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Atari 2600 Game Development

timothy posted more than 11 years ago | from the support-your-local-thriftstore dept.

Games 317

gjb6676 writes "An article over at ExtremeTech is covering recent game development projects on the Atari 2600. The amount of cartridge space they have to work with is a sobering thought: 'A two-word file in Word 2002, for example, requires 20 Kbytes. "That's 20 Kbytes, five times the amount of (ROM) space developers had to work with in the 2600.'"

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me first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5224354)

first!

Re:me first post (-1, Redundant)

Bubb Rubb (647402) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224388)

You gots da first post, but you ain't gots da wooo wooo!

Hi! $lashdot sux0rz cox0rz! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5224359)

  • 2002. $lashdot publishes 1,000,000th rumor passed off as actual story. The story generates 480 comments, 263 of which agree with the article, and 107 of which point out it's a rumor and are modded down as redundant. The remaining comments are all "first posts."
  • 2002. CmdrTaco married.
  • 2002. $lashdot parent corporation VA Research^W Linux^W Software stock worth 35 cents. Rumors that AOL, Microsoft, or even Jimmy the hobo who lives under the Longfellow Bridge may buy it.
  • 2003. VA Software bought by Microsoft for a cup of coffee and a donut. All Microsoft-critical articles mysteriously disappear from $lashdot. Bill Gates as Borg logo replaced with Bill Gates as God.
  • 2004. CmdrTaco loses virginity.
  • 2004. The WIPO Troll returns again, showering $lashdot in 45,000 copies of the same post: "Lick my crotch hairs." $lashdot, despite running on 18 redundant IIS/8.0 servers, buckles under the load. The term "$lashdotted" is replaced with "WIPO-Trolled."
  • 2004. $lashdot officially shut down. Millions of screaming, unwashed geeks invade Redmond campus and lynch Bill Gates.
  • 2005. Linus Torvalds and Anal Cox found dead along with six penguins, a tub of crisco and several used condoms.
  • 2005. CmdrTaco rumored to have had sex again.
  • 2006. CowboiKneel found dead in hotel room with 56 pizza boxes covering his bloated corpse. Three suffocated gay prostitutes are extracted from beneath his body as police remove it with a backhoe.
  • 2007. CmdrTaco actually has sex again.
  • 2007. BSD is still officially "dying." No word on when its demise will take place.
  • 2007. CmdrTaco starts new weblog to replace $lashdot, creatively named Dotslash. Remainder of Linux users flock to the site and immediate WIPO-Troll it out of existence.
  • 2008. CmdrTaco has sex with his wife for the first time.

Troll 10 of 208 from the annals of the Troll Library [slashdot.org] .

Re:Hi! $lashdot sux0rz cox0rz! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5224481)

Hmm...maybe you should go back to sucking your fathers cock like you did three years ago when you were 5.

It's not worth it (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5224377)

Hi, I'm The_Fire_Horse - you might remember me from such postings as "Fuck the world" and "Here comes another wanker".

My program today discusses the ancient art of having a wank on a public transport vehicle (bus, train, boat - it doesnt matter)

You will need :

  • a large newspaper
  • at least 2 magazines
  • a dick
  1. When you board the bus/train/boat; sit right across from a really hot chick with a short skirt and no bra - leer at her for a while. Ask her to show you her tits - women like it when men take the initiative to say this
  2. Take out a newspaper and a couple of magazines and place the magazines open on either sides of you - try and make them 'trade' type mags and not Playboy or Penthouse.
  3. Ok, now your sides are now covered - now get the newspaper and open it wide to the middle and place the bottom between your knees and lap - you should now be completely 'invisible'.
  4. Unzip your fly and start wanking furiously to the image of the short skirted chick in front of you while yelling "DO IT BABY - DO IT NNNOOOOOWWWW !!!!!!". Dont worry, she and the other passengers cant hear you because you're surrounded by the 'newspapers of invisibility'.
  5. Explain to the police that you got your advice from some dickhead on slashdot and they will understand, and just let you go.
    Just remember to give them the secret handshake - which is of course, a hand full of the results of your wank.
    They will have a really good laugh about it and you will be the best of friends.

This has been a community service announcement to the fellow horny students of the world.
Bad news... it didn't work. But I decided to use my "one phone call" by going to the station-computer to post here at /. and let you know I'm in jail now. Thanks a lot, asshole!
Sorry to say this... but the only possible explanation is.. THE POLICE WHO ARRESTED YOU ARE ALIENS FROM MARS!!

Now dont be alarmed, its happened before. The fact that this highly instructive and foolproof method failed you and got you arrested, can only mean that they are not human police.

There is a way though! - Here is what you need to do...

Ring your local MP and say :

I was wanking on a bus and I got arrested, but I was using a foolproof method, so that proves that the police who arrested me are Aliens from Mars.
You can now relax, because the special "Anti Alien Task Force which stop honest citizens wanking on buses" will save you.

Case closed!

oo.o rules (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5224379)

a two page document takes up only 9kb, compared to my empty word 2000 file which is 17k. bz2 + xml!

Re:oo.o rules (3, Funny)

DougJohnson (595893) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224401)

So this means you could fit exactly 1 whole empty OO.o file on a 2600 cartridge.... Great!

Re:oo.o rules (1)

bloo9298 (258454) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224658)

Don't forget one cartridge for bunzip2 and another for the XML parser...

Re:oo.o rules (5, Funny)

gewalker (57809) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224460)

The bloat for a Word document is no doubt completely justified by its ability to host a virus capable of bring the Internet to its knees.
The 4K Atari cartridge ROM is only capable of enabling you to play a silly game on your television.

Re:oo.o rules (1)

Politburo (640618) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224514)

Obviously written by someone who has never used the advanced features of Word.

Re:oo.o rules (1)

rindeee (530084) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224540)

Which accounts for ~99.7% of Word users.

Re:oo.o rules (0, Offtopic)

Latent IT (121513) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224553)

Yeah, you know what would be even *more* advanced? Word being able to tell that the fucking file was *EMPTY* and not have it take up 17k.

Re:oo.o rules (1, Offtopic)

Politburo (640618) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224599)

WHY?

Why? Does it matter? Are you really going to miss the 15K that it might be wasting? There's no reason the Microsoft coders should be worried about optimizing EMPTY FILES. Word isn't made to make empty files! It's made to work on files with text and data in them.

Re:oo.o rules (1)

Anonvmous Coward (589068) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224554)

"The bloat for a Word document..."

Though I'm sure the .DOC format is bloated, what you're really seeing is overhead. If you double the amount of text in the a word doc, you don't get a 40K file.

I did an experiment where I created a document with the letter 'A' in it. 19K. I then typed a page of garbage in it. The resulting filesize was
29K. I took the garbage and copy/pasted it into Notepad and saved it to a .txt file. It was 7K. Seeing as how it had no formatting in it, I'd say that was an interesting 'bloat' experiment.

I'm not sure what's in that initial 20k, but it's probably some info describing how the file was made. Is it necessary? No. If you want efficiency, use HTML.

"...is no doubt completely justified by its ability to host a virus capable of bring the Internet to its knees."

Was anybody else able to make sense by that comment? heh.

Efficiency... (2, Insightful)

Lodragandraoidh (639696) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224612)

If you really want efficiency, use text.

Re:oo.o rules (3, Funny)

bloo9298 (258454) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224637)

If you want efficiency, use HTML.

*Choke*. You're under 25, right?

Nope. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5224548)

$ wc -c empty.sxw
5057 empty.sxw

Still too big.

I had one of those (-1)

PedoPeteTownshend (641098) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224380)

But you couldn't get kiddie porn on it. You can with modern computers.

I love progress.

That's ongoing development, not news (5, Informative)

lightspawn (155347) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224384)

Check out, for example, the homebrew projects at Atari Age [atariage.com] .

Re:That's ongoing development, not news (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224424)

I think the 'news' is that another site with nothing exciting to talk about posted an article about it.

I think.. (5, Funny)

Equidist (630494) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224395)

I think that says more about Word 2002 than it does about the 2600.

thats microsoft.... (3, Funny)

tadheckaman (578425) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224397)

20KB of data for a 2 word document? thats insane. .TXT is best!

Re:thats microsoft.... (1, Offtopic)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224463)

What if the words are

supercalifragilisticexpealidocious and antidisestablishmentarianism

and the words are stored in a table?
and fonts change after each letter?

Who cares. This is the 21st century. I'd make more of the tons of bloat, custom widgets and statically linked libraries in Open Office than I would of 17k of header data in a Word doc.

Re:thats microsoft.... (1)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224678)

I'd make more of the tons of bloat, custom widgets and statically linked libraries in Open Office than I would of 17k of header data in a Word doc.

Err...I hate to break this to you, but Word suffers from the same bloat, custom widgets and statically linked libraries (well, for all intents and purposes, since most Office code isn't shared with other apps).

Re:thats microsoft.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5224708)

how about antidisestablishmentarionism ists

Re:thats microsoft.... (1)

JimDabell (42870) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224501)

They were just really long words.

Re:thats microsoft.... (1)

tadheckaman (578425) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224534)

huh

Custer's Revenge (3, Funny)

use_compress (627082) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224404)

Why not start porting some of the 2600 games to the X-Box? I'm still waiting for Custer's Revenge [extremetech.com] 2!

Re:Custer's Revenge (5, Funny)

luzrek (570886) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224436)

Since a 2 word Word 2002 document takes 20kB I don't think that the Xbox has enough resources for the MS version of a 2600 game.

Re:Custer's Revenge (1)

use_compress (627082) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224442)

Bad Link-- Go here [seanbaby.com] instead.

Sobering thought? (4, Funny)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224405)

Is the "sobering thought" really the 2600's limit, or is it MS Word's docu-bloat? Remember that Moore's Law doesn't get you anything if Gates' Law is also in effect.

The trick is to exploit Moore's Law, and avoid Gates. Then technology becomes a Good Thing.

Bank switching? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5224408)

I know that some games were larger than the 256 bytes that were standard, by use of 'bank switching', so telling the readers that it is all they have to work with is misleading.

RTFA. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5224529)

The article mentions bank switching very clearly:
Atari ROMs typically contained just 4 Kbytes of ROM memory for program storage, although programmers typically came up with a technique called bank switching, where the high-order address bits were used to select the bank of memory in which operations took place.

Incidentally, it's 128 bytes of RAM, not 256 bytes, and 4 KB of ROM. Though you could use bankswitching to get around the latter, and some carts had extra RAM chips to get around the former.

And if I remember correctly, no screen buffer (4, Informative)

joeflies (529536) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224409)

so the code had to be writing directly to the screen output as fast as the action required. I don't know if any systems at that time did have a buffer, but I thought I read something about why it was worthwhile in the book "High Score".

It allowed the system to extend its usable life of the platform after developers got familiar with how to work with it.

Re:And if I remember correctly, no screen buffer (4, Informative)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224523)

Actually, the 2600 had enough "VRAM" to store background data for a single line on the screen. So, you had to write out the data for each successive line during the horizontal blanking period of the video display. This also means that, even if the screen is static, you still have to do all this work, just to keep it there.

Now, this all had to be done just to keep the background of the display intact. The programmer also got 2 player objects and 2 missile objects to work with... basically primitive sprites. 'course, with such limited resources, writing any kind of advanced game is a challenge. As they mention in the article, the Defender! programmer(s) tried to get around the sprite limitation by changing the sprite objects during even/odd frames to simulate more of them.

Re:And if I remember correctly, no screen buffer (1)

YetAnotherName (168064) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224715)

The sprite changing technique didn't really pay off, though. If I recall correctly, when there was a lot of action on the screen, the blinking of each object was painfully obvious.

niggers eat poo (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5224411)

who you callin a nigger?

4K (4, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224413)

Can't fit much pr0n in 4K.

You can if you're careful! (2, Informative)

govtcheez (524087) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224489)

You just need to do it right, as shown here. [slashdot.org]

Re:4K (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5224518)

Sure you can!

"Oooh! Look at the size of those pixels!"

Re:4K (1)

chunkwhite86 (593696) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224544)

Try using .PNG file format.

And scale those pics down, what do you want with a 4096x3072 nude Britney image anyways? Oh wait.... nevermind.

Sobering? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5224415)

The amount of cartridge space they have to work with is a sobering thought: 'A two-word file in Word 2002, for example, requires 20 Kbytes. "That's 20 Kbytes, five times the amount of (ROM) space developers had to work with in the 2600."

I think it is more frightening to think that it takes Word 2002, 20Kbytes to store two words. An ASCII file could do the job in about 10 bytes depending on the size of the words.

Re:Sobering? (1)

Trav42 (312557) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224538)

20k is still insane, but keep in mind that Word also stores the fact that those two words were written in a specific font and style, on a specific page size, with specific margins, etc, in a specific language, by a specific user, and so on.

20k does seem like a lot, though, even for all that.

Re:Sobering? (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224559)

>> An ASCII file could do the job in about 10 bytes depending on the size of the words.

If the words were 4 letters long, sure.

It could do it in 4 bytes if the words were 'a' and 'I'. Including whitespace between the words and EOF marker.

And it would still take up at least 1k on your hard disk, depending on the block size you used when you formatted it. I always forget the default in ext2, 4k?

Anyhow, keep your ASCII files. I like my foreign character sets, fonts and styles, embedded spreadsheets and graphics, and WYSIWIG displays, thanks. Word isn't a hyper-efficient data storage tool, it's a word processor/desktop publishing application. And a pretty good one at that.

Using Microsoft as a standard of efficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5224419)

Is like using a donkey as a standard of intelligence.

Re:Using Microsoft as a standard of efficiency (2, Insightful)

KingJoshi (615691) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224698)

There are plenty of smart asses out there. Don't diss them just cuz you think you're superior :)

Sequels to 2600 games I want to see (3, Funny)

Marco_polo (160898) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224420)

Defender 2 'the revenge'
space invaders 'EXTREME'
Atari Football 2003
Night Driver with Infrared Goggles
and Combat: Gulf War

Re:Sequels to 2600 games I want to see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5224552)

Defender 2 'the revenge'
Enjoy. [atariage.com]

Re:Sequels to 2600 games I want to see (1)

Tempest_2084 (605915) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224578)

They had Defender 2, it was called "Stargate" (actually it was also called Defender II as well).

Tempest_2084

Wow (4, Insightful)

hafree (307412) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224426)

Imagine that, programmers having to write efficient code for a change. These days, a "hello world" program won't even fit on a floppy after the required libraries have been compiled in...

Re:Wow (2, Insightful)

stinkyfingers (588428) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224462)

Is that because

1. the programmer didn't write an efficient "Hello, world" program?
2. the point of a "Hello, world" program isn't to acheive efficieny?
3. compiler/linker/OS combinations have become much more complex?

Re:Wow (1)

starcraftsicko (647070) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224517)

Pick Option 3, except add: "unnecessarily" complex. Modern compilers and, for that matter programmers simply dont know how to write efficient code. They call this lack of knowledge "computer science". Bill Gates calls it ".net"

Re:Wow (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5224509)

Imagine that, programmers having to write efficient code for a change.
That would be great --- imagine it: every piece of software would take ten times as long to write and a hundred times as long to debug, and I'd see all the benefit of 17KB extra space on my 100GB hard drive. Where can I sign up to this marvellous dream?

Re:Wow (1)

chunkwhite86 (593696) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224569)

Imagine that, programmers having to write efficient code for a change. These days, a "hello world" program won't even fit on a floppy after the required libraries have been compiled in...

So which version of Microsoft Visual Studio are you using?

Re:Wow (1)

stinkyfingers (588428) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224581)

Or are you using g++ on a *nix box?

duck pond (3, Funny)

twiggy (104320) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224427)

as long as they code "duck pond" and put it in a cartridge so I can play it in my old Intellivision with the Atari adapter, I'll be happy...

mmmm, duck pond.. now with new color graphics!

Memory switching (2, Informative)

jhampson (580482) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224435)

Ahh, but I seem to remember that developers used to do something called 'bank switching' in the carts.
They had more than 1 memory chip in there and they could switch to another chip.
Was it Activision that started using that trick? I remember that they had the shweetest games. A friend of mine got the first "extra memory" game, although I don't recall what it was. The one with chopper flying down the river, maybe?
And it was cool the first time I heard my Atari talking to me...(not imagined, really!)

Re:Memory switching (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5224683)

RTFA. It's in there. Thanks.

When I was a youngin' (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5224439)

We paid a buck a byte, and we liked it! None of them fancy schmancy kilobytes, and most definately not 20 of em! With 20 of em, we could've written programs to launch people to the moon, and get em back safely again! And still had room to fit the bible in too! Heck, we could've done that in 10! You kids these days and your fancy megabytes, and gigabytes... I bet you've never had to walk to and from school up hill in both directions, either.

Re:When I was a youngin' (1)

Lodragandraoidh (639696) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224680)

When I was reading this, it came across sounding like Hank Hill's father...

Equiv of ~32K ROM, not 4K (2, Interesting)

guido1 (108876) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224441)

From the article:
According to Chris Larkin, developer of the Atari 2600 card game Kablamo!, each developer typically came up with a proprietary method of bank switching to increase the ROM size to an average of 32 Kbytes of code.

My 2600 died... All I've got left are the pong paddles (wheel things...) and some cartriges. :(

Re:Equiv of ~32K ROM, not 4K (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224691)

it's really sad that you had to describe in more detail what the "pong paddles" were.

I used to play Arkanoid on my C64 w/the "wheel things". Ahhh, that's my next move. Buy an Arkanoid arcade machine :)

real programmers do it in less than 4K (1)

gemtech (645045) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224450)

so says an old embedded assembly language guy. this new fangled software takes up way too much memory.

Re:real programmers do it in less than 4K (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5224515)

Modern programmers have big tools to get the job done quickly.

Re:real programmers do it in less than 4K (4, Interesting)

FyRE666 (263011) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224709)

Amen to that! I used to code x86 for demos and BBS intros, games etc and I was amused at the time to see simple C programs weighing in at 30-40 times the size to accomplish the same tasks ;-)

This is why I actually enjoy programming for mobile phones at the moment - some of them (eg the Nokia 7210) really force you to consider how best to utilise the available memory and CPU resources. Just try to allocate a back buffer and a couple of 128x128 images and you're looking at a crash. Memory fragmentation also comes in, as do memory block limits (some phones limit ANY object to 16K max due to the way allocation works). Swapping out stuff you don't absolutely need, and juggling data is required for anything beyond the simplest games. (Although some phones, such as the Nokia 7650 really spoil you with loads of RAM, I usually attempt to get things working on the worst case target before porting and adding the bells+whistles).

It's fun though!!

Rom Size (5, Informative)

skintigh2 (456496) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224454)

'A two-word file in Word 2002, for example, requires 20 Kbytes. "That's 20 Kbytes, five times the amount of (ROM) space developers had to work with in the 2600.'

Initially, games were 4KB. But there were also 8KB games (I believe on a single ROM, but I may be wrong) and with an extra chip in the cartridge to handle addressing games of 16KB could be squeezed in.

For instance, Solaris, which was the best gane ever. http://skintigh.tripod.com/atari/solaris.html

Less related: there were cartridges that I assume had 64 4KB roms. The first was a menu to select which of the games to play. I also assume this was done without permission of the copyright holders. Then there were tape drives...

I suppose... (2, Funny)

Call Me Black Cloud (616282) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224455)

...it also depends on how long the words are.

20kb (4, Funny)

istartedi (132515) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224467)

Well, if they didn't append your medical records to every Word file, it really wouldn't be that bad. :)

Where will the programmers come from? (1, Interesting)

phavens (573333) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224470)

These people won't be Microsoft programers who don't know how to write tight code...
Seriously todays programmers aren't taught tight code... and giving yourself limitations like these you would have to. When write in the "popular" languages of today the overhead alone would kill the likelyhood of a programmer just "throwing something together".
Here is where Assembly is King [grc.com] .

Re:Where will the programmers come from? (1)

chunkwhite86 (593696) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224607)

These people won't be Microsoft programers who don't know how to write tight code... Seriously todays programmers aren't taught tight code... and giving yourself limitations like these you would have to. When write in the "popular" languages of today the overhead alone would kill the likelyhood of a programmer just "throwing something together".

Of course they're not taught that. If they wrote tight clean code, why would you need to upgrade your PC every six months?

Reviving dead consoles (1)

British (51765) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224504)

I wish I haad the hardware/programming knowledge to make some homebrew carts on my spare time. It would be fun to make some games for my game.com, now sitting, gathering dust.

Now only if I could find the dial-up hardware/software thing for that. Would be fun just to see how it works.

And in Word XP ? (1)

theefer (467185) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224522)

Two word file in Word 2002, single letter file in Word XP ?

Game Design, then and now (5, Insightful)

Sebastopol (189276) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224531)

I see two angles here.

1. the number of programmers has exponentially ballooned since the early 80s, leading to a larger number of less godlike programmers, AND programmers have become more reliant on fat libraries and limitless resources, so coding something this small would bend my brain for sure.

2. game content has changed dramatically. q bert was weird. space invaders was weird. pac man was weird. (yes, sports games did exist, but they weren't mainstream then). games today are less weird. it's either a first person shootemup, sports, or a linear fiction w/some combat.

Focusing on #2, I'd like to see if there really is some creative game writing locked away in some programmer's brain out there, or if we've become a nation of UnReal, GTO, Final Fantasy, and Madden XFL clones.

I don't mean to put down these fine games, I enjoy many console games. What I'm trying to get at is the utter weirdness of what people come up with when severly limited by resources. Facsimile and simulation are out the window, so you really have to dig deep for a good game.

We'll see, I'm very interested in the outcome. Maybe the winners of the IOCCC should check this out.

Re:Game Design, then and now (1)

otis wildflower (4889) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224575)

There's still a few 'weird' [llamasoft.co.uk] developers out there.. Jeff's Tempest 2000 on Jag is still one of my favorite games (and soundtrack CDs)..

Believe it or not, the strangest games may soon be found on cellphones or J2ME, if you go by 'constraints are the mother of innovation' theory..

20 KB!?! (1)

Noryungi (70322) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224535)

Shoot... It's exactly half the RAM my first computer had... (Sinclair Spectrum, for those who are interested).

Haaaaa... I am getting all teary-eyed now. Those were the days... =)

Cellphone Atari? (1)

sparkhead (589134) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224537)

Have there been any ports of Atari games (or emulators) to any cell phones?

The Good Old Days (5, Interesting)

FormerComposer (318416) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224562)

Working on the Tandy Color Computer was similar. I programmed Super BustOut for the initial release of the machine. 4K Rom, 1K Ram (1/2 of which was the screen.) You had to squeeze every byte out of the 6809's instruction set (one of the greatest processor designs ever!) But we ended up with a great game ... like Breakout but with
* 2D paddle motion
* horizontal or vertical brick orientation
* gravity in some modes
* "English" on the paddle/ball interactions
* single or dual player in competitive or cooperative simultaneous play
* sound effects (CPU generated)
* etc. etc.

Just before release, with 9 free bytes left, a bug was found. The initial fix would break the ROM barrier by 13 bytes. Yet another pass through the code doing the 4th or 5th optimization -- finally got it in and ended up with 11 free bytes.

Amazing what is possible in ASM but, boy, it was many 20 hour days!

So I understand those 'smallest executable' contests, but how much functionality does the executable really have? Or how much of the Word document is really information?

Re:The Good Old Days (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224597)

I was there too. I remember poring over tons of code looking for a couple of bytes to free. Looking for instructions to remove.

You also used to have to stand in front of an automobile and turn a crank to get it to start. Noone misses that either.

I had a copy of that game! (1)

RatBastard (949) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224681)

I had a copy of Super BustOut! I played it on my CoCo2! It was a lot of fun.

Of course, I used to program in 6809 Assembler for fun, too. ;)

RAM!=ROM (1)

Curt Cox (199406) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224574)

While the 2600 didn't have much RAM, the cartridges contained all the ROM. A cartridge was/is free to supply as much RAM and ROM as it wanted. Most just supplied ROM. 2K may have been a standard size, but it wasn't a hard limit by any means. In many ways, a 2600 was just a 400/800 without a keyboard and very little RAM.

The RAM (256 bytes IIRC) was the real limit, since adding any RAM to a cartridge drastically increased the cost of manufacturing it. With only 256 bytes (no video memory), you have to do completely insane things like chase the electron gun across the screen to draw things.

What is this submission really about? (2)

Politburo (640618) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224577)

Is this really a submission about writing 2600 games, or is it just more Microsoft flamebait?

I'm sure there are tons of file formats that even when empty take up what would appear to be "large" amounts of space. Never mind that Word is written for today's computers, for which 17K is hardly even noticed, hence there is little need to optimize empty files.

By the way, the newest Word has a built in versioning system. I'd like to know what options on this system were set when this 17K file was created. Also did the user choose to save any other information (Macros, etc.) with the file?

Like I said, this submission isn't really about programming for the Atari. If it was, the obligatory troll wouldn't have been there, and the article would never have been posted.

Bloat is relative (0)

adamsan (606899) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224586)

32K was an enormous amount of memory to have at your disposal on 80s consoles - [old timer voice]: seems to me like the Atari developers had it preeetty sweee-eet.
Dungeons of Daggorath was an amazing 8kb 3D maze game for the TRS 80 http://members.tripod.com/~Frodpod/index-2.html, Braben and Bell wrote Elite for 20KB of free memory.
That's what I call tight coding.

What about new titles for MAME? (4, Interesting)

Billy the Mountain (225541) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224602)

It seems to me that the Programming for the Atari 2600 is like working a Chinese Puzzle. Previously, I've wondered why not write new titles for MAME? It's available on multiple platforms and probably not so hard to develop on since it's emulating newer architecture.

BTM

Bigger isn't necessarily better (5, Insightful)

WIAKywbfatw (307557) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224605)

It's hard for kids these days to imagine a PC with anything less than 128MB of RAM and a graphics card equipped with 32MB of it's own (512MB and 64MB are typical figures on newer PCs and graphics cards) but, back in the day, we got by just fine with only a few KB to play around with.

Sure, Tank and Space Invaders on the Atari 2600 weren't deep, multi-layered games but they did provide hours of fun. Similarly, Paradroid, Wizball and even Elite, the cream of the crop on the Commodore 64 would seem dull and shallow to most of the new generation of gamers used to the depth of Grand Theft Auto 3, Starcraft or EverQuest.

But, to those of us who were gaming back then, these titles were as immersive and addictive as anything available today. Hell, I still fire up VICE (the best C64 emulator available) to play some of those titles today, and not just for nostalic reasons - back then, without the flashy graphics and sound games had to be immediately playable and fun or else they just didn't capture the imagination.

Who remembers breaking joysticks waggling them back and forth playing Track and Field? Who remembers the pride they felt when they finally reached Elite status? Or when they completed Impossible Mission? The shear unadulterated fun of playing Pong and Breakout for hours on end, not giving a damn that the last five minutes weren't at all visually distinguishable from the first five?

It's funny, but even though I'm an avid gamer I've bought fewer games in the last two years than I have in any one year before that, going back as far as 1983. Partially this is because today's games have more depth to them, but mainly it's because there are fewer and fewer titles that really enthuse me any more.

The lack of originality in the games industry today is part of it - I haven't seen a truly original game since Populous - but, ironically, I don't think that today's games capture the imagination half as much as the games of yesteryear.

Linux on Atari? (1)

usurper_ii (306966) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224618)

How about porting Linux to the Atari? It probably has 0 encryption, and if it did it would use like what, a 1-bit key?

Why would anyone do this? Well try finding a computer with TV out on it at a pawn shop for 5.00!!!

Live in your world. Stay out of mine!

Seriously (1)

usurper_ii (306966) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224711)

My first computer was a Tandy version of the Sinclair. It was $99.00 and I think it had either 2k or 5k of RAM.

I can remember typing in BASIC games out of computer magazines and it would sometimes take me hours of typing...only to run out of memory about two lines from the bottom of the code. If it did work, the game, often with really cool cartoon pictures in the magazine it came from, would look like a bad version of pong.

At a later time, I got a real computer. An atari 128 with an external 5 1/4 floppy drive that cost me almost 300.00 bucks!

Those were the days.

Usurper_ii

The Zen of Optimization (4, Insightful)

dmorin (25609) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224622)

The domain you program for brings out different skills. If you get into the mindset of using as few bytes as possible and bumming everything you can, then you can do what appears to be magic. of course, you won't be good for much else :), but one thing at a time. There are tradeoffs, always, such as time/space. But I expect that readability and maintenance are in there somewhere, too. :)

Last week over lunch a developer posed a programming problem he'd been given on a job assignment. We all suggested a similar algorithm..then I went home and coded it. Then coded a more optimized one. And said I wanted to optimize it more. They asked me why it mattered that in one iteration I had two multiplication operations, and in the second version I had one. Why, because it's faster, of course. That's the sort of thing that's meaningless to an enterprise middleware programmer (for the most part), but everything to a game designer. Maybe you're doing this operation 10 million times a second, and every nanosecond you shave counts.

Hacking means working with the resources you have in the constraints you've been given. It's a shame that so many developers now would look at challenge like that and just dismiss it rather than seeing it as an opportunity to wake up some parts of your brain you don't normally get to use. Why must "solve it" mean "solve it once" instead of "give me the best solution"? It's a pretty safe bet that if you stop at one solution you haven't found the best one. Why be pleased with that?

Duane

"256 bytes? It's impossible to write a game in 256 bytes! I need over 100 bytes just to pull the A20 line high and enable extended memory!!"
- badly remembered quote from a rec.games.programmer who just didn't get it

Massively Parallel Word-Processing Supercomputer! (4, Funny)

Tsar (536185) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224623)

"A two-word file in Word 2002, for example, requires 20 Kbytes."

Did anyone else read that and think "10,240-BIT WORDS? What kind of workstation is that running on?"

what id like to see (2, Interesting)

kaens (639772) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224628)

is not really so much atari coding, but how about some reakes of old atari classics like texas chainsaw massacre? (yes it was a real game, and it was banned in the US for violence)
but seriously the atari had some good shit on it that would be fun to remake

Word on the 2600? (1)

cygnus (17101) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224630)

A two-word file in Word 2002, for example, requires 20 Kbytes. "That's 20 Kbytes, five times the amount of (ROM) space developers had to work with in the 2600.

who cares? what, are they trying to port Microsoft Word to the Atari?

then i guess that's a humdinger. i'll be looking forward to their Oracle port...

The Golden Age (2, Interesting)

Madcapjack (635982) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224633)

Although the limit must have frustrated programmers, I think it forced programmers to come up with innovative games. No wonder many people consider the Atari age to be the Golden Age of video-games.

In Soviet Russia...... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5224638)


In Soviet Russia 20kb is larger than most apartments

Stella programming (3, Interesting)

Darth Maul (19860) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224643)

What's even more scary than the 4K ROM limit is the 128 bytes of RAM. Yes, 128 bytes. 6502 assembly is easy, and the Stella chip architecture was an amazing acheivement. Read the Stella Programmer's Guide (available here [alienbill.com] ) to be truly amazed at what it took those guys to develop games.

In my game I'm just at the point where I have a playfield, a moveable player, and one missile I can shoot. And that took a lot of effort. You know you're doing hardcore software development when you have to count cycles to make sure you're not computing when the electron beam is actually being drawn. You have 2700 or so cycles to work with "above" the television image per screen for computation, and only about 48 for each scan line before you start messing up your game image because you're still doing computation. It's interesting because you're tied to the physical progression of the electron beam across the TV.

My Project (2, Funny)

Wolfier (94144) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224645)

I and my team is still making a game for the abacus. It'll be very exciting and its name will be "Dude Abacus Forever"

Second article on ExtremeTech--wireless Atari! (3, Informative)

MarkRH (629597) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224660)

By the way, we also published a second story [extremetech.com] last Friday on the connection between Microsoft's SPOT smart objects and a wireless games distribution platform from Atari that was field-tested, but never produced. (You thought the Xbox was huge...) With pics!

Doom has been ported to everythinge else... (4, Funny)

Dugsmyname (451987) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224665)


Doom has been ported to everythinge else, I can't wait to see the 4Kb version on the Atari 2600.

2600 Homebrew Games Already Released (5, Informative)

TheAlchemist (89319) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224694)

Here is a fairly comprehensive list of the homebrew games that have been released for the 2600 in recent years:

2600 Homebrew Search Results [atariage.com]

And here is a list of games that are currently in development for the various Atari consoles. This list changes pretty frequently, and there are some projects not yet listed as the authors aren't very far along with them (Yes, I know that last link is listed in the linked story, just including it here for the convenience):

Titles In Development [atariage.com]

A list of Atari 2600 games that have been hacked to change the graphics, sounds, colors, and more!

Atari 2600 Hacks [atariage.com]

And finally, many games that were only released in either NTSC or PAL formats have been modified to work with the other television standard. This is useful for people who have the ability (such as through a Cuttle Cart [schells.com] ) to play these binaries on a real television:

Atari 2600 TV Format Conversions [atariage.com]

Enjoy!

Support until 1997! (2, Funny)

bloo9298 (258454) | more than 11 years ago | (#5224701)

From the article:

The Atari 2600 was released in 1977, discontinued in 1984, and support was dropped in 1997, according to Machine-Room.org, a site tracking old computer systems.

Support until 1997? Microsoft won't want us to know about companies that do that. My next OS will be from Atari! Or maybe an Amiga, because it looks there'll be a company called Amiga for the rest of my lifetime.

It's called Disk Cluster Size (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5224724)

'A two-word file in Word 2002, for example, requires 20 Kbytes. "That's 20 Kbytes, five times the amount of (ROM) space developers had to work with in the 2600.

So what? Those same two words in a 10 byte text file take up about 16-32k on a harddrive due to how disk space is partitioned to speed data transfer. Of course, the extra overhead in .doc files becomes more significant as your harddrive gets smaller, but then smaller harddrives use smaller cluster sizes to offset this. Not that the average joe has a 40MB harddrive anymore...

This is just YAMST (Yet Another MicroSoft Troll).
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