Atari Bradley TrainerThe Game: As the pilot of a Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, you wander the desolate battlefield, trying to wipe out enemy tanks and helictopers without accidentally firing on your own allies. (Atari, under special contract for the United States Army, 1981)

Memories: You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the arcade business who’d complain that a game was too good. But Ed Rotberg, designer of Atari’s original 3-D vector graphics tank hit Battlezone, would be the exception. His revolutionary first-person fighting game was impressive enough to attract the attention of the United States Army, and this landed him a very special job he did not want: retooling the game to the Army’s exacting specifications to turn it into a real training simulation.

Worse yet, as the Army was hoping to show this new “game” off at a military trade show, Rotberg had only three months to complete the job – and with the massive modifications the Army demanded, those three months became three months of nearly round-the-clock work. Rotberg took the job only on the condition that he would not be involved in any military-related projects Atari took on in the future.

Atari Bradley TrainerAmong the changes made to Battlezone for this version, whose ROM was only recently released (though I’m not sure if it was actually classified secret up until that point), were the inclusion of helicopters (and the deletion of the original game’s UFOs), configurable ammunition and physics to simulate mortar shells, single-shot machine gun fire and continuous machine gun fire, allied vehicles (to teach trainee “players” how to recognize allies and avoid friendly fire incidents), and a general slowing-down of the game to put it more in line with the lumbering slowness of a real Bradley infantry fighting vehicle. The arcade game’s controls were also replaced, but the new controls for the Army’s trainer got public exposure before anything else about the game did: the new steering/aiming controller became the control yoke for the Star Wars arcade game.

Rotberg had done the initial work on Star Wars as well, following his exhausting tour of programming duty for the Army, but the fatigue and burnout of working on the military project had gotten to him – Rotberg abandoned his new space game, then ironically titled Warp Speed, and left Atari.

Without the original controls or instructions, the Bradley Trainer is nearly unfathomable, so it receives a rare exemption from any kind of game play rating.