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Classic Games (Games) Entertainment Games

Atari 2600 Programming Tutorial 37

An anonymous reader writes "Anyone want to learn how to program the Atari 2600? 128 bytes of RAM, and you feed the TV each scanline yourself! There's a tutorial running on AtariAge. So far, its being updated every day. Good stuff." Sure, it might not be the most practical of platforms, but what other 20 year old platform is so dear to our hearts?
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Atari 2600 Programming Tutorial

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  • Nintendo! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tom7 ( 102298 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @11:08AM (#6076944) Homepage Journal
    > ... but what other 20 year old platform is so dear to our hearts?

    Um, Nintendo?
  • by peel ( 242881 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @11:11AM (#6076975)
    "Sure, it might not be the most practical of platforms, but what other 20 year old platform is so dear to our hearts?"

    Well the NES only has two years to go and it will be 20 years old. In three years it will legally be able to drink in the US. -peel

  • Commodore (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rogerl ( 143996 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @11:13AM (#6077005)
    ...but what other 20 year old platform is so dear to our hearts?

    Commodore VIC 20, 64, and 128.

    Decent graphics and good sound for the times.

  • It would be nice to find programmable ROM cartriges for the 2600. It would be great to develop new-name games for it, like Matrix, TuxRacer.

    Even a PC-XT 8086 can be used to host static webpages using Minix, I wonder if a serial protocol can be used for one of the connectors (joystick? expansion slot?) and static ROM-based http pages sent out on basic requests. That would be a world record. Possibly also a record for the most slashdottable site.

    Another interesting idea is for some small company to de
    • by lightspawn ( 155347 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @11:30AM (#6077212) Homepage
      t would be nice to find programmable ROM cartriges for the 2600.

      Sorry, but the Cuttle Cart [schells.com] has been discontinued. I'm sure there are alternatives, though.

      Another interesting idea is for some small company to develop gameboy-size atari 2600 pads with most of the games built in. Could even be incorporated into cell phones, now that I would buy.

      Go ahead. [thinkgeek.com]

      But if we could only combine current media (an 8/16 MB compactflash card could hold every version of every game ever written for this machine) you'd have something. Especially now that Sean Kelly [xnet.com] doesn't seem to be able to offer his carts for sale any more. Sorry.

      I should really have split this to 3 different posts to max the karma benefits. Oh, well. Maybe I'll get the rest in offline karma.

    • There actually is a great deal of homebrew development going on for the 2600 right now. In fact, quite a few games have already been released [atariage.com] in cartridge form. We use new circuit boards [atariage.com], create high-quality labels and manuals, and only have to recycle cartridge shells. There are some fantastic homebrew games on the 2600 that easily rival the best commercial releases of the past. Some info about our homebrew services can be gleaned here [atariage.com].
  • by lightspawn ( 155347 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @11:17AM (#6077060) Homepage
    The '2600 has only one line of video memory (to oversimplify the architecture). This means that you have to count clock cycles exactly and do most of your work between the last pixel of one line and the first pixel of the next, or between one frame and the next.

    Bottom line: This machine is harder to program than probably anything else you've ever worked on, and not necessarily in a good way.

    Even if you're interested in classic gaming, wouldn't you rather spend your own clock cycles, say, porting some classic games to your favourite current architectures? If you can really use the challenge, maybe you should study the '2600, and reverse engineer them to make sure the conversion is accurate...
  • Maybe now somebody will come up with a decent version of pacman.
    • Maybe now somebody will come up with a decent version of pacman.

      Too late. [atarivcs.free.fr]
    • Everybody hates the flicker, but it's hard to do three ghosts and Pacman himself without screen flipping. You've only got two players to work with, and even with the double and triple modes it gets pretty hairy.

      Personally I though they probably should have swallowed hard and just screen-flipped all the time. At least then the annoying flicker would have been omni-present, instead of kicking in and out.

      • Re:Great! (Score:3, Funny)

        by lightspawn ( 155347 )
        It's OK if the ghosts flicker. That's what ghosts do, you know.

        • Re:Great! (Score:5, Informative)

          by david duncan scott ( 206421 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @12:26PM (#6077741)
          Well, the ghosts, sure. Problem is that the whole screen flickers.

          The thing is that on any given scan line one can draw two independent objects, two players. Either can be doubled or even tripled, but then they need to be identical in color and shape (barring some very clever, very tight programming), which doesn't work for the ghosts. So, they drew two ghosts on one screen, then the remaining ghost and Pacman on the other, alternating this way and hoping that persistance of vision would make it all OK, but they only did this when the various objects fell on the same scan line. As a result, the screen will be just fine until three objects lie in the same row, and then it begins to flicker until they separate.

          • Re:Great! (Score:4, Informative)

            by ClosedSource ( 238333 ) on Friday May 30, 2003 @03:17PM (#6079533)
            They were willing to sacrifice the appearence of the game in order to make the gameplay more like the original. The could have taken the approach that many other companies did with their 2600 maze games - make sure that there were never more than two objects on the same line at the same time. But then the ghosts wouldn't behave the way you'd expect.

            As you mentioned, it might have been possible to use doubling and tripling, but I suspect that there wouldn't be enough time on the scan line to do all the repositioning (Assuming you don't want your ghosts to be limited to a fixed distance apart).

            Repositioning on the current scan line for the current scan line is tough to accomplish (I used to think it was impossible until I saw Galaxian).
    • You mean like this [atariage.com]? This is a hacked version of Atari's Ms. Pac-Man [atariage.com], and is a much better version of Pac-Man than the one Atari originally released. There is also a version of Pac-Man [atariage.com] programmed from scratch by Ebisoft [atariage.com], but only a few copies were made.
  • > what other 20 year old platform is so dear to our hearts?

    Ha! I spend much of my day developing software for a 26-year-old platform! Beat that!

    And that's just BSD. You Linux folks could probably claim 30 years, back to ye olde UNIX. :-)
  • I will never again in my life program in Assembly (Too much peeking and poking for my tastes.) But still a very intersting read.

    It finally answered a question I'd been wondering.
    Namely, why is it the 2600 seems to be able to display a lot more colors then the NES/Master System.
    But apprently if it's drawing each line individually, as it only has one [scan] line of video memory. It would only have to hold that one palete in memory for that moment. Intersting.
    • I will never again in my life program in Assembly (Too much peeking and poking for my tastes.)

      Too bad we can't get some of those Japanese subway molesters to follow your example. From what I've heard, these guys spend the entire ride peeking up girls' skirts and poking them in naughty places.

      GMD

  • If I would have checked slashdot twenty years ago, this could have been really useful!
  • For programming mods for Duke Nukem Forever for the 2600 [3drealms.com]

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