The Atari Jaguar That Should Have Been

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Released in 1993, the Atari Jaguar suffered from a number of problems – it was difficult to program, had hardware idiosyncrasies, and with the CD drive was vastly overpriced compared to the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation released one year later. Nevertheless, the Jaguar still has a rabid fanbase that counts [10p6] among them, and he’s created what Atari should have released 20 years ago.

In a few forum threads at jaguarsector (login required) and nexgam.de (no login, German), [10p6] goes over his changes to the classic Jaguar + CD combo. He’s stuffed everything inside a new case, cutting down on the amount of plastic from the old enclosure. A proper integrated power supply has been added, replacing the two power supplies used in the original. It’s also overclocked to 32 MHz, compared to the 26 MHz of the stock unit, making this a very powerful system that could have easily competed with the Saturn and Playstation.

[10p6] has an amazing piece of hardware on his hands here, and should he ever want to make a few molds of his new Jaguar, he could put together some sort of kit to replicate this build. He’s still working on finding a model maker and perfecting his case design, but a new, improved version of the Jaguar is something we’d love to see in a limited production.

The Tiniest Video Game

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As we read [Adam]‘s writeup for an extremely tiny video game system through coke bottle glasses, we’re reminded of the countless times we were told that sitting, ‘too close to the Nintendo’ would ruin our eyes. We’ll happily dismiss any article from a medical journal that says there was any truth to that statement, but [Adam]‘s tiny video game system will most certainly hurt your eyes.

A few years ago, Atari sold keychain-sized joysticks that contained classics such as PongBreakout, Centipede, and Asteroids. [Adam] apparently ran into a cache of these cool classic baubles and immediately thought of turning them into a stand-alone video game system.

For the display, [Adam] used a CRT module from an old Sony Handicam. These modules had the right connections – power, ground, and composite video input – to connect directly to the Atari keychain games. The result is a video game that’s even smaller than a postage stamp. The picture above shows the tiny CRT next to a 25mm postage stamp; it’s small by any measure.

How the mazes were generated for classic Berzerk game

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This is a screenshot from the Atari 5200 version of the classic game Berserk. But the write-up we’re featuring actually looks at the original coin-op version. The maze for each level was established on the fly using a seed number fed into a rudimentary algorithm . Here’s a close look at how the maze building code actually worked.

Recently we saw a talk by Pitfall creator [David Crane] as part of our Retrotechtacular series. That is a real gem of programming history, and one of our favorite take-aways was that the levels were not hardcoded, but built using a random number generator algorithm with a hardcoded seed (so that the game was the same each time you played it). This uses a similar method but with a somewhat random seed.

The maze building was reverse engineered by observing the game in a MAME emulator, and by digging through disassembled code. Each time the code is “cold started” the seed starts out at zero, but from there the room number is used as the next seed. This is fed through a very simple algorithm. It generates directions for the walls, which use s few bit-wise operations to add the pillars inside the rooms.

It’s a great thing to study if you’re writing games for your embedded projects. By generating the room programmatically you don’t use up as much program memory. Of course these days even simple hobby controllers have way more storage to work with than [Alan McNeil] had when he designed Berserk.

[via Reddit]

[Image Source]

Loading Atari games from an SD card

Atari

They’re not a 2600, but the Atari 400, 800 and 1200 are awesome computers in their own right. With only BASIC built in to the ROM, they’re not especially useful or fun, as [Jeroen] found out when he acquired an 800 with a broken tape drive. There are options that allow you to load emulator files from a PC, but [Jeroen] wanted something more compact. He came up with a way to load games and apps off an SD card using a simple microcontroller.

The 400, 800, and 1200 each have a port that allows the computer to talk to printers, modems, disk drives, and load games. There are already a few circuits around that connect the SIO port to a computer so games can be loaded, but [Jeroen] wanted a more compact and portable solution for his 800.

What he came up with is actually pretty simple; just an Arduino, SD card, and an LCD display that allows him to browse the directory on the SD card and load it into the 800′s memory.

A lot of folks over on the Atariage forums are really impressed with [Jeroen]‘s work, and would like to get their hands on one of these boards themselves. The project isn’t done just yet – [Jeroen] still needs to make a case for his device – but hopefully he’ll be spinning a few boards up in the coming months.

You can see a pair of videos of the device in action below.

[Read more...]

One game controller connects to many consoles

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[Dave Nunez] wanted arcade quality controls when gaming at home. The problem was he couldn’t decide on just one console to target with his build, so he targeted them all. What you see above is a single controller that connects to many different gaming rigs.

He took a simple-is-best approach, keeping the main goal of high-quality inputs at the forefront. To start, he built the face plate out of thick MDF to ensure it wouldn’t flex or bounce as he mashed the buttons. To keep the electronics as simple as possible he soldered connections to actual controller PCBs (well, reproductions of controllers), breaking each out to a separate DB9 connector on the back of the case. These connectors interface with one of the three adapter cables seen to the right. This lets the controller work with NES, SNES, and an Atari 2600 system.

To pull the enclosure together [Dave] designed the rounded corner pieces and cut them out with a CNC mill. These connect with flat MDF to make up the sides. To give it that professional look he filled the joints with Bondo and sanded them smooth before painting.

Atari Combo Controller has what you need for any cartridge

atari-combo-controller

Retro gaming enthusiasts take note: this joystick is what you need to play any Atari game on the original console. It plugs right into the original console hardware and removes the need to choose the joystick, paddle, or keypad controller separately. You just leave this puppy hooked up and move your hands to the set of controls used on each game.

[x2Jiggy] built the thing from scratch. The enclosure is a wooden box from the craft store. He holds it closed with a couple of magnetic latches like you might find on old fashioned kitchen cabinets. The buttons of the keypad are mounted on a chunk of protoboard but he did take the time to give it a coat of matching paint so that it doesn’t look out of place. Inside you’ll find some more protoboard and point-to-point soldering to complete the rest of the connections.

You can see a fast motion video of the build process after the break. This reminds us of the universal controller built for Project Unity.

[Read more...]

Fixing the worst video game ever: E.T. for Atari 2600

fixing-et-for-atari-2600

This hack has got to be every gamer’s dream. Someone actually took the time to dig through the binary file of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and fix the errors that made it an abomination of a title for the Atari 2600.

This is quite a feat in many ways. First off, you need to know the game well enough to understand where they problems lie. The Internet is a huge help in that regard as there’s no shortage of sources complaining about the game’s shortcomings. This turns out to be one of the articles strongest points as the author takes time to address the most common myths about bugs in the game. From there he goes on to discuss the problems that were actually fixed. Some are just general tweaks like the color fix listed above. But most of them are genuine improvements in the game play, like the falling fix which prevents E.T. from falling in this pit when his feet are obviously not anywhere near the edge.

So you couldn’t get your hard earned bucks back for a bummer of a game back in the day. But at least a few decades later you can fix the things that made it suck and play it through the way it should have been.

[via Reddit]