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Atari 8 Bit games that really pushed the hardware?

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On 5/18/2021 at 9:47 AM, zzip said:

Master of lamps for color placement.    It should not be possible according to the specs to have so many different colored gongs on a single scan line in 160x192 mode and still have a multi-colored sprite on top of them!

 

master-of-the-lamps_10.png

So how is it done? 

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To reiterate what some others have said - I'm not really sure what qualifies as "pushing the limit" but, from back in the day, there were games that came out that were so much more "polished" or "ambitious" than other games that at the time it really seemed like magic and made me think "how is that even possible on this hardware at this time?".

 

Games in this category for me would be:

 

Star Raiders by Atari

Encounter! by Novagen

Mercenary by Novagen

Dropzone by Archer MacLean

Rescue on Fractalus! by Lucasfilm

Ballblazer by Lucasfilm

 

It's noticeable that when compared to versions of these games on other systems (where they exist) the A8 versions are definitive. It's also noticeable that they are not just great tech-demos (like, for example "Elektraglide"). These are all great games.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Oddly enough I never really liked Elektraglide (although I never told Adam that (sorry Adam)), much  preferred Bellum etc, found Glide very unforgiving and hard..

 

 

Edited by Mclaneinc

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Posted (edited)

Bop'n Wrestle - big sprites with somehow fluent movement; and more than 20 different attacks to perform, despite the buggy controls and lack of colors variety.
Kennedy Approach - digitized voice and so many arrivals and departures to control at once. Never understood how Atari's small memory could handle all that. A real nightmare.

Edited by Yautja

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On 5/22/2021 at 7:13 PM, Cafeman said:

So how is it done? 

It is possible to change color registers at certain points of a scanline. It requires careful timing of the change. Instead of doing WSYNC, NOPs are used to position the change.

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22 hours ago, Yautja said:

Bop'n Wrestle - big sprites with somehow fluent movement; and more than 20 different attacks to perform, despite the buggy controls and lack of colors variety.

 

Ambitious title, which also included speech synthesis. Gets my vote for one of the worst mid-eighties games put out by a major publisher; the game was completely unplayable. The only place this title really pushed the Atari 8-bit hardware was into the gutter...

 

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Posted (edited)

 

2 hours ago, baktra said:

Instead of doing WSYNC, NOPs are used to position the change.

That's not quite right- if cycle-exact positioning in the scanline is required, the standard approach is to start with a DLI to gain vertical screen synchronisation then follow with two consecutive writes to WSYNC. Making two writes ensures exact horizontal synchronisation as there may be residual variation of up to a few machine cycles after the first WSYNC. Exact machine cycle counting of 6502 instructions (not necessarily NOP) after the second WSYNC, together with counting of 'stolen cycles' due to DMA, enables colour registers to be written to at precisely predictable horizontal points in the scanline. Continuing to cycle-count and update registers over a number of scanlines before returning from the DLI is often referred to as a screen kernel.

 

Some applications such as RastaConverter follow this technique over the entire height of the screen, allowing display of 160x240 pixel pictures containing up to 128 colours within the constraints of how quickly the 6502 can update registers on-the-fly.

 

This technique is also sometimes called 'chasing the beam'- a reference to the 6502 keeping in sync with with a conventional CRT's electron beam as it sweeps across the scanlines.

Edited by drpeter
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OK. I put it in ;)

 

How many games do you know, using colored "hi res" on PAL computers?

 

Admirandus ;)

 

 

 

admirandus.png

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10 minutes ago, emkay said:

colored "hi res" on PAL

I assume this alternates Antic mode E and mode F lines and relies on PAL colour-blending between lines to colour the mode F lines?

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Posted (edited)
2 minutes ago, drpeter said:

I assume this alternates Antic mode E and mode F lines and relies on PAL colour-blending between lines to colour the mode F lines?

The overall screen has a much higher "information density" than standard screens. 

And, yes, the interleaving of Antic Mode E and F is one of those features. 

Edited by emkay

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3 minutes ago, emkay said:

the interleaving of Antic Mode E and F is one of those features.

The others being DLIs and in-scanline shifts between hi-res and lo-res GTIA modes...?

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6 minutes ago, emkay said:

the interleaving of Antic Mode E and F is one of those features.

That's a neat trick, by the way 👍

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On 5/22/2021 at 6:13 PM, Cafeman said:

So how is it done? 

Further to previous comments, looking at this is Altirra the screen is built in 5-colour character mode- Antic 6 - and the whole screen is governed by a kernel initiated by a DLI at the top.  The 8 gongs are built from Antic 6 characters and the colours updated on-the-fly by the kernel to make 8 visible colours for the gongs. The struts either side of the frame are missiles. The head and shoulders of the player are players, the white body is drawn in two Antic Mode 2 lines below the gongs.  The genie is moved up & down by hardware vertical scrolling. The notes are players.

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4 hours ago, MrFish said:

 

Ambitious title, which also included speech synthesis. Gets my vote for one of the worst mid-eighties games put out by a major publisher; the game was completely unplayable. The only place this title really pushed the Atari 8-bit hardware was into the gutter...

 

One of the very few game titles that took advantage of the extra 64K in a 130XE... But an absolutely atrocious game. I still want my money back, 35 years later.

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4 hours ago, drpeter said:

The others being DLIs and in-scanline shifts between hi-res and lo-res GTIA modes...?

Yes. 

And the Sound FX were all based on Sawtooth sounds :)

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4 hours ago, drpeter said:

That's a neat trick, by the way 👍

Thanks.

On a PAL machine it looks like unicolor hires. You don't see the "grey" lines. 

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4 minutes ago, emkay said:

Yes. 

And the Sound FX were all based on Sawtooth sounds :)

 

👍😀

 

If only Atari had gone out of their way to make all this kind of stuff available to outside developers in 1979 instead of leaving it to everyone to attempt to reverse-engineer it in those early years...

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On 5/18/2021 at 9:57 AM, emkay said:

Starrraiders. 

The game is totally underrated by today's "eyes". 

The game has been "ultimative" back in 1979.  

Well, I missed this one... Absolutely on the mark, there.

 

But it seems that more educated-eyes have already put it among the TOP 10 most important video-games in HISTORY... And deservedly so:

 

The 10 Most Important Video Games | TIME.com

 

And Avery's "re-mastered" version (~30 fps), shows it today, at its very best, ever!  Its screen-play and fluid, fast-paced & engaging dynamics just make it an absolute master-piece.

 

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33 minutes ago, Faicuai said:

Well, I missed this one... Absolutely on the mark, there.

 

But it seems that more educated-eyes have already put it among the TOP 10 most important video-games in HISTORY... And deservedly so:

 

The 10 Most Important Video Games | TIME.com

 

And Avery's "re-mastered" version (~30 fps), shows it today, at its very best, ever!  Its screen-play and fluid, fast-paced & engaging dynamics just make it an absolute master-piece.

 

 

I wonder what happened if the "real Starraiders 2 " appeared back then.

 

To me the object zoom is really impressive.

 

 

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Posted (edited)
17 minutes ago, emkay said:

I wonder what happened if the "real Starraiders 2 " appeared back then.

 

To me the object zoom is really impressive.

For me, it's ruined by the in-space combat- frame-rate is too slow and the 'move-the-targeting-cursor' rather than 'steer-the-ship' to aim just doesn't work as well.

 

Overall it gives the impression of desperately needing better hardware or optimised code to improve playability.

 

The original remains head-and-shoulders above, unless or until more work is done on the gameplay....

Edited by drpeter

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Interesting how 2 of the iconic 8-bit Atari games were developments of mainframe terminal games:

 

Star Trek -> Star Raiders

Hammurabi -> M.U.L.E

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, adam242 said:

One of the very few game titles that took advantage of the extra 64K in a 130XE... But an absolutely atrocious game. I still want my money back, 35 years later.

If I remember right,  if you didn't have that extra memory, it was constantly loading in data, causing movements to be jerky?

 

16 hours ago, drpeter said:

This technique is also sometimes called 'chasing the beam'- a reference to the 6502 keeping in sync with with a conventional CRT's electron beam as it sweeps across the scanlines.

Are there examples of other games from the classic era on the 8-bit chasing the beam?    Master of Lamps was an obvious one because all the colors are layed out side-by-side and there's no way to reproduce that screen using the playfield colors and P/M colors alone.  A lot of other games that are in-motion, it's hard to notice if there are extra colors not accounted for by DLIs or P/M placement.

Edited by zzip

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6 minutes ago, zzip said:

Are there examples of other games from the classic era on the 8-bit chasing the beam?

Hard to think of them off the top of my head, but I think Atari Basketball was a much-quoted example, to produce multiplexed multicolour players (sprites). I think Atari Galaxian may be another. 

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Interesting…most mentioned already… 

 

I throw in just Spelunker for “big level scrolling”.

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, drpeter said:

Hard to think of them off the top of my head, but I think Atari Basketball was a much-quoted example, to produce multiplexed multicolour players (sprites). I think Atari Galaxian may be another. 

Most Activision 2600 ports use “kernel” racing beam tech.

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