Blackjack (Atari 2600 video game)

(Redirected from Blackjack (Atari 2600))

Blackjack is a video game simulation of the card game blackjack. It was designed by Bob Whitehead for the Atari Video Computer System (later known as the Atari 2600). The game allows up to three players to play a variation of blackjack. Each player is given 200 chips where they can bet 1 to 25 of each round. The game ends for a player when they either run out of chips or earns 1000 chips or more.

Blackjack art by Rick Guidice
Designer(s)Bob Whitehead
Platform(s)Atari 2600
ReleaseSeptember 1977
Genre(s)Digital tabletop game[2]
Mode(s)Single-player, multi-player

Computer simulations of blackjack have been developed since the 1950s with all the home video game consoles released in the 1970s having a variation of the game released for their system. Whitehead developed the game following his work on Star Ship (1977). He was responsible for specific development choices, such as controlling the game via the paddle controllers and initially planning to include other card games on the cart. Whitehead made Blackjack the first Atari 2600 game that would be able to copy graphics on the fly, which would be used continuously in later games for the system.

On the games release in September 1977, it was the most well received game of the systems launch titles by Video magazine. Blacjack was no longer promoted by Atari following the release of Whitehead's Casino in 1979, but still continued to sell in small amounts as late as 1989. Retrospective reviews were generally dismissive, with Brett Weiss and AllGame noting low quality sound and graphics while Kevin Bunch in Atari Archive: Vol.1 1977-1978 found that the release of Casino made Blackjack a relatively superfluous game for the Atari 2600.

Gameplay edit

A single player game of Blackjack. The dealer's hand can be seen at the top of the screen while the players is seen below it.

Blackjack can be played by one to three players. Each player stars with 200 chips and can bet 1 to 25 chips each round. The game is dealt by the computer. Each player is dealt two cards face-up, while the dealer is given two cards face down. Each card, has a point value assigned. Number cards have their face value, such as a five card being worth five points. Face cards are worth ten points, and an ace can be either be 1 or 11 points. The object of each round is to get 21 points or as close to 21 points without exceeding it. If a player is satisfied with their hand dealt to them, they can choose to stay. If they want to add more points, they can request a hit and receive another card from the dealer. A player can continue to hit until they option to stay or until they exceed 21 points and lose the round. The player wins the round if their hand has more points than the dealer's hand without exceeding 21 or if the dealer's hand exceeds 21 points. If the player wins with a "Black Jack" (an ace, or a face card along with a 10 card), they earn one and a half times their bet. A player's bet is either added or subtracted from their total score depending if they won or lost the round. The game ends when one player earns 1000 chips which "breaks the bank" or if the player has no remaining chips.[3]

The difficulty switches on the Atari 2600 can effect the game play. If set left difficulty switch is set to position B, the dealer shuffles the deck after ever hand. If set to "A", the computer shuffles the cards after dealing 34 cards. If the right difficult switch is set to A, the dealer must hit a soft 17 or less and will stay on a hard 17. If your hand equals 10 or 11 points, the player must double their bet before their first hit. On option B, the dealer will stay on 17 or more points and all ties default to a win for the dealer and a player can win the game when they hit four times without going over 21 points.[3]

Development edit

Developer Bob Whitehead chose to use the paddle controllers (pictured) in Blackjack to convince players that enough games used the unique controllers to justify their cost.

Blackjack was designed by Bob Whitehead.[4] Whitehead was born in San Jose, California and graduated from San Jose University with a degree in computer mathematics.[5] He joined the Atari, Inc. programming department in January 1977.[6] Whitehead began work on Blackjack following his adaptation of the arcade game Starship 1 (1977) with Star Ship (1977) for the Atari 2600.[7] Various blackjack games had been made before the Atari 2600 version, such as Los Alamos engineers producing a version of the game for the IBM 701 in the 1950s while most home video games consoles available in the late 1970s would have a Blackjack game on it, such as the Fairchild Channel F console with Videocart-3 in 1976.[4][8][9]

Whitehead explained that developers for the system wanted to create games they thought they would enjoy themselves, believing that a gambling-themed game would be appealing to the staff. He jokingly described them as "teenagers between the ages 18 and 35."[8] Halfway through development, Whitehead contemplated adding other card games along with blackjack to the game but held back on the idea as it was important at the time to release more games for the system.[10] He specifically made the game to be controlled with the paddle controllers as he felt the game would be able to use them appropriately, and wanted owners of the system to feel that enough games used the controllers to justify their cost.[10]

Release and reception edit

Other than Combat which was included with the release of the Atari 2600, Blackjack was one of the initial eight launch titles that were shipped in September 1977.[11][12] The cover art of Blackjack was done by Rick Guidice.[13] Guidice was originally hired by Atari to for his architectural design skills to create the entrance for their building. This led to contract work with Atari for illustrations he would make based on descriptions of the games.[14] Guidice said for Blackjack he was given creative freedom from the Atari art directors to come up with image ideas and decided to illustrate playing cards and happy people in a casino setting.[13] He would go on to make cover art for other early Atari titles, including Whitehead's Casino (1979).[14] Blackjack was re-released in various compilation formats, such as the Atari 80 in One for Windows in 2003, the Atari Anthology for PlayStation 2 and Xbox in 2004, and Atari Greatest Hits: Volume 2 for Nintendo DS in 2011.[15][16]

Video gave the game the highest ranking of the early releases for the console, praising the several variations of the game and declaring it a "good game for adults", awarding it a 10 out of 10 rating, the highest of any the releases for the system in 1977.[17] David H. Ahl of Creative Computing only gave the game a brief mention of the game in their overview of the launch titles for the Atari 2600, categorizing them all as "games are designed with many hours of fun in mind."[18]

From retrospective reviews, Michael Schwartz and Joan Dykman of Allgame dismissed the game, noting poor graphics, irritating audio, and specifying that the worst feature was its slow pace concluding that "Blackjack is just not a fun video game, even by 1977 standards."[2] Brett Weiss in his book Classic Home Video Games 1972-1984 (2007) complimented the control via the paddle allowed for nice rapid play, while finding that the graphics and sound to be "as primitive as possible", noting the lack of suits on the cards and the lack of certain gameplay elements of Blackjack such as the ability to double down or split pairs.[1] Kevin Bunch in Atari Archive: Vol.1 1977-1978 found that the release of Casino (1979) made Blackjack a relatively superfluous release in the Atari 2600 library, while saying that it "was not a bad rendition of the card game" noting the ease of use in the controller, and highlighted small touches like the sound effect of the dealer cutting the cards if the player gets through an entire deck.[10]

Legacy edit

Blackjack was the first game to rewrite copy graphics on the fly, which would make the Atari 2600 display graphics beyond what it was built to do.[10] Whitehead explained that the Atari 2600 was initially only intended to have a certain amount of object images on the screen, but as the television scans down the screen, the program could actually moves these object images around.[19] This technique was used in several later games for the system to show six-character score ranges.[10]

Whitehead's desire to make more card games available was later realized with his game Casino released in March 1979, which included variants on stud poker, solitaire as well as blackjack.[10] Following the release of Casino, Black Jack was no longer highlighted in promotional material from Atari and was discontinued by the January 1982 Consumers Electronic Show. The game remained on the market with some remaining small sales figures for the game still appearing as late as 1989.[19]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c Weiss 2007, p. 37.
  2. ^ a b Schwartz & Dykman.
  3. ^ a b Atari, Inc. 1977.
  4. ^ a b Bunch 2022, p. 104.
  5. ^ Cohen 1982, p. 104.
  6. ^ Bunch 2022, p. 70.
  7. ^ Bunch 2022, pp. 106–107.
  8. ^ a b Bunch 2022, p. 106.
  9. ^ Bunch 2022, p. 272.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Bunch 2022, p. 107.
  11. ^ Weekly Television Digest 1977, p. 10.
  12. ^ Montfort & Bogost 2009, p. 123.
  13. ^ a b Lapetino 2016, p. 60.
  14. ^ a b Lapetino 2016, p. 106.
  15. ^ Harris 2004.
  16. ^ Atari SA 2011.
  17. ^ Kaplan 1979, pp. 32–33.
  18. ^ Ahl 1978, pp. 38–39.
  19. ^ a b Bunch 2022, p. 108.

Sources edit

  • "Atari Announces Atari Greatest Hits: Volume 2 Featuring Four-Player Multiplayer for the First Time". PR Newswire (Press release). Atari SA. January 6, 2011. Archived from the original on June 2, 2011. Retrieved February 16, 2024.
  • Blackjack Game Program Instructions. Atari. 1977. C011402-51.
  • "Games-Deja Vu Sets In". Weekly Television Digest. Vol. 17, no. 42. October 17, 1977.
  • Ahl, David H. (July–August 1978). "A Creative Computing Equipment Profile... Atari Video Computer System". Creative Computing. Vol. 4, no. 4.
  • Bunch, Kevin (2022). Atari Archive: Vol.1 1977-1978. Press Run Books. ISBN 978-1-955183-21-5.
  • Cohen, Daniel (1982). Video Games. Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-45872-8.
  • Harris, Craig (November 30, 2004). "Atari Anthology". IGN. Archived from the original on January 26, 2023. Retrieved January 26, 2023.
  • Kaplan, Deeny, ed. (Winter 1979). "Atari Video Computer". Video. Vol. 1, no. 5. Reese Communications.
  • Lapetino, Tim (2016). Art of Atari. Dynamite Entertainment. ISBN 978-1-5241-0103-9.
  • Montfort, Nick; Bogost, Ian (2009). Racing the Beam. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-01257-7.
  • Schwartz, Micahel; Dykman, Joan. "Blackjack". Allgame. Archived from the original on November 14, 2014. Retrieved February 26, 2024.
  • Weiss, Brett (2007). Classic Home Video Games 1972-1984. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-3226-4.

External links edit