Atari Video Computer System (VCS) / 2600
Magnavox Odyssey 2
The Apple II was a precursor to the PCs of the 90s. Other than an 8-bit 6502 processor running at 1MHz, there wasn't a lot of fancy hardware. There was a very low-resolution graphics mode, in which each pixel could be one of sixteen colors, and a high resolution mode of 280x192. All sprite routines, line drawing, scrolling, etc., were handled by the 6502 writing data into the graphics bitmap. This was made trickier because the high-res mode was really black & white (i.e. 1 bit per pixel), but you could create colors through peculiar bit combinations; plot every other pixel in a line and you get a color, not a white line! So when you see a game with scrolling and colored objects moving around, like "Black Magic," or amazing first-person games like "SkyFox," then be very impressed.
The Apple //e was released in 1983 and shipped with 128K instead of the 64K of the II+. The //c was a smaller, luggable version of the //e. The Apple IIgs was a major upgrade to the Apple II line which competed with the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga in the late 1980s.
The Atari 400 was an 800 with less memory and a one-piece, "membrane" keyboard.
The 800 was morphed into the buggy 1200XL in 1982, which was basically the same machine internally. The 1200XL was short-lived, and the 400 and 800 were turned into the 600XL and 800XL respectively; the latter was possibly the most popular of the Atari computers. Still later, these machines became the 130XE, which sported 128K, and the 65XE. In its last incarnation, around 1987, the Atari 800 became the XE-GS, where "GS" stood for "game system."
The C64 wasn't affected much by the industry crash and had its heyday from around 1984-1987. If you scan through the Giant List, you'll find that C64 game development was still kicking right into the 1990s. (On a technical level, some of the later releases are amazing.) This different time-line from the other 8-bit computers gave C64 games their own flavor, often being influenced by Nintendo-era games and arcade games from the mid to late 80s, like "Commando" and "NARC," instead of the late 70s games that fueled the Apple II and Atari 800.
An enhanced 128K Commodore 64 was released as the Commodore 128. There were also some peculiar and failed variations of the C64, such as the Plus/4 and C16.
With 128 bytes of memory, 20 bits of background graphics, and a cartridge limit of 4K, programming the Atari 2600 was a challenge. The key to understanding the 2600 is that there was only hardware to define sprites, colors, and background graphics for a single scan line. So you had to constantly "race the electron beam," as it scanned down your TV, changing sprites and graphics for every line. The actual game logic itself ran in the "vertical blank" period between frames. All 2600 games had to run at sixty frames per second (fifty in Europe), because that's the refresh rate of a TV.
The 2600 was revived around 1986 as the 2600 Jr. with a smaller case, fifty dollar price tag, and some new games, like "Solaris."
Many of the concepts for Odyssey 2 games were never duplicated on other systems. "Monkey Shines" was a form of tag. And "Quest for the Rings," "Conquest of the Worlds," and "Great Wall St. Fortune Hunt" combined video and board games.
Initially known for its great sports games, the Intellivision library eventually contained some different and original titles, like "TRON Deadly Discs" and "Utopia."
A big difference between the Intellivision and 2600 was that the Intellivision featured numeric keypad controllers, in addition to a directional pad. Games shipped with plastic "overlays," to be put on the keypad, to let the player know what each button did.
Mattel Electronics sold the Intellivision to INTV after the crash. INTV published some of the best Intellivision games yet, including "Diner," a sequel to "Burgertime."
What's interesting about the 7800 is that it was ready before the NES became available, but it was held back by the Tramiels after they bought Atari. When it eventually reached wide distribution around 1987, the NES was already entrenched and the 7800 remained an unknown. There were some fantastic arcade ports for the 7800, though, including "Joust," "Xevious," and the best home version of "Robotron," prior to the emulations released in the mid 1990s. Atari released a last batch of 7800 games in 1991, including some with a distinctly Nintendo-y flavor, before pulling the plug.
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