More content on graphics for old school gamers in this great video, especially for Apple II and Atari 2600 aficionados. It details how graphics worked on monochrome screens and color screens using 8 bits of memory. Apple II graphics used only 16 colors in low resolution mode and 6 colors in high resolution mode, not bad for a machine that came out in 1977.
Many of us spent hours, if not days in front of Ataris, Commodores, Nintendos and other old school gaming systems. Playing colorful games was then possible on 8 kB, 16kB and 32 kB video RAM. An excellent video from digg.com shows how colors were coded on those early gaming consoles and also details how pixels sprites were used to deliver descent graphics.
We found a great vid of Pitfall designer David Crane giving a talk about designing and writing the Activision-published game for the Atari 2600 all the way back in the early 1980s. This video is from the 2011 GDC (Game Developers Conference). In it, David gives a great deconstruction of the development process for writing games within the suffocating constraints of retro hardware. It’s a bit long, but if you have the time to watch it’s worth it.
From the related article over at Hackaday:
This was a developer’s panel so you can bet the video… digs deep into coding challenges. Frame buffer? No way! The 2600 could only pump out 160 pixels at once; a single TV scan line. The programs were hopelessly synced with the TV refresh rate, and were even limited on how many things could be drawn within a single scan line. For us the most interesting part is near the end when [David] describes how the set of game screens are nothing more than a pseudo-random number generator with a carefully chosen seed. But then again, the recollection of hand optimizating the code to fit a 6k game on a 4k ROM is equally compelling.
So, this all brings to mind something that Papilio users can have some fun with on the Arcade MegaWing – we have Atari 2600 code ready and waiting for you to dive into! Papilio user Retromaster has got some 2600 code up and running – please note that it is experimental code and has not been published, but it should be a good starting point nonetheless.
You can find the Atari 2600 code at the link below. This is Retromaster’s A2601 HDL code that re-creates an Atari 2600 that Pitfall can be run on. Don’t be shy, give it a whirl! It’s always a nice, nostalgic trip down memory lane every time I load up one of these retro classics!