The Atari 2600 Project – Overview

Was it the late 90’s or early 2000’s when the thing to do was to name your band “The <insert lead singer name here> Project?” Yeah it was around that time I think, I even knew some girl who had a band with that very name (her name rather than <insert lead singer name here>); you get the point.

I’m making my own band (project), but this one is an Atari 2600 (VCS) deal. I’m going full bore retro-head geek and finally making a home-brew game for Atari 2600–maybe. But! Like all good projects this one spun way off the cake  as I expanded the scope so wide that it’s anyone’s guess if I’ll ever complete it, but dammit it’s still fun to take that journey isn’t it? Therefore, I’m going to (in the words of a university professor I had in business school) “eat the elephant one bite at a time.” And this elephant is a big and retro bad girl, she’s a man-eater and this is why:

       

I started out by stumbling on an Atari 2600 cartridge shell that I have the ability to print on thingverse.com, that led to a dream I’ve always had of making my own cartridge game. I’ve been down this road before and I have 20 empty 2600 cartridges, a 4k eeprom, an eeprom burner, and a stack of old cartridge boards from the last time I wanted to do this and never followed through. In my mind this just means I’m ready to go forward with my quest for a home-brewed Atari game that’s not purely virtual. And the fever was reignited by that damn 3D printer file. Now I don’t NEED to print out a cartridge shell, I have 20 empty ones, but for some reason, I guess it’s the potential to make 20+ Atari games, I’m all hot to do this. And the printable atari cart takes like 12 hours to print, so it’s incredibly inefficient and so even more appealing to me.

Empty carts I’ve had for years.

Old game boards and in the bag is a 2K EEPROM.

This is the EEPROM burner that I’ve had for years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my mind the project has started and I’m a future retro-game tycoon with offices in the financial district of Los Angeles and a marketing budget that allows for Super Bowl adds. Yes, I will be the one to bring retro-games to the masses and it will all start on my Etsy store. Never mind that this is a niche market in a niche market, my classical training in marketing tells me that once I get some influencers as early adopters, this new Atari 2600 game business is going to start flying like Saturn V. Ah, but I don’t have ( a working) Atari 2600! No problem, I’ll add more sauce to this project by deciding that the best thing ever is for me to NOT to buy a working 2600 on eBay, but rather to buy a working Atari Flashback 2 and mod it with a cartridge slot. And yes, I already have that bad boy on order and I’m downloading the 3D prints for the cart slot right now.

This project has gone from probably doable, but not gonna get done, to no chance in hell of ever getting done. One bite at at time though. And I’ve ignored the main focus of the whole thing: programing the game in the first place–I’m gong to use Batari Basic. So, here’s the list of things to do, and why this is the OVERVIEW. This list is in order of what SHOULD happen first, second… But I’ll be honest, it will probably happen in a much more haphazard manner:

  • Part I – Program the Game
  • Part II – Write the Game ROM to an EEPROM
  • Part III – Decorate a Cart
  • Part IV – Make the Innards of the Cart
  • Part V – Mod the Flashback 2 to Play Carts
  • Part VI – Test My Game

Sheesh, this looks like a lot of work and I’ve only listed the top level tasks. One bite at a time. Anyhow, I’m going to continue to share my progress on my Quixotic quest to publish my own Atari 2600 game like 35 years late. I hope you continue to follow the progress, learn with me, go bananas with me… Let’s do this.

Stay tuned for more on this thing. Will I get it done? How long will it take? We shall see.

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