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Boulder Dash - Loaner Cart; Reviews and Reservations


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#1 Andrew Davie OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 18, 2016 8:06 AM

Now that my Boulder Dash loaner-cart has arrived at it's first destination, I thought I'd create a thread where information and pictures and reviews can go.  Essentially, if you don't know the story, this cartridge was produced in a limited run of 250.  The game sold out pretty slowly (as it was "expensive"), but in any case it's not available any more and there won't be a re-release.

 

So, in order to enable those who can't afford the current price of a copy on eBay (about US$200), I decided to send my personal copy around to those who wanted to play it as a loaner-cart.  There are a few conditions I asked to be met for those wishing to borrow it;  basically just a bit of a surety that it goes to people who have a bit of reputation in our community and who would take care of it.

 

Here are the borrowing conditions - flexible, but nonetheless what you need to be thinking about...

 

* Have 100+ posts on AtariAge so we know you have a bit of history in the community.

* You will send Albert $100 as a bond.  This is returned to you when the cartridge is successfully delivered to the next borrower.  I'm really flexible on this one - if you have 1000+ posts, for example, I wouldn't expect a bond is necessary.

* you have two weeks after you receive the cartridge as "playtime".  Well, actually I guess it's yours to borrow for at least 2 weeks, but as long as it takes to get the next borrower lined up. Could be a few months or years, depending on demand.

* You promise, word of honor, to do an honest review of the game to this thread, before the game leaves your possession

* When you are arranging delivery of the cartridge to yourself (from the previous borrower) you prepay postage costs *including insurance of US$250*.  Should only be a small amount, total - say $20.

 

 

Of course I never expect to get the cartridge back. It will disappear at some point or other. Through theft, or circumstance. So be it.  But before that happens I'd like to see a few photos of people in various places holding up the box in front of landmarks or something like that.  And, of course, the *honest* reviews. If you don't like it, that's fine I won't be offended.  Just be brutally honest that's all I ask.

 

The attached picture was taken the day before I sent the cart to "Great Hierophant" - who received it yesterday.  In this picture I'm standing on "Mt. Wellington" in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia - altitude about 1250 m.  I rode up on my motorbike, hence the weird looking clothing. You can see a little bit of snow which comes a few days a year but really doesn't stay around too long.  I live on the same mountain at altitude 450 m.  I hope to see lots of interesting locations as we go along.

 

Anyone wanting to borrow the cart next, please post a request in this thread.

 

 

OK, so "Great Hierophant" - over to you!

Attached Thumbnails

  • boodash1b.jpg


#2 Thomas Jentzsch OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 18, 2016 8:10 AM

And, of course, the *honest* reviews. If you don't like it, that's fine I won't be offended.  Just be brutally honest that's all I ask.

Me too! icon_smile.gif

#3 lazzeri OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 18, 2016 12:13 PM

   I would really, really, REALLY love to be part of this. But truth be told I just don´t think Brazilian post is reliable enough. 

 

   Yeah, I still buy a lot of things from overseas. Sometimes they loose some of those items. My loss. But loose something like that? Or to risk it getting stuck for 3+ months somewhere in the system? I truly can´t handle it. :-(



#4 Great Hierophant OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 18, 2016 10:30 PM

My Review, the short version :

To review BD2600 is really to review Boulder Dash. Perhaps that is all that need be said about BD2600 and that statement alone should convey high praise for the game and the port. All the essential things that make up Boulder Dash, the levels, the enemies, the physics engine, is there. The movement, speed and physics feel authentic compared to the home computer Atari and Commodore versions.

Boulder Dash becomes increasingly more of a strategy game than an action game. In the early levels, you have to learn how to avoid falling boulders and roaming butterflies and fireflies. However, it will become apparent that in order to master the more difficult caves, you will have to master the falling and placement of the boulders. It becomes quite satisfying to drop a boulder and destroy a butterfly or a firefly. However, to really succeed will require planning ahead. Like all classic games, it is easy to learn and hard to master. Given that BD2600 can only show 10x8 tiles, whereas other versions can often show 20x12 tiles, BD2600 will give anyone quite the challenge.

Getting into the game, one immediately should feel at home if you have any experience with Boulder Dash. The cartridge supports both NTSC and PAL consoles. PAL consoles can use 50Hz or 60Hz speeds of the TV supports it. Boulder Dash is a very fast-paced game, especially at the higher difficulty levels, so 50Hz users can enjoy a slight relaxation of the difficulty level. I would recommend using a Sega Genesis controller for most responsive and precise control for Rockford.

The graphics are generally simple and only use one color per line (except for Rockford), but still clearly identify the tiles. Animation was unexpected but quite welcome and impressive. Rockford looks like Rockford should and has greater detail than other tiles. When you score 500 points in Boulder Dash, the empty area on the screen sparkles for a moment, indicating you have earned an extra life. In BD2600, this looks like the starfield effect from Cosmic Ark. This effect can also be seen on the title screen and it is pretty impressive.

The sound effects are very well done in BD2600 and sound even better than of the sound effects on other versions. The title music sounds as close to the other versions as I could imagine the Atari 2600's hardware can accomplish.

Of criticisms I have only a few. First, there is no special graphical transition effect when you die or complete a level, unlike some other versions of the game. Second, it can be difficult to tell when the game is in free view mode when playing the game through the RF cable unless your brightness is turned quite high so you can distinguish the black from the gray background. Third, because of the relative disadvantage for BD2600 players, the game's timer should have been paused. Fourth, a second button could have been supported, such as on a Sega Genesis controller, for instant free-view. Some 2600 homebrew titles do support or even require (Princess Rescue) a second button as found on the Genesis controller. The free view could have been limited to only five tiles horizontally in each direction and two tiles vertically to eliminate unfair advantages for BD2600 users.

Ultimately, BD2600 was a great experiment in trying to push a console's limitations and still have a playable game instead of a demo. The game was worth the original $75 retail price, but at $250 you really have to be a die-hard Boulder Dash or Atari 2600 fan. Playing the game on contemporary or even near contemporary systems is not nearly as expensive. Given the smaller graphical window, this is a game best enjoyed by expert Boulder Dash players who are looking for an extra challenge.

The long version (a.k.a. the TL:DR version) can be found here : http://nerdlypleasur...ginning-or.html

Location picture coming soon.

Edited by Great Hierophant, Thu Aug 18, 2016 10:35 PM.


#5 Thomas Jentzsch OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 19, 2016 1:13 AM

What a nice review. Thanks a lot!

 

And some really good feedback here. Where were you, when we released the demos? ;)

 

Of criticisms I have only a few.
First, there is no special graphical transition effect when you die or complete a level, unlike some other versions of the game.

Yup, that's one effect we couldn't handle in the space available. It was planned for BD2 (cancelled), which would have used a more efficient banskwitching scheme.
 

Second, it can be difficult to tell when the game is in free view mode when playing the game through the RF cable unless your brightness is turned quite high so you can distinguish the black from the gray background.

Thanks for mentioning that. Until now, I wasn't aware of this problem. Since Andrew and I are both from PAL countries, we probably didn't notice.
 

Third, because of the relative disadvantage for BD2600 players, the game's timer should have been paused.

We discussed this. The are pros and cons. We wanted to put some pressure on the player, so that he cannot just look around the whole cave.
 

Fourth, a second button could have been supported, such as on a Sega Genesis controller, for instant free-view. Some 2600 homebrew titles do support or even require (Princess Rescue) a second button as found on the Genesis controller.

We never thought about this, but you are right. And adding such support would have been pretty easy.
 

The free view could have been limited to only five tiles horizontally in each direction and two tiles vertically to eliminate unfair advantages for BD2600 users.

That's another interesting idea. And then we could also pause the time. Probably that would have been the overall better solution.

 

Missing those points is the result of having to develop within close restrictions. That's why I favor a more public development.

BTW: I don't think the game runs slower in 50Hz. IIRC we adjust the pace. Andrew?
 



#6 Great Hierophant OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 19, 2016 1:27 AM

I was thinking of the Game Boy version, which shows the same number of tiles by default. It allows you to look around the level when you pause.

I tried Andrew's cart in PAL mode and I thought it may have run slightly slower. Maybe it was just the tempo of the music on the title screen. My 2600 is an NTSC model, and only my 2008 HDTV can run it at all without rolling bars. Unfortunately, it only displays in B&W, probably because it is expecting a 4.43MHz color burst and the 2600 is generating a 3.58MHz color burst.

#7 Thomas Jentzsch OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 19, 2016 2:15 AM

Maybe it was just the tempo of the music on the title screen. 

That might be the case. The code there is so tight, that I had to make the adjustments frame based. The notes are updated every 9 frames in NTSC and every 8 frames for PAL.

 

But then, our NTSC runs with 276 scanlines, which is pretty exactly 8/9 of PAL 312... icon_ponder.gif

 

Actually PAL should be even a bit faster when the screen is very busy (e.g. scrolling with a lot of changes), because there we have more free calculation time.



#8 Andrew Davie OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 19, 2016 5:56 AM

   I would really, really, REALLY love to be part of this. But truth be told I just don´t think Brazilian post is reliable enough. 

 

   Yeah, I still buy a lot of things from overseas. Sometimes they loose some of those items. My loss. But loose something like that? Or to risk it getting stuck for 3+ months somewhere in the system? I truly can´t handle it. :-(

 

Well, that's what insurance is for, right?

I have no objections to the cartridge making its way to Brazil. And time is not a problem to me, either.



#9 Andrew Davie OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 19, 2016 5:58 AM

The long version (a.k.a. the TL:DR version) can be found here : http://nerdlypleasur...ginning-or.html

 

Thank you for the really comprehensive review; made my day!

Cheers

A



#10 hizzy ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 20, 2016 7:56 AM

This is a great initiative, and the review was very informative! Kudos!!



#11 Andrew Davie OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 20, 2016 8:37 AM

BTW: I don't think the game runs slower in 50Hz. IIRC we adjust the pace. Andrew?

 

 

I agree. My memory is that it should run the same speed for NTSC/PAL, but that there were issues with the music being faster on the title screen in one or the other, which a certain troll-type-person complained about.  But if the game itself isn't running the same speed for both systems, I'd be surprised. We were pretty anal about that sort of stuff but i suppose we could have got it wrong. But I don't think so.

 

Edit: Memory is vague after all it's years ago now.  I reckon if you put a NTSC 60Hz besides a PAL 50Hz beside a PAL 60Hz they would all play at exactly the same speed.  But hey, somebody should do it just to see :)



#12 Andrew Davie OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 20, 2016 9:32 AM

 

Thank you for the really comprehensive review; made my day!

Cheers

A

 

 

Perhaps a slight correction from the TL;DR version;

 

"Due to the limits of the TIA graphics chip, they had to make their tiles 16x21 in size (doubled horizontally)."

 

No, in fact, the tiles are only 4 PF pixels wide (not 16), and the PF pixels are of course *quadrupled* in width. So tiles are really 4 x 21 in resolution. Also, of course, as noted the 21 pixels are in bands of 3 repeating colours, one colour per scanline. So the tiles can *also* be considered only 4 x 7 pixels in actual size, as the vertical resolution is also severely limited by available colours. This 4-pixel width and (effective) 7 pixel depth was the real resolution at which everything was designed (even though it got stretched by the 2600 hardware and multi-line pixels in the odd 3-colour-line design to 16 colour clocks (but still just 4 pixels) x 21 scanlines (but still just 7 pixels), and this made designing the tile graphics rather challenging.



#13 Great Hierophant OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 20, 2016 12:16 PM

I eliminated that sentence because it was confusing. The true pixel resolution of the tiles are 4x21, but the playfield pixels are always four times the width compared to the default pixel size of the other objects. Then the TV stretches everything by a factor of two, otherwise you would have very narrow (160x192) graphics.

However, the vertical resolution is not a true three color triplet. If it was, your boulder tile, for example, would have to look something like this :

Boulder Dash (Demo 2)_3.png

But your actual boulder looks like this :

Boulder Dash (Demo 2)_3 (1).png

I wouldn't sell yourself short here :)

Edited by Great Hierophant, Sat Aug 20, 2016 12:38 PM.


#14 Thomas Jentzsch OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 20, 2016 12:22 PM

I eliminated that sentence because it was confusing. The true pixel resolution of the tiles are 4x21, but the playfield pixels are always four times the width compared to the default pixel size of the other objects. Then the TV stretches everything by a factor of two, otherwise you would have very narrow (160x192) graphics.

The aspect ratio is not exactly 2:1, its more like 5:3.
 

However, the vertical resolution is not a true three color triplet. If it was, your boulder tile, for example, would have to look something like this :

attachicon.gifBoulder Dash (Demo 2)_3.png

I wouldn't sell yourself short here icon_smile.gif

True. And it was quite a challenge to get the boulders, walls, steel walls etc. designed with all those complications. icon_smile.gif

Edited by Thomas Jentzsch, Sat Aug 20, 2016 12:28 PM.


#15 MacrosCode OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 20, 2016 2:54 PM

True. And it was quite a challenge to get the boulders, walls, steel walls etc. designed with all those complications. icon_smile.gif

 

Is there some kind of "Making of Boulder Dash"? Would be interesting to read what's behind it.



#16 Thomas Jentzsch OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 20, 2016 3:01 PM

Sure! :)

 

There is a blog here. And the story is also described in the manual.



#17 Andrew Davie OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 20, 2016 7:35 PM

I eliminated that sentence because it was confusing. The true pixel resolution of the tiles are 4x21, but the playfield pixels are always four times the width compared to the default pixel size of the other objects. Then the TV stretches everything by a factor of two, otherwise you would have very narrow (160x192) graphics.

However, the vertical resolution is not a true three color triplet. If it was, your boulder tile, for example, would have to look something like this :

I wouldn't sell yourself short here :)

 

I stand corrected about the 4x21 resolution, although I still think of it as 4x7, yes we did tweak the graphics based on the real 21 line resolution. There are still 7 conceptual 3-colour triplets per tile, of course, and we can't change the colours - but we can change which pixels are on/off on a "sub-pixel" basis, and those on/off pixels therefore interact with other on/off pixels *outside* the confines of their own 3-colour triplet. So it gets *really complex* to define the actual true resolution.  I think you're one of the few who really understand the bizarre way that the whole thing is put together with a single colour per scanline, yet manages to look as if it has a multitude of different coloured tile graphics all on the same line.  The combination of on/off pixels with a trio of repeating scanline colours really does a remarkable job of allowing a coloured tile display that's technically not possible on the machine :)



#18 Wickeycolumbus OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 20, 2016 9:08 PM

This is a really cool idea.  Put me on the reservation list :)



#19 Nathan Strum OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 20, 2016 9:22 PM

Sure! :)
 
There is a blog here. And the story is also described in the manual.


Would you want to put the manual online at some point?

#20 Great Hierophant OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 20, 2016 11:20 PM

Would you want to put the manual online at some point?


It was scanned here : http://www.atari2600...ulder-dash.html

#21 Andrew Davie OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Aug 21, 2016 8:37 AM

This is a really cool idea.  Put me on the reservation list :)

 

With 5000 posts to your name, we can forgo the references and escrow $100.

Please arrange with "Great Hierophant" to send him $ for shipping cost, including insurance of US$250.

He should keep it until, say, early September (please agree on a date) and then ship to you.

 

Great Hierophant, I would be happy for you to sign and date the back of the poster - also include your location - perhaps every recipient could do that.  Just a plain blue biro would be great; something not too extravagant in size and form that I could scan and use to copy your signature onto checks, for example....



#22 Thomas Jentzsch OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Aug 21, 2016 8:42 AM

...that I could scan and use to copy your signature onto checks, for example....

:)



#23 Great Hierophant OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Aug 21, 2016 10:31 PM

With 5000 posts to your name, we can forgo the references and escrow $100.
Please arrange with "Great Hierophant" to send him $ for shipping cost, including insurance of US$250.
He should keep it until, say, early September (please agree on a date) and then ship to you.
 
Great Hierophant, I would be happy for you to sign and date the back of the poster - also include your location - perhaps every recipient could do that.  Just a plain blue biro would be great; something not too extravagant in size and form that I could scan and use to copy your signature onto checks, for example....


Are you sure you want to mar your poster with names of random people? I can understand if it was Peter Liepa or Chris Gray or you had a spare poster.

Since you paid to ship the cart to me, I should pay it forward to ship the cart to Wickeycolumbus. For a small flat rate priority mail box, $250 insurance and signature confirmation, it will cost $13.50.

Edited by Great Hierophant, Sun Aug 21, 2016 10:32 PM.


#24 Andrew Davie OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Aug 22, 2016 5:10 AM

Are you sure you want to mar your poster with names of random people? I can understand if it was Peter Liepa or Chris Gray or you had a spare poster.

Since you paid to ship the cart to me, I should pay it forward to ship the cart to Wickeycolumbus. For a small flat rate priority mail box, $250 insurance and signature confirmation, it will cost $13.50.

 

I will leave the decision as to sign the poster *totally* up to you.  If you sign it, then everyone will. If you don't, then nobody.  Your call.

 

I think the shipping is a reasonable suggestion;  each person pays to ship with signature confirmation and insured for US$250 to the next recipient.  Post it forward, and I have already started that chain so total cost to you for the "loan" would be US$13.50 which really isn't much more than hiring a couple of movies to watch, right?



#25 Andrew Davie OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Sep 7, 2016 8:52 AM

What's up with this?  It's about time for the cart to move on, and I don't want to be organising every move :)  Just pushing things along.  Also, would love a "location shot" before it's on it's way!  Thanks :)






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