Re: [stella] Difficulty Switches vs. Tap

Subject: Re: [stella] Difficulty Switches vs. Tap
From: "Roger Williams" <mer02@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 4 Nov 2001 21:19:24 -0800
----- Original Message -----
From: Glenn Saunders <cybpunks2@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <stella@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Sunday, November 04, 2001 6:31 PM
Subject: [stella] Difficulty Switches vs. Tap

> At 05:52 PM 11/4/2001 -0800, you wrote:
> >I don't think this would be a big problem.  If the controls are intertial
> >then there's little reason to _ever_ quick-tap the controller, and with
> End-users always do what programmers think they have no reason to do.  And
> I'm not sure you are right about not having a reason to tap.  Read

Full agreement here, we are really on the same page.

> >original hardware, and people get used to stuff like this very quickly.
> Playtesting may back up or disprove that notion.

Very necessary, and I'd be the first to admit if it wasn't playable.

> >You could do the at-any-time with the tap method too.  Think about
> >it, how often do you "tap" your car's accelerator for 1/6 second when
> >driving?  The tap isn't sustained enough to have a real effect, so you
> It's different in a game because the accelerator is on/off, not analog.  I
> tap up all the time in River Raid, for instance.  Try playing Indy 500.
> order to maintain a constant speed other than maximum you HAVE to tap.

I don't have I500 -- in fact, I don't have many original Stella games at
all.  But just as there is a big difference between the real Indy 500 and
a demolition derby, I think the way the controller is used might not
translate well between Atari I500 and DD. This is the very kind of thing
you can't really grok until you code it and see how it flies.

> >The problem with this, of course, is how many people will break out
> >a soldering iron and bother to do the mod?  Furthermore it would
> >have to be specifically supported by emulators.
> It would have to be an optional play mode, where the default is the
> difficulty switches so there wouldn't be an emulator issue.  If you play
> the PC then the keyboard is right there.

And this brings up another point; how much is the PC keyboard like
the Atari driving controller?  I think if it's playable via PC, it should be
posible to make it playable with a joystick.

> Like I said in the FAQ, it should be possible to play the game without
> needing the reverse gear to begin with.  If both players agree not to
> utilize it, they are equally handicapped in not being able to immediatelly
> stop on a dime to back up.  You should still be able to finish off the
> pedestrians by letting go of the accelerator and quickly turning the knob
> 180'.  I'm just including reverse in order to be faithful to the coinop
> game.  The reverse gear was really only there in Death Race because of
> Destruction Derby, where you are supposed to hit the other cars while
> driving in reverse to avoid damage to the engine.

Yet it's a feature that's there, use it or lose it.  Personally I like the

> I would not support the extra buttons hack unless someone came forward to
> volunteer to work with me to build these on demand or in a sizeable batch
> for end-users, maybe packing it in with the game.  I don't enjoy soldering
> projects anymore than the next guy.
> >If you don't believe the tap method would be playable, would you
> >consider letting me write the code so you could play-test it?  I really
> Sure, especially if you drop it into my most recent build and code in the
> initial movement routines for me as well ;)  That would really save me
> development time.

Point me to it.  (It may be in the archives, but like I said I haven't
been paying much attention.)

> I agree it's not as convenient as it could be, especially for 7800 users
> where the difficulty switches are hard to access quickly.  It's just that
> too many games were ruined by awkward workarounds to a lack of
> buttons.  Defender is a perfect example.  Moving offscreen to the top and
> bottom is just plain goofy...  On the other hand, Stargate is hard to play
> without some way to secure the 2nd joystick.  Everything involves

Too true.  But I've spent most of my working life making user interfaces
work for *cough* illiterate *cough* [word deleted: stupid] people.  A
good user interface can absolve many sins, just as a poor one can make
the best program unusable.

> >Also, I don't think the idea of a joystick mode is completely un-doable.
> Maybe so, but when you set yourself upon making a game, you usually have
> some convictions about the way you'd like it to be.  Having it be
> driving-controller-only is one of my convictions.

I already offered to do the tap thing; would you mind if I made a stab at
coding this too?  I realize it's sticking my nose pretty deep into your
project, but I really think it could be done in a way even you'd appreciate
(and I'm getting a sense of what you like, from your references to classic

> I know that's going to
> alienate some players, but I'm not making it primarily as a commercial
> venture.  I'm making it to be as good as I can make it, and I know that
> Joystick mode will suck and I'd rather not allow anyone to play it under
> what I perceive to be a poor control scheme.  Even the scheme you laid out
> seems awkward and slow to repsond to user-input.  In River Raid, it makes
> sense that there is a lag when you are swooping from left to right, but
> need the ability to quickly change direction in a driving game.

I'd agree  that if joystick mode sucks, you don't want to include it.
I think that if you do the game infrastructure, I can give you a joystick
mode that doesn't suck.  I think you'd want it anyway for the emulator
crowd;  I'm looking at my PC right now and I don't see no driving

> As I said in the FAQ, the game isn't going to have fancy graphics.  The
> only thing it's going to have going for it is smooth control.

Well understood.  But I think you should give it a chance.  If you don't
want to code it, I will volunteer, and you can accept or reject it at
will.  In my Real Job (tm) one thing I pride myself on and for which
I'm known is user interface design.  If it doesn't feel right, it doesn't
go out -- and this is for things like truck scale inbound/outbound
and recipe filling.  I'd be much pickier about what I accept for a game.

--Roger Williams

Archives (includes files) at
Unsub & more at

Current Thread