Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Gareth Halfacree, 22 Jan 2016.
Arcade classics hitting Steam soon.
Great news. Will be good to own them all through my Steam account and with "Steam Controller, leaderboard support, and online multiplayer support"
TAKE MY MONEY! (within reason, I'm not Montgomery Burns)
Adventure or GTFO.
Oh, hell yeah, Tempest!
Online leaderboards? Hell to the yes. The high scores will be USEFUL again!
I'm willing to buy these games a second or third time. Some of them it will be the fourth time I've paid for emulations of the arcade versions.
Unless it's like the last package I bought, where it was 18 arcade games and then a bajillion VCS/2600 games thrown in to pad the list. Like anyone wanted Basic Programming(there's not enough RAM available to code anything MORE complex than Pong with that cart).
Huh? The Atari VCS2600 ran Pacman, Asteroids etc.
Have you *played* the 2600 port of Pacman? It's absolutely terrible. It sold well on the back of "play the arcade smash hit at home" advertising, but a huge number of cartridges were returned when people discovered what Atari actually meant was "get a migraine watching flickering ghosts move jerkily through a blocky maze."
In general, Atari Coin-Op (which fancied itself The Real Atari) had a very dim view of the quality of games thrown out by Atari Consumer for the 2600, especially as they were typically developed without anyone from Consumer bothering to talk to the person in Coin-op who actually made the arcade version. "The Quality of 2600 carts is the pits - no doubt about it," wrote Chris Dowend to the engineering email list in February 1984. "I don't think the public would even buy Crystal Castles on a 2600 so everybody loses - you and Atari. Again, we've got new management and they have to learn from their own mistakes. By the way, Calfee knew the 2600 Crystal Castles was lousy and tried to stop it, but he was overuled. When Marketing wanted to do the same thing with Millipede (release the cart with a bug), Steve had to go all the way to J.J. Morgan. Fortunately, Morgan agreed with Steve and the release was postponed. One thing to remember though, Coin-op profits are small potatoes compared with Comsumer profits so every decision is heavily weighted toward maximizing profit in the Consumer arena. So, anticipate feeling screwed with respect to the quality of carts - it won't change - too much money is a stake."
That said, Dowend did admit that some older games were of higher quality, as they were typically black-and-white and didn't stress the poor 2600's hardware limitations. "I think Breakout and Space Invaders are decent renditions of the coin-op originals and those are 1976 and 1979 games respectively."
Some of the games were thrown together in a matter of weeks. This, from Ed Logg to the same mailing list: "I should also point out that I sent the complete documentation of Millipede to the team leader responsible for the VCS cart months prior to this meeting. I also called and left my name and number with the comment that I was available for any assistance. I received no response until a week or two prior to the above mentioned meeting. This leds me to believe that the game was not ready for help until the time of the meeting (thus verifying the hearsay that the game had just been developed in the last two weeks). [...] The only reason I was given why the cart was to be released within a week of the meeting was to have ONE week worth of sales for the first quarter. WHAT A SHITTY, GOD DAMNED, ****ING CSDKFHAS FHLAVFHJ EXCUSE!!!! What ever happened to quality which the name ATARI is supposed to represent? Where was VCS management?? I would hope that someone would stand up and say "THE GAME IS NOT READY. WE WILL RELEASE IT WHEN IT IS DONE!!" Who are they trying to make look good? Why impress Warner with 1 weeks worth of production, when you can impress the consumer 2 weeks later? It seems
short-sighted to make themselves look good at the expense of ATARI's reputation.
Franz Lazinger: " I do not however apologize or regret my negative feelings about the recent release of the Crystal Castles 2600 Cartridge. (In case you don't know, the cartridge was released without the approval of the coin-op design team, or anybody else in coin-op as far as I know). This is pure theft! [...] But games developed in-house are treated like they are in the public domain, while the original design team of in-house games is treated like dirt. Atarisoft, as a matter of policy, takes Atari Coin-op games, lets outside companies "convert" them for home computers (like Commodore 64, Vic-20, Apple 2, TI-99 and IBM-PC), and then produces them, all without the creative input or advice of the original design teams (just talk to Ed Logg about Centipede, or ? about Battlezone). Atarisoft does not ask anyone over here at coin-op for approval for the final version, but they do show the final version of the game to someone in the legal department."
I never knew about the interplay between the various departments in Atari worked back then... I wonder how much can be blamed on the infancy/naivety of the games business and how much on management?
All of Gareth's above comments taken on board though, there were some absolute classics on the 2600. I remember spending hours on Yars Revenge, Hero, Summer/Winter Games, Outlaw, Pitfall... It did have games that were well optomised, looked great for the time and are still remembered fondly.
Oh, aye, there were some crackin' 2600 games - some of which, like Adventure, were original and not coin-op ports. There were plenty of stinkers, too, though - and it's worth mentioning that the email chain from 1984 comes seven years after the launch of the console. Atari was still developing games for the device at that time. The console scene is strangely cyclical: the initial cartridge-based consoles had a massively long shelf life, largely because the technology wasn't progressing terribly quickly (and partly because you could get around limitations in the console's hardware by shoving extra hardware in the cartridge itself.) Then technology hit a burst phase, and console shelf lives dropped accordingly: the 8-bit Master System launched in 1985, and was replaced by the 16-bit Mega Drive just three years later¹ (though Sega would continue to produce and sell Master System consoles and games alongside the Mega Drive, as a budget option.) Now we've hit a bit of a plateau again: tomorrow's components are just today's components but a bit faster, lower-power, or smaller. The result: longer console shelf lives again. The Xbox 360 came out in 2005; the Xbox One in 2013. Should some new technology - let's say raytracing engines, or quantum processors - come along, the cycle will loop back to short shelf lives again.
TL;DR: The Xbox 360 is an Atari 2600. Sort of.
¹ Quick aside, just because I love telling this story: the Master System ran on the ubiquitous Zilog Z80 processor (also found in the Sinclair ZX80, ZX81, and ZX Spectrum, fact fans, and as a secondary processor in the Commodore 128!). When the Mega Drive came out three years later, it had a Motorola 68000 as its main CPU but a Zilog Z80 as a co-processor purely for doing audio work. That's the equivalent of Microsoft or Sony coming out with an Xbox Two or PS5 this year which uses an eight-core AMD Jaguar APU purely for audio. Absolutely crazy stuff, and a great indication of the rapid rate of progress at the time.
Oh, one last completely irrelevant fact: the presence of the Z80 allowed Sega to build a Master System Converter for the Mega Drive. Plugged into the top, it allowed you to stick Master System carts in the Mega Drive and play 'em. The converter itself? Purely electrical, with no active electronic components whatsoever. All it did was convert the cartridge shape, and the Mega Drive recognised when it was connected and disabled the main processor while running the cartridge on the Z80 audio co-processor - turning the Mega Drive back into a Master System. Clever, eh? Going back to modern comparatives, that's like being able to play last-generation games on your sound card.
Ace biscuits! I seem to remember some similar converter device for the GameGear that let you play Master System games through it. IIRC it was some hideously bulky monstrosity.
Hmmm, wasn't it still inferior to the SNES' audio? I don't know the timeline here (I have hazy recollections of the 80s/90s), so guess the SNES could well have been released sometime after the Mega Drive and therefore had newer hardware in it.
The SNES was launched in 1990, two years after the Mega Drive. The audio chip was the Nintendo S-SMP, which was actually a Sony part which was actually a hacked-around version of the MOS Technologies 6502 CPU. So, the two were very similar: both used an old 8-bit CPU as a co-processor for audio work. Now, at the risk of starting a flame war, I'd say that the 6502 is technically 'better' than the Z80 - though both were extremely popular, with companies making 8-bit home computers usually picking the Z80 (Sinclair, Tandy-RadioShack) or the 6502 (Acorn, Commodore), and I'm saying 'better' here in terms of using it as a CPU rather than a co-processor.
In terms of 'quality,' though, it's horses for courses. Some people prefer the Mega Drive audio, some people prefer the SNES audio. Frankly, it was more down to how good the person doing the coding was than any relative qualities of the parts themselves: if you were good, either would sound stunning; if you were bad, they'd sound god-awful.
Thanks for the explanation.
I kind of like that the nostalgia for those 16bit consoles is still around and prevalent, and even now you can find arguments for and against both, and as you say, just touching on the specs and calling one better than the other is likely to incite a flame war.
I'm feeling all nostalgic myself, I'm going to fire up the retropie tonight!
I always quite liked the audio on my ZX-81, so clean and pure.
You haven't heard John Cage's 4′33″ until you've heard it on a ZX-81.
Hah! I actually own a ZX81 with ZXpand expansion module plus ZXpand-AY audio board which gives the thing expanded memory, a hi-res mode, access to a 64MB RSMMC for loading software, and a Yamaha YM2149 for audio. Wouldn't do much to improve 4′33″, tho'!
Code is the key word.
Basic Programming was a cartridge that allegedly let you use the VCS to code like a real computer, but RAM was so limited that there simply wasn't space to code anything of much complexity and still have room to interpret and execute it.
The VCS can do a lot, but on-the-fly programming is not it's forte.
Well yes, for years, back in the early eighties.
Hey, we hab a colour TV AND a VCS2600, life was bliss.
It was all that was available, the next arcade was on the Adult-Only-Reeperbahn in Hamburg!
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