Tuesday, January 08, 2008

raster vector raster vector

Just had the best IM conversation with Ian -- thank you Google for integrating AIM in gmail, which means now I actually monitor my AIM account. He's in the midst of a book about the Atari 2600, which pretty much defines cool in my mind. However, it gets even cooler. Ian decided that rather than just doing screen shots of old games, he'd pull them into Adobe Illustrator to create vector versions of the images, allowing him far more control of the presentation. (He claims to have a poster-sized print of the Atari Adventure Easter Egg, but the only way he'll be able to prove that is to send me one.) We'll have to wait for the book to see them all, but his process resulted in a hilarious moment when he got Cinematronics' Star Castle.

ibogost: I'm running Cinematronics' coin-op Star Castle in an emulator, which is emulating its vector display for my raster display, so that I can take a screenshot of that raster display in order to re-vectorize it in Illustrator for use as a figure in a book
So, vector (original game) as raster (emulated) to vector (Illustrator). What really got us laughing was to keep going, since the Illustrator image will be printed (raster, I think), read by humans (raster, with errors due to Nyquist), and be represented in our brains (vector).

So, to go from Ian's desired shot to the readers' brains, we get: vector->raster->vector->raster->raster->vector

OK, so we thought it was funny.

Ironically, one of the screenshots was being used to demonstrate how the 2600 did hardware collision detection. In our modern, tri-linear, multi-buzworded, hardware accelerated game world, we still tend to use some truly horrible approximations for collision detection. Bounding boxes, spheres, and even polygon-polygon collision detection tend to trade off accuracy for performance, since most cd is done in software on the CPU.

But back in the day, we had glorious, perfect per pixel collision detection done by the hardware! Hell, the Atari computers gave us two players and two missiles worth of hardware cd. Of course, with 2 or 4k of ROM on the cartridge, developers had to take what they could get.

OK, back to my Ajax homework. I'll have words for the "Head Rush" book tomorrow.


gofigures said...

Your post made me nostalgic for "Sands of Egypt", a game I had for my trusty TRS-80, on which I learned my first and only programming language. I never figured out how to complete the game, and I've always wondered how it ended!


T S said...

Speaking of TRS-80, two games come to mind...

Planet Miners - Which I was, as a kid, translating for the Model-III's voice module for awhile (mostly as it was a favorite with visiting family members).

Aquire - The AH Bookcase game was translated (well!) for the Model-I on tape. I eventually got a copy of the real game (actually two I think - one's a bit fragile so they're both packed carefully in storage).

As for the 2600 - Looking at Ian's listing, we had most of those games. Though ESB was not bad, I personally liked Space Shuttle Simulator (yes, such a game existed for it). ;)


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