Re: [stella]P2plus and Hacked ROMS

Subject: Re: [stella]P2plus and Hacked ROMS
From: "John K. Harvey" <jkharvey@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 29 Sep 2000 08:29:35 -0500
>How should those of us who enjoy hacking 2600 games identify that something
>is not ready for prime time yet, if not with "beta", "alpha", etc?

Ok, first I should explain myself a bit more.  The 2 messages I sent in
came in reverse order, so I'm not getting exponentially more unhappy with
time, as the current thread may show.  I'm still quite unhappy about my
modem, but that's another story.

My thoughts (commentary is welcome):

Ok, first of all, I have an issue with "hacked" ROMs.  Not to mention that
doing sort a thing is illegal, and is not directly post-able to this list
(remember how unhappy Glenn was when someone sent in a hack of Stampede?),
but I'm getting ahead of myself.  I'm mostly upset with the number of
people exponentially doing it.  One of the first hacked ROMs that I know of
was "Rescue Bira Bira".  I believe that is a good exception to the rule of
hacking, as it was intended to loosen up on the pronographic content of a
game so that the community could better enjoy it.
	What I don't agree with is the hacked ROMs coming in by the pile to
HozerVideo.  People are trying to capitalize on a very small amount of
work, compared to the work involved in actually writing a game.  According
to Randy's website, 9 more hacks have arrived, around the time of Thrust.
That's a terrible ratio of actual product to simple hacks.  It sort of
reminds me of Quelle products :)
	Now, don't get me wrong, there are noble reasons for taking apart code.
When I first started, I changed the tanks in Combat to cannons.  Does that
mean  I should sell it at HozerVideo?  Hell, no.  It sucks.  Could I make a
few bucks if I wanted?  Absolutely.  Some purists out there would buy it
immediately, and I'd end up pocketing at least $10 for almost zero-work.
	What's an even worse situation is when someone tries to take credit for
someone else's work.  There was a guy local to Madison, who claimed to be a
"great Atari hacker".  He sent me 3 beta-versions of his game.  What he
actually did was take an obscure game, Astro War, disassemble and modify it
so that its functionality was bad, then modified it back a little at a
time, and presto!  A whole new game idea written by this "hacker".  He then
tried to sell it as a "new" game to Randy.  Remember news about "Babylon
5"?  That was him.
	Recently, I've been disassembling Pitfall 2.  My reasoning was to post the
source code and MAYBE make a new level.  I gave up a few months ago because
I did not want the best game Atari ever made (in my opinion) taken for
granted and ripped apart.  So, with about 1/4 of my commenting and
understanding complete, I scrapped the project.
	Seeing things like this always makes me a bit sick.  Yes, disassembly
teaches you how things work.  That's how I learned about player graphics,
and displaying the sprites on-screen.  But seeing versions of old games
(look at all the Space Invaders hacks on Randy's page) constantly ripped,
and some extrapolated and sold for profit is just ridiculous.
	Now, onto the "beta version idea".  First of all, beta means the version
before it's released.  This is in no way close to a beta version.  Any
idiot can divide Pitfall 2 into it's 4 parts, and look for the biggest
.byte section of 256 bytes, and find the map.  It's not hard to translate
either.  Do I think people should do this?  I'd rather they didn't, but
it's ok if the purpose it to learn.  Pitfall 2 is the best game ever made.
Why take away from its value?
	If this version was actually a "beta" version, it would have had
differences in the code-space, as well as graphics, and it would be in
final stages of testing.  A graphics hack full of bugs is in no way a beta
version.  I would call it a level-hack attempt.
	"Versions" in my mind only apply to original works.  Pitfall 2 already
passed the beta stage.  Now it's just someone's quick attempt to do
something that will make people go ape.  (I used a slang term)
	Also, I would feel terrible if someone hacked Pressure Gauge after its
release.  I was grateful when people disassembled some of my code when I
was starting out (the scrolling text demo was heavily beaten-down upon)
because I got to figure out how to improve it.  After the game is released,
it would make me unhappy to have someone post "Pressure Gauge - with green
level counter!"  If I wanted to modify it, I would have done it myself.
	So, my final opinion is that "Harvey Invaders" would be a cool custom
cart, but should I make it in 5 minutes, sell it to Randy, and reap the
benefits?  I don't think so.

	I'm just thankful that any Pitfall 2 hack has no chance of being sold at
HozerVideo Games, because of the DPC. :)

	-John K. Harvey
	"Never buy an ISA modem if you can help it"

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