Rocket Jockey

Rocket Jockey

Infobox VG
title = Rocket Jockey


developer = Rocket Science Games
publisher = SegaSoft
distributor =
designer =
engine = RenderWare
version =
released = October 1996
genre = Action game, Sports game
modes = Single player, Multiplayer
ratings =
platforms = PC
media = One CD
requirements =
input =
preceded by =
followed by =

"Rocket Jockey" was a PC game created by Rocket Science Games and published by SegaSoft in 1996. A Sony PlayStation version of the game was also under development but never released. A unique game concept, developed by Game Designer/Lead Programmer, Sean Callahan, with an inventive alternative reality 1930s America setting, conceived of by VP of Development/Creative Director, Bill Davis, the game featured the player riding around inside an enclosed arena on a rocket sled that was "always" in motion and chiefly steered with grappling hooks mounted on its sides. The soundtrack was also unique in that live performers were used, most notably legendary surf rock guitar player Dick Dale. Three different game modes were available for competition. Initially receiving high marks from reviewers and much hype from SegaSoft, its steep hardware requirements (at the time) and a much delayed patch which added LAN play hurt game sales and later reviews. As time has passed it has suffered a classic example of software rot, compatibility issues have appeared, making it very difficult to install the game on modern systems. Some diehards have created workarounds for this, most notably a custom modified registry key.

Game basics

When starting a game, the player must go through three menus:

Players

In the first menu, the player must pick a character they wish to play as. While each character has a different name (many humorous) and logo, they are all equal jockeys.

Rockets ("Sleds")

Next up is the selection of the "sled," which is basically a rocket with small wings for directing the ride slightly left, right, up, and down, and one more major component: grappling hooks mounted on the sides. These hooks shoot out of the rocket when the proper button is pressed and grapple on to the first thing in their path, be it pylon, mine, sporting equipment, body, or anything else that can be grappled (with the proper upgrade they can even grapple the ground). Hence, they serve a dual purpose: tight turns on pylons and anything else stationary (which are spread throughout the arenas), as well as for offensive tactics such as grappling mines, other rockets, and even other riders! Rockets also have the ability during play to receive power-ups, such as repair and speed boost, and grappling hooks (as well as their cables) are also modifiable. The rockets first available to the player have only minor differences, but sleds unlocked later in the game have major stat advantages, i.e. acceleration, top speed, boost, and maneuverability. One interesting element about the rockets is that they are not unlocked by beating certain levels: they are unlocked by stealing it from the opponent. Therefore, in order to unlock a certain rocket that has not been acquired yet, the player must find a level in which the computer is riding it, knock them off it, jump off their existing rocket, climb onto the target sled, and successfully complete the level. Existing unlocked rockets are not lost when ditched for a newer model.

Game Modes

The last menu before play is the game mode selection. There are three to choose from: War, Ball, and Race. For complete descriptions of these, see below.

Game modes

Rocket War is a classic deathmatch mode with the player facing any number of computer controlled jockeys in a fight to the death. The goal is to eliminate or disable all the opponents, using any means necessary. Points are awarded based on how the player eliminates the computer opponents. Basic moves such as a "tripline" or a ram off receives minimal points, whereas more difficult moves, such as the "matchmaker" (joining two riders together with grappling hooks), or "ball and chain" (joining a rider to a mine), awards much higher points. Points are required to unlock higher levels in the main campaign. Strategy is also key in this game mode: quickly eliminating the opponent isn't always the best way to win. Because the points requirement becomes very high in later levels, dragging out the computer opponents' suffering would garner the most points. Dismounting an opponent and stealing their sled was also an option, both to switch to a working or less damaged sled and to unlock it for use in later levels.

Rocket Ball, a twisted take on polo or soccer/football, is a more distinctive game mode. Facing an opposing "team" which ranged from one to several independently acting computer opponents, the goal was to score as many points as possible in a set amount of time. Stealing the ball from the opponents, or eliminating them outright, while navigating the field and scoring goals with the sometimes explosive balls was a challenge at best and near impossible at worst. Aiding the player was the fact that the AI is rather stupid and never works together, but strict time limits, handicaps and the number of opponents makes Rocket Ball very difficult in later levels. One other interesting aspect of Rocket Ball, which is true for Rocket War as well (but to a lesser extent), is the presence of referees, which tend to run around the arena after you. They can be treated exactly the same as other jockeys.

Rocket Race is what is says it is: a race to the finish. The course must be done in a certain amount of time, with either the player's rocket passing though sets of pylons, or grappling on to certain pylons as they light up. This is the most difficult of the three modes, especially for the AI, which almost never completed the course. At times, it can become an obstacle course, and on more than one occasion it becomes a test in how quickly the player can memorize a series of razor-quick turns, sometimes in very tight space. It features interesting tracks, but since the AI is virtually absent, Rocket Race does not have as much lasting appeal as the other two modes.

Remakes

Although no commercial entity has ever expressed an interest, several grass-roots Rocket Jockey remake attempts have come and gone since the late 1990s. Most have been conceived as modifications of other commercial games.

The first such project to see any progress used the original Unreal Tournament game as a foundation. A partial gameplay hack and a handful of themed maps were released.

Another ill-fated project appeared in the Quake 3 community shortly thereafter. Nothing was published beyond early development screenshots.

More recently, in 2005, a Rocket Jockey project was put together modding Unreal Tournament 2003 [http://wiki.beyondunreal.com/wiki/Mod_Ideas/Rocket_Jockey] . This effort lost momentum without publishing any results.

In October 2006, the latest effort to build a remake of Rocket Jockey was announced by independent developer [http://www.solar-ray.org/ Solar-Ray] . Unlike previous efforts, this project is not proposed as a modification of another game. Several development screenshots have thus far been published. In March 2008 the first test version of the remake by Solar-Ray has been released.

Technical information

It had very high hardware demands for 1996: at least a 90mhz "Pentium" grade CPU, and recommended 120mhz or higher.

One of the first games to support a 3D accelerator, it only supported one: the original 3D Blaster from Creative Labs.

Six person LAN multiplayer was advertised on the original box but was not included with the game. When sent to many reviewers, most were told by SegaSoft that a patch would be available by the time the game hit store shelves, and therefore this missing feature was not noted in some early reviews. When the game was finally released and LAN play was still missing, it upset many in the gaming community. The much promised patch did not appear until several months after the launch and was never included in any retail version. Many blamed SegaSoft for not delaying the release date and/or dragging their feet on finishing the patch. This was typical of SegaSoft, who were known for releasing games without extensive testing to meet deadlines.

Because of a quirk of the installer supplied with the game, a specific DirectX 3 component (d3dhalf.dll) must be present in the WindowsSystem directory (on Windows ME and before) in order to complete normal installation. This file can be found in the DirectX directory of the Rocket Jockey CD, has been provided on Rocket Jockey fansites in the past, and can still be found on many general Windows and DirectX troubleshooting sites.

The installer also fails to install the game on Windows 2000 and XP systems, requiring either:
*a complete dump of the CD onto the hard disk, as well as movement of some sound files, and a modified registry key, or
*a specially made installer made by fans

Once installed, Rocket Jockey runs without reported problems under these newer versions of the Windows OS.

External links

* [http://www.solar-ray.org/ Rocket Arena] - serious effort for a Rocket Jockey remake by X-ray
*moby game|id=/rocket-jockey|name="Rocket Jockey"
* [http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/5.06/streetcred_pr.html Rockey Jockey preview at Wired.com from June 1997]
* [http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/rocketjockey/review.html Rocket Jockey review at GameSpot]
*imdb title|0302981|Rocket Jockey


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