[stella] Hello again...

Subject: [stella] Hello again...
From: "B. Watson" <atari@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2004 12:27:41 -0500 (EST)
Hi, list.

It's been a while since I did anything with my 2600... been busy with
that strange thing called `life' (started a band, learned how to fix
broken guitars, lots of stuff), but I haven't lost interest, and have
just had an idea for a project, if I can find time to do it.

The game would be a port of `Super Pang' aka `Super Buster Bros.' to
the 2600. I would be doing `panic mode' only, and would have to scale
the game down and make compromises, but after some serious thought and
scribbling on graph paper, I think it's possible to make a playable
version of the game.

There's a Java applet version of the game at
http://images.capcom.com/onlinegames/bb/BusterBuddiesFast.html (which
appears to only work in windows, with IE). It's not quite the same as
`panic mode' in the arcade game, but it's enough to give you the flavor
of the game, at least. There's also a MAME ROM floating around, search
for `spang.zip'.

I wouldn't be trying to implement ladders & platforms like the Java
version has, just the guy, the balls, the shots, and maybe some powerups.

The following is a pretty long ramble, I won't be offended if anyone
stops reading here :)

I think I have enough RAM to do 8 `ball slots': a large ball takes up 4
slots, a medium takes 2, and a small takes 1. The large & medium balls
will be the players, and the small balls will be the missiles. Worst-case
scenario would be 8 small (or 8 medium) balls on the screen, all in a
row horizontally, which would mean each ball would show up for 1 out of
4 frames (using both missiles to display them).

Obviously, I can't have a zillion balls bouncing around, even with
the smartest flicker algorithm I can think of, so I'm thinking of a
few other enhancements to make the game harder & more interesting with
fewer balls.  One idea I have is to have the `ceiling' of the level get
lower as time passes... so if you don't pop X number of balloons by the
time the ceiling reaches your head, you get squished.

Another similar idea would be to have the walls close in from the sides.
Or I could do both (not at once though. Some levels do one, some do the
other). Either one would be fairly easy to implement, I think.

The arcade game has regular balloons that bounce in parabolic patterns,
but it also has square balloons that ignore gravity and bounce around
the level exactly like the ball in Pong or Breakout. I could do these,
too... higher levels get a higher percentage of balls being square,
though I wouldn't want to go all square (the square balls are hard to
deal with because you have both kinds of balls. If they were all square,
it'd be almost as easy as if they were all round).

The arcade game seems to always have the balls move at a constant speed
in the X direction... they can move left or right, but always at the
same speed, and only their vertical (Y) speed varies (acceleration due
to gravity). I may have to do this because of RAM limits (would only need
1 bit to store the X direction), but it'd be cool to have the balls move
at different speeds if I could do it.

Hopefully I'll have time to start on the kernel tonight (or tomorrow at
least). This will be my first attempt at smart flickering, so it might
take a while before I have anything to show the list... I was thinking
of using some kind of priority system to determine which objects get
displayed each frame, but I've only got vague ideas how it would work.

About sound: I probably want to have background music like the arcade
game has, though it'd be nice to have a different tune on each level
(at least 4 or 5 of them to cycle through). To tell the truth, the only
other sounds I'd probably bother with would be the ball popping noise,
and some kind of dying noise when the player gets hit. The shooting
noise isn't necessary for gameplay (you don't need to hear a noise to
know you just shot, because you just used your thumb to hit the button),
but I guess I could put it in if people thought it was worth it.

A question: if I'm playing a song with one voice for bass and the other
for melody, and it's time to make a balloon-popping noise, which voice
should I use (bass or melody)? Whichever voice I use will obviously not be
playing music during that time... and `either one' might be the answer,
or even `depends on the song'. Being a bass player, the song would sound
more continuous to me if the melody dropped out for a beat than if the
bass did, but do other people perceive it the other way around? Or does
it not even matter?

BTW, this is going to be a pretty big ROM... I'll start out with an 8K
bankswitch scheme and see if I can scrunch it in there, but I wouldn't
mind going to 16K if I have to (unlike Poker Squares, where one of my
goals was to fit the game into 4K). This is a port of an arcade game
that came out in 1990, and by 1990 a 16K 2600 cart wouldn't have been
considered outrageous: Millipede and Jr. Pac-Man are both copyright
1984 and they're 16K ROMs... Fatal Run is (c) 1989 and it's a 32K ROM,
so I could even use 32K for my game and still remain `period accurate'.

A 32K ROM would give me room for lots of stuff... and Atari Age sells
a 32K-capable bankswitch cart. Hm.

Before anybody mentions it, no, I won't make this a Supercharger game.
I hate cassettes and cassette decks (bad experiences with Atari 410
cassette drive at a young age). Atari games are supposed to come in
indestructible cartridges :)

If you've read this far, let me know what you think. Thanks...

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