Re: [stella] Dungeons
Subject: Re: [stella] Dungeons|
From: Glenn Saunders <cybpunks@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2001 22:52:27 -0700
At 11:59 PM 4/24/2001 -0500, you wrote:
Heh, in some ways that's cheating too. You just have to draw the line
even closer. "But that's not what they intended it to do". Of course,
think of how many games wouldn't have been made if people had
restricted themselves that way.
If the game is the most important thing, you'll do whatever it takes to
make sure the game is realized.
To me, what I find intriguing is the question of what happens when you take
the 2600 and grant it all the benefits that come in an era of dirt-cheap
Remember that fighter game that was being written that featured two
flickering six-char megasprites? A game like that wouldn't have been
written back then because the genre wasn't there and you'd need too much
ROM to store the frames of animation. Now you can do it.
When Doug Neubauer was writing Solaris he felt he needed 16K. 16K was
cheap enough at the time, so he used 16K. During the 2600 era there was a
steady move from 2K to 4K to 8K to 16K to 16K with Superchip and so
on. Up through the end of the machine's lifecycle nobody wrung their
hands asking themselves philosophical questions about whether it was right
or not to use larger capacity cartridges. Are these latter games to be
dismissed, then? Games like Solaris, Radar Lock, Commie Mutants, Robot
Tank, Millipede, and others are some of the best 2600 titles that ever came
out for the system.
What is so interesting to me about the 2600 is what the additional memory
allows the stock TIA hardware to be able to do by unrolling loops and doing
other sorts of intentionally "bloaty" things that are otherwise impossible
when crunching bytes to fit into a 4K memory footprint.
Tod Frye said himself that the 2600 was mostly limited by the memory, more
specifically the RAM. The original hardware designers were only going to
put 64 bytes of RAM on the system and later changed it to 128. They also
made the mistake of not exposing the read/write and clock wires on the cart
port, otherwise I'm certain Atari would have released piggy back expander
carts and other elaborate things much earlier because it would have been a
much more straightforward process, and certainly as early as a couple years
after the 2600 came out memory prices were falling fast enough that the
2600 could have easily been released with 2K of RAM on board at the same
cost. Bear in mind that the Astrocade came out in early '78 with 4K RAM on
As it stands, the Supercharger is a very elegant beast in how it is able to
work at all given the above limitations, and opens up the machine to a lot
of extra creativity as is shown by the quality of the Starpath catalog.
The Supercharger is not like an FX chip because it doesn't have a processor
on board. It's not like the 32X because it doesn't natively generate video
or sounds. So it's not really as much of a "cheat" as you think. It's
more akin to the N64 ram pack.
All cart-based systems have ROM on them. Many for the 2600 and others have
RAM of one kind or another. Memory is memory. It's still the native CPU
and graphics system.
I do agree that 4K is a magic sweet spot for 2600 games where there are
just enough tradeoffs to make you aware that there were tradeoffs, but not
too many to spoil a well written game. But when you have more memory you
can go that much farther with more game depth, more colorful displays, more
frames of animation, and so on. That's not necessarily a bad thing
either. Even a 64K 2600 game is going to appear minimalistic compared to
And as for using the machine as the designers intended, even before the
2600 was released Larry Kaplan was repositioning sprites and changing color
registers in Air-Sea Battle and Al Miller was creating the first playfield
bitmap with Surround, exploiting features that Jay Miner and company never
There really are only a small handful of first generation titles that
conform to a predictable Stella coding style.
Glenn Saunders - Producer - Cyberpunks Entertainment
Personal homepage: http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/1698
Cyberpunks Entertainment: http://cyberpunks.uni.cc
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