2020/10/23: Bally Astrocade: Look Out For The Bull, Soccer

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VideoGameCritic
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2020/10/23: Bally Astrocade: Look Out For The Bull, Soccer

Postby VideoGameCritic » October 23rd, 2020, 4:13 pm

I think these reviews are kind of funny. Let me know what you think.

mbd36
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Re: 2020/10/23: Bally Astrocade: Look Out For The Bull, Soccer

Postby mbd36 » October 23rd, 2020, 11:40 pm

That's actually really cool that there's a Bally Astrocade homebrew from 1981.

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pacman000
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Re: 2020/10/23: Bally Astrocade: Look Out For The Bull, Soccer

Postby pacman000 » October 24th, 2020, 1:28 pm

Built-In BASIC & the ability to use a tape drive helped.

The Astrocade was kept alive by homebrewers; they even bought the system after Bally discontinued it. From 1981 to 1984 it was produced & marketed by a company called Astrovision, or so the story goes.

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Re: 2020/10/23: Bally Astrocade: Look Out For The Bull, Soccer

Postby goldenband » October 24th, 2020, 1:30 pm

VideoGameCritic wrote:I think these reviews are kind of funny. Let me know what you think.

Loved to see them, and great to learn that Soccer was such a quality title. That's a nice perk that, even with the Astrocade library so close to completely reviewed, there were still pleasant surprises left.

Somehow I don't think Speed Math/Bingo Math will surpass it, but speaking of perks, at least you get a free set of Ginsu knives if you review that one. :D

mbd36 wrote:That's actually really cool that there's a Bally Astrocade homebrew from 1981.

I don't know if you follow the series Atari Archive on YouTube, but it seems there was a really thriving Astrocade homebrew scene in those years, thanks to Astro BASIC.

Is the Astrocade the first console before the PlayStation (via Net Yaroze) to have anything like that? The Intellivision and ColecoVision had some vague flickers thanks to the ECS and Adam expansions, but those required significant hardware expansion (especially the Adam). Can't think of anything else that compares. I guess SG-1000 vs. SC-3000 is a similar issue.

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Re: 2020/10/23: Bally Astrocade: Look Out For The Bull, Soccer

Postby pacman000 » October 24th, 2020, 4:16 pm

There was also the extremely rare APF Imagination Machine, a console with a keyboard you could add to turn it into a computer. Don't know if it beat the Astrocade tho.

A few years later (1981?) V-Tech released the CreatiVision, with two joysticks which could be placed side-by-side to make a keyboard. I think that one had BASIC & limited computing abilities as well. In Australia it was sold as the Wizard; not sure it ever made it to the U.S. I think this is probably closest to what the Astrocade offered, since you could in theory start programming right out of the box, with no needed addons. The Creativision was more powerful than the Astrocade tho; it used the same TI graphics & sound chips that were in the ColecoVision, SG-1000, & MSX computers.

There was also the MagiCard for the 2600, released by CommaVid/Computer Magic in '79 or '80. To use it you needed to learn hexadecimal. Users could build a tape adaptor to save their work.

And Spectravideo released the Compumate keyboard, which turned the Atari 2600 into a simple computer, with BASIC, a graphics program, & a music program.

And Nintendo offered a keyboard for the Famicom, with BASIC & a tape drive so you could program your own games.

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Re: 2020/10/23: Bally Astrocade: Look Out For The Bull, Soccer

Postby goldenband » October 24th, 2020, 10:59 pm

All true, and well summarized!

I think what I meant by asking whether "the Astrocade [was] the first console before the PlayStation (via Net Yaroze) to have anything like that" was whether any other consoles had an active homebrew scene before Net Yaroze.

Obviously when you've got console hardware that supported computer-like expansions, and computers that could run console games, those lines could get blurry: is the Intellivision ECS still a console? Is the ADAM? Is the Compumate?

Still, I think there's a distinction to be made somewhere in there, and the Astrocade is on the "right" side of it, with a (relatively) huge body of homebrew -- making it almost unique among North American consoles from the 8- and 16-bit eras, from what I can tell.

But on the Japanese side of things, the Famicom BASIC tape thing is interesting -- I wonder what it supported, how many games were programmed for it, and how widely they were shared.

I know the Intellivision ECS allowed for limited BASIC programming that could probably muster up a game, but I don't think it was anywhere close to what the Astrocade would do.

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Re: 2020/10/23: Bally Astrocade: Look Out For The Bull, Soccer

Postby pacman000 » October 25th, 2020, 8:40 am

Well... One of Apollo’s first games was programmed on the MagiCard, & if I remember right GameFreak’s first game was programmed on the Famicom Keyboard.

A few people have considered ultra-rare 2600 games, like Happy Birthday & Red Sea Crossing, homebrews. Not sure I agree with them.

I’ve read somewhere the Imagination Machine had a small community back-in-the-day, but that system’s so rare it couldn’t have had a community as large as the Astrocade’s. If we’re talking about communities, then the Imagination Machine & the Astrocade are the only pre-PS1 ones I’ve heard of, & the Astrocade’s the only one I’ve seen evidence of.

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Re: 2020/10/23: Bally Astrocade: Look Out For The Bull, Soccer

Postby goldenband » October 25th, 2020, 1:22 pm

Yeah, I think "community" is the word I was fumbling around for. :) And I agree that Birthday Mania and Red Sea Crossing (as well as Gamma-Attack, Air Raid, etc.) aren't homebrews, but indie games.

So with the exception of the Imagination Machine, it looks like the Astrocade's homebrew scene was an essentially unique example of officially-sanctioned homebrew development for a console in North America -- at least, until Net Yaroze. Cool!

Meanwhile in Japan they had a bit more -- there was something called the Develo for PC Engine, and the aforementioned Famicom BASIC.

A homebrew scene does seem to have materialized around the Intellivision ECS in the late 1990s -- see this programming contest for one example. It'd be interesting to know if there was any ECS homebrew game sharing going on in the 1980s, but I haven't found anything yet.


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