Killer Bees!

Killer Bees!

Killer Bees is a video game written by Robert S. Harris in 1983 for the Magnavox Odyssey2.


On November 30, 2004, Robert S. Harris provided Wikipedia with these details about "Killer Bees".

"KB was only available on the Odyssey2, which kept many people from seeing it. The European version of that machine was more popular, and KB was very popular in Europe.

"It's only similar to "Centipede" in an abstract way. It didn't bear any visual resemblance. I doubt many people would say the games were similar.

"One of the things I liked about centipede was predictability. The adversary followed rules (I'm talking about the centipede body), and this was something the player could take advantage of. For example if the player cut a channel through the mushrooms, he could often get the centipede to come right down the channel, which made it easier to pick off.

"So in killer bees, the adversaries (robots) obeyed movement rules. And you could take advantage of this by the placement of the dead robots. If you killed them in the right places, you could trap other robots in a short loop. This in turn made them easier to kill.

Development history

Robert S. Harris provided these details about "Killer Bees"' game development history.

"There were some concepts in killer bees which were so different from the norm that a lot of people didn't catch on. Mainly how life and death worked. You controlled a swarm of N bees (I think N was 12). When you were in contact with an enemy bee swarm, you lost a bee. The longer you stayed in contact the more bees you lost. But it was fairly quick. If you stopped moving when you first got stung, you'd lose all your bees in about a second and be dead. If you only got slightly stung then pulled away, you'd lose a couple bees but you'd still be alive. The idea was you had 12 lives (12 bees), so there was no point in letting you have the traditional 3 do-overs when you got killed. To most people this just looked like you only got one life. Among those were the game reviewer for Games Magazine, who asked me 'why do you only allow one life?' I explained it to him, but I admitted that if I had it to do over again, I'd do it differently.

"Robots had a similar life/death rule. If they were in the open (not in contact with your swarm), they gradually accelerated. But if you were stinging them, they slowed down. If they got to zero, they died. At the higher levels, once a robot got to the maximum speed, you couldn't move as fast as it could. The only way to kill it was to sting it as it ran past, AND try to move in the same direction as it went past, to increase the time of contact and thus slow it down as much as possible, It could take several attempts before you'd get it slow enough to be able to finish it off. But to many players, I'm sure this whole concept was just confusing.

"So I learned from that. I had been trying to push the limits and try some new concepts. For example, I don't know of any other game to that point in time that had gradual object speed increases-- everything either moved one pixel per frame, or two, whereas I had a much finer scale of speeds. But I learned that things too far from the norm are often just not understood at all.

"War Room didn't have at sort of novelty (though it did use the fine speed scales). The novelty in War Room, for the time, was to have several levels of game play that contributed to the overall play (many games had varied play levels, but the levels were essentially independent). You can start out just shooting down the enemy missiles, and eventually you'll run out of shots (fuel). So then maybe you'll figure out you can go into cities and pick up more fuel, and can play a little longer. But you'll still run out. Then hopefully you'll figure out how to manage production so that you canproduce enough fuel to play forever."


* Robert S. Harris, email dated Nov. 30, 2004.

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