I posted about this as a comment in another thread, but since this is such a big deal I thought I would whip up a quick front page blog post to give it its due. There's a new Kickstarter for an Atari 2600 version of Star Castle, a 1980 vector-based arcade game from Cinematronics that received an excellent port to the Vectrex home console in 1982. While the Atari 2600 can only produce raster, not vector graphics like the Vectrex, a recent port of the game was created by D. Scott Williamson, an original Atari programmer, albeit one who started working there six years after the 1982-release of Howard Scott Warshaw's Star Castle-inspired Yars' Revenge. Williamson was similarly inspired to create his Star Castle homebrew by Warshaw's creation, so he purposely limited himself to 8K of ROM for authenticity's sake, even though the cartridge hardware that he made could handle up to 64K.
Long story short, Williamson ended up wanting tens of thousands of dollars for his programming effort--a reasonable request if this were the platform's early 80's heydey. Unfortunately for Williamson, most homebrewers these days do it for the proverbial love of the game, so no one was willing to pay anywhere near that. In fact, in a convoluted AtariAge thread, his actions and subsequent reactions, not to mention that of the community's, eventually led to another homebrew programmer being himself inspired to create a version, which he released for free, here, and by all accounts is superb.
Undeterred, Williamson decided to take his case to Kickstarter, which you can see here. It's a genuine soap opera (one that I'm not even sure I have sorted correctly), albeit one within a niche of a niche within our industry. It will be interesting to see how this Kickstarter works out for Williamson. I'm certainly intrigued by the cartridge with flashing lights timed to the gameplay and admire his engineering effort, but $100 for a complete, boxed copy is a bit tough to swallow. Maybe with a bit of time I'll reconsider...
What are your thoughts on this mess? Obviously Williamson can charge what he wants for his work - and it's up to the market to decide what they'll pay (and they didn't pay the first time around; maybe this Kickstarter will be different) - but is he out of touch with the realities of the homebrew market? After all, even the best homebrews can struggle to sell 250 boxed copies at well below his $100 boxed copy asking price...
Programmers Andrew Davie and Thomas Jentzsch, in association with publishers AtariAge and First Star Software, Inc, have announced that the original game in the Boulder Dash® series, Boulder Dash® Volume 1, will be available for purchase for the Atari 2600 Video Computer System (VCS), exclusively from the AtariAge Store, in time for Christmas 2011. The price is $75 and includes the cartridge, box and manual. What makes this game special is that, among other things, the cartridge will contain 16K of RAM, which will allow for as perfect a conversion of the original game as possible, and in some ways - like with the color palette - a bit better. As many of you know, First Star Software was founded in 1982 by Richard Spitalny and Fernando Herrera and was responsible for developing and publishing several classics, including Astro Chase and Spy vs. Spy. The company has stayed in business ever since and is one of the only original companies to continue to support classic platforms, with this licensed version of Boulder Dash being their most recent example.
Here's the thread on AtariAge for more information on the game. Pre-orders are supposed to start soon and a label contest is already underway. Check out the video below for an idea of how the final game looks and sounds:
The six games for the Atari 2600 VCS are: 3D Ghost Attack!, 3D Genesis, 3D Havoc, Atom Smasher, Depth Charge, and S.A.C. Alert. The 3D games are the first and only 3D games for the platform (they come with paper glasses), Depth Charge was originally designed to be the first head-to-head game where each player has their own console and TV, and S.A.C. Alert was meant to be used with the Amiga Joyboard, the horrible joystick platform you stood on and whose only game actually released was the skiing game, Mogul Maniac. Keep in mind that these six games from the early 1980s are all in various states of completion and Video Soft is rather vague about how playable each one is. Prices range from $30 to $50 plus shipping and handling (if you buy the full $230 set, shipping is free), and each of the six games is limited to a production run of 100 copies, which includes a cartridge, manual and box. Apparently after a particular game sells out, the ROM will be made available to everyone. I'll leave it to this snippet from the Video Soft Website to provide a bit more detail:
Ed Fries, who was vice president of game publishing at Microsoft during much of the Xbox's lifecycle and helped in the acquisitions of Ensemble Studios, Rare - and perhaps most importantly - Bungie Studios, has developed the unexpected--a version of the latter's hugely popular Halo series for the legendary Atari 2600 Video Computer System (VCS). Fries' recounting of the story is copied below. For more details, see the thread on AtariAge, where you can download the ROM for use in your favorite emulator or for transfer to your favorite flash cart for play on the real thing. There's also a browser-based emulator available, as well as an official Facebook page.
#2 Combat, #3 Video Pinball, #4 Kaboom! (Atari 2600)
1970's TV games allowing the family to play Pong was one thing, the Atari 2600 was something different altogether. It still delivered the "family playing together" experience (indeed many first gen titles have no 1 player mode and quite a few offer 4 player modes) but now there was a whole library of games to choose from. It was the first truly programmable console and required you to plug in a cartridge - each one delivering a unique game (at least in theory!) The early days of the 2600 were about the family playing together - and nothing like it was really seen again until the Wii came along.
Bill Martens of Virtual Apple (Apple II and IIgs) fame sent word that his latest project, Virtual Atari, is now open. There are currently over 550 Atari 2600 VCS games on the site, all running in the JStella emulator in Java. Another great site to add to the master browser emulator list!
Today's second set of casual photos (Magnavox Odyssey 300 (1976); Electronic Arts' Foes of Ali (1995) and Absolute's Rise of the Robots (1995) for the 3DO; Adventure International's Questprobe Featuring Spider-Man (1984) for the Atari ST; and Atari's Video Chess Special Edition (1979) for the Atari 2600 VCS) are taken with my Panasonic digital camera, and, instead of telling a semi-coherent story to go along with the photos, I'll talk about each one in brief in turn. Photos to follow the commentary (I had some issues with my image processing software at work, so I was unable to finish cleaning these up).
Hey guys! I JUST posted this video I finished last night. I wish I had more time to work on these but anyway here is a 10 minute look at the Atari flashback II, I hope you enjoy it! THANKS, any feedback/comments welcome............
Gamasutra has posted the latest book excerpt, this time on the Atari 2600 Video Computer System (VCS), as part of their "A History of Gaming Platforms" series.
From the article: