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Best BASIC games?


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#1 ubersaurus OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Apr 20, 2017 11:10 AM

I recently picked up the 2nd gen BASIC cart for my Bally, and I'm interested in grabbing some game wav files and loading them up from the web. Does anyone have any recommendations on what some of the best BASIC games are on the console (that don't require RAM expansions)?



#2 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Apr 20, 2017 12:22 PM

I recently picked up the 2nd gen BASIC cart for my Bally


Congratulations-- you've just opened up your Bally Arcade to hundreds of more programs.  These BASIC programs are not nearly the same quality as the cartridges, but quite a few of them are still quite fun.  Not only that, but you'll see other programs (not just games) written in BASIC that never would have appeared on the Astrocade otherwise.
 

Does anyone have any recommendations on what some of the best BASIC games are on the console (that don't require RAM expansions)?

 

This topic has come up quite often over the years.  Here are some links to get you started:

 

1) Top 10 Bally BASIC Games (Yahoo Groups Thread) - This thread didn't catch on like I'd hoped, but it will get you started.  I did include many of the games listed in this posting.

 

https://groups.yahoo...ons/topics/9167

 

2) Top Astrocade Games (Game Gavel Thread) - Mostly a list of cartridge games, but there are many BASIC games listed that were reviewed, which you may be interested in checking out:

 

http://www.gamegavel...ted=1#post19004

 

In the "Top Ten BASIC Games" thread, Paul Thacker made a list of his seventeen Bally BASIC favorites (in no particular order):

WaveMakers--Obstacle Course Tournament, Tomb Pirates, Outpost 19 (especially the Blue RAM BASIC version I've played on the multi-cart)

L&M--Candy Man, Space Checkers

Esoterica--Super Slope, Ten Pins

Rex Goulding--The Pits (from the Arcadian)

Steve Walters--Avalanche!

Dave Ibach--Mazin

The Bit Fiddlers--Chicken, Goldfish Demo

George Moses--Fifteen Two-Part Inventions, Scott Joplin Ragtime Classics

The Tiny Arcade--Quadron, Star Siege

Ken Lill--Whatzit?  (Blue RAM BASIC, available on multi-cart)

 

That's it for Paul's recommendations.  I have to second Paul's vote for The Pits; that is probably my favorite BASIC game on the Astrocade, which never fails to perplex me, as it's really simple and uses just boxes for graphics.  Chris and I reviewed The Pits in episode 4 of the BallyAlley Astrocast podcast, which you can listen to here:

 

https://ballyalleyas...il-and-the-pits

 

The Bally Alley High Score Club plays a BASIC game every round.  If you check all the rounds that we've played, then you're sure to run into a few BASIC games that you'll like.  Plus in the HSC threads, I always post screenshots of what the BASIC games look like.  You can read all the past HSC threads here:

 

http://atariage.com/...igh-score-club/

 

Some of my favorite BASIC games, in the order we played them in the Astrocade High Score Club rounds are:

  1. Astro Zap 2000! - George Moses (July 1982) - Played HSC Season 1, Round 2
  2. Candy Man - L&M Software (1983) - Played in HSC Season 1, Round 6
  3. Avalanche! - Steve Walters (1982) - Played in HSC Season 1, Round 7
  4. The Pits - Rex Goulding (August 1982) - Played in HSC Season 1, Round 10
  5. Outpost 19 - WaveMakers (1983/1985) - Played in HSC Season 1, Round 11 (I made a map of the game in this thread)

Just for the heck of it, I just took a quick look through the programs that are on BallyAlley.com and I came up with these other BASIC programs that are worth playing and/or investigating.  They are not all great, but they're at least interesting.  Remember, this list is right off the cuff, so I'm sure I overlooked some golden game.  These programs are listed in alphabetical order:

 

Wavemakers:

  1. Dungeons of Dracula
  2. Gate Escape, The
  3. Guitar Course (with Tuning, Note Match and Chord Progressions)
  4. L.T. (Little Terrestrial)
  5. Lookout for the Bull / Lookout for the Bull II
  6. Monkey Jump / Gong the Kong
  7. Pack-Rat / Pack-Rat II
  8. QB-2B
  9. Sound Effects
  10. Tournament Obstacle Course

Here are a few more that are not by WaveMakrers:

  1. Beep! - The Tiny Arcade
  2. Sloshed! - New Image
  3. Cavern Quest - Bruce Jaeger
  4. Collatz Conjecture, The - Jim Dunson (not a game, but interesting)
  5. Claim Jumpers - L&M Software

While using Bally BASIC or "AstroBASIC" programs, keep a few things in mind:

 

  1. Bally BASIC programs are limited to 1.8K of RAM.  That's not much to worth with.
  2. Bally BASIC limits the amount of colors to just two on the screen at once.  There are a few tricks around this, but even using these, you'll not find any games as colorful as the cartridge releases.  The expanded BASICs for the Astrocade (i.e. Blue Ram BASIC and Vipersoft BASIC) removed these color limitations.
  3. Nearly all of the Bally BASIC programs were written by amateur programmers.  This means that you'll often find (especially with the type-in games), programs that have a kernel of goodness that wasn't exploited to its fullest potential.  This makes the BASIC games pretty quirky, which is something I like about them.
  4. Blinking and flashing graphics are the norm for BASIC games.  Even those games that use machine language subroutines that are built into the 8K ROM tend to flash while there is movement.

With as much as Bally BASIC has going against it, it's a wonder that so many interesting programs are part of the Bally Arcade's BASIC library.  I tried to highlight some programs here in this post, but there are many more titles to be explored.

 

Don't limit yourself to this list; jump in and try some games that aren't in this post.  I'd love to hear feedback that you may have on any of these games.  If you run into anything that you like that's not listed here, then please let us know about it.  Also, there is a severe lack of videos of Bally BASIC games on YouTube.  If you play some "AstroBASIC" games, then why not make a video of it and post it.

 

Have fun exploring the Astrocade's seldom-played BASIC games!

 

Perhaps this thread can be the "official" Best Bally BASIC programs list.  If anyone has suggestions for fun programs for the Top 10 Bally BASIC Programs list, please post your comments here.

 

Adam



#3 ubersaurus OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Apr 20, 2017 1:22 PM

Good start! I'll have to grab some of those tonight and give them a whirl. I've been thinking of ordering a multicart and aftermarket RAM expansion if those are still available; would be nice to try some of those more obscure programs out, I'm sure. Candy Man, Star Siege and Quadron all sound pretty cool already.

 

And yes, I'm totally fine with hooking up the Astrocade to my recording equipment and tossing some footage on Youtube or Archive.org! I already tested it with a couple cart games, so it seems like it should work just peachy.



#4 128Kgames ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Apr 20, 2017 4:06 PM

I have to say I was never into the BASIC games all that much, and only bought one game when I had my first Bally Computer System and that was "Castle of Horror" (or is it Horrors?) 

 

I have to say though being able to load games from my phone compared to a cassette deck is like night and day, and although I haven't gotten to play any BASIC games other that the ones for the Astrocast I was kinda fun to load them up.  It just took a while to get the volume just right on my phone. 

 

So modern technology has definitely helped piqued my interest in revisiting some of these games.  I definitely want to try the Blue RAM BASIC version of Outpost 19.



#5 ubersaurus OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat May 20, 2017 2:52 PM

So, important question: how do I actually load up the wavs? I've got it plugged into an ipod stocked with the files, I've got the volume up all the way so the red light is coming on. The booklet says the Input button is the one I want to make it load, but nothing actually seems to happen. I push the button and run the audio file and then push Go, nothing. Push Input and Go and then run the file, nothing. I feel like I'm missing a step.



#6 128Kgames ONLINE  

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Posted Sun May 21, 2017 8:56 AM

So, important question: how do I actually load up the wavs? I've got it plugged into an ipod stocked with the files, I've got the volume up all the way so the red light is coming on. The booklet says the Input button is the one I want to make it load, but nothing actually seems to happen. I push the button and run the audio file and then push Go, nothing. Push Input and Go and then run the file, nothing. I feel like I'm missing a step.

 

Its the volume, DON'T crank it up to 11!  Same mistake I made, you kind of have to find the sweet spot of how loud it needs to be.  Back in the day with a real tape recorder you could manually adjust the dial until the game loaded; I found it much more complicated trying to use my phone, but once you find the right volume its like BAM! everything works.  

 

Ever see the movie Galaxy Quest?  Remember the scene with the digital conveyor?

 

 

So yeah, loading BASIC games from you phone is more "art than science" but once you get it you're gold.   ;)



#7 ubersaurus OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun May 21, 2017 1:20 PM

Embarrasingly, the real problem was that I forgot to type the : before pushing input and go. Works fine now!



#8 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat May 27, 2017 2:36 PM

Embarrasingly, the real problem was that I forgot to type the : before pushing input and go. Works fine now!

 

I'm glad that you got it to work.  Which games have you tried so far?

 

Adam



#9 ubersaurus OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon May 29, 2017 7:54 AM

Candyman has been it so far - haven't had a chance to go back and mess with more of the library. Maybe later this week!

#10 ubersaurus OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Aug 2, 2017 7:25 AM

Since I got a spare laptop cooler (so as to not have to share the one my SO uses) I've delved into the BASIC library a bit more. After messing around with Robot Command, Missile Defense, Meteoroids and Quadron the other day - I really should read the instructions to these ahead of time where they exist. They can be surprisingly obtuse!

 

My current game room arrangement precludes me from effectively installing the Lil White RAM I recently purchased, but I am looking forward to trying out some RAM expanded games down the line... and I do plan on uploading some game footage, ideally after I know what the heck I'm doing!



#11 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 3, 2017 11:15 AM

I've delved into the BASIC library a bit more. After messing around with Robot Command, Missile Defense, Meteoroids and Quadron the other day - I really should read the instructions to these ahead of time where they exist. They can be surprisingly obtuse!


Some of the BASIC games are simple to understand, while others are not.  In this way, they remind me of Intellivision games; some area easy to figure-out, and some are pretty obscure without the instructions.  If there are any games that you can't find the documentation for, then post here and I'll try to point them out for you (or upload them to BallyAlley.com if they're not there already).
 

My current game room arrangement precludes me from effectively installing the Lil White RAM I recently purchased, but I am looking forward to trying out some RAM expanded games down the line... and I do plan on uploading some game footage, ideally after I know what the heck I'm doing!


The Lil' White RAM isn't too big, so you must be using your system in a really cramped space.  The cool thing about this RAM upgrade is that it allows you to play many games from Ken's UltiMulti cart.  Just yesterday I played the Blue Ram BASIC versions of Slots of Fun, Music Keyboard, Golddigger and a few others.

 

Videos of "AstroBASIC" games are pretty rare, so I look forward to any videos of BASIC games that you upload to the Internet.  It's always more fun to watch videos where the game player actually understands how a game works and isn't learning on camera.  I really don't like videos where a player says a game "sucks," but its clear that the player isn't playing the game correctly.

 

Adam



#12 ubersaurus OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 3, 2017 11:51 AM

Will do. I did post a video of Meteoroids, but it was definitely a case of learning on the fly:  

 

The way my room is set up right now, I keep the Bally up on a shelf until I'm using it, at which point I bring it down and set it onto its laptop cooler on the hardwood floor. When I'm done, it goes back up on the shelf. The RAM expansion would be incredibly awkward to work around with that kind of arrangement; at some point when I rearrange everything (or move) I'll probably see about giving the Bally a permanent spot but in the interim the tail will have to remain unattached. I totally want to grab some RAM expanded game footage too though, since I don't think I've ever seen any of those in action.



#13 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 3, 2017 12:25 PM

I did post a video of Meteoroids, but it was definitely a case of learning on the fly:

 

I just watched your Meteoroids video.  Your video capture method looks much better than mine.  When I make a video, I just point my camera at the screen and hit record.  It doesn't look as good as your video, but it does allow me to easily narrate the game while I'm playing it.  Plus, I don't record the overscan area of the game or program.

 

Before you loaded Meteoroids, I bet you expected it to be an Asteroids clone, but instead you got a game like the arcade game Space Zap (called Space Fortress on the Astrocade).  If you haven't found the directions for L&M Software's 1981 Meteoroids yet, then you can find them here:

 

http://www.ballyalle...m_meteoroid.pdf

 

These instructions also include the type-in BASIC program.  The unfortunate part about these instructions is that L&M Software used a cursive/script "font," which does not allow me to OCR the directions; that's too bad!

 

I totally want to grab some RAM expanded game footage too though, since I don't think I've ever seen any of those in action.

 

If you haven't seen any RAM expansion games in action, then you might be surprised that they're similar to "AstroBASIC" games with a few exceptions.  In the following list, when I refer to Blue RAM BASIC, you can infer these same capabilities about the other expanded BASIC language available for the Astrocade (Vipersoft BASIC and Hot Rod BASIC):

  1. Blue RAM BASIC (BRB) allow access to the full color range of the Astrocade, just like the cartridges.  That means four colors on each side of the horizontal color boundary, for a potential of eight colors at once.  This might not sound like much, but it makes the expanded BASIC games seem much more colorful.
  2. BRB allows the programs to be much longer than the 1.8K allowed by Bally BASIC and "AstroBASIC."  The smallest size Blue Ram unit was originally 4K, but I think the most common one was the 8K unit.  There were also 16K Blue Ram units and Ken Lill released a 32K Blue Ram in the mid-80s (but very few of these were sold).
  3. BRB allows more of the screen area to be used, which is larger than "AstroBASIC" 160x88.  I'm not sure if BRB allows full-use of the Astrocade's maximum 160x102 resolution, but you do get some more vertical resolution-- and it really shows!
  4. BRB allows much more text on the screen because it supports both the regular size Bally font and a much smaller font size by default.
  5. BRB executes programs more quickly than Bally BASIC and even "AstroBASIC" (which run programs faster than Bally BASIC).

I'll try to make a video of a Blue RAM BASIC game in the next few days.  I'll post it here to give you and idea of what they look like.  As with any program written, either in BASIC or in machine language, it's not the potential that's available, but how that potential is utilized by the programmer.  You'll find some not very good cartridge programs on the Astrocade, just like you'll find some poorly made extended BASIC programs.

 

Adam



#14 ubersaurus OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 3, 2017 2:21 PM

 

I just watched your Meteoroids video.  Your video capture method looks much better than mine.  When I make a video, I just point my camera at the screen and hit record.  It doesn't look as good as your video, but it does allow me to easily narrate the game while I'm playing it.  Plus, I don't record the overscan area of the game or program.

 

 

Thanks! I'm using an upscaler to directly capture the video from the system at 720p (which allows me to get 60 frames per second on youtube). Haven't really found a good way within the upscaler to cut the Astrocade's overscan, but I'm living with it. I'm shooting for as close to "archive quality" as I can with these. I was totally fine with the Space Zap clone nature of this when I realized what it was - I love that game! Figuring out what was going on took a little doing - and I didn't really "get it" until seeing the instructions.

 

Totally down to see some expanded RAM games! More colors and higher resolution sounds pretty darn cool.



#15 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Aug 3, 2017 4:25 PM

Totally down to see some expanded RAM games! More colors and higher resolution sounds pretty darn cool.

 

I made a quick video of an Astrocade game that requires RAM expansion and runs using Blue RAM BASIC.  I chose Snake Snack, not because it's the best looking game that runs using expansion RAM, but because it's by Ken Lill, someone who is still part of the Astrocade community today.

 

You can watch the video here:

 

 

Snake Snack, by Ken Lill, was released in 1988 for the Bally Arcade. This program requires Blue RAM BASIC 1.1 and a RAM expansion unit. This version of the program was played from the Ultimulti cartridge, a multicart released by Ken Kill for the Astrocade.

As Ken describes Snake Snack, it is similar to Caterpillar, an "AstroBASIC" game by Kevin O'Neill that was printed in 1983 in the September 1983 issues of the Niagara BUG Bulletin newsletter. In Snake Snack, you have a maze that you must go through while chomping "bits." The more bits that you eat, the longer your snake becomes. It is possible to eat all of the bits in each maze without dying. You can die by either backing over yourself or crossing over yourself.

This game reminds me of the arcade Nibbler, although Ken says it isn't based on that game.

 

I hope this video inspires you to play some BASIC games on your Astrocade, ubersaurus!

 

Adam






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