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Was the Mountain King secret level intentional?


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#1 Lonely Mountain Hermit OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 17, 2010 5:25 PM

I'm not sure if this has been discussed before, but is the secret level in Mountain King the result of some accidental programming glitch, or was it put in there intentionally by the programmer? I remember the first time I discovered it purely by chance and I thought it was the coolest thing ever!

#2 Rom Hunter OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 18, 2010 12:28 AM

I'm not sure if this has been discussed before, but is the secret level in Mountain King the result of some accidental programming glitch, or was it put in there intentionally by the programmer? I remember the first time I discovered it purely by chance and I thought it was the coolest thing ever!

It looks a little bit too chaotic to be intentional.

On the other hand, it's huge.

8)

#3 Ranthulfr OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Mar 21, 2010 1:44 PM

I'm not sure if this has been discussed before, but is the secret level in Mountain King the result of some accidental programming glitch, or was it put in there intentionally by the programmer? I remember the first time I discovered it purely by chance and I thought it was the coolest thing ever!


That's really awesome that you discovered it on your own. This has been discussed in the past, although I don't think the answer has been 100 percent confirmed. My theory is that the secret level was an intentional extension of the game that was not completed for some reason. There is too much there for it to be accidental. I made a map a few years ago - see attached.

There may be more to it beyond the top of this map but I haven't been able to get there. If more exists I'd love to see photos or a map.

Attached Thumbnails

  • MKingMap.GIF


#4 kisrael OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 24, 2010 9:20 AM

I'm not sure if this has been discussed before, but is the secret level in Mountain King the result of some accidental programming glitch, or was it put in there intentionally by the programmer? I remember the first time I discovered it purely by chance and I thought it was the coolest thing ever!


That's really awesome that you discovered it on your own. This has been discussed in the past, although I don't think the answer has been 100 percent confirmed. My theory is that the secret level was an intentional extension of the game that was not completed for some reason. There is too much there for it to be accidental. I made a map a few years ago - see attached.

There may be more to it beyond the top of this map but I haven't been able to get there. If more exists I'd love to see photos or a map.

Heh, you know, I was going to say we should do a hack where, like, you can always jump even in the air and get a really good look up there... but I'm not sure that wouldn't change the area up there in some ways, you know?

#5 Lonely Mountain Hermit OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 25, 2010 4:54 PM

That's a great map! When I discovered it back in the day, I had no idea that using different controllers would actually allow you to continue further up. But yeah, I remember reading about this earlier and was just wondering if anyone knew for sure whether or not this is an intentional phenomenon.

And yeah, it would be cool if someone were to make a hack that lets you freely explore the secret level...and possibly beyond! :cool:

#6 kisrael OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 26, 2010 7:37 AM

Does anyone remember if the 5200 or other versions have secret areas?

#7 batari OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 26, 2010 1:16 PM

I always suspected the secret level was merely a case of the graphics pointers running off the edge of cartridge memory and into RIOT/TIA areas. I've just fired up Stella and have confirmed this. So I can say 100% that the secret level is an accident.

#8 SoulBlazer OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 26, 2010 1:25 PM

I always suspected the secret level was merely a case of the graphics pointers running off the edge of cartridge memory and into RIOT/TIA areas. I've just fired up Stella and have confirmed this. So I can say 100% that the secret level is an accident.


For those of us who know nothing about programing, what does this mean in English? Are you saying the programmer was sloppy and screwed up while making the game? And I thought the code was examined and checked for things like this before final release?

#9 FujiSkunk OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 26, 2010 1:56 PM

For those of us who know nothing about programing, what does this mean in English? Are you saying the programmer was sloppy and screwed up while making the game?


If I understood batari correctly, that is in fact what he's saying, in a nutshell. He confirmed this by examining the game's internal workings while playing it at the same time. Doing that, he was able to see that the "secret" level was created using data meant for a different use. In short, it's a bug.

And I thought the code was examined and checked for things like this before final release?


You're funny. :)

Read up on some other famous game bugs.

#10 SoulBlazer OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 26, 2010 2:22 PM

Thanks for the info. I suspose I'm used to modern games, that are playtested and checked and go through a beta process (in most cases). I had thought this was done during the 2600 days as well. Sure, I know about all kinds of bugs and errors that got missed, I was just curious if any kind of 'quality control' was done in the 2600 days.

#11 FujiSkunk OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 26, 2010 2:34 PM

Thanks for the info. I suspose I'm used to modern games, that are playtested and checked and go through a beta process (in most cases). I had thought this was done during the 2600 days as well. Sure, I know about all kinds of bugs and errors that got missed, I was just curious if any kind of 'quality control' was done in the 2600 days.


Games were a whole lot smaller back then, and any bug was likely to reveal itself quickly during development. On the other hand, games were also largely (if not exclusively) the product of one single programmer, and it was often up to that programmer to create, test, debug, and polish the game for release. So while most bugs were squashed early on, quite a few still slipped through.

Fortunately the lack of any rigid "quality control" is also why we got Easter eggs in games like Adventure and Missile Command.

#12 Pioneer4x4 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 26, 2010 2:37 PM

Thanks for the info. I suspose I'm used to modern games, that are playtested and checked and go through a beta process (in most cases). I had thought this was done during the 2600 days as well. Sure, I know about all kinds of bugs and errors that got missed, I was just curious if any kind of 'quality control' was done in the 2600 days.

I think they are worse now, not just due to complexity, but thanks to the internet. They can ship it now and fix it later.

#13 kisrael OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 26, 2010 3:31 PM

To clarify:
I don't think we can't *definitively* say it wasn't an "accident on purpose" -- I mean it seems kind of weird that the "head bump jump" is in there. The programmer may have meant it to be something cooler, like if he or she had more time, or been aware of it and it was more trouble to leave out, but what Batari has demonstrated is that it is what I always thought it looked like, the map reader "falling off the edge of the world" and trying to make map data out of stuff that ain't map data.

I still thought I heard there was a secret in the 5200 version. So this might've been the start of an effort in that direction (though maybe they would have needed even more ROM)

Anyway, be happy that it's there and cool, don't just trashtalk the QA of the era.

#14 Ranthulfr OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Mar 27, 2010 8:53 AM

In regard to the map: All areas can be seen without any special controller trickery. If you know how to proceed you can maneuver around much of the secret area. I think that ladder that seems to continue upward disappears when you start climbing it though...

It's interesting that the secret area is shorter (left to right) than the main mountain below. In order to match up, the top area has a column of real estate that "repeats" as you move across it. Is it possible that the programmer "disabled" the secret area by telling the program to read the wrong amount or kind of data? If that were the case then maybe the area could be restored by changing one line of code in the program? Now THAT would be cool!

#15 kisrael OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Mar 27, 2010 10:46 AM

In regard to the map: All areas can be seen without any special controller trickery. If you know how to proceed you can maneuver around much of the secret area. I think that ladder that seems to continue upward disappears when you start climbing it though...

It's interesting that the secret area is shorter (left to right) than the main mountain below. In order to match up, the top area has a column of real estate that "repeats" as you move across it. Is it possible that the programmer "disabled" the secret area by telling the program to read the wrong amount or kind of data? If that were the case then maybe the area could be restored by changing one line of code in the program? Now THAT would be cool!

Nah, it's probably just some odd looping of what the map reader is looking at. It's not like there's a stable world there waiting to be discovered, it's like what happens when a badly programmed OCR program tries to read a picture - nothing but gibberish.

#16 shadow460 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Mar 28, 2010 11:10 PM

Even if the programmer knew about this bug, perhaps he or she didn't expect it to be found. That would explain why they didn't try to fix it.

Dumb question time, how does one access this area?

#17 CRV OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 29, 2010 1:44 AM

From a Digital Press interview with Ed Salvo, programmer of the 2600 version:

DP: Mountain King was one of the first “cross-platform” games (made for the VCS, 400/800, 5200, Colecovision, and Commodore 64). How did the deal with E.F. Dreyer come about? Was Robert Matson (programmer for the Atari 8-bit version) an employee at VSS? How much (if at all) did either of them help you with your VCS version? And did you develop the bank-switching process that allowed for it to be 12K?

Ed Salvo: Boy, things are fuzzy. No, Matson was not a VSS employee. I think we were approached at CES to program the 2600 version. The 12K cart was developed outside of VSS. I did all of the programming. I had an 800 version of the game, which I was to emulate. The 12K cart, in addition to providing 3 4K banks switchable under software control, also had an extra 128 bytes of RAM, bringing the available total to 256 bytes.

DP: Occasionally, programmers would put little “Easter eggs” in some of their games that would reveal their name, or a message. Your “secret kingdom” in VCS Mountain King is well-known. Are there Easter eggs in any of your other titles? Do you recall any fellow co-workers that put them in their games?

Ed Salvo: I personally do not like Easter eggs that promote the developer. VSS did not allow developers to put them in our games unless the contractor asked for them. The secret level in Mountain King was a feature of the 800 game and I duplicated it. That was the only game I recall that had one.



#18 batari OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 29, 2010 1:13 PM

From a Digital Press interview with Ed Salvo, programmer of the 2600 version:

DP: Mountain King was one of the first “cross-platform” games (made for the VCS, 400/800, 5200, Colecovision, and Commodore 64). How did the deal with E.F. Dreyer come about? Was Robert Matson (programmer for the Atari 8-bit version) an employee at VSS? How much (if at all) did either of them help you with your VCS version? And did you develop the bank-switching process that allowed for it to be 12K?

Ed Salvo: Boy, things are fuzzy. No, Matson was not a VSS employee. I think we were approached at CES to program the 2600 version. The 12K cart was developed outside of VSS. I did all of the programming. I had an 800 version of the game, which I was to emulate. The 12K cart, in addition to providing 3 4K banks switchable under software control, also had an extra 128 bytes of RAM, bringing the available total to 256 bytes.

DP: Occasionally, programmers would put little “Easter eggs” in some of their games that would reveal their name, or a message. Your “secret kingdom” in VCS Mountain King is well-known. Are there Easter eggs in any of your other titles? Do you recall any fellow co-workers that put them in their games?

Ed Salvo: I personally do not like Easter eggs that promote the developer. VSS did not allow developers to put them in our games unless the contractor asked for them. The secret level in Mountain King was a feature of the 800 game and I duplicated it. That was the only game I recall that had one.

The secret level reads from memory where the RIOT and TIA are mapped. The level was not designed, and could not have been since in general you can't place reliable data there. From looking at the screenshots of the Atari 800 version, that also was not designed - the "level" is clearly reading data from a part of address space that does not contain level data, just like the 2600 version.

#19 Ranthulfr OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 29, 2010 9:57 PM

Very interesting... Somehow I missed that interview. It makes me want to read up on the 800 version of MK.

To access the secret area BTW: Stand on the right side of the small summit and long-jump left. Bounce off the top-left of the small summit and continue soaring to the left. Bounce off the large (flame) summit and keep coasting up-left, releasing the joystick when you reach a short piece of land in the sky.

Edited by Randy, Mon Mar 29, 2010 10:08 PM.


#20 donssword OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 29, 2010 10:42 PM

Hmmm... I think the next biggest secret about Mountain King is that it breaks those awesome so-call indestructible Tac-2 joysticks.

I played a whole lot of Mountain King from 1984-86. I was obsessed with getting into that secret area, and Tac-2 sticks were the best for those long Mountain King jumps--you could keep that metal ball against the electrical plates with ease, but getting your jump right took lots of practice. When I broke the first of the two Tac-2s that we owned, I figured it would be easy to fix 'em up, until I pulled it apart and that ball rolled out. The ball had snapped off from the continuous pressure needed to hold it against the plates. Its a shame, because if I had ever opened it prior to it breaking, I would have been a lot easier on them, knowing that the electrical contact was made not with buttons, but with a mechanism. Tragic.

Edited by donssword, Mon Mar 29, 2010 10:51 PM.


#21 Lonely Mountain Hermit OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 30, 2010 4:31 PM

From a Digital Press interview with Ed Salvo, programmer of the 2600 version:

DP: Mountain King was one of the first “cross-platform” games (made for the VCS, 400/800, 5200, Colecovision, and Commodore 64). How did the deal with E.F. Dreyer come about? Was Robert Matson (programmer for the Atari 8-bit version) an employee at VSS? How much (if at all) did either of them help you with your VCS version? And did you develop the bank-switching process that allowed for it to be 12K?

Ed Salvo: Boy, things are fuzzy. No, Matson was not a VSS employee. I think we were approached at CES to program the 2600 version. The 12K cart was developed outside of VSS. I did all of the programming. I had an 800 version of the game, which I was to emulate. The 12K cart, in addition to providing 3 4K banks switchable under software control, also had an extra 128 bytes of RAM, bringing the available total to 256 bytes.

DP: Occasionally, programmers would put little “Easter eggs” in some of their games that would reveal their name, or a message. Your “secret kingdom” in VCS Mountain King is well-known. Are there Easter eggs in any of your other titles? Do you recall any fellow co-workers that put them in their games?

Ed Salvo: I personally do not like Easter eggs that promote the developer. VSS did not allow developers to put them in our games unless the contractor asked for them. The secret level in Mountain King was a feature of the 800 game and I duplicated it. That was the only game I recall that had one.


Hmmm...so it looks like the secret level was intentionally duplicated anyway. Thanks for posting the interview.

#22 A.J. Franzman OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:51 PM

When I broke the first of the two Tac-2s that we owned, I figured it would be easy to fix 'em up, until I pulled it apart and that ball rolled out. The ball had snapped off from the continuous pressure needed to hold it against the plates.

I had a friend who broke the contact ball off the shaft of a Slik Stik. I think they're built about the same as the Tac-2, only the Slik Stik is much smaller, so you can just imagine how much abuse he must have heaped on it to do that.

#23 tetrode kink OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 31, 2010 12:25 AM

The secret level reads from memory where the RIOT and TIA are mapped. The level was not designed, and could not have been since in general you can't place reliable data there. From looking at the screenshots of the Atari 800 version, that also was not designed - the "level" is clearly reading data from a part of address space that does not contain level data, just like the 2600 version.

Could it be that he knew that the RIOT/TIA addresses were unreliable, and "borrowed" the 800's similar method to create the 2600 version's secret level? Sure, the RIOT/TIA addresses are unreliable for conventional use, but apparently they do render a "level" of sorts for the purposes of this game, however odd that level may be.

Alternatively, maybe he confused Mountain King with another game when remembering the process for the interview. He did say his memory was fuzzy on the subject.

-tet

#24 batari OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 31, 2010 12:50 AM

The secret level reads from memory where the RIOT and TIA are mapped. The level was not designed, and could not have been since in general you can't place reliable data there. From looking at the screenshots of the Atari 800 version, that also was not designed - the "level" is clearly reading data from a part of address space that does not contain level data, just like the 2600 version.

Could it be that he knew that the RIOT/TIA addresses were unreliable, and "borrowed" the 800's similar method to create the 2600 version's secret level? Sure, the RIOT/TIA addresses are unreliable for conventional use, but apparently they do render a "level" of sorts for the purposes of this game, however odd that level may be.

Alternatively, maybe he confused Mountain King with another game when remembering the process for the interview. He did say his memory was fuzzy on the subject.

-tet

Well, both the 800 and 2600 version have secret "levels" that are made up of garbage data.

The 800 version appears to have been an accident. The programmer clearly put in the credits egg, but I think he simply didn't bother fixing the bug where you can fall off of the credits and into garbage data.

My opinion is that the only thing that was "duplicated" is the effort (or lack of effort) to not bother fixing a bug.

#25 shadow460 OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Apr 1, 2010 11:05 PM

Looks like it's no go for taking the crown up there. As soon as you hit the platform with the flame, the "level" ends and you lose the crown until next time.




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