Fun & Games Technology
“Star Castle” Finally Ported to Atari 2600

Absolutely epic maker tale from former Atari dev Scott Williamson, who writes:

So, you may be wondering why anyone would bother to make a version of a 30 year old vector arcade game on an arcane 33 year old platform? I was inspired by one of the greatest and most influential game programmers of all time to make something that he said was impossible. I don’t consider this a game development project, rather an alternative history art piece, a demonstration that it could indeed be done.

Back story: Porting Star Castle to the 2600 was the first assignment of now-legendary Atari game pioneer Howard Scott Warshaw, who eventually decided that “a decent version couldn’t be done” on the console hardware, and reorganized the core gameplay elements of Star Castle into Yar’s Revenge, which went on to become Atari’s best-selling original title for the 2600.

Now story: Williamson, who worked for Atari starting in ’87, became fascinated with the Star Castle challenge. He dug into the attic for his old Atari notebooks, cobbled together a development environment, and after much head-scratching and code-crunching, managed to pare Star Castle—sprites, sounds, AI, and all—down to 8K ROM / 128 bytes RAM (yes, that’s individual bytes, with no prefix). Then he designed fantastic retro Atari-style packaging for the game, including a clear-cased custom cartridge with internal LEDs that flash during gameplay.

That’s right: The cartridge lights up.

Don’t miss this one, folks. Link below. [Thanks, Scott!]

Star Castle 2600, the Story


I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

View more articles by Sean Michael Ragan