The entire walk-through
Landon Dyer’s story of joining Atari after creating a Centipede clone was excellent but here’s a telling detail from the end of the first video game age.
There were some distant purges in marketing. The little “conversion” group of 8 programmers I was in had been moved to a satellite location far away from any of Atari’s major buildings, so we were pretty isolated from what was going on, but even from a distance it was clear that things weren’t going well. The game industry had essentially crashed, and Atari was putting millions of unsold cartridges into landfills. All of the mistakes that wild success had covered up were coming around to bite hard.
My office-mate had finally finished Robotron. By request, she made three versions of the ROM image, located at different ROM addresses. Unfortunately, the Q/A staff was only able to test two of the images. Guess which image Atari sent to be manufactured? Guess which image had a fatal bug? I saw a hardware engineer struggle to come up with a cheap gate-or-two fix that would make the game work; only a few bytes of it were wrong. In the end, Atari threw $200,000 worth of ROMs away.
The 2600 basically defined gaming for a generation and it wasn’t until games like Final Fantasy that the console RPG took off, bringing MMORPG’s with it (MOO and MUDs not included, obviously).
UPDATE – Bloops! Sorry. Stuffed the port after the jump. TURN DOWN YOUR SPEAKERS!