Useful
Inventions
Favorite
Quotes
Game
Design
Atari
Memories
Personal
Pages

Home > Atari Memories > #General Atari 2600 Programming > Atari 2600 Game Design Rejuvenation

Atari 2600 Game Design Rejuvenation

Personal guidelines and player advocacy.

Opinion page by Duane Alan Hahn, a.k.a. Random Terrain.

Tip Jar

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. (I get commissions for purchases made through certain links on this page.)

Page Table of Contents

 

Amazon Stuff

Below are my personal thoughts and guidelines for making Atari 2600 games. I've been slowly working on them since 1982. Although this page was made with Atari 2600 games in mind, a lot of it can be applied to all games.

 

 

 

 

Making a Game isn't About Your Ego

Making a game is about having fun, overcoming challenges, being grateful for help from better programmers, and trying to make players happy. If people have a rough day at work or school, they can sit down, play your game and get away from it all for a little while. If we can help players relieve stress and just generally feel better after playing, we've done a good job.

 

Everything in your game should be as user-friendly and intuitive as possible. It's your job to put everything you can on a silver platter for the player. Never let ego or laziness interfere.

 

Any time you start thinking more about yourself and less about the player, it's time to go out to a tree, find a good switch, and beat your ego until it's in the fetal position over in the corner of your mind.

 

 

 

 

 

No Flashing

Please do not flash the background color or the playfield color when the player receives damage or when an enemy or object of some kind is destroyed. Yes, I know that some programmers back in the 1980s flashed the screen, but programmers did a lot of stupid stuff in the 1980s. It's a lazy effect that bothers the eyes of some players, so you might as well leave it out. It doesn't matter if you think it won't cause epileptic seizures; it's still irritating. It can also cause eye pain and headaches. For me, it usually only causes eye pain, but I have gotten headaches from it.

 

If you want to indicate that the player received damage and you think that a sound effect isn't enough, try having a sound effect while flashing the color of the player's sprite. For something like a meteor being destroyed, have a sound effect and an explosion animation instead of flashing the screen.

 

If you think that you absolutely must flash the screen, try using a multicolored playfield, then quickly send a strip of light color from top to bottom and that shouldn't hurt anybody's eyes.

 

On a similar subject, it can also be irritating when the playfield quickly changes color in a never-ending loop. For example, a version of Pac-Man where the walls of the maze quickly change color in a continual loop would make a lot of people run from the game and never return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reset Switch and Fire Button = Start

I can't believe this section is needed, but a guy will come along every once in a while who thinks he's avant-garde or ever so clever and will use the Select switch or some other switch to start his game. These people who incorrectly believe that only they march to the beat of a different drummer need to understand that we can have fun expressing ourselves and being creative, but we still have to think about the player.

 

Every Atari 2600 game made since 1982 should start if the player presses the Reset switch or the fire button (whichever one the player chooses to use). Most players expect it, so do it. No excuses. Kill your ego and your delusions. Show that you respect and care about the player by making the controls as user-friendly and intuitive as possible.

 

 

 

 

End of Game + Fire Button = Reset Switch

Any game released after May of 1982 should start/restart using the fire button. It's more than a courtesy, it's an expected feature that was famously used in Yars' Revenge, but it was also used in games that were released earlier such as Maze Craze and Pac-Man. The joystick is essentially turned into an Atari 2600 remote control and the player can restart a game without getting up a million times. Not everyone sits on the floor, a foot away from the Atari and not everyone plays emulated games with the keyboard (some players use a controller).

 

You might be tempted to use the fire button to restart a game and ignore the Reset Switch. Not a good idea. It should be the player's choice. When the game ends, the player should be able to play again by pressing the fire button or the Reset Switch. It should never be one or the other. The Reset Switch is also supposed to work if the player presses it while playing a game, so make sure your games allow the player to do that.

 

No matter how the player chooses to restart the game, remember to have some type of short game over sequence that makes sure the player can't restart accidentally. The player will still be able to restart using the fire button, but only when he or she wants to.

 

If you want more than my opinion, the following is from Atari's Game Standards and Procedures:

 

 

 

 

 

Randomness and Replayability

Controlled Randomness should be used to place enemies, objects, bonus items, hidden rooms, platforms in a platform game (when possible), and so on to keep the game fresh. A game should be about on-the-spot decision making and pure fun, not memorization of patterns, enemy locations, or game event trigger locations that never change when the game is replayed.

 

Think of The Legend of Zelda with a more advanced version of the randomness in Adventure (game 3). In such a large game, use of a random seed would be necessary so the game would be the same until finished. After the player has 'beaten' the game, a new seed could be selected manually or randomly and the player would be off on a whole new adventure within the familiar framework.

 

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Slayer is a pretty good example of a replayable game. From the back cover: "The randomized dungeon generator can create over 4 billion different dungeons — that's a new monster hunt every time you play!"

 

 

 

 

 

Perfect Timing Tribulations

Don't give the player irritating perfect timing chores that are like playing a deadly game of laser jump rope. One tiny mistake and you're dead and usually have to go back and replay that level or a bunch of levels. Don't be like game designers who say "Dance for me monkey boy! Be perfect or die! Now do it all over again! Ha ha ha ha!" Perfect timing is usually an essential part of Die and Remember games. Yes, I know that many of the things I say go against everything you've learned over the years, but we need to stop the same old 'monkey see, monkey do' game design. We don't have to continue to make the same mistakes that other game designers have made. We can try to do better.

 

Check out the following from montalk.net:

 

Although I tend to lean towards video 'toys' where no struggle is involved for true creative play, there's nothing wrong with fun struggle. The problem is that too many game designers and players have been brainwashed into thinking that painful struggle is the only option. For example, if you're climbing a mountain with the usual ropes and gear, then slip a little, you don't have to go back to the bottom and start all over again. Forcing players to replay entire levels for making a tiny mistake is like sending them back to the bottom of a mountain; it's painful struggle. If we focus on fun struggle, the benefit might be that players will feel good after playing instead of feeling stressed out, irritated, and ready to bite someone's head off.

 

 

 

 

 

Intelligent Non-Player Characters

Every non-player character should seem to be 'alive' and at least have a spark of intelligence. If a non-player character simply jumps back and forth or moves up and down, it's nothing more than a mindless obstacle. There's nothing wrong with mindless obstacles, but anything that is supposed to be alive should act like it's alive. Non-player characters don't have to be geniuses, but they should be able to see you or smell you or track you by the sounds you make. And if possible, they should have some kind of emotional reaction (fear, anger, surprise or whatever fits the game). Some non-player characters might hold a grudge if you make them angry and will come after you long after other non-player characters have moved on.

 

Here's a semi-related excerpt from The Making Of: IK+ (edge-online.com):

 

 

 

 

 

Platform Game + Fire Button = Jump

Never make the player jump by pressing up on the joystick. It's unpleasant, uncomfortable, unnatural, and unintuitive. If the character must shoot a weapon or throw things, how about having the player hold down on the joystick to switch between shoot mode and jump mode or maybe the player could press the fire button for a certain amount of time (similar to Mouse Trap)? Or what about a double tap of the fire button to jump and a single tap to shoot (or the other way around)?

 

 

 

 

 

Resist Frustration and Competition

Try to eliminate frustration and competition whenever possible. Frustration was a highly successful villainous tactic for getting people hooked on games and squeezing as much money out of them as possible, but a fun game without frustration is healthier for gamers. Try to focus on what is truly fun, not some perverted version of it. Most of us have come to believe that frustration and competition are essential ingredients of fun. We've been bombarded with that idea for so long that it's hard for us to see any other way, but we have to break free from these fallacies. Speaking of competition, it seems like most people are addicted to it and one way to help them move away from competition and focus on play and untainted fun is to rip out the score.

 

 

About This Page

I'm still editing this page. Some things need to be changed or rearranged.

Most of the text on this page is from me, but I have been influenced by various game designers and players over the years, so it may not be completely original. I have also edited some of the text based on input from AtariAge members such as theloon.

Related RT Pages

 

Interesting Subjects

Back to Top

 

 

In Case You Didn’t Know

 

B Vitamins = Good

Some people appear to have a mental illness because they have a vitamin B deficiency. For example, the wife of a guy I used to chat with online had severe mood swings which seemed to be caused by food allergies or intolerances. She would became irrational, obnoxious, throw tantrums, and generally act like she had a mental illness. The horrid behavior stopped after she started taking a vitamin B complex. I’ve been taking #ad Jarrow B-Right for many years. It makes me much easier to live with.

 

 

Soy = Bad

Unfermented soy is bad! “When she stopped eating soy, the mental problems went away.” Fermented soy doesn’t bother me, but the various versions of unfermented soy (soy flour, soybean oil, and so on) that are used in all kinds of products these days causes a negative mental health reaction in me that a vitamin B complex can’t tame. The sinister encroachment of soy has made the careful reading of ingredients a necessity.

 

 

Wheat = Bad

If you are overweight, have type II diabetes, or are worried about the condition of your heart, check out the videos by William Davis and Ivor Cummins. It seems that most people should avoid wheat, not just those who have a wheat allergy or celiac disease. Check out these books: #ad Undoctored, #ad Wheat Belly, and #ad Eat Rich, Live Long.

 

 

Negative Ions = Good

Negative ions are good for us. You might want to avoid positive ion generators and ozone generators. Whenever I need a new air cleaner (with negative ion generator), I buy it from surroundair.com. A plain old air cleaner is better than nothing, but one that produces negative ions makes the air in a room fresher and easier for me to breathe. It also helps to brighten my mood.

 

 

Litterbugs = Bad

Never litter. Toss it in the trash or take it home. Do not throw it on the ground. Also remember that good people clean up after themselves at home, out in public, at a campsite and so on. Leave it better than you found it.

 

 

Climate Change Cash Grab = Bad

Seems like more people than ever finally care about water, land, and air pollution, but the climate change cash grab scam is designed to put more of your money into the bank accounts of greedy politicians. Those power-hungry schemers try to trick us with bad data and lies about overpopulation while pretending to be caring do-gooders. Trying to eliminate pollution is a good thing, but the carbon footprint of the average law-abiding human right now is actually making the planet greener instead of killing it.

 

Watch these two YouTube videos for more information:

CO2 is Greening The Earth

The Climate Agenda

 

 

Hydrofracking = Bad

Hydrofracking is bad for you, your family, your friends, and the environment.

 

 

Hydroxychloroquine = Good

Although some people with certain conditions may not be able to take it, hydroxychloroquine is a cheap drug that has been prescribed by doctors since the 1950s and it seems to be helping many people who have COVID-19 when administered early enough. (Hydroxychloroquine is also supposedly safe and tolerable as an anti-cancer therapy.) Seems like most news sources are going out of their way to make it sound like hydroxychloroquine is the most dangerous drug in the world, but they also make it sound like it’s the greatest drug in the world for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients. They basically say that using hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 patients would be taking that great and wonderful drug away from the other patients who need it. So which is it? Is hydroxychloroquine deadly or divine?

 

If you believe that a couple of Trump supporters took the medicine hydroxychloroquine and it’s President Trumps fault that the husband died, you’ve been duped. Watch this video. The wife was a prolific Democratic donor, it seems she hated her husband, she used fish tank cleaner (not the medicine hydroxychloroquine), and now she is the subject of a homicide investigation.

 

Some people claim that the reason so many news sources want to keep doctors from using hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 is that they are desperate to keep everyone afraid to leave their homes since mail-in voting will make voter fraud much easier (the only way they could beat Trump). Others claim that the rabid anti-hydroxychloroquine campaign was to make way for the expensive new drug called remdesivir. Drug companies can’t make much money with old generic drugs, so new drugs must be pushed. Both claims could be true since remdesivir supposedly isn’t as good as hydroxychloroquine.

 

According to Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai, hydroxychloroquine does four things: (1) stops viral entry, (2) stops viral RNA replication, (3) stops viral particle assembly, and (4) stops cytokine storm. Remdesivir only stops viral RNA replication. Did you get that? Hydroxychloroquine does four things and remdesivir only does one. The doctor also said that nearly 70 percent of the people who took remdesivir had some type of adverse effect. If all of that is true and the more anemic medicine ends up being used by most doctors thanks to the smear campaign against hydroxychloroquine, the average American will beg to vote from home.

 

In case you didn’t know, Patrick Howley reported that one of the authors of the ‘study’ saying that hydroxychloroquine doesn’t work at VA hospitals got a research grant from Gilead (the company that makes remdesivir). Does that seem a little fishy to you?

 

Bryan Fischer said in an article that Dr. Fauci has known since 2005 that chloroquine is an effective inhibitor of coronaviruses. You might also want to check out the following three links:

The REAL Truth about Dr. Fauci, Remdesivir and Hydroxychloroquine!

Chloroquine Is a Potent Inhibitor of SARS Coronavirus Infection and Spread (2005)

Sequential CQ / HCQ Research Papers and Reports

 

“The Disruptive Physician” had this to say at Twitter: “Meanwhile, regular doctors like me are using HCQ + Azithromycin and Zinc to good effect. One nursing home in NE Ohio had 30 cases - started everyone on HCQ, no deaths. Quick recovery. Why would the MSM hide this? Why would twitter block people who question the WHO?” You might also want to check out Dr. Stephen Smith, Dr. Ramin Oskoui and Dr. Yvette Lozano.

 

In case you’re interested, here are a few COVID-19 patients who appear to claim that hydroxychloroquine saved their lives: elderly couple Louis Amen and Dolores Amen, Daniel Dae Kim, Rio Giardinieri, John McConnell, Margaret Novins, Jim Santilli, Billy Saracino, and Karen Whitsett (Democratic member of the Michigan House of Representatives).

Disclaimer

View this page and any external web sites at your own risk. I am not responsible for any possible spiritual, emotional, physical, financial or any other damage to you, your friends, family, ancestors, or descendants in the past, present, or future, living or dead, in this dimension or any other.

 

Home Inventions Quotations Game Design Atari Memories Personal Pages About Site Map Contact Privacy Policy Tip Jar