision maneuvers. Once all objects of value were collected, the level was cleared by a force field that moved through the maze, forcing players to flee to the exits lest they be caught and destroyed. (There was no water involved, and the players do not control a ball.) The competitive game play was extremely addicting, hence my and Peter’s passion for the game.
I should mention that Dave Rolfe, creator of Steamroller, also created the Intellivision game Beamrider, which had a similarly addictive game play and which was always one of my favorite games on that platform.”