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If you stop moving/shooting, how long before the screen changes colors?

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When you're playing an Atari 2600 game and you stop moving and don't press the fire button (during gameplay), how many minutes should pass before the screen starts changing colors? People these days might call it a screensaver. It might also be called burn-in protection.

 

In many games, you'd lose all of your lives if you walked away, but in other games, it would be possible to walk away without having the game end, so it might be nice to have color cycling kick in after so many minutes of inactivity.

 

I'm working on an Atari 2600 example program and wondered if there is a number of minutes that most programmers went with in classic games and choose now for homebrews.

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Some data points..

 

It looks like early Atari games like Combat and Outlaw go into attract mode on boot and immediately after the game ends. The actual color shifts themselves seem to vary in speed depending on the title - some are 2 seconds per shift, others are 8. (probably 128 frames, and 512 frames)

 

Some 3rd party games, like those from Activision, don't bother color cycling. On the Atari 8-bit computers, the color cycling kicked in automatically after about 8 minutes, unless your program actively cleared the attract register.

 

I didn't bother incorporating color cycling into my own 2600 homebrews. IMO it was of dubious value, even back in the day. Yes, CRTs burn-in under extreme conditions - arcade games that displayed the same image day-in day-out for years at a time - but home TVs don't have this sort of usage pattern.

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I didn't bother incorporating color cycling into my own 2600 homebrews. IMO it was of dubious value, even back in the day. Yes, CRTs burn-in under extreme conditions - arcade games that displayed the same image day-in day-out for years at a time - but home TVs don't have this sort of usage pattern.

 

Thanks. If people don't think it's necessary, I won't bother wasting any variables on it. The player can always hit the BW switch to pause and get color cycling that way.

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Do you mean screen saver during game play?

 

Yeah, if you're playing and stop moving and stop pressing the fire button, some games start cycling the colors after so many minutes.

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I've never noticed that in a 2600 game. Now I have to check it out. Any certain titles?

 

I can't remember. When I played Atari 2600 games a lot back in 1982/1983, I noticed it a few times. And I also thought I read something about it somewhere. Might have been mentioned in one of the game manuals since I used to read every manual. Could have even been mentioned in Atari Age magazine.

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Nothing Happened:

 

Berzerk: Started it in Stella and let it sit there for 11 minutes. Nothing happened.

 

Lock 'n' Chase: Didn't do anything after waiting 10 or 11 minutes.

 

Raiders of the Lost Ark: When standing in a room where nothing was trying to kill me, nothing happened after waiting 15 minutes.

 

Riddle of the Sphinx: Nothing happened after waiting 10 or 11 minutes.

 

 

 

Something Happened:

 

Bermuda Triangle: Started the game, lost a life and let it sit there. Color cycling started at around 18 minutes.

 

Donkey Kong: Started it, lost a life, and let it sit there. It started color cycling after 8 or 9 minutes.

 

Mouse Trap: Started the game and sat there. The screen went black after 8 or 9 minutes.

 

Pitfall!: Started the game, walked off the screen to the left and stood there. It started color cycling after 8 or 9 minutes.

 

River Raid: Let it sit there after losing a life and it started color cycling after 8 or 9 minutes.

 

 

 

Looks like 8 minutes might have been the standard used by some companies and that fits with what RevEng and RJ said.

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That's cool. I tried it with Donkey Kong on the second screen and it started color cycling after about 10 minutes. I moved just the stick to wake it up and Mario disappeared and just his hat appeared at the top left of the playfield between the two ladders...right where you'd expect a bonus item to be if the game had them.

Played normally after pushing the button to start the game.

 

35 years of playing that system and this is the first I ever heard of the in game screen saver. Still an odd feature...I'd love to see just one CRT with a burned in 2600 game.

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35 years of playing that system and this is the first I ever heard of the in game screen saver.

 

Which proves how useless a screen saver mode is. :)

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Which proves how useless a screen saver mode is. :)

That's another vote against screensavers. I guess that means I don't have to put one in my example program or in any games I might make.

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Exactly.

 

Unless you want maximum authenticity.

Seems like I'd have to waste a variable and a bit to keep track of 8 minutes when there is no input from the player, so it would be nice if nobody cares about that feature. I need all of the variables I can get.

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