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The winner of the 1st annual Stella programming contest is:

Piero Cavina's Oystron

Oystron represents the quintessential 4K VCS game. It is notable in many ways. It strikes a perfect balance between aesthetics, depth, and gameplay, which was only possible through Piero's persistence, creativity, and open-mindedness to the suggestions of others. Perhaps most notable of all is the way Oystron is a totally original game concept. While borrowing certain ideas from other classic games, it still feels totally unique. Overall it has the same style of frantic gameplay associated with the best classic action games of the past such as Kaboom, River Raid, Robotron, and Defender. Here is not a modern 90s "spectator" game where you can zone out or just mindlessly button-mash. This game demands your constant attention, and requires you to scan the entire screen for potential threats to both you and your pearls. The teamwork that was shown in playtesting and code-whittling was vital in polishing the game to the same demanding levels acheived by Imagic or Activision way back when.

Piero will receive the grand prize of a framed and personalized plaque with the signatures of, Nolan Bushnell, Al Alcorn, Steve Mayer, Joe Decuir, Ron Milner, Larry Kaplan, and Larry Wagner, the founding fathers of Atari, and the fathers of the VCS hardware and software.

The runner up is:

Greg Troutman's This Planet Sucks

Rescue/TPS is signifiant in that it is a liberal port of a Taito game (Lunar Rescue) that kindof fell through the cracks with the success of its sister game, Space Invaders. Porting lesser known but just as enjoyable classic game concepts to the VCS is a great idea. Technically speaking, the game is also significant in the use of its single-line-res kernel. What I like most about the game, however, is its sense of character, in particular, the spasmodic animation applied to downed humans.

Greg will be entitled to a free copy of the Cyberpunks' upcoming CD. The contents of this CD will be described in a pending announcement by Russ Perry.

Honorable Mention:

Erik Mooney's INV

INV was another noble experiment, to attack porting Space Invaders and using playfield to match the number of enemies in the arcade. Technically speaking, VCS "psuedobitmap" kernels are very difficult to pull off, and Erik even managed to add character to the blocky invaders through color changes and different shapes. The game has been worked on by several hands and I'd very much like to see this game evolve further, beyond the strict Space Invaders port. The idea of a two player competitive mode with the 2nd player as the saucer and with limited control of the invaders really intrigues me :)

Congratulations to the winners and I hope I will be able to find a decent prize and hold another contest next year!