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Designing a cartridge that supports 100% C/C++ game development

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So it will only ever be an extremely limited production to be hoarded by collectors. So guys like me, who actually might have an interest to play your game, can't. :sad:

That really depends on how it's released.

 

What would be the response if the game were say for example rented? Say $10 to rent a game for a month? For me playing the crap out of a 2600 game is plenty, maybe renting for another month after a year. There would be a deposit of course, but not crazy. Maybe the renter gets to keep the box since a run of boxes is cheap per unit and that I have no trouble sourcing. So the game would come to each renter in a new box.

 

I get a game can be released as just code and run in Harmony or an emulator. But to me, that's not appealing as a designer. The box, the cart to me was substantial and a big part of a game. Maybe because for me it was the hardest parts to create. When people were making Apple II games, putting them on floppies and selling them in zip lock baggies it wasn't appealing to me. Great games no doubt, but just seemed cheap, like anyone could do it. When you have to design, buy and assemble the cart, box, art, manual, etc... it really kind of forces you to think...crap, I'd better make this game as good as I can.

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You could just get an overkill processor made for smartphones and interface with the atari using some SRAM and a 20MHZ Z80. Imagine; wifi-enabled atari cartridges

[Overkill Processsor]->[DRAM]->[Z80]->[SRAM]->[Atari 2600]
Edited by Gip-Gip

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I guess collectors could rent the game, keep it, and see the deposit as just the price.

 

Hmmm, was thinking, well, I could then buy another Melody board to replace that unit. Now I'd right back to trying to get more boards so that's not thrilling.

 

Maybe overthinking this. If I can cache 10 boards before I start a game I'd know it could be released at least. Not optimal, but get's me out of being at the whim of whoever. Then after that if I can get more boards then cool, if not, then that's it. And actually if I have trouble getting more boards and players want the game they could contact whoever to lobby for access. That would probably work.

 

This would mean something like a few units being released each month or whenever. Would the community be cool with that?

 

The problem I was having before is I wanted hundreds of boards, which if I remember right Batari had to solder by hand. I'd hate to have to solder 1,000 boards by hand so can't blame him to be vague on delivery. I think I was pushing for a way to get these wave soldered or some automated method. Maybe we couldn't get the run large enough, I forget, but got nowhere.

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Oh....and I don't want to sell homebrew games, I want to sell professional games.

 

I'd like to know your definition of the difference between the two.

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I'd like to know your definition of the difference between the two.

Maybe like this?

 

"Professional":

 

Homebrew:

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To build the break out box for the harmony cart you need the following supplies. These same parts can be used with any cartridge type. The harmony just happens to be the one of interest at the moment.

 

Some hookup wire to solder to the edge connector and for general bread boarding. Any 22AWG solid core wire should work.

https://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/general-cable-carol-brand/C2004A.12.05/C2004Y-100-ND/122086

 

24 position female connector to plug the cartridge into.

https://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/te-connectivity-amp-connectors/8-5530843-3/A101969-ND/2310830

 

Some assorted premade wires are very useful for attaching the logic analyzer to bread boards. I ordered mine from banggood and the colors matched the logic analyzer I bought. This makes things super easy to wire up and is well worth the money. I recommend getting both 10cm and 30cm sets because you never know when they'll come in handy.

https://www.banggood.com/120Pcs-30cm-Male-To-Female-Male-To-Male-Female-To-Female-Jumper-Cable-DuPont-Line-For-Arduino-p-1058293.html?rmmds=myorder

https://www.banggood.com/3-IN-1-120Pcs-10cm-Male-To-Female-Female-To-Female-Male-To-Male-Jumper-Cable-For-Arduino-p-1054670.html?rmmds=myorder

 

A 16 port logic analyzer is good enough to see what's going on with the VCS busses. You won't be able to capture the complete address and data buses at the same time, but 8 bits of each is enough for debugging purposes. They aren't that expensive though. In theory you could buy two and use one for each bus.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0027QRPIA/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

 

Obviously, this project requires soldering tools and supplies as well as some basic soldering skills. I'm sure google has plenty of info on this if needed.

 

 

A 4k donor cart is required for the PCB. You need to take out the PCB, paying attention to how it was oriented in the Atari. If you lose track you can always use a multimeter to verify the orientation by checking for +5V on the appropriate ROM pin. The ROM should be removed and some short lengths, about a foot, of hookup wire should be soldered in each pin hole where the ROM was. It is recommended at this point to label each wire with some masking tape and a pen/sharpie. Simply use the online pinout for the 4k cart pcb. Note OE is the same thing as A12, so use A12 because that's what we really care about.

 

Some foot lengths of hookup wire can be soldered to the card edge connector pins. This is a little bit tricky, but with some patience it's not too bad to get all 24 wires on there. This wires should be labeled as well.

 

 

Once the cart pcb and edge connector both have hookup wires attached you can assemble the break out box. Wire both the pcb and socket together via the breadboard. On one side of the breadboard put the databus wires in order from D0 through D7. On the other side put the address bus wires in order from A0-A12. Wire 5V and GND to the power bars on the side of the bread board, but make sure they are on separate power bars! At this point you should be able to put any working game cart into the connector and power up the VCS and play it. Once that's working it's time to attach the logic analyzer. Use the female-to-male 10CM wires and match up the colors with the logic analyzer. Put one 8bit port on D0-D7 and the other on A0-A7. While the VCS is on and a game is playing you should now be able to capture bus activity with the logic analyzer. You should also be able to group the signals into two 8bit busses to view the values in hex and create triggers so a capture occurs when a specific value is detected on the bus.

 

You should end up with something that looks like this:

post-40226-0-49226100-1488335867_thumb.jpg
post-40226-0-09855800-1488335880_thumb.png

 

 

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Oh....and I don't want to sell homebrew games, I want to sell professional games.

 

I'd like to know your definition of the difference between the two.

I try not to make up my own definition of words although I do understand doing so is all the rage these days.

 

From Google...

professional

1. relating to or connected with a profession.
2. (of a person) engaged in a specified activity as one's main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.

 

From Urban Dictionary...

homebrew

1. a beer brewed at home
2. any of a number of creations or modifications by an individual or group on an amature level at home

 

Let me know if you require further clarification. I wasn't an English major so maybe I'm not the best person to ask as the two words seem pretty clear to me.

 

Or if you wanted to know if I was implying some derogatory meaning in the hopes of a flame war please ask that directly. Thanks.

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That's how I understood the definitions as well. I'll rephrase my question to clarify the intent behind it.

 

What is your distinction between the two ("homebrew games" and "professional games") as it relates to what it is you're looking to do in producing games for the Atari 2600? How is what you want to do different than producing homebrew games?

For example:

  • Do you want to professionally create and sell Atari 2600 games as your main paid occupation?
  • What would be the fundamental differences between the games you sell as professional products, as opposed to those produced and sold as homebrew games?

Please let me know if you have additional questions regarding my questions. ;)

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  • Do you want to professionally create and sell Atari 2600 games as your main paid occupation?

Yes

 

 

  • What would be the fundamental differences between the games you sell as professional products, as opposed to those produced and sold as homebrew games?

 

Mine would be be produced professionally.

 

A person who produces a game with the intent to sell it as their main paid occupation and wants to call what they do as homebrew is of course within their right. It's not what the term means, but like I said, making up meanings to words is all the rage. Pretty much everyone does it. It seems a partially favorite pastime online when trolling.

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You don't need much to live on, I guess. :-o

Assuming the emoji is suppose to mean the statement is sarcastic...

 

Creating a game for the 2600 assumes, I assume, that the only cash would come from the 2600. I'd be surprised if there's a single professional game designer in the world who would design any game for a single platform, or not have in mind possible web site promotion, licensing, books, movies, etc... Games are a big business. It doesn't really take that much additional effort to design a game with those possibilities in mind.

 

I get most are very skeptical of such things. That's what makes it interesting.

Edited by DanOliver

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Games are a big business. It doesn't really take that much additional effort to design a game with those possibilities in mind.

 

 

I know games are big business, I beg to differ though, in terms of considering a 2600 game an "income" of any significance. I have programmed professional games all my life, one of the latest ones I worked on, you may have seen on TV.

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I know games are big business, I beg to differ though, in terms of considering a 2600 game an "income" of any significance. I have programmed professional games all my life, one of the latest ones I worked on, you may have seen on TV.

That's nice.

 

I disagree with any premise that implies a game designed for the 2600 can't also be implemented on other platforms and earn a very good income. I get it's not common, but that doesn't mean it can't happen. Especially today with so many web based game publishers.

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The problem is not that a game designed for the 2600 cannot be ported to other platforms, but the fact that releasing a game for a platform that has been discontinued over 25 years ago, made from a company that no longer exists, will only interest an extremely small group of enthusiasts (And, by the way, you must take into consideration the issues in terms of returns and refunds for customers complaining that the game doesn't work in their 30 years old hardware).

If the price is comparable to that of the games in the AA store, I think you can maybe sell 100 copies at launch, and maybe you can double or triplicate that in a few years if it's a really good game. Higher estimates are unrealistic at best, IMHO.

I'm also very skeptical about the promotional value a 2600 game release can have on the general public.

In any case, I wish you good luck.

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My goodness. The very last thing I would ever try is to convince anyone is that such things are possible. I don't know why anyone would have the need to try and convince me that such things are impossible. I do understand why people would try and convince themselves.

 

But, just looking at the ballpark numbers...

 

Cost of cart, box, manual say $10.

Sales price of game $75.

Profit $65

Units sold: 150

Gross profit $9750

Development time: 6 weeks

8 games released per year gross profit: $78,000

 

Now, yes, anyone can shred those estimates, please, enjoy yourself. Certainly the entire amount wouldn't be collected in 365 days since sales of the last couple of games would spread into the following year. And people can debate whether that's enough money for a person to live on. And I've certainly read long debates here on whether a game could be sold for $75, but a $25 game in 1980 adjusted for inflation is about $75.

 

Having another person create the cart, box, manual and sells channel would of course reduce the gross profit to $6-12k and yeah, that's not a reasonable income. So yeah, that type of business model isn't very interesting. That's true for most products.

 

Can any of these hypothetical games be ported to HTML5 or Facebook to leverage the design cost? I see no reason why not. But of course if a person doesn't think it's possible then well, yeah, it certainly wouldn't be possible.

 

Any of this guaranteed? Let's not be completely silly.

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post-30777-0-72194700-1496519632.jpg

 

The problem is not that a game designed for the 2600 cannot be ported to other platforms, but the fact that releasing a game for a platform that has been discontinued over 25 years ago, made from a company that no longer exists, will only interest an extremely small group of enthusiasts (And, by the way, you must take into consideration the issues in terms of returns and refunds for customers complaining that the game doesn't work in their 30 years old hardware).

If the price is comparable to that of the games in the AA store, I think you can maybe sell 100 copies at launch, and maybe you can double or triplicate that in a few years if it's a really good game. Higher estimates are unrealistic at best, IMHO.

I'm also very skeptical about the promotional value a 2600 game release can have on the general public.

In any case, I wish you good luck.

 

 

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@DanOliver, no offense, but Atari homebrew games can be expected to sell 200 copies at best around $30 a piece loose, $50 CIB. Note also that some buyers only collect loose or CIB, so to maximize sales, it is best to offer both options.

 

Big budget PS4/XB1/Switch games might sell a million copies, oftentimes more. Sure they have much larger development staff (one man for 2600 game versus hundreds for big budget modern game), and Indie developers often have smaller teams which release games on a smaller budget to sell fewer copies on digital market places at a smaller cost per unit.

 

If I could offer you one tip, it is don't quit your day job. You know as well as everyone here that games released for vintage consoles do not have the market power they had when the consoles were the new thing on the block. If you are lucky, a successful homebrew run might let you eat out a couple extra times, but it will not pay the mortgage or help you finance a car.

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I am excited to see what Dan comes up with. If he can generate 6 to 8 high quality games a year, that would be amazing for people who want to play games. I also agree with him that there's no reason why a compelling concept wouldn't move from the VCS to other platforms and/or other media via licensing. Sure, it would be unusual, but not impossible; if the concept starts here that will only bring more attention to the VCS, which I think is something that we would all like to see.

 

I think Dan is just coming at things from a different angle; no harm in that. If he succeeds it's most likely a net gain for the hobby.

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If he can generate 6 to 8 high quality games a year, that would be amazing for people who want to play games.

 

 

I'd like to see him start with one, first. It would have to be a pretty incredible game for me to consider plunking down $75 on one. Much less 6 or 8 per year.

 

The idea of professionally producing 2600 games is an intriguing one (and one pondered numerous times in these forums over the years). But I can't help but think he's putting the cart before the horse. (Sorry. :roll: )

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My goodness. The very last thing I would ever try is to convince anyone is that such things are possible. I don't know why anyone would have the need to try and convince me that such things are impossible. I do understand why people would try and convince themselves.

[...]

No one is trying to convince anyone. When someone post in a forum, it's normal for other people to comment and post their opinions. That's it.

 

[...]

if the concept starts here that will only bring more attention to the VCS, which I think is something that we would all like to see.

[...]

I don't know. If more attention means more post or blog entries talking about "product", "company", "business plan", "competitors", "monopoly" and "capitalism", or suggesting to make a bootleg copy of a board developed by someone else of the community because "there aren't any patents so it would be legal", then no, thank you.

That's not something I would like to see.

 

I consider this as an Hobby and I'd rather support programmers who create games because of the challenge and the fun.

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