How to Make an Atari 2600 Game

About: Hobbyist in woodwork and electronics.

In this tutorial I will show how to make a complete Atari 2600 game, from the software to the hardware. Based on Joe Grand's project (source: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:23216)

I wrote a simple game based on George R.R. Martin's character Bran Stark. In this game called "Bran, the builder" you need to help Bran to build the wall and fight the Night King. Is a simple game made with just 4K.

Just like Game of Thrones, your beloved character won't survive to the end...

I tried my best to made this project available in english, but if you are a portuguese reader you will have a better experience.

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Step 1: Developing the Game With Visual Batari Basic

Assembly language is way more efficient to program the Atari microprocessor, but BASIC is much more simple and easy to learn.

You will need to download 3 softwares:
- Stella (emulator)

- batari Basic (compiler)

- Visual batari Basic (framework)

There is tons of examples online to learn the simple tasks, like colision and input events.

I let the code I wrote for the "Bran, the builder" game available for download. The code is well commented (in portuguese) and you can use/copy/remix some routines to make your own game.

Step 2: Burning the ROM on the Memory IC

I used a generic 2732 memory chip to hold the game information. These memories has 12 address pins, i.e. it has 2^12 addresses = 4096. Each address holds 8 bits of information (that why Atari 2600 is a 8bit machine), so 4096 x 8 = 32768 or 32Kilobits (the name of the memory). One bytes corresponds to 8 bits, 32kbits = 4bytes, the maximum size of the game (without bankswitch).

I use a cheap TL866 burner, you also need a 7404 IC (NOT gate) and a 104 capacitor. Itens are easy to find.

You can download the gerbers (files with board information) directly from the Pixel Past website. These PCB were draw more than a decade ago by Joe Grand. You can etch this boards at home, or use an online service to order the ready-to-go board.

Step 3: 3D Printing the Shell

You can download the pieces to print from Joe Grand profile on Thingverse: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:23216

I had some issues with my printer, so I changed the back cover of the shell to remove the logos on the original design.

The website http://www.labelmaker2600.com/ is a simple tool to generate professional looking labels.

Hint: if you dont have a 3d printer you can use old shell from broken games.

Step 4: Test the Game

Just put the cartridge on the console and have fun (or not).

This project is a remix of Joe Grand's project and a tribute to George RR Martin's novel "A Song of Ice and Fire"
Feel free to change whatever you want.

The Winter is Coming!

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    3 Discussions

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    AdelleFabio

    6 months ago

    Projeto incrível. Parabéns :)

    1
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    seamster

    6 months ago

    Very clever project! I love that it's made for Atari and actually works with the old console. So cool : )