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Make "Atari 2600 games" in 1 day, without programming!
The Atari 2600 is one of the most difficult consoles to program for, because its games are coded in complex Assembly Language.
But now, you can create your very own Atari 2600 flavor game in Windows using just a free Paint Program and the Fusion game making program.
Page Last updated on: March 7, 2019!

Last Updated on 5/23/2018 - engine now has flickering if 3 sprites are on the same horizontal space!


An inspiring drawing demo with the Atari 2600 color palette. Just right click and save!.

Note: Games made with Fusion do not run on the Atari 2600 console. Thanks to AtariAge forum for tech tips and Clickteam Forum for helping a bit on the MFA.
My desire on this webpage is to incentivize (mainly) audio-visual artists who don't know how to code, to start making Atari 2600 like (faithful to the hardware) games with the easy Fusion 2.5 program
and perhaps help the new Atari VCS (AtariBox?) to keep the Atari 2600 classic gaming spirit alive.
By this, I mean a working Atari 2600esque Engine and graphics drawing tool.
Both can be your trampoline to making Atari 2600 like games in a maximum of a couple of days! that is if you are not making an rpg of course ;D. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

With Fusion, you Just import your drawings, click, drag, add some events and play!
Download this example and the editable Atari 2600 game engine file below and see for yourself!

Instructions: On the first screen hit Ctrl to advance to the next screen and from there on, the Space key.
Note: the program is still a work in progress, so I will be updating it as time allows and will post the latest version here!
Here is a simple one stage game I made (in one day) using what I teach: Pigeon Pooper!

Important: in Fusion, always use the 16 million color mode, so as not to alter the real Atari 2600 color palette.
To check the palette's originality, check with the dropper tool if the white color is hex# ECECEC
Remember to always save your game images in .png format in 24bit mode to not alter the color palette

To make a faithful Atari 2600 game, we must know and follow its limitations! and the first and most important aspcect is that because the resolution width of the Atari 2600 is only 160 color clocks ("pixels"), the game screen is always stretched in width to "double its size":
The vertical resolution is always 192 scanlines ("pixels"). So, when you draw your stuff, draw them skinny and narrow because they will get "2x" thicker in width by the strectch to fill the regular screen.


The Atari 2600 way: We know that a pixel is displayed as a square of 1x1.

- A pixel as we know it!

- The Atari way of displaying! (double wide: 2x1)

in Atari 2600 language, what we know today as pixels, are called color clocks! indeed a color clock is not really a pixel, but for the sake of simplicity for the game assets (artwork) we will assume it is on this teaching page!

COLORS: The Atari 2600 can display a total of 128 colors, and you can display all of them on the screen! but each must be below each other, meaning
one for each horizontal scanline. There can only be a total of 4 colors on the same horizontal scanline/pixel line.
Another color rule: these share the same colors:
Playfield and Ball
Player0 and missile0
Player1 and missile1

The Atari 2600 game screen is composed of 7 game objects:
1- Background
2- Playfield
3- Player 1
4- Player 2
5- Missile 1
6- Missile 2
7- Ball


1- The Background: Takes the whole screen (160x192) you can only change color per each horizontal line. the background is always behind the playfield.

2- The Playfield: Takes half of the screen (80x192) and is composed of a block 4 pixels wide by 1 tall; and again, 1 color per line. Total width: 20 playfield blocks (80 pixels), meaning that after 80 pixels, you have to either mirror or repeat the playfield to the other side for the total of 40 playfield blocks (160 pixels which is your whole screen width). here is a mirrored playfield; notice the 4 pixels wide playfield resolution!

3- Player(Sprite): a player sprite pixel resolution width is 8 pixels wide,

but can be up to 192 pixels vertically!
Its size horizontal size can be doubled (16 pixels wide) or quadrupled (32 pixels wide).
One color per horizontal line.
Limitation: up to 2 player sprites only (player1 and player2) on the same horizontal space! else there must be a flickering effect!
They can also be duplicated and triplicated but NOT if they are stretched!
Trick: On a player you can have horizontal streching applied to a part of its horizontal body, should you choose to do that!
Now, the horizontal stretching effect (the doubling or quadrupling of the pixels) cannot be altered,
(of course) but the sprite's vertical pixels do not have to follow the stretch effect.
Meaning, you can draw in high detail as long as you're doing it vertically (see pic):







4- The Missile: size: 1x1(up to 1x192), 1 color, (matching the player) and which width can be stretched: x2, x4 or even x8.
limitation: up to 2 missiles only on the same horizontal space! (missile1 and missile2) and so, if one player is blue and the other is red, one missile
will be red and the other blue as well as they must match its player.
Feature: It can leave a trail of itself when moving even when stretched!
Trick: It is possible to make a starfield and particles with missiles!

5- The Ball: size: 1x1(up to 1x192), 1 color, (matching the playfield) and which width can be stretched: x2, x4 or even x8.
limitation: 1 ball only per horizontal line.
Feature: Can also leave a trail of itself when moving even when stretched!
Trick: It is also possible to make a starfield and particles with the ball!

So as can be seen below, all 5 elements can have unlimited height, but each has its fixed width (as mentioned above). here, the playfield has been mirrored.



Here's another type of view:


                                                    

Here's the Engine/Example for you to create your own Atari 2600-esque games: Atari 2600 Engine (by Aloan Moreira)

Note: The engine still needs to be updated to conform 100% to the Atari 2600 limitations.
There are more sprites and colors than possible and some other wrong things I need to update.
(I'm not completely sure you can use the 2 missiles and the ball to make up fake player sprites, bringing the total of player sprites to 5!)
This example needs an important object: the Layer object. Download 
Note: do not use the Walrus full screen object as it defeats the purpose of the famous horizontal stretching of the Atari 2600 and the positioning of objects (chars). 
If you find necessary to set a snapping grid for working with the playfield in the Frame Editor, click View, Grid Setup, Show grid and snap to, and put these values in:

Grid Setup
Origin: no change
size: width: 8
height: 2 (because we can't put a 0 or 1)
hit ok

Engine/Example controls: arrows to move, Shift to jump 

level 1: platform 
level 2: eight directions
level 3: sample Playfield 1 
level 4: sample Playfield 2
level 5: sample Playfield 3

See some of my old stuff (wip): Here 
============ /////////////////// ============ 
AUDIO: Almost all Atari 2600 games can only have 2 track audio! but some games had a third just for noise! (effects)
I use my music keyboard to record into its track. I use the square wave intrument to create music for it.
You can also record sounds from your stella emulator using the free audacity digital recorder. Remember to save your audio to the .ogg file format.
Here is a great Atari 2600 sound effects library (+8mb) made by Sebastian Tomczak: Download! 
Use the sounds in the sound library to make the sounds of your faithful Atari 260 game. 

============ /////////////////// ============ 

Atari 2600 graphics simplified: Drawing your Atari 2600 graphics on Paint.net (free paint program)

And here is that drawing template, but in paint.net format (with layers) Atari 2600 Graphics template (by Aloan Moreira)

Here is the important grid drawing template:
Atari 2600 Graphics Grid template (by Aloan Moreira)
Here is my Atari 2600 graphics maker: (this is a paint program with all the drawing rules built in!!! - a must get)
The Atari 2600 Graphics Maker (by Aloan Moreira - 2018)
How to convert a real image to an Atari 2600 Playfield:

1- Use MtPaint to convert the colors of your image to the Atari 2600 color palette.
(link and download below) Note 2: always use nearest neighbor when resizing and save as .png! If image is wider than taller: ex: 340 x 120 1- resize with a horizontal of 320 with aspect ratio ticked 2- untick aspect ratio, resize (horizontally only) to 80 3- resize again (horizontally only) to 320 if image is higher than wider: ex: 340 x 500 1- resize to vertical 192 2- resize canvas to 320 3- squish horizontal only to 80 resize horizontal only to 320 Now you have a real Atari 2600 Playfield. (remember to abide to the color rules) Imagine all the trouble one had to go, to make this in pure assembly language. Downloads: MTPaint Atari 2600 palette gpl Color Quantizer program Take me back to the top of the page!
or... BACK to the Video Games page!