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Slot Machine (Atari VCS, 1979)

Mezrabad

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Slot Machine a.k.a. Slots (Atari VCS, 1979) :x

 

I theorize that in the mid 1970s, the U.S. Department of Defense had conducted experiments on non-violent methods of torture. Back then, apparently, violent methods of torture were frowned upon. I’ve heard that, in some circles, they are still frowned upon, even today, but I digress.

 

So, the DoD went to Atari and said, "We want you to make a simulation that will suck the very life-energy out of the person interfacing with it. We want it to be simple to use, and we want it to be so awful that prisonersguests will actually request torture in exchange for not being forced to suffer through this activity. That way we'll have their permission to torture them and can extract some real information."

 

Atari experimented with a few ideas, (one of which became Hunt & Score), but the actual program they selected to demo to the DoD was considered to be “too life-draining.” One high ranking official was quoted as saying, “That’s enough! I don't even have the energy to puke anymore.”

 

However, the Department of Defense, though no longer interested in what Atari had developed, were impressed and they began to inquire about tank sims. That's another story, possibly for another time.

 

Atari, was left with this "worse than torture" program into which they had invested dozens of dollars with no way to recoup their expenses. Finally, some programmer, apparently with a history of abuse, said "Hey, we can make a game out of this!"

 

And that's how Slot Machine came to be.

 

Really, that's all I have to say about it.

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How funny. I wrote a cartoon a few years ago like the Far Side with the caption "As early as the 1950's, the U.S. Government has been using 'The Wizard of Oz' as a means of torture." I'll spare you the crappy drawing that goes along with it.

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heheh. I picture somone strapped down watching a tv with wide eyes of terror and sweat all over their face while the TV has a little word bubble coming out of it saying something like "we thank you very sweetly, for doing it so neatly".

 

I couldn't bear to mention David Crane being the sadistic programmer of Slot Machine because in the context of 1979 no one knew what greatness he would be capable of achieving in just a few short years.

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I couldn't bear to mention David Crane being the sadistic programmer of Slot Machine because in the context of 1979 no one knew what greatness he would be capable of achieving in just a few short years.

 

In 1979, did real slot machines offer any sophistication beyond 1-5 line payout? Certainly real slot machines were and remain popular features in casinos; if Atari told David Crane to program one on the 2600, what was he supposed to do?

 

Using some of the programming tricks that were developed later, it would certainly be possible to code a nicer-looking slot machine, but even then 2K isn't a huge amount of code to work with. I do think the payout tables should have been reworked to be more interesting, but otherwise I'd say the game shows a level of technical competance roughly comparable to other 2K cartridges of the era. The real problem is simply that 1979 slot machines, whether real or simulated, weren't really much fun.

 

Enough different systems had slot-machine games designed for them that there must have been some demand; there have even been a number of such programs designed for Windows. It doesn't take very long at a play-money slot machine to realize that watching paint dry can be wonderfully exciting (at least by comparison), but I expect a lot of people over the years have bought such games thinking "Hey this is neat!" for a few minutes before deciding "Hey this is boring!"

 

BTW, even I designed a slot-machine game back in the day for the VIC-20. Each wheel had 20 spots, with a total of ten different symbols, three of which appeared once each, four twice each, and three three times each. The game averaged something like a 99% payout, but more importantly, the percentage of plays that paid out was pretty high:

 

-1- Any three-of-a-kind

 

-2- Any two-of-a-kind with the one-of-a-kind symbols, if the other symbol wasn't a lemon (3 lemons on the wheel). The matching symbols did not need to be on the first two reels--any two reels would work.

 

-3- Any two-of-a-kind plus a bar

 

-4- One of each of the three one-of-a-kind symbols

 

The game was still really boring, but at least the monotony was broken up occasionally by some payouts.

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I couldn't bear to mention David Crane being the sadistic programmer of Slot Machine because in the context of 1979 no one knew what greatness he would be capable of achieving in just a few short years.

 

In 1979, did real slot machines offer any sophistication beyond 1-5 line payout? Certainly real slot machines were and remain popular features in casinos; if Atari told David Crane to program one on the 2600, what was he supposed to do?

 

Using some of the programming tricks that were developed later, it would certainly be possible to code a nicer-looking slot machine, but even then 2K isn't a huge amount of code to work with. I do think the payout tables should have been reworked to be more interesting, but otherwise I'd say the game shows a level of technical competance roughly comparable to other 2K cartridges of the era. The real problem is simply that 1979 slot machines, whether real or simulated, weren't really much fun.

 

Okay, it was a cheap shot a David Crane (and I should know better than to make a comment relating even tangentally to technical issues. I've often admitted and demonstrated my ignorance, though not always in that order.), I stand corrected. It wasn't Crane's fault that marketing or whoever came up with the idea that a slot machine would be fun for a home system. If someone was making me write games like this I'd quit and join my own start-up company, too.

 

But, jeez! I couldn't even enjoy disliking this game. I had expected to feel some nostalgia (we had it back in 1981 at my house) but it gave me nothing. It was all monotony down to the last monetary unit. Even the colors were very dull. At least the Channel F and the APF had colors. Not that it helped them much, but points for eye candy.

 

If I had to play one, I'd play the Channel F, though technically, I can't, because it didn't come out until 1980 (which I discovered after writing about it earlier in 1979). Who knows, maybe I'd feel more kindly to Atari's Slot Machine if I knew that David Crane wrote it for his mother or something. ;)

 

I do agree with your point, supercat, slot machines, real or simulated, mustn't have been much fun back in 1979. All three video slot games I've played thus far were difficult for me to enjoy the tiniest bit. I know there are some more in my future (Odyssey^2: I'm certain of. Bally Astrocade? Maybe. Not sure.)

 

Hey, wait. I played Slot Machine on Ubikuberalles' Altair and even it didn't seem as bad as Atari's. Maybe it was the novelty of an all text machine. :)

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Even the colors were very dull.

 

Yeah, well trying to get six sprites per line will do that. Using Venetian Blinds or trick color reversal things could have been done more nicely, but I don't think either technique had been invented yet. Besides, I wouldn't be surprised if David Crane simply felt little motivation on this cart.

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Wow... I just tried this in Stella. Or tried to.

 

I couldn't even get it to work. At all. I thought I must be doing something wrong. The instructions were mind-numbing, but I didn't see anything I was missing. I'm guessing something may be wrong with its emulation in Stella.

 

Hope they don't fix it.

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Wow... I just tried this in Stella. Or tried to.

 

I couldn't even get it to work. At all. I thought I must be doing something wrong. The instructions were mind-numbing, but I didn't see anything I was missing. I'm guessing something may be wrong with its emulation in Stella.

 

Hope they don't fix it.

 

Crane did three games for the 2600 while he was working for Atari: Outlaw, Canyon Bomber and Slot Machine. I'm fond of Outlaw, but sort of "Meh" on Canyon Bomber (though I did like Sea Bomber) and I'm downright annoyed at Slot Machine. I've got no ability to criticize the game technically. I can only legitimately criticize it as a player. As a player, I'm shocked by the fact that, like many of the RCA Studio II games, I not only have zero fun, I have un-fun, or negative fun. To put it in, um, scientific terms: "This game takes away 'fun' particles from the player." How can anything do that and make it out of Crane's office?

 

Slot Machine will be the subject of my first question to David Crane if I ever get to ask him anything. I really hope the answer is something akin to:

 

"The Atari Goons were standing over me. They made me make it. They made me release it before I'd finished tweaking it. Yes, technically, it may have been pretty impressive...but as a game...*sob*sob*sob* (10 minutes later) I thought Pitfall would make up for it, but really once something harmful is out there, there's no taking it back . . ."

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I like the mental picture, that somewhere out in space, is a giant fun-sucking vortex that was created when this game was released, and that if left unchecked, someday it will completely suck all of the fun out of the entire universe.

 

Leaving us with stuff like, well... "Star Trek: Enterprise".

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Crane did three games for the 2600: Outlaw, Canyon Bomber and Slot Machine.

 

Curious that David Crane et al. left Atari because they were annoyed at not getting credited for their accomplishments. By the sound of it, the only innovative thing David Crane did at Atari for which I would think he'd even want credit was the text kernel for Basic Programming (and he seldom gets credit for that even today).

 

By contrast, I would consider Bob Whitehead to be a much more innovative force:

 

-1- Blackjack: First mid-line shape-shifting and color shifting

 

-2- Casino: Extends the shape-shifting and color-shifting concepts

 

-3- Star Ship: First first-person shooter for a home system; pioneered use of flicker to multiplex sprites

 

-4- Video Chess: Venetian blinds

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Curious that David Crane et al. left Atari because they were annoyed at not getting credited for their accomplishments. By the sound of it, the only innovative thing David Crane did at Atari for which I would think he'd even want credit was the text kernel for Basic Programming (and he seldom gets credit for that even today).

 

I'd fogotten Crane had a hand in Basic Programming. He didn't mention it in his RetroGamingRadio interview either. It seems that aside from the games mentioned he spent a lot of time working on the operating system for the Atari 800.

 

Oh, and I should have said that he made three games for the Atari 2600 while he was working for Atari. I think we all know that he did more than those three for the Atari 2600, but I wanted to make the correction.

 

Interesting stuff about Bob Whitehead, is he still working in the industry? It's not a name I hear too often outside of its original context.

 

I like the mental picture, that somewhere out in space, is a giant fun-sucking vortex that was created when this game was released, and that if left unchecked, someday it will completely suck all of the fun out of the entire universe.

 

Leaving us with stuff like, well... "Star Trek: Enterprise".

 

"Captain, they're bombarding us with Anti-Funtons! What should we do?"

 

"Quickly, everyone grab a jar of detox gel and get to your quarters. Hoshi and Vulcan Chick, you're with me."

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Curious that David Crane et al. left Atari because they were annoyed at not getting credited for their accomplishments.

It wasn't so much that they weren't getting credited (which was certainly true), as much as they weren't getting royalties. They asked for a larger cut, and were basically told that programmers were a dime-a-dozen. That had more to do with their leaving than anything. It was a complete lack of respect, reflected in the fact that they weren't ever going to be rewarded for the millions of dollars they were making for the company.

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Curious that David Crane et al. left Atari because they were annoyed at not getting credited for their accomplishments.

It wasn't so much that they weren't getting credited (which was certainly true), as much as they weren't getting royalties.

 

Again, I find it interesting that David Crane would be the leader of the spinoff group rather than Bob Whitehead. I'm sure that even something like Slots probably made a fair bit of money for Atari, but David Crane's games for Atari lacked the magic that makes the 2600 such an interesting platform.

 

After all, when the 2600 was designed, it used a microprocessor because it was cheaper than the extra counting circuitry that would be necessary to play "tank" without it. Bob Whitehead seemed to see more interesting possibilities for pushing the 2600 hardware than David Crane did. On the other hand, Mr. Crane probably deserves some real credit for putting both Canyon Bomber and Sea Bomber both into a 2K cartridge, since the two games have very different kernel requirements. I don't know that any 2K cartridge before had two completely different game kernels in it (something like Street Racer also packs a lot into 2K, but it uses the same display code for all the games. The display code for the bottom 2/3 of the canyon would almost certainly be totally different from that for the bottom 2/3 of Sea Bomber.

 

That having been said, I wonder whose judgement it was to have the game use paddles, and to have the planes vary randomly in speed, direction, and shape. Bad design decision, IMHO.

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"Captain, they're bombarding us with Anti-Funtons! What should we do?"

 

Well, try the version of a skill-slot concept I just posted in the Homebrew forum and tell me if it repels the anti-funtons. No scoring yet, and the reels should have symbols in different sequences (not sure those things will fit in 2K, though) but it actually is something of a test of skill.

 

Push up to start the reels spinning.

 

Left and release stops the left reel.

 

Down and release stops the center reel.

 

Right and release stops the right reel.

 

Fire button cheats and slows things down.

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"Captain, they're bombarding us with Anti-Funtons! What should we do?"

 

Well, try the version of a skill-slot concept I just posted in the Homebrew forum and tell me if it repels the anti-funtons. No scoring yet, and the reels should have symbols in different sequences (not sure those things will fit in 2K, though) but it

 

Hey cool! I'll check it out! (I love having a Cuttle Cart 2!)

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This entry is hilarious! :D :D :D

 

supercat is right, though. These slot games are boring as hell, but there must have been an audience for them back in the day. Otherwise, why did each and every system have its take on it? Well, maybe they thought the other companies were making a ton of money out of their slot machine games. *shrugs*

 

Hope they don't fix it.

 

HAHAHA so funny! I couldn't play the game either, and I tried it on MESS. Maybe something is wrong with the dump, not the emulators. Or the game is so bad even the emulators refuse to run it. :|

I watched a video on YouTube and it didn't look that bad. I mean, it looked what it is. An old slot machine game.

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