Resurrected Entertainment

Archive for the 'Atari 2600' category

Supercharge Your Life!

December 21, 2014

The Arcadia (or Starpath) Supercharger is a device which allows you to play beefed up games on your Atari 2600. Games ship on cassettes and are loaded onto the system via an audio cable that connects to a tape player. The other way is to hook up the cable to your computer and pipe a sound file to the device. For 2K and 4K games, you can use a tool called “makewav” which encodes an Atari 2600 binary ROM file into a WAV encoded audio file. I have “ported” the utility so that it can be built on Mac OS X; I use the term loosely since I had to do very little to get it to build. You’ll want to run it like this once it is built:

$ makewav -ts atarigame.bin

Which will produce a WAV file of the same name + a “.wav” extension. You may also want to locate a CD called Stella Gets a New Brain, which is a complete compilation of the games released for the Supercharger. If you decide to rip the audio tracks to an MP3 file, be sure to use a very low compression for maximum fidelity and open the file in a piece of software like Audacity to make sure that the audio is duplicated on both channels; this is because your laptop has stereo output but the Supercharger only accepts mono. You will likely need an interface adapter which converts your stereo signal to a mono signal, but a better way might be to simply find yourself an old stereo audio cable, cut it and the wire going to the Supercharger, and solder one signal line from your stereo cable + ground to the mono cable’s signal line + ground. While attempting to use my Supercharger, I found the noise introduced by the adapter and the oxidized cable from the 30+ year old device was causing a lot of interference, after I cut out the middle man things worked perfectly.

Once that is done, try The Official Frogger by Sega — it’s awesome!

Once Upon Atari…

September 13, 2009

I recently watched a documentary series produced and distributed by Scott West Productions. It is hosted by Howard Scott Warshaw, who is perhaps best known for the game Yars Revenge. The content of the DVD is a series of interviews with a few of the major players at Atari during the golden years. Most of the discussions centered around the popular talent, work environment, their rather low opinion of marketing, burn out, and a number of other typical questions they probably get asked numerous times per year. It’s an enjoyable series and one which should not be missed by fans.

Interviewees: Carla Meninsky, Jum Huether, Nolan Bushnell, Tod Frye, George Kiss, Jerome Domurat, Rob Fulop, Larry Kaplan, Bob Polaro, Alan Murphy, Eric Manghise, Rob Zdybel, Suki Lee, and Dave Staugas.

Racing the Beam

May 16, 2009
Racing the Beam

Racing the Beam

I just finished another great book the other day, entitled Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System by Montfort and Bogost. It’s an inside book about some the development challenges and solutions when writing games for the Atari VCS. This is a unique machine and is often considered one of the most difficult machines for a programmer to cut their teeth on. With 128 bytes of RAM and an average ROM size of 2, 4, or 8K, you must fight tooth and nail of every byte used by your software. What lengths do some programmers go to skimp and save on bytes? Ever thought about using the same byte for both an opcode and a piece of data? Ever thought about using the opcodes and operands found in the code segment of your program as data, which gets fed a pseudo-random number generator or to produce a rendering effect because you didn’t have the spare space in ROM to place this stuff into the data segment? Well, neither did I until I read this text. Along with little gems like this, the book has a number of interesting tips and tricks into the how and why of software development for the Atari 2600.

The book centres itself around the idea of a platform, and how the constraints and peculiarities of a system can affect how a game is presented. Game adaptation, especially when you’re trying to port software from one hardware architecture to another, is a very important topic when you’re trying to maintain the look or feel of a game. Sometimes, neither is possible and you’re forced to go your own road and come up with something completely different.

A word of caution, though. This book will not teach you how to write software for the 2600 system. It is not a technical reference by any means, nor does it advertise itself as one. However, I would heartily recommend this title to anyone thinking about producing a game for that system, or those of us with an inner geek needing to be satisfied.

I love the idea behind this series of “platform” books as I have often wished for such books to be written and have even contemplated writing one myself just to fill the void. One of the most useful parts of this book is the reference section which can lead you to all sorts of new and interesting articles, books, or projects. I do hope the next book contains a bit more technical detail while keeping thevarious bits of historical data and interesting character references which really helps to tie the why and the how of the topics together.