Atari coding burnout starting to fade
I know people are anxious for me to get back to work on Frantic, but I'm not quite ready to jump back into a major project yet.
I have started to dabble though, so I think the burnout is nearly over. I've also been researching ADPCM to compress the digital samples even more than packing did, though it's currently making my head spin. I've had an idea though and will be experimenting with that soon.
So why, some might ask, did I experience a bout of burnout? Well namely, besides programming for a living, I've also been working on a number of 2600 projects - often concurrently:
- Space Rocks - wrapped up in November, but is not yet available due to manual printing issues, box color issues (if you look closely you'll see that the box is grey, it should be black), and a shortage of Melody boards.
- Chun-Li* - the continually delayed project with which we've worked out a number of DPC+ issues with over the past few years. If you've been paying attention, you know what this one is It's 99.9% done, so it will finally be released sometime this year.
- Project Retro* - I was a supporting programmer on this exciting project that failed to pan out. I believe Nathan plans to write up a blog entry about this at some point, so I shall say no more.
- Cat Food* - another exciting project that failed to pan out. Unlike Project Retro, I'm going to say more about this one
* code names by Nathan
At the end of the year I was approached by a company that's well known for their April Fools jokes that end up becoming real products, such as the iCade and Taun Taun Sleeping Bag.
They wished to release a 2600 game and had these requirements:
- star Timmy
- bananas should be thrown
Not much to go on, so we gathered together a small group and debated a number of game ideas. I kept returning to one suggestion in particular, so I started work on a game inspired by it:
Instead of bombs we thought we'd set it up so that an April Fools prankster hide all the Think Geek products awaiting shipment. Timmy needs to round them all up so as not to disappoint any of the Geeks. We planned to use actual Think Geek items, but what's currently in place are colored cubes with a letter code for testing my new routine which does on-the-fly color conversion. The TV Type option is used to select NTSC, PAL or SECAM. The red/green/blue below it are used to reinforce that you've selected the right value:
Think Geek's order numbers are in HEX so I planned to show the score using that. Some didn't care for this idea so I added an option to let the player select DECIMAL. I also whipped up that crude Think Geek logo, which Nathan would have expertly redone before the game shipped.
Jumpman has upward-only and downward-only ropes which are differentiated by their color and zig-zag pattern. Neither of those options is viable on the 2600, so I came up with the idea of using the missile/ball size setting to draw narrow ropes for going up and wide slides for going down:
We needed to go beyond Jumpman's world for the banana requirement, so I started working on an idea of conveyor belts and switches. The converor belts would create one-way platforms that could be controlled by throwing bananas at switches scattered around the level. This isn't functional yet as I was working out issues, which cropped up with using NUSIZx for the triplicate conveyor belt wheels, when the project ended.
So what happened? At the start of January we stopped getting input from Think Geek. I continued working on it due to the deadline, but we were getting more and more anxious as time went on. Finally in February we found out that there'd been a management shakeup at Think Geek and the project was now in limbo.
The project won't go to waste though as I plan to convert it into something else. I'm planning to work with batari and use this game to develop a bus-stuffing bankswitch format for the Harmony/Melody.
In the mean time, here's the current ROM and Source with the Think Geek logo removed:
You can use Stella to try out the different TV-Types. Hit <CONTROL>-F to step between the different formats. Use modes PAL60 and SECAM60 instead of PAL and SECAM.
SECAM. Note the loss of luminance shading on Timmy and the R G B blocks.
A real SECAM system most likely won't look exactly like it does in Stella, though I think it'll still work out OK.