williamson Q&a d scott
We sit down with the programming powerhouse to talk about converting Toki to atari’s Lynx
How did you end up working for
Atari and landing the job of porting Toki to the Lynx?
getting a programming job with atari in 1987 was my dream job. i was originally hired to work on the atari-badged Sega genesis, but after that deal fell through i ended up writing White Water Madness on the still in-development atari STE. i also wrote some digitised sound drivers and tools for 2600, 7800 and atari 8-bit then atari and Epyx came to an agreement on the Lynx. Everything about the Lynx was so new and amazing, i leaped at the opportunity to work on it and dug in deep. atari gave me the title of head of developer support for the Lynx so i pretty much got to pick my own projects. i loved arcade games so it’s easy to see why i picked Road Blasters, STUN Runner and Toki!
Why does Toki work so well on the Lynx?
Coin-ops were huge in the late Eighties and arcade games like APB, Pac-land, Hydra, Xenophobe, Road Blasters, STUN Runner and, of course, Toki were real hot and you couldn’t play anything like them at home. Well, until the Lynx came along with its unlimited scalable full-colour sprites, specialised scrolling hardware and advanced sound. it was able to bring those games home at a quality never seen before – and it was a handheld, too. There were some games on the Lynx that even the genesis and SNES couldn’t do and that was pretty exciting. The Lynx’s hardware was just really well suited to arcade games and i think Toki proves that.
The graphics in Lynx Toki are gorgeous, how did you get them looking so good?
i employed another old CRT Tv trick that i had also used in Road Blasters and STUN Runner called mid-screen palette switching. Without this technique, the Lynx can only display 16 colours on the screen at any one time. But i soon found that with some clever timer programming i could create an ‘hblank’ interrupt that would allow me to change palette colours partway down the screen or on every scanline. i think i managed to get 48 unique colours on the screen at once, trebling the number of colours allowed on the screen in one frame. i’m rather proud of the fact that the early Lynx emulators did not handle this timing precisely and they were a glitchy mess as a result!