Twenty-two palettes’ worth of documents from Atari’s heyday were recently acquired by the International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG), housed at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, NY.
The “Atari Coin-Op Divisions Collection, 1972-1999,” is a massive collection chronicling the development and production of virtually every Atari coin-operated game over that time period.
The material includes development binders and source code for Asteroids, beginning with developer Ed Logg’s handwritten notes on the control setup and sound effects.
The acquisition also includes Maze Invaders, a coin-op game which was assigned to Ed Logg and built in 1981, but never released.
For the full story of how ICHEG came by this mother lode, read Owen Good’s article at Polygon.com.
And for a brief history of Ed Logg and the birth of Asteroids, read this.
Astronomers from UCLA have observed an asteroid being ripped apart by “YORP torque.”
They used a team of telescopes from around and above (Hubble) the world, and saw big pieces becoming smaller pieces, becoming smaller pieces…
CNET reports that it’s just like in the game.
Along with the release of Respawn Entertainment and Electronic Arts’s first-person shooter game Titanfall in April, the Titanfall Arcade put their giant fighting battle robot vehicles into three classic Atari games: Asteroids, Centipede, and Missile Command. These Titans are better armed than our trusty triangle spaceship, so the result is pretty funny.
It seems that the online arcade was a short-lived promotion, but it lives on in YouTube screen captures.
As Atari emerges from bankruptcy, it will partner with FlowPlay to create the Atari Casino, using classic Atari properties (ie. Asteroids) as themes for social casino gaming.
We’ll wait to see what happens before reporting further, but you can read about the announcement at one of these links:
ChipsEtc.com catalogs vintage computer memorabilia. Their collection includes a paperweight from 1981, containing a 24-pin DIP ROM cartridge chip used in the Atari 2600 version of Asteroids.
“This Lucite paperweight was a gift to Atari engineers attending an Atari corporate event at the Company’s Pebble Beach get-away Lodge.”
Thanks to a reader for the tip!
Here’s a clone of Asteroids created with Scratch, a popular educational programming language. What’s great is that even if you’ve never written a line of code, you can look under the hood and see how a game like this is put together — and if you want, you can tinker with it yourself.
Side-note, Scratch was developed at MIT Media Lab Lifelong Kindergarden Group. Also developed at MIT: Spacewar!. Read your history here.
In addition to running this website, your humble blog host likes to tinker.
This past summer I had access to a laser cutter, CNC router, and some creative technology experts in New York — so I decided to learn some new tools and make a desktop Atari Asteroids controller running an arcade machine emulator (MAME) on a tiny Raspberry Pi computer. All you need to provide is power in and audio/video out.
Read the full write-up on my personal site for a walkthrough of the fabrication, plus design files.
And for anyone looking to build an Asteroids control panel, here’s the image I traced from an original:
Asteroids for the Atari 2600 is not the same thing as the arcade version. It’s got simplified gameplay and rasterized graphics. But Darrell Spice, Jr. has just created Space Rocks, a homebrew Atari game which brings arcade elements to the home console.
He explains: “Instead of the predominately up/down movement found in the original home version, Space Rocks features arcade like movement. The options menu lets you control the style of graphics (solid or ‘vector’), Magna-Mines (the ‘killer satellite’ from Asteroids Deluxe), friction (whether or not the ship will gradually slow down after thrust is removed) as well as other features.”
Space Rocks is as good as it sounds, and the player customizability is deep but intuitive. It was released at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo in October 2013 (pictured above), and available for purchase from AtariAge, as a dedicated cartridge with professional-looking packaging and artwork, for play on a real Atari 2600.
The final version of the game can also be downloaded for use with the Atari emulator Stella, or with a Harmony Cartridge for the 2600 via an SD card. The ROM is freely available in this discussion thread – to find it, take the very first link, for Release Candidate 7.
Spice explains that Space Rocks will not work with other Atari flash cartridges than Harmony, as “the game utilizes the ARM processor in the Harmony as a co-processor, similar to the DPC that’s found in Activision’s Pitfall II for the 2600.”
Darrell Spice, Jr. is actively involved with Atari Age and the homebrew scene. He says about the origin of Space Rocks:
“I was working on Frantic, a remake of Berzerk/Frenzy, when I wondered if the Kernel for Frantic could be used as a basis for a remake of Asteroids. TIA, the Atari’s video chip, is so primitive it only has enough information to draw a single scan line on the TV. The Kernel is the part of the program that updates TIA in real time, scan line by scan line, in order to create the display.
“The Kernel would have less to update, as Space Rocks doesn’t need the playfield (the chunky background graphics), so repositioning of the 2 sprites (yep, the 2600 only has 2 sprites) could be done more frequently than in Frantic. I thought that would result in result in less flicker, but wasn’t sure if it would be acceptable or not so I did up a quick test.
“I planned to return to work on Frantic after that, but like an earworm I couldn’t get the ideas for Space Rocks out of my head so I continued to work on it. I just wrapped up work on Stay Frosty 2, a new AtariAge holiday cart, so am taking a break from Atari projects and will most likely resume work on Frantic early next year.”
For more detailed development info about Space Rocks, visit Spice’s project blog:
And for Frantic:
Visit his website spiceware.org for more information.
Japan, the nation that brought us giant battle robots, has announced that it’s getting into the asteroid blasting game.
The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is going to launch a space cannon aboard the Hayabusa-2 space probe next year. In 2018, the cannon will arrive at asteroid 1999JU3, which orbits between Earth and Mars, and will shoot it with a metal bullet.
This mission will just punch a crater and collect dust for research: both on the what’s-in-the-asteroid front, as well as the save-the-planet end.