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We have a lot of information on the internet out there on plenty of engines, SDKs, fancy IDEs, etc. But how did people manage to develop games in the past? Are there 'famous' tools? What was the most used programming language? how were they deployed into cartridges?

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closed as not a real question by Tetrad Mar 26 '13 at 23:11

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Believe it or not, scripts were a big thing then. To be able to fit a program in memory, if you could describe a common complex operation as a script byte code, you could save yourself valuable instruction space. – Alan Wolfe Jun 28 '15 at 16:20

Assembly and C were the languages often. For example: RollerCoaster Tycoon was written by 1 guy in assembly.

You can look at this Nes Dev site that goes into the development of homebrew NES games. I even found this Source Code for an old SNES game

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Wow, I had no clue RCT was written almost entirely in assembly! No wonder it ran on my old 100mhz 80486... That's epic!! – Ricket Aug 3 '10 at 16:41

On both 8-bit and 16-bit platforms I'd generally use a combination of a macro-assembler to compile my code (always assembly!), and some kind of monitor cartidge to debug it.

Those cartridges were awesome development tools.

For the first game I wrote (on the c64), I first wrote my own macro-assembler using the monitor cart. I had smooth 60hz scrolling in the text editor(!)

On the Amiga the assembler of choice for me was DevPac.

The more professional folks (who had money!) had cross-development set-ups where you'd hook the target machine up to a PC and use that to dump code across to it.

For graphics I started off drawing stuff on graph paper, and later wrote my own character and sprite editors. Obviously on Amiga it was DPaint all the way.

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As for the famous tools question, DPaint (aka Deluxe Paint) fits the bill on the art side.

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Oh damn, you hit nostalgia bug hard with that one! – Keyframe Jul 15 '10 at 21:07

If you have an iDevice, take a look at the apps "2600 Magic" (1Up article discussing it) and "Dragster Magic", both by David Crane. They are a fun peek into Atari 2600 programming.

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3 words: Serial Port Debugger. I feel unclean even thinking about it.

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Yet for Nintendo developers, that's not so far in the past. – Kylotan Aug 4 '10 at 10:00

Edge ran a story on how Gauntlet was made. All the art was drawn on graph paper and manually programmed in!

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With great difficulty...

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Sarcasm and belittlement is never a good answer. – rlb.usa Dec 6 '10 at 18:06
True, but that was merely uselessly vague. Cuded2D seems sincere and no more belittling then you or I do. – CandiedOrange May 21 '14 at 7:47

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