I am a owner of Atari ST, and I would like to know software and tools used for the programmers for this computer to program mainly video games.

For example:

  1. IDE used
  2. Language (I think it was Basic, but I am not sure)
  3. Websites of interest and running currently, because I have seen multiples dead links.
  4. Method to run these programs once has been developed (I am thinking in the own atari or in other plaftorm).
  • You've mashed several questions together here. If you want good answers you should separate them out individually. – mnem Aug 20 '16 at 18:58
  • 2
    To be honest, a programmer with experience developing for Atari should know these questions, for this reason I did a review of my questions in only one post, but I will think to separate the questions if I don´t have response in a few days. Thank you. – inane Aug 20 '16 at 19:05
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    @tofro If you have an answer, please post it below. Thanks. – Robert Cartaino Aug 21 '16 at 14:29

If you're familiar with BASIC, "STOS" is probably your best choice, but it has its limitations, unless you know a little regarding assembly, in which case you can combine the two. 100 % assembly gives best results, but it's a hassle to debug. 8 Mhz processor remains 2 Mhz efficent, because it takes 4 CPU cycles per instruction : fetch, decode, execute and write. Nevertheless, go with STOS. It does most of the work for you, and you can use the compiler afterwards to make your game quicker.


I can only really answer from my own perspective, and I only wrote real code (other than simple BASIC programs) on an Atari over the last couple of years.

IDE Used

In terms of classic tools IDEs were relatively light compared to tools you get today. I worked using Devpac 3, which is a good assembler that includes some useful features and a debugger. STOS could be regarded as a BASIC IDE specifically for games, and GFA BASIC offers pretty much everything you need form a coding/debugging point of view in one place.


BASIC and/or 68k Assembly. I'm sure there were/are some games written in C, but most people seem to prefer the lower barrier of entry offered by BASIC, and from there tend to head full-on into assembly language.

Useful Resources Today

Atari Forum's WIKI has some useful documents and tutorials, and the #atariscne IRC channel on Freenode has some very smart people in it!

Checkout the Dead Hackers Society's Coding files section for tools and libaries to get you started.

DML (aka Douglas Little) recently published AGT (Atari Game Tools); a suite of graphics tools and a C based engine for quickly prototyping games on the Atari STE. The wiki includes some tutorials and you'll have sprites on screen in no time.

Running The Programs

If you develop on the Atari then you'll be building an Atari executable file so you'll be able to simply launch it with a double click. I personally wrote some C and assembly on my Atari, but I ran into issues with screen mode switching and using the debugger for my game (I was working on a Falcon in 256 colour mode). Later on in my project I wrote the code in Devpac but running under the Hatari emulator, that meant I could use Hatari's debugger to work through issues.

  • I'll send you a kidney for that Atari Falcon. :-) – cbmeeks May 1 '17 at 13:57
  • Never letting her go :) – Matt Lacey May 2 '17 at 0:36

I used to program on the Atari about 20+ years ago, so I might be a bit rusty on the subject. Also I used to mainly write demo effects and music, so I wasn't working on core game development directly (other than writing music for some).

  1. IDE is a more modern concept, so you probably won't find one on the platform itself, but there are some out there for cross development. For Basic there were a couple of editor/interpreter combos (aside from the original Atari Basic), most notably GFA Basic and Omikron Basic, the latter of which was made the official Atari Basic at some point later. For Assembler the two main tools in use were Devpac and TurboAss(embler), both of which integrated editors and debuggers. In the case of TurboAss the debugger was even reset safe, so in case your program did something weird (short of overwriting the debugger code) you could hit reset and find yourself back in the debugger. Pretty nifty!

  2. Language for games development was mainly Motorola 68k assembly (out of necessity, since most higher level languages had too much overhead to perform well), and some C. I only learned C much later, so can't tell you more about those tools. I did Basic for a while and then straight to assembly! :)

  3. A good place to start looking is http://www.atari-forum.com, which is where a lot of the active crowd is hanging out (both demoscene and hobby games devs).

  4. Like @LaceySnr wrote, just double-click the executable, or start it directly from Devpac/Turboass. Turboass has the Alt-A shortcut to run. There seem to be some home-made link cables in use where people cross compile/assemble on PC and then transfer the binary into the real machine to run there. See post by "Leonard" here: http://www.atari-forum.com/viewtopic.php?f=68&t=7152

Hope that helps!


  • Welcome to retrocomputing! This is a great answer, I hope you stick around to ask and answer more questions. – JAL Aug 31 '16 at 3:07

I very much enjoyed this blog post which discusses how to get started with 68k assembly and DevPac3. The learning curve with assembly is very steep, but it does offer you the best performance.

If you want a gentler introduction to ST games programming, I can recommend STOS. It's a flavour of BASIC specifically designed for creating games.


I used, and still have, the Laser C compiler for Atari ST. It is the later version of what was first branded as the Megamax C compiler. It was/is actually a pretty good C dev environment. It has quite a few libraries for useful functions and relevant stuff for the hardware and OS.


I used DevPac all along for assembler and GFABasic for the tools. I remember that the Omikron basic was very popular in Germany. A lot of people starting had hopes with STOS, but I never got into it.

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