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In defense of Pac-Man...


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#26 zzip OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 8:40 AM

If I'm not mistaken, the ghosts actually are different colors. It's just that they're on the screen 1/4 of the time so it's hard to tell.


It might be, but it flickers so much you can't easily tell.

Ms Pac man flickers too, but not as much and you can tell the ghosts have different colors.

#27 sdamon OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 8:50 AM

We knew the 2600 couldn't match the arcade.. BUT we also knew the 2600 could:
- do a blue on black maze, not the gross gold on blue they used
- do a pacman without an eye (that the arcade didn't have)
- do the theme music much better than simply "Beep boop beep boop"
- put the portal on left and right, not top and bottom.
- have a maze design at least closer to the arcade
- have up and down animations, not just left and right
- have ghosts of different colors
- probably have dot-eating sounds that sounded a little more like "wakka wakka" and less like "bong bong"
- probably have actual fruits and not just square 'vitamins'

In fact "Ms Pac man" came and proved all of the above was possible on the 2600.

 

Yeah, you pretty much nailed it.  For fans of the arcade game, it just was obvious that Atari hadn't made a real effort to bring the experience of this super-hot game home.  (Younger folks probably can't even imagine how popular Pac-Man was back then... it was a national addiction!)  When fans brought this home and it looked and sounded so different, it just couldn't help but disappoint.  I remember my dad (who played the hell out of the arcade game) being utterly disgusted by this version when we got it in March of 82.)

 

But I agree with the topic starter and everyone else who say it's a solid game.  It really is!  It's challenging, fun, and has a charm all it's own.  It just doesn't much resemble the mega-hit arcade game.  So it makes sense that there's so much division over this game.  Folks who played it wanting a near-arcade experience (which Atari had done so successfully with Space Invaders, Asteroids, and Missile Command) were understandably angry about it.  And other folks that were either less familiar with the arcade game or more willing to enjoy the port on it's own terms were treated to a fun experience.  I wouldn't say either group is right or wrong.  But clearly with just a bit more effort, Atari could have pleased that first group a whole lot more.



#28 Random Terrain OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 8:53 AM

Especially since by 1982, Atari had been getting outclassed by Activision and Intellivision, and upped their game. They were doing better sports games like the Realsports series, and better arcade translations like Berzerk. They seemed to be on a roll, so I was optimistic about Pacman before it released


Like it says on my web site, my family expected 2600 Pac-Man to look more like the Pac-Man we saw on an Atari computer at Woolco, so I'm not a fan, but to make it clear for people who weren't alive back then, 2600 Pac-Man was released in March/April of 1982. Berzerk was released in August of 1982. RealSports Baseball and RealSports Volleyball were released in October of 1982 and RealSports Football was released in December of 1982.



#29 save2600 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 8:57 AM

http://atariage.com/...an#entry3497371

Wickeycolumbus's hack is excellent. Ghosts are more solid and he tweaked their colors, so they really stand out. I think had this version been released BITD, people would have been a lot more forgiving -then and now.

BD5C41F0-10B5-4B23-B6C7-318BD9544226.jpeg

#30 zzip OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 8:58 AM

Like it says on my web site, my family expected 2600 Pac-Man to look more like the Pac-Man we saw on an Atari computer at Woolco, but to make it clear for people who weren't alive back then, 2600 Pac-Man was released in March/April of 1982. Berzerk was released in August of 1982. RealSports Baseball and RealSports Volleyball were released in October of 1982 and RealSports Football was released in December of 1982.


I don't remember the exactly chronology of the releases, but I do recall that Atari had been noticeably improving their quality around this time, and Pacman felt like a real step backward.

#31 Bryan ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 9:02 AM

Especially since by 1982, Atari had been getting outclassed by Activision and Intellivision, and upped their game. They were doing better sports games like the Realsports series, and better arcade translations like Berzerk. They seemed to be on a roll, so I was optimistic about Pacman before it released

 

I think Warner's attitude was that the Pac-Man license was more of a guaranteed customer list, so it didn't really matter as long as they delivered something for those goofy bastards to buy. There should have been some serious QC oversight on this one. It should have been a crown jewel in the library. With expectations being high, it just made the 2600 look outdated.

 

I don't deny it could be fun to play, but Pac-Man was not the game to take extreme liberties with.



#32 KaeruYojimbo OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 10:18 AM

In fact "Ms Pac man" came and proved all of the above was possible on the 2600.

 
People always use Ms. Pac-Man as proof that Pac-Man could have been better, but Ms. Pac-Man was released nearly year later. That's a long time in terms of what was going on with 2600 games. Arcade conversions were becoming better because programmers were learning new techniques for pushing the hardware that didn't exist when Tod Frye started working on Pac-Man.
 
The blowback from Pac-Man is maybe what forced Atari to realize that customers wanted arcade conversions that actually resembled the arcade game. The opinion before that, at least in management and marketing, seemed to be "It says 'Pac-Man' on the box. It's got a yellow guy eating dots. Therefore, it's Pac-Man and people will love it just like they love the arcade game." To a bunch of suits who had never played a video game, a yellow guy eating dots in a maze was Pac-Man. To them the specifics didn't matter.
 
I actually spent more time in the early 80's playing video games in arcades than at home on consoles. My family made pretty regular trips to the local Le Mans arcade and didn't actually get a console of our own until a Colecovision in late '82, so arcade Pac-Man is the Pac-Man I knew. And I had a bad case of Pac-Man Fever. I was one of those obsessed kids. I still show symptoms of the Fever to this day.
 
I knew of the 2600 port and had seen it, but I honestly can't remember actually playing it until a friend and I dug his old 2600 out of the attic in the early 90's. My initial reaction was the typical "This sucks. He doesn't look up or down. The maze is all wrong. The monsters flicker soooooo much," but since then I've learned to appreciate 2600 Pac-Man for what it is. It's not something I play regularly, or will ever play regularly (The only non-hombrew 2600 Pac-game I play with any regularity is Jr. Pac-Man. That is a great port.), there are just too many better options out there. But I understand why it's the game it is and appreciate it's place in 2600 history.

Edited by KaeruYojimbo, Fri Oct 6, 2017 10:51 AM.


#33 Bryan ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 12:24 PM

Ms. Pac-Man was also done by people involved with the arcade game, so they had a natural interest in getting it right.  Tod Frye has stated that he doesn't understand why people cared that he changed elements of the game. I respect Tod's abilities, but maybe that made him not the best choice for arcade conversions.



#34 zzip OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 12:37 PM

I think Warner's attitude was that the Pac-Man license was more of a guaranteed customer list, so it didn't really matter as long as they delivered something for those goofy bastards to buy. There should have been some serious QC oversight on this one. It should have been a crown jewel in the library. With expectations being high, it just made the 2600 look outdated.
 
I don't deny it could be fun to play, but Pac-Man was not the game to take extreme liberties with.


That may be, but it's backwards thinking. Pacman was going to be a flagship title, it should have been treated as such.

#35 zzip OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 12:43 PM

People always use Ms. Pac-Man as proof that Pac-Man could have been better, but Ms. Pac-Man was released nearly year later. That's a long time in terms of what was going on with 2600 games. Arcade conversions were becoming better because programmers were learning new techniques for pushing the hardware that didn't exist when Tod Frye started working on Pac-Man.


Again though, most of what is wrong with pacman isn't about pushing the system, it's little things like making the colors right, not giving pac-man an eye (if he didn't have an eye, you could mirror the top and bottom of the player data and save a few bytes), using different sound effects.

Edited by zzip, Fri Oct 6, 2017 12:43 PM.


#36 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 12:43 PM

You know.. It may have been a sign of the times. The style of tools available, the limited knowledge, the deadlines, the current thinking in programming. All these things are limits and liabilities when pitted against what a modern-day homebrewer has to work with. Today we have sophisticated debuggers, compilers, emulators, and a large body of accumulated knowledge.

 

Just like you could not build a Model S in a Model T factory.



#37 Bryan ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 1:23 PM



You know.. It may have been a sign of the times. The style of tools available, the limited knowledge, the deadlines, the current thinking in programming.

Certainly. I don't think anyone is denying that we can do more with less today. But that doesn't explain why Pac-Man doesn't at least look like post #29 above.

 

Anyway, I get a little carried away when it comes to discussing Atari's mistakes because it killed my favorite company. We should all be playing on the Atari 18200 console today designed by Jay Miner's son, or his brain in a jar, or something.



#38 zzip OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 2:08 PM

You know.. It may have been a sign of the times. The style of tools available, the limited knowledge, the deadlines, the current thinking in programming. All these things are limits and liabilities when pitted against what a modern-day homebrewer has to work with. Today we have sophisticated debuggers, compilers, emulators, and a large body of accumulated knowledge.
 
Just like you could not build a Model S in a Model T factory.


It would actually take more effort to add an eye to pacman, without it, you can just mirror the data on top and bottom. Color selection is just a matter of choosing different values.

The most probable explanation was short deadlines, and Atari execs not realizing how much 'getting it right' mattered to people. Todd Fry said nobody at Atari questioned his design decisions.

But this was also a transitional period between a time where Atari was sole publisher of the console, and could push what they wanted, and when third parties came along and raised the bar. Other publishers started porting arcade games and were emphasizing accuracy.

#39 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 2:16 PM

Ms. Pac-Man was also done by people involved with the arcade game, so they had a natural interest in getting it right.  Tod Frye has stated that he doesn't understand why people cared that he changed elements of the game. I respect Tod's abilities, but maybe that made him not the best choice for arcade conversions.

 

True enough. It's called heritage or genetics. Companies often advertise something as being "in their DNA." For whatever it's worth - all Spiceware or Champ games are going to have a certain look and playability style. Just like all early VCS Activision games or Imagic games did. All GM cars will have a specific common style to their appointments and conventions, just as Tesla or Ford will.

 

To make a good game there has, just has, to be some level of personal interest in the project. Not just money or deadlines.. that's not enough.



#40 mbd30 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 2:44 PM

 

I love the sounds: bah-dee-dah-dee... bonk, bonk, bonk, bonk 
 

 

Atari 2600 Pac-Man is the Bonk's Adventure of the early '80s.



#41 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 2:49 PM

 
People always use Ms. Pac-Man as proof that Pac-Man could have been better, but Ms. Pac-Man was released nearly year later. That's a long time in terms of what was going on with 2600 games. Arcade conversions were becoming better because programmers were learning new techniques for pushing the hardware that didn't exist when Tod Frye started working on Pac-Man.
 
The blowback from Pac-Man is maybe what forced Atari to realize that customers wanted arcade conversions that actually resembled the arcade game. The opinion before that, at least in management and marketing, seemed to be "It says 'Pac-Man' on the box. It's got a yellow guy eating dots. Therefore, it's Pac-Man and people will love it just like they love the arcade game." To a bunch of suits who had never played a video game, a yellow guy eating dots in a maze was Pac-Man. To them the specifics didn't matter.

 

I personally believe it is these two factors that weighed PacMan-VCS down into suckland.

 

It was also management in general that caused saturation in the marketplace. A bunch of suits said let's make a video game. Videogames are hot. Any kind will do. We just have to get one on the market. It was this attitude that was responsible for so much shit.



#42 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 2:51 PM


The most probable explanation was short deadlines, and Atari execs not realizing how much 'getting it right' mattered to people. Todd Fry said nobody at Atari questioned his design decisions.

 

Mmm yeh.. I see.. Well? I wonder if the protos and early WIPs of PacMan-VCS were shown to the gaming public if there would have been complaints or suggestions? That's another advantage homebrew titles have. SpiceWare posted a billion Draconian builds for use to test and play with and hunt down bugs and make suggestions. And people who took the time to download the ROM and install it in their Harmony or Stella Emulator setups undoubtedly played it and offered feedback. We cared, the dev cared, and a good game is coming real soon. There's a lot of love going around.

 

Back in the 80's Atari the state of affairs revolving around PacMan for VCS is different though. It's like me taking my car into the shop for something to be done. And it gets done shoddily because the mechanic didn't take extra pride in his work. And when I complain, the mechanic says his boss didn't say anything. So the work is alright. Not top quality, but passable. This reflects on both the boss and the mechanic. It makes me wonder if games were pumped out on a corporate schedule

 

So, did Tod Frye need a babysitter? Because falling back on that excuse is lame! Even myself as a kid would have given the shifty eye toward the game. In fact we did. We knew it could be so much better. We knew what was going on.

 

That no one complained or even made suggestions is flabbergasting!



#43 KaeruYojimbo OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 3:13 PM

Until Pac-Man's release, Atari brass had no indication that arcade accuracy was important. Look at some of the big arcade ports that preceded it. Space Invaders. Missile Command. Asteroids. All of them differ from the original game, and all of them were well received. To a guy behind an oak desk with an accounting background and little to no experience actually playing video games, the differences between 2600 and arcade Pac-Man were no more or less than the differences between 2600 and arcade Space Invaders, so Pac-Man should have been just as popular as those earlier games. More so even because of the huge phenomenon that Pac-Man was at the time.



#44 TrekMD OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 3:22 PM

As a game, the 2600 Pac-Man is a fun game but it is not real Pac-Man.  I see it more as a clone of Pac-Man.  The game could have been closer in many aspects even with the limitations of the system back when it was released.  The effort just wasn't made.  I've even hear Todd Frye say that he did what he did because they didn't realize how important it was for the game to look like the arcade original.  He just wanted to create something with similar gameplay. 



#45 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 3:42 PM

Until Pac-Man's release, Atari brass had no indication that arcade accuracy was important. Look at some of the big arcade ports that preceded it. Space Invaders. Missile Command. Asteroids. All of them differ from the original game, and all of them were well received. To a guy behind an oak desk with an accounting background and little to no experience actually playing video games, the differences between 2600 and arcade Pac-Man were no more or less than the differences between 2600 and arcade Space Invaders, so Pac-Man should have been just as popular as those earlier games. More so even because of the huge phenomenon that Pac-Man was at the time.

 

Both SI and MC play very well. And many would argue rather successfully that SI-VCS is better than its arcade counterpart. SI-VCS is in color, it has many variations and difficulties to match the player's skill, and it has a different feel to how well your aimed shots take out the invaders. Things are bigger (lower res) just enough to take tediousness in aiming down notch or two. I like that.

 

I don't believe PacMan-VCS converted well because some of the essence of the game is in the personality of the monsters and Pac-Man himself. And then there is the maze dynamics - none of which is really captured in the VCS version. The patterns are wrong, the resolution is way way off. And more.

 

Whereas MC and SI were about shooting and aiming and prioritizing. That was THE essence. And that was all in the game logic. As long as the enemies behaved correctly the game was good to go. The playfields were pretty much open. And the fun was in SI was the simple left-right-left-right cadence or the constant downward rain of dots in MC.

 

There were no requirements as to what an ICBM or Satellite would look like in MC. Nor what an alien in SI was to be. You could redesign the them to whatever and it wouldn't change the game a bit. But redo the ghosts or PacMan himself or his maze, and you got trouble.



#46 toddtmw OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 3:47 PM

I was so disappointed with PacMan. I also saved my money to buy it and felt completely ripped off. Space Invaders and Asteroids greatly changed the LOOK of the game, but the gameplay and sound effects were similar enough that I think they got away with it. With PacMan EVERYTHING about it just completely sucked. At the time, I didn't care about the ghost AI or the longevity of the gameplay because I couldn't get past the suckiness of the initial experience to bring myself to play it long enough.

 

I mean, PacMan didn't even turn his head to look where he was going! I didn't care how hard that was to do on the 2600, it needed to be done. Then, later when I saw Ms. PacMan, I was even more ticked off at the original. Didn't Miss PacMan use a larger ROM chip so the programmer had more room to work with? Yeah, let's spend x million dollars buying the rights to the game and then cheap out on the rom chips to save a few cents per title. It was just stupid.

 

PacMan will always be a stupid, worthless game in the history of Atari. It has no redeeming qualities, it was a money grab that showed Atari had completely lost its way, and didn't care about its customers at all.

 

I mean, at least with ET, there was an excuse (VERY limited development window) for the game to not play well. There is no excuse at all for PacMan.

 

That's my opinon, and if you don't agree with me, I'll change it!  :)



#47 Bryan ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 4:13 PM

Until Pac-Man's release, Atari brass had no indication that arcade accuracy was important. Look at some of the big arcade ports that preceded it. Space Invaders. Missile Command. Asteroids. All of them differ from the original game, and all of them were well received. To a guy behind an oak desk with an accounting background and little to no experience actually playing video games, the differences between 2600 and arcade Pac-Man were no more or less than the differences between 2600 and arcade Space Invaders, so Pac-Man should have been just as popular as those earlier games. More so even because of the huge phenomenon that Pac-Man was at the time.

 

There's some truth to that, but I still think Pac-Man is a bit of an outlier. Previous games were as faithful as could be expected given what had been done on the 2600. It's amazing Asteroids was attempted at all when you consider that's it's a high-resolution vector game that can randomly throw dozens of sprites around. Pac-Man was a step backwards. It didn't follow the arcade even when there was no reason not to.

 

Times were definitely changing too. People were spending more time and money in arcades so it was becoming more important to offer some authenticity.

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#48 cybercylon OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 4:29 PM

As a generic maze game, it isn't that bad, but I could see how people that saved and paid full price on release back in the day would have been disappointed.

 

I got it on sale back then... I think it had already been out for a year or two. I did not have an arcade close to me, so while I knew it deviated from the arcade version, it (the 2600 version) was the only version I had access to on a regular basis so it was better than nothing.



#49 KaeruYojimbo OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 4:45 PM

I don't believe PacMan-VCS converted well because some of the essence of the game is in the personality of the monsters and Pac-Man himself. And then there is the maze dynamics - none of which is really captured in the VCS version. The patterns are wrong, the resolution is way way off. And more.

 

I completely agree with you. 2600 Pac-Man gets virtually everything fundamentally wrong. I think it took people's reaction to that to make Atari realize that, while people were willing to make some concessions to the 2600's inferior hardware, the essence of the original arcade game still had to be there. The little details mattered. Space Invaders and Missile Command were successful because, while they changed some aspects of the game, the essence was still there. Pac-Man changed the essence. Up to this point, I don't think anyone at Atari realized there was a difference.



#50 Atari PAC-MAN Fan OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 6, 2017 4:59 PM

I'm nostalgic for Atari Pac-Man. Even though I would be considered "young" compared to the rest of you, I remember seeing it the first time. I was 4 years old and had played Pac-Man on Namco Museum for GameCube. When my dad showed me the Atari version, I thought it looked so cool BECAUSE it looked nothing like the arcade game. I can see why people dislike it, but now we have things like "Pac-Man 4K" and "Pac-Man Arcade". Just play those if you don't like the game.






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