Sunday, October 10, 2010

Classic Game Code Visualized

The Atari 2600's cartridge-based videogames are quaint by today's standards, but programmer/artist Ben Fry spins contemporary visualizations out of the raw code and data of classic titles such as Pac Man and Pitfall.


Fry's distellamap project provides an unexpectedly-beautiful view of ancient assembly language columns:

"When a byte of data (as opposed to code) is found in the cartridge, it is shown as an orange row: a solid block for a '1' or a dot for a '0'. The row is eight elements long, representing a whole byte. This usually means that the images can be seen in their entirety when a series of bytes are shown as rows. The images were often stored upside-down as a programming method."

Fry's visualization reveals how the original game code intersected with the Atari 2600's primitive graphics and limited data. Today's games are generally too complex to visualize in this way, although play patterns are easier to track and show (for example, as heat maps).

2 comments:

Varun Vachhar said...

is there a link to the original project?

Tony Walsh said...

Yes, this is the project I mentioned and linked to) in the post -- http://benfry.com/distellamap/