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Andrew Davie

The Video Game Homebrew Crash of 2016

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Is there a link to the discussion? I'd like to see if it provides any insight into how my collaborators managed to bypass his rules with batari basic, assembly, and vanlla hardware.

 

The discussion isn't hidden RevEng, it's on Dave's forum.

 

I've seen some incredible 2600 BASIC games done in a small memory footprint using just the 6502 that are every bit as good as Assembly games, but they are equally at a disadvantage when compared to big memory ARM games.

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Might as well be. Google doesn't seem to bring it up, and the VGC forum doesn't allow a search unless you're a member. Its not near the top in any of the obvious sections. I'll skip the brute force approach. Thanks anyway.

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So, if the Space Rocks cartridge has a processor inside the cart, I would conclude that means it can't be run on a Harmony cart, because you can't just download the ROM and run it without that processor present. Right?

 

"Ya know, I learned something today... " ;)

 

 

Incorrect. Space Rocks runs great on the Harmony (which also has the same ARM processor). I bought it last week (to be delivered Monday, apparently) because of all the home-brews out there, I play it more than the rest combined. Not surprising, as Asteroids is one of my all-time faves. I think Mr. Spice deserves a little compensation in appreciation. :)

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Vector Pilot is definitely a 10/10, A+ kind of game, and it took Kristof Tuts quite a while to make it. It's got secrets, beautiful packaging, great music, and it's just a work of art to behold. My wife was a bit surprised that I spent so much to buy it (with shipping it was rather expensive), but when I fired it up, she took one look at it and said "Wow, that's beautiful."

 

Not every game has to be quite that fancy to be worthwhile, of course -- but I agree that every game should aspire to something like that standard. Even if you're making a lint roller, it should be the best lint roller you can make, right?

This should be the year of his Vector Patrol, and take it from me, he not only surpasses Vector Pilot but the arcade version of Moon Patrol as well. It really works great in vector with overlay.

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tl;dr

When's the crash planned for? I want to buy a bunch of awesome homebrew games on the cheap.

I know you're posting in jest, but...

 

Homebrews are built to order usually except for new releases or expected demand is high. Commercial games were mass produced by the millions during the crash era then liquidated when they did not sell. The buffet of cheap games from a consumer perspective likely cost more to manufacture than the sticker price indicated, and many companies were bankrupted as a result. Atari and Activision couldn't compete selling new games at $40 when old ones were being clearanced for $5 so the market collapsed. There cannot be a "crash" in homebrew market because these games are mostly done as a hobby rather than full time. A smaller number of games would be produced but the price wouldn't change much. A decrease in demand won't ruin it for those consumers still interested, or the supplier assuming they have a day job, but a sudden increase may cause shortages unless more people jump into making them. Limited editions is another story entirely and I personally feel if there is genuine demand for a title, it should not be artificially limited, which only promotes hoarding and scalping among collectors and in some cases bad vibes with actual gamers.

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Higher prices typically are associated with limited collector editions and boxed copies. Otherwise, AtariAge prices have been pretty constant (games requiring Melody boards are a little higher). A lot of labor and cost goes into publishing homebrew carts. The cost savings of mass production simply isn't there.

 

 

My reviews are effectively on a ten-point scale (admittedly, I'm way behind at the moment :ponder: ). I would really like the AtariAge store to use a ten-point scale in its next revision (1-5 in half-point increments would be fine). Five points isn't fine enough to really separate them out.

 

This. I recently reviewed a game I felt deserved 3.5 stars with a 4-star rating because of that. I didn't feel it was worth quite four stars but mentioned that in the review. For the record, the majority of my reviews have been 5 stars but in some cases a 3 or 4 is warranted. But none of the stuff on AtariAge warrants a one-star IMO. I usually do research or at least watch a video before committing to a purchase.

 

To me a one star game is Mythicon. Even junk like Custer's Revenge gets two for the hilarity factor. Somebody brought up Video Game Critic a couple pages back and I have personally enjoyed a handful of Atari titles he gave a D or F grades to. Sometimes I question if he spends enough time playing the games he reviews, or just feels the need to spin a negative angle sometimes. I also own a few "bad" NES games I've gotten enjoyment out of, especially in the unlicensed sector.

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I've seen much higher prices for NES homebrews.

Most of those that fetch high prices are limited runs. I've got to call out NintendoAge on doing dutch style auctions on LE (limited edition) runs. Basically everyone gets one bid and one bid only to name their price. Highest bid gets lowest serial. Most times the auction runs for an undisclosed lenth of time and the cutoff is usually over $100. Basically this amounts to paying eBay scalper prices when the game goes on sale.

 

Usually there will be a RE (regular edition) at some point in the future where an interest thread is started and they create a reserve list. After the games are ready to ship, people on the reserve list are sent invoices. The typical price for NES homebrew/repro is $35-$50 loose. Considering there is more work involved, as NES repros often require specific donor boards, often with two ROMs per game instead of one. Some homebrews are getting new custom flash ROM mappers though, which is awesome because they open up the ability to save on carts without a save battery.

 

SNES and Genesis are typically similarly priced to NES. Mostly there's no mapper but the ROMs are larger.

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Somebody brought up Video Game Critic a couple pages back and I have personally enjoyed a handful of Atari titles he gave a D or F grades to.

Getting a D or an F would be nice. I think he gave my game a P minus. :D

 

The reviews at RGCD and 8-bit Central were much nicer.

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Yes but it's a 32-bit powerhouse chip so we can't go on raw MHZ; multiply it by 10 to compare it to an 8-bit 6502 which yields about 700 mhz worth of 6502 processing power!

Sorry, but that's completely wrong for several reasons.

  1. On average, ARM Thumb instructions are not faster than 650x instructions
  2. An Atari game doesn't utilize 32-bit at all. 16-bit are helpful, but also only for fractions of the code. Actually you are usually forcing the code to run with 8 bit variables to save space.
  3. The code is (usually) compiled for saving space and less effective than hand-optimized assembler

Which means, it is 70 MHz vs 1 MHz at best. And just like the 6507, those 70 MHz can only be utilized for computing outside the kernel (~20%). So effectively you have ~18 MHz (vs 0.2 MHz), which still is a major improvement.

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Who cares how many megahertz the coprocessor (or absense thereof) is; if the game is fun,play it! :cool:

Getting a D or an F would be nice. I think he gave my game a P minus. :D

The reviews at RGCD and 8-bit Central were much nicer.

P minus? The link on his website looks like a "D" to me. :ponder:

 

Seaweed Assault is way better than that anyway. ;-)

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Who cares how many megahertz the coprocessor (or absense thereof) is...

The developer! :D

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Incorrect. Space Rocks runs great on the Harmony (which also has the same ARM processor).

 

I think Space Rocks is made on Melody board as (nearly?) all DPC+ games are. And Harmony cartridge is nothing else than a Melody board with card reader add-on I believe.

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You still would need e.g. video and sound chips. And then you would have something pretty similar to a Raspberry Pi.

 

Unfortunately Raspberry Pi's video encoder is not capable of progressive 15 kHz video modes and that pretty much excludes it from being a serious retro gaming platform.

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Schizophretard, you made a valid point (and the same point) with your example from the other page:

It would be the same thing with a PS2 on top of an Atari 2600. The PS2 games would become Atari 2600 games... as much of an Atari 2600 game as Super Charger games are.

 

IMO you are correct; all we need do is wish it an Atari game; we can play Hop-Scotch or Double Dutch on the playground and make it Atari sports.

But my definition of what an Atari 2600 game is has nothing to do with wishing it to be one. My definition is simple and consistent because it doesn't arbitrarily change upon a console going off the market. The definition stays the same from the point of the creation of the console all they way to the very last game created for it even if the very last game for it is made 100 years after the console is off the market. An Atari 2600 game is a game that was created for the purpose of playing on the Atari 2600. It is that simple and it can be applied to any console. I also think that it is a pretty universal definition. Developers don't leave gamers in the dark by not telling them what consoles they are creating their games for so that the gamers have to debate it and sort it all out on their own to figure out what games are for what consoles. If the developers say that a game is for the Atari 2600 then the gamers know it is an Atari game, if the developers say that a game is for the NES then the gamers know it is an NES game, if the developers say that a game is for the Game Gear then the gamers know it is a Game Gear game, if the developers say that a game is for the Coleco Chameleon then the gamers know it is vaporware, etc.

 

Anyway, as I have already expressed, I get the reasons why a programmer would enjoy limiting themselves to what hardware existed at the time for the sport of it and for the challenge. However, I don't see how it could follow that these personal limitations would also be the limitations to the definition of what is and what isn't an Atari 2600 game.

 

By that criteria, if the Atari 2600 was only on the market for a year then Pitfall II wouldn't be an Atari 2600 game. It doesn't make sense that the timing of it could change the definition of what it is because it is still the same thing regardless of the timing. Timing doesn't change the what of something but the when of something. An after market game just indicates when the game was released relative to when the console was on the market and placing the line of what can be used for a game on the day a console was discontinued seems like an arbitrary line. The date indicates to me that the demand for the console has dropped to a level that the company decides to discontinue sales of it and not a statement from the company that basically says:

 

"Today is the day we have came up with a definition of what qualifies as a game for our console. All games created within these two dates or created as if they were within these two dates from this day forth shall always be remembered as games for our console. We apologize to all of our fans for all these many years of confusion but thank you for your loyalty and patience. Especially to Classic Game Room since he seems to try to fit the wrong games in the wrong consoles all the time. If we could have came up with a definition at launch then we would have but this would have been impossible. At the time we had no idea what the discontinuation date would be and what technological advancements would happen within that time. It worked out in the end though and the wait was worth it because the definition is here. And on top of that this definition has brought to our attention an amazing coincidence. It turns out that every game we marketed for our console fits within this definition. How is that possible if we didn't even know the definition until today? I think the reason is pretty clear. Divine Providence guided us to the right games which I think we all should take as the gods' way of endorsing our next console!" :D

 

That is a ridiculous exaggeration on my part for the on the market limitations argument but I think that exaggeration of it makes what issues I have with it more clear. While a console is on the market we don't wait until it is off the market to define what qualifies as a game for it and we also don't come up with the definition for the games by somehow knowing ahead of time how far the games will progress by the time the console is discontinued. We don't consider that future date at all while defining what games are for a console. We simply just look at rather or not a game was created for a console and that is it. Therefore, I see no reason to switch from the definition we used while a console was on the market to a new definition once it is off the market when the original definition worked perfectly fine as is.

 

Also, what about turning it around and using the same criteria that is used by homebrew programmers for custom homebrew hardware? They could place the exact same limits on themselves for the challenge of creating custom homebrew hardware within the limits of what technology existed while the Atari was on the market while pushing it to the limit. The Starpath Supercharger came out in 1982 but the Atari 2600 was on the market all the way up to 1992. That is ten years of exponential growth of technology. That is around the time of the 16-bit consoles coming out. A custom homebrew Supercharger II with power comparable to a PS2 might not have been possible but maybe something like the power of the Turbografx16. I'm not sure how big of a difference a custom homebrew Supercharger II created with what technology existed at the beginning of 1992 would be from the original Supercharger but I bet the difference would be night and day.

 

What if such a hypothetical Supercharger II was created and homebrew programmers pushed that to the limit with creating Atari games? Would those Atari games fit within the criteria? I would guess no because you wouldn't consider it real Atari 2600 hardware because it was made after the fact and therefore the same for the games on it. If that is the case then it would be a double standard because even though it is after the fact it still could have been made back then just like every homebrew game that you would consider fitting the criteria. All homebrew games that fit the criteria are after the fact but still could have been made back then. Therefore, for the on the market limitations argument to be consistent and without a double standard against custom homebrew hardware the upper limit to these limitations would be much higher than what has been suggested in this thread. The upper limit might not be what could be done today or even back in the time of the PS2 but it would be what would have been possible for the Atari 2600 in both software as well as hardware by the date of January 1, 1992 which I bet could hypnotically be an upper limit that could still fit Space Rocks. ;)

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The upper limit might not be what could be done today or even back in the time of the PS2 but it would be what would have been possible for the Atari 2600 in both software as well as hardware by the date of January 1, 1992 which I bet could hypnotically be an upper limit that could still fit Space Rocks. icon_wink.gif

The fastest Intel CPU back then was a i486 DX50 (50 MHz), which did cost way above $1000 and was less than half as fast as the ARM used here. Edited by Thomas Jentzsch

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coprocessors bitd were more evenly matched.

Page 19 of Microprocessor Types and Specifications

 

 

 

Math chips (as coprocessors sometimes are called) can perform high-level mathematical operationslong division, trigonometric functions, roots, and logarithms, for example-at 10-100 times the speed of the corresponding main processor.


Doesn't sound evenly matched to me. And just who do you think is going to pay extra for a coprocessor that was evenly matched in performance with the CPU? That makes no sense at all - the whole point of using a coprocessor is because it does something better than the processor. Sounds more and more like you're making things up to fit an agenda.

 

 

You keep bringing up VGC. Lets take a look:

So of the three games of mine he's reviewed, the one that's pure 6507 assembly earned the highest grade - not either of the two that used a coprocessor. How exactly does that make sense in your world :ponder:

 

 

And as far as VGC no longer reviewing games after Space Rocks unless they used a coprocessor:

So 24 games reviewed since Space Rocks, and only 1 of them used a coprocessor.

 

Sorry dude, but your claim that Space Rocks is the reason VGC won't review your game just doesn't add up. It's looking more and more like you're just using it, and DPC+ w/ARM in general, as a scapegoat.

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^I took his comments to mean the VGC was only reviewing homebrews that use coprocessors from now on. That said, I haven't been able to find these alleged comments from the Critic, and it sounds unlike him.

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^I took his comments to mean the VGC was only reviewing homebrews that use coprocessors from now on. That said, I haven't been able to find these alleged comments from the Critic, and it sounds unlike him.

A number of those reviews are for home brews without a coprocessor.

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A number of those reviews are for home brews without a coprocessor.

 

Yes, I realize that. Most, however, aren't homebrews at all, so I think your point would be better served by just talking about those (unless Mr. SQL really did mean "nothing but ARM" to include classic-era releases, in which case I really have no idea what he's on about).

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Woah Spice, I'm thinking about adding an ARM core for vwBASIC for a higher resolution virtual world, your blog is a great resource for that and your games are awesome, my perspective is just these kind of Atari games have a supercomputer powering them. I don't get Tom's idea about the ARM having no improvements over the 6502 and being slower on a mhz per mhz level when the specs say it's several magnitudes faster - depends what your doing with it.

 

btw KCMM and vwBASIC games also use the Atari as a dumb terminal that would otherwise only display a static image. By your logic I might be running the 6507 at 10 MHZ because I blank an entire frame to push that much data; I also don't get how you multiply mhz times scanlines.

 

Schizophretard, excellent perspective:

Developers don't leave gamers in the dark by not telling them what consoles they are creating their games for so that the gamers have to debate it and sort it all out on their own to figure out what games are for what consoles. If the developers say that a game is for the Atari 2600 then the gamers know it is an Atari game, if the developers say that a game is for the NES then the gamers know it is an NES game, if the developers say that a game is for the Game Gear then the gamers know it is a Game Gear game, if the developers say that a game is for the Coleco Chameleon then the gamers know it is vaporware, etc.

 

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btw KCMM and vwBASIC games also use the Atari as a dumb terminal that would otherwise only display a static image. By your logic I might be running the 6507 at 10 MHZ because I blank an entire frame to push that much data; I also don't get how you multiply mhz times scanlines.

What do you mean when you say the Atari is being used as a "dumb terminal"?

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It does not matter what it is inside the cart if it fits in a 2600 slot and something displays on the screen thru the rf out it is a 2600 game/program.

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It does not matter what it is inside the cart if it fits in a 2600 slot and something displays on the screen thru the rf out it is a 2600 game/program.

Quoted for truth. I don't even know why we are debating over this...

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