Atari 800 In A Hotel Room

Jeff and I are still in S.F. doing a 2-week tour of duty with our new employer before we head home to work as remote employees.  While it might appear that we have been having a blast on this trip, in reality it as been very hard work, and every night we get back the hotel we basically sack-out until morning.  Tonight though, for the first time in 9 days, Jeff came over to my room, and we fired-up an Atari 800 emulator and played some of our old favorites.

In a way, it was a long-over-due, cathartic experience.  Here we are, visiting the birth place of so many of our favorite games, now employed to one of the world's biggest game companies, and we've been so busy, we had not even had a chance to think about how long and far this journey has been.  We both were inspired to makes games by the 8-bit era, and especially the Atari 800, and we both cut our programming teeth on the system back in the early 80's.  Tonight we relived a bit of those old days.

Below are some images of the games we played, while were playing them:

Aztec:  This was a game we played on the Apple II, predating the Atari by about 2 years.  It used the dithered 320x200 (hi-res) mode to create some stunning animation on a 6502 machine.  The graphics rivaled stuff the Mac was doing years later.

Shamus:  This was a great action adventure game that appeared first on the Atari 800, mostly because some of the color cycling and display list tricks were very hard to pull off on other systems.  If there was any justice, this game by William (Cathryn) Mataga and released by Synapse would been seen as a ground-breaking landmark title in video game history.

Preppie: A game by Adventure International (Scott Adams' company).  This game was a real showcase for the Atari 800's sound and graphics.  If you wanted to make an Apple IIe or IBM PC owner cry in 1983, you only had to boot-up this game and then tell them your Atari 800 XL cost 1/10 the price of their computers.

7 Cities Of Gold:  The first great explore and conquer style game by Dan(i) Bunten Berry.  We opted to play this instead of MULE tonight because we didn't have any good joysticks with us, and MULE on a keyboard is a terrible thing.  7 Cities still marvels me with its' "world builder" option that will a complete new game for you every time.  Amazing.

Fort Apocalypse: Another game from Synapse.  Really, Synapse is one of the lost great game companies.  Nearly every game they made was a gem.   This one by Steve Hales and Joe Vierra took a few ideas from Choplifter and Lunar Lander, but added an intense action element that made it one of the best arcade games of the era.  The fact that you have probably never heard of it only means that you need to look (and play) harder.

Blue Max:  Another Synapse title, this one was developed by Bob Polin.  Activision attempted to make an 8-bit Atari computer version of  "River Raid", but that one was no better (and in some ways worse) that the Atari 2600 version.  To me, this game was really the "River Raid" of the 8-bit computer era.

Donkey Kong: Little known fact:  the Atari 800 version of Donkey Kong was one of the only a very few versions of the game that included all four levels.   This was one of our favorites from day one.

Zeppelin:  Another great William (Cathryn) Mataga game released by Synapse.  This one used another unique feature of the Atari 8-bit computers, the redefined character set.  This game features  HUGE scrolling levels, with many multiple objects all moving at the same time.  The scope and action of this game still blows me away as much today as it did almost 30 years ago.

Food Fight:  One of the best action games of the golden age arcade, and one of the most unsung arcade game ever made.  The Atari 800 could recreate the game almost down to every single  pixel.

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Atari Greatest Hits Vol.2 For The DS Now Available

Atari hs just sent us a press release for their "Greatest Hits volume 2" for the Nintendo DS.  We loved the first one, and this one looks like it will be just as good.   Check out the Atari release below:



Star Raiders®, Yars’ Revenge®, Millipede® Asteroids®Deluxe and Major Havoc® Lead Line-up of 50 Atari Classics now Available Exclusively on the Nintendo DS

Los Angeles, CA – March 8, 2011 – Atari, one of the world’s most recognized publishers and producers of interactive entertainment announced today that Atari’s Greatest Hits: Volume 2 is now available. The ultimate Nintendo DS title for casual gamers, Atari’s Greatest Hits: Volume 2 features more of Atari’s popular arcade and Atari 2600 titles including Star Raiders®, Yars’ Revenge®, Millipede®, Asteroids Deluxe ® and Major Havoc®.

Atari introduced a new era of interactive entertainment throughout the 1970s and 1980s with its addictive arcade games and home gaming system.  With Atari’s Greatest Hits: Volume 2, each spotlighted game will feature the same pick-up and play control scheme as their original arcade and 2600 console, with modern updates to align with the Nintendo DS platform.  Up to four-player multiplayer via both DS Download and multi-card play will be available for 20 titles including Combat and Warlords for head-to-head gaming.

Additionally, Atari Greatest Hits: Volume 2 features a selection of interviews with Atari founder, Nolan Bushnell, an arcade gallery with arcade games and select arcade game memorabilia.  As an added bonus, players can also try out the Atari 400 emulator using the Touch Screen keyboard.

The complete Atari Greatest Hits:  Volume 2 line-up is as follows:

Atari Arcade Hits

Asteroids Deluxe, Black Widow, Crystal Castles, Liberator, Major Havoc, Millipede, Red Baron, Super Breakout, Warlords.

Atari 2600 Favorites

Breakout, Crystal Castles, Millipede, Super Breakout, Video Pinball, Warlords, Return to Haunted House, Secret Quest, Canyon Bomber, Circus Atari, Combat, Combat Two, Demons to Diamonds, Desert Falcon, Off-the-Wall, Radar Lock, Golf, Double Dunk, Realsports Basketball, Realsports Soccer, Super Baseball, Super Football, Video Olympics, A Game of Concentration, Backgammon, Basic Programming, Brain Games, Code Breaker, Maze Craze, Video Chess, Black Jack, Casino, Fatal Run, Night Driver, Steeplechase, Street Racer, Quadrun, Sentinel, Space War, Star Raiders, Yars’ Revenge.

Developed by Atari and Code Mystics, Atari’s Greatest Hits: Vol. 2 is Rated “E” for Everyone and is now available exclusively on Nintendo DS for a suggested retail price of $29.99.  For more information, please log onto: www.atari.com/agh2

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Road Test: Adobe "Wallaby" Flash->HTML5 Converter Preview Version

A couple days ago, Adobe released a preview version of  "Wallaby", their Flash->HTML5 converter.  It's been a badly kept secret for the past few months that Adobe was working on something like this, but with the release they have finally come clean on their efforts.

Here is what they says about it:

"Wallaby" is the codename for an experimental technology that converts the artwork and animation contained in Adobe® Flash® Professional (FLA) files into HTML. This allows you to reuse and extend the reach of your content to devices that do not support the Flash runtimes. Once these files are converted to HTML, you can edit them with an HTML editing tool, such asAdobe Dreamweaver®, or by hand if desired. You can view the output in one of the supported browsers or on an iOS device.

You can get the Wallby preview version here: http://labs.adobe.com/downloads/wallaby.html

Both Mac And PC versions are available.

There is a long list of things that are not supported right now.  you can find that list here:


We tested the application, and it appears to work as advertised.   Using the application is very simple.   All you do is locate a .fla to convert to HTML, and select a location to place the converted files.

When Wallby has completed the conversion, you should have a .html file to load and test. We noticed that these work best in Safari and Chrome.  They did not work in Opera or Firefox. This makes sense, as it was designed to work with WebKit.

Here are a couple examples we made very quickly.  The first one simply moves a logo a cross the screen using a classic tween.

Rocket Test Move HTML5

Rocket Test Move SWF

The second one moves the same logo, while it spins, fades and changes size:

Rocket Test Move. Spin, Fade

Rocket Test Move, Spin, Fade  SWF

A couple things we noticed:

1. So far, ActionScript is not supported at all.

2. The output is CSS, JavaScript and SVG.  It does not look like the HTM5 Canvas is leveraged for anything at all (yet).

We look forward to testing newer versions when they are released.  We'll keep you posted.


Listen to the live LAPD radio stream mixed with random ethereal music

OK, so this is way off topic (game and retro-wise), but you can expect a little more in this "random awesomeness" category now and then. The site YouAreListeningToLosAngeles.com is simply a live feed stream of Los Angeles Police radio  chatter (provided by radioreference.com) played over a random selection of ethereal music using SoundCloud.  Since I'm a sucker for realistic police drama (The Wire, The Shield, Chicago Code, and especially Southland), this is a fascinating background sound scape to code to.


The Pac-man Dossier Kicks Ass!

If you are at all interested in building a maze chase game in the Pac-man genre, or are just interested in the technical details about the game or how to play it, check out the incredibly detailed Pac-man Dossier by Jamey Pittman.

This treasure trove of information contains everything from detailed descriptions of the maze logic to explaining the "kill screen", Easter Eggs, and much much more.

When I was writing the No Tanks! chapter of The Essential Guide Flash Games, I really could have used this information. I looked all over the web for some technial details on Pac-man and found nothing that described the chase logic in any detail. I had to repeatedly play the game and literally guess as to how the logic was set up. I was close, but after reading this, I feel like I have enough information to build an exact clone. Let's see if I find the needed time though.

(8bitjeff is Jeff D. Fulton)

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