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The Pac Man conspiracy... well, an observation


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#26 Nathan Strum OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 14, 2012 4:55 PM

The box art likely looked the way it did because Pac-Man was already a pop culture icon, and there would have been no stronger marketing image than showing that the game (to some degree) shared the same familiar elements as the arcade original.

Looking at Nukey's Pac-Man 8k hack, the original game wasn't that far off the mark. A lot of the criticism leveled at it would've probably gone away if Tod Frye had just picked better colors that didn't show flicker so badly and changed the appearance of the game so much. Admittedly, Nukey's hack makes other improvements as well, but by far the single biggest one is the color palette.

Edited by Nathan Strum, Wed Mar 14, 2012 4:56 PM.


#27 maibock OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Mar 15, 2012 6:53 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. ;-)


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.


yeah was totally disappointed with Earthworld as well, despite the hyped up contest..

#28 Atari2600Lives OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Mar 16, 2012 11:43 PM

Great post by the OP , great observation .

#29 Nukey Shay OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Mar 17, 2012 4:13 AM

Actually, virtually ALL stores that focused on gaming had the thing on display (even some Mom and Pop stores did)...so you could try it out before spending anything.

There was never any conspiracy. Frye was only limited to 4k and had over half of a year to make it happen. Most of the original games' aspects are in there, just not implemented well. Heck, the "personalities" are in there too to a certian extent...2 of them behave slightly different than the other 2 due to the odd/even framecounts.

Where the quote from the manual is concerned, that was marketing doing what marketing does. Those guys can make Firefly sound good.

#30 SoulBlazer OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Mar 17, 2012 5:42 PM

Actually, virtually ALL stores that focused on gaming had the thing on display (even some Mom and Pop stores did)...so you could try it out before spending anything.

There was never any conspiracy. Frye was only limited to 4k and had over half of a year to make it happen. Most of the original games' aspects are in there, just not implemented well. Heck, the "personalities" are in there too to a certian extent...2 of them behave slightly different than the other 2 due to the odd/even framecounts.

Where the quote from the manual is concerned, that was marketing doing what marketing does. Those guys can make Firefly sound good.


That's a pretty tall order, with the Firefly challenge. ;)

I still can't help but feel that Frye could have done a better job even witht he 4k if he wanted to.

I wonder if there's any truth to the rumor that he was paid a million dollars for the conversion job and stapled it on his front office door so everyone could see it?

#31 JQW OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Mar 17, 2012 6:26 PM

Here in the UK, I recall receiving a promotional leaflet from the Atari Owner's Club a few months prior to the release of Pac-Man, with a competition to design a promotional badge for the game.

If I recall correctly, the leaflet didn't feature any screenshots, but did include the painting from the final box artwork.

Does anyone still have this leaflet to double check?

#32 Cynicaster OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 24, 2012 8:32 AM

Click here for the final word on Atari 2600 Pac-Man: http://cynicaster.bl...atari-2600.html

#33 akator OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 24, 2012 2:28 PM

Click here for the final word on Atari 2600 Pac-Man: http://cynicaster.bl...atari-2600.html


What's up with those screenshots?

#34 SoulBlazer OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 24, 2012 2:38 PM


Click here for the final word on Atari 2600 Pac-Man: http://cynicaster.bl...atari-2600.html


What's up with those screenshots?


It's a cynical article. I'm not sure what the main point the author is trying to make is -- he seems to be ragging the arcade version, when the 2600 port sucked balls compared to the arcade original. Any of us who played the arcade game first knew that right away. Of course, there are a number of people who played the 2600 port first.

Edited by SoulBlazer, Tue Apr 24, 2012 2:38 PM.


#35 Cynicaster OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 24, 2012 2:45 PM

What's up with those screenshots?


It's a cynical article. I'm not sure what the main point the author is trying to make is -- he seems to be ragging the arcade version, when the 2600 port sucked balls compared to the arcade original. Any of us who played the arcade game first knew that right away. Of course, there are a number of people who played the 2600 port first.


Obviously the arcade version completely trounces the 2600 version in every single way.

I thought the pictures would make it clear that it's a tongue-in-cheek article; guess not.

#36 SoulBlazer OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 24, 2012 2:46 PM

What's up with those screenshots?


It's a cynical article. I'm not sure what the main point the author is trying to make is -- he seems to be ragging the arcade version, when the 2600 port sucked balls compared to the arcade original. Any of us who played the arcade game first knew that right away. Of course, there are a number of people who played the 2600 port first.


Obviously the arcade version completely trounces the 2600 version in every single way.

I thought the pictures would make it clear that it's a tongue-in-cheek article; guess not.


I got it was tongue-in-cjheek, I just didn't think it was very funny. :P

#37 Fygar13 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed May 2, 2012 1:24 AM

Wikipedia has a full article on the 2600/VCS version of Pac-Man and it's worth looking at if you want a better idea of how and why the game was such a critical disappointment.

Edited by Fygar13, Wed May 2, 2012 1:26 AM.


#38 Shannon OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu May 3, 2012 4:56 AM

What the heck was Atari thinking anyways? Wafers, vitamins, and power pills...? The had the license to make the game.. so why all the change in terms?

I can just picture the advertising department scrambling to change the manual because the resulting game barely resembled it's namesake. :lol:

Differing "slightly from the original"... lol...

#39 TheKid965 OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu May 3, 2012 6:48 AM

What the heck was Atari thinking anyways? Wafers, vitamins, and power pills...? The had the license to make the game.. so why all the change in terms?

I can just picture the advertising department scrambling to change the manual because the resulting game barely resembled it's namesake. :lol:


Actually, back during the height of the Pac-Man craze there was very little consensus among fans about just what certain game elements were "supposed" to be called. Those which we usually call "energizers" today were in fact sometimes referred to as "power pills" even before the 2600 port, as well as "power pellets" (that one came from the cartoon, I think), "cans of spinach" (as in Popeye), "table turners," "blinkers," or simply just "big dots." For the most part, Atari's terminology strikes me as being a way to use easily-trademarked names for things that arcade gamers had multiple names for. Although, using "wafers" as the replacement for "dots" does kind of make sense given how they appear as dashes on the 2600.

Getting back to the box art, one thing that always struck me as weird was that, unlike virtually every other picture-label 2600 game, the artwork was different on the cartridge itself than on the box. The box featured a more arcade-ish looking Pac-Man character, while the actual cartridge depicted exactly the same scene, only with a grinning yellow globe with arms and legs instead of the familiar "pizza with a missing slice." That's it, everything else was identical.

#40 lapetino OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu May 3, 2012 9:07 AM

Getting back to the box art, one thing that always struck me as weird was that, unlike virtually every other picture-label 2600 game, the artwork was different on the cartridge itself than on the box. The box featured a more arcade-ish looking Pac-Man character, while the actual cartridge depicted exactly the same scene, only with a grinning yellow globe with arms and legs instead of the familiar "pizza with a missing slice." That's it, everything else was identical.


Actually, if you take a good look at the art, the rounded Pac-Man (as seen on the label) is the originally-created artwork. The box version of the flattened pizza version seems to have been slapped on over top of that artwork. My guess is that some marketing person assumed "people won't know what this is!" and then had the flat art placed over top. And it looks terrible -- they seem to have fixed this on the PAL box art and the later 1987 box release for the 2600. I think the original rounded Pac-Man is really better done. And really, if you go back to the arcade graphics, the non-screen Pac-Man has all kinds of funny styling to him, and often didn't resemble the one on-screen: http://www.classicga...man_machine.jpg

#41 TheKid965 OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu May 3, 2012 11:07 AM

I think the original rounded Pac-Man is really better done.


I tend to agree, myself. It's more stylish and distinctive.

And hey, it could always have been worse... they could have used the original Atari 400 box art instead! ;^)

#42 procyon OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu May 3, 2012 10:05 PM

I may have mentioned this once or twice in the past, but I had the luxury of working with Tod Frye at 3DO just before the company vanished. He told me quite a bit about developing Pac-Man, and why certain decisions were made. It largely came down to the fact that his manager was a prick. He actually had a version where the ghosts didn't flicker, but his manager was so patronizing that Tod didn't bother submitting the flickerless version. At first, he developed his version as a proof-of-concept prototype to show that something like Pac-Man could be done. He never intended for the prototype to be the foundation for the actual game, but when the execs saw what he had done, they told him to polish it up for sale. And the rest was history. It's been several years since I spoke with him, but as I recall, he wasn't the least bit upset about how it came out. He made his millions :)

There's also the story, which Tod tells himself on HSW's excellent "Once Upon Atari" DVD, where someone grafittied the Pac-Man machine in the Atari break room by writing "Why Frye?" on the machine, lamenting how much money he made on that port. So Frye took a pen and drew a line over "Why" which mathematically means "not" so that the quote read "why not Frye?" That ranks up there for me with Frye's fire sprinkler induced head gash emergency room story.

#43 Shannon OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri May 4, 2012 1:15 AM

I don't get it.. sure maybe the guys manager was a prick. But to make that much money off of royalties on a game (he was a first right?) and not to take any pride in producing a well designed game when he knew it could be done... Just does not seem to be a good precendent to set for programmers who were interested in getting royalties for their work. Must just be me..

Edited by Shannon, Fri May 4, 2012 1:19 AM.


#44 Dauber OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri May 4, 2012 8:49 AM

Well, maybe his thought was, "If I'm smart with my money, I'll never have to work again!"

#45 NE146 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri May 4, 2012 8:55 AM

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.


Only up until emulation.. really? Ms. Pacman I think was definitely up to the standard of the arcade game, as far as the 2600 was concerned. :)

#46 BillyHW OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri May 4, 2012 9:16 AM


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.


Only up until emulation.. really? Ms. Pacman I think was definitely up to the standard of the arcade game, as far as the 2600 was concerned. :)


Not quite. I've been checking out just about all the Pac-Mans and Ms. Pac-Mans around lately, and the only pre-crash version that is really up to the standard of the arcade game is the C64 version (for Ms. Pac-Man), and the unreleased ColecoVision prototype (for Pac-Man). Both are by Atarisoft, which is ironic. They made the best versions for their competitors' systems.

#47 NE146 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri May 4, 2012 9:33 AM

Not quite. I've been checking out just about all the Pac-Mans and Ms. Pac-Mans around lately, and the only pre-crash version that is really up to the standard of the arcade game is the C64 version (for Ms. Pac-Man), and the unreleased ColecoVision prototype (for Pac-Man). Both are by Atarisoft, which is ironic. They made the best versions for their competitors' systems.


The difference is, that is the C64 and Colecovision. ;) Again, Ms Pacman was definitely up to the standard of the arcade game as far as the 2600 was concerned.

And come on, who here DIDN'T shit a brick once Ms. Pac came out on the VCS and it was as good as it was? It made us all realize it could actually be done. :D

#48 procyon OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri May 4, 2012 9:55 AM

I don't get it.. sure maybe the guys manager was a prick. But to make that much money off of royalties on a game (he was a first right?) and not to take any pride in producing a well designed game when he knew it could be done... Just does not seem to be a good precendent to set for programmers who were interested in getting royalties for their work. Must just be me..


Part of what you have to do to understand Tod's thinking is put yourself back in 1982, and remember how Time Warner was running Atari around that time. Atari wasn't a place where programmers strived to create the highest quality programs ever created. If you wanted to do that, you went to Activision or Imagic. Programmers were cogs, not people, part of a machine that was designed to pump out widgets that made execs and investors a lot of money. Tod was the first to receive royalties, but until you get a check for a million dollars, it's kind of hard to imagine how that's going to feel. When the execs told him to polish up the game and make it sellable, he probably just shrugged and followed the order, regardless of how idiotic it sounded to him.

It's very easy for enthusiasts like us to think that if we were in Tod's position, we would have tried harder, and fought against stupid business executives who didn't know a joystick from a door knob. I didn't get to know Tod for very long (about a year or so), but he was who he was. He was a brilliant guy who just wanted to solve difficult problems. He didn't care what you thought of him, or what you thought of Pac-Man or Swordquest or anything else he did. He knew what he was capable of, and he knew what he was paid to do, and he didn't equate the two. In a way, I kind of admire him for that.

Edited by procyon, Fri May 4, 2012 9:56 AM.


#49 0078265317 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri May 4, 2012 3:26 PM

possibly to head off complaints that customers didn't get what they were expecting.


Which is exactly how it should of been for all games. Literal on every box.




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