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Why C64 and not Atari XL/XE?

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I always wanted to ask: why were there such great games (original and ports) for Commodore 64 that never made it to Atari XL/XE series? Was the reason only hardware issues? What are the key factors that determined this situation?


Forgive my ignorance,


- Y -

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Nothing to do with the hardware, it was two basic reasons; Atari had a smaller user base, so often developers didn't think it was worth porting unless the programs became hits on C64 first, and to make matter worse, the Atari user community was infamous for being the biggest software pirates of the day. Many times games found their way to Atari pirate BBS's before they were even commercially released! So basically the Atari community shot themselves in the foot.

 

On the upside, many of those Atari hacker/pirate groups are now the biggest supporters/developers of new Atari software today and we are seeing better support for the 8-bits now than we did in the last few years of the 8-bit era. And, most of the new software is free!

Edited by Gunstar
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I think there's also the problem of locations, the Atari was far more popular in the USA than the UK and vice versa the C64 was a bigger hit in the UK than the states (at the time when they were competing as it were). More devs thought Spectrum and C64 when making games with the Atari either not given a thought of dev backers not thinking it would return the production time.

 

I can't begin to say how many times I campaigned to devs under my Maplin badge to develop titles for the 8bit, every show I'd grab time with as many folks as I could to 'preach' for the 8bit but so few actually ever bothered.

 

I suppose there were a few tech limitations based upon sprites (at the time, later clever coding tricks over came many of those) where games like Green Beret thought impossible because of the main sprite, eventually De Re Software did a conversion (John Kavanagh & Pat McCormick of Quest for the Maltese Chicken) but sadly many thought the Atari was just too small a user base here and here was where the c64 coders mostly came from so apart from US sometimes generic Atari, Apple, C64 ports many here in the UK just didn't bother.....(Mostly at the time)

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Many times games found their way to Atari pirate BBS's before they were even commercially released! So basically the Atari community shot themselves in the foot.

 

On the upside, many of those Atari hacker/pirate groups are now the biggest supporters/developers of new Atari software today and we are seeing better support for the 8-bits now than we did in the last few years of the 8-bit era. And, most of the new software is free!

 

Many of the games that found their way on to BBS's actually fell out of the back door of Atari themselves here in the UK, I know that for a fact, I could name a name but I won't.

 

The first guy to get done for software piracy here in the UK was done for selling cartridge images on disk, the title they chose to do him for was Ms Pacman for obvious reasons, mind you he was an ass for selling it in Exchange and Mart, but the image came from the back door of Atari in the first place..

 

Piracy helped kill the Atari here in the Uk and in the US but Atari didn't help themselves in that department either..

Edited by Mclaneinc
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In the Netherlands atari had a rather poor marketing strategy. Despite of that we still had the fabulous SAG (Stichting Atari Gebruikers; The Atari Foundation) which had pretty cool support, a very nice magazine and for the time a nice public domain library. Those people there really cared for the atari, although rather soon their interest moved more and more to the ST.

 

In this country The C64 was way more popular here. In Germany (our neighbors) though was the Atari more popular. I became an ABBUC member somewhere in 1990, and I sold my atari in 1991. Since I always regretted that I bought a lot of a8 stuff back in 1995 and became abbuc member again. I was rather shocked to see that ABBUC lost a lot of members in those 4 years but since then the amount of members is increasing.

 

I really think that original developers wouldn't believe their eyes and ears when you could travel in time, and take fabulous demos (like boogie nights, numen, overmind etc.) and games back to the eighties and show those titles to them. I think a rather big amount of original titles do not show what atari is capable to. Not completely valid argument, since there are really AWESOME titles which are still very popular, that do not meet any level of high quality when it comes to graphics and sound, but are really challenging simply because of their gameplay (missile command is one of my favorite games; it looks like nothing, but it is awesome).

 

I must say that the C64 scene hasn't sit still either. The software for this platform has increased the quality dramatically too. But to me everything on C64 looks and sounds the same, but I have been with Atari since 1984, so I appreciate my 8bit atari's more ;)

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Outsold by C64 something like 6 to 1 globally, possibly more.

 

US market was moving towards PC, and even Apple 2 seemed to outsell the A8 or at least get better support from mid 80s onwards.

 

In Europe it was even worse in a sense because of extra competition from the likes of Spectrum and Amstrad. And the support base spread even thinner for the lesser-selling computers thanks to plenty of others like BBC, Dragon, MSX.

 

Then you have the 16-bit machines coming along, even Atari's support for their own hardware dwindled with most of the effort going into ST and successors.

 

At least we can have some thanks to the then emerging markets of Eastern Europe, which occurred just as the west started to forget about the 8-bit Atari it was a major player in places like Poland.

Edited by Rybags
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But at the end of the day we still have our lovely little machine, there's some amazing stuff on it, its getting great support still with both software and hardware...

 

I tip my hat to ALL our devs (yes even him :) ) they are gods to me, supporting a relic of the past like it was out yesterday, and the quality is even better than the original stuff.

 

AND with the current emulators making dev easier on the Atari I think we can look forward to some gems, thanks to everyone.

 

What more could you ask for...

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I always wanted to ask: why were there such great games (original and ports) for Commodore 64 that never made it to Atari XL/XE series? Was the reason only hardware issues? What are the key factors that determined this situation?

Assuming we're talking around the mid 1980s when the C64 software started really picking up, then hardware was an issue at least in some cases; that was when the coin-ops which inspired home game coders started seriously ramping up the number of in-game objects and the C64 can just juggle more of those. It's also an easier machine to pick up from a beginner's perspective, at least if you're aiming to get a game going.

 

The market in that mid 1980s window was probably the biggest factor; the A8 just wasn't seen as being a viable market commercially, so the coders that did try writing games often found themselves unable to find a publisher and, whilst there were a few dedicated Atari shops like Red Rat or to a degree English, only the UK budget houses seemed willing to add to the pot but that was more ported than original titles.

 

Piracy contributed to the problem because of the same small market, so taking food from developers' mouths will have pushed them towards the busier platforms; there was still piracy there as well (the A8's biggest rivals had at least the same levels and it was probably a little better organised too) but the impact was lessened by the larger user base.

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When both C64 and A8 were new and current, I went with C64 for a few reasons:

- more titles available

- titles were cheaper

- accessories shared with Vic-20 (I had the Vic first)

- less compatibility issues

 

However, today I'd likely choose the A8 over C= for different reasons:

- built better and easier to fix

- better new hardware availability

- far better parts availablity

- easier upgrades

 

I can imagine that many people went with the same reasons I did.

Edited by zylon
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However, today I'd likely choose the A8 over C= for different reasons:

- built better and easier to fix

- better new hardware availability

- far better parts availablity

- easier upgrades

i don't really do hardware myself so can't comment on the state of play for parts[1] (and the delivery times for things like the 1541 Ultimate 2 are long but understandable since they're very complicated devices with just one person assembling them), but i really have to draw a question mark next to "easier upgrades" bit... my workhorse C64 has a cartridge hanging out of the back which gives it (amongst other things) VGA out, infra red and PS/2 keyboard/mouse in, 16Mb of RAM expansion 6MHz of CPU power and, if i'd taken the options, 10mbit LAN and battery back clock - how much easier is adding those toys to an A8...?

 

And these days there's really no reason to choose one over the other, i've got both (literally, there's two of each in my office as i "speak") and happily use and code for them on a fairly regular basis.

 

[1] Speaking of which, i've got a 600XL with one key broken, how hard are those parts to source and install?

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One major reason was the crappy 400/800... Developers were afraid to use more than 48k.. A lot of games on the Apple & C= that used a full 64k would have been easier to port to the XL/XE if everyone had been willing to just forget about the old obsolete pregnant-typewriter looking POS 400/800..

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i don't really do hardware myself so can't comment on the state of play for parts[1] (and the delivery times for things like the 1541 Ultimate 2 are long but understandable since they're very complicated devices with just one person assembling them), but i really have to draw a question mark next to "easier upgrades" bit... my workhorse C64 has a cartridge hanging out of the back which gives it (amongst other things) VGA out, infra red and PS/2 keyboard/mouse in, 16Mb of RAM expansion 6MHz of CPU power and, if i'd taken the options, 10mbit LAN and battery back clock - how much easier is adding those toys to an A8...?

 

And these days there's really no reason to choose one over the other, i've got both (literally, there's two of each in my office as i "speak") and happily use and code for them on a fairly regular basis.

 

[1] Speaking of which, i've got a 600XL with one key broken, how hard are those parts to source and install?

Best Electronics sells keyboards for XL's new. Only a screwdriver needed to swap.

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Every machine had rampant piracy so you can't attribute it all to that.

 

The simplest explanation is that there were more C64s. It's the same reason there was more software for the Apple II. There were more Apple IIs.

Atari had multiple disk formats (single or double density), do you support 64K, 48K, 32K or 16K of RAM... Atari never came out with an upgrade to make the 400/800 compatible with the XL series.
Every C64 had 64K and anyone with a disk drive had the same density/format to support.

And remember, it takes more effort to create a similar looking game on Atari. Just look at any thread where someone suggests a game be ported to Atari.
You hear "the Atari can do that" and then a long discussion of how ensues.
You see stuff about overlaying player missile graphics over a picture just to get the same # of colors and that's just a still image.
When it comes to sprite based games you have the same thing. Just putting eyes on the ghosts in Pac Man requires more work.
Moving sprites vertically on the Atari requires a memory move. On the C64 you just change the coordinates.
Changing a sprite to animate it on the C64 is easier too... just point to another sprite image.

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One major reason was the crappy 400/800... Developers were afraid to use more than 48k.. A lot of games on the Apple & C= that used a full 64k would have been easier to port to the XL/XE if everyone had been willing to just forget about the old obsolete pregnant-typewriter looking POS 400/800..

Assuming it's viable in the first place, converting code from C64 to A8 usually means an extra memory overhead (for software sprite routines, fast hardware sprite redraw code, extra data tables for the aforementioned and so on) so anything really pushing the RAM on the Breadbin is going to expand during porting. Apple II conversions are tricky for different reasons, all the graphics draw and object processing stuff needs recoding because it's seven bits worth of pixels in a byte where the A8 (and indeed C64) use eight.

 

Best Electronics sells keyboards for XL's new. Only a screwdriver needed to swap.

Brutal, when there's some spare cash in the pot i'll have to think about doing a little shopping... that's a serious clusterf**k of a website though?!

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Moving sprites vertically on the Atari requires a memory move. On the C64 you just change the coordinates.

Changing a sprite to animate it on the C64 is easier too... just point to another sprite image.

 

As I feel we had this type of thread some weeks ago, I do not want to add much on topic.

However, I want to point out that you are using ONE fact to make TWO arguments :) <== smiley!

 

If you have a routine that copies data for the vertical move, then animating the sprite is as well just updating a pointer.

Not a HW pointer, but a SW pointer which your routine uses.

 

 

In my opinion its the HW sprites which made the C64 so succesfull in the 2nd half of 1980.

Many games were inspired of arcade games and therefor were rather sprite based. you can make many (space) shooters.

But only so many "inovative" games like "Yoomp" (not really counting as it wasn't made in the 80s) or "Rescue on Fractalus".

Edited by Creature XL

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Interesting debate. I remember that -back in those good old days- one of the very few Atari software importers in my country told me that the difference were the graphic and sound possibilities of each machine. In other words, that C64 had better graphic and sound features that enabled programmers to create software/games more easily.

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But only so many "inovative" games like "Yoomp" (not really counting as it wasn't made in the 80s) or "Rescue on Fractalus".

That's market forces again really, there were popular conversions of that kind of game (Stunt Car Racer, The Sentinel, Mercenary, Elite, Rescue On Fractalus. Driller and so on) with varying degrees of success, but the 2D stuff tended to fare better in the charts and we're talking about that period where sales figures started to govern what was made and stocked by the high street chains; i remember Colin Fuidge (the boss of Firebird and Silverbird) in early-ish 1987 telling a teenage version of me that BMX Racers from Mastertronic was one of the all-time best selling 8-bit games of all time so they wanted to head in that sort of BMX/skateboarding direction more.

 

By that point, people like Jeff Minter or Mel Croucher who were doing some really innovative (and/or completely fecking mental depending on how you look at it) stuff were being squeezed out of the retail chain simply because they were too small and niche, it wasn't possible to slap a label on their games for marketing. (This is why later Llamasoft titles were published by other labels such as Ariolasoft, Hewson or Mastertronic). Croucher basically invented the "art game" back then with Deus Ex Machina but, despite excellent reviews from the magazines, just couldn't get the thing onto shop shelves.

 

I remember that -back in those good old days- one of the very few Atari software importers in my country told me that the difference were the graphic and sound possibilities of each machine. In other words, that C64 had better graphic and sound features that enabled programmers to create software/games more easily.

Even a complete novice at 6502 code could lob some sprites up, get them moving, scroll a chunk of the screen and bingo, budget quality game! The C64 lacks the processing horsepower to do 3D as well as the Atari 8-bit (or indeed most of the other machines out there) but it really dug itself in for 2D.

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The A8 library after 1985 is missing many titles available on other systems, not because the hardware was incapable but because of market forces and perceived consumer demand. There are tons of games (like Carmen SanDiego) that would have easily run on the A8. The only reasoning for most titles not appearing on A8 had to be financial with publishers no longer feeling the A8 market to be profitable enough for the investment required.

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"Brutal, when there's some spare cash in the pot i'll have to think about doing a little shopping... that's a serious clusterf**k of a website though?!"

 

I do have an extra keyboard assembly around. It's the keys and frame only, no mylar or back plate.

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For me my atari 8bit is not replaceable by anything else. The only 'thing' more important for me are my child and the rest of my family and friends. It's not that I'm a freak or so, but the atari had joined me in my life when I was 8 years old, and never let me down. Who or what can compete with that? I also have been using Apple 2 a lot, but only for a few years. I still have my Apple 2c and except for the fabulous fast and cool booting process on that machine, it doesn't thrill me at all.

 

I am pretty sure when I had in stead of my 800XL a C64, I now would say exact the same thing about my C64.

 

My Atari 800XL is together with my piano one of the coolest parts of my life. I can code on it, I can modify the machine, I can control the system, I can enjoy games, I can compose music on it, I can have contact with other ehnthusiastics here on AtariAge and on BBS (calling with the real atari). I can buy the coolest and hottest upgrades imaginable (I think of Turbo Freezer 2011, Sio2USB (Abbuc), Sio2SD, MyIDE ][, SIDE2, The!Cart, IDE+ 2.0 etc.) it is so cool, I can't imagine that I would enjoy any non-living thing more. (That's why I have a stock of over 100 atari 8bit computers). Everytime a new demo or game is released for a8, I'm so proud of that little computer that it can run such a fabulous software.

 

But to be back ontopic... I think the majority of people just buy something without really think very well about the choice. There where the marketing works the best for brand A, brand a will be purchased most, even when brand B is much better (think of the battle of what is the best VIDEO system (I'm rather sure the winner, VHS, was not the best choice).

 

Anyway, I wish all C64 users all the best, and I know how they must be feeling. 8bit computers do rule the world anyway :D

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One major reason was the crappy 400/800... Developers were afraid to use more than 48k.. A lot of games on the Apple & C= that used a full 64k would have been easier to port to the XL/XE if everyone had been willing to just forget about the old obsolete pregnant-typewriter looking POS 400/800..

That's an interesting argument. From an 800 point of view the 800XL looked like a step sideways rather than ahead. For an 800 user there was little to no incentive to "upgrade" to an 800XL. I never needed "Translator" discs my friends with 800XLs had to boot and as you said, it took a very long time for "800XL only"/64K software to appear. The only one I would have liked was DOS XL (for the increased memory, some of which I could enjoy with BASIC XL and Action! carts) and maybe Turbo BASIC, but that was 2 years later. Deleting two joystick ports required for M.U.L.E. was an insult. As for style, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and to me the tiny 800XL looked a lot less serious than my 800, although a lot of it's promises (right cartridges, personality board) remained unfulfilled until the arrival of Incognito. (The XLs still look a lot better and ergonomical than the downright ugly C64.)

 

The "one version only" was probably as important for the C64s success as the better sprites and the SID music (which I didn't care for that much but which was important for many). I still think the C64s graphics may better the Atari's for action and features but can't beat it for style. IMHO the Atari can do nicer colors.

 

Having read "On the Edge" I don't think Atari could have beaten Commodore in 1983 even if they had packed more C64-like features into the 800XL. The 800XL wasn't built to sell for the price Commodore built the C64 to sell (according to an interview with Chuck Peddle it was sold without profit and all the profit came from peripherals which vastly outsold expectations).

 

Today I own most 8-bit Ataris and a C128 but I still plan to make an 800 with Incognito my main machine. First love.....

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Some games on the Atari were better as on the C64. Thanks to the faster speed 1,79Mhz vs 1Mhz.

 

Example: Rescue on Fractalus and Koronis Rift. (I read this in some old computer game magazines, where the developer of Lucas Arts spoke about the faster Atari). The graphic calculations to make the 2d/3d grafix were a lot faster on the Atari.

 

I guess, that other games, that use calculations a lot, are faster on the Atari. Chess games, strategy games etc.

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Example: Rescue on Fractalus and Koronis Rift. (I read this in some old computer game magazines, where the developer of Lucas Arts spoke about the faster Atari). The graphic calculations to make the 2d/3d grafix were a lot faster on the Atari.

That's not just down to horsepower though, there's also the difference in resolutions; the C64 is having to handle double the memory with Rescue On Fractalus so, if every second scanline were skipped (which would still work but darken the display) it could be much closer to what the A8 is doing. If memory serves, The Eidolon uses the same resolution on both and the C64 gets a tiny bit more speed?

 

A8s are for serious computing not games that was for the lesser machines

Not according to Atari, at least if Atari developer John Harris is to be believed, in the interview he did for Halcyon Days he noted (my emphasis in bold) that...

 

This is of course entirely the fault of Atari Corporation, who didn't have the slightest clue about marketing. They once told a company who wanted to convert their successful business programs to the Atari that their products were simply not wanted on the Atari computer. "It will ruin its game machine image," they said.

The C64 isn't purely a games machine any more than the Atari 8-bit is; how many other "gaming" 8-bits had a GUI with programs to offer word processing or desktop publishing back in the 1980s?

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