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Gator Love (Custer's Revenge hack)

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About a month or so ago I posted a thread here soliciting for help in replacing the audio in Custer's Revenge. As things unfolded I came to the realization that this was going to be a much more complex undertaking than I had initially assumed. I've decided to quietly move on from the endeavor and just release the game as-is for people to play. Technically the .BIN file attached to this thread is no different from the one I linked a second ago, however posting in the Hacks forum is kind of the definitive way to officially put something out there and announce it proper, so that's why I'm posting this thread. I have complicated feelings regarding this project so I'll here's the devlog entry I wrote for this game on itch.io that breaks it all down:


Well, this is it. I've decided to release this romhack as-is because I've taken it as far as I can with my own skill set. No real bells and whistles. No fancy physical release with a box and goodies. That's not to say I can't still do that eventually, just that I probably won't. I have complex feelings about this romhack because its development is rooted in an era of my life that I'd much rather soon forget, however as I've gotten older I've begun looking back at all the things I never finished in my youth and I feel a strong desire to change this. Gator Love was one of those unrealized projects and despite what this game means to me I still decided to wrap it up as best I could and put it out there nearly 20 years after I started work on it.


When I started this romhack I was still in the beginner stages of learning how to program for the Atari 2600. Making romhacks and editing source code allowed me to learn through trial and error, though when I set my sights on hacking apart Custer's Revenge I did need a little help identifying and breaking the game's copy protection routine. Yes, Custer's Revenge had one. I didn't know what I wanted to do with Custer's Revenge, just that I wanted to make "something funny" using one of the most offensive and infamous games as a base to start from. Another romhacker a few years before me made a version of the game where, according to the description, Custer "hits it from behind". In 2007 I was sort of getting involved with the furry fandom and the idea to furry-ify the game didn't take long to come to me.


The Atari 2600 renders sprites in a weird elongated way which guided me toward making the replacement characters in the game reptilian since they have pronounced snouts. Everything else just looked weird because their heads would be stretched out. Originally I wanted the characters to be dragons but I genuinely could not fit wings on the character sprites without completely overhauling the entire game and that was a little more work than I was willing to put in on such a beginner's project. I removed their wings and in turn they became alligators. The remnants of my intentions to have dragon characters remain in the game though such as the castle in the background and the confused knight off to the side.


Custer's Revenge was an offensive game when it released in 1982 and 42 years later perhaps it is even more offensive now that American society is more sensitive to depictions of things like rape and the mistreatment of Native Americans. There were inklings of this sentiment even as far back as 2007 so one of the things that was important to me when making this romhack was to remove as much of its seediness as I could. I feel like by adding the little heart to the female character, to suggest consent, that I removed the notion of rape from the game completely. That's my intention, at least, that the other alligator is into it. Getting the heart to appear at all was a real challenge for me because I had to hack it together out of the existing code meant for the Native American woman's headdress.


I never actually released the romhack back in 2007 though because I didn't finish what I wanted to do. I was hung up on changing the audio of the game so it didn't play cowboy music the whole time because that was incongruent with what was now on the screen. When I decided to dust this project off and finish it I solicited for help on Atari Age and elsewhere for a programmer who could help me do this (and I offered to pay them for doing it). No one really showed any interest and one person on Reddit even tried to scam me out of my money so after a couple of months of leaving things open-ended I just sorta closed my posts and moved on. I decided to release the game as-is just so that it could finally be "out there" for people to play. I was at least able to silence the start-up jingle but a couple of other musical remnants remain in the game untouched because I wasn't able to excise them from the code.


I had plans to do a big release for this game with physical cartridges and "collector's editions" that came in an authentic era-appropriate box with things like a keychain, pin, stickers, and other extras included. I actually wrote up an entire Indiegogo campaign page and designed all the graphics and headers and everything for it. But, chances are I'll never actually run the campaign. I did all this stuff in earnest but I guess when it comes down to matters this isn't something that I want to celebrate so boisterously. Besides, I never got the audio fixed so I'd never actually press cartridges of a game that was incomplete. Also the company I wanted to work with to publish this game, who I'd done business with in 2004 for a different Atari game, seemed so defeatist regarding publishing games. They lamented that the cost of making physical carts had gone up and so had the price of printing custom boxes to the point where it seemingly wasn't worth the trouble to do it. Real downer stuff.


17 years after I started this romhack a lot has changed in my life, obviously. For one I am no longer associated with the furry fandom and in fact I am actively against it and the degeneracy that it represents. It was rough in 2007 with how open people were about their disgusting lifestyles and it only got worse from there as the years passed. By the middle of the last decade I'd had enough and I bounced. You can see the inner conflict I have over releasing this game now. I'm not that concerned with it though. What's done is done. Whatever audience this romhack finds, if any, is fine with me. I've made my peace with the matter. I don't know who this game is actually for anymore, but here it is. I hope you enjoy it. An unreasonable amount of work went into this for what amounts to a joke that is no longer funny to me, but that's just the way things go sometimes.


Like my previous romhack (Pineapple 2000) you can download the .BIN file from this thread or on my page for it at itch.io. (There are a couple other goodies over on itch.io to check out too!)


My next game project isn't Atari 2600-related, but I will post about it in the appropriate forum when I have something ready to show. :)


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