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Robert DeCrescenzo

Robert is a leading force behind modern-day development for the Atari 7800! His prowess has produced several newly programmed 7800 titles
in addition to resurrecting three long lost titles.

MT> Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do in the real world?
RD> I am a senior programmer for a software company that caters to the ‘Fast Moving Consumer Goods’ division (Bakeries, Dairies, beverage, etc.) I also handle their network duties, and their PC hardware.

MT> Why do you love classic games so much? Any other hobbies or are you “all in” for gaming only?
RD> I am also a musician and song writer. I even had an album out on the independent site ‘’ for a while until I took it down.

MT> Why do you love classic games so much? Any other hobbies or are you “all in” for gaming only?
RD> I was brought up on games and electronics. I was 9 in 1978 when I got my first 2600, and even before that we had the ‘Odyssey’ when it first came out in ’72. It was all around me: my oldest brother ended up getting the Intellivision, and then the Vectrex. My sister had the Intellivision II with the 2600 adapter. My best friend had an Odyssey2. This is what made me go into computer programming as a career. In that field, I started out with a TI99/4A, then moved on to the Apple IIc when it first came out, and then PCs and UNIX mainframes, when I started my current job in ’89.

MT> What is your background concerning classic computers?
Many of us have or continue to use them, but you repair and service them. How did you learn such a skill?
RD> My father had an ‘Electronics Repair’ shop in Bellmore, N.Y. until he passed away in ’94. Back in the day, he purchased a bunch of 2600s and Intellivisions from a liquidator and my job was to test them and make sure they work. He never did end up selling all of them so I had a few hanging around. I performed ‘operations’ on some of them, building joysticks and whatnot from parts I used to scavenge from a bootleg arcade game factory around the corner from where I lived.

I also always had a fascination of taking things apart to see how they work (most likely something I inherited from my father), so I learned how to fix quite a few things that way. Most of the work I do currently is for desktop PCs and laptops (replacing screens, building, etc.).

MT> You have programmed many homebrew projects, but all of them for the Atari 7800 Pro System. Is it because you’re a “Pro” player?
RD> LOL, no –in all honestly I hardly have time to *play* anything! I actually started out doing one hack for the 2600, trying to make Pac-Man Plus out of ‘A Better Pac-Man’ by Rob Kudla. I then moved on to the 5200, taking the Pac-Man partially documented source code (hi Bryan!) and successfully turning that into Hangly-Man and Pac-Man Plus. I then went *back* to the 2600 to hack Stargate down into ‘Defender Arcade’ and then started on the 7800, mostly because of two reasons: 1) nobody else was doing it at the time, and
2) It was the only console that had no ‘Pac-Man’ port. I ended up learning how to program that unit better than the other two, so I just kept going with it.

MT> You heavily modified the original Asteroids for the Atari 7800.
What is so ‘Deluxe’ about Asteroids Deluxe?
RD> As with all of my ports, I tried to get as close as possible to the arcade version of ‘Asteroids Deluxe’ which I have always preferred over the regular Asteroids. To answer your question, the ‘shields’ and the ‘killer satellite’ are what makes this game ‘deluxe’. Also the increased difficulty. Because in the arcade game, the UFOs are much more accurate than regular Asteroids, I had to do the same here.

Space Duel is also an extensive hack of the Atari 7800 Asteroids game program.
How did you approach altering the code of one game into another entirely different game?

I always look at how I could do the differences within the confines of the code that’s already there.
Then I add to it, hoping that I don’t overrun the screen refresh with each piece of code I add. ;)

MT> Your iterations of your games are very true to the arcade counterparts.
However, the tethered ships option did not make it into Space Duel. Was this due to the alteration being too extreme?
RD> I won’t lie; I was not exactly sure how to accomplish this feat. But the main reason was slow-down. At the moment, when there are many object on the screen, you will see a noticeable slow-down in the action. I figured if this was already happening without the tethered ship option (which is math and/or table lookup intensive), it would be un-playable if I tried to put it in.

MT> Your Pac-Man Collection features eight Pac-Man variations, including Ultra Pac-Man.
Who generated the six new mazes used in Ultra Pac-Man?
RD> They were taken directly from ‘Champ Games’ PC port of Ms. Champ-Em! (thanks John!)

MT> Your Pac-Man Collection recognizes the impossible to find “High Score Cartridge.”
Why did you choose to allow such functionality knowing that it may never be used?
RD> Mainly because it was also supported in the ‘Cuttle Cart II’.
Also, because the code was already there from the ‘Ms. Pac-Man’ source code, which was a starting point.

MT> Tell us about the Atari 7800 titles Sirius, Plutos, and Rampart, and how were you involved with their eventual release.
RD> Once I started working on the 7800, I’ve been in contact with Curt Vendel of Atari Museum, who also has a soft spot for this console. He happened to find those three games in MADMAC compiled format (not quite assembler, but convertible fairly easily). He asked me if I could figure out how to get them to work. I got close on my own, taking the recently acquired version of ‘Missing In Action’ because that was similar in size (144K) and that game was also in with the other three. I eventually found out that two of the games (Plutos and Sirius) needed 16K of RAM and was then able to get Plutos to work for a few seconds but it kept crashing. Sirius I kind of got working but with garbled graphics because I had a few banks in the wrong order.

I then knew I needed to get some other people involved that knew more about the hardware end of the 7800. So, I asked Mitch and Eckhard to help as well as Allan (these are all names from the AtariAge message board). Eckhard and Mitch found out that in Plutos’ case, it was writing to ROM locations and expecting to ‘see’ a different result (that’s why it was crashing). Quick background: The development card for the 7800 console was *all* RAM, so you could get away with this temporarily if you needed to… Until it needed to get burned to cart. Eckhard and Mitch took it from there and got all of the games working, lucky for us. J


MT> Are you kidding - Thank You!

Robert's ambitions benefit us all greatly and we truly appreciate his dedication.
Robert, you have brought great joy to many individuals and 7800 Pro Systems!

Have questions? E-mail Robert

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