Atari the 8 bit wonder

All discussions about the Atari 8bit range of machines.

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Atari the 8 bit wonder

Postby Retrogamer_ST » Sat Dec 06, 2014 11:33 am

Released in 1979, yet it can show us some amazing tricks. I always knew that Atari 800 was capable of displaying amazing graphics in the hands of a real pro. The latest demo of Atari Blast is stunning and make the rest of the 8bit computers look pale in comparison. 1 MB cart, run it using Altirra or any other emulator that can handle carts of this size. Everything is silk smooth, using parallax and a huge amount of colours. I just love the awesome graphics in this game including lots of humour and well known faces. I'm not even sure that ST could do this. But hey, why take my word for true? Watch yourself and be amazed. :)
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Re: Atari the 8 bit wonder

Postby kiwilove007 » Mon Feb 09, 2015 4:40 am

Nice to see you back...

There has not been a public release of the latest version of AtariBLAST! - but it did make an appearance at the Atari Party, and the Portland Retrogaming Expo. We're holding back on any more update demos - so as to keep some surprises in store for the final version - which is still a long way from being completed... and there's a likelihood of it not being completed - maybe???

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Re: Atari the 8 bit wonder

Postby kiwilove007 » Tue Feb 10, 2015 12:10 am

While it doesn't have the flash graphics of Atariblast! - a small project that was completed - as a breakaway from that project - is "Strictly Gone Bananas" completed for the 2015 New Year's disk(s) - you'll find it's downloadable from atariage - or Polish sites... I think it's on the 2nd disk?

It's only a med-res graphics mode used - and while it's a game, you don't have to play it - to see what the graphics get up to. You can simply get to the Game Over screen, and let it run. It was done to a strict deadline - within a short time, so I didn't get around to doing some stuff I should have done... It's all for a bit of fun - poking a bit of fun too.

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Re: Atari the 8 bit wonder

Postby farvardin » Tue Feb 10, 2015 2:39 pm

it's a really impressive demo/game. The colors are gorgeous and it doesn't look at all it was made in 1979.

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Re: Atari the 8 bit wonder

Postby Atari030 » Tue Feb 10, 2015 10:41 pm

Atari 800XL was my first love, in computing. That game reminds me of one done in the 90's, can't remember the name of it for the life of me. And the Robot Demo from the XE era. Very impressive for 79.

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Re: Atari the 8 bit wonder

Postby farvardin » Wed Feb 11, 2015 7:32 am

Are you sure the game is really from 1979? It's written 2014 at the beginning and they talk about it like it was programmed recently:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAZK8TFUSx8

And they also talk about "A couple of the levels you may recognise as reworked versions of Harvey's HawkQuest designs.". HawkQuest is from 1989:

http://www.mobygames.com/game/hawkquest

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Re: Atari the 8 bit wonder

Postby kiwilove007 » Wed Feb 11, 2015 10:50 am

It's always important to get the dates correct - if you can.

The Atari 400/800 computers were not released in 1979 - but rather, they were announced in that year.
Whereas it would be around 1980 or even 1981? Depending on where you lived - as we're not all in the US... that they were generally available.
Have you heard/read of anyone actually using/owning an Atari 400/800 in 1979?
Of course - they were very expensive home computers - and it's only with the appearance of the Vic-20 that the pricing was starting to come down. People would compare the Vic-20 against the Atari 400 - but their pricing would not be the same? ie. The Atari 400 costing more.
Guess which computer actually performed better?

I can't remember exactly when the Atari Robot & Spaceship demo appeared? It'll more likely be when the Atari 600XL/800XL were on sale?
That Robot walking animation is very first rate - and I would ask - has there been anything up to this standard (also including the Fractalus Mothership & BallBlazer disk loading animations too..) on any other home computer system?

Work on GTIABlast! started very early on in Jan 2013 - it's first public demo is on Youtube - there's been later demos since...
Strictly Gone Bananas uses a little used? graphics mode - and the whole project of that - took only about 3-4? weeks - so as to be included on that 2015 New Year's disk(s).
GTIABlast! has morphed into AtariBLAST! getting to be a bigger and bigger project - from a 48k envisioned game - downsized to 16k to run off a flashcart, and now including Antic modes 2 and 4. Including Antic 4 - allowed me to re-use and update Hawkquest graphics from that game.
I didn't really want to draw completely new graphics from scratch - as that is a lot of work to do... Also I could update them because of the animations - and use of a rear screen. And I thought it would be rather neat to update them too. Few people would be presented with such a wonderful? opportunity to do so.
It is getting to be too huge a project (I'm not going to say the reasons why in detail...) because of the 3 versions of hardware it now supports. ie. Atari 400/800 etc 16K flashcart, 5200 flashcart and extended memory ie. 1088K Atari 800?
It would be some kind of miracle - if it does get finished at all... At this point in time - I can't say it will get finished.
This was not intended from the start - to be such a massive project - and is say, the complete opposite of how Hawkquest was designed. Which was designed right from the start - to be such a huge game - although we (Andrew Bradfield and myself) did not know if it could be successfully completed - nor when that would be. It so happens - that it did take 3 years work - part time as such.
I think most people do not realise how big that game is - that it did take up 4 disk sides - though there are 2 level options - and that the secondary games in both levels - are unique - but the main game landscapes remain the same. It does have a game save/load - so it's not designed to be played through in one sitting - even if you set it up for a marathon weekend?

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Re: Atari the 8 bit wonder

Postby farvardin » Wed Feb 11, 2015 3:47 pm

sorry, I didn't understand the 1979 date was about Atari 8bit, not about the game...

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Re: Atari the 8 bit wonder

Postby kiwilove007 » Wed Feb 11, 2015 10:40 pm

I'm not so good with my memory reading stuff - but I will guess that it's actually around 1978? That the Atari 400/800 computers were designed - around this time. Star Raiders is copyrighted 1979 - and I think it's mentioned in an interview with the programmer - that he had the extra time to really fine-tune / playtest the game thoroughly. Most games are usually rushed through, in which the time for playtesting is most probably quite short. One of the last design changes to the Atari 400/800 was the addition of the GTIA chip - also memory was very expensive at this time - because 8K carts were thought to be target size - but that quickly changed to 16K. However around 1980-1981 --- 32K would be the desired minimum - as people wanted to upgrade their 16K Atari 400/800 - and upgrades to 32k were then available. This soon changed to 48K - which was the maximum for the Atari 400/800.
When the Vic-20 appeared - and William Shatner headed the adverts for it - sales take off - and the computer sales wars really took off. The appearance of the C-64 changed everything - because here was a very capable computer sold at a rock bottom price (at least for the American market). But if you actually looked at it's build quality - opened up the casing and had a look inside - you'll not be surprised at how flimsy it all is - and is very different to the Atari 400/800 computers (which has heavy RF shielding). So the XL/XE series of Atari home computers appeared - to square up against the C-64. However to maintain compatibility with the Atari 400/800 software (say, unlike the Vic-20 to the C-64) the graphics hardware specs did not change - but they were cheaper to manufacture - and therefore could be sold profitably at a low price.
The UK market was different - because they wanted cheaper computers still - hence the popularity of the ZX Spectrum.

It may seem a bit ironical that in 2013 - that I got back into designing graphics for a Atari 400/800/etc project - after a break of 23? years. I could have pushed for maybe a higher spec system - such as the Atari ST(e), PC or even SNES. Not the Amiga - because Paul Lay had not done anything for that computer system - and probably would not be that interested in putting in the extra work required for that? The Amiga was not on my list - of wanting to do something for it - list.
Paul wanted to get into something a few months earlier on - but I did not bite then - however after him seeing Crownland running did ideas from that game sparked him into copying some of those aspects shown. This does happen amonst programmers - they do have a very keen eye, and notice things in the minutest detail - and if they understand the hardware - can work out what is being done on screen - by another programmer. I've noticed this with Andrew Bradfield - that he did copy stuff from other games and used that in his own programs/games.

For me - there was the very strong desire to try doing something different? That wasn't done before for the Atari 400/800 etc computers - such as using the GTIA modes fully functional within a game. There has been the odd game that did use the GTIA mode (Colony 7 comes to mind) - and Crumble's Crisis? but these were not successful as such. Good on them for trying, though.
I had no real idea of what I could end up with - as the GTIA modes/graphics are very peculiar indeed. It was rather straight forward in copying the Atari Robot - of reproducing it in a bigger size - while it was possible to use it, in the same size as the demo - this would have made it very small - also using up all of the character set - actually I don't think it fitted in at all? Re-doing it in a blown up size - actually worked out better and looked very good indeed. I don't know the details concerning the Atari Robot and Spaceship demo - nor who did it? I think it is absolutely jaw dropping - and shows absolute brilliance/mastery at work.

Anyway the Atari 400/800 computers do have a very special place within my heart as such - and I wanted to show that, if I can..

Harvey

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Re: Atari the 8 bit wonder

Postby Atari030 » Wed Feb 11, 2015 11:23 pm

I grew up in a small town in New Zealand, and for some odd reason the Atari computers were quite popular at my school. A heap of kids had em. We used to laugh at the poor bugger with the Vic 20 and chastise the C64 owners. We knew we had it over them. :lol:

Anyway, I get the nostalgia with these machines. I'd be up playing Star Raiders on the old 50cm TV that took up two desks in my bedroom and often went green. Pole Position, NY city, Ballblazer rescue on fractulus. Years later I discovered demo's........ Hawkquest was the game I was thinking of too.

800XL, the Hilux of computers.

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Re: Atari the 8 bit wonder

Postby kiwilove007 » Thu Feb 12, 2015 4:18 am

I think it's all a matter of doing a little bit of research, and seeing what programs/games are running on which computer - to give you some idea of whether that particular computer will suit you or not? And to not rely upon advertising alone. In NZ the Atari 400 (& 800) prices - I think was inflated by it's distributor - Ozisoft. I can only guess that they purchased their stock at retail - and had to pass on it's costs to the consumer. At NZ$1295? the Atari 400 16k was not cheap to buy.
The Vic-20 would be considerably cheaper than this - I did get to play some Vic-20 games many years later - and I was very much underwhelmed, though I knew this already - knowing it's hardware limitations.

If you haven't seen AtariBLAST! running yet ... you're in for a very pleasant surprise. And it should look great on a large screen LCD TV. What other computer can do that today - amaze people still...

Harvey

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Re: Atari the 8 bit wonder

Postby Atari030 » Thu Feb 12, 2015 5:03 am

By the time I got my 800XL, Whitcoulls (1983?) were selling them IIRC. Back in those days all imports to NZ were inflated. All the PSU's were aftermarket too, did you notice? I think made in Australia by Futuretronics.

Right, I'm going to hook the 130XE into the 50" Plasma this weekend. :-) The 8 bits never cease to amaze me, how much can be squeezed out.

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Re: Atari the 8 bit wonder

Postby kiwilove007 » Thu Feb 12, 2015 10:55 am

I purchased my first home computer - an Atari 800 with 48k in December 1982 in Hammersmith, London - I forget the exact price I paid, maybe around £700? as the price was dropping slightly then, with 410 recorder, Shamus, and Star Raiders and Pacman carts. It must have been around a couple of years? I spent reading about home computers in computer magazines ... and tried looking at what computers were available in Dunedin, Christchurch, Auckland, LA (couldn't actually find a computer store there...) and somehow I made up my mind in London - to finally buy a computer there...
I lived in Hull for about 10 months - so around June? I did see a C-64 running - but there were little games for it, at it's release time.
I did make the point of having the 800 converted from PAL-A to PAL-B so that it would work OK, back in Dunedin. A few years later I did get an Atari 600XL briefly - had it upgraded from 16k to 64k internally. Also had a 800XL too - briefly - then a 130XE. When games were scarce for the Atari - I did have a C-64 for about 6 months - first with cassettes - then got a disk drive and action replay II cart - so as to speed the thing up.
I was an early adoptee of the 1040ST - and later changed over to an Amiga 500. I eventually got a Sega Megadrive and a few carts - but it was the Super Famicom that really caught my attention - and delivered the high quality arcade conversions - of late 80s coin-op games, and early 90s? I got a disk drive device for it - which got over the high cost of carts, so that you could run ROM files from floppy disk.
I never had too many systems at the one time - as I could not afford that, and sold my older system/computer.

I did regret selling my Atari 800 - I did have a happy 810 drive, and a 1050 US Doubler one - but I simply couldn't afford to keep it.

AtariBLAST! does run from a flashcart (such as Maxcart?) - and I don't have any Atari hardware anymore, so I don't know how to actually run it via flashcart. However the first version, ie. GTIABlast! was designed to run within 48k from disk. Later versions do not.
All versions can be found at the http://www.playsoft.co.uk website.
You probably missed seeing the Techbytes converage of GTIABlast! on TV3 in Sept 2013... but they hardly showed much of it..

I use the Altirra emulator to run the test programs of AtariBLAST! with - on a 40" LCD Samsung TV - ie. via my laptop. I only handle the graphics designs - and don't have anything to do with the technical/programming side of it.

Harvey

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Re: Atari the 8 bit wonder

Postby Atari030 » Thu Feb 12, 2015 11:43 pm

I'm in Melbourne now, pity I missed it, I was back in Otago in November.

I've bookmarked the link, looking forward to a browse and seeing where 8 bit hardware is at now too.

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Re: Atari the 8 bit wonder

Postby kiwilove007 » Fri Feb 13, 2015 12:47 am

There is a link I think at the above site - because I uploaded the clip to Youtube.

What you could do - is compare the original Atari hardware hooked up to your plasma - versus Altirra (laptop/PC) hooked up to the same - and see if you can tell the difference? Which is better. Which is what you may have to end up doing - to see the first GTIABlast! compared to AtariBLAST! - and can note what a one year's difference makes? The demo is not really playable - in that attack waves are only roughly pencilled in - and only give an appearance as to how they may be like? Proper work on them hasn't really started yet - as it's the last thing to be done... but you should be able to note the minor changes made when you see these demos running...
Crownland is to be blamed for kicking GTIABlast! off - that without the appearance of this particular game - which is a standout... GTIAblast! probably wouldn't have appeared at all? Crownland - I'll guess probably lacks some finesse in it's game control/response area - I'll guess it could have done with a 2 button joystick option? It's been so long that I tested it out - I can only remember that I did get the feeling it was not easy to control - but I did not spend too much time on trying it out...

Harvey

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Re: Atari the 8 bit wonder

Postby kiwilove007 » Tue Sep 13, 2016 10:56 pm

AtariBLAST! is finished as a project/game - and not a demo. This was/is in early Sept 2016. Work started on this project from the 1st January 2012 ....

It comes in 3 flavours - Atari 5200 (requires the Atarimax 5200 Ultimate SD cartridge), the Atari 8-bit version for Atari 400/800 etc to 130XE - that runs off a 8mbit flashcart - I think it runs off the two types available - Atarimax and TheCart!? and a special 1088K expanded memory version. These are downloadable via the Atariage site. The last 2 do run off an emulator - if you don't have a flashcart. The 5200 version cannot run via emulation. Videos are posted up at Youtube for those who wish to view them.

It is meant to be a fun blasting' type game - and does not take itself too seriously.

Above all it is a celebration of Atari shooters and of the various Atari graphic modes.

Try it out yourself and I hope you'll have fun doing so...

Harvey

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Re: Atari the 8 bit wonder

Postby Atari030 » Wed Sep 14, 2016 2:11 am

I saw that, Harvey. It looks stunning. Many thanks for it. ATM I only have a 256k 800XL and stock 130XE running SIO2PC. I have a dead 130XE I think I might shoe horn for a repair and few upgrades just to get it running.

I noticed a few old A8 folks kicking around Atari Age like Paul Lay. I remember his work (and yours) from the good ole days in Page 6, I still get a kick out of hearing that DD beep as games load and those awesome Pokey tunes. More so than I do on the ST/Falc. Pity you can't run Atari Blast from disk. :-)

Incidentally, I made an Svideo cable for my A8 and on LCD it looks superb. MUCH better than composite vid.

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Re: Atari the 8 bit wonder

Postby kiwilove007 » Thu Sep 15, 2016 11:01 am

Nice to read your post...

Paul couldn't get hold of blank (or reusable) floppies - being the main reason for not going the disk route.
Going flashcart - did mean that a 5200 version was now more easily possible to provide.

And even 16K Atari 400's can run the flashcart. Which I just tested today - in a special Retro Gaming Lounge that opened in Dunedin the other day - it's only there for 10 days though.
I do think flashcart is the better option - particularly for the future as the old hardware fails (ie. disk drives particularly).

While I did move onto the Atari ST and Amiga - I really don't have the desire to develop for those systems - but if Paul wanted to - on the ST, I probably wouldn't say no to that. The SNES is always another hardware possibility - but I don't have the overwhelming desire to want to work on new projects for that - because it would better deliver platform games - and any other.
Somehow I think it's better to remain on the A8 hardware in spite of it's hardware limitations - and try working around them. Nostalgia wise, it has that feel good factor with it, over the others I've used/played/etc.

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Re: Atari the 8 bit wonder

Postby Atari030 » Thu Sep 15, 2016 2:19 pm

I agree. There does seem to be a heap of development on A8 over the last few years I have missed, it is quite exciting.

I was in Dunedin for the last AB's game about 8 weeks ago, pity I missed it. I should be back over around Christmas.

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Re: Atari the 8 bit wonder

Postby kiwilove007 » Sun Sep 18, 2016 9:34 pm

AtariBlast! is free to download via the atariage forums. The 8-bit versions can run under emulation for those who don't have the flashcart yet or 1088K of memory upgraded.

I'm hopeful someone will take the game to the Portland Retrogaming Gaming Expo which is in Oct? in the US. I think Atarimax would have it's hardware on sale there? Or at least the 5200 podcast folks/etc will be there. Hope someone will video it. Like to see it running on a large screen - and maybe people going for high scores and winning prizes on the day for doing so?
Same for retro groups in Europe - ought to be ideal for such events - since it's a spot the graphics (from which game/demo) throughout the levels in the game/etc.

Harvey


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