The start of a New Year is one of my favourite times. In Scotland, the beginning of the year (called Hogmanay) has traditionally been the most important celebration of the year. The city of Edinburgh (where I live) has a huge street party every year to celebrate Hogmanay, which involves fireworks, music, dancing, and excessive drinking! It is a time that can be appreciated by anyone, regardless of their religious beliefs or cultural calendar. From my own point of view, I like the opportunity to draw a line under the previous year and say "that last year was a bust, but this year will be much better" The month of January is named after the Roman God Janus who has two heads, one looking forward and the other looking backward. As a result, lots of people use this time to reflect on what they have done in the previous year and make plans for the future year. I intend to follow that trend here, as I notice others have done the same in their blogs. However, I will skip most of the reflection part as that is already covered by past blog entries, and outline my plans for this year from an Atari programming perspective. It is now almost exactly a year since I first found out about the Atari homebrew programming scene. As previously noted here, I happened to read about it in an issue of the Retro Gamer magazine and decided to look into it. This led to me quickly to the AtariAge website, and the 101 programming guide by Kirk Israel. After a lengthy reading process, I took my first tentative programming steps. For some reason this didn't frighten me off, and shortly after I became a regular visitor to the AA website. As they say, the rest is history...The year 2006 promises to be a good year for the 2600, and not just because the year is a permutation of the console number There are already several homebrews that will be released shortly, and clearly many more ideas in the pipeline from other developers. I am very keen to get started on more programming, but I have a number of work-related projects that must be finished first. However, this doesn't stop me from making plans in the meantime. One of the best ways that I find to beat the "shiny object syndrome" is to aim for deadlines. This forces me to stay on track and finish the project. Therefore, my future programming efforts will all be focussed on two programming contests. The first of these is the Stella Programming Contest", and the second is the 2006 minigame contest (yet to be announced). My plans for these contests are outlined below, though things are not quite going at the moment:
- My main project is an implementation of Prince of Persia (PoP) for the 2600. This is a Supercharger game aimed at the Stella Programming Contest. The main kernel has been designed, and I think I have solved (or can see my way to solving) most of issues concerning the game mechanics. However, the big challange remaining is simply the scale of the game. I'm not sure that it will be possible to pack even a single level into the 6K available, and actually implementing all the levels will be a huge task. There is also the issue of the large number of sprite animations which are essential to the game. Unfortunately I haven't heard from jussts in a long time, and I think that the scale of the game may also have got to him. However, at this point I am still cautiously optimistic that something good can be produced in time for the deadline, even if it is not the full game.
- I have also been giving some thought to the Minigame Contest as the deadline for this will presumably be some time after the Stella Contest. Currently I have four possibilities, though I am not sure which (if any) I will take further:
- Pipemania - I discussed this at length in the previous entry. However, I have now essentially decided not to go further with this. I don't think the screen looks good enough without some major kernel surgery, and I don't think the game is original enough in any case. I may revive this in the future as I like the game concept, but for now it is firmly on the back burner.
- Jetman Deluxe - The Jetman minigame that I previously wrote seems to be surprisingly popular. As a result, I am considering producing a 4K version which is more faithful to the original. My previous version was hardly pushing the Atari, so it should be possible to include a lot more variety in the gameplay.
- Hunchy 3 - I have recently become quite fond of the Supercharger (SC) despite its quirks. I think that I could write an improved version of Hunchy 2 for the SC as a 4K minigame. In particular, this would let you move between rooms rather than completing each screen in sequence. I would also like to be able to include multicolour sprites. The original kernel that I wrote still has scope for more interesting levels with different tilesets, but this may require more than 4K. There is nothing preventing me from using the extra 2K once the game is loaded though.
- Sopwith - This idea is based on a CGA PC game that I enjoyed playing a long time ago. It requires sideways scrolling, but there is not much on action screen so it might be feasible. I haven't done any work on this yet, but I like the idea.
So that it how things stand for me at the moment. I doubt that I can equal my 4 game total of last year as the projects are all considerably larger this time. I don't think I will do any more 1K games for the time being as I have got used to the luxury of space. Hopefully some of the other homebrewers will fill this space. I am also looking forward to seeing what can be done with batari basic this year as things should get very interesting when the new kernels and bankswitching are in place - it might even tempt me to have a go. Anyway, I hope you all have a great 2006, and thanks for all the kind words about Hunchy 2!ChrisP.S. Retro Gamer has recently returned from the dead - horay: