Supercharger programming (was: [stella] Dungeons)

Subject: Supercharger programming (was: [stella] Dungeons)
From: Kurt.Woloch@xxxxxxxxx
Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2001 08:57:18 +0200
OK, I'd like to contribute my part to that discussion too about whether we
should program for the Supercharger or not.

Primarily, I see the 2600 as being a part of history, history which, by and
large, is over. Of course, we all had fond memories of playing all the neat
games that were coming out for it (especially we here on this list, I
suppose), and there may be many people who take out their 2600 once in a
while to re-experience what they loved for so long (Good formulation?
However, I think, when the 2600 was slowly dying, and more advanced systems
came onto the market, the ones that were still into games bought a
next-generation console, computer or whatever.
Back then, the purpose for writing the games for the 2600 basically was
selling them. They didn't do it out of a sport or something. When they
ported arcade games to the 2600 and other consoles, the purpose was to make
the games available to the home players. Of course, tradeoffs had to be made
in order to have them fit onto a system the consumer could afford.
For the home computers, back then there sure were a lot of homebrewn games
written, for they were rather open and many people were getting into it.
Of course, it's a challenge when there's suddenly (ok, for the last few
years, really) the possibility to write games for the 2600 by yourself. But
who would buy them these days? Not many people, I suppose.
I had many friends at school who had a 2600 back then, and I'm sure they
will remember it well. Now given the case I'd write a game for the 2600, I
could show it to them and say "Hey, I've written a game for the old Atari,
you know, don't you remember? You can do it now!". That's even regardless of
how much memory the game uses, if you can do that too now. 16k carts are
made now, and they were made back then, so I think it's not that big of a
deal to write a game that big (as Thomas did). Also, it wasn't obvious to
the buyer how much RAM a cart had, or if it used bankswitching or not, and
the 8k and 16k games also were widely available and bought. However, if I'd
write a SC game, and show them how I have to insert a special cartridge, and
hook it up to a walkman, a CD player, a PC or something, I bet they'll say
"Huh? What's that?" and doubt if it's really the 2600 playing. And who could
blame them? It's not widely known that the 2600 cartridge port really only
allows CPU accesses. However, if I just insert a cartridge into the Atari,
they'll be convinced that it's the Atari, because it works the way they know
- they buy a cart, plug it in and it runs. They don't know how much RAM or
ROM it contains.

In contrast, even though the C-64 had a cartridge port, and cartridges were
made in its early years, for that game it's become common to buy games on
cassettes and floppy disks, although you had to buy the "Datassette" or the
disk drive seperately. Without a storage media, you simply couldn't do very
much with the C-64, so nearly everyone had one.
However, with the Supercharger and its 6 games, you couldn't do very much
more than with the pure 2600. It wasn't like the Supercharger came out in
the middle of the 2600's lifetime, and most of the games appearing from then
on only appeared on SC tapes, so you were forced to have one. In fact, I
wasn't even aware of the SC having existed before I got to this list, since
it wasn't even widely sold. I guess at that time it was better to move on to
the next system than buying a supercharger (if you were even aware of it).
So I consider the SC as, at most, a small sidestep in the history of the

And as for who would buy the games, by now there's of course the competition
of more modern systems, which most of the former 2600 fans have. There's no
point in playing an arcade port on the 2600 if you can play the emulated
original on a PC. And for games with new concepts, I think they really have
to stand out to be able to compete against the mass of other games now
existing for other, advanced systems. However, I don't have an estimate over
how many people would buy a SC game now, versus one on cart, and how many
would play them (outside our list). 

So Glenn, please don't get me wrong. I appreciate all you did to keep this
list together and to keep the SC alive, and I understand that you try to
"push" it. I also understand that it was the SC which opened the doors to
2600 programming, for it's surely a great development tool, which allows you
to see the results of your work on the real thing quickly, without having to
burn a cart.
But for the mass at large, which knows the 2600, I don't think it's wise to
design a finished product as a SC game.
Before I'd do this, I'd rather move on to other projects having a bigger
potential user base, such as a Palm, or a Game Boy - you still see kids
playing around with Game Boys in busses etc. Or, maybe, a CD+G Karaoke disc.
There are, as far as I see it, no homebrew tools to create CD+G discs to
speak of... OK, there are some primitive ones, but they aren't able to push
that system to the limits by far. And there are still some thousands of KJ's
using CD+G's for Karaoke, as well as a mass of commercial CD+G's appearing
on the market.
I know that this is slightly out of topic, but for me the CD+G format is a
similar challenge to program for, which I estimate to have a much larger
user base now than the 2600, and especially the Supercharger. And if I do a
homebrewn project, I at least need someone I can impress with it. I'd say
that with a 2600 game you still can impress people, because they know the
2600 well, and they know that games couldn't be written for it by home
users. So in fact you do something which seemed impossible to them. With the
SC, not much of the former 2600 user base knows it, so I doubt they would be
that impressed if you showed it to them, for it's not "the Atari they know",
and even if you do something that you tell them wasn't possible before, they
don't know it wasn't possible, for it's only you who tells that, and who
knows if you're only cheating? On the other hand, it's commonly known that
CD+G's can be copied nowadays, but it's still at least very difficult to
create them - but everyone longs for Karaoke songs that are not available by
any manufacturer, so the results could be impressing here too.

Well, only my 2 cents...

With love from Austria (and many CD+G songs to author)
Kurt Woloch

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