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The Southsider

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Minigames

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It has been rather quiet for me on the Atari front lately, after all of the excitement of the show. Since I returned the other facets of life have been taking up all my time, leaving little room for anything Atari related. It is that time of year when an endless succession of parties and engagements fill up the weekends, and work becomes hectic trying to meet all of those arbritrary end-of-year deadlines. I suspect that I won't have much time now to work on PoP until the New Year, though there has been some minor progress: I have started the code cleanup in earnest, and there is a new implementation of the swords, thanks to the suggestions of several folks here. However, none of these changes are visible on-screen yet, so I will save this for another entry.The real news for me at the moment concerns programming work that I did in the past, namely my minigame competition entries. Just before the vgXpo show there was a mad scramble to release the 2005 minigame multicart containing a selection of Atari 2600 minigames from this years competition, which included three of my own games. There was some concern that the cart wouldn't be ready in time, as there were so many different people involved, and a lot of last-minute tweaks required. However, in the end the cart and manual turned out great, and I am very grateful for the hard work of everyone involved. Nonetheless, I was still eager to see the outcome of the competition itself, and after what seemed like a very long wait, the results were finally revealed yesterday.There were a large number of Atari 2600 entries (15 in total) to the competition this year, possibly inspired by Atari success in previous years. Personally, I used the competition as an opportunity to learn and develop my Atari programming skills. I was delighted to see that my first ever Atari game (Hunchy) was ranked 5th in the 1K competition! My other entires also achieved respectable rankings, despite my fears at the presence of another Hunchback-inspired competition entry! The highest-ranked 2600 entry (2nd) was Fred Quimby's "Zirconium" which he thoroughly deserves as it is a great game (and also appeared on the minigame multicart). The majority of the other 2600 entries also achieved reasonable rankings, though I personally think that Strat-O-Gems, Marble Jumper, and SDI were underrated, while AStar was possibly a little overrated. Nonetheless, it was a good showing for the Atari 2600, and a great effort from everyone involved. One of the good things about a competition such as this is that it generates feedback from outside the Atari 2600 community. I think there is sometimes a tendancy within the community to concentrate primarily on the technical aspects of game creation, as the Atari is so hard to program. Also, there is often a reluctance to critically evaluate the work of others, when it is clear how much hard work they have put into a project. However, in this competition the games are evaluated purely for "fun", and the resulting comments are often brutally honest! Based on these comments I can see that both of my Hunchy games could be improved, e.g. removing the sound effects, and tweaking the difficulty curve. I was also surprised at the positive comments about Jetman, and I am now considering an extended 4K version as a future project. On this note, my own comments do not seem to have appeared on the website yet, but I have mailed the administrator and hopefully they should appear soon. Enerything considered, I think the competition was a good motivating experience for me, and I am looking forward eagerly to next year.EDIT: My comments have now appeared on the minigame results pages.Chris

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You did well in the contest, Chris. Jetman was my favorite of the 1K VCS games. I never turn on the Minigame multicart without playing a few rounds of it. Thanks for the comment on Marble Jumper, by the way.

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Hi there!

 

I was also surprised at the positive comments about Jetman, and I am now considering an extended 4K version as a future project.

 

Weren't there actually even more positive comments about Hunchb... uhm... Hunchy? :) ;)

 

Greetings,

Manuel

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Weren't there actually even more positive comments about Hunchb... uhm... Hunchy? :) ;)

At least Hunchy scored a bit higher. And IMO the gameplay is way more addicting with a much higher potential for a great game.

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Weren't there actually even more positive comments about Hunchb... uhm... Hunchy? :) ;)

At least Hunchy scored a bit higher. And IMO the gameplay is way more addicting with a much higher potential for a great game.

 

Thanks! However, (without wanting to sound arrogant) I was expecting Hunchy 1/2 to do reasonably well, while I never really considered Jetman to be anything special ;)

 

Chris

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Hi there!

 

The 2005 Minigame Multicart is selling like crazy BTW. It's already #10 in the bestseller charts! :)

 

Greetings,

Manuel

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Hi there!

 

The 2005 Minigame Multicart is selling like crazy BTW. It's already #10 in the bestseller charts! ;)

 

Greetings,

Manuel

Let's see...at $1.10 a piece...I'll soon be rich! Rich, I tell you!

 

:)

 

 

;) I'm glad folks are buying it, even if it won't make me rich. IMO the games are varied, well done, and fun. There's a lot there; I was a bit surprised at how much time I spent with it when I first really sat down to play it.

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:)  I'm glad folks are buying it, even if it won't make me rich.  IMO the games are varied, well done, and fun.  There's a lot there; I was a bit surprised at how much time I spent with it when I first really sat down to play it.

 

I am also glad that it is selling well - the cart is good value considering there are 8 games all of high quality on there. It would be interesting to see the actual numbers - Albert said that it was at 32 copies last week, and this has presumably increased since then.

 

This reminds me that I must get on with my contribution to the PAL version of the cart. However, I am still confused about how we are going to do this. I could add a PAL/NTSC switch to my games without too much difficulty, but this would take them beyond 1K (though perhaps this doesn't matter for the multicart)?

 

Chris

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This reminds me that I must get on with my contribution to the PAL version of the cart.  However, I am still confused about how we are going to do this.  I could add a PAL/NTSC switch to my games without too much difficulty, but this would take them beyond 1K (though perhaps this doesn't matter for the multicart)?

I would suggest separate carts for PAL. Else, you would have to rewrite a lot of code, especially regarding palette switching. Probably it is even impossible for some games to decide for the right color during runtime.

 

And with separate ROMs, you are much more flexible when adjusting. You could e.g. adapt the game speed to the lower frame rate (where not entirely frame rate based) and you could increase the visible lines (e.g. by adding space lines between the various kernels, correcting the changed aspect ratio or extending the main kernel by adding new rows).

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:)  I'm glad folks are buying it, even if it won't make me rich.  IMO the games are varied, well done, and fun.  There's a lot there; I was a bit surprised at how much time I spent with it when I first really sat down to play it.

 

This reminds me that I must get on with my contribution to the PAL version of the cart. However, I am still confused about how we are going to do this. I could add a PAL/NTSC switch to my games without too much difficulty, but this would take them beyond 1K (though perhaps this doesn't matter for the multicart)?

 

Chris

 

The PAL/NTSC version of Marble Jumper is between 1K and 2K. We aren't making these for the contest anymore.

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;)  I'm glad folks are buying it, even if it won't make me rich.  IMO the games are varied, well done, and fun.  There's a lot there; I was a bit surprised at how much time I spent with it when I first really sat down to play it.

 

I am also glad that it is selling well - the cart is good value considering there are 8 games all of high quality on there. It would be interesting to see the actual numbers - Albert said that it was at 32 copies last week, and this has presumably increased since then.

 

This reminds me that I must get on with my contribution to the PAL version of the cart. However, I am still confused about how we are going to do this. I could add a PAL/NTSC switch to my games without too much difficulty, but this would take them beyond 1K (though perhaps this doesn't matter for the multicart)?

 

Chris

I'm pretty sure batari put each game in a 2K block anyway, so it shouldn't matter if you go over 1K.

 

And I agree with Thomas that making two separate carts is probably best.

 

Though all three of the parts I wrote are switchable. :) And I don't plan on rewriting them before the new year, honestly. I just finished (crosses fingers) Reindeer Rescue and I have one more little project I need to do in the next day or two and then I am going to take a break from heavy duty 2600 coding for a while.

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I'm pretty sure batari put each game in a 2K block anyway, so it shouldn't matter if you go over 1K.

And I agree with Thomas that making two separate carts is probably best.

Though all three of the parts I wrote are switchable. :)  And I don't plan on rewriting them before the new year, honestly.  I just finished (crosses fingers) Reindeer Rescue and I have one more little project I need to do in the next day or two and then I am going to take a break from heavy duty 2600 coding for a while.

 

OK, this is fine - for some reason I thought that the games each had to fit in 1K. I will add an NTSC/PAL switch to my games soon as this seems to be the route that everyone else is taking. Did we agree on using the right difficulty switch for this? I just ordered Reindeer Rescue from the AA store as I couldn't stand to wait ;) I think you definetely deserve a break as that will be 3 carts for you in as many months!

 

Chris

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I think you definetely deserve a break as that will be 3 carts for you in as many months!

Three?

 

Only two. ;)

 

Go Fish! was released in...July, I think. Minigame Multicart in November, Reindeer Rescue in December. Been a busy six months, but not three! :)

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Hi there!

 

The 2005 Minigame Multicart is selling like crazy BTW. It's already #10 in the bestseller charts! :)
Let's see...at $1.10 a piece...I'll soon be rich! Rich, I tell you!

 

I was really surprised that you had submitted M-4 to it, instead of Go Fish 1K. Did you think M-4 wasn't good enough for a separate release?

 

Greetings,

Manuel

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Hi there!

 

The 2005 Minigame Multicart is selling like crazy BTW. It's already #10 in the bestseller charts! :)
Let's see...at $1.10 a piece...I'll soon be rich! Rich, I tell you!

 

I was really surprised that you had submitted M-4 to it, instead of Go Fish 1K. Did you think M-4 wasn't good enough for a separate release?

 

Greetings,

Manuel

I think M-4 was high-quality enough for a separate release. It is bug free (AFAIK), has plenty of features (76* different games! ;) OMFG!), and I think is plenty polished with a title screen, a demo mode, and sound effects.

 

But:

1. I don't think it is original enough or exciting enough to sell well or really stand alone. It will probably see wider distribution as part of the MM2005. Really, it's just Combat watered down. I mean, I think it's cool, but still. ;)

 

2. I committed to being a part of the MM2005 way back in early summer, before I realized that I wasn't willing/able to make the cuts necessary to get it in 1K. I'm sure the other guys wouldn't have minded if I pulled out of the MM2005 to release it on its own, but I like the idea of the multicart and I wanted to be a part of it. :D

 

*As an aside, I think M-4 may have the record for the most game variations on a single cartridge. Space Invaders has 112, but half of those are the same, just 2-player. Well, M-4 has 76 variations, all of which are 1-player. Plus you can select straight or steerable missiles with the L Difficulty switch, bringing us up to 152 variations. Now factor in that all those variations can be played 2-player as well, and we're up to 304! Ok, half of those variations are just shorter games (with a 30 second time limit instead of 90 seconds) but, still, if you disallow those you still end up with 152 variations! Well, I think it's cool, anyway. ;)

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Hi there!

I was really surprised that you had submitted M-4 to it, instead of Go Fish 1K. Did you think M-4 wasn't good enough for a separate release?

I think M-4 was high-quality enough for a separate release. It is bug free (AFAIK), has plenty of features (76* different games! :) OMFG!), and I think is plenty polished with a title screen, a demo mode, and sound effects.

 

Personally I am glad that M4 was included as I think it nicely rounds out a solid collection of games. As you say, it could stand on its own, but it will definitely get more play as part of the collection.

 

Chris

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*As an aside, I think M-4 may have the record for the most game variations on a single cartridge.

 

Not sure... I seem to recall Billy Eno telling me once that Warring Worms: The Worm (Re)Turns had over 1000. Although they aren't specific game variation numbers - they're selected using an options menu. (And I have no clue how to actually calculate it all out.)

 

SelectScreen.JPG

 

I was really surprised that you had submitted M-4 to it, instead of Go Fish 1K. Did you think M-4 wasn't good enough for a separate release?

 

I thought Go Fish 1k was... :D

 

Ummm... nevermind.

 

Anyway, I also thought M-4 was good enough to be a stand-alone cart. But it's also nice to have it on the minigame cart. :)

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*As an aside, I think M-4 may have the record for the most game variations on a single cartridge.

 

Not sure... I seem to recall Billy Eno telling me once that Warring Worms: The Worm (Re)Turns had over 1000. Although they aren't specific game variation numbers - they're selected using an options menu. (And I have no clue how to actually calculate it all out.)

Dagnabbit!

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*As an aside, I think M-4 may have the record for the most game variations on a single cartridge.  Space Invaders has 112, but half of those are the same, just 2-player.  Well, M-4 has 76 variations, all of which are 1-player.  Plus you can select straight or steerable missiles with the L Difficulty switch, bringing us up to 152 variations.  Now factor in that all those variations can be played 2-player as well, and we're up to 304!  Ok, half of those variations are just shorter games (with a 30 second time limit instead of 90 seconds) but, still, if you disallow those you still end up with 152 variations!  Well, I think it's cool, anyway. :)

 

Space Invaders has 416 variations (sixteen one player, times two difficulty settings, plus 96 two player times four combinations of difficulty settings).

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Space Invaders has 416 variations (sixteen one player, times two difficulty settings, plus 96 two player times four combinations of difficulty settings).

Double dagnabbit!

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