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What is the reason, that is stopping more homebrew authors from developing for the 5200?


CPUWIZ

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Is it the tools?  Software?  Hardware too complicated (although the 800 scene is GIGANTIC and has more resources than anyone could ever ingest in a short time)?  

 

Or is it the joystick?  If so, why is nobody making a TrakBall game, Dan's design is still viable and I think many NIB units of it have been found over the years?

 

Anyway, I am curious, because I just came across a HDD with the demo levels I wrote, about a decade ago, for a Space-Taxi clone and it made me wonder.

 

Cheers,

-R

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I wonder if it's a chicken or the egg problem.  Meaning some people don't try because it's not popular enough, but it's not popular enough because hardly anybody tries?  I think the controllers are superior, especially the trak-ball, but many people hate the analog joysticks.  So, maybe the thing to do is develop a good digital joystick for it, maybe 3D print the necessary parts (use off the shelf joysticks/switches) and offer them up as alternates (on AtariAge), then developers might see a bigger user base for games that normally would just be made for the 8-bit computers?

 

I would think that developing a game for the computers would automatically also mean a game for the 5200, and vice versa, because there are only a few changes needed to convert over.  But it doesn't wind up that way so it must be more irritating than that.  I wish someone would convert "Eastern Front (1941)" for the 5200, that might generate some hype for the console, but in general I have no idea why the 5200 is ignored.  I mean, arcade ports are cool, but having that keypad for games like "Star Raiders" seems like a no-brainer for making strategy games or adventure games that require more inputs than just 2 fire buttons.  I'd love to see "Scram" converted, hahaha, what's more action-packed than a nuclear reactor simulator?!

 

I wonder if maybe initially there should be more emphasis on converting 8-bit games across to the 5200?  I remember a lot of SSI games for the computers back in the day, many WWII games but some other stuff, too.  If there appears to be a flood of "new" titles for the 5200, maybe that could generate more interest overall in the console, and then if there's a growing user base because of it then the idea of making actual new games for the 5200 instead of just the 2600 over and over (and the 7800 as well) might take off.

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The 5200 is a cool system, but I think the main issue is there just isn't that many out there. The system was a hard sell back in the day to begin with. Not because of the joysticks (however that didn't help) and not because is was a bad system. I think it was a timing and cost issue. People BITD thought "I already have an Atari". If they upgraded from the 2600, they most likely moved to the Colecovision back then. I would guess there are more Atari Jaguar units out there than Atari 5200 units (of course I just guessing).

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I’ve got the impression over the past 10 years that very few were interested in 5200. It is definitely the least popular Atari system.  I’m not sure how well PhaserCat’s several 5200 games have done.  I have seen YouTube reviews of some of his games though. But nothing like the attention that  2600 and 7800 or even Jaguar get.   

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5 minutes ago, Cafeman said:

I’m not sure how well PhaserCat’s several 5200 games have done.

 

I don't even know how well they've done, since I have no real context for the sales numbers.

 

Either way, I make 5200 stuff just because I want to.  If any of the stuff I release makes people happy, that's a bonus.

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I think the Atari 5200 is misunderstood generally, and gets dismissed or overlooked for any number of reasons (or perceptions) with varying degrees of validity. It has all the makings of a cult console--relative obscurity, unusual attributes, short retail life, came out a bad time, funky controllers, capable hardware, great library, easy to collect for, etc.--yet it doesn't have the following for some reason. Just a cadre of fans that the rest of classic gaming thinks are eccentric, deranged, or contrarian because we don't hate the controller like we're supposed to. 😜

 

I hate to give the AVGNs of the world too much credit, but I'm sure they haven't helped.

 

Personally I'd rather see original or unique titles than A8 ports. Or at least ports from platforms that aren't the A8. But (IMO) any A8 ports need to leverage the analog control or be different in some other important way, otherwise I don't see the point of duplicating the A8 library when you can just play an A8. Incidentally, this is where the 5200 scene kind of doesn't make sense sometimes; the Atari 5200 gets criticized for being "just a consolized 400," but then so much effort is spent trying to make it more like the 400, what with all the A8 ports and digital controller solutions. 

 

1 hour ago, pboland said:

I would guess there are more Atari Jaguar units out there than Atari 5200 units (of course I just guessing).

I'd find that really hard to believe. Despite its reputation as a flop, the Atari 5200 still sold over a million units; I don't think the Jaguar even broke 150,000. According to the late Curt Vendel, Atari Corp. only produced 325,000 Jaguars.

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3 hours ago, BassGuitari said:

I'd find that really hard to believe. Despite its reputation as a flop, the Atari 5200 still sold over a million units; I don't think the Jaguar even broke 150,000. According to the late Curt Vendel, Atari Corp. only produced 325,000 Jaguars.

Well, I was way wrong about that.

 

Wow! with a million units out there one would think that there should be more interest in the 5200 than there is. 🤔 I owned a couple of them briefly in the late 1990's - early 2000's. The non-centering joysticks never felt like an issue to me. And gluing aluminum foil dots on all the little pads seemed easy enough of a fix for the controllers I had. I eventually got rid of them because I have several Atari 8-bit computer that played the same games plus more. Maybe that's the rub. The people that would have normally stuck with the 5200 just moved to the computer line instead? I just don't know.

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3 hours ago, BassGuitari said:

Personally I'd rather see original or unique titles than A8 ports. Or at least ports from platforms that aren't the A8. But (IMO) any A8 ports need to leverage the analog control or be different in some other important way, otherwise I don't see the point of duplicating the A8 library when you can just play an A8. Incidentally, this is where the 5200 scene kind of doesn't make sense sometimes; the Atari 5200 gets criticized for being "just a consolized 400," but then so much effort is spent trying to make it more like the 400, what with all the A8 ports and digital controller solutions. 

 

I agree, though not that many games (even arcade games) required analog control.  Yes, trak-balls and spinners/paddles, but the vast majority were 2/4/8-way joysticks, or buttons (barring the occasional analog stick games like Tailgunner and Red Baron, or yoke games like Star Wars).  I have the beginnings of ideas for what I think would be cool 5200 games to try to make, most take advantage of the analog control aspect of the 5200, but who knows what homebrew programmers think.

 

Some people don't have the space or money to collect both, they may already have a computer (Apple ][, Commodore 64).  We have seen that some of the "same" games are different and typically better on the 5200, so some gamers go in that direction to get the better gameplay along with the trak-ball.  Having Tempest on the 5200 might be enough for some collectors, too.  Might as well take advantage of that choice.

 

The computer ports I'm thinking of would more take advantage of the keypad since they're strategy games, turn-based, but that still helps.  Being able to hide your selections vs. both players having to use the same computer keyboard in front of them would make the games more interesting, sort of like the sports games, and the options would be at the players' fingertips vs. needing to lean forward to type on the computer keyboard.  I still think that matters and that it would be enough to make players want to have those games on the 5200 instead of just using the computer.  And if the graphics or UI could be improved slightly, or additional game difficulty levels or options were included, even better.

 

But that's more taking advantage of an "easy" way to make more 5200 games available since the 8-bit versions already exist, less time creating, more time converting.  Get a dozen of so of those out there, get interest up, who knows, maybe the 5200 user base expands.  Then making unique, new games that take longer to develop (compared to simple conversions) would seem worth it?  I don't know.  My thinking is that many 8-bit users wouldn't want to commit to the 5200 because many of their favorite, exclusive games are only on their computers.  So, if those games finally appeared on the 5200, might be enough to make the switch?  I don't want people to abandon the 8-bits, I still own my 800, but I'm thinking more someone who isn't that thrilled with the computer as a computer (modern computers are far more capable) and keeps it only as a complicated game console but wishes he had better controllers like the 5200 has, if only certain computer games were also on the 5200, too.

 

Just spitting thoughts out there since I have no idea why the 5200 isn't more popular, especially on a forum such as this, for homebrew programmers.

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This has been brought up before, and I have the same answer for this question that I did the last time it was asked. It just makes more sense to target the Atari 8-bit computer line for homebrew game releases, because these machines have all the advantages of the Atari 5200 hardware, without its crappy analog controller and limited market penetration.

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One of the goals I've always had is to take advantage of what makes the 5200 "special" whenever I can.

 

Of my games:

RealSports Curling, Magical Fairy Force, and Intellidiscs all utilize analog control.

Ratcatcher, RealSports Curling, and Intellidiscs use controller ports 3 and 4.

RealSports Curling and Intellidiscs use the keypad for gameplay functions and not just menus.

Magical Fairy Force uses the trakball.

 

Only Rob 'n' Banks doesn't do anything terribly special, being a fairly straightforward Lock 'n' Chase port.

 

I have a new project underway that's using the 512KB cart, and I might add trakball support to it even though it might not make the most sense.

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Well, count me in as one very happy PhaserCat customer. I consider his products first rate, and I always come back to them.

 

Can't wait to see what you're coming up with next!

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56 minutes ago, Jess Ragan said:

This has been brought up before, and I have the same answer for this question that I did the last time it was asked. It just makes more sense to target the Atari 8-bit computer line for homebrew game releases, because these machines have all the advantages of the Atari 5200 hardware, without its crappy analog controller and limited market penetration.

That plus the larger amounts of RAM that can be accessed by the 800/1200XL/800XL/65XE/130XE.  I can understand programmers perhaps not wanting to deal with the 16K limitation (although the 2600 seems to have no shortage of homebrewers despite the laughably small 128 bytes of RAM!)

 

Has there ever been a really definitive modern set of instructions on how to port A8 games to the 5200?  The easier that process can be made, the more games might come over to our system.

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All good points, thanks.

 

Also throwing out, perhaps ASM is just too daunting for a lot of younger* folk?  I haven't seen a good BASIC5200, like RevEng's or Batari's.

 

* I have many stories, I interviewed a lot of programmers in my life, including Steve Woita (who came in with a printout of Quadrun).  Nobody knows ASM anymore and some of them can't debug code properly, because of it.

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2 hours ago, Jess Ragan said:

This has been brought up before, and I have the same answer for this question that I did the last time it was asked. It just makes more sense to target the Atari 8-bit computer line for homebrew game releases, because these machines have all the advantages of the Atari 5200 hardware, without its crappy analog controller and limited market penetration.

 

But that just sounds like hardly any programmers are in the mood to do whatever the extra 10% or less(?) might be needed to more or less double the amount of people who would want to buy their games.  Which doesn't make much sense to me.  Any game that can use the trak-ball controller correctly (direction + velocity) is automatically cooler than the digital joystick version that would probably exist for the computer version.  Not every game is going to need or use analog controls, of course, but for those that can, the 5200 is the perfect application.

 

I see it as similar to new parts for old muscle cars.  Sure, most people have Chevy engines, for example, but some transmission manufacturers make sure to offer versions of their bellhousings to bolt up to BOP engines (Buick/Olds/Pontiac) because that's the only real extra effort that's needed to reach an additional market, even though that market is much smaller than the main Chevy user base.  Same for brakes or suspension, they many times offer the slightly different versions to fit the "lesser" car groups, or they add extra bolt holes or tabs or whatever so that the part is interchangeable.

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2 minutes ago, Razzie.P said:

Everyone gives Ray a hard time when he pesters annoys motivates developers into developing every game ever.

 

Right?  😅

 

For me back then, it was the fact that there wasn't a whole lot of good controller replacements available yet, sure I have my own Wico etc., but those are collectors items for a lot of people.  Hardware doesn't bother me much, there are many tricks you can play and I made my own devkit with an EPROM emulator then (pretty sure someone can find it with some eagle eyes in this forum).  Tools also, no biggy, since I just write them myself.

 

Now where is DOOM?

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1 hour ago, CPUWIZ said:

All good points, thanks.

 

Also throwing out, perhaps ASM is just too daunting for a lot of younger* folk?  I haven't seen a good BASIC5200, like RevEng's or Batari's.

 

* I have many stories, I interviewed a lot of programmers in my life, including Steve Woita (who came in with a printout of Quadrun).  Nobody knows ASM anymore and some of them can't debug code properly, because of it.

 

Vitoco was working on one.  I helped him test it a bit.  Not sure whatever happened to that project.

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even new new new (is that enough) ATARI hasnt made a retro 5200 system. flashback and 26/7800 systems sure. When it first came out and for a few short years it was cool, but it became apparent it was mostly the same thing. 

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8 hours ago, CPUWIZ said:

For me back then, it was the fact that there wasn't a whole lot of good controller replacements available yet, sure I have my own Wico etc., but those are collectors items for a lot of people.  Hardware doesn't bother me much, there are many tricks you can play and I made my own devkit with an EPROM emulator then (pretty sure someone can find it with some eagle eyes in this forum).  Tools also, no biggy, since I just write them myself.

 

Ya, that is weird.  I suspect it's because new 3rd party controllers would have only worked for the 5200, vs. 9-pin aftermarket Atari 2600 controllers that could have also worked on other platforms.  Yet again, bigger markets.  I really wish that Atari had put out an all-buttons controller along with Asteroids, that thing would have been perfect for many button games like Space Invaders, Star Castle, Rip Off, Space Duel, etc., and it could have led the way to a digital joystick (same guts).  But, as you say, hardly anybody even bothered to make controllers for the 5200.

 

8 hours ago, CPUWIZ said:

Now where is DOOM?

 

Right?  I was always surprised that Elite never made it to the 8-bits.

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3 hours ago, ledzep said:

 

Right?  I was always surprised that Elite never made it to the 8-bits.

 

Heh, I used to work with Joey 20 some years ago, one of his games is on a Pete Shelly record. LOL

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On 6/17/2024 at 10:48 PM, CPUWIZ said:

Or is it the joystick?  If so, why is nobody making a TrakBall game...

Not a programmer here but I've bought (and sold) an atari 5200 system no less than 3 times over the last 15 or 20 years...

 

Not to sound like a broken record...I want to like the system but the controller eventually annoys me too much 😆 

 

Seeing @Ryan Witmers post above, explaining he specifically designed his games to work better with the controller is tempting me into trying a fourth time though. I heard tempest with a trackball is worth the price of admission too....

 

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