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Article series remembering Atari BASIC game programming


WEBmikey
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Back in 1983 I was lucky enough to have my game code published in ANALOG Computing Issue 13. The game was Space Assault, and although it wasn’t too amazing, it was fun to write back when I was 16 years old.

Recently I’ve been writing a series of articles about writing this game in Atari BASIC for a cool web magazine called We Are The Mutants. The series is intended to share the joys of teenage programming for those who didn’t get to experience the fun of those days. I’m trying to keep things super simple and may not always be 100% technically accurate, but it’s been great to dig through my old code again.
I know you guys here are way beyond my level, but if anyone is interested, please check it out. I have four “lessons” so far, with many more on the way (approximately monthly). You can find them on my author page here:
By the way, I’m using Altirra via Wine on my MacBook Air and it works great!
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  • 3 weeks later...

I had some fun and captured some game play video of the original Space Assault, and also the current revision that I've been making while writing the article series. Nothing incredible, but wonderful Atari BASIC nostalgia! The next article in the series is coming soon!

 

Edited by WEBmikey
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This is really cool. I did a little game that I had fun with back in the mid 80's. I never submitted it to be published, and I never managed to transfer it to a "modern" PC format, so a few weeks ago, I started rewriting it from scratch in Altirra running in VMware on my Mac. I've got the game about where it was 30+ years ago and am now looking at options to make it better. I've tried compiling it, with the MMG compiler, which helps performance but opens a whole new set of timing challenges. I'm thinking of rewriting it in Assembler or in Advan BASIC.

 

I'll check this out. Maybe it will give me some ideas.

 

Thanks for sharing.

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I'll check this out. Maybe it will give me some ideas.

 

Thanks for sharing.

 

Thanks! My game is super simple, but that's the appeal to me. Writing these articles (definitely meant for the interested non-programmer, by the way) has inspired me to keep tweaking my old game. Best of luck with your rewrite, I bet it's an awesome game!

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It's a crap game, but it's an entertaining thing to create it.

 

I started out of college programming in IBM 370 and Z/OS Assembler for liek 20 years. Seems like 6502 Assembler can't be worse than that, can it? (Anyone who's done both care to comment?)

 

-Todd

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Great series! Mikey, thanks for a peek onto memory lane ;) and the detailed description. The way you had complete control over your machine is indeed hard to imagine from today's non-retro viewpoint and the way you could experiment with BASIC by PEEKing and POKEing around and just trying out some commands and examine their effects was something I missed in later computers. I mostly stopped programming anything that came after the 8-bits.

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Yeah. As much as I loved writing to the hardware, it became very clear that it meant a complete rewrite when you moved to a different platform. Back then, you had to do it because there just wasn't enough power. Today, computers have so much excess capacity that it is more efficient to write to a higher level.

 

But those were fun days.

 

It's like my first car. A 1972 Chevy Monte Carlo. It had a hood you could play tennis on. I rebuilt that engine and stoos INSIDE the engine compartment while doing it. I took the cam out without removing the radiator. Now, you open the hood of a car and cannot even see through to the ground. Replacing something as simple as a belt often involves removing lots of unrelated parts just to get to it.

 

Completely different experience.

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But those were fun days.

 

Completely different experience.

 

You summed it up perfectly. I would never want to maintain mission-critical software in Atari BASIC, but after my day job is over there's nothing better than the simple joys of PEEKing collision registers. :)

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Thanks I really enjoyed your articles... They brought back many programming memories for sure. Of even less interest to most here (because it's an educational multiplication game), I had a program published in the last issue of Antic magazine. You could check it out if you have a chance. My avatar is a shrunken screen capture of the game. Gee 80X192 resolutions doesn't look so bad when scaled down to icon size. Here's a link to the article: http://www.atarimagazines.com/v9n2/spacestation.html and I'll attach an .atr with the game on it if you want to try it. The source code is also on the same page as the article if you want to check out the code. I wonder if you struggled with the graphics design as much as I did. I think I spent nearly as much time in a paint program as Atari Basic.

 

Thanks for sharing your site with us.

 

Bob

Space Station Multiplication.atr

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You could check it out if you have a chance.

 

Hey Bob, I just took a quick look at Space Station Multiplication and I love it! I mastered my 2's table. :) The station graphics look great and the docking sequence is cool! I'll definitely peruse the code in the near future. Antic and ANALOG were both great magazines. That's wonderful you made it in under the wire! Space Assault's graphics were pretty primitive compared to yours, so I just went with the graph paper method. Thanks for reading my articles! The next article is being edited and hopefully will be available to read soon.

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The docking sequence was a small assembly routine that I stole ​ "borrowed" from another source, it simply copies a block of memory from one location to another. The graphics for the docking are actually in memory just off the bottom of the visible screen and are copied frame by frame into the visible screen via Basic calls to the assembly routine. It's too bad Antic closed shop when they did. I had submitted another game that would have had more universal appeal, but of course I never heard back from them on that one because they had closed shop.

 

Looking forward to your next chapter.

 

Bob

Edited by bfollett
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I had some fun and captured some game play video of the original Space Assault, and also the current revision that I've been making while writing the article series. Nothing incredible, but wonderful Atari BASIC nostalgia! The next article in the series is coming soon!

 

 

Wow... What a flashback!!!

 

In 1984 I wrote a game based on "Space Assault", and it uses the same M/L USR routine to display the "sprites". I called it "Rescate Mackayino":

 

 

As I wrote in the video's description, the playfield is a drawing of my school... Every kid dreams about aliens destroying their school!!! :twisted:

 

Today, I'd probably write the same game (with less details) in a TurboBASIC XL 10-liner :grin:

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The docking sequence was a small assembly routine that I stole ​ "borrowed" from another source, it simply copies a block of memory from one location to another.

 

I think the term developers use today is "leveraged". :) It's amazing how much could be done just by moving memory, as long as it was the right memory! Great technique.

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In 1984 I wrote a game based on "Space Assault", and it uses the same M/L USR routine to display the "sprites". I called it "Rescate Mackayino":

 

This - is - amazing! I'm so happy that my code inspired someone to take it further, and you really made some great improvements! I like the player animation and the glowing lasers, and the game over sequence with the tower destruction is awesome! I should have thought of that! :) Thank you so much for sharing! I may have to mention this in a future article of my series!

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I really enjoyed programming in Basic back in the day. It was a very creative time for me even though nothing I built was on a grand scale. I tried a # of different genres - pics attached

 

Looks like cool stuff! Those were fun times for sure.

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Fantastic article series, have been reading enjoying it! :)

 

Like Space Assault and the revised version with the purple background, the other BASIC games and screenshots look great too.

 

vitoco I was thinking the same thing - would be great to see these guys enter the BASIC 10 line video game contest! :)

 

Looking forward to seeing more of your entries! I may have an Atari 2600 BASIC entry again if there's time :)

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Fantastic article series, have been reading enjoying it! :)

 

vitoco I was thinking the same thing - would be great to see these guys enter the BASIC 10 line video game contest! :)

 

I'm really happy you're enjoying the series, thanks so much! I've been looking at the BASIC 10 Line entries and I can't believe how amazing they are. My BASIC skills are only reawakening after so many years, so I'm not ready to enter the contest yet, but I'm looking forward to seeing who wins!

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  • 1 month later...
  • 1 month later...

Hello again! Lesson Five of my Atari BASIC game programming nostalgia series was posted today on We Are The Mutants.

 

https://wearethemutants.com/2017/05/15/adventures-in-atari-basic-lesson-six-enemies-and-earthquakes/

 

This article features a small tweak to add a shield feature. Take a look if you've enjoyed the series so far. Thanks!

 

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  • 1 month later...

Hello again! If anyone is reading my Atari BASIC series on We Are The Mutants, the 7th article was posted today.

 

https://wearethemutants.com/2017/07/10/adventures-in-atari-basic-lesson-seven-music-and-mission-briefings/

 

Includes a quick discussion of sound effects and music, and I changed my old title screen to play Ming's Theme from Flash Gordon. :)

 

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  • 2 months later...

For the past year, I've had a great time rediscovering the 8-bit magic of Atari Home Computers and writing this series on Atari BASIC programming. Please check out the final lesson!

 

https://wearethemutants.com/2017/09/18/adventures-in-atari-basic-lesson-eight-multiple-graphics-modes-and-marquee-text/

 

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