In September, an old friend of mine and professor at UWF, Thomas Asmuth, invited me to present at the first Pensacola Mini Maker Faire on November 16th hosted by the university. It took me a little while to get my ducks in a row, but I finally decided to show off the game I had been working on, Spider Web, for the Atari 2600 and the history of the 6502 microprocessor in general. I’ve included a write up of the background information of my exhibit here.
Throughout October, I rushed to accumulate all of the resources and create the hardware and software to create my own cartridges for both the Atari 2600 and NES. Due to a couple of shortcomings in my designs, I ended up only focusing on the Atari, but I’ll definitely be bringing up my work on the NES soon.
Everything was falling into place, but I had to pull an all-nighter the day before to finish up all of the gameplay mechanics and squeeze my code onto the final 2Kb EEPROMs. In the end, my ROM binary was using up nearly every one of the 2048 bytes, 2035 bytes to be exact.
Showing at the Maker Floor
After loading everything up the morning of the 16th and bringing it into the Pensacola Museum of Commerce, I was set up and ready to bring the retro nostalgia to this mostly high-tech maker faire. It was slow at first, but didn’t take but 20 minutes until people were coming through in droves.
I got a mix of curious kids who had never seen a CRT before or an Atari for that matter, parents who had grown up with a 2600 and probably still have one in their attic, and a few programmers who wanted to know what it was like to work with assembly and the TIA chip. All-in-all, it was a great turnout, I met a lot of interesting people, and it seemed like I never stopped talking about my project except for a quick lunch break!
While putting together the last bits of code on my game, one thing I was worried about was whether or not it would actually be any fun to play. Honestly, when you’ve been knee deep in the code of a game, you never really find the time to play through it that much instead focusing in on the bugs that you can find. To my surprise, everyone loved the game for the most part! There were even a few kids that kept coming back trying to get a higher score than last time. One kid even boasted to me that he got a score of $28 (that’s 40 in decimal form). Having not played the game much myself, I figured that was pretty decent… though I gave it a good shot later on and got $5c (92 in decimal), but no need to boast here.
If you’d like to give the version of the program that I used at the maker faire, feel free to download it and open it up on your favorite 2600 emulator (Stella is my recommendation) or burn it to your own cartridge. This version will fit snuggly on a 2Kb ROM, but I’ll be making further adjustments to it in the future to work on a 4Kb ROM with many more features and better gameplay.