Instructables
Picture of How to Make an Atari Game
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It's the console that stood the test of time longer than any other... the Atari 2600 VCS! From Warlords, Pole Position, Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, and even the infamous Pac-Man, the classics from the 70's, 80's, and on into the 90's are still as playable today as when they were released. The characters created still permeate pop-culture and are among the most unique of all video games.

Now, several decades later, the resources are available for the common person to create their own game. Modern video games require teams of programmers who remain virtually nameless, yet the people who choose to program for these early retro systems (Coleco, Atari, NES) can control ALL aspects of their game including plot, characters, graphics and all of the other things that go into a game. You can create an entire game by yourself. This instructable won't show you everything you need to know, but rather give you a set of resources you can use to make your own game.

A word of warning: I spent two years of my life trying to teach myself to program well enough in Assembly to make this work. Yes, the majority of games are programmed in Assembly, however there is the possibility of also programming in Basic (if you are interested, google search for batariBasic). I had no real programming experience, and while I could hack code and pretty well understand other people's code, I never was able to write my own code from scratch. You need to evaluate whether you're serious enough to see this through before you begin.

 
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parski4 years ago
 This Instructable has inspired me to program an Atari 2600 game as my third year project wich is a huge part of my grade. Lovely guide!
yokozuna (author)  parski3 years ago
Did you ever happen to work on this project? I wasn't sure if fall semester would be year three for you or not. If you make anything, I would love to see it!
parski yokozuna3 years ago
Absolutely! I'm working on a Snake clone at the moment because I don't think I could handle anything more complex right now. I have not been updating my journal ofter at all, but today is my last school day which means the project period at my school has startet, so updates will come often. You can find the journal here:

http://programmingatari.wordpress.com/

Remember that it's for school, so I write perhaps a bit more than necessary since my project mentor isn't very tech savvy at all.
This is very interesting. I don't think I'll go to the trouble to actually do it, but I didn't know there was a whole hobby, tool set and community based around making retro arcade cartridges.
kosme2 years ago
The boards link is not working.
yokozuna (author)  kosme2 years ago
Thanks... but this was published three years ago. Perhaps the board company is no longer in business or has moved in that time. If I get some time I'll try to find them or another board provider to put in place of them.
FFVIIBOY4 years ago
Dude i wish i could do that but i dont have an atari 2600 i would make FFVII for this, is there any way to do this on a Atari Flashback 2?
Don't let not having a 2600 stop you... the software emulators for the 2600 are very accurate, and can be used to develop and test games.
toogers4 years ago
is it possible to write NES games onto atari carts? i can't find my dad's old NES, only the atari.
yokozuna (author)  toogers4 years ago
No, but if you have a ROM burner, you can put them on NES cartridges that match the type of cartridge used for that particular game. There are services around the web that will also do this for you for a fee. One of the reasons I know people do this is to update NES Tecmo Super Bowl rosters from time to time.
let me rephrase; i want to play NES games on an Atari system. not Atari games on a NES system.
Several things make what you ask impossible. A NES supports far more memory and processing power than the older Atari, but even if you have a very "simple" NES game it still could never work due to incompatabilities.

In general an easier answer is that no 2 gaming consoles are compatible (unless advertised as such, which usually adds cost to the console so most consoles do not do this).

Given enough programming skill and patience, someone "could" make a 2600 version of a NES game. You would be basically making a new 2600 game from scratch which has less graphics and sound, but you might be able to mimic the gameplay. This has been done before.
musick_084 years ago
Im thinking about doing this. I was at a flea market 2 days ago and found an atari 2600 with the cables, 2 joysticks, ms pac-man, pac-man, real sports baseball, and asteroids for $10! (:
Also,  if you happen to own a Sega Genesis controller  it works in an atari.
I didn't know that. I don't own one but I can get one pretty cheap
FFVIIBOY4 years ago
If i had an atari 2600 i would make Cloud, Sephiroth, Wolverine, The Joker (Dark Knight style) Weiss the Immaculate, Nero the Sable, Vincent Valentine, Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, Zack Fair, Claire Farron (a.k.a. Lightning), Bahamut, Link, Roxas, Axel, Reno, Sora, Xigbar, etc., etc. (i have about 100 more guys i could mention but my hand is getting tired)
cucumber2884 years ago
now can you make shooting games, because i was thinking of making my own version of a video game called left 4 dead so i could play it at my a relatives' houses because none of them have xbox 360s
yokozuna (author)  cucumber2884 years ago
If you can dream it, you can achieve it! :)
tinkerC5 years ago
TextEdit does work, just save as plain text ( .txt ), not Rich Text ( .rtf ). If you want to program any language, other than Assembly Line, than Macs are the way to go. No flames please, but it is easier to code on a Mac ( other than on 10.5 Leopard ).
Then you've never tried Linux + EMACS. I was never a EMACS geek (prefer Vim myself), but I've tried it, and kept it for a loooooong time.
 I use Mac + EMACS. Don't think there's a difference.
 They are the same.
Actually, you can access EMACS from a Mac, because Mac and Linux both use UNIX (SP?). Just go into Terminal, on 10.4 or 10.5, and type in "emacs"
O RLY? I've never used a Mac, so I guess I wouldn't know. I'm kind of anti-apple, for reasons I've had so long that I forgot them.
What OS do you use? Apple has changed, so less buggy. Use a Mac at an Apple Store ( they let you use Macs there) for ten minutes, then re-decide. Tell me the reasons when you remember.
I'm currently using Windows Vista, but I wish I had Linux. Too late now. I don't know if there are many Apple stores around where I live (Austin, Texas, so it's all Dell here). I think one of the reasons I don't like Macs is that I grew up with PC/Windows. I would have a hard time switching from what I have used for years, to Microsoft's major competitor. That's why I am still comfortable using Linux -- It's just kind of out there, not really conflicting with anybody. GNU is nice like that.
I found two Apple stores near you. 1: Barton Creek 2901 S. Capital of Texas Highway Austin, TX 78746 (512) 347-7888 2: The Domain 11410 Century Oaks Terrace Austin, TX 78758 (512) 691-4800 Hope you like the Apple stores.
I went to the one at the Domain. Couldn't separate myself from the iPod nanos. The huge-screen iMacs were huge. Wish I could have stayed longer, so I could check them out more. Prices weren't too tempting, though. (I also got a muffin :D)

I also went to the Apple section of my local Fry's. More huge iMacs, though I did get to stay a bit longer, so I explored a bit. I found iLife very interesting. The UI is a bit like GNOME (but only a little), and I'm not too picky with UIs anyways, so I don't think I'd have a lot of trouble there. Mac OS isn't compatible with MS tech (as far as I know), nor is Linux unless you have WINE (and even that's a pain), so my coding habits wouldn't have to change too much. I didn't look at the price.

The games at that macgames.com site you mentioned look familiar... GH3, The Sims X, Halo... Not too many of my favorite PC games, but I'm adaptable. (Just wondering, is there any kind of Windows emulator (or Not Emulator) for Mac that I could run games on?)

The last place I went was my local Goodwill Computer Center. They had a few old, gunky iMacs running Leopard there. Same stuff. <$100.

Overall, I was impressed, but not by the price, and I've only just switched to Linux a few months ago. My and my dad are getting ready to build a new computer from scratch. Maybe I could possibly get one of those old iMacs and clean it up a bit. I'll think about it.
The iMacs are big. Love the computers, hate the price. What do you code? Could you explain quote Mac OS isn't compatible with MS tech (as far as I know), nor is Linux unless you have WINE (and even that's a pain), so my coding habits wouldn't have to change too much. /quote? Rather than UI, you mean GUI. The basic UI is almost the same, the GUI is different. On the Intel Macs, you can use BootCamp to run Windows OS. That way, you run Windows with Mac OS X speeds, and run Windows apps, even the start menu. What kind were the iMacs at Goodwill Computer Center? They aren't Gunky unless they are old. Are they Intel, or PowerPC processors? Google it, but you can build a computer using PC parts, and run Mac OS X on it. Price comes down a few thousand. Never buy RAM or Hard Drives from Apple, they overcharge. They overcharge for everything else too, but those things have better quality.
I like to program games. In my dark ages of using Windows, I would use DirectX for all of my games. When I upgraded to Linux, I had to start using OpenGL. I'm sure you can run OpenGL apps on Macs, right? It is, after all, open.

I think the old iMacs were Intel, but I'm not sure. By 'gunky' I meant physically. They were covered in dirt, gunk and grime. Must be old.
In what language? Tiger and up has OpenGL and OpenAL installed with the OS. Check them out. If you can run them, then find out. You can clean out dirt, just not with water or soap.
Usually C or C++, but sometimes in Python. I've used other languages as well.
How do you do graphics in C?
Using OpenGL, DirectX, SDL, or any of the other graphics libraries there are out there...?
Could you explain that?
Windows xp is way better, windows vista gets more bugs.
I agree.
Seconded. (Or is it thirded?)
Thirded :-)
Okay, were you thirding, or were you implying that I was thirding? Oh, forget it.
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