Lutris' blog

Day 2: Auto Racing on Intellivision (1979)

by on Feb.24, 2010, under lutris

Today we’re going to talk about Mattel’s Intellivision which was one the Atari 2600 main competitors at that time. The Intellivision had weird controllers with numeric keypads and a bunch of awesome crappy games !  If you want to know everything about the Intellivision you should check out James Rolfe’s (aka The Angry Video Game Nerd) review of this console.

I chose one of the few games that came out in 1979 : Auto Racing, which may not be the best one but will do the job for testing purposes.

Intellivision emulators

Since I’ve never tried to play an Intellivision game before, I have a look in Synaptic to see what emulators are in Ubuntu. Well guess what ? There is none.  As if it wasn’t enough that I had to package o2em and update liballegro, I now have to package an Intellivision emulator. After spending some time researching an emulator on the web, I come to the conclusion that jzintv is the best emulator around for that console. The great thing is that it’s GPL and it has Linux binaries, so I won’t do any compiling today. I also tried Bliss which comes in two flavors : a C++ version for Windows and a Java version. I managed to get the Java version to run in Netbeans but I don’t wan’t to package some Java stuff as I have very little knowledge of that language. Furthermore, Blissjava had annoying bugs and I didn’t actually got to play a game, I only got to the menu. Let’s forget about Bliss, jzintv is supposed to be much better anyway.

One issue I got with this emulator is that I didn’t understand to activate the 1-Player mode and I was kinda forced to launch the game with 2 players. Related to this issue, the second controller uses the top row number keys and I have an Azerty keyboard so I don’t get these keys directly (and pressing Shift+<number> doesn’t work). I already had similar issues with other emulators and while I think it would be better to patch the emulator to behave correctly with non-US keyboards, it’s a pretty massive task which is up to the emulator’s developers. Lutris has many workarounds for common issues that gamers meet and this is one of them. For example you can ask Lutris to hide the Gnome panels during gameplay if they are still visible in a fullscreen game. I could also set up an option to switch to a QWERTY keyboard layout while the user is gaming.

Besides this, there was not big issue with jzintv, if you want to try it out, you should make sure you have the binary in your PATH and that exec.bin and gron.bin (the Bios files) are in the directory you chose as the Bios path.

Superb Hi-Res graphics !

With another emulator not in the Ubuntu and Debian repositories, I starting to wonder if I should allow alternate methods to install runners and I probably will have to. Not every runner is Open Source and I doubt I will manage to push every one of them in the official repositories. Installing from any source was one of Lutris’ initial plans, and while it’s not yet implemented, it surely will some later day.

We’re a few more days with old school pixelated stuff,  but at least tomorrow we’ll get to see a classic. Meanwhile, you can enjoy some B-52, Motorhead and Pink Floyd, or if you’re more into movies : Alien, Star Trek and Rocky II.

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