In the eighties, if any arcade game achieved success, there were sure to be dozens of home computer games ‘inspired by’ it released in short order1. Beginning in 1980, the California-based Big Five Software released nine games for the TRS-80, mostly very straightforward clones of arcade games (including three games based on Space Invaders). These achieved some success, but nothing compared to founder Bill Hogue’s first game for Atari home computers, Miner 2049er, released in 19822.
The game’s manual lays out the gripping story: you play the role of Bounty Bob, “the most loyal, heroic, and charismatic mounty … ever known”, who has been sent to capture Yukon Yohan, a fur trapper wanted for murder. Bob chased Yohan all the way to a uranium mine once owned by Nuclear Ned, and an explosion has trapped both Bob and Yohan within. The radiation in the mine has turned the creatures within into deadly mutants. Helpfully, however: “Scattered throughout the mine are various articles that have been lost by previous miners. Capture them by touching them and you will be awarded points. Additionally, the mutants will turn into green happy creatures that are now edible.”
The goal of the game is to walk over every section of the platforms. Doing so fills the section in, and once every section is filled in, you’re awarded points depending on how much time remains on the timer, and the next station begins.
There are ten stations in total, and a number of difficulty settings which increase the speed at which the enemies move.
Later stations feature a variety of extra obstacles: beginning with station 2, there are slides which you slide down when you walk over them; station 3 has transporters you may operate to move between sections; station 5 has moving platforms; station 8 has a lift you can use to reach high places; station 9 features that staple of platformers, the ‘pulverizers’ which descend to crush you; finally, stage 10 has a cannon which you must load up with TNT to blast yourself to higher platforms.
Miner was ported to more or less every game platform and released in many countries. Reviews praise its originality, though it clearly shows the influence of both Donkey Kong, with its platforms and ladders, and Pac-Man, with its powerups that allow the player to eat otherwise-fatal enemies. In its turn, Miner influenced later games, such as City Connection, which lifts the painting-every-square mechanic directly from Miner. Originality aside, it’s obvious why Miner was such a success; it’s fun, challenging, and has good, smooth controls.
Bibliography and further reading
- John J. Anderson, Mastering Miner 2049er, Creative Computer Video & Arcade Games 1, 2 (1983-12), 103–108.
- A detailed strategy guide with routes for each of the game’s ten stages.
- The Editors of Consumer Guide, Personal Computers & Games. (Beekman House, 1983).
- A general overview of the computer systems available, short guides to a few games, and brief reviews of several more.
- Miner 2049er is featured as ‘The Best Theme Game’ and a guide to the first five stages is given on pages 55-57.
- The Editors of Electronic Games, The Miner 2049er Story, Electronic Games 2, 6 (1983-08), 26–42.
- Nickolas Marentes & Barry Friedman, Interview with Barry Friedman, The Miner 2049er Information Page (2001-06).
- Nickolas Marentes & Bill Kunkel, Interview with Bill Kunkel, The Miner 2049er Information Page (2001-04).
- Nickolas Marentes & Mike Livesay, Interview with Mike Livesay, The Miner 2049er Information Page (2001-04).
- Nickolas Marentes & Scott Ross, Interview with Scott Ross, The Miner 2049er Information Page (2001-05).
- Matthew Reed & Bill Hogue, An Interview with Bill Hogue, TRS-80.org (2008-10-29).
- Miner 2049er is mentioned briefly.
- Kevin Savetz & Bill Hogue, ANTIC Interview 94 – Bill Hogue, Miner 2049er, (2015-10-29).
- A somewhat directionless interview reminiscing about Hogue’s work on games, and particularly Miner 2049er and its sequel, Bounty Bob Strikes Back.
- As [ElectronicGames1983] says, Miner 2049er “is as important for what it isn’t as for what it is”. In particular, it’s not an arcade conversion nor based on an existing license. Noteworthy, as “until the recent crack-down on infringers by the coin-op manufacturers, all too many computer games were little more than knock-offs of pay-for-play machines. No one will ever know how many computer games came into being as a result of ‘fact-finding’ trips by designers to their local family amusement centers. More than one programmer has returned from the arcade after pumping a few tokens into a promising game, with the outlines of something awfully similar already percolating in his head.” ↩
- But you don’t have to take my word for it. According to [ElectronicGames1983]: “The phenomenon — and make no mistake about it, Miner’s publication is perhaps the most significant software event of this year…” ↩
- Hogue recalled in [SavetzHogue2015] that when producing the emulated version, he had to spend some hours or days cracking his own anti-piracy measures–he never imagined that the person he’d be protecting his game from would be himself! ↩