Atari 2600 Magic

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Post: #1
I recently came across a couple of eBooks in the app store that talk about game programming for the Atari 2600. They're written by David Crane, who was a co-founder of Activision and very influential in the early days of videogame publishing.

The books are short and accessible, and have nice interactive diagrams. They go into surprising detail about some of the complex techniques needed on such a restricted console. A concept that amazed me was the idea of 'racing the beam' - without enough memory to hold the whole frame, graphics were processed between and during every scanline.

Did anyone here ever program for such early machines? It gives me a bit of perspective whenever I get frustrated by the iPhone's constraints.

You can find the books by searching for appstar. The interface is a bit clunky, and they finish too soon, but still fascinating IMO.
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Post: #2
Might be that only Matt Diamond is old enough to have coded for the Atari VCS. LOL
But I sure do remember drooling over them for Xmas. David Crane is a god.

Can it be that someday people look back and think 'Can you believe that they made games with only a staff of 100 and under $5 million! How did they manage?'

Carlos A. Camacho,
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iDevGames
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Post: #3
First computer I had was a BBC micro (I'm in the UK), 32kb of RAM I think (part of which was taken by the OS and video RAM (up to 20kb)). You definitely did things very differently back then. Not quite as constrained as the good ole 2600 though (bless it).
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I started learning to program on a BBC micro too. Can't remember too much about it though. I know there were different graphics modes, and I remember designing 8x8 bitmaps on a piece of paper then converting each row to a number to create the sprite on the machine. Never got any properly fun games made though.
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maximile Wrote:I started learning to program on a BBC micro too. Can't remember too much about it though. I know there were different graphics modes, and I remember designing 8x8 bitmaps on a piece of paper then converting each row to a number to create the sprite on the machine. Never got any properly fun games made though.

Remember those days well, must have gone through ream after ream of squared graph paper, in my quest for pixel perfect animating 8*8 characters! Fun times! There was a kind of innocence to game development back in those days, maybe that's because we were all so much younger..

I'm not sure, but games seem to have lost something these days, their original charm or something, maybe that's just how I remember things though.
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Jamie W Wrote:I'm not sure, but games seem to have lost something these days, their original charm or something, maybe that's just how I remember things though.

I totally agree. Excluding the iphone market, 90% of all games suck in an objective kind of way. Think back to the % of ps1 or n64 games that were fun, it was definitely way higher then the % on todays platforms. I don't think it's all jadedness or the fact that kids are more easily amused by bad games. Games suck now because it takes 30+ people to create them, the technology is so complex and unwieldy that it becomes a hurdle in most cases.

The sad part is people buy these games, so there is a market for them. Is it really that hard to go to gamespot or ign before going to buy a big commercial game?
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Yeah, I imagine you lose something, some spirit or creative energy is lost, when you over think and over plan these things; not to mention when you're in a corporate environment, and you're main reason for making games, is to make money; you lose sight of your creativity and your muse goes on strike!

I've never really worked in that kind of environment myself though, so maybe it's not so bad, and perhaps I'm not really in a position to comment..

Another thing that occurs to me, that I think affects how games are today, is that they're marketed to a wider demographic; they've gone beyond the (traditional) gamer.

That's just my perspective on the matter; but I really grew up with old games, kinda reaction based arcade games, loved em, and have many fond childhood memories of wasting my days away in the arcades. Smile
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