Stellaaaaa!

I found a great online development environment for the Atari 2600 console at 8bitworkshop.com. I noticed the URL while skimming through a book on Amazon entitled Making Games for the Atari 2600, by Steven Hugg.

There are a lot of great code examples on the site, but the most useful thing about it, IMO, us the fact that your code is compiled and executed as you type. Being able to instantly see the result of your changes is incredibly convenient. Also useful is the timing calculations that the site can do on your code. If you want to do any tinkering with Atari 2600 code, be sure to check that site out.

As for my castle program, I did some more work on it over the weekend. I tightened up the castle drawing code a little bit and made the castle a little taller. I also got rid of the shading on the grass for now; I want to save as many cpu cycles as possible for the time being. The colors are a bit dark and need to be tweaked, but I’ll do that once I have actually sprites moving around so I can get a better sense of what colors will work best.

In the screen shot above you can also see a ballista in the castle courtyard. This is going to be the player. It doesn’t actually do anything yet, but eventually the player will able to move the ballista left or right within the castle walls.

Once player sprite motion is implemented I’ll work on making it shoot arrows up at the sky. I have some animation frames drawn for the firing of the ballista which I hope to be able to add in as well.

I came up with a ton of ideas to add to the game over the weekend as well, including different enemy types, power-ups, difficulty settings and even a possible boss battle. If I don’t lose interest too soon, I think I can make a pretty enjoyable game out of all this.

Atari 2600 Programming

It’s been a while since I last looked into writing programs for the Atari 2600. The last thing I was messing with was drawing a sort of castle onto the screen. I was having a bit of trouble with that and my interest eventually just petered out.

I recently returned to this project and got the castle to draw nicely. I then added a sky and grass to the background, then I added some fancy shading to the grass. Here’s a screenshot of what I have so far:

I would like to eventually use this as the basis for some sort of game. The idea currently swimming in my head is to have the player control a ballista inside the castle which he could move to the left and right. Dragons would fly across the screen in the sky and the player would have to shoot them.

The dragons would vary in color, with certain colored dragons being faster than others. The dragons would also shoot fireballs down at the player. If possible, it would be cool to add swooping dragons as well.

We’ll see if any of that ends up happening.

I’m experimenting with drawing sprites right now (sprites are things that can move, like the player for example). I’ve managed to get the player 1 sprite to display, but it’s not anything usable for a game yet.

I’m optimistic that I can get a moveable player on the screen soon. I’m a little worried that the sprite logic might force me to simplify the color gradient for the grass — processing power is very limited on the Atari.

I’ll probably post the source code for this program once I have a moveable player implemented.

Candy Cane Cookies

I baked a batch of candy cane cookies yesterday using a recipe I got from a box of mini candy canes when I was a kid. I tried to do something fancy by making the cookies look like peppermint swirls. The swirls turned out okay, but not quite as nice as I’d hoped. I should have rolled the dough a bit thinner, I think.

The cookies are pretty hard when they’re done (tougher than your typical ginger snaps, for comparison). This is not all that surprising given the ingredients.

The cookies are very delicious, though. I’ll probably bake more again sometime and make them much thinner. Even though the swirls didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked, I think I’d do it again, too; the swirls seem to psychologically enhance the flavor.

Here’s the recipe:

I found I had to bake the cookies a little longer than 12 minutes — 14-15 minutes seemed about right. I guess the baking time would depend more on how thick the cookies are, and I probably made the cookies thicker than they should have been.

And, again, I substituted peppermint oil for the peppermint extract, using about one drop of oil instead of the 1/4 teaspoon of extract. After tasting the baked cookies, it seemed about right.