Warlords is an arcade game released by Atari, Inc. in 1980. The game resembles a combination of Breakout and Quadrapong (an early Atari arcade game) in the sense that not only can up to 4 players play the game at the same time, but also the 'forts' in the four corners of the screen are brick walls that could be broken with a flaming ball.
Warlords uses spinner controllers for player control, and came in both an upright 2 player version and a 4 player cocktail version. The upright version uses a black and white monitor, and reflects the game image onto a mirror, with a backdrop of castles, giving the game a 3D feel. The upright version only supports up to two simultaneous players, which move through the levels as a team. The cocktail version is in color, and supports 1-4 players. 3-4 player games are free-for-all's where the game ends as soon as one player wins. 1-2 player games play identical to the upright version.
According to the Atari video game production numbers, 1014 uprights were made, and 1253 cocktails were produced. The prototype version of Warlords was called 'Castles and Kings' and was housed in a 4 player 'Sprint 4 like' cabinet - it was huge. Only 2 versions of the prototype were made. The game was considered a success, although the large cabinet made it impossible to produce in large quantities nor was it feasible to install - hence the smaller cocktail design.
Warlords is a battle between four warlords, 1-4 of which can be controlled by the player(s). Each fort is distinguished by a different color, the four original colors being orange, green, turquoise blue, and purple. The goal of the game is for one player to break down the walls of the surrounding warlords and destroy the icon at the center (crown for human controlled, dark lord mask for computer AI). This is accomplished by bouncing a fireball off of a cursor that the player moves around the outer layer of their castle. The fireball can also be held by pushing a 'Power stone' button, at the cost of slowly deteriorating the player's own walls. When an opponent's icon is destroyed it releases another fire ball onto the game field. The last player with their icon intact will be awarded a point bonus. A game ends when all human players are eliminated.
The version for the Atari 2600 console was released in 1981. It features the use of paddle controllers instead of joysticks. The 2600 version of Warlords is often cited as one of the more popular Atari 2600 titles by classic video gamers, and was voted the 25th greatest video game in the 100th issue of Game Informer (August 2001 issue). The 2600 port was written by Carla Meninsky, one of the two female game designers to work for Atari in the early 1980s. According to Meninsky, the development of the 2600 version preceded development of the arcade version.
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