Jump to content

Photo

How do multigame cartridges work?


23 replies to this topic

#1 Secamline OFFLINE  

Secamline

    Star Raider

  • 65 posts
  • Location:France

Posted Sun Mar 11, 2018 1:31 PM

I happen to own a multigame cartridge for the Atari 2600 featuring 8 games in total. I don't have the box that comes with it and there's no name on the cartridge itself so I have no idea if this thing has a name. The label depitcts some starship in space, even though none of the games feature space. I found a cartridge on ebay that looks exactly the same, the games are different though.

sbcm.png

Car Racing and Cow Bay (?!) are actually Racing Car and Stampede. I was wondering how could the Atari know which game to play depending on the switches' position on the cartridge.



#2 CPUWIZ OFFLINE  

CPUWIZ

    Commander

  • 34,166 posts
  • I am the one who knocks!
  • Location:SoCal

Posted Sun Mar 11, 2018 1:43 PM

A.) That is a pirate cart, not from Atari.

B.) The switches control address lines on the EPROM inside, to change games.



#3 Zonie OFFLINE  

Zonie

    River Patroller

  • 2,052 posts
  • Location:Arid-Zone

Posted Sun Mar 11, 2018 1:54 PM

In very simple terms, the games are stored at different addresses, otherwise known as memory locations. The switch acts as a pointer so the console can read the game by telling it where the game is by making the console think it is at the default location. 



#4 Secamline OFFLINE  

Secamline

    Star Raider

  • Topic Starter
  • 65 posts
  • Location:France

Posted Sun Mar 11, 2018 2:53 PM

A.) That is a pirate cart, not from Atari.

B.) The switches control address lines on the EPROM inside, to change games.

Can we really talk about pirate games when it comes to the Atari? I mean it's not like any kind of approval was needed.

 

In very simple terms, the games are stored at different addresses, otherwise known as memory locations. The switch acts as a pointer so the console can read the game by telling it where the game is by making the console think it is at the default location. 

I expected something like that, but how do the switches point to the adresses?



#5 x=usr(1536) OFFLINE  

x=usr(1536)

    Dragonstomper

  • 858 posts
  • Location:913 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90015

Posted Sun Mar 11, 2018 3:10 PM

Can we really talk about pirate games when it comes to the Atari?


Definitely. Cow Bay is a good example of that: it was originally Stampede, developed by Activision. Someone ripped it off, renamed it to Cow Bay (evidently they didn't know that the word they were looking for is 'cowboy'), and repackaged it as their own work. It's absolutely a pirate game, as is everything else on the cartridge.
 

I mean it's not like any kind of approval was needed.


If you're referring to this in the sense of how Nintendo required that all games receive their approval before being released for the system, then yes, this is correct. But the difference here (other than that Atari had no such requirements) is that one party took another party's work and repackaged it as their own. It's piracy (though I'd probably call it bootlegging, but that's splitting hairs).
 

I expected something like that, but how do the switches point to the adresses?


They function like DIP switches. Depending on how the switches are set, a different set of address lines are likely used.

Edited by x=usr(1536), Sun Mar 11, 2018 3:12 PM.


#6 Secamline OFFLINE  

Secamline

    Star Raider

  • Topic Starter
  • 65 posts
  • Location:France

Posted Sun Mar 11, 2018 3:29 PM

Definitely. Cow Bay is a good example of that: it was originally Stampede, developed by Activision. Someone ripped it off, renamed it to Cow Bay (evidently they didn't know that the word they were looking for is 'cowboy'), and repackaged it as their own work. It's absolutely a pirate game, as is everything else on the cartridge.

Was it illegal to pirate Atari games at the time? It looks like Atari never attempted to prevent pirates from stealing their games. Not to mention that the 2600 lacks security features like checksum checking and such.

 

They function like DIP switches. Depending on how the switches are set, a different set of address lines are likely used.

Simple enough. Thanks ^^



#7 x=usr(1536) OFFLINE  

x=usr(1536)

    Dragonstomper

  • 858 posts
  • Location:913 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90015

Posted Sun Mar 11, 2018 4:21 PM

Was it illegal to pirate Atari games at the time?


Remember that the 2600 is a system that came out in the 1970s and was in production into the 1990s. A lot changed in that time, because a lot of the issues surrounding copy protection and software piracy had to be worked out during the lifetime of the console.

To answer your question: yes, but the laws surrounding piracy were much different from country to country than they are today.
 

It looks like Atari never attempted to prevent pirates from stealing their games.


They did bring lawsuits against a few.
 

Not to mention that the 2600 lacks security features like checksum checking and such.


Right, but remember: this is a system from the 1970s. Security features like that didn't really start to become common until the late 1980s, though there were various attempts at them before then.

What really kept 2600 piracy at bay was the cost to do it until about 1983 or so. After that, the cost of the technology needed to copy 2600 games had fallen to a point where the investment required to do so was more realistic for the average bootleg operation.

Brazil is an interesting case in that regard: massive import duties on foreign-made products in the 1980s caused a flourishing hardware and software piracy market. See this link for an example, but there are many more than that.

#8 Secamline OFFLINE  

Secamline

    Star Raider

  • Topic Starter
  • 65 posts
  • Location:France

Posted Sun Mar 11, 2018 5:19 PM

Thanks for the info :) Atari sure wasn't as strict as other video game companies were and still are.



#9 Zonie OFFLINE  

Zonie

    River Patroller

  • 2,052 posts
  • Location:Arid-Zone

Posted Sun Mar 11, 2018 5:30 PM

The combination of switches create a number in Binary.

 

That one has three bits, so the numbers are:

 

0 - 000  off-off-off

1 - 001  off-off-on

2 - 010  off-on-off

3 - 011...(You get the picture)

4 - 100

5 - 101

6 - 110

7 - 111

 

you have 8 combinations possible, one for each game.  A little software in a chip or a combination of Logic chips in the cart can convert that binary number to a Hexadecimal value that the computer can read as an address location.


Edited by Zonie, Sun Mar 11, 2018 5:31 PM.


#10 Secamline OFFLINE  

Secamline

    Star Raider

  • Topic Starter
  • 65 posts
  • Location:France

Posted Sun Mar 11, 2018 5:52 PM

you have 8 combinations possible, one for each game.  A little software in a chip or a combination of Logic chips in the cart can convert that binary number to a Hexadecimal value that the computer can read as an address location.

But the adress number doesn't need to be an hexadecimal value, right? I mean for the CPU it's all binary in the end.



#11 Osgeld ONLINE  

Osgeld

    Quadrunner

  • 5,719 posts
  • Location:Nashville, TN

Posted Sun Mar 11, 2018 6:04 PM

its not converting its just jumpering address lines so if the computer starts at 0 and you force the address to 3 the machine still thinks its starting at 0 



#12 Zonie OFFLINE  

Zonie

    River Patroller

  • 2,052 posts
  • Location:Arid-Zone

Posted Sun Mar 11, 2018 7:07 PM

Exactly, Probably a simpler way of saying it. I'm trying to explain it in layman's terms it in as much as possible and cannot.



#13 high voltage OFFLINE  

high voltage

    Quadrunner

  • 6,638 posts
  • Location:europe

Posted Mon Mar 12, 2018 3:49 AM

I read in some US gaming mag from early 80s that Atari sued Activision?



#14 KaeruYojimbo OFFLINE  

KaeruYojimbo

    Stargunner

  • 1,671 posts
  • Location:Portland, OR

Posted Mon Mar 12, 2018 10:42 AM

I read in some US gaming mag from early 80s that Atari sued Activision?

 
They did, and lost, which opened things up for all of the other third party game developers.
 
 

Thanks for the info :) Atari sure wasn't as strict as other video game companies were and still are.

 
It was a different world back then. When the VCS was released, cartridge-based consoles were new and unproven and it was inconceivable that anyone other than Atari would want to, much less be able to, make games for it, so Atari didn't see any reason to do anything to prevent that from happening. When Activision started releasing games, Atari sued to stop them but lost. Atari also sued Magnavox over K.C. Munchkin's similarity to Pac-Man and won, forcing Magnavox to stop selling K.C. Munchkin. They sued Coleco to stop them from selling Expansion Module #1 and lost. It's not that Atari wasn't as strict as other video game companies, it's that they didn't have any recourse to do much about third party game developers. Nintendo saw this and included the lock out chip in the Famicom and started their licensing program to control game releases and ensure that they got a cut of the money from all Famicom games sold.
 

Was it illegal to pirate Atari games at the time?

 
I think you might be confusing pirate or bootleg games with what we would now call unlicensed games. Pirating, making and selling copies of a game created by someone else, has always been illegal.

Edited by KaeruYojimbo, Mon Mar 12, 2018 11:14 AM.


#15 high voltage OFFLINE  

high voltage

    Quadrunner

  • 6,638 posts
  • Location:europe

Posted Mon Mar 12, 2018 11:27 AM

Can we really talk about pirate games when it comes to the Atari? I mean it's not like any kind of approval was needed.

 

 

 

GB_New-I_32_in_1.jpgGB_Megagames_42_in_1_no_box.jpgGB_Super_11_x_1_1992_Hongkong.jpg

 

They didn't even need approval from Nintendo



#16 KaeruYojimbo OFFLINE  

KaeruYojimbo

    Stargunner

  • 1,671 posts
  • Location:Portland, OR

Posted Mon Mar 12, 2018 12:06 PM

They didn't even need approval from Nintendo

 

Probably not the best examples since those look like pirate games, copies sold without the original creator's permission. Better examples would be the Wisdom Tree games.

 

Can we really talk about pirate games when it comes to the Atari? I mean it's not like any kind of approval was needed.

 

Technically, you didn't need approval from Nintendo to make and sell games for the NES if you were able to work around the lock out chip without violating any patents or copyrights. Color Dreams/Wisdom Tree did this and legally, Nintendo couldn't do anything to stop them. Instead, they had to put pressure on retailers to stop selling unlicensed games or stop getting shipments of licensed games from Nintendo.



#17 Secamline OFFLINE  

Secamline

    Star Raider

  • Topic Starter
  • 65 posts
  • Location:France

Posted Mon Mar 12, 2018 2:01 PM

Really? I know Color Dreams was infamous for their poorly made unlicensed games, but I thought their activities were illegal. What's the purpose of the lockout chip if bypassing it has no consequence for the game's publisher?



#18 x=usr(1536) OFFLINE  

x=usr(1536)

    Dragonstomper

  • 858 posts
  • Location:913 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90015

Posted Mon Mar 12, 2018 6:03 PM

Really? I know Color Dreams was infamous for their poorly made unlicensed games, but I thought their activities were illegal.


As this relates to Atari: Atari lost against Nintendo in court because Atari copied the 10NES chip in its enitrety and included it in its games. Color Dreams had no such problems because they simply circumvented it, and there were no legal grounds (such as the DMCA) for Nintendo to effectively fight that approach in court at the time.
 

What's the purpose of the lockout chip if bypassing it has no consequence for the game's publisher?


Look at it this way:

On a long enough timeline, virtually all protection methods will be broken. The idea is to make that timeline long enough that there will be no value in eventually breaking it because the system that it was implemented to protect has no commercial value by the time that the protection is circumvented.

It's a form of insurance for the hardware manufacturer: it buys them enough time to recoup their hardware and software development investments, make money from software licensing, and turn a profit in the market.

Regarding consequences against pirates, bootleggers, or those releasing unlicensed software: any legal action would have to be financially worth pursuing and have a reasonable chance of bringing a victory in court. If those two conditions aren't likely to be satisfied, then other avenues (such as a cease & desist letter, or threatening to pull supplies of the original hardware and software from retailers who also carry bootlegs) may take place.

And, again, this is an issue that has changed substantially over the last three decades. In a lot of ways, it's still being dealt with today: see console hacking as an example.
  • jhd likes this

#19 high voltage OFFLINE  

high voltage

    Quadrunner

  • 6,638 posts
  • Location:europe

Posted Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:05 AM

Really? I know Color Dreams was infamous for their poorly made unlicensed games, but I thought their activities were illegal. What's the purpose of the lockout chip if bypassing it has no consequence for the game's publisher?

 

The licensed lie from Nintendo was only 'to make sure the cartridge works in (whichever) console', it had no legal basis.


Edited by high voltage, Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:47 AM.


#20 Secamline OFFLINE  

Secamline

    Star Raider

  • Topic Starter
  • 65 posts
  • Location:France

Posted Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:46 PM

So is it still legal to bypass say the Nintendo Switch security features to release unlicensed games? (even though I bet it's virtually impossible)



#21 Kosmic Stardust OFFLINE  

Kosmic Stardust

    Princess Rescuer

  • 17,794 posts
  • Location:Milky Way Galaxy

Posted Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:05 PM

Definitely. Cow Bay is a good example of that: it was originally Stampede, developed by Activision. Someone ripped it off, renamed it to Cow Bay (evidently they didn't know that the word they were looking for is 'cowboy'), and repackaged it as their own work. It's absolutely a pirate game, as is everything else on the cartridge.
 

If you're referring to this in the sense of how Nintendo required that all games receive their approval before being released for the system, then yes, this is correct. But the difference here (other than that Atari had no such requirements) is that one party took another party's work and repackaged it as their own. It's piracy (though I'd probably call it bootlegging, but that's splitting hairs).
 

They function like DIP switches. Depending on how the switches are set, a different set of address lines are likely used.

LOL Cow-Bay. Is that a marketplace where we buy/sell cows? :rolling:



#22 Kosmic Stardust OFFLINE  

Kosmic Stardust

    Princess Rescuer

  • 17,794 posts
  • Location:Milky Way Galaxy

Posted Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:12 PM

So is it still legal to bypass say the Nintendo Switch security features to release unlicensed games? (even though I bet it's virtually impossible)

If the patents on the lockout chip were still valid, no. The patents are expired and have been for some time. This is why 3rd party manufacturers are allowed to make clone consoles, and also why homebrewers can sell games that bypass the lockout chip using CIClone. Technically NES clones would have been illegal for inport into the US until 2003 when the original Famicom patents expired. Generation NEX produced the first clone. Nintendo sued them and lost, but sadly Gen NEX went pankrupt paying for court costs. Yobo released their NES clone system in 2004. I bought one when it first came out, and it retailed for about $40, swapped duty cycles and all. Now they are a dime a dozen.

 

Copyrights don't expire for 70 years plus author's death, or 90 years for corporate works. Since Disney lobbied congress to get infinite renewal for copyrights, it will be a VERY long time before the NES library goes PD. So ROMs and multi-game pirate clones with original game ROMs are still very much illegal.



#23 KaeruYojimbo OFFLINE  

KaeruYojimbo

    Stargunner

  • 1,671 posts
  • Location:Portland, OR

Posted Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:29 PM

What's the purpose of the lockout chip if bypassing it has no consequence for the game's publisher?

 

Another thing to keep in mind is that with the NES, Nintendo had something like 90% of the U.S. video game market. Most developers just decided it was better to work within Nintendo's system, even if they didn't like it, than to go against them and risk getting frozen out.



#24 Secamline OFFLINE  

Secamline

    Star Raider

  • Topic Starter
  • 65 posts
  • Location:France

Posted Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:53 PM

Why thanks for the information everyone ^^ I didn't know all those things. 






0 user(s) are browsing this forum

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users