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Grizzards — turn-based RPG (completed)

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TL;DR — A turn-based RPG that requires SaveKey or AtariVox.  This is version 1.2.

For the latest ROMs and information, check the web site https://Grizzards.com/ .


UPDATED 2024: here are the v1.2 binaries as well. (2022-10-28)




Check the web site (or this thread) for complete details. Each ZIP includes a PDF manual (including map), and NTSC, PAL, or SECAM binaries (a26). There are also pro files for Stella.


Caution: put the pro file in the same folder as the a26 to configure Stella properly. Correct configuration is: left port, joystick (or Genesis or Joy2b+); right port, AtariVox.


You want the Grizzards.NoSave.v1.2.zip for a light demo that works without a SaveKey/AtariVox/MemCard;



or Grizzards.Demo.v1.2.zip if you can only load 32kiB binaries (e.g. original not-Encore Harmony cartridge) but do have the AtariVox/&c.,



or Grizzards.v1.2.zip if you can load a 64kiB binary (eg. Harmony Encore, PlusCart, UnoCart) and have an AtariVox/&c.






Key differences from the retail version are the lack of save-to-cart circuitry (thus, requiring a SaveKey) and lack of high score records. The game play is nearly identical.

The demo and NoSave versions show about the first ¼ or so of the game.











* You see, what had happened was …

Back in June I started a little project somewhat loosely inspired by Pokémon for the 2600. This requires a SaveKey (MemCard) or AtariVox, and it works in Stella.


Aside from requiring a SaveKey, this is a straightforward F4 32kiB cartridge.


At this point I have reached a sort of alpha quality and put together a little demo build that shows off some of the main mechanisms of the game. There's not much to look at, but you can get the gist of how it'll play.


You are a Grizzard Handler, and you can take your Grizzard companion out with you to fight monsters. The goals are to find all 30 Grizzard companions (only one is in this demo) and destroy all the monsters in the game world (except random encounters).


Hopefully it seems entertaining enough, and I'll put out a beta version at some time in future (as time permits).


The original first post is here in the Spoiler tag (although it contains no actual spoilers)



* Cartridge Image files


All image files with draft PDF manuals:


* How to Play

From the title screen, press Game Select to choose a save game slot. If you don't have a SaveKey connected (or configured in Stella) you'll get a "red sad face" screen — it's not optional, it's required. There are 3 "slots" to choose from, each of which takes up 4 "blocks" on the SaveKey. (I'm using the Scratchpad area at $3000 for now.) Press Game Reset to start.


On the map screen, navigate with the joystick. You may encounter a Grizzard Depot, a (party of) monster(s), a door, or a new Grizzard (not in this demo). Just walk into them to engage.


A Grizzard Depot restores your Grizzard's hit points to its maximum, and saves your game. Press Fire to leave. (Later you'll be able to switch between Grizzard companions there.)


A door just leads you to another room. In the demo, there's a one-way door in the first room.


A new Grizzard will join you (replacing your current Grizzard companion) if you run into it (not in this demo). Unlike Pokémon, you don't catch the monsters that you fight against.


Monsters bring up the combat screen. On the map, all monsters appear as a Slime; you won't know what actual monsters you face until you encounter them.


From the combat screen, press Up and Down to select a Move for your Grizzard to perform. RUN AWAY is a special move that takes you out of combat, but does not heal your Grizzard. Other moves may hurt the monsters, or apply status effects that might make them lose attack or defense points, or even heal your Grizzard or “buff” your own attack and defend stats.


Moves that you can perform appear in color (blue for RUN AWAY, red for other moves); moves that your Grizzard does not (yet) know how to perform appear in black. Moves that target the enemy will display a box under the monster's image; when facing multiple monsters, press Left and Right on the joystick to target a monster.


Press Fire to execute the move you've selected. You'll see an announcement of the move, and then the outcome of it. Then the monster(s) take their turn(s), and you'll see them announced as well.


If you're defeated, you'll be sent to the GAME OVER screen. If you win, you'll return to the Map Screen. Your Grizzard may also improve its stats slightly with each victory.


There is a chance that seeing a monster execute a Move will teach it to your Grizzard, if it has that Move in its collection. This is how the “moves in black” can turn to “moves in red” over time.


In this Demo you can only wander around a small area and encounter a few monsters.


Pausing (on the map screen only) is the Color/B&W switch on NTSC or PAL systems, or Left Difficulty Switch on SECAM. The Difficulty Switches don't affect the game play itself. (I try to detect a 7800 and listen to the Pause button correctly, but I don't know if that really works. Anyone care to test?)

* Erasing a game

To erase a save game slot (to start over), set both Difficulty Switches to A/expert/hard mode, then pull back on the joystick, hold down the fire button, and press forward. This is intentionally obscure to avoid accidents. Once you hear the “toilet flush” sound, the game is basically gone forever.

* Testing

This has only been lightly tested, mostly in Stella, but also with a real (4 switch) NTSC 2600 using Harmony & Uno carts and an AtariVox.


If the game crashes, you'll likely get sent to the screen with a white sad face. If it's unable to communicate with the SaveKey (MemCard, AtariVox save function) you'll get a red sad face; that's not a bug, just a limitation.


There's an Easter Egg hidden that displays a special message and shows the build date of the cartridge image file (as YYMMDD). It's not super complicated to access but I'd be curious if anyone ran into it.


There may still be some scanline count bugs (like whack-a-mole, those have been) and currently the AtariVox voice output is not working at all.


Naturally, I'm excited to see any feedback.


* Development

For the curious: https://github.com/brpocock/grizzards/ has the whole source dump. (Theoretically there are spoilers in there, if you go looking for them.)


The full map is around 100 screens with around that many combat scenarios.


This is written in hand-coded assembler — no surprises there, I'm sure — using the 64tass (Turbo Assembler), which is more familiar to me coming from a C=64 background than DASM or others. It's pretty similar until you start playing with macros and compile-time conditionals and the like. I wrote a little utility to convert the symbol tables it writes out into DASM-alike format for Stella. I'm running it under Linux but it should work just as well on macOS.


Music was written in MIDI using MuseScore3; monster, Grizzard, and title graphics were draw in PNG using Gimp. MIDI and PNG conversion to source code use a Lisp utility that is just an awful example of spaghetti code but has been used for C=64 conversions in the past. It actually began as part of an Atari 2600 game that I was working on many years ago which was derailed when my house burned down, so it's called the Skyline Tool after that game.


It also relies on Perl for some build functions, particularly for encoding the text to speech phonemes, and Gnu Make drives the process. I have updated the SpeakJet.dic file that came with the SpeakJet developers' kit with many “new” words and would love to share that and the Perl program convert-to-speakjet with anyone interested in (compile-time) text-to-speech for AtariVox. Perhaps the expanded dictionary will help someone else.


Another Perl program reads the includes from the source files and generates the dependency graph for Make automatically, so I don't have to.


It's pressing right up against the limits of the 32k space (with some duplication of code in the map banks & combat banks), so the monsters aren't animated and the graphics are all solid-colored. I intend to release this as a 32k game with these current limitations.


The source code is not too much of a mess, and if anything is maybe a little more modular than it needs to be right now, with over 100 individual files: 57 are major routines broken out into their own files, 19 are things that are local to one memory bank (many of those are data tables, e.g. monster definitions), 8 “bank” files that include all the other files specific to a memory bank (basically like a link table), 16 source files common to all banks (including VCS.s and things like Math.s and Macros.s), and 23 files generated automatically by tools, like the music, title graphics, and phoneme tables for speech synthesis.


Build time for all 3 platforms is around 16s, including the MIDI/PNG/TXT conversions; about 10s of that is generating the three PDF manuals.


* Web Page




* Credits


  • Program, game art, music, etc. — Bruce-Robert Pocock.
  • “Label” art — Zephyr Salz
  • Includes VCS header file by Matthew Dillon, Olaf “Rhialto” Seibert, Andrew Davie, and Peter H. Froehlich (converted for 64tass syntax).
  • Binary-to-decimal translation based upon code by Andrew Jacobs, based upon code by Garth Wilson.
  • SaveKey EEPROM & AtariVox speech synthesis driver based upon code by Alex Herbert
  • Some math functions by AtariAge Forum user Omegamatrix; others taken from December 1984 Apple Assembly Line. (actually, I'm not sure if I'm using these, but they're in the macro files.)
  • “Have You Played Atari Today” jingle transcribed by AtariAge Forum user tiggerthehun and converted to MIDI myself.
  • And, of course thanks to everyone in the Stella and AtariAge communities for making this game possible.

Grizzards.Demo.SECAM.a26 Grizzards.Demo.PAL.a26 Grizzards.Demo.NTSC.a26



EndLabel.pdf FrontLabel.pdf

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4 hours ago, Andrew Davie said:

Bonus points for using "KiB" - correct SI units :)

I'll take off a point for getting my name wrong :P


Cripes. Sorry. Will correct in the manual/etc. right now. (Although it won't be visible until I make a new build… my shame will live in on the alpha-0 release…)

Edited by brpocock@star-hope.org
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55 minutes ago, brpocock@star-hope.org said:

Cripes. Sorry. Will correct in the manual/etc. right now. (Although it won't be visible until I make a new build… my shame will live in on the alpha-0 release…)

LOL I really don't mind. I initially wanted to just commend you for using SI units - seeing the name error was just a bonus.

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I've made a little progress toward the alpha-1 release, the daily builds on https://star-hope.org/games/Grizzards/ have mostly-functional AtariVox support (although still not 100% correct yet). There are a few bugs that I know about, but I'm all ears if anyone finds others.

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The demo alpha 1 is up now at https://star-hope.org/games/Grizzards/ and attached to this post.


(Update: Bug found where the "Story" panel (which is still blank) was not being displayed, leading to a loop on the copyright notice. This is fixed in the dailies on the web site, but should not affect game play.)


Changes since demo alpha 0 last Saturday: (the full change log is on GitHub, of course)

  • Corrected credits in manual
  • New title theme and background music by Zephyr Salz (works in progress)
  • New map-mode sprites
  • PAL and SECAM graphics are sometimes stretched vertically to better fill the screen
  • Background music volume reduced
  • Bug fix: player getting stuck in walls
  • Bug fix: when monsters have been defeated, sprite list can overflow (game hangs entering a room)
  • New monster encounters added
  • Bug fix: monsters walking through walls
  • Alterations were made to fit PAL/SECAM builds into 32k ROM (Some of the bug fixes had caused an overflow in ROM bank 2. Now there are nearly 10 bytes free!)
  • Bug fix: health bar display was munged
  • Bug fix: sound effects (and short tunes) were cut off after first note
  • When defeating a monster, your max HP can increase (as well as your Attack and Defend scores)
  • Bug fix: crash (returning) from combat mode (to map screen)
  • Internal: Alarm timer no longer has a "minutes" column
  • Bug fix: Target highlights are now consistent regardless of the number of monsters
  • Sound effect & animation for walking
  • Bug fix: game hangs if you view stats on monsters' turn
  • Bug fix: moves were announced with the wrong spoken name
  • The outcome of a move (e.g. "Your Grizzard is injured and attack is lowered") is now announced on AtariVox
  • Bug fix: No longer possible to target a non-existent or dead monster
  • Bug fix: Pausing should now work properly on SECAM (left Difficulty Switch)
  • Move names have been corrected in the speech file (e.g. "Splish Splash" rather than "Move 2")
  • Bug fix: AtariVox output should not get "trashed" (e.g. play a bunch of Touch Tones and then stop talking ever again)
  • Bug fix: removed extra scanline of "noise" after title graphics
  • Bug fix: random encounters were not firing
  • Bug fix: Leveling up stats (attack, defend) did not work properly
  • Numerous small tweaks to keep scanline counts consistent (more work may need to be done on this)
  • Bug fix: Grizzards may learn new moves
  • When learning a new move, you'll see (and hear) an announcement.
  • You can now view stats from the Grizzard Depot, as the manual claimed you could
  • Bug fix: Players could become "muddled" without having the "muddled" status effect on them
  • Bug fixes: Monsters' moves were not handled properly
  • Bug fix: SECAM prevents monsters from blending in to background or highlight bar (monsters cannot be black nor white)
  • Bug fix: Sound effects hanging on entering certain screens (last note played forever)
  • Moves table for Grizzards was updated for Aquax
  • Removed floating-point warnings from PAL and SECAM sound effects using the .sound macro
  • Several tweaks for pronunciation on AtariVox
  • Reduced the "cooldown" timer for AtariVox, which was causing some phrases to have irregular pauses in them
  • Numerous other small fixes, including some optimizations for space, speed, correctness, or all three.

Some things remaining to be done:

  • Checking scanline counts on every screen, or transition between screens, on all three versions
  • The SECAM colors still need some manual tweaking from place to place. The automatic conversion from NTSC to SECAM is OK, but far from “good” in some areas.
  • Speech announcement of status effects can be incorrect (e.g. reading "HP -10, ATK DN" as "Your Grizzard is injured and defend.”)
  • Monsters' random walking tends to bring them towards the top of the screen
  • More encounters, and leveling the encounters out to form a better progression
  • Lots more testing!

Grizzards.Demo.SECAM.pdf Grizzards.Demo.SECAM.a26 Grizzards.Demo.PAL.pdf Grizzards.Demo.PAL.a26 Grizzards.Demo.NTSC.pdf Grizzards.Demo.NTSC.a26

Edited by brpocock@star-hope.org
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The latest daily build …You might call this a mini-release, like “alpha+1.5,” but there have been a few significant improvements since alpha +1.


Changes since the alpha +1 build:

  • Fixes all scan line counts to be a firm 262 (NTSC) or 312 (PAL/SECAM), even on transitions between screens. This took “forever” to test, but is probably the single most significant improvement.
  • Implemented the signposts and NPC subsystem.
  • Seriously edited down the manual for length and content, and inserted screen shots (appropriate to each region's version). Cover and additional “in world” art pieces not ready yet.
  • Fixed a bug whereby certain monsters (e.g. the Rodent Of Unusual Size on the screen just right of the first Grizzard Depot) could one-hit kill you unfairly — the auditory accompaniment was ”but nothing happens. Game over.”
  • Adds the "Story" animation to the attract sequence (“story” may be too strong a word…)
  • Makes the Select Slot screen "couch compliant" by allowing left/right/fire to select a slot without touching the console controls, and fixed up the “elimination mode” so that you have to: pull down, then hold fire, then push up. You still have to have both Difficulty Switches in “A” to delete a game.
  • Implemented pixel-perfect player movement on the map screen using fixed-point subpixel movement (“fractional addition” mechanism), which eliminates “off-diagonal” movements and differences in player movement speed between platforms. I doubt you'll really notice, but it's technically the right thing to do and I had exactly the 2 bytes of RAM it took available.
  • Uses Darrell Spice, jr's @SpiceWare better routine to detect a 7800 and switch the behavior of the Pause button (PAL/NTSC only). I don't have a 7800 to test this on, myself, so I'm trusting that it works better than peeking at the stack pointer at power-on.
  • Removes the "buzz" sound that accompanied monsters taking their move against you (because it was just ugly)

Two (known) bugs remain to be fixed before alpha +2:

  • monsters can sometimes walk through walls, and (related?) their movement speed differs between NTSC and PAL/SECAM systems.
  • speech announcements can sometimes be truncated or incorrect — these seem to be two different issues.

The next release (alpha +2) should have these bugs fixed and the combat & NPC encounters greatly expanded in variety and number. (Note that there are no NPCs in this release.)


There are some minor bugs that may not be fixed in the next release:

  • Music “holds” while reading a signpost or talking to an NPC
  • There are HMOVE bars on the signpost/NPC text screen
  • The first letter of signpost/NPC text is distorted by one pixel
  • Monsters' random walking tends to move toward the top of the screen

Per a discussion in another thread on AtariAge, I feel like I should mention that the PAL and SECAM ports run at 50Hz & 312 lines … if there's particular interest in a PAL60 or SECAM60 version, I can probably implement it as an alternative, but as I understand it the PAL50/SECAM50 versions should be playable by everyone in those regions.

Grizzards.Demo.1.5.SECAM.pdf Grizzards.Demo.1.5.SECAM.a26 Grizzards.Demo.1.5.PAL.pdf Grizzards.Demo.1.5.PAL.a26 Grizzards.Demo.1.5.NTSC.pdf Grizzards.Demo.1.5.NTSC.a26

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10 hours ago, brpocock@star-hope.org said:

Uses Darrell Spice, jr's @SpiceWare better routine to detect a 7800 and switch the behavior of the Pause button (PAL/NTSC only). I don't have a 7800 to test this on, myself, so I'm trusting that it works better than peeking at the stack pointer at power-on.


That's actually @batari's routine in response to a question by @Nukey Shay.


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The latest build is Alpha +2! Available at the web site or attached.


At this point, it should be possible to play through one entire “quest” in the demo. Heading west from the beginning point, you'll encounter an NPC near the docks who will tell you where to find the next character; that second character will give you a quest, which you can complete after wandering around the world a great deal.


The demo “world” is enclosed on all sides; there are signposts indicating where some of the interconnections to the larger world will go in the full game.


There are a few (trivial) bugs or enhancements planned in the next couple of weeks for Alpha +3, but I'm not anticipating any major changes. That said, I'm always eager for any feedback!


Changes since Alpha 1.5:

  • New features: Numerous monster encounters and NPC interactions have been changed or added
  • Enhancements: ”leveling” of monsters (raised attack class of Wicked Slime, lowered defend class of R.O.U.S. and Fire Panda, lowered the hit points lost to NIBBLE)
  • Enhancement: Combat moves are announced more quickly
  • New feature: The manual now has a map (sketch)
  • New feature: Signpost or NPC text is announced on AtariVox as well.
  • New feature: NPCs have different "voices."
  • New feature: Questions are spoken with a "rising tone" at the end.
  • Enhancement: Map graphics (sprites) have been improved, probably finalized.
  • Bug fix: the music would freeze on a note when going to signpost/NPC text
  • Bug fix: the announcement of status effects from a move was incorrect
  • Bug fix: scanline count on the “learnt new move” screen
  • Bug fix: several words were mispronounced by AtariVox
  • Enhancement: The default move is no longer Run Away
  • Bug fix: "Erase a save game slot" voice was happening after you deleted a game, in stead of before
  • Bug fix: some encounters were not saving the flag indicating that they had been completed correctly
  • Bug fix: Monsters no longer walk through walls
  • Bug fix: Colors of signposts and NPCs were random

Grizzards.Demo.2.NTSC.a26 Grizzards.Demo.2.NTSC.pdf Grizzards.Demo.2.PAL.a26 Grizzards.Demo.2.PAL.pdf Grizzards.Demo.2.SECAM.a26 Grizzards.Demo.2.SECAM.pdf

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The latest build is Alpha +3; attached, or at the web site.


This is planned as the final Alpha release of this demo. Things to come are additional work on the manual, and matching replacement art for the title screen Grizzard animation. (Thanks to @vhzc for some inspirational pixel art towards the new Aquax on the title screen.) Once those are completed, or if anyone finds any bugs, I'll put out a Beta release.



  • Enhancement: HMOVE bars removed from the Signpost/NPC text display.
  • Enhancement: NPC animations look slightly less like constipated ducks.
  • Enhancement: Work in progress cover art for the manual, and Grizzard Depot art piece in the manual.
  • New feature: Added support for SEGA Genesis gamepads; the B button, of course, works as Fire, but the C button works as Select, allowing access to stats from Grizzard Depot or combat.
  • New feature: When leveling up after a combat, you'll see (and, with AtariVox, hear) an announcement that you've leveled up (and which stat was leveled up)
  • The final Demo area maps are complete. (These make up a large subset of the first area of the full game, which is also complete.)
  • Bug fix: The cursor would sometimes display incorrectly when targeting a monster on the second row.
  • Enhancement: The cursor is always white on SECAM, for better visibility. Monsters in SECAM are already never black nor white, so they have only 6 colors from which to choose.
  • All monsters in the demo have their final move sets.
  • The colors of some monsters were adjusted to be more appropriate.
  • Bug fix: The 8th pixel (rightmost column of the first letter) of the Signpost/NPC screen was off-by-one.
  • Bug fix: Player animation “taking a step” became garbage due to a carry error.
  • Bug fix: Capturing a Grizzard works (not in this demo)
  • New feature: Switching Grizzards at the Grizzard Depot (not in this demo)
  • Bug fix: When all the monsters in a room were defeated, it was possible for a sprite from an adjacent room to “randomly” carry over when you entered the empty room. Observed in the Fire Bog area.
  • Enhancement: Pressing joystick left or right on Grizzard Depot brings up stats.


In other news, work continues on the full version of the game. ?



PS. Immediately after posting the bug reports poured in. Notably, the Genesis gamepad support broke the option of starting the game with Fire button on real hardware for some reason; you'll have to use the Reset switch until I get that sorted.


I've also replaced these binaries because the first ones I posted would crash to a Sad Face screen when your Grizzard tried to Learn a move from a monster. That's corrected in the files now attached. (I had a jump into the wrong memory bank.)

Grizzards.Demo.NTSC.a26 Grizzards.Demo.NTSC.pdf Grizzards.Demo.PAL.a26 Grizzards.Demo.PAL.pdf Grizzards.Demo.SECAM.a26 Grizzards.Demo.SECAM.pdf

Edited by brpocock@star-hope.org
PS bugs, new binaries.
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ZeroPage Homebrew is playing Grizzards on tomorrow's (Fri Aug 6, 2021) stream LIVE on Twitch at 12PM PT | 3PM ET | 7PM GMT!



After Dark:





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16 hours ago, ZeroPage Homebrew said:

ZeroPage Homebrew is playing Grizzards on tomorrow's (Fri Aug 6, 2021) stream LIVE on Twitch at 12PM PT | 3PM ET | 7PM GMT!


For those who are watching, or playing along at home, here's last night's daily builds:

  • Enhancement: View Grizzard Stats from the Map screen
  • Bug fix: Monsters using the move Fire Start were raising your attack, rather than their own
  • Bug fix: Able to start playing with the Fire button. Improved detection and reading of Genesis gamepad so that the Fire button would not be accidentally mapped to the C button and treated as Game Select. Note that the Genesis gamepad must be plugged in before the game is started to be detected. On a Harmony cartridge, you may need to hold down the B button while powering on to avoid it being detected as paddles; Uno doesn't care.
  • Enhancement: Final music for the area including the demo area
  • Enhancement: Aquax animation on the title screen improved (but may not be final)
  • Enhancement: Always use a white cursor on SECAM combat screen
  • Enhancement: Airex animation on the title screen improved (but may not be final; not in the demo)
  • Enhancement: Updated in-game art for Dirtex, Airex, and Aquax to better approximate their art pieces
  • Bug fix: “Sad Face” error when your Grizzard learnt a new Move.
  • Enhancement: Updates to the manual, particularly the cover, and regarding Genesis gamepad support and access to Stats screen.

Here are the dailies for each platform (attached). Note that the latest dailies are always posted to the web site at https://star-hope.org/games/Grizzards/



Grizzards.Demo.3.ZPH.PAL.a26 Grizzards.Demo.3.ZPH.PAL.pdf Grizzards.Demo.3.ZPH.NTSC.a26 Grizzards.Demo.3.ZPH.NTSC.pdf Grizzards.Demo.3.ZPH.SECAM.a26 Grizzards.Demo.3.ZPH.SECAM.pdf


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1 hour ago, Bob Humid said:

Very interesting approach! /.-) Just one dumb question: Will there be ever a ATARI Flashback Portable version?


I don't think there's a way to get a memory card connected to one of those, unless someone has a mod for that … if there were, I'd be all for it.


I could probably get the demo to run without a SaveKey, obviously with no ability to save, but the full game won't work at all as it's built.

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SO …


Back Story:

Today on @ZeroPage Homebrew we saw some disastrous drop-outs in parts of the game, which according to Stella are rock-solid 262 scanlines and totally steady on our main TV. I wouldn't be shocked to find that there are some places in the game that are off the scan line count, but the combat system where it kept happening doesn't seem to be one of them.


I'm waiting for the YouTube posted version so I can post-mortem and nail down exactly what the last frame or so is before the frame grabber died, but in the mean time …


I have a theory that perhaps the brief all-black frames that occur from time to time might be throwing the frame grabber for a loop. In particular, it was reliably choking just before the outcome of a combat action, which has at least one full-black frame right before it.


Seeking Help from anyone out there:

I've built a little 4K ROM that uses the same subroutines as the actual game demo to produce variable lengths of all-black frames. By default, pressing FIRE will draw one black frame, but joystick right can be used to increase the gap (up to a full second of black). Just for comparison, joystick up produces all-green screens in the same way.  The frames produced are all 262 scan lines per Stella and are not VBlanked, just blank COLUBK=0 screens.


If you can test this … I'd like to know if you can cause your TV or rig to roll, blank out, or freak out in some way when you press FIRE on this ROM for a few frames … and, if so, if pressing up instead will keep it from freaking out.


Any feedback is helpful!


Thanks all.



PS. We've tested on 3 different TV brands and no issues with the combat system. A couple of other places — starting a new game, and toggling to/from the Stats screen — proved to have bad scanline counts that are being addressed, but anybody who's able to trigger a dropout with this test ROM, it would be extremely helpful.

Edited by brpocock@star-hope.org
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TL;DR: New build, including No-Save variants. Still need help with Dropout test.

On 8/6/2021 at 7:54 PM, Bob Humid said:

Will there be ever a ATARI Flashback Portable version?

For users without a SaveKey (nor AtariVox), there is now a “no-save” version of the demo. Caveats: There is no way to continue once you power off; starting a new game loses your progress; and this is only the demo, there will never be a full version of the game that works without some kind of memory device.

(Also, there seem to be some emulation issues with Javatari that garbled the text displays a bit, so I'd recommend against using it if you can help it.)


With those caveats, here are today's daily builds, which I'm calling Alpha +4. The Beta build is still forthcoming. In particular, see my previous post if you can try testing the “dropout” binary on your home rig. I'd like to find/resolve that issue that crippled @ZeroPage Homebrew's playthrough before labeling anything as a “beta.”


Changes since Alpha +3: (a few of these were in the ZPH build)

  • There is now a “no save” version of the demo (per user feedback from @vitoco on Twitch and @Bob Humid above)
  • The “crash” (“white sad face”) screen now displays the word “ERROR” and the (24 bit, bank + offset) address of the error rather than showing the contents of RAM. (per local user feedback)
  • The “no SaveKey” (“red sad face”) screen now displays “MEMORY DEVICE NEEDED” and the address at which it was noticed missing rather than showing the contents of RAM. (per user feedback from @vitoco on Twitch)
  • There is now a brief “victory” screen after defeating enemies (per local user feedback)
  • There is now a brief “combat” announcement screen when entering combat (per local user feedback)
  • (Full game only: A crash when speaking to a certain NPC was fixed.)
  • Final version of the manual cover graphic is now in place, cleaning up shadows and details from the previous versions.
  • When monsters or your Grizzard are healed, the spoken announcement should be more understandable. (per feedback from @ZeroPage Homebrew)
  • When monsters or your Grizzard are killed, rather than echoing the number of hit points lost, the text and voice will now say that they were killed. (per feedback from @ZeroPage Homebrew)
  • You may now earn a small number of points when an NPC interaction results in game progress (per feedback from ZPH)
  • You can no longer “sneak past” monsters by crawling along the edge of the wall, i.e. the “Darcy Sneak” method. (per user feedback from ZPH)
  • (Full game only: scan line errors when trying to switch Grizzards when there were no other Grizzards on your team.)
  • A glitch sometimes observed when leaving a room seems to have been cured.
  • A new “compression” reduced the memory footprint of monster names from 12 bytes to 9 bytes each. (6 bits per character)
  • Scan line errors when returning from combat to the map screen (after leveling up) were eliminated
  • The title screens are now colorized. The demo title screen with Aquax shows colors representing a waterfront scene.
  • Scan line errors in the transition to/from the Grizzard Stats screen were cleaned up.
  • The manual was adjusted to refer to the MegaDrive in all regions, and uses the name Genesis/MegaDrive in the NTSC version.
  • You can no longer “sneak past” monsters using the “invincibility frames” after leaving a combat. (per feedback from ZPH)
  • There is about a 1s pause between when a full-screen text (signpost or NPC) is displayed and when you can press Fire to leave it (as we noticed at least one message was “missed” on ZPH because of hitting Fire too soon)
  • New title screen animation for your “starter” Grizzard (Aquax in the demo) matching their appearance in the manual
  • Bug fix: sometimes no monster was selected on entering the Combat screen. This didn't happen often, but on ZPH we noticed one point at which Darcy was able to target himself with an attack due to that bug.
  • Scan line count error cured: when transitioning from the “story” attract animation (the Grizzard attacking random monsters) to the Select Slot screen.
  • “Pause” mode was broken due to a bug in console detection for some builds. (It toggled “pause” on and off rapidly, making it a “slow-mo” function.) This was corrected.
  • Signpost/NPC text was packed into 6 bits per character, saving about 25% of the size, allowing for a few more signposts or NPCs.
  • Using Game Select (or C on a Genesis/MegaDrive controller) you can now access your stats from the Map screen as well as Depot and Combat screens.
  • The move “Fire Start” (used by, eg. the R.O.U.S.) was accidentally raising their enemy's attack stat rather than their own.
  • You can start or resume the game with the joystick and Fire button only.
  • The final background music for the demo area is in place.
  • The final map for the Demo area and the rest of the first 1⁄3 of the game should now be in place.
  • (For the full game only: created an Un-Erase utility that can be used to immediately restore an erased game if nobody has re-used the slot. This does not work for the Demo.)
  • The manual now explains that you can finish the one quest present in the demo.
  • The manual now mentions a little about some of the monsters (per user feedback from ZPH)
  • The manual now shows a quick reference graphic for the combat mode controls (per user feedback)
  • Several “quirky” behaviors regarding doors were cleaned up. Doors now place the player under them, you can't get caught in a door-and-back-again loop, and doors ignore the “invulnerability” cooldown timer.
  • Work In Progress: When you level up more than one stat at the same time, the voice announcement should read all of them out loud, but there are still bugs causing it to skip some (or all) of the details of the announcement.


I'll continue to post dailies on the web site, and only periodically update the forums, but as always, any feedback is welcome!

Grizzards.NoSave.4.SECAM.a26 Grizzards.NoSave.4.PAL.pdf Grizzards.NoSave.4.PAL.a26 Grizzards.NoSave.4.NTSC.pdf Grizzards.NoSave.4.NTSC.a26 Grizzards.Demo.4.SECAM.pdf Grizzards.Demo.4.SECAM.a26 Grizzards.Demo.4.PAL.pdf Grizzards.Demo.4.PAL.a26 Grizzards.Demo.4.NTSC.pdf Grizzards.Demo.4.NTSC.a26 Grizzards.NoSave.4.SECAM.pdf

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On 8/6/2021 at 6:13 PM, brpocock@star-hope.org said:

If you can test this … I'd like to know if you can cause your TV or rig to roll, blank out, or freak out in some way when you press FIRE on this ROM for a few frames … and, if so, if pressing up instead will keep it from freaking out.

I've tested dropout.a26 on my equipment from x1 all the way up to x60 (many times in a row) with both the button and pressing up and nothing led to it dropping sync with my equipment. All good!


54 minutes ago, brpocock@star-hope.org said:

With those caveats, here are today's daily builds, which I'm calling Alpha +4. The Beta build is still forthcoming. In particular, see my previous post if you can try testing the “dropout” binary on your home rig. I'd like to find/resolve that issue that crippled @ZeroPage Homebrew's playthrough before labeling anything as a “beta.”

I've tried the new version and it's still dropping out everywhere it was dropping during the broadcast: changing locations, entering the door/shop, starting a fight, during attacks, etc.


- James

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7 minutes ago, ZeroPage Homebrew said:

I've tested dropout.a26 on my equipment from x1 all the way up to x60 (many times in a row) with both the button and pressing up and nothing led to it dropping sync with my equipment. All good!

Unfortunately that means I'm back to Square One trying to guess what might be causing the cut-outs. :( I'll see what else I can find …


Thanks for trying it out, though!


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7 hours ago, Prizrak said:

I have an Atarivox (save key) and the NTSC game does not recognize I have one attached it seems.

Are you getting the red sad face screen? If so, what's the hex address at which it fails? Also, do you know which model of '2600 and AtariVox you have? (I see you mentioned it's the NTSC build.)

Edited by brpocock@star-hope.org
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