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An attentive reader (we're still at the very beginning of this series and of this particular page as well!) may have observed the subtitle, “Now in COLOR!” It may come as a surprise, but this is not to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of the Netscape font tag extension, which brought the marvels of colored text to the realms of the WWW. (We'll still go with black on white text, be reassured.) Rather, it refers to my previous RetroChallenge projects having been all about monochrome systems like the Kyocera siblings (TRS 80 Model 100/102, NEC PC PC-8201A, Olivetti M10, Kyotronic 85), the DEC PDP-1, and the Commodore PET 2001. But this is all about the dawn of a new era, when video game systems brought glorious colors to the TV, 128 of them as in the case of the Atari 2600. (Also, it's a nod to the great archive of Atari 2600 game reviews by the The No Swear Gamer YouTube channel.)
So it will be about the Atari VCS — the first one, AKA 2600, as we have now to specify. Because, aspiring to the high art of “racing the beam” is something every programmer should try at least once in a lifetime. DASM is set up already…
What project? Now, implementing a windowed operating system for an 8-bit system which has only 128 bytes of RAM (including the processor stack) may be some fun, but there's also no keyboard (actually, there's the Spectravideo CompuMate Keyboard), so it will probably be about even some more fun, as in a video game. A classic one. By this, I do mean, a really classic one, but none which is already known in some sort or another, something we will come up with on our own. First, I was thinking about something featuring a flying saucer and alien abduction, because abducting cows is fun, for sure (assumedly it's a favorite hobby, all those reported aliens can't be wrong), but then I found out about Cosmic Ark and you probably can't do better than that. So we'll probably do with something less fancy, but in more classic style, still in the comfort zone of the VCS, thus lending itself a bit better to a side project to be accomplished in a limited time frame. — Spoilers ahead: It'll be all about Refraction™!
So stumble along with me on my first attempt to program the Atari 2600, VCS, whatever…
See also: Studio2600, a tiny synthesizer for the Atari VCS / Atari 2600, made as part of this project.
Episode #1: Preliminary Considerations
Where we have a closer look at the Atari VCS (or Atari 2600) in order to know, what we're going to cope with.
Episode #2: Sketching the Game / First Playfield
Where we finally start with our game and run our first kernel for real.
Episode #3: Sprites
Where we're editing sprites. To do so, we come up with a tiny tool…
Episode #4: Sprites II — Positioning
Where we explore classic and proven methods of displaying sprites…
Episode #5: Let's Waste Some Bytes!
Where we continue our quest for the perfect kernel and have some success, eventually…
Episode #6: Moving On
Motions and distractions, but we gain some interactivity…
Also, half time.
Episode #7: Let's Save Some Bytes!
Houskeeping and refractions. Also, 6502-fun.
Episode #8: Completing the Game Mechanics
While lacking some ‘bling’, already a playable game!
Episode #9: Scores!
Also, racing the beam. Yeeha!
Episode #10: Title Screen
We add a nifty title screen, thus finishing the visual side of our game. Also, some video experiments.
(Trigger warning: Includes further fun with cycle counts.)
Episode #11: Color TV Systems
Exploring the trifles and issues of various color TV systems.
Because, games connect the world…
Episode #12: Sound (I)
It was to be just a simple test app, but it became a synthesizer…
Episode #13: Sound (II) — Doing it
Where we implement sound and finish our project.
(Also, a rant.)
Episode #14: Wrapping it up
Where we wrap up our project and share oure experience.
And in the end all was good…
Post scriptum (Feb. 2019)
Oops, the game was nominated for the Atari Awards 2018 in the cagetory “Best Homebrew” (as one out of ten games in total in this category).
April 2018, Vienna, Austria
www.masswerk.at – contact me.
— This series is part of Retrochallenge 2018/04. —