Major Havoc - The Promised End

Core Team: Owen Rubin ᛫ Jess Askey ᛫ Bryan Roth ᛫ Scott Swazey ᛫ David Jury

Special Thanks: Mark Spaeth ᛫ Luke Dyson ᛫ Bill Gardner ᛫ Jon Koolpe ᛫ Al Kossow

Well, to say this project has taken awhile is a pretty big understatement! But here it is.. read on and enjoy!

Important Links:

  • ROM Patch Download - You will need to have existing Major Havoc ROM images, then patch them using these instructions and files.
  • Current Known Issues - Known bugs and issues, also you can submit new issues here.
  • PCB Conversion - If you want to play this game on your original Hardware you need to do a couple mods
  • HBMAME Homepage - Major Havoc The Promised End is supported on HBMAME as of version 0.207

'Major Havoc - The Promised End' is a ROM-Hack/Extension/DirectorsCut of the 1983 Atari classic game 'Major Havoc' which was created by Owen Rubin and a team at Atari (hint - original Atari team is listed in the new Attract mode) right before the 'Great Game Crash' of 1984. For many of us old timers (I was 13 then), Major Havoc came out at a time when arcade games were really getting interesting and Major Havoc is the perfect example... it was one of the last VECTOR games created by Atari, it had an awesome cabinet design, a great set of controls and supreme gameplay which was highlighted by a very diverse, deep and varied story arc and ruleset.

However, with all of that, the pinnacle of the story arc for the game was 'reaching the homeworld and freeing your people'... and... due to Atari pushing Major Havoc out the door prematurely, the part of the game never happened. Along with that point, many other ideas that Owen had for the game had to be cut (hai Star Castle!) due to game profitability. While you can't really fault Atari for trying to make a game profitable for Operators, rewriting this game in the 21st century basically allowed us to target the home player/collector who won't be needing to shovel quarters into a game to play it.

With all of that and not going into a ton of history... my good friend Bryan Roth and I were determined to try and make it to the end of Major Havoc, but the reality was that we didn't have that many quarters. So in the end, we did what any arcade fanantic would do and bought a Major Havoc game PCB out of the classifieds in the back of 'Replay' magazine. It was spendy in 1988... I think it was $150 for the bare PCB. Luckily I worked fixing arcade and pinball machines so we had access to an old Star Wars upright cabinet and Bryan bought it and we spent time getting it so you could switch between Star Wars and Major Havoc.. Bryan mounted a nice Tempest spinner on the lip of the control panel and we were off. We played until we got to the repeating levels but still not sure there was no end, we hacked the ROM images (using the trusty old PROMQueen module and a C-64 to DASM the code) to give us 0x7f (128) lives. Bryan played up until like level 33 or so and we finally figured out there was no homeworld. When I was in College in 1989, using the old Newsgroup access in the computer labs, we found others online that were curious about this and there were lots of tales of mystery, secret warp codes.. black warp codes, black transporters.. nice but unfortunately not true.)

Over the years in my spare time, I continued to disassembly the Major Havoc code to understand it... in the end, wrote a tool to disassemble all the source and the vector images and made a compiler that would compile it up again. I confirmed there were no hidden secrets. :-(

Along the way, hanging out with the tight knit community of R.G.V.A.C. allowed me to eventually get in contact with Owen Rubin himself and tell him of my fantastical story.. I think he felt bad and he helped answer many quesions about the codebase and allowed me to fill in the gaps fully. We joked about finishing the game, this was around 2001 or so.

In 2017, I emailed Owen and asked if he wanted to spend some time with me on getting this done and he agreed so I started coding and recoding to get things in order... it has taken a lot of time (2+ years and counting) but this project is almost complete and that is why you are here most likely.

In general, the new game has many new features and a few bugfixes, read about each in the sections below....


The ultimate goal of the original game was to reach the homeworld and rescue your people from the Vaxxian robot armada. However, this was never coded due to time constraints. In this new game, you *will* reach the homeworld and rescue your people, but you have several new obstacles in the way!

Star Castle

Another feature found in very early versions of Tolian Web was a space battle on every 4th level which included a space station having a classic 'Star Castle' defence mechanism. This was fully coded however after play testing, it was determined that for the arcade, it took WAAAAY to long to destroy the Star Castle and game times were upwards of 10+ minutes. In the arcade, this doesn't bode well for Operator earnings, so it had to be cut from the game.

Luckily for us, the target of this game is no longer the arcade that is trying to collect as many quarters as possible and so this feature is coming back. Unfortunately, the original code is completely gone and doesn't exist in any of the known Major Havoc or even Alpha One ROM sets that have been found. So, this had to be re-written from scratch. This also gave us an opportunity to change this up a little bit for the 21st century.

The original code had a 6 sided sheield that rotated and the space station had 3 'guns' that would shoot a fireball at the player. There was no hidden line removal. In the new version, we have moved the battle to the 'final' space station on Level 21 and extended the battle. There are now 8 shield panels, a new base station graphic (VAXX!), some nice hidden line removal 'hacks' and the 'red bar' lines that drop are actually the panels as they are weakened (this was the original intent behind the red bars).

Maxoid Robot

The 'Max' robot was found in the original Vector ROM's but it was not used in the code anywhere. He was named obviously because of his resemblance to the 'Max' robot in Disney's Black Hole movie, although he does not have the freaky spinner shredders, he still is a foreboding looking enemy.

Max is found in advanced levels of the game now and sits in waiting for Rex... once activated, you will find that he is very determined to seek out and kill Rex. But is there a way to kill Max robots?


If you care to read through some really interesting history of Atari head on over to Jed Margolin's archive of Atari vmail from the early 80's. One of the specific parts of these messages is the insights into how Atari was trying to stay on the cutting edge of Speech sounds in 1982 and 1983. The old Voltrax SP-250 series had been around for awhile (Midway video games had it in Wizard of Wor and others, it was *very* difficult to understand) and Gottlieb even used the in-ability to recognize words from it by using it in Q*bert to make 'gibberish' noises which in reality was probably the BEST implmentation of it in th end. It was really that bad.

With that, Atari was talking with Texas Instruments back in 1982 when they were ramping up the Speak & Spell technologiy with LPC encoded speech (a tech that is still in use today for low bandwidth speech compression). This new technology was able to 'record' voices and play them on some pretty simplistic hardware and not use a TON of ROM space which was at a premium in 1982 and 1983. In the end Atari adopted the TMS-5220 series IC.

Connecting all this to Major Havoc... the software team didn't even have Speech planned for Major Havoc, but it looks like the hardware guys were already starting to play around with it because Major Havoc actually has IC locations for the TMS-5220 and support circuitry already designed in (with a few mis-wired connections). This was clearly an attempt to have some experimental hardware for the Speech chip so someone could start writing code against it. While it never was used in Major Havoc, it is the first PCB to have the speech IC circuit that would later be used in Return of the Jedi and finally in Star Wars. So a prototype right inside of a production game PCB.

Because of this, it was pretty easy to get some code and hardware mods in place to actually have speech in Havoc. As it stands now, there are some basic things working but more speech to come later...

Self Test

The original self test wasn't in any way lacking but again, since we had some more program space, we did improve some of the features of Self Test in order to display data in a more user friendly way and also support some of the other new features.

  • Location by Location CSUM and Error testing
  • ROM Version Reporting
  • In Game Settings Adjustment - No DIPS needed
  • Full sound and speech testing
  • Game Play Statistics
  • Level by Level Statistics
  • Warp Code Management
  • Other stuff...

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