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Featured Vintage Software: Video Checkers (1980) (Atari)


VIDEO CHECKERS,
ATARI GAME PROGRAM (CX-2636)

Programming Language : 6507 ASSEMBLER
Released On (Media): Cartridge (4KB)

Released by ATARI, INC. Consumer Division in 1980 for the Atari Video Computer System (VCS), also known as the 2600.



INTRODUCTION

Another nice example of a traditional board game that made it's way off the table and onto early home computer systems. It's also a game that was made possible by programming techniques developed during the creation of another board game classic, Atari Video Chess. These software techniques were able to overcome the hardware limitations of the early Atari computers.

The Atari used hardware sprites, a sprite is a bitmap or graphics object displayed on the screen (such as a chess piece) independent of the background (such as a chess board). Due to the hardware limitations of the Atari it was only able to display 3 sprites beside each other, not ideal for a game like chess that would require 8 sprites (or chess pieces) per row. However the programmers were able to develop a software technique that would overcome the hardware limitations and allow display of 8 or more sprites beside each other.




Original Program Instructions
Downloadable (PDF)


GAME PLAY

I've always been more of a checkers person than chess and find Atari Video Checkers to be a nice way to enjoy a quick game. The rules are very straight forward and follow the standard rules of checkers. The joystick is used to move cursor and your checkers around the board, the cursor can only be moved diagonally on the black squares. To move one of your checkers move the cursor over the checker and press the fire button, this will pickup your checker the cursor will change from an X to your checker. Now you can move your checker to the square you want to, press the fire button again to drop the checker. After you have made your move the computer will make it's move.

The computer will not allow you to pickup a checker that cannot make a legal move or move a checker to the wrong square.





Fig:1 - Atari Video Checkers
The Game Board


Fig:2 - Atari Video Checkers
Capture "Jump Move"


CAPTURE "JUMP MOVES"
A player must jump when able. To make a jump, pickup the checker to be moved and move the checker over the piece being jumped to the next empty square and push the fire button. For multiple jumps, continue moving to the appropriate square and pushing the fire button again.


GAME VARIATIONS

AMATEUR LEVEL GAMES:
In amateur level games (Games 1-4) the board has black and red squares.

PRO LEVEL GAMES
In pro level games (Games 5-9) the official tournament colours of green and buff are used for the board.

GIVEAWAY CHECKERS
Games 11-19 are giveaway checkers, the object of which is to be the first player to loose all your checkers or to be blocked and unable to move.


CONSOLE CONTROLS

GAME SELECT SWITCH:
Used to change the game number (upper left corner of screen) If the game number is white then the human player controls white, if the number is dark then the human controls the red.

RIGHT DIFFICULTY SWITCH:
A Position
Right player in two player game
Computer player in 1 player game (Black and starts)

B Position
Left player in two-player game
Human player in 1 player game (Black and starts)

LEFT DIFFICULTY SWITCH:
A Position
Set up mode, used to set up the board anyway you want.

B Position
Normal game play

GAME RESET SWITCH:
Set up checkers on board for a new game or restart a game.



DO YOU WANT TO PLAY A GAME?

If you own an actual Atari 2600 Video Computer System or a Coleco Gemini then you can pickup a game cartridge cheap online somewhere like eBay. If you don't you can also try something like one of the new Atari Flashback consoles, these come preloaded with many different games.

Alternatively you could use a software emulator such as Stella, it's a popular multi-platform Atari 2600 VCS emulator available for many different operating systems. We've made the Video Checkers binary file available for download that you can use with Stella. You can also follow the link below to download Stella itself.

Stella Multi-Patform Atari 2600 VCS Emulator

Download Atari Video Checkers
(4KB) BIN File


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