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Atari: Game Over (documentary)

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#26 DanOliver OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Apr 5, 2015 7:44 PM

Arrogant?

 

"We'd like you to produce a game by controlling electrons in a vacuum tube with less RAM than it takes to hold your grandmother's recipe for boiling water...when compressed. It has to sell a lot of copies because a bunch of people are depending on it for their livelihood...no pressure. You'll be on your own, no training, no manual, primitive tools and zero market research explaining what a good game is, no testers, no focus group. It has to be done in about a lunar cycle. Can you do it?"

 

"Sure."

 

I'm pretty sure all 2600 programmers back then were arrogant. Some hid it better than others.

 

I'd bet cash when Kassar was told by Ross to do E.T. that Kassar and his team had a discussion about what programmer would even try. Meaning, who's the most arrogant programmer we have? And I'll bet Howard fostered that rep so he would get such calls.

 

I will always prefer to work with engineers who are a bit arrogant, opinionated, lacking tact and even smelling a bit bad...if they deliver. I've worked with engineers who were the most capable in the group, and understood in detail why something couldn't be done. They would refuse to even try. That's not how products get shipped. You have to take chances and be prepared to fail. You have to be arrogant. Of course if you deliver then you weren't actually arrogant. Won't stop people who called you arrogant from recanting. Arrogance is the logarithmic measurement between a person who should be able to accomplish some task but can't, and someone who accomplishes the task.

 

For me anyone who shipped a 2600 game gets my respect. You can rate members within that small club but they're still in that unique club.

 

And this was a movie. Characters welcomed. Of all the footage shot of Howard I'm guessing the dull vanilla opinion stuff was cut. Howard understands entertainment. A movie about digging up some trash in a landfill...pretty sure was going nowhere without characters. I liked the suit from Warner too. "Hey, you want to buy a company? Sure." Got a kick out of him.

 



#27 adamchevy OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Apr 5, 2015 8:40 PM

The premise of this movie bothers me. Mainly that there was a question whether or not the site was a myth and if it actually happened. It was talked about by newspapers and other media outlets back when they first dumped everything in the 80s.

#28 Retro Rogue OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Apr 5, 2015 8:54 PM

I'd bet cash when Kassar was told by Ross to do E.T. that Kassar and his team had a discussion about what programmer would even try. Meaning, who's the most arrogant programmer we have? And I'll bet Howard fostered that rep so he would get such calls.


Spielberg asked for Howard to do it, Howard had just finished doing Raiders and having worked with him Spielberg wanted him to do ET as well.
 
 

The premise of this movie bothers me. Mainly that there was a question whether or not the site was a myth and if it actually happened. It was talked about by newspapers and other media outlets back when they first dumped everything in the 80s.


Its more that there's been a lot of different myths surrounding it that sprung up over the years, and they'd all developed into an incestuous stew that fed off each other and grew. With regards to the site itself, there were the stories that a)There was a burial of something there, b) There was a mass burial of ET, and c) There was nothing verifiable buried there. The weight of b combined with c lead a to become obfuscated and marginalized. Enough so that even when newspaper clippings were shown they were still held in doubt because of the stigma of the mass ET burial claim. As far as the movie itself, they need to recount the main myths in order to deconstruct it like they did.

#29 Jinks OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 7, 2015 6:10 AM

I did say he deserves to be a little high on himself. It was made for entertainment.
Arrogant was the word I used. Probably not the best choice of words. He also came across as a genuine person at the same time(I did not mention that previously)
Just my thoughts. Everyone has their own take on things.
The show I think was made for people who heard of Atari and not really are historians of the video game world.
Usually shows like this try to be informative and are supposed to leave the viewer with some sort of message afterwords. I guess I seen it as pointless. As millions of et carts were not there. Many different carts were there and so on.. So what did et and hsw have to do with the dig and the show? Hype? Yep!

#30 ls650 ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 7, 2015 6:33 AM

I watched this on Netflix last night and found it enjoyable. I'd recommend it to anyone here who hasn't seen it yet.

#31 Greg2600 OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 7, 2015 9:36 AM

I tried to watch it the other night, and fell asleep.  I never found the "dig" compelling at all.



#32 Retro Rogue OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 7, 2015 9:39 AM

Thought this would be relevant to those following this thread.
 

This Saturday 11am at the Midwest Gaming Classic​!
 
Meet the man who buried E.T. and other Atari games in the desert
 
In 1983 Atari buried truckloads of games in the Alamogordo, NM desert, an event that captured imaginations everywhere as its legend and the myths surrounding it grew over the decades that followed. Famously excavated last year in front of news crews and world wide attention, a little known fact was that the man who originally dumped the games was on hand and had assisted them in re-finding the games (and told them what they'd actually find). Now for the first time, Jim Heller publicly (live via skype) tells the full story of what really went on those 32 years ago. Learn the real stories behind this video game pop culture phenomenon, and how in the end it was just another day on the job for Jim. As the documentary Atari: Game Over found out, although it wasn't a mass dumping of E.T., the stories behind the scenes were far more interesting than even the legends themselves. MC'd by Atari Inc. - Business Is Fun co-author Marty Goldberg.


#33 BassGuitari OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 7, 2015 10:16 AM

I just watched this movie last night and thought it was mostly pretty good. Can't honestly say I got any arrogant vibes from HSW though, and hearing his story was probably the most interesting thing about the movie to me. It's good to see him vindicated. And I agree the "moment of discovery" was unexpectedly stirring.

I don't know why Nolan was talking about ET like he was there, though. Other than that, I thought his insight on the video game business -- particularly in the early days -- was interesting.



#34 DanOliver OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 7, 2015 1:19 PM

I did say he deserves to be a little high on himself. It was made for entertainment.
Arrogant was the word I used. Probably not the best choice of words. He also came across as a genuine person at the same time(I did not mention that previously)
Just my thoughts. Everyone has their own take on things.
 

My arrogant rant was more about the general thing I've heard about Howard than your post. Sorry.

 

My point was really about arrogant being more telling about the people saying it than the person it being said about. In my experience people who create products are arrogant. They know it, the people around them know it. It's not really a derogatory term. It's worn as a badge of honor.

 

Everyone wants to be liked by everyone else on the planet. But at some point you realized that to do something others think is not possible you're going to have to believe in yourself more than anyone else. No doubt that will likely be an exaggerated sense of one's own importance or abilities. You have to decide whether you're going to be humble, modest and let the project not get done or not care what others think of you. That's just what it takes. Some people can hide their arrogance pretty well, but many can't. Not perfect.

 

One part of the movie that I thought was very real and choked me up a bit were was when several people (Gerard, Bushnell, etc.) at 52:00 and 57:00 said what a tremendous job Howard did. Whether the game was good or bad is a side issue. That they understood what Howard was asked to do and that he accomplished that task. For manager types I can hear genuine respect in their voices all these years later. It's the highest complement imo.

 

I also think it's totally fair to judge the quality of any game without considering programmer constraints. Players pay money for a game and they should expect a good product and it shouldn't be graded on a curve because a programmer only had 5 weeks. It's separate from respect for having completed a game.



#35 DanOliver OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 7, 2015 1:34 PM

I don't know why Nolan was talking about ET like he was there, though. Other than that, I thought his insight on the video game business -- particularly in the early days -- was interesting.

Not at Atari at the time but still understood the process better than most who were actually there imo. He's one of the few people who knew pretty much all the aspects of 2600 games development. Lots of other people get just a slice of what's going on. For example, it is now accepted that Howard was picked to do E.T. by Spielberg because Howard did Raiders. Nice compact fact. But people like Bushnell understand the hundreds of other inputs that went into that decision. Drawing a straight line from Spielberg suggesting Howard to Howard pounding a keyboard misses the interesting parts that Bushnell can explain imo. Not that Bushnell did that in the movie, but I find his opinions valuable.



#36 Torr OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 7, 2015 1:34 PM

ar·ro·gant

having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one's own importance or abilities

 

 

Doesn't matter how you define or expand the term, that is the bare bones definition; and I believe it describes HSW in one word pretty well.


Edited by Torr, Tue Apr 7, 2015 1:48 PM.


#37 ls650 ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 7, 2015 2:25 PM

My impression was that HSW had been arrogant when he created ET, but got served a huge serving of humble pie. 

 

If anything, I thought he was more than willing to admit that he fumbled ET and that he has spent 30 years trying to live it down and get on with his life.



#38 DanOliver OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 7, 2015 3:44 PM

When did he exaggerate his abilities?

 

I'm sure he has many times...most people have. For the most part his opinions about his abilities seem to have been proven to be valid by his accomplishments imo.

 

Boastful, maybe. I cut him slack since I think he's been demonized unfairly. I expect him to defend himself by listing his achievements. If he doesn't defend himself who will? I see it more as self defense than boastful.

 

Humble pie? He did exactly what was asked of him, ship a 2600 game in 5 weeks. Do you think Kassar said "and it has to be a great game Howard"? Do think Spielberg or anyone at Atari from Ross to Howard was was under the delusion this was going to be a masterpiece? Any focus testing done? Any marketing people ever say "maybe we should hold off release until after Christmas"? I mean anyone who was still employed at Atari 5 minutes after saying it? E.T. was done for one reason and one reason only, cash in on the movie's popularity. I'm pretty sure Howard got a royalty for E.T. and made pretty good bank for 5 weeks work. That's a slice of humble pie I sure wouldn't mind eating.

 

And why shouldn't companies and people cash in on the public's insatiable appetite for popular culture collectibles? People certainly seem to love it. Why was this movie about E.T. while all the other games dug up barely were mentioned? We want to hear about the big fall...and we sure don't mind spinning it to make the fall a little bigger than it was in the name of entertainment. The E.T. game was sold the same way plastic E.T. cups were sold at 7-Eleven. No one at 7-Eleven thought "we're going to sell a lot more soda because these cups are going to be the best designed cups ever".

 

The only humble pie dished out imo was to Ross. He had an exaggerated sense of his abilities.


Edited by DanOliver, Tue Apr 7, 2015 3:47 PM.


#39 accousticguitar OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 7, 2015 3:53 PM

HSW did mention the word "hubris" in the video.



#40 save2600 ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 7, 2015 4:18 PM

Humble pie is sometimes served, eaten and honored by those with strong character, even if one doesn't necessarily ask for or deserve it. My opinion is that HSW had been made a scapegoat of sorts, and the debacle that is E.T. and the "E.T. only" dump by Atari was grossly over-exaggerated as proven. It's unfortunate that this documentary does little to nothing to dispel that exaggeration and the myth that continues to plague E.T. and HSW. 
 
One thing that's not talked about is exactly how many hours went into the game. Workstation was brought home, so he could work around the clock, but when you crunch the numbers, the potential gulf between this release and a normal one of "6-9 months at the office" is not as great as one might think. Probably not building a case for the predisposed haters, but agree with Bushnell when he said that HSW should be celebrated for the achievement; extremely compressed time put in, dedication, challenge, et al.  

#41 DanOliver OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 7, 2015 4:21 PM

Exactly. 34:00 into the movie. To say yes to this type of project requires excessive self-confidence. Whether hubris or arrogance is considered derogatory is a person's perspective.

 

When Kassar asked Howard and he said yes I'm pretty sure Kassar thought to himself "wow this guy is arrogant...thank God".



#42 save2600 ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 7, 2015 4:24 PM

Re: this type of project… only Nixon could go to China.



#43 DanOliver OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 7, 2015 4:42 PM

One thing that's not talked about is exactly how many hours went into the game. Workstation was brought home, so he could work around the clock, but when you crunch the numbers, the potential gulf between this release and a normal one of "6-9 months at the office" is not as great as one might think. Probably not building a case for the predisposed haters, but agree with Bushnell when he said that HSW should be celebrated for the extremely compressed time put in, dedication, challenge, et al.  

Good point. Wish how many hours had made it into the movie.

 

Once on "Night Trap" I worked 43 hours straight...no TV...no music. Starting on a Friday night thru Sunday. When the product manager and testers came in on Monday they saw a very different game. To them no work time had passed. They seemed a bit blown away by what a great programmer I was but in reality I'd spent basically an entire work week. Most of the programmers at Digital Pictures could have done the same in 43 hours spread out over a week. The accomplishment is the willingness and ability to put yourself thru such an ordeal.

 

I'm not sure Howard did put in crazy hours, maybe. Anyone know if he has talked about actual hours he worked in any interview? It takes a lot of practice to get into the 30-40 hour straight deal and be able to repeat with a 10-14 hour break in between. My impression at Atari was there wasn't a lot of insane hours being done. When I got there and learned people were taking 5-6 months my jaw dropped. I couldn't imagine having so much time available.



#44 accousticguitar OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 7, 2015 5:26 PM

At first it was 6 months to make a 2k game, then it was 6 months to make a 4k game. After that it was 6 months to make an 8k game. Later on it was 6 months to make a 16k game. And the game requirements got harder too, such as needing an attract mode.

#45 Cafeman OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 8, 2015 6:33 AM

I watched it via Netflix. I greatly enjoyed the whole thing! The guy in the Delorean cracks me up. It was great to hear Howard talk and relate about the experience.

#46 bigfriendly OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Apr 13, 2015 9:16 PM

I caught the doc on Netflix as well. Really enjoyed watching it and have always been interested in this story. The entire focus of game crash has always been an interesting subject for me. I first heard about the landfill 20 years ago in a magazine article and have always tried to keep tabs on the story through this forum. God Bless the Internet

#47 Retro Rogue OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Apr 13, 2015 11:37 PM



#48 Random Terrain OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Apr 13, 2015 11:58 PM

If it's true that they don't take a huge steaming watery dump all over E.T., I'll watch it on Netflix. It's not like Netflix has a steady stream of 5 star movies coming in that I could watch instead, so I might as well. :D



#49 Metal Jesus OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 14, 2015 11:18 AM

I have occasionally called E.T. one of the worst games ever on my YouTube channel...but after watching this video on Netflix, it kinda made me regret that decision... While I don't think the game is particularly good at all... seeing the dude who created it and the passion he had for the craft, I was pretty blown away. Great flick!



#50 high voltage OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 14, 2015 12:47 PM

Nobody calls NES programmers arrogant for creating bad games, and on NES they are plentyful, they are not only bad, they are surely THE WORST.
Go slagging those games and programmers off.

Anyway, whoever calls ET the worst game ever surely has no knowledge about video games.

Edited by high voltage, Tue Apr 14, 2015 12:49 PM.






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