Andrew Davie interview

By Scott Stilphen

While already an accomplished programmer in his own right, Andrew Davie decided to get "back-to-basics". His first solo effort for the 2600 – a little gem called Qb - is both very impressive and quite original... and he’s just getting started! I had a chance to talk with him during Qb’s "crunch time", as he was busy putting the finishing touches on his Philly Classic debut.

Q: What’s your educational (programming) background?

Andrew Davie: I was pretty much a self-taught programmer.  I became interested in computers about 1977, just about the dawn of the commercial home computer.  A friend bought an Ohio Scientific C1P in about 1979, and I waited a bit and bought an Atari 800.  Then we both wrote games - first in BASIC, and when we realized we would never make a good game in BASIC, shifted over to machine code/assembler.  6502 is and always will be my favourite processor.

I know a lot of other languages, of course - and mainly develop in C++ these days (which I also love).  But I've dabbled in Java and other languages and machines.  I'm able to use/write anything that I need to, to get the job done.

Q: Being Qb is your first 2600 game, the results are quite impressive, especially considering it was done in 4K, and in less than 50 days! Any plans for an 8K version?

Andrew Davie: Several people have asked.  I am absolutely NOT interested in producing an 8K version.  For me, the challenge is getting what you can into 4K.  Let's face it, this is for fun! Writing Atari 2600 games is not a commercially viable proposition.  If I sell 100 cartridges I'll think myself lucky! 

Q: Are there any features that you would have liked to add to QB but couldn’t (besides the title screen)?

Andrew Davie: The only thing I'm really disappointed about with Qb is the very poor sound that I've done so far.  I have been fighting available ROM space for some time, but I just don't think I'm going to be able to improve the sound.  

Q: Qb is basically a "port" of a game you did for the Atari 400/800. Was this ever published?

Andrew Davie: No.  I released it to public domain sometime in 1984.  It's PAL-only, I'm afraid (I didn't know this at the time as I was really pushing the machine/timing).  It's available for download; there's a link on my Qb page.

Q: Is there much difference between the Philly Classic release, and the version on your website?

Andrew Davie: There’s a couple of minor bug fixes, and the score in demo mode is set to "2001". There was a minor flicker-glitch fixed too. The PC version is limited EXCLUSIVELY to people who attend the show, and will never be offered again after that.

Q: I noticed your Qb character bears some resemblance to the Ebivision "mascot". I’m guessing this is by coincidence…or was there some inspiration there?

Andrew Davie: Yes, the Qb character looks very similar indeed.  I found this out way after I'd done it, so it is total coincidence.  There's not a lot of variation you can do in 8 pixels wide, if you want a large head with a smile and eyes :)

Q: Any plans to finish your "Sokoban" game? Any other possible projects or ideas?

Andrew Davie: I don't plan to finish the Sokoban at this stage.  That was a test bed, which didn't make it past the initial R&D stage.  I will definitely do another 2600 game, though. I have a couple of projects in mind.

Q: You mention possibly doing a "real" version of The Core in the newsgroups (LINK).  One thing the VCS needs is more games to take advantage of the Indy 500 controllers :)

Andrew Davie: Hehe... yes, I did :)  I had some discussions with Paul Oswood (the original Core programmer) about how things were done "way back when", and I thought it would be kind of cool to actually get something out the door.  I already have a title, "enCore", which is almost incentive enough to write it.   I'm still thinking about what my next 2600 project will be, so no promises.  I definitely wouldn't be interested in writing a game, which relied on an obscure controller that practically nobody owns.  If I wrote enCore, it would probably use joystick controls.

Q: What are/were some of your favorite games?

Andrew Davie: I kind of got burnt-out writing games for BEAM, and the very LAST thing I will do to relax is sit down and play a game.  Actually, I kind of can't stand the thought of playing them anymore.  I end up just analyzing the technical aspects of their implementation, not playing them for enjoyment.

Having said that, I was a game addict in the early years and really loved Defender, which I was very good at.  I also liked Crash (by Exidy) – a very old, black & white game.  I also remember Space Wars (Cinematronics). It was vector graphics and pretty cool - lots of buttons to press.  That was just about the first video game I really played a lot. Dig Dug comes to mind. That was fun. Apart from those, there's not a lot I really remember playing.  About then, I spent all my time writing, not playing.

Andrew will also be offering a special-edition deluxe version of his game (which will cost around $30). There will be only 100 carts made, and each will be individually numbered and signed. Besides being different from the website/Philly Classic released version, it will include a full-color box & label, fully annotated source code in both hard and soft copy, and a complete version history of the game development on a floppy.

In 2011 Atari sent Davie a cease-and-desist letter over his website (LINK).

Qb Atari 400/800 self-published (PD) released
Boulder Dash Atari 2600 First Star Software released
enCore Atari 2600 n/a not started
Qb Atari 2600 Hozer Video released
Sokoban Atari 2600 n/a not completed
Chess Atari 2600 n/a not completed
Wen Hop: The Search for Planet X Atari 2600 n/a not completed
Asterix and the Magic Cauldron Commodore 64 Beam Software released
Jr. Pac-Man Commodore 64 Thunder Mountain released
Mugsy’s Revenge Commodore 64 Melbourne House released
Street Hassle Commodore 64 Beam Software released
Super Pac-Man Commodore 64 Thunder Mountain released
Archon NES Activision released
Bad Street Brawler NES Mattel released
Back To The Future NES LJN released
Back To The Future II & III NES LJN released
Bigfoot NES Acclaim released
The Hunt for Red October NES Hi-Tech Express released
International Cricket NES Laser Beam released
The Three Stooges NES Activision released
Way of the Exploding Fist NES Beam Software not released
WCW Superbrawl Wrestling SNES FCI released

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