Four years, no progress.
For me doing a game means producing a board, box, cart, manual. Giving a player a complete experience. I got everything nailed down except the board.
I had two basic board choices. Melody or non-Melody.
I know there is a debate about old school code or new. I understand the challenge of writing an old school game, but I've done that already. Doing it again with modern tools, Stella, fast builds, not having to burn an EPROM for each build wouldn't seem as challenging to me. And I hate the idea of doing a non-Melody game knowing there're other designers with that option available. Having a hand tied behind my back seems silly to me. I want to deliver the best game possible. Players should care less what crap is inside the cart...it's what's on the screen, the beauty of the box, the cool story line, that matters.
So really, hard to see the non-Melody option being one I'd take. Been 4 years, could have by now.
The Melody option has been frustrating. Melody is a monopoly. I'm not even completely clear on who controls this monopoly. I've been unable to secure a reliable source. My goal was to produce a series of maybe 10 games to spread out the startup cost. Figured I might be able to break even if my games were really good. Without a secure source of Melody boards, or a license, that plan is far too risky.
I could try and get into the inner circle, curry favor, move to the front of the line. I hate that crap.
When I say Melody is a monopoly I don't consider it a dirty word. I'm a capitalist and a monopoly is always the goal of capitalism. Markets normally provide many ways to break monopolies like how Activision broke Atari's monopoly on 2600 games. I love that environment. I'd love to rewrite the Melody BIOS, make my own PCB and go head to head with the monopoly. I don't think there are any patents so it would be legal. To me, that would be fun.
But there's a rub. Something I can't get around. I'm pretty damn sure the community would not like me doing this at all. At least a big chunk wouldn't. I'd be ripping off whoever. It is a community, not a market. So I'd have to deal with that mess, boycotts probably. Back to not making financial sense. Since I am a capitalist I do believe markets define what is wanted and what isn't. People can say they want something as much as they like, but if they're unwilling or unable to pay the cost it means they don't actually want the product no matter how many posts in a forum they make. I trust the market.
And besides, I want to get into that BIOS. That's where the power is. That's where something really great might be possible. I don't know, but maybe.
There was a recent project, to do some hardware to get C++ able to make games or something. I didn't really understand it. Just sounded like maybe there was going to be some open source Melody type board I could get my hands on. Looks like that project has now stopped short.
I'm unable to see a way forward. Once again I've a spent a couple days researching, setting up yet another workstation and another dead end. I think that's enough for me. I don't like too many items on my todo list so I'm dropping the idea of doing an Atari game.
My rant letter to the editor...
For what it's worth I think the owners, whoever they are, are incredibly dumb to not open source Melody or to at least license it. They have every right to do whatever they like of course. But from my perspective, wouldn't it have been great to see lots of people taking their design and running with it? Maybe doing games that we never imagined? Maybe adding more hardware? Look what happened when Activision broke the Atari monopoly. The quality of games jumped orders of magnitude. Would there even be an AtariAge today if Atari had been able to keep their monopoly on 2600 games? I think the creators of the 2600 console, the people, must have been so proud to see their machine, their creation, exploited so beautifully and so completely. Even today, with Melody, which was a huge triumph. But yet today only a few games exploit it even a little and by even fewer designer. That Melody's potential has been so limited is a shame. It's primary purpose to make producing games easier, to get lots of old games into a Harmony, seems a waste of a brilliant design to me.
I get I'm a completely insane person, never been a shortage of people to tell me. But I thought with enough people creating games for Melody that maybe a break through game could have been developed and ported to other systems. And in Wikipedia it would say that this monumental game started on Melody, on the Atari. That would have been cool. At least a cool goal.
I think it would have been possible. Pretty well known in the game design world that great games can come from designing on simple platforms. Limiting the platform forces focus on the game itself. Yeah, non-Melody could provide that platform. But really, a lot of good designers exploited that platform back in the 80's. A small boost in power propelled game design forward a bit with Pitfall....that could have continued with Melody. And maybe it still will. But each year there will be fewer people who remember the 2600. Fewer designer will follow.
Just a shame.