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AtariAge homebrew questions

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I've bought a lot of homebrew carts from AtariAge, for the 2600 and 5200, and I was wondering about a few general things about that "make it yourself" world since there aren't many options for buying completed games (PCB in cart shell, box, instructions, etc.) and I figured this is a good place to ask since AtariAge sells homebrews for a few systems.  Please forgive the "how do you not know this already" of my questions.

 

1) Are there options for other bare shells?  Meaning, at least for 2600 and 5200 games, there were other companies (Activision, SEGA, CBS, etc.) making cartridges back in the day that had unique cart shell shapes (and colors).  I've bought a few homebrews (2600 SEGA Turbo, 5200 Zaxxon) that weren't originally Atari corporation games and I think it would be cool if they had been offered with the "correct" shells for the PCBs.  I am assuming that since all the games come in Atari shells that there is no option or source for Activision/SEGA/etc. style shells, or the Atari shells are way cheaper.  So I guess my question is does anyone make those other shells?  Can they be made same as the Atari ones are made?  I assume the original PCBs from other companies probably have unique locations for the screws to hold everything together but maybe making the other brand shells with the Atari screw locations would suffice in order to use standard homebrew PCBs.  I love seeing homebrew games with boxes that look very close to non-Atari companies (Activision), adding in the alternate shell style would be the icing on the cake.

 

2) I've seen a few people offering replacement controller overlays for 5200 games.  Would it be possible, for future 5200 games at least, to be offered with overlays for those clowns like me who prefer the "complete game" option (box, instructions, etc.) even though it costs more?  If they're too expensive to make or they're not as durable as the originals I can understand not bothering but I don't know if that's true or if most people are of the opinion that they're worthless.  I'd love to have overlays for Tempest, Scramble, etc.  Maybe sold separately in the Store.

 

3) Will AtariAge ever sell Vectrex games?  Except for the obvious pain of the screen overlay I would think that a Vectrex game would be no more terrible to assemble and sell than an Atari 5200 game (especially now that that paper overlay sleeves and plastic cart holders are available).  And it would be cool to see games in cardboard boxes that don't look like the typical grey GCE boxes with grids on them.  It might draw more Vectrex homebrewists to AtariAge as a way to sell/distribute their games beyond the ROM dump.

 

I guess I'm just excited to see the homebrew world expanding for my favorite systems that I'm getting greedy for more options.  I mean, I think it would be cool to offer some Atari 2600 homebrews in both Atari style artwork and Sears Tele-Games versions, maybe as first run/second run or something.  Easy to say, it's twice as hard to come up with 2 sets of artwork and fonts to look "right", I know.  I would not have believed, back when these systems were new, that a homebrew community like what we have now would exist 40+ years later.

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Main issue with shells is its very expensive to get the molds made. The long defunct VideoGame Wiz did so about 20 years ago - the first archive of their site from 2003 lists black and clear shells(scroll down for the photos), while the final archive from 2007 shows black, clear, red, and blue.

 

I have a couple homebrews with them, I believe there was an up-charge to get them:

 

IMG_1577D.thumb.jpg.56b4653e7db4ab93187cb4979adb5ff0.jpg

 

I specifically got clear for Medieval Mayhem so I could show people the insides of my game.

 

IMG_1578.thumb.jpg.da22c9004618612c9dd58db4b3072a41.jpg

 

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18 hours ago, SpiceWare said:

Main issue with shells is its very expensive to get the molds made. The long defunct VideoGame Wiz did so about 20 years ago - the first archive of their site from 2003 lists black and clear shells(scroll down for the photos), while the final archive from 2007 shows black, clear, red, and blue.

 

Oh, very cool.  Ya, I figured it would be expensive initially, I just didn't know if it had been done already like your example of ya, a while ago but not anymore.  I mean, there's a new 2600 game in the Store, Dare Devil, with artwork that looks like Activision made it, how cool to have an Activision cart shell.  Unnecessary, of course, doesn't affect gameplay, but if the programmer went that far he'd probably welcome being able to go the last 5 yards with the "correct" shell shape.

 

Which is why I asked here since AtariAge seems to be a sort of central hub for homebrew games (compared to other places that mostly just assemble/create their own in-house games) so it might be worth it to get the molds made once and have the option (maybe encourage future 2600 homebrews to be done in the Activision style to increase volume).  But then that's 3 or 4 options if you include SEGA and CBS and others but I think Activision would be the logical first option, there have been other homebrews done in the Activision style.  Of course I have no idea how game components are supplied and purchased by AtariAge when they go through this process of offering new homebrew games.  I mean, I assume AtariAge is coordinating the effort, not the individual homebrew programmers, but I could be dead wrong there.

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Regarding Atari 8-bit computer cartridge, Sikor has a solution which I believe Albert has negotiated a number of shells from.

When it comes to Vectrex, is that market big enough to warrant yet one more publisher compared to those already in the business? I would assume that the AtariAge store mainly focuses on various Atari formats, as long as those are profitable, while others do Vectrex, Odyssey^2, Intellivision, ColecoVision, C64 etc. Some of those other formats may require custom circuitry beyond plain EPROMs to make runable games, e.g. I have understood that Intellivision is far more complex than most of its contemporaries which also explains why those games tend to be higher priced and the PCB designs may be considered valuable assets rather than widely spreadable.

 

But yes, with the new implications on exporting goods to various parts of the world (mainly Europe), it might be so that multiple publishers join into a retro gaming marketplace that handles all the paperwork for everyone (instead of going through Etsy, eBay or Amazon) which would make it possible for you to shop all brands at the same time, unless of course you consider that AtariAge itself is a such quality brand that you rather would want to buy your Vectrex games from that brand than any other publisher?

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23 hours ago, carlsson said:

Regarding Atari 8-bit computer cartridge, Sikor has a solution which I believe Albert has negotiated a number of shells from.

 

Interesting.  I didn't read the whole thread but I had no idea that Atari 8-bit computer carts were such a pain to deal with.

 

23 hours ago, carlsson said:

When it comes to Vectrex, is that market big enough to warrant yet one more publisher compared to those already in the business? I would assume that the AtariAge store mainly focuses on various Atari formats, as long as those are profitable, while others do Vectrex, Odyssey^2, Intellivision, ColecoVision, C64 etc. Some of those other formats may require custom circuitry beyond plain EPROMs to make runable games, e.g. I have understood that Intellivision is far more complex than most of its contemporaries which also explains why those games tend to be higher priced and the PCB designs may be considered valuable assets rather than widely spreadable.

 

I would guess so, if the games were done "complete", meaning box/instructions/overlay.  I say this because, yes, there are other publishers but half of them tend to half-ass (compared to a traditional GCE boxed game) the final product.  By that I mean that, for example, Fury usually offers his games in tiny boxes just barely bigger than a cart (and tiny instructions and no overlay), a couple other publishers like Madtronix do something similar, Der Luchs and others do the flat cart versions, Kristof uses those VHS clamshell boxes (but does include overlays), etc.  I've bought from all of them so I'm not just criticizing but not supporting.  I was thinking more of a standardized design for the packaging/overlays (like the Atari 2600 and 5200 homebrews already share), the artwork could be whatever.  But I've read certain programmers explain that the reason they're not offering their games complete boxed is because that's too much of a pain in the ass, which I can totally believe, but what if they could just submit the games, artwork and instructions to a centralized publisher?  That would also, hopefully, eliminate the "I'm only going to offer 50 copies because I can't deal with assembling physical boxes" argument, too.  Instead of expecting every new homebrew programmer to reinvent the wheel in terms of packaging, why not hand of that part off to AtariAge, which has already figured that out, for an I hope reasonable fee?  Maybe it's a stupid idea, I don't know enough about the Vectrex homebrew community.

 

On 2/4/2021 at 3:53 AM, carlsson said:

But yes, with the new implications on exporting goods to various parts of the world (mainly Europe), it might be so that multiple publishers join into a retro gaming marketplace that handles all the paperwork for everyone (instead of going through Etsy, eBay or Amazon) which would make it possible for you to shop all brands at the same time, unless of course you consider that AtariAge itself is a such quality brand that you rather would want to buy your Vectrex games from that brand than any other publisher?

 

AtariAge is a quality brand unto itself, I agree, I was just curious as to why they don't include Vectrex homebrews when they already sell non-Atari system games, so it's not an Atari purity thing.  I mean, they have people advertising here in the Vectrex forum about repro overlays, overlays for homebrew games, new homebrew games coming out, overlay envelopes, box cart inserts, etc.  Whole games are here, in pieces it seems, could be worth it to just consolidate the effort?

 

I would want (hope for) the option to get a Vectrex game complete with a "normal size" box, cart, overlay and instructions.  Some other publishers do almost all of that - envelope and flat cart instead of a boxed game, no overlay, no box just a bare cart or PCB.  I doubt they believe that the best version of their games is incomplete, like an overlay or box would ruin the experience.  Less hassle (I suspect some of them might welcome not having to maintain a separate website just to describe/sell the game), too.  Sort of like how Zazzle or RedBubble offer t-shirt manufacturing, you just supply the design, not your problem to gather the t-shirts and fabric ink.

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Ah, ok. I thought those other Vectrex publishers did full releases with overlays but perhaps the costs to design and produce overlays don't meet what customers would be willing to pay for the complete package? I see often elsewhere that people ask for the exact opposite, how much for just the cart or in some cases, can I buy the ROM file to use on my flash cart?

 

Regarding assembly, I believe Albert possibly with help from others does all the work at the AtariAge store, not like it is a big warehouse with 10 full time employees doing all the work. In that aspect it is no different, in particular if one needs a $DAYJOB to make ends meet and this retro gaming business at best is a lucrative side job.

 

Edit: Also when it comes to non-Atari formats, it seems the store contains a selection of AtariAge published ColecoVision games, a handful of Intellivision games I'm not sure if AtariAge is the publisher for or just reseller, and two editions of the C64 Cynthcart which more or less is neglectible to consider.

Edited by carlsson

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12 hours ago, carlsson said:

Ah, ok. I thought those other Vectrex publishers did full releases with overlays but perhaps the costs to design and produce overlays don't meet what customers would be willing to pay for the complete package? I see often elsewhere that people ask for the exact opposite, how much for just the cart or in some cases, can I buy the ROM file to use on my flash cart?

 

Ya, I've seen that, too.  Some people don't want physical crap to have to take care of, others don't want to pay extra, just want a ROM file to cram onto a multicart.  But there are a lot of us who want to pay for the whole deal.  In the AtariAge store I see some games with options for box or no box, no box being like $15 cheaper, I think.  That would be fair, I suppose, box/overlay or no box/overlay.

 

12 hours ago, carlsson said:

Regarding assembly, I believe Albert possibly with help from others does all the work at the AtariAge store, not like it is a big warehouse with 10 full time employees doing all the work. In that aspect it is no different, in particular if one needs a $DAYJOB to make ends meet and this retro gaming business at best is a lucrative side job.

 

That could be true.  In which case it sounds like I'm volunteering him for more hassle which I suppose isn't what he's begging for.

 

13 hours ago, carlsson said:

Edit: Also when it comes to non-Atari formats, it seems the store contains a selection of AtariAge published ColecoVision games, a handful of Intellivision games I'm not sure if AtariAge is the publisher for or just reseller, and two editions of the C64 Cynthcart which more or less is neglectible to consider.

 

Ah, ok, that changes things if true.

 

What I'm suggesting is more of an expansion into a sort of Zazzle for homebrew games, only AtariAge would be doing it instead of some other outfit.  If it is feasible.  It might require extra hands helping out/hired to assemble runs of games, I don't know.  To me it seems like AtariAge is the best option for that since they already publish games from multiple programmers with different artwork styles.

 

I wonder if maybe a few independent publishers out there aren't so high on doing it all themselves but have no better option but if AtariAge or some other 3rd party presented itself that they might take the hit on total profit in order to avoid dealing with website hosting and physically assembling all the parts needed to create one finished game.  And ship it out and all the rest.  But then maybe that's part of the appeal, the geek cred of not only coding a cool homebrew game but designing and selling the completed physical game with no outside help.

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