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Member Since 18 May 2013
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#3506631 New Atari Compiler Dev

Posted by DanOliver on Sun May 8, 2016 8:50 PM

Way late to suggest anything but just in general I prefer not using tried and true methods. For example I know almost nothing about compiler development, but I do know it's been around a long time. Been taught and re-taught for several generations. That kind of lineage often means a narrowing of thinking. "Don't reinvent the wheel" is the motto of the champions for status quo. It makes me think how compilers are designed could indeed be overthrown. For example it blows me away that compilers are not near instant builds. We're still using text files for crying out loud.


I wrote an instant 6502 assembler and used it to create a 2600 game. What a huge difference. Changed how I created games. A couple of us wrote instant 65816 assembler at Apple too for GS development.


Current compilers I'll bet are based on limited CPU and memory and no concept of the Internet. When you have 18 CPU cores, 8TB of RAM and ability off load tasks to thousands of computers on the internet the possibilities become a little more interesting than current compiler method I think. I'm guessing you could do some really dumb brute force stuff that could result in something wonderful.

#3496298 Atari 2600 Encyclopedia Book

Posted by DanOliver on Fri Apr 22, 2016 2:38 PM

For Space Cavern it says "He told developer Dan Oliver what he wanted in the game without disclosing his inspiration" which is a version I've read before and I don't think is correct. Pat and/or Ed gave me a manual or marketing material for Demon Attack, said it was a great game (impressed with the graphics), and I was to make one like it. They also said they were trying to get a copy from a distributor. That "meeting" took 30-60 seconds.


Several days later they got a copy and let me look at Demon Attack in a room at Apollo. They wouldn't let me dump the cart or keep a copy so they were concerned about legal issues. Having learned 6502 just a few weeks previous, never having seen an Atari before starting at Apollo like a week before I got the Demon Attack assignment, no 2600 manual, I had absolutely no idea how Demon Attack was done. It was and still is a really impressive game. I could barely get 2 line resolution.


To Apollo's credit they didn't really want Demon Attack ripped off. No one ever mentioned Demon Attack after development of Space Cavern started, no one suggested any changes to make it more like Demon Attack. It was purely used as "inspiration".


It would be nice if the encyclopedia had the human developer's name instead or in addition to the corporate name. Might be just me but that info is more useful. That David Crane did a specific game is useful. What company he happen to be at the time I don't find as useful or interesting. It was a time when a single person normally created the entire game and maybe a reason why Atari remains interesting.

#3493860 If Atari would have

Posted by DanOliver on Mon Apr 18, 2016 4:46 PM

The speed of change during that period was crazy fast and no doubt helped kill a lot of companies. By the time of the crash there was almost no margin of error.


Putting the Atari 400/800 into a consumer box was how management thought. New packaging. And not just the 5200, but the XLs too. It was all repackaging.


I of course have no idea if Atari supporting people like Miner would have made a difference. For sure common sense would say it would be too risky. And that's what Atari management had, common sense, good understanding of best business practices. Exactly the kind of people you want running a commodity established business like a cable company. But all the exciting innovations I remember were thought to be completely crazy initially, and though development, and though lots of problems and the few that made it through all that then proved successful. It takes a few lucky breaks and a whole lot of working through problems that seem impossible to virtually everyone else. It kind of has to be that way. If a spreadsheet could show management a product should be done then everyone would do it. Like when companies jump into markets after the market is a proven money maker. They can make a quick buck but long term not so easy.


If we had a time machine I would bet on Miner and like minded creators to have made Atari a market leader in home computers. And if that had happened, with Atari's consumer roots, I think Atari could be the Apple of today, maybe bigger, and we might barely remember Apple ever existed. Atari had the money, talent, name, but without management vision being a leader was never going to be possible. It's the one thing a successful company needs and seems impossible to acquire. Maybe if Warner had been able to let Nolan be the visionary and run the show. I don't know if he could have gained the needed experience to pull it off, but maybe.

#3493692 If Atari would have

Posted by DanOliver on Mon Apr 18, 2016 1:12 PM

I know Atari also did computers so why did they not continue with those as a household ad on? I know they were pricey back then but could that part of their business created more success? Comparatively with IBM and Apple at the time I wonder if they could have held on better with that portion. So long as they did not call it the Atari "Pac" computer.

Why didn't Xerox come out with the Mac? Why didn't Microsoft come out with the Mac OS? Why didn't IBM use CP/M instead of MS DOS? I think it's because they couldn't. Companies require real visionaries at the top to see possibilities and have a passion that enables risk.


Atari had Jay Miner. If Atari had any vision they would have allowed Jay to do great things. The Amiga could have been produced at Atari before the crash. Amiga was considered a break through computer when it finally did come out after getting very little corporate support. Imagine if Amiga had come out a year earlier with the full support of Atari and a marketing team that understood the market. Would have been kick ass. And they could have gone on from there. But they just didn't have the management to ever allow that to happen.

#3493504 After the 1982 "Crash" Where Did the "Talent" Go?

Posted by DanOliver on Mon Apr 18, 2016 8:15 AM

My track was:

Games By Apollo -Space Cavern

Left to start Venturevision - Rescue Terra I, Inner Space

When the crash happened I went to CA to interview at various game companies, almost all Apple II, and sold Inner Space to Imagic who sold it as Laser Gates. 

Got hired at Atari and got to work on the 800 and did Final Legacy. Did a Mindlink game Telepathy.

The Tramiels bought Atari Corp and we started on the ST. I worked with Digital Research to do some BS, horrible glue code between CPM (I think) while DR worked on a new OS in secret. But we also had Lisa development systems, my first bitmap machine and I started writing writing a UI type system just because I liked to. Wrote ST Writer.

We didn't have much to do so I started writing a Mac rip off for the ST just to show the ST could do way better than GEM.

Was in Jim Eisenstein, Matt Householder, David Staugas and Jerome Domurat who'd gotten a call from someone at Apple (Eagle Burns I think) looking for someone to do a UI.

Got hired to work at Apple on the IIGS and did the Finder, UI toolbox. Did some work on Desert Falcon for Atari.

Move to the Mac group but didn't really have anything to do.

Left Apple to work at lots of different startups.

I've always written code, lots of different apps. Went back to games at Digital Pictures and ported Night Trap and did What's My Story.


To me programming is programming but I do like to be moving pixels, being as close to users as possible.. Languages don't really matter, they're mostly all the same. Smalltalk was pretty strange. Games are cool that when they're done they're done. Other apps have new versions so you keep working on basically the same code. On the next game you really want to start all over using the next great scheme which is freeing.


Most of the programmers I knew kind o took the path from games into computers. A few bounced back and forth. A few got out of programming. Most game programmers love programming so stayed with in. We always look for the next cool machine or project to work on. I was pretty lucky to have started at the cross road of games and home computers.

#3493444 If Atari would have

Posted by DanOliver on Mon Apr 18, 2016 5:34 AM

The market being too saturated was an issue, and what I generally think the problem was. But maybe that was symptom. When I look at movies, books, music there's a ton of really bad stuff, lots of product goes unsold and sent to landfills, but those industries survive just fine. So maybe more interesting to speculate on why would a saturated market cause a crash...or really, was the market actually saturated.


The crash may have happened more because of the sudden drop in profit margin. The industry was certainly unprepared to handle that and may not if have wanted to go on at a lower profit margin.


This isn't too cool to say, but from what I saw at the time, Atari and other smaller companies I dealt with, and inside stories I heard (true or not), the primary motivation was always cash. I mean most programmers were pretty serious about trying to make a good game, but chasing cash was always #1 priority. Game deadlines were driven by the Xmas selling season, or to fund the company, or other cash requirements.


I think originally Nolan thought video games would be a successful product, but the profit margins turned out to be crazy good. That opened the flood gates to opportunists, profiteers...myself included. I think Warner came in primarily because of the profit margins. And the CEOs and management that came with that focused on making cash and few seem to care even what a game was.


As soon as profit margins took a hit almost everyone headed for the doors. Why stay if you're only there for there for the high profit margins. There wasn't a lot of effort that I could see to make better games...well, I mean hit games. I think it's the hits that keep the movie, book and music industries going. And today I think that's true for games too. There's a gut of bad games today if you include online, phone, etc... and lots of free games. Yet the game industry is strong. In all those industries I think cash is still king but there's an understanding that hits drive the cash. So there's a lot more effort into trying to make hits but also in how the marketing channel is handled. Straight to video type stuff that moves crappy products very quickly out of the main channel so a smaller number of prime products is mainly on front of the public's face.


In our defense the concept of games being an important entertainment product came on very fast and was new. We didn't really have enough time to understand what games were, or how important they'd be The concept the games were art came much later at least broadly speaking.


IMO it was the people in the industry at that time that caused the crash. There's no way (Warner) Atari could have ever produced a new kick ass console. That would risk every dime the company had and would lose money initially. That's what it takes. That's a risk Atari management could never understand. They knew how to make toasters. Games...no clue. That kind of business crashes when the profit margin falls. Saturation, crappy games, etc.. symptoms. If it hadn't been those things it would have gotten screwed up another way. Jay Miner leaving kind of says it all.


The Tramiels had no love of games, so same deal.


The Atari coin-op people were way more serious about their games. They could have produced a kick ass console...BUT I don't think they really considered that market to be "real" so I don't think they would have actually taken on the task. And maybe creating a console would just be too far removed from their experience.


So, as others have already said, I also don't think a few games caused the crash. But, on the other hand if there had been more focus on creating hit games, a better understanding of the sales channel, maybe things could have been different. But really by Pac Man's time Atari should have had the next killer console ready. Pac Man should have come out on that console. For the resources Atari had they should have developed hardware that would have been crazy advanced. But they didn't. I don't think they could have.

#3451948 The man who made 'the worst video game in history'

Posted by DanOliver on Sat Feb 27, 2016 12:48 AM

And if anyone cared to follow the money...4m carts made, lets say $5 per cart, $20m. Another $5m for marketing so $25m total. 1.5m carts sold so say $15/cart comes back, $22.5m. So rough numbers, no overhead included, but to me it looks like ET lost somewhere around $3m. And the next quarter Atari loses $310m...and ET is the problem? Never made any sense. Even if you say no money came back and the entire $25m was lost, plus the $21m license fee that only accounts for $46m. Sooooo who lost the other $264m? And that was only one quarter.


Viewed from another perspective...what would ET had to sell in order to "save Atari"? To just have broken even using just the $310m quarter loss and a guess of $10/cart profit ET would need to have sold 31m carts in that one quarter. More carts than there were 2600's.


Obviously my numbers are guesses...but ET was never in the ballpark of crashing anything other than a few egos.


The Warner people could only run a company that had so much cash coming in it couldn't fail. As soon as the cash slowed it showed their real abilities. But that story will never be as sexy.


Plus I think Howard is no fool. He sees the value in notoriety. He sure hasn't shunned the limelight. Good on him.

#3451531 The man who made 'the worst video game in history'

Posted by DanOliver on Fri Feb 26, 2016 6:24 PM

"Worst game" is an interesting concept. How is that even decided? It only has weight with people unfamiliar with games...or even hyperbole.

#3450773 The man who made 'the worst video game in history'

Posted by DanOliver on Fri Feb 26, 2016 5:01 AM

Worst games in video game history are in the pile of games that weren't even good enough to produce.


Game play is opinion. ET sold 1.5 million copies...I can't see all those people being dupped. Destroying the 2600 market was a collective effort.

#3366312 Atari 2600 "Red sea crossing" Real or fake

Posted by DanOliver on Thu Nov 12, 2015 1:20 PM

I don't pretend to know every part of the story, but what link was there? That Mena and Men are similar words? That they sold toys? Is there more?


That a toy store owner made a game and had it manufactured in Taiwan? Makes no sense to me. The amount of money that would have costed at the time would have been a lot. Like in the ballpark of what the entire store may have been worth.


But mainly the red flags for me have to do with the stories on how these items were "found".


All things are possible but all things are not probable. To me the more valuable an item the higher the bar for proving authenticity should be. In the case of Air Raid I think the opposite has been true. There are lots of ways to get more info on the paper and inks used in the product that would have given more authenticity. The sellers never provide anything like that I know of and the buyers didn't demand any. That's odd for items that fetch so much and where there's no other provenance.

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#3365909 Atari 2600 "Red sea crossing" Real or fake

Posted by DanOliver on Wed Nov 11, 2015 10:29 PM

I don't know if this is valid or not but the first thing I look at is at the label corners. Square cuts to me is a red flag, cut by hand with a guillotine paper cutter. Production units to me should have rounded corners from die cuts. All the trouble this dude went to distressing the label to fake age and even the almost gone Gauntlet label still has one square corner remaining. But I don't know, where there any manufactured carts with square corner labels? I think the round corners were to reduce the chance of the label lifting at the corners.

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#3354813 You made any collecting mistakes?

Posted by DanOliver on Wed Oct 28, 2015 10:35 AM

Throwing out 10,000 new copies of Rescue Terra I.

#3354803 Help identify where this cart came from

Posted by DanOliver on Wed Oct 28, 2015 10:21 AM

Looks like it was made very recently, like homemade. The square corners on the labels make me think cut with scissors rather than manufactured with a die cut (rounded corners). I'd guess the color label was cut out of box a toy came in or maybe some publication. Very clever and well done though.

#3316592 What was the crash of 1983 like?

Posted by DanOliver on Mon Sep 7, 2015 11:07 AM


20 years too late on those games.  Mac gaming has always been a joke compared to other platforms.  And it badly hurt the Mac.  iPhone has games simply because they've got the numbers (for other reasons).  Steve Jobs has never been interested in games and has frankly always despised gamers.  His biases hurt the Mac platform.


All they had to do was create the tools and platform for game development and take it seriously.  Bonus if they created a separate game development division.


Microsoft took gaming very seriously and it was one reason (among many others), that they came to dominate.

Oh, you mean back in the day that Jobs should have made the Apple II and Mac more of a game platform? IMO if he had we wouldn't be talking about Apple today. What you're talking about takes cash, cash Apple didn't have. Cash Apple had to get from investors. Create yet another game platform in the early 80's...investors would have loved that pitch. Games were a pretty big deal at that time but nothing like they are today. Back then selling computers in businesses was thought to be the next big thing and I think they were right. It had the profit margin.


I started at Apple 1/86 and they were doing pretty good but even then had nowhere near enough resources to start a game division. We barely could get out basic development systems and documentation. Getting even basic apps like a word processor onto the Mac was a huge effort. Getting the Apple IIGS out the door was a major problem as the Mac group wanted it killed so they could have the resources just to do the basic stuff they needed to keep the Mac alive. Apple was doing everything it could to prove their computers were not toys. If they had shifted and turned it into a game platform they could kiss selling to businesses good bye and desktop publishing wouldn't have happened when it did which means laser printers would have been greatly delayed. And the odds of Apple having enough cash to get out even one game is close to zero without the little cash being generated from computer sales. At that time there was no way Apple could sell a computer as both a serious business machine and a game platform. Consumers barely knew what a computer was.


XBox came out well after the crash and after other companies had proven the game market was serious. There were a few people inside Microsoft pushing games for a long time and to Microsoft's credit they did push into games but only after other companies had proven the market. I don't think Microsoft management took games seriously until the market was proven.

#3316356 What was the crash of 1983 like?

Posted by DanOliver on Sun Sep 6, 2015 11:27 PM

Steve Jobs may have gotten software, but he still didn't get games.  Jobs' and Tramiel's biggest missed opportunity was always games.  Games drove so much of the business and they didn't realize it.  If they didn't want to think about games, all they had to do was hire someone with enthusiasm for games to handle that part of the business and give them free reign.

I think Steve Jobs did OK with Apple. I wouldn't be surprised if there aren't more games available for the iPhone products than the total sum of all games ever made for all other game consoles. Or that total time spent playing games on iPhones isn't 10, 20, maybe 100 times more than time currently spent on consoles today. My bet is the iPhone is the most successful game platform of all time and Jobs wasn't even trying.


I've been involved with more than a dozen startups and I've not yet met a founder or CEO that would ever hire someone to create the business. These are driven people with their own ideas and goals. They want to create something. On the other side of the equation finding someone with the skills needed to create a successful game company isn't really very easy. Finding one that's also dumb enough to do it for someone else I think is probably impossible.


I think there are some pretty good examples of how difficult that is to do. Warner buying Atari for example. Giving other people free reign sounds good but these are people, and people can't help think they know better at least some of time. I think Atari would probably still be around and be huge if Bushnell had actually been given free reign. Probably would have bought Apple at some point. I think it was Warner's intention to give Bushnell free reign, but they couldn't. It's not in the nature of business people.