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The "Story" of Centipede?


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#1 AtariLeaf OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 20, 2011 11:09 AM

I was at Atarimania and watching videos for some of the games and came across an interview with the game designer and he was talking about how it was just a game with no backstory about magic or princesses or whatnot and it got me to wondering what the heck he was referring to. Did someone make a "story" for Centipede so I grabbed a copy of the 2600 manual and was surprised to find talk about the player being a magic elf in an enchanted forest with a magic wand . . . what? When did this happen? It was just a bug blasting game in the arcade, it was what it was. What's the point of putting a story around it about elves and wands and magic? I dunno, I just don't get the purpose of a "story" for old arcade games, especially ones that really stray from what is a simple game.

I understand they changed the Missile Command story to a sci-fi story to stay clear of the whole "Nuclear War" and destruction of mankind on earth for the benefit of the kiddies.

I looked at the Centipede cover more closely and wow, never really paid attention, sure enough its a little elf with a magic wand. I never would have figured that's what I was playing in that game. Funny thing is there's no mention of any of this for Millipede in its manual. Maybe they figured it was lame to invent a fake story for the game? I dunno, I guess I just don't see the point of back stories for these old arcade games.

#2 raskar42 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 20, 2011 12:02 PM

The millipede manual does mention that you shoot 'arrows' and features a bow wielding character on the cover art.

i think the story was a way to engage people in the game, which is kind of silly, but also commendable. -consider the 12 page full color manual and pack in Comic book of centipede vs. the 1 page folded b&w instruction sheet for millipede.

#3 AtariLeaf OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 20, 2011 12:26 PM

LOL, never seen the comic book before. I was looking through the different versions of centipede including the 90's release and they changed the story to a sci fi theme where you ride in a kind of space ship blasting the centipedes.

Oh well, it was an interesting thing to dig up that I didn't know about, I guess in the long run they mean nothing to the game itself. I guess anyone could take any of these games and come up with a fantasy or sci fi story to back it up.

#4 Retro Rogue OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:09 PM

A lot of the games in coin started as simple loose game play with minor story backgrounds to them (usually in relation to just the game play), that in turn were often in a big book of game ideas that were logged over the years. That's how Centipede began as a project. It was the move to a consumer orientated project that usually involved developing a big story line. Understand that Coin's sales target were the people that buy the machines, the vendors - not the players. Hence they're more interested in promoting what new hardware, settings, and game play the machine has to generate sales for the vendor/operator and survive wear and tear - take a look at Centipede's coin flyer for example. The most marketing Coin needed towards the player is explaining how to play the game and the cabinet artwork (side art, control panel, marquee, etc.) which provides the minimal imaginative story telling/background needed.

Once a game was moved from coin to the consumer market (console and computers), as mentioned, you had a much more involved marketing and evolution of the background story. You had these games now need a manual (Coin had manuals, but they were in regards to machine operation for the operator), advertisements, PR, etc. all which require more in the story department than what Coin needed. And in the case of Atari, Warner Communications was also able to leverage it's other subsidiary (at the time) DC Comics to help in those regards. People don't realize that Warner was the puppet master pulling the strings in a lot of this stuff and Atari was just a player in Warner's cross media marketing (movies, television, print, audio, video games, toys, etc.) In fact, a lot of pioneering cross-marketing was done via Warner at this time, most of which is taken for granted nowadays or often attributed to Nintendo.

I am surprised you never heard of the pack-in comic books though, the whole pack-in marketing is pretty well known. And I wouldn't call these "fake", they're part of the official game cannon and part of the development of the original move to consumer vs. a later afterthought. Now the later developed 90's one is completely out there and unrelated, that was Hasbro "Atari".

Edited by wgungfu, Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:20 PM.


#5 jeremiahjt OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:21 PM

In fact, a lot of pioneering cross-marketing was done via Warner at this time, most of which is taken for granted nowadays or often attributed to Nintendo.


Care to expand on this a little bit?

#6 Retro Rogue OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:34 PM


In fact, a lot of pioneering cross-marketing was done via Warner at this time, most of which is taken for granted nowadays or often attributed to Nintendo.


Care to expand on this a little bit?


Wade through this thread for the marketing related material I was mentioning above. Magazines, comics, toys, cartoons, party favors, costumes, bed sheets, etc. are all things routinely mistakingly attributed by later generations to NES era Nintendo, and were actually things Warner/Atari and Bally/Midway pioneered during the early 80's. Nintendo was of course able to join in on some of those mediums in the early 80's with their Donkey Kong property as we know. Remember that Warner Communications was a communications giant at that time and leveraged Atari's properties for marketing across the board in a way unseen before that time to generate additional revenue for thsemelves. That's again why you had say...Atari showing up prominently in Blade Runner, an Atari line of comics, Atari's magazines, Atari property themed party favors, centipede costumes and toys, board games, records, etc., etc.

Edited by wgungfu, Wed Apr 20, 2011 4:03 PM.


#7 DickNixonArisen OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:37 PM

Dead Friends by DNA

I'll never let go of the days
we hung around and played games
me and the enchanted bugs
at the enchanted bug social club...

Edited by DickNixonArisen, Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:39 PM.


#8 RJ OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 20, 2011 4:00 PM

The 8-bit Centipede cartridge manual centers around Lord Motley Bugnut...

#9 raskar42 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 20, 2011 4:59 PM

The 8-bit Centipede cartridge manual centers around Lord Motley Bugnut...

you're right..

#10 AtariLeaf OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 20, 2011 5:12 PM

I am surprised you never heard of the pack-in comic books though,


I've heard of the comic books and have several, just not the one for Centipede.
Interesting that they dropped this storyline for Millipede instead of expanding on it.

#11 Retro Rogue OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Apr 21, 2011 2:32 PM

This is my favorite update:



#12 raskar42 OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Apr 21, 2011 4:47 PM

This is my favorite update:

Human Centipede

#13 Agent X OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Apr 21, 2011 8:55 PM

Many of the old games were pure skill-based games that neither needed nor relied on a back story to make the game enjoyable. I figured a lot of the old game manuals had a few paragraphs of "story" in them to spice things up, perhaps give people a starting point and then allow their imaginations to take over once they've immersed themselves into the game. For most of the games of the era, though, the story wasn't essential, so you were free to regard them as much or as little as you wanted while playing the games.

LOL, never seen the comic book before. I was looking through the different versions of centipede including the 90's release and they changed the story to a sci fi theme where you ride in a kind of space ship blasting the centipedes.


If you think that's a far cry from the story found in the 2600 game manual, then you should get a look at the new story they've concocted for the upcoming Centipede game. :)

#14 Krytol OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Apr 21, 2011 9:45 PM


The 8-bit Centipede cartridge manual centers around Lord Motley Bugnut...

you're right..


If I had known this, and I had it all over to do it again, my user name on AtariAge would have been Lord Motley Bugnut.

Best. Name. Ever.

That is all.

#15 Schizophretard OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Apr 22, 2011 12:14 AM


This is my favorite update:

Human Centipede


That would make a cool hack for VCS.

#16 Schizophretard OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Apr 22, 2011 12:25 AM

Many of the old games were pure skill-based games that neither needed nor relied on a back story to make the game enjoyable. I figured a lot of the old game manuals had a few paragraphs of "story" in them to spice things up, perhaps give people a starting point and then allow their imaginations to take over once they've immersed themselves into the game. For most of the games of the era, though, the story wasn't essential, so you were free to regard them as much or as little as you wanted while playing the games.


LOL, never seen the comic book before. I was looking through the different versions of centipede including the 90's release and they changed the story to a sci fi theme where you ride in a kind of space ship blasting the centipedes.


If you think that's a far cry from the story found in the 2600 game manual, then you should get a look at the new story they've concocted for the upcoming Centipede game. :)


That looks similar to the game play of the Playstation version. Here is it's story.

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#17 Vic George 2K3 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Apr 22, 2011 7:12 AM

I would have originally assumed that I was playing a Smurf who had to defend the Smurf Village against an invasion of centipedes and insects sent by Gargamel.

#18 AtariLeaf OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Apr 22, 2011 7:46 AM

The nuclear fallout and mutant bugs seems like a better story to me for this game and you control a tank protecting the world from a giant bug invasion. I dunno, the whole "Harry Potter" magic wand with cute elves thing is just lame to me. I know, I know it was directed at kids but even as a kid, the cutesy magic stuff was lame. I would have like a mutant monster back story a lot better. I agree the whole story is really unimportant because none of it is part of the game. I've just been on a real kick lately looking up info on the history of some of these games.

#19 BrianC OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Apr 22, 2011 10:33 PM

The 8-bit Centipede cartridge manual centers around Lord Motley Bugnut...


My memory my be foggy, but I remember getting a different manual with my Centipede.

#20 Retro Rogue OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 23, 2011 12:40 AM

Speaking of which, they're coming out with another remake of Centipede -

Centipede: Infestation

And the story line has changed yet again - "you play an orphaned teenage hero named Max, who eventually comes across another young teen named Maisy, who possesses a collection of seeds that hold the secret to bringing plant life back to the wasteland. "

Looks like a 3D running shooter/platformer, i.e. they turned it in to a ripoff of Alien Syndrome.



Edited by wgungfu, Sat Apr 23, 2011 12:45 AM.


#21 toptenmaterial OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 26, 2011 7:21 PM

People want to see or make up a story, especially children. Nintendo understood this, especially in the post-crash era. Helping the kids identify with the franchise on a personal level is one hell of a good way to sell games.

#22 raskar42 OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 26, 2011 7:30 PM

People want to see or make up a story, especially children. Nintendo understood this, especially in the post-crash era. Helping the kids identify with the franchise on a personal level is one hell of a good way to sell games.


i still do that - the other day during a work break i was playing lunar lander and making sound effects and voices for the imaginary astronauts. then i realized there was someone in the next stall. i hid in the bathroom for an hour.

#23 Feralstorm OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 26, 2011 7:46 PM

Back then I just figured, much like the fanciful artwork on many 2600 game boxes, it's basically trying to add a little wonder and imagination on top of the sometimes ambiguous 2600 graphics. It's a more entertaining read than "That box is you. Don't let anything that moves touch you, and shoot everything that's not you." at least.

Edited by Feralstorm, Tue Jul 26, 2011 7:46 PM.


#24 Ranthulfr OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jul 30, 2011 1:20 PM

The nuclear fallout and mutant bugs seems like a better story to me for this game and you control a tank protecting the world from a giant bug invasion. I dunno, the whole "Harry Potter" magic wand with cute elves thing is just lame to me. I know, I know it was directed at kids but even as a kid, the cutesy magic stuff was lame. I would have like a mutant monster back story a lot better. I agree the whole story is really unimportant because none of it is part of the game. I've just been on a real kick lately looking up info on the history of some of these games.

I agree that the mutant bug story fits better. In the original arcade game the player was represented by a snake's head, right? Why bring elves into the picture? If you're going to elaborate on the backstory for the home market that's fine, but keep it consistent with the original game.

But then again, "Eh, whatever".

#25 DickNixonArisen OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jul 30, 2011 1:44 PM

Do snakes ever eat centipedes? Maybe; there are really big centipedes in some places in the world.




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