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Related to Atari game consoles, games, or computers.
Bill Loguidice's picture

New Kickstarter for Atari 2600 Star Castle - But should you support it?

I posted about this as a comment in another thread, but since this is such a big deal I thought I would whip up a quick front page blog post to give it its due. There's a new Kickstarter for an Atari 2600 version of Star Castle, a 1980 vector-based arcade game from Cinematronics that received an excellent port to the Vectrex home console in 1982. While the Atari 2600 can only produce raster, not vector graphics like the Vectrex, a recent port of the game was created by D. Scott Williamson, an original Atari programmer, albeit one who started working there six years after the 1982-release of Howard Scott Warshaw's Star Castle-inspired Yars' Revenge. Williamson was similarly inspired to create his Star Castle homebrew by Warshaw's creation, so he purposely limited himself to 8K of ROM for authenticity's sake, even though the cartridge hardware that he made could handle up to 64K.

Long story short, Williamson ended up wanting tens of thousands of dollars for his programming effort--a reasonable request if this were the platform's early 80's heydey. Unfortunately for Williamson, most homebrewers these days do it for the proverbial love of the game, so no one was willing to pay anywhere near that. In fact, in a convoluted AtariAge thread, his actions and subsequent reactions, not to mention that of the community's, eventually led to another homebrew programmer being himself inspired to create a version, which he released for free, here, and by all accounts is superb.

Undeterred, Williamson decided to take his case to Kickstarter, which you can see here. It's a genuine soap opera (one that I'm not even sure I have sorted correctly), albeit one within a niche of a niche within our industry. It will be interesting to see how this Kickstarter works out for Williamson. I'm certainly intrigued by the cartridge with flashing lights timed to the gameplay and admire his engineering effort, but $100 for a complete, boxed copy is a bit tough to swallow. Maybe with a bit of time I'll reconsider...

What are your thoughts on this mess? Obviously Williamson can charge what he wants for his work - and it's up to the market to decide what they'll pay (and they didn't pay the first time around; maybe this Kickstarter will be different) - but is he out of touch with the realities of the homebrew market? After all, even the best homebrews can struggle to sell 250 boxed copies at well below his $100 boxed copy asking price...

Mark Vergeer's picture

Mark plays... Gyruss (Arcade) - a small challenge is included

An easy challenge - beat me at Gyruss. I play the arcade version here and I show you how far I got. :P

A great example of a 'Tube Shooter' ala Tempest

The maker of this game moved on to create great games like Time Pilot, Street Fighter and 1942

Highscore to beat (easily): 72450

Diagnosis: Gyruss Infection
Remedy: Keep on playing it.

by metaHipster

by OldSchoolNYCGamer

by rednight2476

by Marcilona

by electricadventures

"Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use."

Mark Vergeer's picture

Mark plays... Gyruss - behind the scenes (HD)

A behind the scenes look of one of the latest Atari 8bit videos I did featuring great music from ZombieAndy1979

"Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use."

Mark Vergeer's picture

Mark plays... Thunderfox on Atari 8bit

In this video I am trying to play Thunderfox on the Atari 8-bit home computer range (800XL/130XE) and I talk a bit about the game, life, the universe and everything on the side.

Thunderfox appears to be a Uridium clone - or as close to Uridium as you are going to get on the Atari I reckon. It plays a tad different though - so different in fact that I have no idea how to play this.

The son of the game creator got in touch with me and pointed me towards this review which explains how to play this gem of a game properly:

"Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use."

Bill Loguidice's picture

Boulder Dash "Perfect" to see release on Atari 2600 soon!

Programmers Andrew Davie and Thomas Jentzsch, in association with publishers AtariAge and First Star Software, Inc, have announced that the original game in the Boulder Dash® series, Boulder Dash® Volume 1, will be available for purchase for the Atari 2600 Video Computer System (VCS), exclusively from the AtariAge Store, in time for Christmas 2011. The price is $75 and includes the cartridge, box and manual. What makes this game special is that, among other things, the cartridge will contain 16K of RAM, which will allow for as perfect a conversion of the original game as possible, and in some ways - like with the color palette - a bit better. As many of you know, First Star Software was founded in 1982 by Richard Spitalny and Fernando Herrera and was responsible for developing and publishing several classics, including Astro Chase and Spy vs. Spy. The company has stayed in business ever since and is one of the only original companies to continue to support classic platforms, with this licensed version of Boulder Dash being their most recent example.

Here's the thread on AtariAge for more information on the game. Pre-orders are supposed to start soon and a label contest is already underway. Check out the video below for an idea of how the final game looks and sounds:

Bill Loguidice's picture

Atari Flashback 3 Review and Video

NOTE: This is now the audio-fixed version of the video review, with much quieter in-game audio.

(Download the mp4)

Today I'll be taking a look at Atari's new Flashback 3, which, despite the name, is actually the fourth major Flashback system released. I reviewed the first Atari Flashback way back in 2004, when it was first released. Unfortunately, Legacy Engineering Group (LEG) was apparently only given 10 weeks to create the system from scratch and therefore had no choice but to rely on a NES-On-A-Chip (NOAC) to power the product. Since the goal of the Flashback was to deliver both a plug-and-play Atari 2600 and 7800 experience, this was definitely too tall of an order for what amounted to a Nintendo Entertainment System clone, particularly given the limited time to optimize the game simulations.

While the first Flashback clearly disappointed anyone remotely familiar with any of the 20 first party 2600 and 7800 games it clumsily simulated, the upside was that it sold enough for Atari to order production of a Flashback 2. This time LEG did have the time to do it right, and, while they dropped all efforts to replicate the 7800 experience, they ended up developing what amounted to an "Atari 2600-on-a-chip," whose high accuracy more than made up for the omission. Released in 2005, the Flashback 2 came with a mix of over 40 original, prototype, hacked, and homebrew Atari 2600 games. While the first Flashback was styled like a miniature 7800, the Flashback 2 was styled like a miniature Atari 2600 VCS, complete with simulated woodgrain. As a bonus, the two included joysticks were pin compatible with the originals, meaning they could be used on other systems that worked with Atari-style joysticks. This also meant that you could use original paddle controllers with the Flashback 2 to play the hidden paddle games. This was in direct contrast to the first Flashback, which merely converted its paddle games to make use of the joystick, which again, was not the way you wanted to experience those games. As a final bonus for those with the requisite skillset, the Flashback 2 could be hacked to add a cartridge port, which outside of a few relatively minor compatibility quirks, made it an ideal modern revision of the original Atari 2600 hardware, particularly since it had default composite video output rather than RF.

Bill Loguidice's picture

Six New Atari 2600 VCS Cartridges Released! Includes 3D and Amiga Joyboard support...

The six games for the Atari 2600 VCS are: 3D Ghost Attack!, 3D Genesis, 3D Havoc, Atom Smasher, Depth Charge, and S.A.C. Alert. The 3D games are the first and only 3D games for the platform (they come with paper glasses), Depth Charge was originally designed to be the first head-to-head game where each player has their own console and TV, and S.A.C. Alert was meant to be used with the Amiga Joyboard, the horrible joystick platform you stood on and whose only game actually released was the skiing game, Mogul Maniac. Keep in mind that these six games from the early 1980s are all in various states of completion and Video Soft is rather vague about how playable each one is. Prices range from $30 to $50 plus shipping and handling (if you buy the full $230 set, shipping is free), and each of the six games is limited to a production run of 100 copies, which includes a cartridge, manual and box. Apparently after a particular game sells out, the ROM will be made available to everyone. I'll leave it to this snippet from the Video Soft Website to provide a bit more detail:

Bill Loguidice's picture

Amelie's Story Machine - Edutainment on an Atari 800

Alphabet Zoo (1983)Alphabet Zoo (1983)As many of you know, I have a large collection of vintage hardware and software, and, as is par for the course in collecting, I've ended up with certain atypical software genres either by design or simply because they were included with other things. One facet of my collection that fits that definition are all of the educational titles I have for various consoles and computers. As many of you may also know, Christina and I have two daughters, Amelie, who just turned 6, and Olivia, who just turned 4. They're obviously right at the age where it's use it or never use it time for some of this educational software. The good thing is that our girls have grown up around this stuff, and that, combined with what comes naturally to children, makes them ideal users. I decided that instead of taking the easier way and going console (the CD-i and VIS platforms in particular come to mind, but I have many others that have at least a few titles on them), I'd use it as an excuse to break out one of my older computers. It was a toss up between the C-64, Atari 8-bit and Apple II, since those three systems feature the most educational software of the old computers in my collection. I had already spent enough time with the C-64 and had broken out the Apple II stuff a few times before, so I decided to go with the Atari 8-bit for this attempt with my daughters.

Here's what happened:

Bill Loguidice's picture

Dungeon Master for Atari 8-bit = Dungeon Monster

It looks like yet another incredible homebrew game is in development, this time an Atari 8-bit computer port of the classic 16-bit RPG, Dungeon Master, which made its way to many computers and consoles in the late 1980's through early 1990's.

Check out some of a mock-up and video of the conversion below, and be sure to visit the AtariAge forum post announcing the game's development:

Dungeon Monster (Atari 8-bit preview build)Dungeon Monster (Atari 8-bit preview build)

Bill Loguidice's picture

Atari's 1981 Anti-piracy Advertisement

On his excellent Website, Matthew Reed has a nice blog post and break down of Atari's 1981 anti-piracy advertisement, which was merely the marketing tip of the legal iceberg that would have ramifications throughout the industry. This is still something of a hot topic in the burgeoning homebrew community--it seems many of today's top homebrew programmers are content with creating more perfect versions of well established arcade hits rather than creating original designs. While a fan and purchaser of these amazing programming efforts, I still philosophically fall on the side of wanting to see something original created with that talent, even if it may be flawed. As industry legend Scott Adams stated himself in his somewhat dated, but still relevant quote found in Reed's post, "I would like to suggest that anyone writing arcade-style software base it on original ideas. Novel and original arcade games will be best sellers, and who knows, maybe your arcade software will end up on a coin-operated machine!"

While it's unlikely anything will end up on a coin-operated machine these days, a quality original homebrew design might just make the next great mobile game design, as one possibility, and with the plethora of easy-to-use development tools, that scenario is actually quite plausible. After all, even if you do create the best 8-bit home version of Satan's Hollow ever, it's still really not your creation and you are skirting copyright law. Of course, sometimes it's the proverbial kettle calling the pot black, as Scott Adams himself was no stranger to "borrowing" ideas, particularly when it came to his legendary first commercial product and Colossal Cave Adventure. A multi-layered issue indeed...

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