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llabnip

Homebrew Authors, Homebrew Sales, AA Support

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Hello All,

 

Ok... I've been very impressed by the quality of homebrew games coming out in the past couple of years. Nothing against great older homebrew games like Oystron, but the number of really good new games this past few years is astounding - Space Treat Deluxe, Go Fish!, Lady Bug, Conquest of Mars, Man Goes Down (if it gets finished this will be the cream of the crop!). My guess as to why? More people have learned to program the 6502 thanks to resources here on AA - especially including Andrew Davie's tutorial (which I'm just starting to read through).

 

At this point, I have the ability to program various sized EPROMs and have been using that to try many of these games on a real 2600. For some games, I've decided that I want to own an "original" (i.e. an EPROM/cart combo typically done by AtariAge with nice label and instructions) - the idea being that I feel like I'm supporting the community.

 

So... that got me thinking... and I have some general questions for the AA staff, Homebrew Authors and the General Atariage Population...

 

1. AA Staff: How much do the sales of homebrews help AtariAge stay up and running? If the sales of homebrews is a significant source of helping maintain the upkeep of the site, it may be worth mentioning so that people on the fence might have an easier time spending $25/$50/$75 for great games that also go to helping support a great site. I don't think this would look like pleading or begging, just a gentle reminder that we get to enjoy one of the cleanest forums and most useful video game related site and nothing is asked of us in return.

 

2. AA/Homebrew Authors: What is a typical sales run for a good quality homebrew game? I heard Andrew Davie mention once that something like 450 copies of QB were sold. Is that a typical number?

 

3. Homebrew Authors: Approximately how many hours would you say you spent developing and designing your game - including any startup time to get familiar with the tools, assembly, 2600 programming in general? I once heard it mentioned that David Crane said Pitfall took 10 minutes for the idea, but nearly 1000 hours of design, development and testing. Are we talking about 10's of hours, 100's of hours or 1000's of hours?

 

4. Homebrew Authors: How far do the sales of homebrews go to encouraging existing authors to work on a new game? That is, if a game sells well, are you more likely to spend your hard earned hobby time working on a new game? Or is it more a labor of love where the money back in is really not significant to the joy of seeing a game come to completion and being enjoyed?

 

5. General Population: Assume you have the ability to play a binary for a homebrew (i.e. emulation, Starpath Supercharger, CC, burn to EPROM, etc). If you knew that your $25 for a nice new homebrew (with label and instructions) was (above and beyond the cost of materials) going to help support the AA site and encourage existing/new homebrew authors to create even more great games, would you be significantly more likely to purchase the games to support your favorite authors (or the AA site in general)?

 

6. General Population: Assume again that you have the ability to play a binary for a homebrew (i.e. emulation, Starpath Supercharger, CC, burn to EPROM, etc). Are you more likely to buy a homebrew game if you have the ability to play it for a bit to see if it suits you? Or would having the ability to play the game discourage you from spending money on it?

 

7. General Population: Does the prospect of bug-fixed or feature-enhanced versions of games put you off buying a homebrew? That is, are you worried if you buy some hypothetical game, an Ultra, Deluxe or Platnium edition may come out in 6 months or 12 months time? Obviously back in the day major feature upgrades were probably not done (though minor bug fixes were, apparently, sometimes done) but today it seems many 2600 homebrew games will come out with a new version in a reasonably short period of time.

 

I was going to post this to one of the Homebrew sub-forums, but I think the answers may be of interest to the general community and so decided to post it here. I suppose the 2600 forum isn't the "general community" but it is by far the largest sample of interested folks on these forums. If the mods think this should be moved, feel free to do so!

 

Lastly, I want to thank the homebrew authors for their hard work and the Al's for their efforts in keeping this the premiere site for Atari enthusiasts.

Edited by llabnip

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I try and buy every homebrew that comes out (though I'm a little behind right now). I own a kroko cart (homebrew hardware) and play alot of the homebrews I don't have yet on that. Haveing the rom available just makes me like the games even more and want to own a dedicated cart.

 

Usually what happens is this: I follow the development of a homebrew by playing allof the WIP roms, then, when the game is released, I pick up an official copy.

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I've played almost every homebrew on an emulator and bought almost all the ones I really liked.

 

Go Fish! is OK in an emu but flopped down on the couch with a beer and a friend on a rainy day is much better!

 

And you can hide in the weeds if you need to refill or take a pee break!

 

I think it's great that you can try out games as they are being developed. I do software QA for a living so i like looking for the bugs.

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My guess as to why? More people have learned to program the 6502 thanks to resources here on AA - especially including Andrew Davie's tutorial (which I'm just starting to read through).

Did you mean "learned to program the TIA"? If I'm not mistaken, a lot of us learned the 6502 back in the day on Apple, Atari, BBC Micro, Commodore(I'm sure there's others) systems. The hard part of programming the 2600 is the TIA.

 

3. Homebrew Authors: Approximately how many hours would you say you spent developing and designing your game - including any startup time to get familiar with the tools, assembly, 2600 programming in general? I once heard it mentioned that David Crane said Pitfall took 10 minutes for the idea, but nearly 1000 hours of design, development and testing. Are we talking about 10's of hours, 100's of hours or 1000's of hours?

Hard to say since it's not an "8-5 job" - I may work on Medieval Mayhem 10 hours one week, then not at all the next. However, I'd say it's probably 100's of hours instead of 1000's because of the tools available today: compiles finished in seconds, the debugger in Stella, Krok Carts for testing on real equipment, well documented example programs, etc make it a lot easier than it was back then.

 

4. Homebrew Authors: How far do the sales of homebrews go to encouraging existing authors to work on a new game? That is, if a game sells well, are you more likely to spend your hard earned hobby time working on a new game? Or is it more a labor of love where the money back in is really not significant to the joy of seeing a game come to completion and being enjoyed?

While mine's not for sale yet, I'd have to say it's more a labor of love and the fun of the challenge.

 

5. General Population: Assume you have the ability to play a binary for a homebrew (i.e. emulation, Starpath Supercharger, CC, burn to EPROM, etc). If you knew that your $25 for a nice new homebrew (with label and instructions) was (above and beyond the cost of materials) going to help support the AA site and encourage existing/new homebrew authors to create even more great games, would you be significantly more likely to purchase the games to support your favorite authors (or the AA site in general)?

Even though I have a Krok Cart, I prefer to buy the homebrews.

 

6. General Population: Assume again that you have the ability to play a binary for a homebrew (i.e. emulation, Starpath Supercharger, CC, burn to EPROM, etc). Are you more likely to buy a homebrew game if you have the ability to play it for a bit to see if it suits you? Or would having the ability to play the game discourage you from spending money on it?

Being able to try the games before buying is a major plus in my book.

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Hi llabnip!

 

I started getting interested in hombrews for the 2600 when I got Activision Anthology for the GBA. I was quite impressed with the homebrews in that package and I looked on AtariAge to see what they had. I downloaded the homebrews that were available for download from AtariAge and I was quite impressed with many of them.

 

So far I only have two homebrews for the actual 2600 (Star Fire and Marble Craze), but I definatly plan to get more and I'll be getting Conquest of Mars very soon. I feel the prices at AtariAge are reasonable and I like supporting the authors who make these excellent homebrews.

 

I like to try the homebrews before I buy them, but when that isn't an option, I like to try and read up on them first. I haven't ordered any Ebivision games before I heard mixed things about the majority of them.

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2. AA/Homebrew Authors: What is a typical sales run for a good quality homebrew game? I heard Andrew Davie mention once that something like 450 copies of QB were sold. Is that a typical number?
I don't think 450 is typical; I think that is high. Though I could see a very well done, popular game (think Lady Bug) selling that many over several years.
3. Homebrew Authors: Approximately how many hours would you say you spent developing and designing your game - including any startup time to get familiar with the tools, assembly, 2600 programming in general? I once heard it mentioned that David Crane said Pitfall took 10 minutes for the idea, but nearly 1000 hours of design, development and testing. Are we talking about 10's of hours, 100's of hours or 1000's of hours?

Probably 100s of hours.

if a game sells well, are you more likely to spend your hard earned hobby time working on a new game? Or is it more a labor of love where the money back in is really not significant to the joy of seeing a game come to completion and being enjoyed?

Appreciation for the work you've done, expressed by folks' wallets, is almost always a motivator. But undoubtedly the bigger motivation is just the fun/joy/challenge of writing a game.

Assume you have the ability to play a binary for a homebrew (i.e. emulation, Starpath Supercharger, CC, burn to EPROM, etc). If you knew that your $25 for a nice new homebrew (with label and instructions) was (above and beyond the cost of materials) going to help support the AA site and encourage existing/new homebrew authors to create even more great games, would you be significantly more likely to purchase the games to support your favorite authors (or the AA site in general)?

Sure.

Assume again that you have the ability to play a binary for a homebrew (i.e. emulation, Starpath Supercharger, CC, burn to EPROM, etc). Are you more likely to buy a homebrew game if you have the ability to play it for a bit to see if it suits you? Or would having the ability to play the game discourage you from spending money on it?

More likely to buy.

Does the prospect of bug-fixed or feature-enhanced versions of games put you off buying a homebrew. That is, are you worried if you buy some hypothetical game and having an Ultra, Deluxe or Platnium edition come out in 6 months or 12 months time? Obviously back in the day major feature upgrades were probably not done (though minor bug fixes were, apparently, sometimes done) but today it seems many 2600 homebrew games will come out with a new version in a reasonably short period of time.

It doesn't happen that often; if it did I would probably hold off for a while to make sure that the cart I bought was the "final" version. But really, how many "v. 2" games have come out?

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I always try to buy as many homebrews as I can. I also give them out for as prizes for the contests I run on the contest forum. Since I'm on atariage.com almost everyday, I figure it doesn't hurt to give a little back to keep the page running.

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But really, how many "v. 2" games have come out?

I'm not sure. Off the top of my head, Skeleton+, Space Treat Deluxe, Ultra SCSIcide, Thrust Plus Platnium, INV+ and Crazy Valet CGE (not sure if this was ever for sale, however).

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2. AA/Homebrew Authors: What is a typical sales run for a good quality homebrew game? I heard Andrew Davie mention once that something like 450 copies of QB were sold. Is that a typical number?

 

I might have sold 100 or so of each of my games before turning the production and fulfillment over to Albert (who does a much better job than I ever could, thanks Al).

 

3. Homebrew Authors: Approximately how many hours would you say you spent developing and designing your game - including any startup time to get familiar with the tools, assembly, 2600 programming in general? I once heard it mentioned that David Crane said Pitfall took 10 minutes for the idea, but nearly 1000 hours of design, development and testing. Are we talking about 10's of hours, 100's of hours or 1000's of hours?

 

As Darrell put it quite well, adapting a game idea to the special nature of the 2600 and the TIA is where I had the most trouble. The assembly language part was pretty easy, as I had some background on the Apple II.

 

4. Homebrew Authors: How far do the sales of homebrews go to encouraging existing authors to work on a new game? That is, if a game sells well, are you more likely to spend your hard earned hobby time working on a new game? Or is it more a labor of love where the money back in is really not significant to the joy of seeing a game come to completion and being enjoyed?

 

I never had any visions of making any money on the endeavor, as I was lucky to break even on the travel, equipment, and materials expenses most of the time. For me, I had always wanted to create a game for the 2600 ever since that Christmas morning in the late 70s (my brother and I played Combat for like 12 hours straight that day), and even though my games might be a bit simplistic compared to some of the newer offerings, I am glad to have undertaken the challenge.

 

BP

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Homebrews are, without a doubt, one of the best aspects of the 2600 hobby.

Is there a better designed game for the system from any era than Conquest of Mars?

And if it weren't for Edtris, I don't think my wife would even let me keep the console out in the living room (OK, she plays a lot of River Raid and Frogger, too ...)

 

Personally, I don't like using emulators - I have no comfortable set-up for playing joystick games in my office and using the keyboard just ain't the same - but I will sometimes try out available downloads to help me decide which homebrews (and especially hacks) to purchase (I didn't bother for Lady Bug or Hunchy II as the glowing reviews were enough to convince me, but I did try out all the Space Invader-type games to see just how much different/better they were.) That said, if the game is good (or even just looks good - I'm an impulse buyer), $20-25 seems extremely reasonable to me - after all, I paid that much or more for games as a kid, and that was just using lawn mowing money - not to mention it was in 1980 dollars!

 

I cannot thank the authors of these games enough for their devotion to the craft. Keep up the good work and I'll keep up the rampant, late-night, impulse buying! (I'm anxiously awaiting my latest $110 order from AA this week, in fact!)

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2. AA/Homebrew Authors: What is a typical sales run for a good quality homebrew game? I heard Andrew Davie mention once that something like 450 copies of QB were sold. Is that a typical number?

 

100 copies the first year, 20-30 copies the following years is what you can expect from a really good game. With the overall number of available homebrews constantly increasing, those numbers are actually more likely to shrink than to rise.

 

3. Homebrew Authors: Approximately how many hours would you say you spent developing and designing your game - including any startup time to get familiar with the tools, assembly, 2600 programming in general?

 

More than 300 hours per game.

 

4. Homebrew Authors: How far do the sales of homebrews go to encouraging existing authors to work on a new game? That is, if a game sells well, are you more likely to spend your hard earned hobby time working on a new game? Or is it more a labor of love where the money back in is really not significant to the joy of seeing a game come to completion and being enjoyed?

 

I'd love to live from this, but actually it doesn't even pay the pampers for the baby :)

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But really, how many "v. 2" games have come out?

I'm not sure. Off the top of my head, Skeleton+, Space Treat Deluxe, Ultra SCSIcide, Thrust Plus Platnium, INV+ and Crazy Valet CGE (not sure if this was ever for sale, however).

 

This maybe be a stupid question but Atari carts are eproms right? It would be nice if there was some 1 yr guarantee where you could send your cart back in with return postage and get it "upgraded" instead of buying a new "Platinum edition" or whatever.

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Hello all,

 

Here are my insights:

 

3. Homebrew Authors: Approximately how many hours would you say you spent developing and designing your game - including any startup time to get familiar with the tools, assembly, 2600 programming in general? I once heard it mentioned that David Crane said Pitfall took 10 minutes for the idea, but nearly 1000 hours of design, development and testing. Are we talking about 10's of hours, 100's of hours or 1000's of hours?

This is in the 100's of hours. I approximate 200 hours for CoM and the same for Lady Bug. These are both ports; I would anticipate that a original game could take more, depending on the complexity.

 

4. Homebrew Authors: How far do the sales of homebrews go to encouraging existing authors to work on a new game? That is, if a game sells well, are you more likely to spend your hard earned hobby time working on a new game? Or is it more a labor of love where the money back in is really not significant to the joy of seeing a game come to completion and being enjoyed?

For me, the $$$ is nice, but mostly because it shows that people like your product enough to buy it. It's certainly a labor of love, but if there was more to be gained financially from it, I could use this as justification to my wife to spend more time on developing... :) (in all seriousness though - she's very supportive considering how much time I do spend on it). In short, it's the challenge and creativitity that I get to experience while programming the 2600 that keeps me coming back for more.

 

5. General Population: Assume you have the ability to play a binary for a homebrew (i.e. emulation, Starpath Supercharger, CC, burn to EPROM, etc). If you knew that your $25 for a nice new homebrew (with label and instructions) was (above and beyond the cost of materials) going to help support the AA site and encourage existing/new homebrew authors to create even more great games, would you be significantly more likely to purchase the games to support your favorite authors (or the AA site in general)?

I have bought a dozen or so homebrew games. Some I've only played once, some many times. I buy them because I appreciate the hard work that the authors have put in to their game for my enjoyment. Generally, if it's a game that I enjoy, I will buy it just for that reason. (of course, I'm not spending money on modern games so I can justify the cost :))

 

6. General Population: Assume again that you have the ability to play a binary for a homebrew (i.e. emulation, Starpath Supercharger, CC, burn to EPROM, etc). Are you more likely to buy a homebrew game if you have the ability to play it for a bit to see if it suits you? Or would having the ability to play the game discourage you from spending money on it?

I am more likely to buy a homebrew game if I play it first.

 

7. General Population: Does the prospect of bug-fixed or feature-enhanced versions of games put you off buying a homebrew? That is, are you worried if you buy some hypothetical game, an Ultra, Deluxe or Platnium edition may come out in 6 months or 12 months time? Obviously back in the day major feature upgrades were probably not done (though minor bug fixes were, apparently, sometimes done) but today it seems many 2600 homebrew games will come out with a new version in a reasonably short period of time.

This does put me off from buying a game, especially enhancements. With the AA community always eager to test and provide suggestions, the opportunity is there to deliver a completed bug-free version the first time around.

 

Thanks!

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This does put me off from buying a game, especially enhancements. With the AA community always eager to test and provide suggestions, the opportunity is there to deliver a completed bug-free version the first time around.

 

Completed yes. But the chances for a 100% bug free release are still only about 50:50.

(I can speak from my own experience :lol:)

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5. General Population: Assume you have the ability to play a binary for a homebrew (i.e. emulation, Starpath Supercharger, CC, burn to EPROM, etc). If you knew that your $25 for a nice new homebrew (with label and instructions) was (above and beyond the cost of materials) going to help support the AA site and encourage existing/new homebrew authors to create even more great games, would you be significantly more likely to purchase the games to support your favorite authors (or the AA site in general)?

 

More likely. I think the homebrew scene is absolutely worth supporting.

 

6. General Population: Assume again that you have the ability to play a binary for a homebrew (i.e. emulation, Starpath Supercharger, CC, burn to EPROM, etc). Are you more likely to buy a homebrew game if you have the ability to play it for a bit to see if it suits you? Or would having the ability to play the game discourage you from spending money on it?

 

I'm much more likely to buy a game if I can try it out first. This goes back to being able to play games in Sears or the local video store prior to buying something.

 

7. General Population: Does the prospect of bug-fixed or feature-enhanced versions of games put you off buying a homebrew? That is, are you worried if you buy some hypothetical game, an Ultra, Deluxe or Platnium edition may come out in 6 months or 12 months time? Obviously back in the day major feature upgrades were probably not done (though minor bug fixes were, apparently, sometimes done) but today it seems many 2600 homebrew games will come out with a new version in a reasonably short period of time.

 

It potentially could put me off. Minor feature bumps, in my opinion, could be handled with an exchange program of some sort. Send in the old cart, have the EPROM updated and sent back for a minimal fee. Games that are major re-writes are a different matter, and may justify entirely separate releases. Where that line is drawn is a matter for the programmer to decide.

 

I don't worry too much about bugs. Many games have bugs of some sort. That's part of videogaming. :)

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This does put me off from buying a game, especially enhancements. With the AA community always eager to test and provide suggestions, the opportunity is there to deliver a completed bug-free version the first time around.

 

Completed yes. But the chances for a 100% bug free release are still only about 50:50.

(I can speak from my own experience :lol:)

I agree, and so can I... ;) I should of written "free of any show-stopping major obvious bugs". :D

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I'll chime in...

 

2. AA/Homebrew Authors: What is a typical sales run for a good quality homebrew game? I heard Andrew Davie mention once that something like 450 copies of QB were sold. Is that a typical number?

 

100 copies the first year, 20-30 copies the following years is what you can expect from a really good game. With the overall number of available homebrews constantly increasing, those numbers are actually more likely to shrink than to rise.

That sounds about right. IIRC, Fall Down sold 60-something copies in its first few months.

 

3. Homebrew Authors: Approximately how many hours would you say you spent developing and designing your game - including any startup time to get familiar with the tools, assembly, 2600 programming in general? I once heard it mentioned that David Crane said Pitfall took 10 minutes for the idea, but nearly 1000 hours of design, development and testing. Are we talking about 10's of hours, 100's of hours or 1000's of hours?

As others have said, it's on the order of hundreds. I could see a really big project, say an RPG of some sort, going over 1000 if done properly. I would also think David Crane's estimate of 1000 hours is accurate, given that working in a corporate environment tends to slow a person down (e.g. from working when you don't feel like it).

 

4. Homebrew Authors: How far do the sales of homebrews go to encouraging existing authors to work on a new game? That is, if a game sells well, are you more likely to spend your hard earned hobby time working on a new game? Or is it more a labor of love where the money back in is really not significant to the joy of seeing a game come to completion and being enjoyed?

To be honest, I'm an attention whore, so yeah, when one of my games does well I tend to write another. Royalties are a plus, but they're not significant enough to worry over. That said, I've found developing for the Atari to be more profitable than for say, the Palm.

 

6. General Population: Assume again that you have the ability to play a binary for a homebrew (i.e. emulation, Starpath Supercharger, CC, burn to EPROM, etc). Are you more likely to buy a homebrew game if you have the ability to play it for a bit to see if it suits you? Or would having the ability to play the game discourage you from spending money on it?

Personally I'm in favor of freely available binaries... from a small-time developer's perspective, they increase word of mouth, if nothing else.

 

7. General Population: Does the prospect of bug-fixed or feature-enhanced versions of games put you off buying a homebrew? That is, are you worried if you buy some hypothetical game, an Ultra, Deluxe or Platnium edition may come out in 6 months or 12 months time? Obviously back in the day major feature upgrades were probably not done (though minor bug fixes were, apparently, sometimes done) but today it seems many 2600 homebrew games will come out with a new version in a reasonably short period of time.

Generally I think that would be irritating, though I don't actually own any of the first-edition games in question.

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