wil­liamson Q&a d scott

We sit down with the pro­gram­ming pow­er­house to talk about con­vert­ing Toki to atari’s Lynx

Retro Gamer - - ULTIMATE GUIDE: TOKI -

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!

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