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Atari 2600 Homebrew - Spear Diver - Artwork Feedback


Lambda
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Hey All!

I was directed to this more appropriate thread so I am reposting here under a fresh topic:


Atari 2600 is the only system I have produced code to cartridge and published for as a homebrewer. It’s a small 4k mini game with 4 levels geared at teaching my daughter some of the benefits in understanding Pythagorean theorem  when she’s a bit older 🙂

I only produced 10 copies of the game, and got shelf space in a local game shop (Game-On in Miller Place and Smithtown NY - amazing group of people), and I wound up selling all copies before I ever had the chance to even speak about the production. (As a programmer I also have a “thing” about announcing a project before completion.... so many programmers in general (not just game devs) have a habit of announcing a project and not completing it. This is partly why I rarely ever speak about my work before it’s already finished). This is actually only the second time I’ve ever even spoken about this game (the first was on the NA forums just before they got destroyed). 
 

But, some of the feedback I got from my buyers was that they thought the artwork was different... one collector (full 2600 set) and a known collector on Long Island NY, told me the art was the reason he bought the game... he felt it was interesting. (Again, the game was designed for kids, so I had that “vibe” in mind when I designed it). But I’d love to get some feedback as to whether I should maybe continue this art style, or change pace and go for something a little more true to what Atari game artwork looked like back in the day, on my future games. I designed everything myself: the code, the artwork, the manual, etc. hand soldered every board and hand assembled all of the boxes and manuals myself.

All feedback is welcome! 😄  Id love to hear what you all think, good or bad. 
I’m just really happy to be back with you all! 

 

pic related: Let me know what you guys think! Should I continue on with this style or maybe try for a more true to timeframe artwork style on my next homebrew? Thanks to all who respond!

370DF0DF-5665-49DB-A6B2-3E19ABE89429.jpeg

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@TrekMD thank you!

this is a homebrew mini game I produced. I designed it to be fun (and just the right dose of frustrating) for kids like my daughter and nephews. I used some basic mechanics that’d make it fun for them to understand some basic math concepts, and also give myself a fun way to show and explain to them. 
 

the game is relatively simple in concept. You start as a diver at the bottom of the ocean. You have an air supply that is constantly and quickly running out. In order to increase your air level, you must catch fish by colliding into them. Fish are constantly swimming by, and for each fish you catch, your air increases by a set amount... but for every fish you let swim away, your air drops by a set amount as well. This creates a “panicked” scenario where the player is constantly having to think about the most efficient way to keep catching fish. 
 

once the players air has increased a significant amount, it’s time to move on to the final stages of the mini game. The player moves the Diver off screen to the right and enters the next area. There are now no more fish left to be caught. Whatever air level you chose to progress with is now what you’re stuck with, and you’ll have to complete the game before the air drops to zero and you drown. (Little elements of “real world” risk here by allowing the player to make his own choices). 
The goal now on the next area is to swim across the screen from left to right while being chased by a territorial squid. If the squid catches you, it’s game over. Get past the squid to move on to the next area.

the next area is guarded by a shark. Same deal here, you’ll have to swim past him without being caught. Get caught by the shark (or drown) and it’s game over.

the shark has a bit more of an “upgraded” “AI” (that is if anything can even be called AI in an Atari 2600 game haha). It will feel a bit more like the shark is stalking you before it makes its attack for you, and getting past him is definitely harder than getting past the squid.

if you manage to get past the shark, the next screen is simple:

dive down to the treasure chest... hopefully you’ll have enough air left in the tank and won’t drown before you reach it. If you do, you win!

 

the concept is pretty simple, and I’ve gotten a HUGE kick out of watching my younger nephews struggle a bit with this game at times. The level of frustration and high pace (frantic at times) seems to be just right to make the game fun.

while I designed this game with kids in mind, I have had quite a few friends my age (30s) try this game out. Two of them had never played an Atari before. They surprisingly  both were playing for 15-20 minutes each, taking turns, before they could figure out how to beat the game and swim past the squid and the shark. (It was actually hilarious for me to watch them Finally swim past the shark, only to drown a few feet from the treasure chest, and have to start over again).

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@TrekMD 

this game was never really mentioned anywhere online prior to this post. I got some shelf space with a local retro game shop (Game-On in Miller Place and Smithtown NY ... amazing people) and I decided I wanted to sell the game locally rather than online. Only 10 copies were produced and all have been sold now. 

@G-type thanks for the feedback! After testing the homebrew on Stella, before programming the EPROMs, I realized the game lost a bit of its fun and value by playing with the arrow keys rather than an original joy. (That sense of panic and frantic wrist movement just wasn’t the same on the beta testing, so I decided to do a hardware only release). This is not at all to say that lots of people don’t have SD Carts they can load the rom with and still play on original hardware. Although I never did it in the past, if you’re interested, I have a slightly modified “standard” version (aesthetics alone), as opposed to the limited edition... I’d be happy to get the bin over to you if you’d want to give it a play through? 🙂 I’d be really honored. I must say though, I hope you have a way of playing with a joy as opposed to arrow keys on the keyboard... it’s a lot more fun that way 🙂 and if you’re a seasoned Atari vet and happen to beat the game fairly easily, maybe there’s a kid in your life you can sit down and give a shot at it. I’m telling you... I had such a blast watching my 8 year old nephew get frustrated (enjoyably of course), and become determined to beat it 😂. These new games nowadays like fortnite have completely deprived the younger generation of what it felt like to crack your wrists on a good old joystick!

Edited by Lambda
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A bit more on the game: once it is beaten, I realize it can lose a bit of replay value... however... there are a couple of reasons to revisit.

in the manual is QR code that alludes to a secret cheat within the game... to this day nobody has found it yet and I actually have a prize waiting for the first individual to find it successfully 😃.

Also, being the coder of the game I have some VERY strong feelings on what time would be needed to beat the game in a speed run. (Can you reach the treasure chest without ever replenishing any air?!)... if you can’t, the way you swim will matter to create the score lowest to minimal air needed to win before the player drowns. I would love to see someone give that a go.

 

@TrekMD and @G-type, I’d be happy to share the bins with you guys if you’d want to give it a shot. I can also email or include the electronic version of the manual for a bit more “full effect”. (There are some very subtle “hints” For getting past the shark in the manual).

 

I’ve included with this post a picture of the back of the box which shows two screenshots from gameplay (level 1 and level 2). 

 

1A1B61BE-6D32-468F-9D5C-D9250B965AE1.jpeg

Edited by Lambda
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Many 2600 games were painted in that representational style, but others were not such as Adventure, Pacman, or any of the Activision games. Do whatever you want to do, imo. 

Your game sounds cool. I don’t have a flash cart yet, and I have dozens of NES hack and homebrew roms that I have yet to get around to, so I won’t ask for a copy. Still, good work.

Edited by Link
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28 minutes ago, Link said:

Many 2600 games were painted in that representational style, but others were not such as Bioshock, Pacman, or any of the Activision games. Do whatever you want to do, imo. 

Your game sounds cool. I don’t have a flash cart yet, and I have dozens of NES hack and homebrew roms that I have yet to get around to, so I won’t ask for a copy. Still, good work.

@Link Thank you so much for the feedback!

I never felt fully satisfied with the way the game played on Stella using only arrow keys.. (as mentioned above, the game is far more fun and “wrist-breaker”-esque with real hardware). But at this point, being that I’ve sold all copies, I’d be happy to release a bin if you’re interested in adding it to your library. If you play one day, that’d be a big honor to me... and more so... I’m now happy to open the “cheat” discovery to ROMS. Nobody has found it yet, and I have a prize for the first person who finds or accurately describes it. I’ll make a direct email, or forum post here as fair game. 
 

* the cheat is actually an intentional bug I left in the code. But it’ll take a keen eye to see it first, and then recreate it on a subsequent run of the game. 
 

cheers!

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4 hours ago, Lambda said:

But at this point, being that I’ve sold all copies, I’d be happy to release a bin if you’re interested in adding it to your library. If you play one day, that’d be a big honor to me... and more so... I’m now happy to open the “cheat” discovery to ROMS. 

Well, hell. Send it my way, then. I’ll be happy to add it to my backlog. Life...

I certainly agree with you about playing console games on a keyboard. I do find it useful to decide if I have interest in playing for real, but it’s far from optimal. 

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12 hours ago, Lambda said:

But at this point, being that I’ve sold all copies, I’d be happy to release a bin if you’re interested in adding it to your library.

I've been following this thread, and if you're willing to send out copies, I'd love to give it a shot as well.  While the overall gameplay sounds obviously different, it seems similar enough to one of my all time favorites (Seaquest) to get addictive quick!

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@TrekMD

@Link

@darkchylde28

@G-type

 

Thank you all so much for the kind words! Means a lot to me. I apologize for my late response here, I’ve been swamped with work today (and I’m just finishing help my step-daughter design a website for a school project (she was a main beta tester for the game and is mentioned in the manual haha)).

As soon as I finish up, I will get the binary online (along with box images, manual in digital format, and QR code’s to make the package complete). I’ll open up a new topic and be sure to tag you all immediately. The new topic will announce the download and open up the contest for the “cheat” discovery to everyone, including ROM players. I finished putting together a small package for the winner today, and I’m happy with the way it turned out. I hope they will be too 🙂 .

Can’t thank you all enough for the encouraging words and support. This has only motivated me to keep brewing and keep getting better. (I have an 11 month old, two step kids of pre-teen and teen years, and two businesses I run, so time is short for me quite often 😂). But, Im going to keep working on new projects and continue sharing. Getting the feedback you guys all shared was truly humbling, and I thank you all!

 

On this note... does anyone have any suggestions as to how to properly post a bin to these forums? I’ve never done so before, and I’m sure I could figure it out, but I’d be happy to hear suggestions if there is a best practice. 
(ie: post the binary directly via attachment here? (I’m not even sure if the website here allows executable attachments)... or... host the binary on another site and link to it from here?) Any input is appreciated!

 

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