Tag: Audacity Games

Mr. Run and Jump Special Edition teasers: why so much flicker?

Mr. Run and Jump is an upcoming game by the company calling itself “Atari” these days.

As I’ve mentioned previously, it will be a modern game released on Steam, Nintendo Switch, XBox, and PlayStation. And also there will be an Atari 2600 cartridge release of a Mr. Run and Jump Special Edition, which will run on native hardware, and I presume there will be a ROM for use with emulators, whether official or not. If we ignore the homebrew scene, which has been cranking out small batches of physical cartridges for years, and Audacity Games’ Circus Convoy, released in 2021, this will be the first “official” commercial release of an Atari 2600 game since 1990, a span of 33 years.

I’m interested in both editions, but clearly the modern version will be better, with the Atari 2600 special edition version being something of a “de-make”.

The pre-order page has a short video loop showing the Atari 2600 game in action, which I’ve embedded below because I wish to make fair use comment on it for purposes of criticism and review.

Namely, I have to ask about the insane amount of flicker in this video. The number of objects on the screen looks to me well within the 2600’s capability to display without flicker.

The 2600 had two hardware sprites, Player 1 and Player 2, a Ball sprite, and two Missile sprites, as well as background graphics. These screens show, at most, 3-4 objects, and they flicker a ton, even when they’re not drawn on the same horizontal row. Typically, sprites would need to flicker when one of the hardware sprite resources needed to be drawn in two locations on the same row, and would therefore have to alternate, drawing in each position every other frame.

The 2600 was a notoriously difficult to program machine due to its architecture and very tiny hardware limits, but I would have thought that for the graphics shown in the video, flicker-free rendering should have been possible. Or am I wrong? It doesn’t look to me like there’s a reason to want these objects to deliberately blink, so I don’t think it’s a deliberate choice on the part of the programmer.

Certainly, other games have been made for the 2600 which draw more objects on the screen without this much flicker. Even back in the original day, games like Space Invaders and Berzerk drew many sprites on the screen without such drastic flicker. And more recently games packed with additional hardware in the cartridge from publishers like Champ Games have shown that the limits of the stock 2600 hardware can be circumvented with some clever engineering and programming.

It makes me wonder whether the “Atari” people really know what they’re doing when it comes to finding people who are capable of getting the most out of the 2600. Based on what we see in the demo video, it doesn’t look like they’re on the same level of the best contemporary “homebrew” developers. So will the game really be worth the $60 pre-order? Or is much of that “value” to be perceived as the nostalgia and novelty for a physical media game for a 46 year old console? Time will tell.

The modern version of the game does look really nice, with the neon vector graphics style that Atari’s recent “recharged” games have been known for, and gameplay that reminds me of indie darling Super Meat Boy from 2010.

Audacity Games

Today, David Crane, Garry Kitchen, and Dan Kitchen announced their new company, Audacity Games, a venture aimed at the niche market of retro gaming. They plan to release new games on physical cartridge for still-popular vintage game systems such as the Atari 2600.

This seems crazy at first blush.  The Atari 2600 ceased manufacturing in 1993.  Yet millions of working consoles still exist, and there’s a strong community of enthusiastic fans. Every year, homebrew developers continue to release new games for the system, and it seems that if anything this has been growing in recent years rather than tailing off.

While no new hardware has been manufactured in decades, companies like AtGames and Hyperkin have also helped to keep interest in the old consoles alive by manufacturing compatible new hardware.  And of course, there’s also emulation software. 

Audacity have only a bare stub of a website at the moment, with a press release and no actual game titles announced at this time.  Audacity joins other existing companies and communities around the retro gaming community:  Atari Age, CollectorVision, RetroUSB, romhacking.net, game-tech.us, Retro Fighters, Retrotainment Games, Champ Games 8bitdo, Good Deal Games, MorphCat Games, and others. Most if not all of these are tiny sole proprietorship small businesses, but together they show that there is still considerable residual interest in classic gaming consoles, enough to sustain development of new games.

Update: Audacity has announced their first two titles, Circus Convoy and Casey’s Gold. What I like about this announcement is that it came out within a day or two of the announcement of the new company.  What I also like about this is that these games are coming soon — this isn’t a crowdfunding pitch for a game that might get released in 2-5 years; these are games that are ready to go and will be released in the very near future.

The announced price is on the steep side — at $60, they’re targeting a price point that competes with first party Nintendo releases. I’m skeptical that these games will sell well at that price. The homebrew market tends to price games at $30-40 for physical copies, with ROM downloads often available for use with emulators for free. So it’ll be interesting to see how these titles do on launch.  Perhaps the star cachet of the Crane and Kitchen names, the quality of the games, and the novelty of the enterprise will carry the day.