Friday, April 30, 2010

Programming NES games

I've got this sinking feeling that I may not be able to master programming Atari home brews. I think it really codified while I was reading an article on Retro Thing about Nolan Bushnell and the Atari games that came out with the Atari Jr.
In the late 80's, Atari created a smaller & cheaper 2600 ("the fun is back for under 50 bucks!") to compete with Nintendo's NES. The release of the Atari Jr. was flanked by a few new releases from Atari themselves. These games were subcontracted to Bushnell's Axlon company (after he bluffed Atari that his staff had the chops to program for the notoriously difficult 2600). Luckily one of his programmers, Steve DeFrisco, was clever enough to work his magic to create the last few official games for the 2600.
I knew about the 2600's reputation for being hard to program, as I've been reading David Crane's really cool 2600 Magic app on my iPhone. I may have thought at first that since the graphics were simple, the coding must be equally simple. I was wrong about that. Oh, so very wrong.

So I'm reading this Bushnell article and thinking to myself, "C'mon now, are you REALLY going to figure this stuff out?" And really, no, I'm probably not.

And besides, I'm utterly obsessed with NES at the moment. Hmmm... I wonder if people program homebrews for the NES? It would be totally innocent to Google that, right?

And lo, 98-026, a college course on programming for the NES, taught at Carnegie Mellon in 2004. I'm afraid to even click on the "Development tools and resources" or "Assignments from the class" buttons, but it's too late anyway. The idea has a foot-hold. This is trouble.

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