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The Astrocade seems like it had a lot of untapped potential. The Pac Man clone and the Wizard of Wor clone and the Crazy Climber clone are especially nice looking arcade ports, at least in pictures. But the library is small and the audience is small. I don't know much about the machine, but looking at some of the software makes it look as if it was potentially much better than a 2600 or an Intellivision. In all my years of collecting, I've never seen one in the wild.

 

Is there anyone doing modern releases and really pushing the hardware?

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The Astrocade seems like it had a lot of untapped potential.

The Bally Arcade/Astrocade, as you said, does have plenty of untapped potential. The system was released in January 1978. The screen resolution (160x102) was quite good in comparison to other systems of the time period. Even then, in the system documentation, this was considered low resolution. The chips could also be run at high resolution (320x204), but there is no way to take advantage of this unless RAM and modification to the Astrocade motherboard is made.

 

The system could show four colors on screen at once, or 8 colors on the left and right side. With some tricks, additional colors, from the palette of 256 colors, could be shown on the screen. I won't go to further details about the system here. If you are interested, there's an excellent FAQs about this console, here:

 

http://www.ballyalley.com/faqs/bally-astrocade_faq.txt

 

here:

 

http://www.ballyalley.com/faqs/astrocade_cart_and_hardware_faq.txt

 

and here:

 

http://www.glankonian.com/~lance/Ballyfaq.html

 

The Pac Man clone and the Wizard of Wor clone and the Crazy Climber clone are especially nice looking arcade ports

You picked three great games for the system, of which only the Wizard of Wor clone (Incredible wizard) was released in early 1980s. The Pac-Man clone (Muncher) was released in small quantities at the time, while the Crazy Climber game is a modern homebrew from 2011. All of these games control wonderfully using the astrocade's "hand controller."

 

But the library is small and the audience is small.

The astrocade's audience was always small. Even at the time of its release, there were only a few hundred-thousand consoles available. I've heard some people compare the astrocade to the Neo Geo. I'm not sure that is an accurate comparison, but it may be in the same ballpark.

 

As you mentioned, the library of astrocade cartridge games is quite small. Its saving grace at the time was that the system could run BASIC, and users exchanged programs via two main newsletters. Also, there were several small companies that specialized in selling BASIC programs for the astrocade on tape. Some people have a hard time playing BASIC games now, but if you're curious about these sort of games, then in just the past few months (March of 2019) the ability to load "AstroBASIC" games has been added to the MAME emulator. In addition, the emulator now supports loading Blue Ram BASIC programs that can use additional RAM above the built-in 4K limit.

 

I don't know much about the machine, but looking at some of the software makes it look as if it was potentially much better than a 2600 or an Intellivision.

I'm not sure if the astrocade is better than either the 2600 or the Intellivision. They all have differences and advantages. Because of the flexibility of the 2600's hardware design, that system has been able to be pushed incredibly far due to ultra clever programming. The same can be said of the Intellivision too. I would also like to see just how far the astrocade can be pushed. I think that the homebrew game "War," an 8K Worlards clone, does a fine job of showing what the system is capable of accomplishing.

 

Here is a review of "War:"

 

 

In all my years of collecting, I've never seen one in the wild.

Oh, yes. The astrocade is very rare. I have come across many of them in the wild, but it has been a long time (10+ years) since I've seen one outside of an online sale. MAME does a decent job of emulating the astrocade. I have a series of videos that shows you how to setup the astrocade emulator in MAME and also how to use the astrocade:

 

Setting up Astrocade Emulation Using MAME

 

 

Loading and Saving Astrocade AstroBASIC Tapes using MAME Emulation

 

 

Overview, Review and How to Use Bally BASIC / "AstroBASIC" for Bally Arcade/Astrocade

 

 

Blue Ram Hardware Expansion by Perkins Engineering, Overview for the Bally Arcade / Astrocade

 

 

If these videos interest you, then browse the other Astrocade related videos I've made over the last few years:

 

https://www.youtube.com/user/ballyalley/videos

 

I'm currently working on a video to show how to load astrocade expansion RAM programs written for Blue Ram BASIC into the MAME emulator.

 

Is there anyone doing modern releases and really pushing the hardware?

 

There currently is activity in the astrocade community, but no one is writing any new games in machine language to be released on cartridge. If you like the idea of someone doing this (and who doesn't?), then pass the word on to as many programmers as you know. Perhaps someone will find themselves becoming an astrocade fan and won't be able to help themselves: they'll want to write the best astrocade game ever made-- and that's good for everyone.

 

Adam

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The Bally Arcade/Astrocade, as you said, does have plenty of untapped potential. The system was released in January 1978. The screen resolution (160x102) was quite good in comparison to other systems of the time period. Even then, in the system documentation, this was considered low resolution. The chips could also be run at high resolution (320x204), but there is no way to take advantage of this unless RAM and modification to the Astrocade motherboard is made.

 

The system could show four colors on screen at once, or 8 colors on the left and right side. With some tricks, additional colors, from the palette of 256 colors, could be shown on the screen. I won't go to further details about the system here. If you are interested, there's an excellent FAQs about this console, here:

 

http://www.ballyalley.com/faqs/bally-astrocade_faq.txt

 

here:

 

http://www.ballyalley.com/faqs/astrocade_cart_and_hardware_faq.txt

 

and here:

 

http://www.glankonian.com/~lance/Ballyfaq.html

 

You picked three great games for the system, of which only the Wizard of Wor clone (Incredible wizard) was released in early 1980s. The Pac-Man clone (Muncher) was released in small quantities at the time, while the Crazy Climber game is a modern homebrew from 2011. All of these games control wonderfully using the astrocade's "hand controller."

 

The astrocade's audience was always small. Even at the time of its release, there were only a few hundred-thousand consoles available. I've heard some people compare the astrocade to the Neo Geo. I'm not sure that is an accurate comparison, but it may be in the same ballpark.

 

As you mentioned, the library of astrocade cartridge games is quite small. Its saving grace at the time was that the system could run BASIC, and users exchanged programs via two main newsletters. Also, there were several small companies that specialized in selling BASIC programs for the astrocade on tape. Some people have a hard time playing BASIC games now, but if you're curious about these sort of games, then in just the past few months (March of 2019) the ability to load "AstroBASIC" games has been added to the MAME emulator. In addition, the emulator now supports loading Blue Ram BASIC programs that can use additional RAM above the built-in 4K limit.

 

I'm not sure if the astrocade is better than either the 2600 or the Intellivision. They all have differences and advantages. Because of the flexibility of the 2600's hardware design, that system has been able to be pushed incredibly far due to ultra clever programming. The same can be said of the Intellivision too. I would also like to see just how far the astrocade can be pushed. I think that the homebrew game "War," an 8K Worlards clone, does a fine job of showing what the system is capable of accomplishing.

 

Here is a review of "War:"

 

 

Oh, yes. The astrocade is very rare. I have come across many of them in the wild, but it has been a long time (10+ years) since I've seen one outside of an online sale. MAME does a decent job of emulating the astrocade. I have a series of videos that shows you how to setup the astrocade emulator in MAME and also how to use the astrocade:

 

Setting up Astrocade Emulation Using MAME

 

 

Loading and Saving Astrocade AstroBASIC Tapes using MAME Emulation

 

 

Overview, Review and How to Use Bally BASIC / "AstroBASIC" for Bally Arcade/Astrocade

 

 

Blue Ram Hardware Expansion by Perkins Engineering, Overview for the Bally Arcade / Astrocade

 

 

If these videos interest you, then browse the other Astrocade related videos I've made over the last few years:

 

https://www.youtube.com/user/ballyalley/videos

 

I'm currently working on a video to show how to load astrocade expansion RAM programs written for Blue Ram BASIC into the MAME emulator.

 

 

There currently is activity in the astrocade community, but no one is writing any new games in machine language to be released on cartridge. If you like the idea of someone doing this (and who doesn't?), then pass the word on to as many programmers as you know. Perhaps someone will find themselves becoming an astrocade fan and won't be able to help themselves: they'll want to write the best astrocade game ever made-- and that's good for everyone.

 

Adam

 

 

Thanks for the detailed response. Much obliged. I forget to include the War game in the list of games that really impressed me, at least watching the games on YT. It looks just as good as the 5200 version that was released a few years ago. It's really a shame there are no developers working on new games. I would imagine there quite a few holes in the Bally Library. But I guess the lack of machines and very few people who owned them originally wanting to go back to their childhood game system makes the pickings tight.

 

Some of the stuff being released on the 2600 is just mind blowing, like Mappy. I was always very impressed with Frogger for the Supercharger. But today's programmers have taken it to a whole new level.

 

I'll check out your videos and finally play some Astrocade in mame. Aside from the games listed, do you have any recommendations for games to pay special attention to?

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Some of the stuff being released on the 2600 is just mind blowing, like Mappy. I was always very impressed with Frogger for the Supercharger. But today's programmers have taken it to a whole new level.

 

Yes, Mappy looks incredible. However, it has so much more hardware to work with than the original developers had in the 1980s, 1990s, and even into the 2000's. I'm not disparaging Mappy, hell no!, but it's hard to compare a game like Mappy straight across to other games in the Atari 2600 library.

 

I'll check out your videos and finally play some Astrocade in mame. Aside from the games listed, do you have any recommendations for games to pay special attention to?

 

Here is a Top 10 at astrocade cartridge list on ballyalley.com:

 

http://www.ballyalley.com/ballyalley/articles/Top_Ten_Astrocade_Games.txt

 

There is a thread on atariage that features some of the very best BASIC games that were released on tape or as type-in programs:

 

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/264658-best-basic-games/

 

I'm sure that you'll find something that you like in these lists.

 

Adam

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