TOOLS FOR ATARI 2600
By Simon Carless
Even though the Atari 2600 is one of the oldest
game consoles around, it has a vibrant homebrew
scene. These coders produce a remarkable amount
of new material, with everything from RPGs to bizarre puzzle games to altered updatings of classics.
Best of all, the Atari 2600 scene seems to exist in an
atmosphere of harmony and mutual understanding,
with no beefs, group wars, or other shenanigans.
How can you create new game levels for the 2600?
Atari Age runs a series of excellent contests in
which you can create new levels for games under
development. Often, the finished and produced
homebrew cartridge will include the winning levels.
More importantly, entrants often make their tools
available after the contest closes.
In particular, the Indy 500 XE Track Designer,
atariage.com/features/contests/Indy500XE, is a
lot of fun if you’re a wannabe race driver. The “
easy-to-use Windows-based track editor allows the easy
creation of new tracks, loading and saving of tracks
... and the ability to generate a binary so you can
immediately test your creations.”
The Combat Redux Playfield Design tool,
works similarly. It’s a whole lot of fun to block out a
level and then test it straightaway in an emulator.
These two appear to be the only fully featured
level design tools currently available. Other tools
require complex, time-consuming binary hacking,
such as atariage.com/software_hacks.html. How-
ever, it looks like the development community may
produce further advanced tools, with an Adventure
dungeon editor under serious development as we
write — and more tools are planned.
The exhaustive Atari Age even has the last word
with regard to coding resources, with an excellent
coding page ( atariage.com/2600/programming) that
links to Kirk Israel’s superlative 2600 101 basic tuto-
rial ( atariage.com/2600/programming/2600_101).
As for already produced homebrew titles, go to
Atari Age's 2600 search page, pick Homebrew from
the Rarity drop-down menu, and hit the Search
button, atariage.com/software_search. html.
Excerpted from Gaming Hacks, 100 Industrial-Strength Tips &
Tools, by Simon Carless. Copyright ©2004, O’Reilly Media, Inc.