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Classic Games (Games) Entertainment Games

Unreleased Atari 2600 Game Found At Flea Market 253

Posted by kdawson
from the once-in-a-lifetime dept.
VonGuard writes "I was at the flea market in Oakland yesterday when a pile of EPROMs caught my eye. When I got them home I found that they were prototypes for Colecovision games. A few were unpublished or saw limited runs, like Video Hustler (billiards). Others were fully released, like WarGames. But the crown jewel is what look to be a number of chips with various revisions of Cabbage Patch Kids Adventures in the Park for Atari 2600. This game was never released and has never been seen. It was a port of the version for Colecovision, and this lot of chips also included the Coleco version. So now I have to find someone who can dump EPROMs gently onto a PC so we can play this never-before seen game, which is almost certainly awful."
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Unreleased Atari 2600 Game Found At Flea Market

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  • nice (Score:5, Informative)

    by PhantomHarlock (189617) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @04:13AM (#23155686)
    Good find. My first job in HS was at Atari playtesting video games for the Tengen system. (I knew someone who worked there as a 'game councelor' on their help line, a fellow Amiga fanatic, ironically)

    It's not surprising that the roms turned up there - it's close to Milpitas. Usually I say there's nothing more to be had at flea markets - all the vendors these days are selling various combinations of the same grey market goods from Asia...but every now and then I guess there's still a gem.
  • by glittalogik (837604) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @04:15AM (#23155700)
    The unveiling and first attempt at this game requires:

    - A projector.
    - A camera to record footage for posterity.
    - A celebrity guest, Either CmdrTaco, CowboyNeal, or one of the Diggnation guys.
    - Huuuuuge quantities of alcohol.

    This has the potential to be one of the most successful parties in /. history. There could easily be as many as 5, even 6 guests! Rock on!
  • by wandazulu (265281) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @04:16AM (#23155708)
    The great thing about the age of carts is just what the article touches on...here's a game that never made it to the store shelves but clearly a copy or two was made on actual hardware that somehow made it to this flea market.

    But what happens to games today when they're cancelled? I read about games being put on "indefinite hiatus", or just being cancelled with the company essentially throwing their hands up in the air and saying "ain't gonna happen." What becomes of all that code? Since it just sits on the developer's machines, does it just get wiped when they start on a new project?

    Maybe someday someone will find a hd in a flea market labeled "Shenmue 3 SVN Repo", but it doesn't seem likely, sadly.

    So while we revel in the curios of the past, we ourselves have none to give to future generations.
    • by FiestaFan (1258734) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @04:29AM (#23155760) Homepage

      But what happens to games today when they're cancelled? I read about games being put on "indefinite hiatus", or just being cancelled with the company essentially throwing their hands up in the air and saying "ain't gonna happen." What becomes of all that code? Since it just sits on the developer's machines, does it just get wiped when they start on a new project?

      Maybe someday someone will find a hd in a flea market labeled "Shenmue 3 SVN Repo", but it doesn't seem likely, sadly.

      So while we revel in the curios of the past, we ourselves have none to give to future generations.
      I'm sure a lot of these programmers aren't going to just erase something they may have spent months or years on.

      Sometimes they even risk their jobs and lawsuits to see the game get played: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thrill_Kill [wikipedia.org]

      You never know what might turn up on a DVD-R at a tag sale someday. Maybe the first 3 versions of Duke Nukem Forever. Heres hoping...
      • I want to see the DNF side-scroller game that was to come other after duke3d and be in 2d some at 3drealms has it on a disk in a passworded zip file.
      • by Thyamine (531612)
        Absolutely... I don't keep as much myself, but I certainly try. And I had one friend from college that kept everything he had ever worked on. (And this was 10 years ago now). Most developers are going to make sure they have backup copies at least, let alone things just hanging out on their systems.
    • by earthlandrealms (1258740) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @04:32AM (#23155774) Homepage

      The great thing about the age of carts is just what the article touches on...here's a game that never made it to the store shelves but clearly a copy or two was made on actual hardware that somehow made it to this flea market.

      But what happens to games today when they're cancelled? I read about games being put on "indefinite hiatus", or just being cancelled with the company essentially throwing their hands up in the air and saying "ain't gonna happen." What becomes of all that code? Since it just sits on the developer's machines, does it just get wiped when they start on a new project?

      Maybe someday someone will find a hd in a flea market labeled "Shenmue 3 SVN Repo", but it doesn't seem likely, sadly.

      So while we revel in the curios of the past, we ourselves have none to give to future generations.
      It's a lot easier to leak some files on the internet today, then it was to leak a cart back then, and a lot harder to stop.
    • by somersault (912633) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @04:35AM (#23155784) Homepage Journal

      So while we revel in the curios of the past, we ourselves have none to give to future generations.
      I'd say we're more likely to get stuff like this in the future, rather than less likely.. old backup tapes.. possibly stuff the developers took home to show their friends/family (well, maybe that's strictly forbidden or something, it certainly would be with DNF :P ). But I doubt developers just wipe old projects as soon as they start a new one. They probably keep backups of all their code on a network fileserver, that's what any sane person/company would do.

      Thanks to the internets, it's easy to find stuff like this online too - I wrote a game when I was 12/13 and sent it into Amiga Format. A couple of years ago in a fit of nostalgia I tried searching for it online, found a website mentioning the name, got in contact with the author, and he sent me a copy (I dont have an Amiga any more and if I still have the floppies for the game they're at least 10 years old and probably corrupt, although the version that I sent into Amiga Format wasn't my final version, so there are little touches that are missing :( ). I can now play my game on an emulator. Kinda cool.

      Usually if a project is canceled, it's because it was no fun to play anyway, so don't feel like you're missing out or anything! Some companies just release their boring games anyway.. others, like Valve or 3D Realms, only release games that they know are worthy.
      • Usually if a project is canceled, it's because it was no fun to play anyway, so don't feel like you're missing out or anything!
        But sometimes, a canceled game could happen to be among a system's finest titles. [gametribute.com]
        • by somersault (912633) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @08:23AM (#23156642) Homepage Journal
          True, though those were rather extreme circumstances. I hate political correctness. Even if I had a family member that died in 9/11, I wouldn't be looking to blame video games and movies (didn't one of the Spiderman movies have to be redone because one of the scenes involved the twin towers?), or accuse them of bad taste by releasing a game that was accurate in the time it was made. Admittedly a game where you can crash planes into towers could upset some people by digging up bad memories, but you can do that in pretty much any flight simulator.. it's not the game publisher's fault. If someone dropped some giant tetris blocks off of the top of a skyscraper (laced with explosives which would automatically go off when a line was completed, of course) and crushed/asploded lots of people, should we stop playing tetris? Or if someone dropped a giant pizza off the top of a tower and flattened a bunch of people, should we stop eating pizza? It's the highly dedicated person that setup these intricate acts of terror that is to blame, not computer games or food..
          • The original Spiderman movie was set to release right around 9/11 but was delayed because you could see them in the background. Maybe they were even featured, wouldn't it have made sense to have Spidey capture something large in a giant web between the towers?

            I also worked at Staples the night of 9/11 and we got a whole list of games to take off the shelves from corporate. Flight Simulator topped it off, don't remember any others, but it's not like anyone came in that night asking for them either. I'm pr
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Peet42 (904274)

      Maybe someday someone will find a hd in a flea market labeled "Shenmue 3 SVN Repo", but it doesn't seem likely, sadly.


      Like this, you mean...?

      http://waxy.org/2008/04/milliways_infocoms_unreleased_sequel_to_hitchhikers_guide_to_the_galax/ [waxy.org]
    • by Fred_A (10934)

      The great thing about the age of carts is just what the article touches on...here's a game that never made it to the store shelves but clearly a copy or two was made on actual hardware that somehow made it to this flea market.

      But what happens to games today when they're cancelled? I read about games being put on "indefinite hiatus", or just being cancelled with the company essentially throwing their hands up in the air and saying "ain't gonna happen." What becomes of all that code? Since it just sits on the developer's machines, does it just get wiped when they start on a new project?

      Imagine if that code could reused. The release date of Duke Nukem Forever could be advanced by weeks !

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by korbin_dallas (783372)
      The developers take it home.

      I worked for a small company back in the mid90s(biz sw not games). When we folded, I took all my code home with me.
      My co-developers did the same.
      I viewed it as my library of work, and for a while it was my reference material since it was full of generalized code for basic business apps. Now of course its quite antique.

    • parts of the code and art gets reused in other games.
    • by Machtyn (759119)
      Didn't we just have an article about lost Infocom games [slashdot.org] and e-mails obtained from an old HDD?
    • by Hatta (162192)
      They get leaked. Case in point, Half-Life for the Dreamcast. I'm sure there are other examples.
  • I love stories like this. I used to go to Goodwill stores and browse their selection of old computers they would take in(they don't sell old computers anymore I think). I came across an old Macintosh and it wasn't that it was a Macintosh that caught my eye. It was a "black" model Macintosh, I had never seen a black Macintosh before. I paid $10 for this thing, brought it home, worked perfectly fine. I later find out this is a Macintosh TV, a computer that only saw a life span of around 6-12 months, featured
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      It's a TAM - the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh [wikipedia.org]
      The integrated sound system was designed by Bose (after an initial design by Bang & Olufsen was deemed not good enough), and it marks the first time Apple externalised the PSU of a desktop machine - it is contained within the floor-standing subwooofer. The design is a clear forerunner of the modern iMac all in one, but is thinner than any production iMac. Noteworthy was that your purchase was delivered in a limousine, and set up for you by a concierge.

      I
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        No, as he described, it's the Macintosh TV [dreamhosters.com]. Download mactracker [mactracker.ca] for the full story.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tonywong (96839)
        um, I highly doubt that it's a TAM. TAMs are not black, Macintosh TVs are black though.

        http://lowendmac.com/500/macintosh-tv.html
  • I have to chuckle. A Cabbage Patch Kids game? There was probably a reason those ROMs never made it to mass production. I remember E.T. for Atari. If THAT game made it to press run, how bad does the CPK game have to be?!?

    Now a Garbage Pail Kids game... THAT I'd play. Even now.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by dosun88888 (265953)
      Cabbage Patch Kids was actually one of the best games for the Colecovision. If you google reviews the only one you'll probably find is a bad one, but I assure you that the reviewer in question never actually played the games. If he had, Donkey Kong would have been given far less than an A.
    • by Dekortage (697532)

      Honestly, I always thought Cabbage Patch Kids was one of the best games for Colecovision. Seriously. It had more diversity than most games, and was difficult in the right ways: you needed dexterity and timing to get the vine-swinging and jumping just right, and not be knocked out. Think "Metroid for Kids" or something.

      Dang, now I have to dig out my Colecovision and revv up my carpal tunnel again.

  • by thrill12 (711899) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @04:30AM (#23155762) Journal
    1. Get access to some eproms, preferably the old, worn-out kind.
    2. Put a cryptic label on them, something like "P0N 13S OMG", or "SR0 CKS TH1", plus some brandname like "Coleco" or "Atari"
    3. Go to the nearest auction site
    4. ...
    5. Profit !

  • by Guido del Confuso (80037) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @04:30AM (#23155764)
    How do we actually know that's what's on the EPROMs? They could be mislabeled, or the data on the chips could be unreadable. EPROMs do have a tendency to degrade over time, especially if they're not well taken care of.

    Besides, even if they do contain some version of the game, and even if it's readable, there's no guarantee that it's actually a playable game. It could be an unplayable version, or even a test or demo of some sort.

    Sorry to rain on the parade. If this turns out to be the real McCoy, I'll be as excited as anyone. But I'd put up even money that this ends up being a disappointment. I hope I'm wrong, though.
    • by Alioth (221270)
      EPROMs are more robust than you may think - I have some 25+ year old ones with their original program in my BBC Micro, which work just fine. They are typically in cerdip packages which are much more durable than plastic (the plastic used for chips can sometimes absorb moisture). I've had more problems with ancient RAM chips than EPROMs.

      So long as the window was covered and they've not been zapped by static, there's a good chance that they will read perfectly.

  • For 2600 betas or indeed any other system's betas/unreleased ROMs to turn up. Check out www.atariProtos.com for news/reviews of many.
  • MAME Dumping Project (Score:5, Informative)

    by Thorwak (836943) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @04:53AM (#23155842)
    "The Guru" at the MAME dumping project would probably be very interested in your find! Dumping those kinds of ROMS would be trivial to him.

    http://www.mameworld.net/gurudumps/DumpingProject/ [mameworld.net]
  • by bluemetal (1269852) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @04:59AM (#23155872) Homepage Journal
    Somebody was paid to spend time and work hard on that game, no matter how horrible it is. This is your time lonesome programmer... your moment of fame has finally arrived after so many long years of obscurity. Will the effort of years past pay off now, or will you simply fade away from whence you cam to that cold, bleak corner of gaming history.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      That somebody is Ed English, who also wrote the Atari 2600 versions of Frogger, Mr. Do, Roc'n Rope, Front Line, and Looping. He's now the CEO of Intermute, an Internet security company that's owned by Trend Micro.

      http://www.intermute.com/company/management.html

  • You can get a Willem programmer from eBay for about 15 quid. You'll need a USB port for power and a parallel port for data (remember parallel ports?), and the software is Windows-only but runs Very Nicely Indeed under Wine.

    Bear in mind that some EPROMs may have somewhat non-standard pinouts, and will need an adaptor. You can probably figure out how to make one from two IC sockets.
  • by marxmarv (30295) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @05:42AM (#23156008) Homepage
    You probably can't swing a cat without finding someone who has a proper EPROM reader/programmer or can cobble together a little circuit to read out each location in the PROM. It could be terribly simple; two chips, a socket for your EPROM, a parallel printer cable and a bit of bit-banging code.

    But to echo what Guido said, EPROMs typically aren't rated for "eternal" data retention and depending on storage conditions there could be anything from bit errors to blank chips. If both copies of the Park roms were the same you've at least got something to work with.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @07:11AM (#23156294) Homepage
    Some things are better left alone!! The "pappach" as my niece once called them died for a reason. Do not bring the parent of "Chucky" back to life. Nothing good could come of this.
  • reading them (Score:5, Informative)

    by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2NO@SPAMearthshod.co.uk> on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @07:14AM (#23156312)
    You can read them with a standard EPROM programmer ..... something like a Dataman S3 ..... they're probably up to S5 or S6 by now, but the S3 is the one I remember. The S3 also had some built-in RAM with its own power supply, so you could load it up with data and use it in a circuit in place of a real EPROM. Nice hacker tool, back in the days.

    Note that if you try to use a standard 2732 or 2716 EPROM in an Atari 2600 cart, the chip enable (on pin 20 -- driven by A12) needs to be inverted. (The OTP parts used by Atari had this inversion logic built in.) Just use a BC547 and a couple of 4k7 resistors (one in series with the base and one as a pull-up from collector to +5V). If it seems a bit temperamental, drop the collector load down to 3k3 or 2k2.

    You can use bigger chips eg. 27512 to hold several ROM images -- just attach 4k7 pull-up resistors to each of the high-order address lines, with switches to pull them to 0V.

    Carts with ROMs > 4K need some extra logic to switch the high-order address lines, dependent on values being written to some address somewhere. Carts with integral RAMs (yes, they existed; all of them TTBOMK were static RAM which at least makes it simpler, no need for refresh logic ..... it'd hafta be async refresh anyway, lovely, there goes your MW radio, unless you pulled some weirdy stunt with a phase-locked loop and gotta watch what you're asking that poxy little PSU for) need the RAM mapping to two distinct address blocks; one for write and one for read, because the R/W line isn't brought out on the 2600's cartridge port.
  • by Megane (129182) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @07:51AM (#23156492) Homepage

    atariage.com [atariage.com] is the place you need to go. There are plenty of people all over the country who will go out of their way to your place to dump the chips. There are also prototype version collectors who will be interested in dumping all the rest of your chips as well, in case there's an undiscovered version in your pile of chips.

    And bare EPROMs are the easiest to dump. If you have a standard programmer, assuming these are standard EPROMs, which they should be, you can do it yourself. Just don't read the important chip first until you know you've got the procedure right.

    In the meantime, keep the chip windows covered and keep the chips away from light. The older they are, the more likely they will be vulnerable to "bit rot", which is the chip erasing itself even with weak light, usually after 15-25 years. Once the process begins, it can take weeks or months for the whole chip to be blank.

  • A cabbage patch kids game? Are you kidding me?!?! Was it packaged in bright pink packaging that had OMG PONIES!!!!!!!!!!1 on it, too? Maybe there was a reason it was never released,. . .

    On the bright side, I bet CowboyNeal would probably play it (and enjoy it),. . . ;-)

  • by LS (57954) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @08:40AM (#23156758) Homepage
    If this were any other item (visual art, books, songs, etc), no one would care that some shitty unreleased piece of work was found by some unknown author. Why is it any different because it's a video game?

    LS
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Stray7Xi (698337)
      Perhaps because this is from the dawn of video gaming. If this had been unreleased footage of the silent film era people would make a big deal of it too.
  • Atari 2600 - it's for the children!!!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8LbtuabMuY [youtube.com]
  • That's funny (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wwphx (225607) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @09:11AM (#23157014) Homepage
    I used to work for Flying Buffalo (the makers of the Nuclear War card game and Tunnels & Trolls RPG) and they had an agreement with Coleco for Coleco to produce a T&T game for their system. Coleco gave FBI a Colecovision, it was an amusing little game. What was funny was that perhaps our favorite game to play was the Smurf game as it had an amusing little bug at the end.

    Now I live in New Mexico, originally near Alamogordo, which is famed for being the dumping ground for Atari's ET game cartridge. Apparently they trucked thousands of the unsold cartridges, dumped them, ran over them with a bulldozer, then covered them with concrete. I wish I could find out where that was, that'd be a cool place to explore and maybe find one.
  • I have a list of undumped pinball games that need to saved and put in to pinmame.

    -xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx-- PINBALL GAMES -xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx-

    -xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx-- Sega / DE / Stern -xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx-

    Arnon Milchan, Total Recall, Flip Out '91, Joel Silver, The Pinball ,Michael Jordan, Wild Horse Saloon, Kabuki, Richie Rich, Tommy Prototype layout, king kong , Viper mini ,Viper Prototype layout

    Aaron Spelling -Still mis
  • A large subculture (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sharopolis (819353) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @09:36AM (#23157236)
    There's a large and fairly obsessive subculture associated with videogame prototypes. The ultimate goal for most people involved is to find prototypes 'in the wild' like this, but a lot of ultra rare video game stuff is found through dodgy deals and allegedly, bribery and outright theft.
    http://www.atariprotos.com/ [atariprotos.com] is a repository of Atari stuff and http://www.assemblergames.com/forums/ [assemblergames.com] is a message board discussing the subject.
    The big area for debate around prototyes is wheather or not they should be realeased. Regardless of the fact that this game never saw commercial release, it's still likely to be someone's intellectual property, and they may not be keen on seeing it spread around freely.
    A lot of prototypes are worth serious money, this one as an Atari game will be too. A lot of collectors refuse to relase prototypes they've discovered incase it lowers the value of them.
  • by Tempest_2084 (605915) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @09:59AM (#23157590)
    I run a website about unreleased Atari games called AtariProtos.com (http://www.atariprotos.com/ [atariprotos.com]). We've known about the existance of Cabbage Patch Kids: Adventures in the Park for years now, but it was thought that programmer Ed English had the only copy. While I'm pleasantly surprised that it appears that it has finally turned up, I'm still a little skeptical that this is indeed the 2600 version and not the Colecovision version since it was found with many other Colecovision prototypes. We'll have to wait and see, but if it turns out to be the real deal, another long lost prototype will have be found!

    On a side note, one of the other EPROMs he found is labeled "Sword". This may be the lost Coelcovision game The Sword and the Sorcerer that was thought to be complete but not released.

    Oh and a little bit of trivia, Cabbage Patch Kids is actually a port of an MSX game called Athletic Land. It was simply hacked into CPK to fit the license.

    Tempest
  • Ugh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DreamingReal (216288) <dreamingreal AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @10:25AM (#23158000) Homepage
    From TFA:

    OK, now I was getting a boner. Cabbage Patch Kids Adventures in the Park for Atari 2600.

    Is it just me or did this creep out anyone else?

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