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Thomas Jentzsch

Star Castle Arcade - Beta Release

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After a (too?) long break after the first release candidate and a lot of extra Hard WorkTM of many people, we proudly present you: The first beta release of Star Castle Arcade for the Atari 2600!

 

The attached zip file contains two ROMs, one for Stella (suffix ".bin"; make sure to get the latest version, always a good idea!) and one for the Harmony cart (suffix ".cu"; BIOS 1.05 required!).

 

The game is 99.9% done, so what this version needs most is some extensive play testing with fresh eyes.

 

The difficulty starts too high or ramps up too fast? The homing mines become too aggressive? The sounds are not well balanced? The controls feel sluggish? You found a bug? ... Eagerly awaiting your feedback!

 

The changes done since the last release are too long to list them all here, you will notice the most relevant ones anyway. Here are the more important ones:

  • To allow better maneuvering, the vertical size of the play field area has been increased, the ships size has been decreased.
  • You got a 3rd bullet to fire simultaneously. How great is that?
  • Difficulty now ramps up with the score, not the castle.
  • Sounds and graphics have been added or greatly enhanced. Thanks to Nathan Strum and Ivan Machado (LS_Dracon)!
  • For your pleasure, the rings are now more nicely animated. They also now behave more like the arcade version.
  • Many, many small changes to make the game more close to the arcade version
  • Improved high score saving
For some more details, please visit my blog.

 

Switches:

  • RESET (during the game): abort game
  • SELECT (at the title screen): change palette (NTSC, PAL, B/W)
  • Setting the LEFT DIFFICULTY to A will cause game to start at a higher difficulty (~50% of the maximum difficulty). Very helpful for testing, too.
  • Setting the RIGHT DIFFICULTY to A will cause the ship to be destroyed by the rings (instead of bouncing off). This is nasty!
Note: You must start a new game to make difficulty switches changes become effective. No cheating for high scores! ;)

 

The game now maintains one high score per difficulty setting. Besides the palette, the initials are saved now too. So, except when playing against your friends, you never have to enter your initials again!

 

Note: Note that the high score table is not stored to your Harmony in this version, so it will be deleted when you switch off your Atari. But it works with Stella.

 

UPDATE#1: Added revision 133 (Final Beta)

UPDATE#2: Added revision 140 (another Final Beta :)) (fixes rapid shooting and mine wrapping bugs)

SCA_124.zip

SCA_133.zip

SCA_140.zip

Edited by Thomas Jentzsch
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The only thing bad is that some of the smaller font text is barely legible due to flickering. I have a really hard time seeing the player shots.

 

Maybe *I'm* the one who needs a fresh pair of eyes :)

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The only thing bad is that some of the smaller font text is barely legible due to flickering. I have a really hard time seeing the player shots.

The text flickering is there to mimic vector effects. When I started helping with the project, the decision for those was already made.

 

The bullets now flicker more, because there can be 3 instead of 2. We could make them a bit brighter (together with the player's ship). Would that help?

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The text flickering is there to mimic vector effects. When I started helping with the project, the decision for those was already made.

 

The bullets now flicker more, because there can be 3 instead of 2. We could make them a bit brighter (together with the player's ship). Would that help?

 

In my opinion the text looks fine on a real display. I'll try the latest version of the game on real hardware and see how the bullets look, though.

 

..Al

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The ROM with the .cu extension also works in Stella :)

Yes, thanks to you! :)

 

But Melody support for high score saving is disabled in this ROM. I wanted to be sure to put no harm on people's Harmony carts. So for Stella, the .bin extension (that was the correct term!) is better.

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The text flickering is there to mimic vector effects. When I started helping with the project, the decision for those was already made.

 

The bullets now flicker more, because there can be 3 instead of 2. We could make them a bit brighter (together with the player's ship). Would that help?

 

I've found in my own games that brighter works. Sometimes I let the shot get more time on-screen before switching to the next virtual shot.

 

I realise the intention with the font. I think it may be the size. The next size up I have no problem reading. My eyes just don't "connect the dots" fast enough.

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I realise the intention with the font. I think it may be the size. The next size up I have no problem reading. My eyes just don't "connect the dots" fast enough.

Not your fault, I don't like flicker too. Sadly there's no rom for bigger fonts.

What type of TV/monitor are you using? Flicker is more soft in CRT.

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Not your fault, I don't like flicker too. Sadly there's no rom for bigger fonts.

What type of TV/monitor are you using? Flicker is more soft in CRT.

 

LCD. I'll try it on my plasma next. I think the consensus is that it's not an issue. Brighter/longer blinking shots would be nice though :)

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LCD. I'll try it on my plasma next. I think the consensus is that it's not an issue. Brighter/longer blinking shots would be nice though :)

My lcd tv also is really bad for flicker. This why I keep an old CRT just for classic gaming :)

The brighter shoots is possible BTW, hang on :)

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My lcd tv also is really bad for flicker. This why I keep an old CRT just for classic gaming :)

The brighter shoots is possible BTW, hang on :)

 

In my experience, modern televisions and projectors are abysmal for playing Atari 2600 games. That's why I continue to use CRTs at home and at the shows I attend, even though a fleet of LCD panels would be considerably lighter, smaller, and easier to transport! Not to mention that even when there are no issues, games still don't look quite right without phosphors. :)

 

..Al

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That shield regenerates too fast!

 

Sounds like someone is shooting the last piece of a shield. Don't shoot a piece or two of a shield and it won't regenerate.

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Is it a bug when the attract mode is so good you think twice before pushing the buttom to actually play the game?

 

Well, both 7800s worked perfect. One has many compatibility issues.

All shots are good on my CRT.

 

The game isn't easy but it's very fun (unfortunately, I didn't play any Star Castle game before...)

Recording high scores is a great incentive to keep playing. It will rock on the cart release.

I'll keep playing and will report any problem.

 

Congrats to all who made this great game. :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

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What do you mean? :?

I mean the game starts out too hard. Those shields regenerate so fast I have difficulty destroying the center ship on the first screen, and on the next screen those drones are so fast they are really difficult too avoid, so the difficulty ramps up too fast. Of course, I'm average at best when it comes to arcade games. On a positive note, I have to say I like this version quite a bit better than the last one. The changes made were nice improvements.

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Sounds like someone is shooting the last piece of a shield. Don't shoot a piece or two of a shield and it won't regenerate.

That could be, I wasn't really paying attention.

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That could be, I wasn't really paying attention.

You should keep at least one segment of the outer ring, else the rings will move outside and a new inner ring will be generated.

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May I start a little competition for hunting bugs purpose? ;) I will edit this post avoiding too much score posts.

Difficulties:

Until now no bugs and I am in first place in all games.

 

Game1 B/B: 10,530 and no bug so far.

Game 2 A/B: around 6,400 and no bug so far.

Game 3 B/A: 1,190 no bug so far.

Game 4 A/A: 2,000 no bug so far.

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My hi-score post:

 

B/B - 12230

A/B - 4690

B/A - 7740

A/A - 2770

 

No bugs.

Edited by Zoyx
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Everything looking great so far for me. Especially fun using a Starplex controller. Although it's been 30 years since I was able to pull off the corener to corner method for playing forever on this game, and I havent been able to get in the groove with it in tis version becuase my technique is so out of date, the old 'bounce off the ring (left to right or top and bottom) back and forth across the screen' method seems to work for a while until the mines get aggressive enough so the method wont work any more. This seems to play so much like I remember playing the arcade version, it's incredible to think 'this is the 2600! I can see the mines and my shots just fine on the screen. Awesome work!

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