A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Atari 8 Bit Computer Collection Update/Gripe Session Part 2: Solid State Society

  Last time was my disks, in all their fragile magnetic glory.  This time its the cartridges!  See a lot of game software was cartridge based back then.  Most home computers had slots for them which meant no loading or additional hardware needed.  Just buy the program and plug it in!

  Except it was expensive to make cartridges compared to a floppy disk or cassette tape.  You needed your own molds for the cart (at least in those days before the machine publishers put in lock out chips and required a licensing fee and THEN they would print X number of copies they got a cut of the profits on.  Or even no profits.  They already charged you to make the things and have the "privilege" to do so, probably with lots of other rules and restrictions.), and then lots of expensive board and chip fabrication only to make games that were limited in size in comparison to the magnetic media based ones.  Thus a cartridge game generally had to sell for 2-4 times what a disk or tape program would. Although on some of these early systems the hideously low amount of RAM most machines came stock with (like 4-16 kilobytes for some of the late 70s/early 80s machines) meant a cartridge game could actually be bigger and more complex than the magnetic media titles that required both RAM to run said device but also hold the program.  On a cartridge title most machines can access the program ROM as a form of virtual RAM since the CPUs of the day could work with about 64 kilobytes of RAM total so your average 16kbyte ROM cartridge wasn't taking up even half of what the CPU could actually address.

  Thus like many things there were pluses and minuses to each format.  As a modern collector cartridges have the benefit of being vastly more durable than their magnetic brethren and easier to use as worrying about the magnetic drive itself is also taken out of the equation!  Cleaning some cartridge contacts is a LOT easier than cleaning a drive read/write head plus keeping all the connection and power cables in good shape and hoping all those moving parts and belts that connect to many of the moving parts all keep working.

  But here in Atari 8 Bit land we find that most cartridge games are of the arcade style variety with limited releases of other genres.  Arcade styled games had mass appeal whereas a wireframe flight simulator running at maybe 10 FPS tops or a complicated turn based wargame had a lot smaller audience.  Anyhow let us get on with the show, yes?

At this point do I even need to say one can click for larger images?
 We begin with my boxed Warner era Atari games.  At the top are the larger sized boxes of the XL era including one of the only full 4 level versions of Donkey Kong.  Ms Pac Man is a smaller box but the same format.  Star Raiders is of course one of the 1979 era launch titles.  The platform's KILLER APP.  (As opposed to Apple II's which was Visicalc, a spreadsheet.)

 Four of the XE/GS Tramiel era releases in blue, with what was probably a new old stock Moon Patrol.  Its a sticker so probably a cheap and easy way of clearing out all the excess inventory the Tramiels got when they bought Atari's home division.  Some they got, others ended up in the hands of companies to sell on Ebay decades later, others ended up in New Mexico landfills.  

 And the rest of the Atari carts.  As we see, most of them are original era titles outside of Jungle Hunt in the XL era format.  Unlike the XE/GS carts though these all had the fancy shield for the contacts and metal backs.  And thanks to Atarimania any manuals I don't have I can print out.  But in the back we see what the original era manuals looked like with Missile Command, and the various XL ones with Caverns of Mars, Defender, and Qix.

 Three companies' worth of boxed carts with Spinnaker's being on one of those fancy Trapper Keeper vinyl styled things, and Roklan's using the manual as the cover thanks to the open hole on the box.  Printing costs are quite a large percentage of a product's cost and this generic packaging was a great way to save money.  Albeit it makes things look a little ghetto.

 The last of my boxed carts by Thorn Emi Video.  They used custom VHS style plastic clamshell cases with the covers being a paper insert which is another and probably better way to save a few bucks.  Everything else is loose here and it lets you see some of the variety of cartridge types these companies made. 

 And we finish up with the best Atari 2600 publisher's Atari 8 Bit titles and an Epyx game.

Now if you vaguely remember when I started blogging about this machine back in 2011 a couple things seem missing.

Yes I have currently misplaced my River Raid and Gateway to Apshai manuals.  I know they are in my living room somewhere but I have too much nonsense out and about right now so they are hiding somewhere. I am sure I will find them eventually and the fact I have so much stuff out means I... HAVE A BIT TOO MUCH STUFF MAYBE?  and should ease up yeah?  Yeah.  Or at least get more and better storage/display/organization options before spending more money on this stuff!

Ok this was too good a deal (3 bux shipping!) for me to pass up, and RetroWorld Expo is next week but I will take my collecting from a 5-6 down to a 2-3 if you will.  Play more of what I have.

Next time I will finish this update out with all those lovely books I have involving this nifty little computer line history seems to try to forget.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Atari 8 Bit Computer Collection Update/Gripe Session Part 1: My Disks of Dork

(Yes it has been a while.  Mainly because I am busy and nobody really cares what I post anyhow.  So this blog is more or less just a clearinghouse for my pictures and stuff because Facebook changes image addresses and other nonsense constantly while compressing said images.   Also as usual click for larger.)

Well you see these were most of my known retro computing pickups over the last few months I wish to share on a forum someplace.  (Yes they exist still.)  However... Tanktics gave me pause.  I felt like I might have already owned that one.  So I decided to do a FULL inventory of all my Atari 8 bit computer games.  This was good because I haven't done this since 2011 or so.  Bad because I have discovered a few missing manuals and the fact I did indeed already own that game.

When you have so much STUFF you forget you bought it?  Time to step it back.  When stuff gets misplaced?  Time to organize and buy storage and organization thingies.

This is Part 1 where I cover all my disk based games that aren't fan projects or piles of pirated games on disks when I got my 800 machine off Craigslist.  They don't count and I will probably just erase them all anyhow.

 The first bit of my Electronic Arts game collection.  Mail Order Monsters I still haven't opened.  Touchdown Football is one of the worst US Football videogames I have ever played, Hard Hat Mack basically requires a CRT type TV because it uses nasty composite color modes.

 The other half.  I kind of am aiming for a full EA Atari 8 bit game collection.  Worms?  is the newest pickup for that.  Seeing above yeah they won't all be in the nifty LP Album type box because that football game sucks ass for even the dollar I paid for it!

 My current SSI collection.  Well there are two more I discovered as I was organizing which again, KIND OF THE POINT OF THESE 2-3 BLOG POSTS.  To both see what I have, and to have some soul searching and self loathing at having it all.  Broadsides doesn't seem to work but it was a buck.  And even not working it is better than that EA football game.  Like EA I wouldn't mind a full SSI collection.  Heck, I wouldn't mind a full SSI library over their entire lifetime!  (Albeit not multiple versions of the same game.)

 Again showing my dork ass roots my Avalon Hill games are up next.  Another company I wouldn't mind having a full Atari 800 collection of.  Even if most of their stuff is kind of dodgy and almost all of it is in BASIC.

 I had a Telengard disk before but a cheap deal got me a boxed copy too.  Which is cool even if the PC DOS is the superior edition of a game that is kind of stupid.  Its FUN but more in laughing at how random the game is and how you can die before even entering a command when your character goes down into the dungeon.  Or find some bad ass gear or enough money to instantly level up.  But once you do manage to luck past the comedy of horrors you have kind of seen everything once you hit the 8th character level or so.  The numbers just go up.

 This is most of my Datasoft stuff.  See they were a very well regarded publisher on the Ataris but then seemed to disappear.  They had wargames, and arcade ports and sims and licensed titles that were actually GOOD.  

 2 Activision disk titles including the legendary Ghostbusters (which is better on the C64 and is BEST on the Sega Master System), another SSI game, the legendary Flight Simulator 2, and one of the worst Atari 8 bit computer games, SUPERMAN THE STRATEGY GAME.  Its just a pile of nonsense!

 Two tape games that given tape loads aren't worth trying to load, the legendary OGRE, my copy of Autoduel that sadly has a corrupted play disk thanks to a power issue as I tried saving, a Broderbund of all people wargame, and yet another SSI game.  Sadly the follow up is going for like 80 on Ebay even though nobody is buying it.  I don't buy hardly any games new or old past 30 bucks shipped.

 The first half of my Epyx collection.  Sadly Pitstop 2 was DOA even though it was sealed (see now why I am kinda scared to open my Mail Order Monsters?), and my Tape Drive decided to eat Temple of Apshai.  Thankfully I found a loose disk for a dollar and now its all good even though my tape copy is apparently a rare one.  And Curse of Ra is an expansion pack for Temple.  So swell.

 And the disks that are loose!  Apshai Trilogy is a serious remake of the original game and is even better on the Atari ST.  World Karate Championship is the US Disk version of that Karate game above.   Jumpman is a hella fun single screen platformer, and Eidolon is like one of the first FPS games.  And its also kinda Steampunk.

 My Microprose stuff.  A company eventually eaten by Spectrum Holobyte, Microprose made the best strategy games and the best combat simulation titles.  Deep enough to feel real, accessible enough to be ENJOYABLE.  They hit that sweet spot.

 Loose copies of the controversial Raid Over Moscow, and its cousin Beach Head.  Fight Night is a mediocre boxing game but still better than Rocky on the Sega Master System.  A budget rerelease of Beyond Castle Wolfenstein, and my semi complete but loose Ultima 2 and 3.  U3 may have a now dead disk but honestly I am not entirely sure I would want to play the Atari 8 bit versions of either game over the EGA+ fan patches to the DOS editions.  (Or the NES version of 3.)

A more complicated and less fun helicopter sim by Cosmi, an APX game that is a Revolutionary War wargame (APX was Atari's user submitted library of titles.  Kind of like their Farm Team or Junior Varsity.  Some titles ended up getting full cartridge releases later on.), and some action type titles from Sega, Datasoft (Zaxxon replacing the tape version above), Cosmi, and Adventure International of all people.  

What's funny is a lot of these games are also C64 versions on the other side of the disk.  For my organization purposes I really like some of these titles that have nice small manuals that comfortably fit in the sleeve with the disk.  Keeps me from losing them or having to print one out from Atarimania.

But that discussion will continue in Part 2, where we go from Mortal Disks Doomed to Die, to Cartridges in their Halls of Solid State...


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