Have I played Atari today?

I have indeed, mostly because a first cartridge prototype of my Atari 8-bit game Callisto arrived through the post and needed a jolly good testing; there are some problems that need ironing out (after all, it’s a prototype) but we’re getting there. And by total coincidence, I found out about an hour ago that Callisto also took the third place in this year’s Kaz competition over at Polish website Atari Online, which is voted for by members of various Atari 8-bit forums so it’s been a pretty good day!

And, since the 800XL and its cables were out of storage for testing, I’ve finally had a chance to test the 800XL and 600XL that were picked up for a fiver each from Level Up whilst I was in Kent for GEEK 2013… erm, unless you’re my other half reading this of course, in which case I didn’t bring anything back, it’s all your imagination and this really isn’t a photo of the Callisto prototype on the “new” 800XL. Honest!

Although that 800XL is a very happy if somewhat grubby bunny, the 600XL has a keyboard problem with the W key; from what I can gather from some inept prodding around, part of the plastic seems to have given up the ghost and isn’t applying pressure so the key is always “down”. Still, my plan was to just shove a Moon Patrol cartridge into it anyway and that works regardless so having the key stuck isn’t an issue!

Now, how d’you VGA convert an 800XL…?

Atari here, Atari there

The free time I’ve had over last couple of weeks has been very… well, Atari-filled; my scrolling shoot ’em up Callisto made it out of the door safely and just in time for this year’s ABBUC software competition and there’s another scrolling shoot ’em up been submitted so I’m particularly looking forward to playing that when the releases start filtering through to the public domain in a month or two. Entering the competition has been on my “to do” list for several years now so I’m pretty pleased that the planets have finally aligned correctly for it to happen.

There’s also a fun little (literally, since there’s a size limit of 4K) Atari 8-bit BASIC coding competition on the Atari Age forums and I threw my hat into the ring for it with Stellar Caverns, one of those “use PRINT to scroll the screen vertically” games where the player has to navigate safely through a tunnel. The quirk is that the display list (the sort of scripting language used to define the Atari 8-bit’s display) has been customised to flip the character screen memory vertically so the scrolling runs downwards rather than up.

Finally there’s a third Atari 8-bit game in the early stages of development, but I’m keeping that one under my metaphorical hat until there’s at least a playable level ready to show off demonstrate. That might be happening at Play in October as long as I’ve got enough coding time and there are a few other projects that need attention…!

Return from Replay 2011

Good grief… this time last week I was in Blackpool in the process of getting set up for Replay 2011!

I was there under the Oldschool Gaming flag and had a C64 with a 1541 Ultimate running Jason Tinkler’s Out-Space, a VIC 20 (which was loading from the C64’s 1541U) which usually either had The Keep or my unreleased 16K version of Lunar Blitz (which i really must get around to cleaning up and releasing) on the go, a Spectrum +2 with a painfully wobbly DivIDE that just about loaded Dingo or Reaxion if you spoke to it nicely, an Atari 800XL equipped with an SIO2SD that spent most of day one running Space Harrier from cartridge and day two showing off my sadly still work-in-progress shooter Callisto with a burst of Mighty Jill Off here and there. And at the end was my partially converted C64GS, running cartridges of Edge Grinder and Blok Copy for pretty much the entire event.

Those were joined by Antiriad’s Oric Atmos which spent some time showing off the nearly complete conversion of Skool Daze, Kenz’s Specadore 64 which had an Easyflash and Prince of Persia for some of the event and Mark Ball’s Atari 7800, which had what was one of only two XM expansion modules connected and was running quite a few games that utilised the shiny new hardware!

OSG was set up in the entrance hall before the doors to the event itself and in the long run that worked out pretty well; the main hall was, as with last year, reminiscent of 1980s gaming events, in other words a cacophony of excited chatter, 8- and 16-bit sounds with PA announcements overlaid. Had we been in there or even the second hall where we were originally pencilled in to be, the odds are I’d not have been able to talk to anybody… and I did a quite frankly scary amount of talking! During the course of the weekend I chatted to all manner of people including James Monkman, Frank Gasking, Sean Connolly, Jason Tinkler, Colin Davies, Jason “Kenz” Mackenzie, Dan Gillgrass, Mark R. Jones, Soren “Sokurah” Borgquist, Jens Schönfeld, Darran Jones, Andrew Fisher, Gasman… the list continues well past the capacity of my memory and I’m surprised my voice didn’t give out completely!

I’d just like to thank the organisers Dave, Gordon and Matt for putting in so much effort to get this event off the ground again, all the volunteers who put time, effort and hardware into making those grand plans possible, everybody who wandered past the Oldschool Gaming stand and stopped to play or chat and Spencer Guest for driving me and the computers there and back. Finally, I didn’t take many pictures because my eyesight was a bit crap during the weekend but here’s the entire Replay 2011 gallery along with all the preamble images from posts prior to the event: