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Is Laser Gates really Inner Space?

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I ran into this old thread while cruising and saw some of the posters were still active so thought I'd provide what info I could.

 

Welcome to AA, Dan.

 

If you could provide us with more info, please do.

 

8)

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So to the history...I am Dan Oliver the programmer of Inner Space. Probably not something I can prove but for what it's worth here's my software web page.

 

Inner Space was the title at VentureVision. I was nearing completion when VentureVision ran out of money. I was one of 3 owners and we hadn't been taking much of a salary so I had no savings and had to leave the company while the other 2 guys, business guys, closed down. I traded Inner Space for my part of the company.

 

I got the game to Imagic, don't remember how. They bought it. When I went into their office building to sign the papers I spoke to a single suit. The entire office building was a ghost town, Imagic was shutting down. He showed me the game running on a TV and explained they'd changed the name and fixed some bugs. I remember him saying 4 bugs, but not sure. For sure I had a bug in the lower left side of the screen where one scanline was late so you'd see like a 1/2" black scanline, common on VCS games. I was very impressed because it was a bug I had tried to fix and didn't. And they did this without source code. Just down loaded it, reverse assembled it and made changes. To me Imagic had always been tops, right behind Activision. So to me it was a great compliment that one of their engineers had worked on my code.

 

I'd "complimented" them earlier by disassembling Demon Attack when writing Space Cavern.

 

Guy gives me the advance on royalties check. Tells me they were buying the game to fulfil contract requirements...hey, you're making my head swell. I turn over the source code, pick up the check and start leaving. The guy says :"hey, don't you want to know how to get your future royalty checks?" Not really dude. I don't know if this guy actually still thought VCS games were going to be around in a month or was just going thru the motions.

 

So, to me Inner Space and Laser Gates were the same game. But from a collector's point of view they'd have to be different games. There were some changes to Laser Gates ROM, minor changes, but changes. No changes to game play that I know of. VentureVision never released Inner Space, there was never a box or manual as far as I know and I'm pretty sure.

 

Solar Defense. I don't remember the the name, but the screenshot posted is a real game and it may have well been called Solar Defense. I can't believe people know about this stuff, I had to really think a while to remember.

 

Solar Defense was created and programmed by a really good natural programmer named Robert Weatherby. Hardly any programming experience and in a couple of weeks has a game up on a VCS. Hardly any manual and probably 10 minutes of instruction from me. It got it from the get go.

 

I think he was just out of college with I think a degree in music. He was way into music and audio. Took me awhile to remember his name, but I just Googled him and here he is on LinkIn. Stayed in games, good for him. Solar Defense would have been 100% his design and implementation.

 

I'm ashamed to say I don't think I liked Solar Defense much as I remember, but that really means nothing. It just I only liked shooters. If it wasn't a shooter it wasn't good was my motto. But to Robert's credit he had a vision for a game and went for it. To me that's a game developer. I left before it was completed but it seemed pretty darn cool. Used paddles I believe, 4 person game I think. Maybe a bit like Breakout, or an inside out War Lords, and proably great audio. I don't know what happen to the game after that. Certainly VentureVision wouldn't have released it, 0 cash. Hopefully they gave the rights to Robert. It'd sure be cool to play it now, finished or not. It was difinitely at least playable last time I saw it.

 

I'm almost 100% sure Robert did the music in Final Legacy which I still carry in my head when programming. I didn't get audio at all.

 

How VentureVision released games...

The whole releasing games in pairs, realted themes...not so much. This was not the brain trust. My 2 partners, really great entrepreneurs, before the term was cool, had started and run several businesses. All very well run and they taught me a lot. But their businesses were unrelated. They had a used car lot where they'd buy cars out of the paper, put it on the lot, charge X but allow Y down and payments. The Y down covered their cost and they'd get how ever many payments they could. They had a countertop repair service in another city. And they'd just closed down a pretty large custom cabinet shop. Our first meetings were in the closed cabinet shop.

 

So there wasn't really any kind "plan". Games came out as fast as we could make them. There may have been some story arc but that would have been done more after the game was done.

 

Kind of wierd now but no story boards or any description at all as far as I remember. Basically while working on one game you'd be thinking about the next. So it was completely in your head. Sit down and start coding.

 

Inner Space inspiration...

There was a game I was "inspired" by called...can't remember the name. It was a pretty big game I think,... OK, just Googled it, can't believe I found it...Caverns of Mars for the Atari 800. I think at Apollo they'd bought a few games for us to play. We programmed on an 800 so that must have been where I saw it. I thought Caverns was really fun. I love shooters

http://youtu.be/UwGSVzqLCg4

OK, looking at the video it looks like I "inspired" the crap out of it. Like most of my games, very derivative. I also liked the look of arcade Defender, never really played it. And vertical scrollers on the VCS were so boring to me. But of course the 2600 made vertical scrollers easier.

 

So there was a connection between Rescue Terra I and Inner Space but mainly it was I liked space shooters.

 

I was driven mainly by graphics. My background had been fine art, painting and such. The thing I'm most proud of fro example is that the explosions in Inner Space are not exactly sprites. Normally you'd have say 3 or 4 hard coded explosion shapes in ROM and just animate them. For Inner Space I created each explosion "sprite" at runtime in RAM. Each explosion particle had it's own "physics"...6502 128 byte RAM physics mine you, but I thought it was cool. Used the same concept in Final Legacy and some other stuff. As far as I know no one else ever did that in a VCS, but possible of course. And because the sprite image was in RAM I put it just above the stack so I could use PLA which was a faster instruction than LDA so I had an edge there I thought. All VCS programmers (I thought) were always in search of some magic combination of hardware registers or instructions that would give us an edge.

 

PLA I remeber 30 years later. Robert Weatherby's name, the names of my business partners...not so much. Kind of says it all.

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Time to make more Atari 2600 games and turn "was" into "is." :D

Yes, last night I was looking in the programming section...holy crap Batman...people are learning and programming the VCS in 6502??? You have to realize that for me seeing that makes me feel like I stepped into a wormhole, or I'm in a Sci-Fi movie, Cool as heck but I had to kind of step back and let it sink in a bit.

 

Is there someplace I should start to get kind of a top down of what's going on. Are people blowing EPROMs for example? I know there's a BASIC language version.

 

Would be kind of cool to do an Inner Space II.

 

I found the online VCS simulator for games a couple of years ago and that blew my mind. Back in the day Atari spent millions and millions of dollars on simulators that hardly worked. It is just so cool to be able to play these games again, to hear them. An impressive feat imo...to imagine that it would even be possible and also to do it. Thanks to all envolved where ever you are.

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Yes, last night I was looking in the programming section...holy crap Batman...people are learning and programming the VCS in 6502??? You have to realize that for me seeing that makes me feel like I stepped into a wormhole, or I'm in a Sci-Fi movie, Cool as heck but I had to kind of step back and let it sink in a bit.

 

Is there someplace I should start to get kind of a top down of what's going on. Are people blowing EPROMs for example? I know there's a BASIC language version.

 

Would be kind of cool to do an Inner Space II.

 

I found the online VCS simulator for games a couple of years ago and that blew my mind. Back in the day Atari spent millions and millions of dollars on simulators that hardly worked. It is just so cool to be able to play these games again, to hear them. An impressive feat imo...to imagine that it would even be possible and also to do it. Thanks to all envolved where ever you are.

 

There are people making Atari 2600 games using assembly language:

 

randomterrain.com/atari-2600-memories.html#assembly_language

 

 

And others making Atari 2600 games using batari Basic:

 

randomterrain.com/atari-2600-memories.html#batari_basic

 

 

Seems like most people test their works in progress using the Atari 2600 emulator Stella:

 

stella.sourceforge.net

 

 

They also test their works in progress on a real Atari 2600 using the Harmony cart:

 

randomterrain.com/atari-2600-memories-harmony-cartridge.html

 

 

You can embed your games online for free using JAVATARI:

 

javatari.org

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I'm sure I'm not the only one here that would find it logical & worthwhile to contact Robert Weatherby to see if he still has a working proto cartridge of Solar Defense and/or at least the bin file with the rom data stored on some floppy disk someplace in his basement or attic? Maybe Dan himself could get in touch with Robert?

 

Either way, thanks very much Dan for contributing so much interesting information. Your games live forever here and will never be forgotten.

Edited by Supergun
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Random Terrain, thanks for the links. That makes it a lot easier. Looks very interesting. Would be a kick to develop for the 2600 on a modern system.

 

Supergun, It looks like Robert stayed in games so I'd guess he'd wouldn't mind being contacted. We all made games for people to enjoy and hearing someone has an interest is as good as it gets. I'm not really a reunion type person so I wouldn't really know what to say. You guy know better what's currently going on.

 

I think Robert did a coin op game that was about playing musical instruments, maybe kind of like Guitar Hero. I think he had passion for music in games which was probably the first to push that theme. He's the real thing.

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Thanks for posting! It's great to read about the development of these games and the industry at the time. I've had Laser Gates since back-in-the-day, so it's very cool to hear some of the behind-the-scenes stories. (It'd be great to hear about your work on Space Cavern, too.)

 

Speaking of Caverns of Mars, one of the homebrewers here (John Champeau) created a 2600 version called Conquest of Mars:

 

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I'll trade info...

 

What do you mean "homebrewers"? You're saying John Champeau wrote a 2600 game, on a cart that I can buy and stick into a 2600? And this was written like the 1990's, 2000's or something? And people buy these?

 

I think we sold about 10 copies of Rescue Terra I. So I could write a 2600 game today and maybe sell more than 10?

 

Space Cavern

I just read on Wikipedia or someplace that Pat Roper saw Demon Attack at CES and gave me a game design without telling me it came from Demon Attack. This came from an interview with Ed Salvo I think. OK, so I had like zero knowledge of what actually went on at Apollo behind closed doors and Ed was in the loop so he probably knew a lot more than me. And memory is not a perfect thing. So with those disclaimers here's how I remember it...

 

My memory is Pat trying to describe Demon Attack and saying that's the game I should write. He told me he'd seen it at CES and that everyone thought it was the best game there, mainly because of the graphic. Maybe he wasn't suppose to tell me he was describing Demon Attack, but I certainly knew he was describing a game he saw at CES. And a short time later when he could get a copy he plunked it on my desk and said something like "we need one of these" or "make this". He said the copy was hard to get, that he'd got it from a distributor or something. And maybe he even had to return it. But I certainly saw Demon Attack very early. Video games at the time was a very cloak and dagger deal.

 

I think I down loaded the Demon Attack cart and studied the code. If not Demon Attack specifically, certainly other games. That's how we learned. Ed had a manual with the 2600 registers and he told us a bunch of stuff about vertical sync, etc...but as I remember it, most of the specific different techniques we learned from reverse engineering other games.

 

They didn't want a knock off specifically. They mainly wanted great graphics which I obviously came up short on. The Demon Attack bar was pretty high for someone who'd learned some 6502 a couple of weeks before.

 

Took 4 weeks to create, maybe a few more days. The rush was because they'd sold a ton of them without anyone ever seeing anything.

 

Backups

To get to our office we walked thru the warehouse where they'd set up the assembly line. Seemed like everyday the line was changed, bigger, more people. Skeet Shoot and Space Chase were coming off the line.

 

The night I finished Space Cavern they had the line workers come in to start production. It was after dark. There were no testers or any testing. Just me pounding a keyboard and burning EPROMs. I told someone I'd fixed the last bug (it's easier to declare "last bug" when you don't do any testing). I backup the code and print a hard copy because that's what they considered to be the copyrighted material and I burn the production EPROM. Hand it off and head home 55 miles away in Denton. I'd been away from home pretty much 24/7 for a month so the wife, me and a couple of friends go out to celebrate. Which we did. Something like midnight or something we're at a bar and they say I have a phone call. That's not normal stuff back then. I didn't even know what bar I was in. It was Apollo. They must have been calling every bar in Denton. I forget who but they're very nice and tell me there's a problem with the game, that the bug wasn't fixed. They have like 15 workers there. I'm too smashed, so I go home to sleep a few hours. Next morning, hung over, I go in, may have been a Sat, and I have to walk by the line with all the workers just standing around. No pressure.

 

I'd screwed up and backed up the wrong source, lost my fixes. Couple hours later we're in business, line is humming. Crazy.

 

Dilbert

Ed had come from some real data processing shop and he wore a tie. He thought all programmers should wear ties. I didn't know crap, I'd dropped out of college to do this game stuff. So I bought some polyester short sleeve pastel shirts and some clip on ties. I think Ed told me about the clip on tie thing. He also always had a pocket protector but I had no clue where one of those could be found or what they were even called. Ed didn't tell me to get one so I didn't. Thought maybe it was a status thing or something.

 

Larry Minor was a Cobol programmer who wore a 3 peice suit and had just come from some huge Blue Cross project that had cratered in grand corporate style. Larry would stand around with a ubiquitous coffee cup in his hand and tell us lot's of stories about the Blue Cross project, and about women and about office politics. I think Larry first told me that companies expected each programmer to write a specific number of lines of code per week or something. He was a character and hopefully still is.

 

Looking back now...we were Dilberts.

 

Leaving

Right when Space Cavern was released a long article in Forbes I think came out about video games. About the money to be made and also I think about EA, about how game programmers should be considered artists and their names and images should be on the box. I had been creating and selling oil paintings before Apollo so I was kind of aware about what an artist was. Someone brought in the magazine, Larry I'd bet, and I read it. Set down the mag, took off my tie, and threw it in my trash bin. Larry was like trying to organize us to demand stuff like credit on the box. Next day I'm wearing jeans. Getting the looks, but not bad looks, worried looks, very worried looks. The crap was hitting the fan. I'm sure Larry had been lobbing Ed and Ed was talking to Pat. Pretty quick, like that day they said names on box no problem and everyone's salary was doubled.

 

But at around this same time Pat was talking about personal helicopters. Not good. Someone came by to show us the blueprints for the new office complex they were building, every office had a fireplace. Not good. We started hiring "programmers" with the joke being our only interview question was "can you spell 6502"? My confidence was not growing.

 

But the kicker was everyday walking by the production line. Now there were like 3 or 4 lines with a cart falling off the end every couple of seconds. Two or three shifts. Thanks to the article I knew each plunk was like $10. Someone told me that Space Cavern had pre-sold 75,000 copies. Let me do some quick math in my head. I was paid about $1300 to produce Space Cavern. Say 80 hours a week, that's about $4 per hour. But yeah, they'd just doubled that, so say $2600 per game vs $750,000 on just the pre-sales. That's profit, not revenue. Let's say my mind wandered.

 

Some back story...when I interviewed I was looking for a part time job just so I could see what was going on in industry. Back at North Texas we were learning about how to make RAM, by hand, wire wrapped, one bit at a time. We'd just gotten a micro lab with Apple IIs, TI, TRS80s but no one knew much about them. The Apollo gig comes up. Seems leading edge stuff to me. They offer a full time job and ask how much I want to leave college. I'd researched programmer pay for a 4 year degree and knew I'd expect to earn $15k. So I say $16K on the phone. Ed laughs and says "we were going to offer you $22K". When I go in to sign the employment agreement there it is in black & white...$16K. It was clear this was all business, which is perfectly fine with me. But that door swings both ways.

 

I got a newspaper and looked thru the want ads. Bingo. Wanted: Programmer for video games. Call him up, he has the start up money, experience running companies and a real desire to sell games. We meet and in his hands is the Forbes magazine. That was VentureVision. Must have been 20 game companies started that month from that article.

 

Can't believe that all happened in like 2 months. It was like a gold rush. Very exciting.

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What about this game:

http://www.atarimani...athy_11883.html

 

Did you have anything to do with that one?

 

8)

Yes, Telepathy was mine.

 

It was meant to just be a short prototype game for user testing the Mind Controller. I can't remember using the name Telepathy, that probably came toward the end. I just think of it as the Mind Controller game.

 

The Mind Controller Product Manager, a real nice British guy I can't remember his name, friend of Chris Horseman, asked me to make the prototype. He was in some kind of jam and needed it fast, like a few days. I thought the Mind Controller was really dumb, too limiting. But after awhile I really got to like it. I got good enough that I could turn down the sensitivity enough that people couldn't see my eye brows moving so it really looked like a Mind Controller. It was strange being perfectly still but playing a game. I liked it.

 

Development flew because the Product Manager really helped with feed back and encouragement. Plus I'd written an "instant assembler" and I had a 500K RAM drive. So I could make a change and see it on the screen in 1-3 seconds. Before that the turn around was like 2-3 minutes. So I was doing like 10, 20,30 times more turns per day. It completely changed the way I programmed. Where before you kind of had to make 3 or 4 changes which made finding bugs harder I could make a small change and test. And I could try tons more tweaks and experiment way more.

 

So I really liked that game a lot. I got a lot into it in I think a week otr two?

 

The rush was for scheduled user testing which I got to go to. One way glass type stuff with about 20 suits watching.

 

When I worked on the game the headset was plugged into the machine. They had a wireless deal too because I guess parents have a problem with wiring their kid's heads to something plugged into the wall. But I hardly ever used the wireless thing because it ran on batteries.

 

Anyways all these kids start using the game and it doesn't work. After a bunch of hardware guys run around for a while they figure out the fluorescent lights are messing up the wireless. So the rest of the testing was done pretty much in the dark.

 

I don't think I played the game much with a stick. It was tweaked specifically for the Mind Controller. And it took maybe 30, 60 minutes of play with the MC before a person could start to really play. So not really a viable product.

Edited by DanOliver
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That's wild.

 

Thank you guys for doing all this and your interest. Sure nice taking a trip down memory lane. I'd forgotten half this stuff, peoples' names. Like I saw in your database the name of my partner at VentureVision, Robert Hesler. There was a third partner who was Robert's good friend and partner in all of their businesses. Can't remember his name. Nice guy. Wish that deal could have worked out better but we were a year too late to the party.

 

And I think the VCS was a great machine.

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What do you mean "homebrewers"? You're saying John Champeau wrote a 2600 game, on a cart that I can buy and stick into a 2600? And this was written like the 1990's, 2000's or something? And people buy these?

 

I think we sold about 10 copies of Rescue Terra I. So I could write a 2600 game today and maybe sell more than 10?

 

Check out these two links related to John Champeau and Conquest of Mars:

 

Champeau, John - DP Interviews...

 

atariage.com/forums/topic/138010-conquest-of-mars-revision-2/

 

 

I'm no expert on Atari 2600 homebrews, but a good homebrew can sell over 100 copies in the AtariAge store (or published in other ways). In 2010, Thomas Jentzsch said "Over 10 years Thrust has definitely sold more than 200 copies. Maybe 500 or so and I am still selling a few each year."

 

 

Boulder Dash was limited to a run of only 250 copies. It could have sold more if a limit wasn't put on it:

 

atariage.com/forums/topic/189547-atari-2600-boulder-dash-r-announced/

 

 

I made a crappy game for the Atari 2600 called Seaweed Assault using batari Basic. CPUWIZ sold around 45 carts in a limited run back in 2011:

 

atariage.com/forums/topic/190743-seaweed-assault-limited-edition-pre-order-thread/

 

 

It looks like Seaweed Assault will be in the AtariAge store later this year:

 

atariage.com/forums/topic/212216-upcoming-homebrews-box-tease/

 

 

If I (with no knowledge of assembly language and zero talent) can get a game into the AtariAge store, you know you could get your new games in there and sell a boatload.

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Yes, Telepathy was mine.

 

It was meant to just be a short prototype game for user testing the Mind Controller. I can't remember using the name Telepathy, that probably came toward the end. I just think of it as the Mind Controller game.

 

The Mind Controller Product Manager, a real nice British guy I can't remember his name, friend of Chris Horseman, asked me to make the prototype. He was in some kind of jam and needed it fast, like a few days. I thought the Mind Controller was really dumb, too limiting. But after awhile I really got to like it. I got good enough that I could turn down the sensitivity enough that people couldn't see my eye brows moving so it really looked like a Mind Controller. It was strange being perfectly still but playing a game. I liked it.

 

Development flew because the Product Manager really helped with feed back and encouragement. Plus I'd written an "instant assembler" and I had a 500K RAM drive. So I could make a change and see it on the screen in 1-3 seconds. Before that the turn around was like 2-3 minutes. So I was doing like 10, 20,30 times more turns per day. It completely changed the way I programmed. Where before you kind of had to make 3 or 4 changes which made finding bugs harder I could make a small change and test. And I could try tons more tweaks and experiment way more.

 

So I really liked that game a lot. I got a lot into it in I think a week otr two?

 

The rush was for scheduled user testing which I got to go to. One way glass type stuff with about 20 suits watching.

 

When I worked on the game the headset was plugged into the machine. They had a wireless deal too because I guess parents have a problem with wiring their kid's heads to something plugged into the wall. But I hardly ever used the wireless thing because it ran on batteries.

 

Anyways all these kids start using the game and it doesn't work. After a bunch of hardware guys run around for a while they figure out the fluorescent lights are messing up the wireless. So the rest of the testing was done pretty much in the dark.

 

I don't think I played the game much with a stick. It was tweaked specifically for the Mind Controller. And it took maybe 30, 60 minutes of play with the MC before a person could start to really play. So not really a viable product.

 

 

You did Telepathy in a 'week or two'? That's amazing! IMHO Telepathy plays better than most commercially released 2600 games. It's actually one of my favorite games to play on the 2600 (I think this is because of the huge variety of screens). I'll have to update my page about it: http://www.atariprot...y/telepathy.htm

 

BTW I really like The Final Legacy as well. Do you have any interesting stories behind the making of that game? I know there are some prototypes out there that use icons instead of words that we assume were meant for the overseas market: http://www.atariprot...finallegacy.htm

 

And here's my page about the InnerSpace prototype. I'll have to update it now with your new info: http://www.atariprot.../innerspace.htm

 

Can you also tell us about your work on the Apple IIgs Toolbox? I'm a big Apple IIgs fan as well. Most of the Apple II guys hang out on Comp.Sys.Apple2 (https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!forum/comp.sys.apple2) so if you have time you might want to stop by there as well.

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I'm no expert on Atari 2600 homebrews, but a good homebrew can sell over 100 copies in the AtariAge store (or published in other ways). In 2010, Thomas Jentzsch said "Over 10 years Thrust has definitely sold more than 200 copies. Maybe 500 or so and I am still selling a few each year."

 

 

Boulder Dash was limited to a run of only 250 copies. It could have sold more if a limit wasn't put on it:

 

atariage.com/forums/topic/189547-atari-2600-boulder-dash-r-announced/

 

 

I made a crappy game for the Atari 2600 called Seaweed Assault using batari Basic. CPUWIZ sold around 45 carts in a limited run back in 2011:

 

atariage.com/forums/topic/190743-seaweed-assault-limited-edition-pre-order-thread/

 

 

It looks like Seaweed Assault will be in the AtariAge store later this year:

 

atariage.com/forums/topic/212216-upcoming-homebrews-box-tease/

 

 

If I (with no knowledge of assembly language and zero talent) can get a game into the AtariAge store, you know you could get your new games in there and sell a boatload.

 

You're slathering it a bit thick on the modesty thing, RT. Seaweed Assault is anything but a crappy game, as multiple AA members have attested to. But your point that non-professional programmers have been empowered by Batari Basic to make their own games is well-taken. Still, it seems to me that only the best ones make it to the AA store.

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Huge thanks for dropping by!

 

More information on The Final Legacy would be awesome! What happened to the other parts of the game? I believe the program was supposed to come on disk and be much bigger.

 

What other Atari 8-bit games were you involved in under Chris Horseman's direction? Any concept demos, prototypes or code that you may still have?

 

--

Atari Frog

http://www.atarimania.com

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I'll trade info...

 

What do you mean "homebrewers"? You're saying John Champeau wrote a 2600 game, on a cart that I can buy and stick into a 2600? And this was written like the 1990's, 2000's or something? And people buy these?

 

Yep, the AtariAge site has an online store front that sells homebrews for a number of systems (mostly Atari, though also Coleco and C= 64). There's currently 76 homebrews available from AtariAge for the 2600.

 

Most of them are written in 6507 assembly. Games in batari BASIC are becoming more common, and C is starting to make an appearance.

 

The 2600 emulator Stella has an extremely helpful integrated debugger:

post-3056-0-64305400-1368978497_thumb.png

 

The top-left contains the current screen and a closeup section(it can be moved to zoom in on any section of the TIA output). The top-right contains CPU and the 128 bytes of RAM. Lower-left has tabs for a debugging prompt and other info, while the lower-right has an on-the-fly disassembly of the code. If your symbol file from dasm matches the ROM filename it will automatically show your variable names in the disassembly. Anything highlighted in RED (such as RAM location $86) recently changed.

 

The other tabs in the debugger:

post-3056-0-97519000-1368978503_thumb.png

post-3056-0-91771100-1368978509_thumb.png

post-3056-0-36264300-1368978515_thumb.png

 

Besides software, there's also been homebrew hardware development such as Harmony, Melody and AtariVox. The Harmony cartridge lets you run 2600 programs off an SD card, very helpful for testing code on real hardware - as great as Stella is, it's not 100% as we've been pushing the Atari harder and harder as we learn more(such as generating a 32 character text display). Stephen Anthony's been great about updating Stella as we figure out these new TIA tricks. The Harmony contains a 70 MHz ARM that can emulate bankswitch hardware, extra RAM and even co-processor abilities like the DPC which David Crane developed and used in Pitfall 2. The Melody is the Harmony without the SD slot - it's used for standalone games. The AtariVox is a voice synthesiser (like The Voice for the Odyssey and Intellivoice for the Intellivision) that plugs into the right joystick port. The AtariVox also contains 32K of non-volitile RAM, which can be used to save high scores and such (for those games written to support it).

 

We've expanded David Crane's DPC into DPC+ to access the additional ROM and RAM found in the Harmony/Melody, as well as to decrease the time it takes to update a TIA register from DPC's 7 to 5 cycles. We've also added the ability to run game logic on the ARM. The code for the ARM is written in the afore mentioned C. The ARM game logic can only run during Vertical Blank and Over Scan as the ARM must relinquish control back to the 6507 when it's time to draw the display. Games like Space Rocks and Frantic are the result.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSkgQxP9z00

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRxdl2T8nlQ

Edited by SpiceWare
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I've said this in other homebrew topics but it is an amazing time to be a 2600 gamer right now. Some of the work that guys like Darrell are doing is incredible and some of the tools we have like the harmony cartridge make playing those games a breeze. If you get yourself setup with a working Stella emulator on your PC, there's a lot of good freebies just sitting around on the boards or in the AtariAge archives and some of the new cartridges in the store are terrific. Actually, it was the active homebrew community that attracted me to 2600 gaming in the first place. I'm 27 so I wasn't even alive in the glory days lol.

 

I only have a small collection myself, but...

 

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IMO some of the label and cart designs are looking better now than they ever did back in the day. Dungeon in particular is gorgeous. It also comes with a full-color poster and manual (well, and box...but mine hasn't arrived yet) so it isn't just the games that are high quality but the production values on the packaging that goes with the games.

 

Video Game Critic has reviewed many different homebrew games. Unfortunately there is no way to filter by system, but as you'll see many of the homebrews he has reviewed are for the 2600 or other classic game systems. So if you're curious about what some people have been doing with these old consoles in the last 15 years or so, it's a good site to check out!

 

Anyway, welcome to AA Dan. You've got at least a few fans here and I'm sure we'd be very excited if you got back into programming 2600 games!

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Random Terrain, thanks for the additional links

 

I think I'm starting to understand. I had to read the stuff about the Melody Board a few times trying to get my brain to consider it being real. When I left the VCS 8K was the max and I'd heard about the Super Charger but that didn't seem viable. Melody has 8K of RAM...mind blowing. I was doing runtime explosions in RAM, I think I reserved like 8 or 10 bytes for the sprite. What could be done with 8K of RAM. That would free up page zero too, so faster instructions could allow all the sprites to be generated at runtime. Might be able to kick Demon Attack's ass. Wouldn't be a fair fight of course, but who likes fair fights?

 

I've been search around for info on the Melody and Harmony boards and found some stuff. But kind of like you guys are interested in the past I'm interested in future which is or was your past. How does Dr Who keep this all straight? Any articles on who created Harmony? Behind the curtain stuff? To me that would be cool to read.

 

Any links on the creation of Melody and Harmony? These are made one off as ordered? I'd love to see a video of one being made. Should I post this in the Harmony thread instead?

 

Thanks

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Time to make more Atari 2600 games and turn "was" into "is." :D

I agree with that. If I can make Princess Rescue with Batari BASIC, then imagine what Oliver can do in Assembly.

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