Developing a new game on an old computer system

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Developing a new game on an old computer system

Postby Harvey on Fri Feb 15, 2013 9:03 am

Is there any point in developing a new game for a 34 year old computer?

Well, I thought I was through when I helped complete a game way back in 1989, in designing the graphics for an Atari 800 game - but now I am in the midst of doing it all over again... Well not exactly - I don't have any of the original hardware to run/test it on, and I'm using graphic/screen editors running in Windows Explorer browser (using Flash I think) and using the Altirra emulator to test demos with. It will run on the original hardware - as it will be tested throughout to ensure this.

I won't reveal details about it here - but can only say - it had to be special to make it worthwhile, and an eye opener. The programmer is an English contact with whom I have worked with before.

My general question is: Have people noticed any new computer software that has been released, that has made them say 'Wow'... --- one example can be 'Thrust' for the Vectrex system. And would you like to see new computer software for your favourite classic computer system?

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Re: Developing a new game on an old computer system

Postby Carcenomy on Fri Feb 15, 2013 12:07 pm

To this day the demoscene for the Commodore machines is alive and well, the stuff people are achieving with unexpanded 64s and Amigas is amazing. I haven't seen any new games in some time though.

Would I like to see new software for my favourite classics? Hmm... Kinda, but kinda not, if you know what I mean. New software with nice modern programming is undoubtedly gonna be great, but it's just not the same.
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Re: Developing a new game on an old computer system

Postby tezza on Fri Feb 15, 2013 12:15 pm

I've heard of new games still coming out for the likes of the Sinclair spectrum. Among user communities of the real classic computers it seems to be something that is part and parcel of the continuing enjoyment of the machines.
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Re: Developing a new game on an old computer system

Postby lizardb0y on Fri Feb 15, 2013 12:34 pm

Hi Harvey,

I think that it is worthwhile developing for old platforms as long as you don't expect to profit from it. There is a lively enthusiast scene around most of the platforms I've looked at, and Atari definietly still has a strong following.

I recently bought (on tape!) Jonathan Cauldwell's "More tea Vicar" for the ZX Spectrum from Cronosoft and was really impressed with the quality of the game. It defineitely made me say "Wow!" There have also been a number of new releases on various platforms from Revival Studios.

Having now acquired an (NTSC) Atari 800 at great expense I'm looking for excuses to use it, and a new Harvey Kong Tin release would definitely be an excuse. Once I have storage set up and working I'm happy to provide testing services if you'd like :)
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Re: Developing a new game on an old computer system

Postby Harvey on Fri Feb 15, 2013 1:43 pm

Hi Andrew

Last year I would not have thought I'll be working for the Atari 800 again, and was only collecting documentation from the 1980s' days.. but now that's all changed. It can be anywhere from 1-2 years before this demo/game will be finished or near completion. And it can only run properly on the original hardware, despite Altirra's brilliant emulation.
I'm not the genius behind it, that's for sure.
I'd like to release details, etc etc but that will have to wait until much later on.

I would like to see video of the games on other platforms - and will use Youtube for that..

Your help may be needed to write it back onto original floppy disks - if that end is not soted out, at that time...

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Re: Developing a new game on an old computer system

Postby Gibsaw on Fri Feb 15, 2013 3:22 pm

Harvey wrote:it can only run properly on the original hardware

This is deliberate? Or it's doing something unsupported by the emulator?
Carcenomy wrote:To this day the demoscene for the Commodore machines is alive and well, the stuff people are achieving with unexpanded 64s and Amigas is amazing. I haven't seen any new games in some time though.

Not surprising really. Well, the problem is that demos are what they are. People showing off. Short demonstrations of technique. A game, with a story, and an immersive, playable world and all the content creation that it requires takes considerably more effort and time for an almost zero size market.
Carcenomy wrote:Would I like to see new software for my favourite classics? Hmm... Kinda, but kinda not, if you know what I mean. New software with nice modern programming is undoubtedly gonna be great, but it's just not the same.

I know what you mean. These things made you go wow, back then, and while I still get a warm feeling from the nostalgia, more of the same isn't going to excite me. It's really only worth doing if you can take modern techniques and make the machine do something people didn't make it do back then. (M.O.O.D for C64 springs to mind.)

Even then, it's an enormous development effort that will get you not much more than a "wow, that's cool" from the vintage enthusiasts. Almost all the existing software is pretty much abandonware now, so it's quite an emotional hurdle to get someone to pay for a piece of new software for an old machine.

Look at the difference between the vintage hardware and vintage software markets. Ask a lot for hardware and people grumble... but may pay anyway. Ask a lot for vintage software and people just laugh.
Last edited by Gibsaw on Sat Feb 16, 2013 9:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Developing a new game on an old computer system

Postby acsi on Fri Feb 15, 2013 4:49 pm

Have people noticed any new computer software that has been released, that has made them say 'Wow'...


Yep. Vicloumn for the unexpanded Vic20. Got it from Chaos Mongers a few years ago (its no longer listed on the site though) but it is fantastic. Very addictive, playable and the music is excellent.

http://www.oldschool-gaming.com/view_review.php?rev=vic_vicolumn
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Re: Developing a new game on an old computer system

Postby Harvey on Fri Feb 15, 2013 9:04 pm

I did forget that I did mess up the graphics driver for my laptop - so that could explain why Altirra is not working at it's best? Previously my HD video playback was faultless, now it's rather jerky. So probably if my graphics driver is working normally, Altirra could reproduce the game demo, as on original hardware - flawlessly...

It requires a lot of hard work, time and expertise -- to finish a game of commercial quality. Of course, you cannot expect to get financial recompense for such work these days at all. Just like with releasing Thrust for the Vectrex - it really won't make any profit for the programmer/etc involved. People who spend time developing anything for the old out-dated computers of 30+ years ago - do it for the joy of it - for personal satisfaction. Athough if you are doing it because no one has done it before, and are breaking new ground - then you are making 'history' although it may be called retrogaming history.

Younger generation developers who have no history with developing for these old computers - are of course better off developing for the current hardware in use - such as the new tablets and the like - where it is possible for them to make some real money from it - if they can produce some really fun, addictive, innovative games, etc etc.

The programmer of this game project, I'm working with - has PAL and NTSC (recently purchased) Atari 800s to test the demos he's working on. When developing - it is usual to produce demos all the time, as it is being developed... Although they are usually not shown to anyone else, etc etc.

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Re: Developing a new game on an old computer system

Postby recycled on Sat Feb 16, 2013 10:57 am

I have run across many websites created by enthusiasts making software for old 8 bitters. And as indicated, the demo scene never left these machines to die, with lot of modern effects being 'simulated' to some degree or other as a challenge on the older hardware. However, as a commercial concern, there's the thing... Yes, I've seen a couple of sites dedicated to this too, and some online communities are plugging away still. http://www.RetroSoftware.co.uk as an example of one I regularly visit - they offer both newly developed or finished off free and commercially released games for the BBC. I ran across one for the Spectrum (I think!) a while back but didn't bookmark it. The C64 is in a league of its own when you look at people still producing software for it.

Harvey wrote:My general question is: Have people noticed any new computer software that has been released, that has made them say 'Wow'... --- one example can be 'Thrust' for the Vectrex system. And would you like to see new computer software for your favourite classic computer system?

Yes, and yes. You are new to retro computing perhaps, or not quite rabid with the bug as some of us are!

Harvey wrote:It requires a lot of hard work, time and expertise -- to finish a game of commercial quality. Of course, you cannot expect to get financial recompense for such work these days at all. Just like with releasing Thrust for the Vectrex - it really won't make any profit for the programmer/etc involved. People who spend time developing anything for the old out-dated computers of 30+ years ago - do it for the joy of it - for personal satisfaction. Athough if you are doing it because no one has done it before, and are breaking new ground - then you are making 'history' although it may be called retrogaming history.

...and then you sum it all up yourself!

It's like people making hardware for older computers, making emulators for modern operating systems, repairing old hardware/software, creating devices/software for newer systems to work with the vintage files etc. We do it because we have some sort of affliction where the old gear is both a challenge, a learning experience and FUN. Exactly your opinion. Who knows how many others out there are as backwards as us here!

Test the market. Your game will be a success when it is completed regardless if you make it available for free download or charge $10 a copy and only sell two. Four of us at least will watch the You Tube video of it because we know what it means. Your peers appreciate exactly why it is done. The others can all take a long walk off a short pier.

(You might consider not being so secretive. A developers journal/blog can do a lot of positive advertising if you want the software to be sold, you might even motivate somebody to do a conversion to another platform and double your potential market! Or the feedback could provide encouragement, and for a two year project you're probably going to appreciate it).

<edit for grammar - again>
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Re: Developing a new game on an old computer system

Postby Harvey on Sat Feb 16, 2013 11:11 am

There are always advantages and disadvantages regarding the secretive development aspect. And it's not my decision as to that. I personally would favour the go for the publicity aspect, in documenting it as it develops - publicly, even if it may go through various stalls because of time committments elsewhere, etc etc.
But so far, the leaning is that it will remain secret as such.

For those not familiar with game development - is that the game project does go through lots (100s even 1000s) of demo phases - in which typically, what you control is first put on screen, then the first of the prototype backgrounds, then enemies appearing. So things get added and added until it starts appearing like as in the game. Playability is the very last aspect that is done. It is a very slow and laborious process. Most of these demos will not be impressive as such. But if it is a ground breaking game, or have exceptional graphics, etc etc - these aspects can be seen rather early in it's development - because - it's the reason why the game is being developed in the first place, to be sure that such results are working as in the final game.

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Re: Developing a new game on an old computer system

Postby Gibsaw on Sat Feb 16, 2013 12:05 pm

I have to say that I also do it as kind of a completionist tendency..

I like to finish things I wasn't able to do back then. Back when my Apple II was my main machine, I struggled with assembly because I couldn't afford the books and "free information on the internet" really didn't exist... and the public libraries weren't much help unless you wanted YET ANOTHER generic book on BASIC.

Now that I have just about every book ever written on 6502, plus a compsci degree and 20 years of IT experience... I find myself wanting to go back and do all those cool things I wanted to do when I was 11 years old. Things that are totally useless, and trivial to boot (on a modern machine) but you do them anyway, because it squares away a roadblock from back then. :)
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Re: Developing a new game on an old computer system

Postby Carcenomy on Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:42 pm

Gibsaw wrote:I find myself wanting to go back and do all those cool things I wanted to do when I was 11 years old. Things that are totally useless, and trivial to boot (on a modern machine) but you do them anyway, because it squares away a roadblock from back then. :)

TOTALLY understand this part. I remember as a kid my older brothers talking about amazing things like BBSs and all these crazy groups of people who hang out to talk and play with computers. I always thought it sounded awesome, but by the time I was old enough for any of that stuff BBSs had died out as had computer clubs. So it's always fun little challenges, things like browsing the web on an Amiga - it's utterly pointless but about as close as I'm ever going to get to poking around on BBSs back in the day. Computer clubs aren't something that you still see, closest I've found is running a club that hosts LAN parties. To this day, it's something that's still growing believe it or not.

Harvey, are you after a real 800?
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Re: Developing a new game on an old computer system

Postby Harvey on Fri Mar 01, 2013 6:12 pm

I would be interested in an Atari 800 - or equivalent - but I simply don't have the money to repurchase one again..
I would probably need a disk drive... too...

I wouldn't use it all that much...

I would guess that all those old Atari's (and other such computers) are simply lying around and unused.
Sure, some may wind up on Trade Me, etc but I don't think the demand will be there, for them.
Atari's were particularly underestimated as to how powerful they were for it's time...
If there were lots more games like Star Raiders (instead of a one-off) - they could have been much higher up
the list of top-rated 8-bit computer systems?

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Re: Developing a new game on an old computer system

Postby plaing on Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:02 pm

I was about halfway through a new game for the 8 bit but stalled out...

It was like a crossbetween star raiders and wing commander.

I did a big scrolling GTIA map for the galactic map - about 20 systems with planets and economies i.e. elitestyle trading, but with hyperlinks

Wrote a simple script engine and did the graphics for bases via raytracing on pc and converted to RLE GTIA gr.9 style graphics - they actually looked pretty good.

Space flight was 3d with enemy ships software blitted bitmaps pre raytraced at different angles.

Also coded up finite state machines for flight and ship systems, components upgradeanle, and it was up to the user to decide how they wanted to use the energy budget... I.e. you could turn off shields and crank the reactor to 110 percent and give it all to propulsion... kinda like x-wing
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