Re: [stella]P2plus and Hacked ROMS

Subject: Re: [stella]P2plus and Hacked ROMS
From: Rob <kudla@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 29 Sep 2000 22:58:43 -0400
At 08:29 AM 9/29/00 -0500, John K. Harvey wrote:
>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?),

Yep, that's why we (or at least I) don't post hacks to the list; I'm well
aware of Glenn's beliefs on copyright.  I could actually post my hacks
legally as patches intended for application to .bin files, and originally
did this for the Space Invaders hack, but I also am not a fan of
controversy nor of unduly upsetting one's host.  At any rate, this list is
oriented towards developing original stuff (or at very least, remakes of
games never released for the 2600,) not hacking old games, despite the
broad overlap of skills involved.

>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.

I think that anyone who gets offended -- or titillated -- by a
"pornographic" 2600 game frankly needs therapy.  (Does anyone actually
believe that Custer's Revenge would be *more* entertaining if Custer wore
pants and mimed untying the vaguely squaw-shaped thing when you reached the
goal?)  That said, RBB is a classic in its own right, certainly more
entertaining (to those who get the joke) than the game on which it was based.

>	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

If you were to ask around, I think you'll find that Randy usually
approaches hack authors, not vice versa.  I wouldn't have guessed that my
Space Invaders hack merits a cartridge, for example, even though it's more
involved than the many SI (and Cokewins) hacks in which only the sprites
are changed (I can't imagine there being much fun in a graphics-only hack,
and have never done one on the 2600.)  It was primarily a learning
experience, and an incredibly satisfying one.

Certainly I wouldn't let Randy give me anything for my hacks, despite the
Pac Man hack's relative popularity.  As far as I know, most (but not all;
see below) hack 'authors' feel the same way.  Nor will I take anything for
Boing, it being a nearly noninteractive demo and largely drawn from Nick
Bensema's playfield demo and someone whose name escapes me at the moment's
moving 6-digit-score routine.  I've got two original (well, remakes a la
Thrust) games started since then which I *would* take a cut on, but in
February a big contract at work heated up and has stayed hot.  

The one benefit I did get out of letting Randy make carts of my games was
the ability to play my Pac-Man hack on my real 2600 - and I paid Randy the
full price for my own copy.  (I got carts of two 4k projects gratis from a
very kind person, or I probably would have bought those from Randy too.)
Randy provides an invaluable service to the 2600 community, such as we are.
 And as a bonus, he sends proto hoarders into fits by devaluing their
ill-gotten stash among those of us who don't care where the bits came from
as long as they're in the right order.

>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 :)

I haven't been there since pre-Thrust - maybe it's worse than I imagined ;)
 How many of these are more than 11 bucks for a 2/4K cart, 22 bucks for an
8/16?  Those would be the only ones in which the hacker's making anything.

>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.

I think you may misunderstand how Randy does business; I think the most any
author makes on a cart is 5 bucks (for Edtris, Oystron and other such
deserving games for which Randy gets 16 bucks a pop.)  Anything that's 11
bucks (or 22 for a 8+K game) is all Randy.  (If you're suggesting you could
get Randy to make a cartridge and then sell it on ebay.... well, that's one
of the reasons I won't even get an ebay login.  Bad for my blood pressure.)

>	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.

I tend to want to reimplement Pitfall 2 (or actually, another platform game
of which I'm much more fond) from scratch as a Supercharger game, or one
intended for a cart with RAM in it.  Crane did what he could to make things
difficult for reversers, and I see no reason to use P2 for anything more
than maybe some inspiration.  (I have to admit I've never seen the
attraction, other than the fact that it's such a huge game considering it's
for the 2600.  I prefer the original...)

>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.

OK, I have now gone and looked at the page.  There are exactly five SI
hacks up - mine, Frank Cruz's sprite hack, and three name hacks (including
one based on Coke Wins, itself a more involved hack of SI.)  There actually
used to be more of them, mostly name hacks.  All are 11 bucks, meaning none
of us is taking a penny.

>	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.

Thus, if the hacker isn't comfortable with it but wants to play test it,
it's a beta of a level hack attempt.  (I'd call it "first release - at your
2600's peril" or something myself, but I'm not a very traditional
programmer or hacker.  Nor would I release a graphics-only hack for the
2600 unless it were *really* funny.)

>	"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)

I did my (Ms.)Pac-Man hack solely to soothe my latent adolescent demons
(Atari Pac-Man really did suck, y'know... and then they went and took K.C.
Munchkin away...) and when I showed what I was doing to another fan he went
(Donkey-Kong-doodoo, for the profanity impaired).  I did SI as practice for
the Pac-Man hack, and began to move towards more original stuff after
Pac-Man.  Perhaps the P2P guy is just getting up to speed to do something
really cool, maybe even become a coder.

>	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.

Yeah, creative control and all that.  I know where you're coming from.  But...

My feeling is that anyone who doesn't want something to be copied, hacked,
sliced up, adored, sampled, imitated, shared, reviewed, reviled, bent,
folded, spindled, pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, de-briefed, and
numbered by people they'll never meet has no business releasing it in the
first place.  

I can see demanding credit -- I would too -- but when you put something out
there it becomes part of the culture and summarily out of your hands.  I'm
sure your lawyer (and mine) would disagree, but of course IP law isn't
often reality in the age of the internet.  When every 2600 game, every
variant and every hack fits easily on 2 floppies... once something gets out
there, it stays out there.

>	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.

Neither does anyone else, and in fact, no one is reaping any such benefits
(except Randy, one may say if one is cynical, and perhaps those authors who
do make a profit on their original games by virtue of the increased
traffic.)  Actually, there's only one evil, illegal, unethical hack that
Randy sells that does turn a profit for its 'author'.  Wanna guess which one?

Wait for it....

That's right, it's Rescue Bira Bira!

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

Ahhh, the pain of watching one's childhood get raped ;)  As I said, it
sounds like it should be reimplemented as well as possible instead.  The
guy's obviously got some talent elsewhere, as evidenced by his PSX2
emulator ports (I know, I know, emulation is sacrilege too and soils the
hobby, right?)

Sheesh, it's only bits.


kudla@xxxxxxxxx ... ... Rob

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