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Thomas Jentzsch

Legacy versus ARM-based 2600 Game Development

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2 minutes ago, batari said:

I hope he doesn't categorize ARM games in their own category unless there is also an unconditional "best game" category as well.

Agreed. 

2 minutes ago, batari said:

To say that games with more modest hardware can't compete is nonsense. What makes for a good game is not necessarily all about its technical merit.

Correct. But the closer you get to the top, the more the available resources are usually utilized. And then they can make the decisive difference.

 

There is a reason why a short movie never wins the Oscar for best overall movie. And that's why they have their own category.

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5 minutes ago, Thomas Jentzsch said:

Any categories are already subjective. Putting a game into the best category could be done e.g. by the nomination committee.

I disagree - a 4k game is exactly 4096 bytes. It either is or it isn't and that is an objective fact. A game made with bankswitching methods of the day is also objective: either those methods existed in release games or they didn't, there is no gray area there either.

 

Other categories may blur the lines but these don't.

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1 hour ago, Thomas Jentzsch said:

E.g. in film and music there are popular awards and committee awards, the latter being more important. Probably for a reason.

 

Maybe the Atari homebrew awards could become a mix of popular and committee votes

Not thrilled about a committee.

But how about something like a "best achievement award" where the only people who vote are devs or other people who have a demonstrated knowledge of what is more technically impressive?

 

In fact, even not addressing the issues in this thread, I think it would still be pretty cool.

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Just now, batari said:

I disagree - a 4k game is exactly 4096 bytes. It either is or it isn't and that is an objective fact.

Yes. But that was not my point. I meant the category choice is subjective in its own. Why not 2K or 8K? Or only 128 bytes of RAM? ...?

 

The winner of a 2K or 8K category would probably be a different game, than the winner of a 4K category. So any category except for the overall winner is based on a subjective choice already.

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15 minutes ago, RevEng said:

I'll make you eat those words!

When I get to the cartridges I chew every bit before I swallow every byte. Sometimes I even eat the bit rot too. I am wondering if Al can start making shells out of compressed sticky rice though. It might be a new thing... just need a little hot sauce packet included in the box.

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13 hours ago, AW127 said:

 

Cool. :thumbsup: Not long ago, that i was in Poland with two friends, by the way. We visited Zakopane and Oppeln (Opole), cause one of these two friends is half-german and half-polish. His mother is from Oppeln and his grandmother still lives there. And there is a sky-jumping event in Zakopane also in these days.

 

And Atari is big in Polands retro-scene. I knew this not only from people like Lotharek (from Lothareks Lair), who built things like the HxC, SIO2SD, Ultrasatan-adapter and so on, but also from some other polish people, which i know from different forums or retropartys.

Awesome fun, my grandmother was also from Poland! 

13 hours ago, Nathan Strum said:

Again, the problem with this is that you're suggesting how other peoples' work should be defined... your game is not to be considered 'normal', nor should it be compared with other 'normal' Atari 2600 games."

 

Yes, I realize it was "just a suggestion". But it comes across as an insult, because it demeans their work, and therefore, the programmers themselves.

 That's a bit dramatic, I think you like hyperbole; there are fans on another thread kicking Tod Frye but I don't see that happening here.

 

AW127 is not insulting anyone nor is the SillyVenture party insulting the ARM programmers or Nolan's any platform goes Atari games group either; they want the code to run on the actual hardware and not on a chip from the future, they have the same point. 

 

Here's something folks may find interesting about consumer perception when there was a big market bitd - I really did write a fake "ARM game" for the color computer just for pure marketing reasons (no satire this time):

 

I made this fake "ARM game" in 1986 that supposedly ran on the next generation superchip in the CoCo III, not technically an ARM, but it could move and push memory in 8K chunks to overwrite any section from 512K of RAM in a manner a whole lot like bus stuffing and less like bank switching - you could do a lot more incredible things that were a lot harder or could not be done without this special chip.

 

I couldn't use the chip very well since I had just got my hands on it  but I knew marketing so I scraped a hi-res standard 256x192 CoCo screen I had done with artifact colors and transposed it as a 320x200 16 color screen without artifacts using the new chips graphics output but completely unnecessary. I added digitized sound to the demo and a Max Headroom effect using a CoCo kit I had for homebrew developers to add digitized sound clips to BASIC - none of the software I sold required the "ARM" including the digitized sound kit, only the demo and it was a fake because I could have used the standard screen with the artifact colors and it would have looked the same or better, I went for the characteristic graphics look of the new chip for marketing only; the demo was free, no way would it have required the CoCo III "ARM" if I sold it.

 

Of course if I could have put the ARM in the cart and it wasn't bundled with the CoCo III then that would have been a different story, but the only CoCo III software I sold was deliberately CoCo I/II compatible too and would trick out extra features, but never exclude 90% of the market share - that was the marketing rule. 

 

It should not matter what is in the cart from a marketing perspective, except for niche markets where more authenticity is desired.  This can be any collector or any contest.

 

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36 minutes ago, Thomas Jentzsch said:

Yes. But that was not my point. I meant the category choice is subjective in its own. Why not 2K or 8K? Or only 128 bytes of RAM? ...?

 

The winner of a 2K or 8K category would probably be a different game, than the winner of a 4K category. So any category except for the overall winner is based on a subjective choice already.

The choice of categories is subjective, sure, as games don't categorize themselves, but when making categories, you may as well make distinct choices instead of fuzzy ones and choose based on sound reasoning. 4k is a clear choice because it's the maximum amount of ROM the console can address without bankswitching hardware, and hardware available in the day is also a clear choice because it's based on historical facts instead of hypotheses.

 

Categories should have unambiguous definitions. If you get into "could have been done in the day" then you blur the lines a lot as we have seen.

 

Under that definition, a coprocessor on a cart is not cheating. It was done with other consoles (e.g. NES. SNES) during the active life of the 2600 (1977-1992, as Ghostbusters II was released in that final year). Consumer-level chips were available in 1992 that were of similar (if not greater) overall power than the ARM chip, such as the 486 DX2-66, but even such, something with similar power to CDFJ could have been pulled off back then with a combination of custom silicon and a more modest coprocessor.

 

 

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1 hour ago, batari said:

I hope he doesn't categorize ARM games in their own category unless there is also an unconditional "best game" category as well.

An unconditional best game category is a great idea. No holds barred, just let the people have their choice.

 

To me unconditional is just that. It implies that it doesn't matter how the game is constructed for this category and anything goes. It absolutely does not mean it has to be the only best game category, but it should exist and could ease the tension on both sides of the debate.

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7 minutes ago, batari said:

The choice of categories is subjective, sure, as games don't categorize themselves, but when making categories, you may as well make distinct choices instead of fuzzy ones and choose based on sound reasoning. 4k is a clear choice because it's the maximum amount of ROM the console can address without bankswitching hardware, and hardware available in the day is also a clear choice because it's based on historical facts instead of hypotheses.

 

Categories should have unambiguous definitions. If you get into "could have been done in the day" then you blur the lines a lot as we have seen.

Agreed. Your suggestion defines a better category for the awards.

 

7 minutes ago, batari said:

Consumer-level chips were available in 1992 that were of similar (if not greater) overall power than the ARM chip, such as the 486 DX2-66, but even such, something with similar power to CDFJ could have been pulled off back then with a combination of custom silicon and a more modest coprocessor.

I am not sure if the Atari could have handled that back then, but I am very sure that such a cart would never have been profitable. A 486DX2-66 was around $500 for the CPU alone.

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1 minute ago, Thomas Jentzsch said:

I am not sure if the Atari could have handled that back then, but I am very sure that such a cart would never have been profitable. A 486DX2-66 was around $500 for the CPU alone.

Not sure about the profitably, but I equate that point to saying one can not use certain programming tricks or techniques in a 4K game that were unknown back in the day. It becomes rather speculative when we are now in 2020 and building games with a whole pile of knowledge.

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The 486DX2-66 has wattage and cooling requirements that wouldn't allowed it to work off the slot of a stock 2600, even if it was profitable to do so. [edit - And we're talking 1992, 9 years after the big crash, and one year after the SNES and Sega CD were released.]

 

I think we should avoid addressing "cheating", because nobody has asserted that as far as I can tell. When I do an AA search for "ARM cheating" the only entries I see from this thread are people saying it's not cheating.

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1 minute ago, RevEng said:

The 486DX2-66 has wattage and cooling requirements that wouldn't allowed it to work off the slot of a stock 2600, even if it was profitable to do so.

 

I think we should avoid addressing "cheating" because nobody has asserted that, as far as I can tell. When I do an AA search for "ARM cheating" the only entries I see from this thread are people saying it's not cheating.

I assumed it would need its own PSU. It would not have been the first video game accessory to require that, if not the first hardware item that plugs into a cartridge slot.

 

Really, though, something back then would have more likely consisted of a custom chip and a modest coprocessor.

 

Defining the word "cheating" is pretty nebulous as well here, unless you want to stick to some of the objective category ideas I proposed earlier.

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I don't think we need to define "cheating" at all, because nobody has asserted it here. IMO It's a word charged with emotion and hyperbole, and it doesn't have a place in a reasoned discussion. Saying that ARM assist isn't cheating, makes it sound like people here were saying that using ARM assist was cheating.

 

Like Godwin's Law, if someone says a developer is cheating with their design choices, I see it as an instant loss of credibility, and it marks an end to the discussion.

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10 hours ago, Thomas Jentzsch said:

I sure hope you don't think the 2600 is that "total non-runner". :) 

Hardly. I've worked on over 50 homebrews so far, and will continue to do so as long as programmers are willing to work with me. The underlying technology of the games they make doesn't matter to me at all.

 

My comment about the car was strictly a comment about cars. To make a comparable analogy for the 2600, a "non-runner" would be a completely dead, unrepairable 2600 console, that someone chose to revive by sticking a RetroN 77 inside.

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7 hours ago, christo930 said:

But to me it seems more likely that a slew of crappy games, some of which will be so bad as to not even be a game, is more likely if the ARM becomes more widespread than is the prospect of a bunch of new limit-pushing games that outshine the greatest non-ARM efforts.

In all probability, yes (although I wouldn't use "crappy", but rather "less-polished"). Making really good games is incredibly difficult, time-consuming, and takes total commitment to ensuring the game is finished to the highest possible degree, regardless of the underlying technology. This is a hobby, and the development of many games is approached as a momentary diversion, a learning experience or a personal experiment. And that's all perfectly fine. It's what a hobby should be. However, the best games will still rise to the top, and the worst of the dross will largely be ignored.

7 hours ago, christo930 said:

Also probably more arcade conversions than original games.

For now... but there will be more original ARM games.

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4 hours ago, RevEng said:

I wish seemo would be widely recognized for the wildly original designer he is, but it is what it is.

This. Right here. I long for the day for Seemo to return and put together some more of his amazing game complications.

4 hours ago, RevEng said:

After a bit of initial disillusionment, I've become ok with being a weirdo that has had only moderate success. After a while you own it, if you understand the reasons behind it, and then it's easy to ignore the contests. It's even a bit liberating.

This was the entire point behind my self-indulgent art-rant in my earlier all-too-long post. The artists that I know who are the happiest, are the ones who've been able to follow their own path. They may not be the ones who get all of the accolades and wealth, but they enjoy what they do the most.

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3 hours ago, Omegamatrix said:

That being said it does sound like James is considering taking ARM games into their own category. This might be a step in the right direction, but it's a slippery slope. It's very clear none of us can agree on where the boundaries of categories should be. That introduces problems of what to do with new bankswitching schemes, games with extra ram, games that are not programmed in 6502 assembly, and whatever else "enhances" a game. There are grey areas everywhere.

You're correct, this year we introduced the 'Atari 2600: Best ≤ 4K Homebrew' award to honour the overlooked smaller games. The 4K is a seemingly arbitrary cutoff point, but it just felt to be the right place. It's a fine balancing act between being able to honour the work that goes into the games vs. the votes from the average players' understanding of what went into it, and that will become more honed with each iteration of the event.

 

Next year we have plans to introduce more categories with possibilities such as ARM vs non-ARM or Ports vs. Original or even maybe an additional size category.

 

3 hours ago, RevEng said:

I think separate committee awards might be a step toward balance, but like your film comparison, the gamers will likely feel that the committee awards are voted for by a bunch of self-congratulating elites that ignore truly good games... just a caution, if that matters to you.

This year we also introduced another new award that is being voted on solely by the Nomination Committee, the 'Atari 2600: Lifetime Achievement Award'. I thought this would be a good category for those who know the background of the nominees and what they've contributed to the Homebrew community. I definitely agree that it's a huge danger to have a committee vote for every category in the event as this alienates the public. I think public input is important to get the pulse of what is happening with the players of the games and what they're enjoying.

 

2 hours ago, Omegamatrix said:

I have to say, Seemo was the first person I thought of when I heard about the Lifetime Achievement Award. The creativity flows very strongly in that one, and the imagination and execution are in such sync that it is uncanny.

Seemo is one of my favourite developers as well who doesn't get enough recognition. The lo-fi visual and auditory talent that goes into his games is understated and incredible.  I would give him a ton of space on ZPH if I could, but he doesn't release his new binaries anywhere that I can find. Even the numerous videos that he's posted over the last year on his YouTube channel are only up for a week or two before they disappear. I've taken to downloading them before he removes them so I can watch them again. I've reached out to Seemo a number of times through various means but there's been no response.

Some recent programs from 'Seemo's Playfields Vol II' and 'Vol III' have seemingly huge advancements for VCS programming including what sounds like in game voices built from non-digitized sounds in his game 'Pitch and Catch' which may have been build up from the audio demo he did called 'Presidents 231b'.

Sorry, I got off topic, I just got excited seeing Seemo's name.

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I'm going to have to start multi-quoting again, or I'm going to clog this thread with replies. Sorry. :roll: 

3 hours ago, Omegamatrix said:

However, I have heard ARM game boxes taste better.

This is a fact. However, I'm not at liberty to tell you why.

3 hours ago, batari said:

Award categories are fine, but there should still be an unconditional "best game" category.

 

If you want to make special categories for other things, that is great, but there should be a solid line of demarcation. 4k is a great way to do this. Another way would be "standard bankswitching" that was actually available on actual released games back in the day. These two things are objective facts and nobody can argue about these categories.

Fully agreed. And I think that "Best Game" should include any console which has a subcategory: 2600, 5200, 7800. Otherwise, it's not the "Best Game", it's the "Best 2600 Game". If you're going to start including other systems, fully include them. If the "Best" is only about the 2600, then the other consoles are only being paid lip-service by including them at all. Fish or cut bait. :) 

3 hours ago, s0c7 said:

I wish they'd include a few photos of the open manuals for the packaging category.  Last year nobody even got to see my fave from the Dungeon II manual.

df.png.9b6e22797877874f321ac98221bd56d8.png

Fully agreed here, too. I mentioned this last year, and several times since. Unfortunately, it didn't happen this year. (I felt Dungeon II should've won Best Packaging last year, and it very nearly did. Photos of the interior likely would've pushed it over the top.)

3 hours ago, Omegamatrix said:

I have to say, Seemo was the first person I thought of when I heard about the Lifetime Achievement Award. The creativity flows very strongly in that one, and the imagination and execution are in such sync that it is uncanny.

 

Seemo just does his own thing for the sheer joy of it. Whether people get it or not doesn't seem to bother him. He just keeps going to a beat all his own. He has my upmost respect, and I feel he doesn't at all get the credit that he deserves for the great work he does. His stuff seems to slide under the radar because it does not quite hit that mainstream popularity vibe. Again though, he just keeps going on and creating like none of that maters. I have great respect for that man.

Just quoting this because it can't be said enough times.

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15 hours ago, AW127 said:

This would break all rules of meaningfullness then. Cause the normal games use the normal technic of the console and don't need to have a logo on it, just to underline this again. It's clear anyway, so why should they have a logo. The ARM-supported games are the new one, they come to something, which existed since 1979.

The point of my illustration (labeling non-enhanced games) was meant solely to show the point-of-view of labeling games from the other side. So of course they shouldn't be labeled, and it wasn't a serious suggestion that they should. My point was, how would it feel to other programmers to have their games labeled.

15 hours ago, AW127 said:

Here some people claim, that it is offending to call ARM-games "so-called Atari-2600 games" or to ask for making a logo on it, which says "arm-supported", but imagine how it is for the programmer of this normal game, which is mentioned in a sentence like

 

"that game looks so much better than ... game"

 

especially when such a sentence comes from people which even dont know, that there is a big difference in these games, cause one has a technical help and the other not. In a sentence like that, you can literally feel the accusation to the programmer, why he had not made his game better. But how should he, when his game for example already is on the limits of that, what a normal game can do on the Atari-2600.

 

And this then, i find offending and unrespectful against the programer of this normal game.

Yes, it's too bad if that happens. But then it's up to that programmer to either 1) provide the correct information about why their game looks the way it does, or 2) ignore the comment, because you can't change the minds of people who don't care. Labeling will never address that, because those commenters are looking at the game superficially, and explanations are meaningless to them.

15 hours ago, AW127 said:

But now imagine, you paint a picture and other people painting a picture and you know, that you are a really good painter, but then you recognized, that the other people have much better quality of canvas, much better quality of brushes they can use than you and much better quality of colors, which can be mixed-up much better than your colors. What then? You can paint as good as you want then, but the other pictures will probably look better than yours. And later all the painted pictures from all people hanging together on a wall side by side and then visitors come into the room and looking at all those pictures. Then you listen to some of them and you hear that one person says to the other about your picture "look at this. hm, not really bad, but the pics besides looks much better."

 

Would you then not have the feeling that you must now go to this person and clarify WHY the other pictures looks better. That its not your fault, cause you painted as good as you could, but it was not possible to make the picture better, cause your materials was much worse than the materials from all the other painters. That your picture now looks more bad, has nothing to do with the fact, that the skill-levels of the other painters are higher or someting like that. Would you not want to tell this to this person then? Be honest.

I can't speak for programmers, only for myself. But if I was creating something I knew would be shared publicly, then I would've gone into the process knowing that up front, and that the results may or may not turn out how I'd like them. Nothing is ever a truly level playing field in art. It's alchemy at times, and art is often as much about accidents as it is skill. It's part of the creative process, dealing with materials that don't behave as you want them too, and then learning to adapt. You deal with the hand you're dealt, and you either learn to accept that as part of the creative process, or you waste time and energy being upset over it. Other peoples' work is GOING to look better, and I don't feel the need to explain why if someone calls mine out as looking inferior. That's their problem. If I like what I've created because I've done the best I was able to, that's what matters to me. If I'm unhappy that I did a sloppy job because I didn't put my best effort in, then that's entirely my own fault. "A poor dancer blames the floor." It took me years to do so, but I chose not to define my enjoyment of my work by other peoples' perceptions or standards. My art is my own.

 

I'd like to think that if I was given a different toolset than the others, I'd choose to go down a more creative path, and interpret the painting differently than everyone else. "Better" is a point of view.

15 hours ago, AW127 said:

And now imagine, you must write all this in german and translate every sentence in your head and look-up for missing words somewhere all the time. Then you are in my world now.   :)

I don't think anyone would want to read the results of that. :lol: 

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1 hour ago, ZeroPage Homebrew said:

Next year we have plans to introduce more categories with possibilities such as ARM vs non-ARM or Ports vs. Original or even maybe an additional size category.

What is your provision for handling ports that are just loosely based? While most ports are trying to be arcade perfect there will be some that deviate quite a bit adding a whole bunch or original context which may take the game in a whole new direction. I think it is important to recognize that. It may still end up being all the same category but new ideas should be somehow recognized for what they are especially if it fundamentally changing some of the game play elements.

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59 minutes ago, Nathan Strum said:

This is a fact. However, I'm not at liberty to tell you why.

Well, since Alex is still missing and a body has never been found I have somewhat of an idea why and of what goes into these boxes.

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2 minutes ago, Omegamatrix said:

Well, since Alex is still missing and a body has never been found I have somewhat of an idea why and of what goes into these boxes.

:ponder:

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I just realized a lot of people probably don't even know who Alex is. But those of us with long memories do! Somehow it is completely off topic and yet strangely appropriate when we are talking about ARM's or LEG's. 

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1 minute ago, Omegamatrix said:

I just realized a lot of people probably don't even know who Alex is.

Correct. Anyone feel like enlightening us clueless newbies? :-D

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Sooooo wrong, Omegamatrix. Soooo wrong.

 

Karl, Alex Herbert is the author of the very awesome and nearly complete 2600 "Man Goes Down" game, several Vectrex games, and the drivers and docs we use for the AtariVox. After posting about health issues back in 2005, he then disappeared for about a decade, during which several attempts were made to get in touch with him, including snail mail. Many people, myself included, feared the worst.

 

Then In 2014 he updated his site with a comment about cartridges being available for some of his vectrex games, and made a back-dated post about his projects being on hold, but otherwise has been completely silent.

 

[edit - we need an AA lore wikipedia page. Knight Rider 2600, Dead Sea Scrolls, backin89, tacos, ... so much history. :P]

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