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The Pac Man conspiracy... well, an observation


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#1 Glutton Boy OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Mar 11, 2012 10:42 PM

Disclaimer: First off, forgive me if this has been brought up and discussed before. It's been thirty years (damn!) since the Atari 2600 got it's home port of Pac Man, and a lot of discussion can be done in three decades. If this observation is a revelation only to me and I'm a few years late to the party, then nevermind. :)

Ever since I was a kid, I've loved Atari box art. I'd spend hours pouring over the images in the catalogs that came with the games, but it wasn't until earlier today that I really took a serious look at the Pac Man art and was surprised at what was right in front of me.

Atari's art almost always had this way of blowing your mind with their interpretation of the action taking place on your television screen. Remember the art for Outlaw? With it's visions of the Old West, of Conestoga wagons, and shoot-outs? The graphics? Not so much. Pac Man is the only game I can recall that uses the actual game play as the template for the box art. The "non-arcade" maze folks complained about? Right there on the box. The white(ish) ghosts? Right there. And Pac man? The way he's positioned in the maze, you'd naturally assume he's going to the right; Pac Man faces the direction in which he's eating, after all, right? The 'dots' below him have been eaten, and given the final product with Pac Man's inability to face up or down, it could be argued he may very well be going upwards. The Video Wafer? Yep. That's there, too.

The gist of my verbose rant? It seems like Atari knew in advance they were going to be selling an ersatz bill of goods. Even with other games released around the same time where the box art is a more literal depiction of the game play, Demons to Diamonds for instance, the art is a lot more exciting and stylized. Chrome skulls? Snazzy!

I now return you to you regularly scheduled discussions. :)

P.S.: I was there on release day for my copy of Pac Man, and I'm not a hater of the game by any stretch. Heck, being able to play Pac Man at home in the 80's was like being able to brag to your friends you had been to second base (wink, wink). Atari 2600 Pac Man wasn't the prettiest girl at the dance, but it was available and fun for what it was. ;)

#2 Dauber OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:45 AM

Love the post, but....trying to find the actual conspiracy...

#3 purduecrum OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:05 AM

Love the post, but....trying to find the actual conspiracy...

That is exactly what makes it so good!

#4 save2600 OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 12, 2012 12:00 PM

There's aliens hidden in that post somewhere. Where's Giorgio when you need him? lol

#5 Gaztee OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 12, 2012 12:31 PM

Guess I must be the only one on the planet who thought 2600 Pac-Man was as it should be. When I first saw the arcade version I thought they ruined it!! So even to this day, if it's not 2600 Pac-Man, then it's NOT Pac-Man! :D

#6 Ranthulfr OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 12, 2012 7:29 PM

Interesting observation. I don't think I've read any discussion about this before.

Love the post, but....trying to find the actual conspiracy...


Sounds like he's theorizing that Atari knew the 2600 game didn't look like the arcade version so they broke tradition and put a literal representation of the graphics on the box, possibly to head off complaints that customers didn't get what they were expecting.

#7 roberto OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:11 PM

Interesting observation. I don't think I've read any discussion about this before.


Love the post, but....trying to find the actual conspiracy...


Sounds like he's theorizing that Atari knew the 2600 game didn't look like the arcade version so they broke tradition and put a literal representation of the graphics on the box, possibly to head off complaints that customers didn't get what they were expecting.


Right, and indeed I think it was a good move, still we know people complained a lot anyway...

#8 bohoki OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:20 PM

my theroy is they made it this way so the 5200 version would look amazing by comparison

#9 Matthew OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2012 12:14 AM

Disclaimer: First off, forgive me if this has been brought up and discussed before. It's been thirty years (damn!) since the Atari 2600 got it's home port of Pac Man, and a lot of discussion can be done in three decades. If this observation is a revelation only to me and I'm a few years late to the party, then nevermind. :)

Ever since I was a kid, I've loved Atari box art. I'd spend hours pouring over the images in the catalogs that came with the games, but it wasn't until earlier today that I really took a serious look at the Pac Man art and was surprised at what was right in front of me.

Atari's art almost always had this way of blowing your mind with their interpretation of the action taking place on your television screen. Remember the art for Outlaw? With it's visions of the Old West, of Conestoga wagons, and shoot-outs? The graphics? Not so much. Pac Man is the only game I can recall that uses the actual game play as the template for the box art. The "non-arcade" maze folks complained about? Right there on the box. The white(ish) ghosts? Right there. And Pac man? The way he's positioned in the maze, you'd naturally assume he's going to the right; Pac Man faces the direction in which he's eating, after all, right? The 'dots' below him have been eaten, and given the final product with Pac Man's inability to face up or down, it could be argued he may very well be going upwards. The Video Wafer? Yep. That's there, too.

The gist of my verbose rant? It seems like Atari knew in advance they were going to be selling an ersatz bill of goods. Even with other games released around the same time where the box art is a more literal depiction of the game play, Demons to Diamonds for instance, the art is a lot more exciting and stylized. Chrome skulls? Snazzy!

I now return you to you regularly scheduled discussions. :)

P.S.: I was there on release day for my copy of Pac Man, and I'm not a hater of the game by any stretch. Heck, being able to play Pac Man at home in the 80's was like being able to brag to your friends you had been to second base (wink, wink). Atari 2600 Pac Man wasn't the prettiest girl at the dance, but it was available and fun for what it was. ;)


tl;dr

#10 batari OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2012 12:43 AM

Here is a verbatim quite from the Pac-Man manual:

Our PAC-MAN has all of the excitement and challenge of the standard
arcade game, and you get to play in the comfort and convenience of your
own home. This is especially advantageous if you still plan to make an
occasional appearance at the arcade to show off your great playing
skills. (Little do they know that you've been practicing at home all
along.)

Theory debunked. ;-)

#11 Shannon OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2012 1:13 AM

My guess would be they figured pac-man would "sell itself".. so why invest a bunch of time and effort into the box-art.

#12 Cynicaster OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2012 10:24 AM

It seems like Atari knew in advance they were going to be selling an ersatz bill of goods.


Outstanding wordsmithing. :D

Guess I must be the only one on the planet who thought 2600 Pac-Man was as it should be. When I first saw the arcade version I thought they ruined it!! So even to this day, if it's not 2600 Pac-Man, then it's NOT Pac-Man! :D


For most of my life--right up until a few short years ago--Atari 2600 Pac-Man quite literally "defined" Pac-Man in my mind. Same goes for Atari 2600 Space Invaders. Not much has changed for me on the Space Invaders front, but since discovering MAME I've gained an appreciation for the original arcade Pac-Man, and now I can barely stand the Atari 2600 version. It would be a totally different story if the collision detection wasn't so unforgiving. You need to be able to rub shoulders with the ghosts to ratchet up the intensity; if you die from every nick of contact, it's just not as fun.

#13 Dauber OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2012 1:02 PM

Hey, the Atari VCS/2600 Pac-Man was the only Pac-Man I COULD play...even the lucky times I got to play arcade games, there wasn't a Pac-Man machine in sight...it was always Ms. Pac-Man or other.

So yeah, back in the day my high score was 90,723 on the Atari version (I did score higher but never recorded it -- but just a couple of weeks ago I beat that record :) ) but lemme tells ya...it does NOT help prepare for the arcade version at ALL. The Atari version doesn't have those moments when suddenly the monsters head back to their turf. The Atari version won't let you so much as touch a hair on a monster (or ghost, whatever), while the arcade version allows you to live with a monster right on top of you and allows you to escape. The Atari version won't let you pass right through a monster. (However, it DOES let you pass right through a power pill under the right circumstances!) The monsters don't get stuck in the tunnel in the arcade version, and if you're crossing paths with a monster in the tunnel, you're dead. Dots don't slow you down on the Atari version, and the ghosts don't have their own speeds and techniques...

I played that Atari version a LOT as a kid. I mean A LOT!! But to this day I can't get a 6-digit score on the arcade version, not even on MAME or the version you can get from the Mac App Store (which, as far as I can tell, is 100% emulated) or the iOS version...

#14 Emehr OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2012 1:45 PM

VCS Pac-Man was my first intro to the yellow pie face. I was 6 years old and didn't know any better. It was a fun game so I played it. Same with ET and Defender. I always liked trying to get Pac-Man stuck in the tunnel, having the game glitch out, and seeing Pac-Man vertically wrap around the screen uncontrollably. And that intro jingle "Doo-dee-doo-dee" followed by the "wafer"-eating "dun-dun-dun-dun" sound will permanently be embedded in my brain.

#15 maibock OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2012 2:24 PM

Here is a verbatim quite from the Pac-Man manual:


Our PAC-MAN has all of the excitement and challenge of the standard
arcade game, and you get to play in the comfort and convenience of your
own home. This is especially advantageous if you still plan to make an
occasional appearance at the arcade to show off your great playing
skills. (Little do they know that you've been practicing at home all
along.)

Theory debunked. ;-)


debunked? Not quite - actually this makes the case that a lone artist was sending out a cry for help, trying to warn us all of the impending doom. Some slick marketing type wrote the copy, our anonymous fearless hero, tried to warn us all through artwork.

Actually back in the day, it was quite obvious that you weren't going to get arcade quality from the 2600, so at leas for me and my buddies I hung out with, we had low expectations of any arcade port. Had fun playing them? you bet! We just didn't get bent out of shape about it.

#16 RichG1972 OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2012 3:22 PM

My feeling is this........that this port of the game for the 2600 wasn't really a programming blunder, but in fact made the way it was so it would be easier for younger kids to play, I found at age 10 that the 2600 version was much easier for me to play as opposed to the arcade version, plus on the 2600 version it was possible to flip the score all the way back to zero. So in my eyes it wasn't a bad version, just a more kid friendly one. :)

#17 rmo70 OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2012 4:07 PM

Have you guys seen this on youtube
Chuck Norris vs. Pac Man - 8-bit Chuck Norris doesn't collect pellets, they come to him!!!

Edited by rmo70, Tue Mar 13, 2012 4:07 PM.


#18 Mr SQL OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 13, 2012 4:20 PM

IMO the Atari 2600 version of pacman is the best version written on any system; throw the black and white switch to activate the alternate colourset and select game 6 (much better variation) and it's hard to disagree.

Like many implementations for the timeframe the character did not look up but the animation is really smooth compared to contemporaries, many of which featured a jumpy pacman and no dot eating animation.

I think the gameplay is intriguing and that the programmer did an excellent job creating a captivating experience; it's just as much fun today and the retro meter is off the scale ;)

#19 Dauber OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 14, 2012 8:35 AM

Seriously, the Atari 2600 Pac-Man looks REALLY COOL if you flip the switch to B/W.

#20 Deteacher OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 14, 2012 9:41 AM

I never complained about the 2600 version of Pac-Man and I played the Arcade version before seeing the VCS version. Sure, it wasn't like the arcade, but it had challenging variations and it was a fun game. maybe it wouldn't have received so much negative feedback if there had been a way for them to sell it under a different name altogether.

If we are to compare the two versions, I have to say they pretty much nailed the death sequence (not the sounds so much, but the animation is pretty close to the arcade version.)

#21 toiletunes OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 14, 2012 1:29 PM

At the time, I didn't realize 2600 pacman was supposed to look like arcade pacman.

none of the home ports were up to the standards of the arcade- some more so than others.

It was only when emulation came around that I started to think otherwise.

#22 rmo70 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 14, 2012 2:17 PM

I first played Pac Man in the arcade before getting it for my Atari 400 and was really happy with the Atari 8-bit release, it still looks as good today as it did back then.

I can't remember at which level, but the bonus fruit was actually an "Atari" logo (maybe level 7).

#23 Deteacher OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 14, 2012 3:29 PM

I first played Pac Man in the arcade before getting it for my Atari 400 and was really happy with the Atari 8-bit release, it still looks as good today as it did back then.

I can't remember at which level, but the bonus fruit was actually an "Atari" logo (maybe level 7).


I believe the Atari logo replaced the Galaxian from the arcade.

#24 Lord Helmet OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 14, 2012 3:32 PM


I first played Pac Man in the arcade before getting it for my Atari 400 and was really happy with the Atari 8-bit release, it still looks as good today as it did back then.

I can't remember at which level, but the bonus fruit was actually an "Atari" logo (maybe level 7).


I believe the Atari logo replaced the Galaxian from the arcade.


Yup. It replaced the Galaxian.

#25 batari OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 14, 2012 4:20 PM


Here is a verbatim quite from the Pac-Man manual:


Our PAC-MAN has all of the excitement and challenge of the standard
arcade game, and you get to play in the comfort and convenience of your
own home. This is especially advantageous if you still plan to make an
occasional appearance at the arcade to show off your great playing
skills. (Little do they know that you've been practicing at home all
along.)

Theory debunked. ;-)


debunked? Not quite - actually this makes the case that a lone artist was sending out a cry for help, trying to warn us all of the impending doom. Some slick marketing type wrote the copy, our anonymous fearless hero, tried to warn us all through artwork.

Actually back in the day, it was quite obvious that you weren't going to get arcade quality from the 2600, so at leas for me and my buddies I hung out with, we had low expectations of any arcade port. Had fun playing them? you bet! We just didn't get bent out of shape about it.

Maybe, but the theory was that Atari, not a lone artist, knew they were selling an game not worthy of the Pac-Man name. Personally, I was disappointed with Pac-Man. I still gave Atari a chance later with Earthworld, but that game sucked ass and that was the last Atari game I bought new.




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