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abbotkinneydude

California Games was actually in production for the ATARI 8-Bit but no code might have ever been produced.

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This was posted by John Hardie on facebook (ATARI 8-Bit Computers Page).

 

Considering Michael Katz came from Epyx to ATARI, there was that 'special relationship' between the 2 companies (with John Skruch dealing with the red tape - "licensing in instead of licensing out").

 

Again, there might be no code but at least it was in the pipeline.

 

Link: https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=10221846349820667

1988-11-30-ATAR-XEGS-California-Games-Conversion-No-Code-Received.jpg

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I am bit surprised that it was felt necessary to redact the ostensible programmer's name. Given that 32 years have passed, he would be long retired and possibly even deceased. 

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27 minutes ago, jhd said:

I am bit surprised that it was felt necessary to redact the ostensible programmer's name. Given that 32 years have passed, he would be long retired and possibly even deceased. 

Does it really matter? And maybe this was per request of of the programmer or his family to keep it anonymous. Also keep in mind that part of what is being said in this document could be regarded as a poor reflection of the programmer's ability to keep commitments. Would you want a similar document circulating about your failure to do something as agreed?

 

None the less it is a cool window into the past, and I appreciate it being posted in any form, redacted or not :) .

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I'm not sure they sent the letter to a programmer.   Seems more likely that such a letter would go to the equivalent of a product manager

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5 minutes ago, mytek said:

Would you want a similar document circulating about your failure to do something as agreed?

 

If it is from 32 years ago, I would not much care! My performance at my very first job out of HS does not at all reflect on my current skills and abilities, much less attitude my towards the work. 

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Shame we don't know the whole fate of the program but its fair to say there's either no code of very very little, certainly nothing that could be used to promote it..

 

Its at a time when the Atari was growing less interesting to certain places. I remember going around the shows asking if XYZ game was coming to the Atari and you were pretty much met with just a NO or just BS to say they were thinking it over.

 

 

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36 minutes ago, Mclaneinc said:

Shame we don't know the whole fate of the program but its fair to say there's either no code of very very little, certainly nothing that could be used to promote it..

 

Its at a time when the Atari was growing less interesting to certain places. I remember going around the shows asking if XYZ game was coming to the Atari and you were pretty much met with just a NO or just BS to say they were thinking it over.

 

 

 

I would actually listen to the Rebecca Heineman interview that Kay Savetz did at KansasFest back in 2015.

 

In it, she explains the 3 major issues she encountered while (and after) porting Racing Destruction Set to the A8.

 

During the port:

• Technical Capabilities of the ATARI vs the C64 for sprite detail.

• Single Density disk limited to 88Ko per side + sector size limited to 128 bytes (so you had to pack more disks -$$$- vs. the C64 version for the same game - hence more A8 customer returns if disks go bad).

 

After the port:

Major rampant piracy. Racing Destruction Set might have only sold 3000 units in the U.S. (paying only for the port to the A8 - no profits for EA).

 

The C64 version might have sold 10 to 20 times that amount.

 

If I remember correctly, she said that A8 users wanted fresh games for their system.

 

I presume this was based on the Antic letter campaign that Trip Hawkins (EA) responded to but it wasn't clear in the interview.

 

Considering EA contracted Interplay for that port, it might have come from the top as a reaction to the letter campaign.

 

However, nobody was buying those games in sufficient numbers hence no major release (U.S. wise) post 85/86.

 

I also would go back to a David Lubar interview where he mentions that, for porting Ultima IV to the A8, he really had to push the envelope in terms of how the information was compressed on the disk.

 

BTW- She mentioned an interesting point. She said that ATARI was overstating the number of CPU units being sold.

 

Nevertheless, if you called X/Y/Z store, they'd tell you "yeah, we sold a couple of ATARIs today but that C64 is really flying off the shelves".

 

In a way, publishers got burnt out by ATARI's behavior + the whole Tramiel tragedy of not advancing the chipset to keep it on par with contemporary offerings.

 

(This truly makes late XEGS releases such as Airball, Mario Bros., Commando, Xenophobe, Midi Maze, Tower Toppler coding masterpieces for the era.)

 

To get back to California Games, the port might have:

 

1) proven too difficult for a regular A8 coder. Maybe there was no Steve Coleman lurking around.

2) They had nobody on staff and couldn't find a way to outsource (Last Ninja situation).

 

Rebecca Heineman Interview:

https://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-64-rebecca-heineman-racing-destruction-set-and-mindshadow

 

David Lubar Interview:

https://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-271-david-lubar-game-developer

 

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11 minutes ago, abbotkinneydude said:

I presume this was based on the Antic letter campaign that Trip Hawkins (EA) responded to but it wasn't clear in the interview.

I remember his letter in ANTIC.  He promised to port a number of games to Atari.   Most of the games on the list did get ported, but I remember that one of the games he promised was "Adventure Construction Set".  It was a game I badly wanted, but it never came.

 

13 minutes ago, abbotkinneydude said:

In a way, publishers got burnt out by ATARI's behavior + the whole Tramiel tragedy of not advancing the chipset to keep it on par with contemporary offerings.

This is an excuse because even when Atari did advance the tech, the publishers still wrote for the lowest common denominator of 90K disks and 48K RAM.  

 

15 minutes ago, abbotkinneydude said:

(This truly makes late XEGS releases such as Airball, Mario Bros., Commando, Xenophobe, Midi Maze, Tower Toppler coding masterpieces for the era.)

How much could they cram into an XEGS cart?   If it exceeded the 90K SD disks, that would give coders some extra freedom to put things in that might otherwise get cut.

 

17 minutes ago, abbotkinneydude said:

To get back to California Games, the port might have:

 

1) proven too difficult for a regular A8 coder. Maybe there was no Steve Coleman lurking around.

If the game could be ported to the 2600, and it was,  then it should've been doable on an 8-bit.  I suspect other reasons,  probably lower on Epyx's priority list than other projects they were working on.

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3 minutes ago, zzip said:

This is an excuse because even when Atari did advance the tech, the publishers still wrote for the lowest common denominator of 90K disks and 48K RAM.  

 

If the game could be ported to the 2600, and it was,  then it should've been doable on an 8-bit.  I suspect other reasons,  probably lower on Epyx's priority list than other projects they were working on.

 

I was talking about the chipset not evolving. Not disk capacity or memory size.

 

The 1050 and its enhanced density was actually available before Tramiel took over and British publishers (such as Zeppelin) specifically targeted the 64Ko XL/XE line starting in the mid-eighties.

 

Also, Mindscape had a 128Ko version of their wrestling game for the 130XE so some publishers tried.

 

If ATARI Inc. hadn't gotten sold to Tramiel and if more advanced chipsets had come out (in parallel to their then release of Mickey considering the AMIGA wouldn't have been sold to Commodore), we would have seen more of these advanced ports because porting would just have been easier (ex: VBXE board).

 

In comparison, we got stuck with a 1979 released architecture facing 1982 defining and subsequent competition.

 

Look at the APPLE IIGS, this is what the next gen A8 could have been (or a mix of Silver/Rainbow chipsets).

 

BTW- I would not compare the 2600 port of California Games to its C64 progenitor. A lot of freedom was taken.

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35 minutes ago, abbotkinneydude said:

 

I was talking about the chipset not evolving. Not disk capacity or memory size.

 

The 1050 and its enhanced density was actually available before Tramiel took over and British publishers (such as Zeppelin) specifically targeted the 64Ko XL/XE line starting in the mid-eighties.

 

Also, Mindscape had a 128Ko version of their wrestling game for the 130XE so some publishers tried.

 

If ATARI Inc. hadn't gotten sold to Tramiel and if more advanced chipsets had come out (in parallel to their then release of Mickey considering the AMIGA wouldn't have been sold to Commodore), we would have seen more of these advanced ports because porting would just have been easier (ex: VBXE board).

 

In comparison, we got stuck with a 1979 released architecture facing 1982 defining and subsequent competition.

 

Look at the APPLE IIGS, this is what the next gen A8 could have been (or a mix of Silver/Rainbow chipsets).

 

BTW- I would not compare the 2600 port of California Games to its C64 progenitor. A lot of freedom was taken.

Yes there's a handful of games that tried, but by and large most were still targeting 800's with 810 drives.  

 

In order to push the tech, Atari would have to sell large quantities of the new stuff to make it worth the while for developers,  but demand for Atari 8-bit computers, and publishers enthusiasm for developing for it seemed to fall behind around 1984 after the C64 took off and the Tramiels bought Atari.    1985 seemed like the worst year for new software, until it became clear that the Tramiels would not be abandoning the platform.  Then the situation improved, but it was always taking a back-seat to what was happening on C64 and Apple II

 

Is the IIgs really something to aspire to though?   On paper it looks like something that can compete with Amiga/ST,  but in practice it had lousy performance and an awkward split personality.   It ended the Apple II line rather than furthering it.

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7 hours ago, abbotkinneydude said:

 

I would actually listen to the Rebecca Heineman interview that Kay Savetz did at KansasFest back in 2015.

 

In it, she explains the 3 major issues she encountered while (and after) porting Racing Destruction Set to the A8.

 

During the port:

• Technical Capabilities of the ATARI vs the C64 for sprite detail.

• Single Density disk limited to 88Ko per side + sector size limited to 128 bytes (so you had to pack more disks -$$$- vs. the C64 version for the same game - hence more A8 customer returns if disks go bad).

 

After the port:

Major rampant piracy. Racing Destruction Set might have only sold 3000 units in the U.S. (paying only for the port to the A8 - no profits for EA).

 

The C64 version might have sold 10 to 20 times that amount.

 

If I remember correctly, she said that A8 users wanted fresh games for their system.

 

I presume this was based on the Antic letter campaign that Trip Hawkins (EA) responded to but it wasn't clear in the interview.

 

Considering EA contracted Interplay for that port, it might have come from the top as a reaction to the letter campaign.

 

However, nobody was buying those games in sufficient numbers hence no major release (U.S. wise) post 85/86.

 

I also would go back to a David Lubar interview where he mentions that, for porting Ultima IV to the A8, he really had to push the envelope in terms of how the information was compressed on the disk.

 

BTW- She mentioned an interesting point. She said that ATARI was overstating the number of CPU units being sold.

 

Nevertheless, if you called X/Y/Z store, they'd tell you "yeah, we sold a couple of ATARIs today but that C64 is really flying off the shelves".

 

In a way, publishers got burnt out by ATARI's behavior + the whole Tramiel tragedy of not advancing the chipset to keep it on par with contemporary offerings.

 

(This truly makes late XEGS releases such as Airball, Mario Bros., Commando, Xenophobe, Midi Maze, Tower Toppler coding masterpieces for the era.)

 

To get back to California Games, the port might have:

 

1) proven too difficult for a regular A8 coder. Maybe there was no Steve Coleman lurking around.

2) They had nobody on staff and couldn't find a way to outsource (Last Ninja situation).

 

Rebecca Heineman Interview:

https://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-64-rebecca-heineman-racing-destruction-set-and-mindshadow

 

David Lubar Interview:

https://ataripodcast.libsyn.com/antic-interview-271-david-lubar-game-developer

 

Forgive my ignorance about c64, but does this mean that c64 had better games toward the end ? 

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11 hours ago, zzip said:

Is the IIgs really something to aspire to though?   On paper it looks like something that can compete with Amiga/ST,  but in practice it had lousy performance and an awkward split personality.

 

I think it is. The IIGS is an awesome machine, with tons of built-in ports and upgrade slots, and a great UI. It's a totally sensible pathway, and basically the direction we're seeing people aim for with the current Atari 8-bit processor upgrades.

 

There were accelerator cards to pump up the IIGS's speed.

  

11 hours ago, zzip said:

It ended the Apple II line rather than furthering it.

 

They never intended the IIGS to further the line. It was more like a swan song.

 

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@abbotkinneydude thank you for the large amount of info, most of which I didn't know or had barely heard of.

 

I suppose it proves my ideal of not subscribing to the fan boy system, I had a c64 as well so got the game.

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15 hours ago, Blues76 said:

Forgive my ignorance about c64, but does this mean that c64 had better games toward the end ? 

 

Yes I would say so, for the most part.  Better games and more games/applications. Just as A8 had better games/applications in '82 and '83 due to a bigger market share.  But in '87 XEGS did help bring new interest as well as opening markets for 65XE like in Eastern Europe and some other countries around the world.

 

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15 hours ago, Blues76 said:

Forgive my ignorance about c64, but does this mean that c64 had better games toward the end ?

It's where all the action was in the later half of the 80s,  The C64 got virtually every game released in that time frame.  If we were lucky, it came to Atari.

 

for the 8-bit systems, usually the best version of the game was on the system it was originally programmed on.    Porting it to the other systems usually meant sacrificing color or resolution or sound/music quality.   Each of the 8-bits had their strengths and weaknesses.   A game written on Atari with large color palettte/GTIA shading was probably not going to look as good on Apple or C64.   A C64 game using lots of multi-colored sprites would be a challenge porting to Atari, etc.   Since most of the game development in the later 80s was done on a C64, it was going to end up with the best version.

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On 12/7/2020 at 10:51 AM, jhd said:

 

I am bit surprised that it was felt necessary to redact the ostensible programmer's name. Given that 32 years have passed, he would be long retired and possibly even deceased. 

Maybe it's still in line for production and the OP didn't want to spoil any surprises.

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Always fantastic to see documents like this being freely shared, it's another missing jigsaw piece with regards to missing A8 titles. 

 

 

I loved California Games on the C64, but i do wonder just how well it could of been done on the Atari hardware given the PMG limitations. 

 

 

Things like Panther (even with clever use of the hardware), Green Beret etc, simply didn't work out quite as well. 

 

 

And as and 800XL owner at the time, before moving onto the C64, it was frustrating seeing games written for the 48K user base, understandable why it was done from a commercial viewpoint, but still 😭

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23 minutes ago, Lost Dragon said:

Things like Panther (even with clever use of the hardware), Green Beret etc, simply didn't work out quite as well. 

 

You're putting Panther in the same class as Green Beret? :lol:

 

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Now, I’m very intrigue to try a c64. I never played with one except here and there. All I know about 8-bit (not that is much) is Atari. I have read about other 8-bit systems but never caught my interest. 

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22 minutes ago, MrFish said:

You're putting Panther in the same class as Green Beret? :lol:

 

A tad unfair I think :)

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4 minutes ago, Blues76 said:

Now, I’m very intrigue to try a c64. I never played with one except here and there. All I know about 8-bit (not that is much) is Atari. I have read about other 8-bit systems but never caught my interest. 

 

I'm not here to promote the C64, it was a fine machine to follow on from the Atari, its got some great stuff on it as well and endless rubbish but there's more than enough content to entertain you as long as you can see past the fact its Commodore..

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50 minutes ago, Lost Dragon said:

I loved California Games on the C64, but i do wonder just how well it could of been done on the Atari hardware given the PMG limitations. 

Apple II has a version too, and that system has no hardware sprites!

 

I went back and reviewed the Apple II and C64 versions for ideas on how the Atari version might be done.

 

Most of the events in Cali Games have a single character on screen.   This means you could combine all the Atari Players and missiles to create a super sprite with extra colors.

 

Surfing- It looks like the this event could be done in the Atari 5-color character mode, with a wide player (or two) for the surfboard, and the rest of the P/M graphics to render the surfer.

 

Half-Pipe-  5-color character mode BG, possibly with DLIs for some extra color in spots,  all PMs render the athlete/board.   The score bubbles don't need to be so fancy. 

 

Skating- 5-color mode with fine scrolling, again all PMs for the skater

 

Hacky Sack-   You could maybe throw DLIs on the sprite to give different shirt/pants and hair color.   You could also use DLI to split the sprite vertically so that flair like the seagulls could fly across the top of the screen, and not affect the player.  A single player could be used for the hacky sack.

 

BMX- this might be the biggest challenge since the Bike is so wide.   Either the Bike would need to be rendered with wider P/Ms, or render it smaller on screen.

 

Now you probably won't get all the detail of the C64 version using these techniques, but you should end up with something in between Apple II and C64

 

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3 hours ago, www.atarimania.com said:

It would also be interesting to know what happened to Winter Games, which supposedly exists as a prototype at least.

 

I'd reach out to @Jetboot Jack

 

 

For now, all we have is a 7800 screenshot glued onto an XEGS setup.

 

This actually originated from press material provided by ATARI UK at the ATARI SHOW of April 1987 taking place at the Novotel Hammersmith.

 

It leaked in Pokey! issue #3 (Summer 1987, French language).

 

Winter-Games-7800-XL-XE-Pokey-Issue#3-Summer-1987-ATARI-UK-Show-Novotel-Hammersmith-April-1987.jpg

Edited by abbotkinneydude
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6 minutes ago, abbotkinneydude said:

 

I'd reach out to @Jetboot Jack

 

For now, all we have is a 7800 screenshot glued onto an XEGS setup.

 

That screenshot originated from press material provided by ATARI UK at the ATARI SHOW of April 1987 taking place at the Novotel Hammersmith.

 

It actually leaked in Pokey! issue #3 (Summer 1987).

There is a Winter Games clone from Italy:

 

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