Feeling A Bit Atari Today






Applesoft BASIC JavaScript Emulator: My First Game (from 1979)


I found this emulator the other day : Applesoft BASIC in JavaScript   last week while at GDC, and it got me thinking about the first games I wrote on my friend Eric's Apple II back in the 70's .  I was 9 years old when I first touched the keyboard of an Apple II and wrote my first program.  The power I felt while touching that keyboard was indescribable.   I went directly to the library and checked out a couple book about programming in BASIC, wrote programs in notebooks, and then begged Eric to let me try them out.

As the years passed, I never had access to the programs that Eric, my brother, and I typed into the Apple II.  They are locked on disks that Eric still owns, 1000's of miles away.  However I do recall one of  the very  first (if not the first) real "games" we wrote together.  It was a "Guess The Number" game.    After building elaborate ASCII rockets with "PRINT" commands for days, Eric's dad (A computer engineer at Hughes Aircraft)  taught us about about "IF-THEN" and "GOTO" statements and then we went to town.

Because I have not seen the game in 35 years, I rewrote it using the emulator.   My favorite discovery was the "FLASH" command.   I had forgotten about it, but when I saw it in the reference guide, it sent me back decades.  It was a  magical command to me when I was 9 years old.  It seemed like, with "FLASH", I could create a real "reward" for winning the game. Finding the roots of my love for computers, programming, and making games does not take an extensive search.  It's pretty much right here in these 20-odd lines of code.

50 MAGICNUMBER% = INT(RND(1)*100)+1
60 LET TURNS% = 0
90 TURNS% = TURNS% + 1
130 PRINT "<<LOWER" 140 GOTO 80 150 PRINT "HIGHER>>"
160 GOTO 80
220 GET K$
230 GOTO 10

-Steve Fulton

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Celebrate the Web’s 25th Anniversary with O’Reilly – 50% off all Web Dev e-books

So you have been waiting to get your hot little hands on a new bo0k to compete in the emerging market for web and HTML5 (for mobile and web). O'Reilly makes it easier today with 50% all e-books related to web development in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the web. Keep your skills up to date, or just have some fun late night Kindle reading on the Canvas and CSS3. Put doown that 50 Shades of Grey and pick up 50 ways to make a new web site to replace that stodgy old thing you call a "web presence" form 2008 or before.

RT @OReillyMedia Deal/Day: Celebrate the Web's 25th Birthday + Save 50% on All Web Development Ebooks + Videos #web25

HTML5 Canvas 2nd Edition

HTML5 Canvas 2nd Edition

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To Coin A phrase: “Flappy Birded”

Phrase: Flappy Birded (Verb)
Definition: Used when a the internet-at-large destroys an honest and earnest individual because said person had the audacity to become successful. Usually occurs when said person is not already famous  or is not deemed to be "legitimate" or "worthy" of success, and or when the product they have produced is deemed to be not "of consequence."  This can happen most often  when the requirements to become "legitimate",  "worthy"  and "of consequence" are arbitrary or not clearly defined.
Usage: "That forum just flappy birded a guy on youtube with 20,000,000 views of his video of a cat walking on a piano"
See Also: Jealousy, Envy, Cult of Personality

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Gone Home : Is The Fullbright Company The New Infocom?

I just finished ”Gone Home”, a new, indie, PC game developed by the Fullbright Company. At $19.99 (through Steam) it’s the most expensive PC game I have bought in a long time, and clocking in at just about 3 hours, the shortest.

In “Gone Home” you play a young adult returning home after a year abroad.   During that year, your parents and sister have moved houses and moved on with their lives.  The character you play, just like you, is not familiar with any of the surroundings in the game.  When you start  it appears that no one is home and you have no idea what happened to them.   The main focus of the ensuing 3 hours (or so) of game play is a mature,  emotionally intense story that unfolds as you search this new space, looking for your family.

As a player, you traverse the house, examining everything you find.   Much of the game involves reading the text on ephemera left around the house, and listening to audio clips.  There are a few "locked gates" that help funnel the narrative, but no traditional puzzles.   The focus of this game is for the player to piece together the story by observing found objects in 3D space.   Nearly every object in the house can be picked up and examined.   Sinks, and toilets work, drawers, doors and  cabinets open, TVs and cassette players operate as in the real world.

The realistic nature of everything inside the house is necessary because the house itself is an enigma.  It’s a winding, cavernous space  that feels more like an RPG dungeon than a dwelling.   Areas in the house remain off limits until the time it is necessary to continue the narrative, but don’t make sense if this was indeed, a real-world space where people lived.   Far from detracting from the game however, this simply adds to overall curiously foreboding atmosphere of the game.  Instead of being wholly realistic, Gone Home works on transcendental level. The various rooms and passages represent the ways families relate, separate, come together, and hide from each other.   Exploring those connections and disconnections is the heart of the game.

“Gone Home” feels like an Infocom game from the 80’s.   Infocom made the best interactive fiction of that period,  but by the end of the decade they were out of business. They could not find a way to tell their mature, text-based stories in world of SVGA graphics and first-person shooters     It has taken almost 25 years, but the Fullbright Company may have found the solution with Gone Home.  The way Gone Home weaves a compelling story into an interactive world is nothing short of artistic achievement.    I have not felt this close to a virtual house and its' inhabitants since fumbling my way through Infocom’s The Witness in 1984.

The best part of Gone Home is how you feel when it is over.  Like the best books or movies, the game is hard to shake after the credits roll.  The characters feel like real people, and you want to know how the story turns out for all of them, how all the loose ends fit together.   However, you also get the feelings that not all the answers are in the game.  Just like real life, sometimes things don’t make sense.  Sometimes things are just the way they are.  In the era of Free-To-Play games,  $19.99 for a 3 hour experience might seem like a questionable value.  However, after finishing Gone Home, I certainly don’t feel like I paid too much for too little.    I may have only played Gone Home for a few hours, but I have a feeling it will play within me for many years to come.

-Steve Fulton


Comprehensive List of Lucas Arts Titles Released for Classic Atari Machines

By Jeff Fulton (@8bitrocket on twitter)

To the majority of the public, Atari died in 1983 and is relegated to hipster t-shirts and trucker hats with ironic joysticks on them.  While 90% of the USA and 70% of the UK gamers were playing with their C-64's, Nintendo's, Spectrums, Amigas, and the like, there were a large number of game players who stuck by the various Atari incarnations and their machines of varying quality.  The first Lucas Arts games were actually made as a partnership between Atari and Lucas to create the most advanced games possible for the Atari 8-bit machines (800XL computer  and 5200 console). If you read thorough (the otherwise fantastic) Retro Gamer magazine you would be hard-pressed to even know  that Atari existed after 1984. The Magazine has the Amiga, Speccy and c=64 so far up its butt (in a nice way) that incredible titles released for the Atari 7800, ST, Lynx, 2600, Atari-8bit and even the Jaguar are relegated to the "Spinal Tap Where are they now  radio ads". To help rectify this injustice slightly, I have compiled a list of the Lucas Arts titles released for the Classic Atari Machines (actually there are no non-classic machines other than the Flashback consoles).

Their Finest Hour - ST Action Magazine

Their Finest Hour - ST Action Magazine


Atari 8-bit Computers (Most released by Epyx, produced by Lucasfilm Games

The Eidolon

Koronis Rift

Rescue on Fractalus!

Atari 5200 (Releases by Atari, developed by Lucasfilm games)


Rescue on Fractalus!

Atari 7800 (Released by Atari)


Atari ST Computers (Developed  or Published by Lucasfilm/Lucas Arts Games)

Battlehawks 1942

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - The Action Game

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - The Graphic Adventure (SCUMM engine)


Manic Mansion

Night Shift

Pipe Dream

The Secret of Monkey Island

Their Finest Hour - The Battle of Britain

Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders

Yes, there were many more titles released for the Amiga and C=64, but it seems like the Atari computer titles are always relegated to "Oh yeah, there might have been other versions also". If they name the ST version at all, it is usually with a disparaging remark like "The Amiga 500 version was nothing more then an ST port", never actually talking about the quality of the ST games. In fact, in most instances I will see a game comparison in a magazine (looking at you Retro Gamer) where it will show a 3 color ugly screen of blobs (Speccy version)  along with a colorful ST version and seemingly the Speccy version is always called out for being the better port.  There is so much Atari ST and Atari 8-bit computer hate and indifference out there in the magazine and on-line world that it sometimes makes me ill just to read retro reviews or publications.  Yes, the Amiga was an awesome machine, but the ST certainly was no slouch in the game department.  We happily played our original 1040 ST from 1987 all the way through 1993, when we finally had to get a PC for work reasons.  Even then, there was no game as good as an ST game on the 386DX40 until Wolf3d came out.




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Enthusiasts Plan Kickstarter Campaign To Buy Atari Assets And Run It Like It’s 1977 All Over Again

The current company that holds the Atari brand and assets is filing for bankruptcy and planning to sell everything to the highest bidder   That fact is not as much news as an update to the "when will Atari go bankrupt again" section of the Atari entry on Wikipedia.  What *is* news is the fact that we now live in the D.I.Y., crowd funded,  Kickstarter era that allows for "crazy ideas that just might work". In the case of Atari, it's the loyal fans who have spun up an idea that is simply too good to fail, but probably will anyway:

The fans want to buy Atari.

Over at AtariAge.com, the preeminent spot on the interwebs for Atari enthusiasts, an idea was sprung today to take back Atari for the fans.  The effort is being spearheaded by Curt Vendel (recent co-author of Atari Inc.: Business Is Fun).  The idea is to buy Atari' assets when they go up for auction, then start a new company then embraces fan efforts and the true history and legacy of the company.

Even though the idea seems outlandish, what if it came to be?  What if every dollar you contributed to a Kickstarter.com campaign turned into a share of stock in a video game company?   I'm not sure the SEC would let it fly just yet, but that's a matter for others to figure out.

For now, my thoughts (and my $20 or so) are behind owning a piece of video game history.  Will it work? You can check out the idea and the progress here:






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In His Latest Column, Bob Cringley Finally Tackles The Current State Of I.T.

Bob Cringley has finally done it.  He has finally written a column that tries to tackle the current sad state of corporate IT.  You have to read until the end, but in a single paragraph he crystalizes the issue:

"Against this we have a cadre of IT workers who have been slowly boiled like frogs put into a cold pot. By the time they realize what’s happened these people are cooked. They are not just resentful but in many cases resentful and useless, having been so damaged by their work experience. They just want things to go back the way there were but this will never happen."

You can read the rest here.


HTML5 Canvas On The 4th Of July : Atari 2600 Inspired Fireworks Demo And (Short) Tutorial

HTML5 Atari 2600 Inspired Fireworks Demo

HTML5 Atari 2600 Inspired Fireworks Demo

For the 4th of July,  here is an Atari 2600 inspired fireworks demo in HTML5.   Click the mouse  button to explode a firework shell.   This demo was originally designed to test our particle FX engine for the HTML Canvas with an object pool.

While I don't have enough time this morning to go through all the code, here is a quick run-down on what is going on.

In JavaScript we create an instance of  our custom ParticleExplosionManager class : (requires the canvas context as it's parameter).

var particleManager = new ParticleExplosionManager(context);

Then we listen listen for a "mousedown" event,

theCanvas.addEventListener("mouseup",onMouseUp, false);

I Wish I Had Made That! Dragon Fantasy From Muteki Corp

Dragon Fantasy

This is a new column named "I Wish I Had Made That!" where we explore games that are so close to our hearts, that we wish we had made them ourselves.  In fact, most will be games that we started and never finished, and someone has beaten us to the punch.    The first game in this series is Dragon Fantasy from Muteki Corp.

Dragon Fantasy is an iOS (plus Mac and PC)  homage to classic  JRPGs like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest,  games that were, in-turn, inspired by early American computer games like Phantasie and Ultima.    Muteki is an American company, inspired by Japanese games, that were originally  inspired by games from America, so  it feels like this games has come full-circle and returned to its' roots.

Dragon Fantasy has the nuances of the JRPG ironed out  to an exacting degree.

Weird monsters? Check.

Extremely linear gameplay? Check.

Story elements woven into game at regular intervals? Check.

Grinding required? Check.

Random battles: Check.

Conservative Save Points: Check.

8-bit Graphic Splendor? Check.

A addictive quality that keep you coming back for more? Check Check Check.

The guys at Muteki have done their homework with this one.  The game feels like a genuine JRPG in almost every way.    It reminds me very much of Final Fantasy 1 (or just Final Fantasy), which is my all-time favorite game in this category.

On iOS, the game plays smoothly and is easy to control.   Input is very simple: drag your finger to move Ogden (your avatar), and make selections from menus.  However, simple is fine in this case and that simplicity masks a very sophisticated ramping structure that appears to perfectly emulate the games that inspired it.   It's also funny, or at least tries to be funny, which is 1/2 the battle.

Why Do I With I Had Made It?

So why do I wish *I* had made this?  Well, because I've always wanted to create an RPG like this, and these guys beat me to it.  In fact, we have been planning an RPG since about 1987 using overhead maps and turn-based combat.  It was not based on a JRPG, but on the Phantasie series from SSI (designed by Winston Douglas Wood).  Still, since Phantasie was one of the precursors to JRPGs (The Japanese were so keen on it that Phantasie IV was Japan only release), it still feels related.

Original California RPG Enemies Circa 1987 : Banana Slug, CHP Officer, Bigfoot

Our game was going to be based on California History And Legends with a time travel element back to the old west.  We were designing  it on the Atari ST with STOS, but time got the best of us, and  we never finished it after we moved onto DOS PCs in the early 90's.  However, Dragon Fantasy shows me that it can be done on new devices, if the proper care is taken to get the nuances right.

One thing that intrigued me about Dragon Fantasy is that the main character was inspired by the deceased father of one of the developers.   In fact, this is why I plunked down my money in the first place, as I believe in supporting those kinds of efforts.     I really like the idea of commemorating someone in game like this.   It's something I plan to do for my father some day soon. Since we traveled through California together on all sorts of adventures, making my dad the main character in an exhumed (no pun intended) California RPG might be a good choice.  It also might get me to finally finish the game.



Dragon Fantasy is great game that has inspired me to play and be creative at the same time.   What else can you ask from a piece of software? Get Dragon Fantasy now from iTunes for $2.99 (it's well worth the price you spoiled cheapskates) or PC And Mac for a couple dollars more.   If you are into classic JRPGs, don't miss it.  A plussed-up 16-bit era sequel is planned as well.






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