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Byte Knight

How about a Kickstarter project - Pitfall 3?

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You can't help but wonder how many of today's young game designers were inspired by Activision's policy of promoting it's designers the way it did. I'm sure a lot of kids saw that and realized if that guy can do it, maybe I can too?

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what happened to the days when you could buy a game and see a picture or pictures of the person or people that made it... yea i know it's not the same all mega teams and such... I also loved the glory days of ea and their record album style packaging. Just feels like something is missing with a lot of the modern stuff, though indie keeps the flag burning a bit it still isn't the same.

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just saw a post from THE MAN himself :) Wow, that's awesome, definitely following that project! Just as a fun history note for myself, as my final project for my college written communications degree, I wrote a sci-fi story set in the future and the two main characters were Rob Fulop and David Crane :-) got an a+

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You can't help but wonder how many of today's young game designers were inspired by Activision's policy of promoting it's designers the way it did. I'm sure a lot of kids saw that and realized if that guy can do it, maybe I can too?

 

I saw video games period and thought I could do that too. What I didn't know is that there was a time when developers had no more respect than the janitor. Thanks to Activision I know why Atari Adventure had that easter egg.

Edited by theloon

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Yes, many of today's game designers may have been inspired by Activision's policy of promoting it's designers. But the next generation will be left out. I just gave a talk at a technology conference in Rome about that very thing. Activision pioneered so many aspects of the video game business. The biggest of these was the third-party game publishing business. We were the first to make games without being affiliated with a hardware manufacturer. (Today that describes 99.9% of game companies.)

 

But some of the more important "firsts" were:

 

• Publicly value the creative talent.

• Recognize the game designer as the author of a creative work.

• We pioneered the "Design Center" method of small design teams working closely together, cross-pollinating even if they are on different projects. (Became a university case study.)

• And a fun "first": First video game Achievements. Those patches were the first time achievements could be earned from playing a game.

 

Sad to say, but except for the last one (which Microsoft thinks they invented with XBLA) those important advances have all but been forgotten. Facebook and Zynga cram hundreds of people into a work environment that looks like a high school cafeteria. Nothing truly creative can happen in that environment. And can anybody tell me who was the designer behind Farmville? Or any Zynga game?

 

Where will the inspiration for tomorrow's game designers come from?

 

(OK, so now I am officially not a one time poster.)

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I think it is two fold

1 - The name recognition, looking at a new game and seeing your name on it and thinking "Isn't he the Pitfall! guy, he is good, I'll try it"

2 - Like others mentioned, seeing 1 persons name as being the author made it more real. It was an actual creation by someone with a name made it more interesting.

 

As for the achievements, I still have a box with b&w photos of the tv with my activision scores I developed myself in the sink. When I first got a 360 6 years ago, I immediately though of that box.

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That's too bad too. In my opinion, video games are much like other performance art forms, like movies for instance. Sure, they can require a huge team of people create, but in the hands of a strong director, it's still his vision. There needs to be a Joss Whedon of video games, someone who can develop a fanbase. Someone who can shift back and forth between huge releases, and smaller cult classics.

 

The problem is that gamers can be so fickle. Carmak and Romero may have been rock stars to the FPS crowd back in the day, but they almost became typecast for those games. I guess Will Wright had a good run too, but he was hardly a household name.

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You can't help but wonder how many of today's young game designers were inspired by Activision's policy of promoting it's designers the way it did. I'm sure a lot of kids saw that and realized if that guy can do it, maybe I can too?

 

Probably a lot, maybe not just the policy, but Atari 2600 games them self, they made me become a programmer and later in life a collector (once I realized that it was people like Mr. Crane who steered me in that direction). In 3 years, I have been programming and designing (back then, "teams" were small) games for 30 years. :)

 

Thank you for your open thoughts, Mr. Crane. :thumbsup:

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The author of Zynga games are the audience. They use the "ready-fire-aim" model, and as much as I personally don't enjoy playing most of their games, the numbers are pretty hard to argue with. There are no real "designers" in the social games companies. A designer is somebody hired to make "choices", plain and simple. Most of the choices that you made in Pitfall were probably made much like the choices I made when making Demon Attack. I basically made choices that appealed to me, personally. It wasn't very hard actually ... I would fiddle with a bunch of stuff, and if I liked it, it went into the game. Enemy logic ... colors ... sound ... number of levels ... difficulty. Whatever. All choices that we made based solely off our personal preferences. It's the basic "author" model.

 

But this "author" model has nothing in the world to do with what happens at a place like Zynga. Because the author of a social game is the audience itself .. the audience makes all of the choices ... every single aspect of every game is tweaked based on audience feedback, which is often instantaneous. Metrics rule each and every 'choice'. So there is no need for any one person to make the choices that you and I had the priviledge to make in those early years. The audience votes instantly, with their eyeballs and mouseclicks, all measured and instantly delivered back to the team.

 

I think Zynga has built a near-perfect machine to create the types of games they do. They used to hire "designers" all the time, and they were chewed up and spit out almost as fast as they were hired. And everybody in the social games space wants to be just like them. My latest experience was with EA ... less than a month ago ... brought in to help with the design of a new Zynga-like game featuring one of EA's cherished brands. My involvement with the project lasted exactly one day! It was an astonishing experience, to sit through a day of EA design meetings, to see just how the process of how a game is made has changed from "the day". One thing for certain ... there were no choices to be made. Zero. There was absolutly no reason for a person like myself to be sitting in the room. What we are discussing here, the notion of 'authorship', occurs to me as irrelevant to a conversation about experiences like Farmville. Farmville was never 'authored', there is no script or blueprint or spec. Farmville is a living never finished "thing", morphing every day, with all choices made for tomorrow's version based on yesterday's metrics. There will never be any sort of retro-Farmville players community, since there will never be a playable version of today's version of the game three months from now, let alone ten years from now. I remember playing Mafia Wars when it came out a few years ago, but there is NOWHERE I can go to play that game anymore, it's forever gone. I mean, you can go back and watch old movies, television shows, browse old magazines, read old books, listen to old recordings, or play old 2600 games which haven't changed since the day you made them. But you can never go play last week's Farmville, it's forever gone. The Farmville experience is not authored, it exists merely to serve the whims of the current audience, which changes every day. Sort of like Reality Television .. who is going to be watching reruns of Reality TV? Nobody will care.

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getting to hear from, and see a conversation between, two of my all time fave VCS programmers is one great reason why i still check this site often. you never know what'll appear here. thanks for posting David and Rob! :)

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But this "author" model has nothing in the world to do with what happens at a place like Zynga.

I think this is exactly why the games developed in the "Zinga model" are so uninteresting to me: like mass-marketed fast food, they're designed to appeal to everyone in general and nobody in particular. In contrast, the games created by designers such as yourself and Mr. Crane are distinctive works. On some level, I'm sure you were thinking, "I'm going to make the game that I want to play, and I know that the right people will get it." This made the experience more "intimate" and more interesting for me as a player: I knew that these games were the product of one person's imagination, and thanks to Activision's and Imagic's practice of crediting the designers, I even knew who the person was.

 

Perhaps that isn't of value to those who are satisfied with the likes of Farmville, but I think it's what keeps so many of us interested in games that are works of individual authorship, like those early 2600 games. There's so much more variety and originality there, and I agree with Mr. Crane that it's a shame those lessons of creativity have been lost in the modern game industry.

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Wow - cofounders of Activision and Imagic on my little thread! Thanks for all of your insights into game design! Now, if we could just get Warren Robinett to comment, my life would be complete...

Edited by Byte Knight

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Rob, you make a number of great points, not only because you have always had a strong grasp of the processes we lived through but also because you have been there personally - inside Zynga. The most frightening statement you make (which is unfortunately true) is that "everybody in the social games space wants to be just like them." Like you, I have no interest in playing most social games. But I take it one step farther and refuse to get sucked into the phenomenon on the development side either. I believe there is still room for authorship in the game business.

 

I used Zynga as an example of an environment that completely squashes creativity. You let the air out of that example by pointing out that there is no room for authorship (read creativity) in their process, so why should their environment support it? So maybe it was a bad example. But as they are held up to be the gold standard in social gaming, there is a risk that "everybody in the games space wants to be just like them." The effects are insidious... I just saw a game design space redesign - costing hundreds of thousands of dollars - where the space designers came in and turned the place into a high school cafeteria. The managers were thrilled and said "Now we're just like Facebook."

 

Anyway, to put an end to this rant, I still contend that the hard-won lessons of the past 30+ years of game design should not be lightly ignored. I bow to your point that there is no place in Social Gaming for authorship. But Social Games are not the only game in town, and great game design still finds an audience. To use your analogy, there is no need for top writing talent on reality TV shows, but that just makes original Showtime and HBO series stand out that much more.

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Social games and many 99 cent smartphone games are the equivalent to the Doritos Locos taco or the McRib. Get it while it lasts. Consume. Discard. Move on to something else. They can be pulled at any time. They may come back later but don't count on it.

 

Disposable video games seem to be on the radar of the console industry if/when they go download-only. Unlike movies, music, and books, which transcend their media, video games are tied to specific devices and are in much greater danger of becoming extinct if not for the preservation efforts of collectors and enthusiasts. Publishers have the option of bringing some titles back as ports or with emulation, but like the horrible Saturday Night Live decade-DVDs that are missing sketches and musical performances, they will be cherry-picked so only the money-makers have a chance to be played again.

 

I always loved the recognition the old Activision gave its programmers. Seeing who designed and programmed the game really gave it a personal touch. Nowadays the industry is trying to emulate the film industry with scores of names in the credits and million dollar budgets. Very rarely is there any mention of whose game it is, and that lack of love comes off about as warm and cuddly as an insurance company.

 

[gush]

So cool to see two Atari programmers from back in the day in one thread! I remember the first time I saw Pitfall at a friends house back in 1983 and being completely floored. Thank you both for your classics! :)

[/gush]

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I'd support this Pitfall 3 Kickstarter as long as we get a guarantee that it is NOTHING like that abomination for the NES, Super Pitfall. I still think that game is considered a controlled substance in some states.

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This is just surreal for me having written a short story in 1992 about the future and in that future, rob fulop and david crane were representing opposing viewpoints. Man now I really want to find that story to see what else was in it... its on an amiga somewhere, but non of my miggys are hooked up at the moment...

 

I love seeing inside these things from your perspectives, thank you so much for sharing. I personally still think the authorship model not only has a place but could be a great way forward for a lot of games.

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Speaking of David Crane, has everyone seen this:

 

Electronic Games: Inside Gaming (Playing "Chicken" with David Crane)

 

I just saw it while looking for something else.

 

Since David Crane is posting here, it would be cool if he had old paperwork in a box somewhere that showed the month/year release dates for Atari 2600 games made by Activision.

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Anyway, to put an end to this rant, I still contend that the hard-won lessons of the past 30+ years of game design should not be lightly ignored. I bow to your point that there is no place in Social Gaming for authorship. But Social Games are not the only game in town, and great game design still finds an audience. To use your analogy, there is no need for top writing talent on reality TV shows, but that just makes original Showtime and HBO series stand out that much more.

 

I think that's a good way of putting it. The internet might bring forth all sorts of these cheap-o time wasters, but it's also making it so that no true effort goes unseen.

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IMO the best bet for a "sequel" would be for someone to do a game inspired and playing similar to the predecessors but not infringing on any existing rights.

 

As popular as this project might turn out, I doubt any fundraising effort would come near what would be needed to pay someone to work fulltime on the game.

 

In any case, we have plenty of talented hobbyists who could easily take it on in their spare time and plenty of people willing to pay for a cartridge release.

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IMO the best bet for a "sequel" would be for someone to do a game inspired and playing similar to the predecessors but not infringing on any existing rights.

 

As popular as this project might turn out, I doubt any fundraising effort would come near what would be needed to pay someone to work fulltime on the game.

 

In any case, we have plenty of talented hobbyists who could easily take it on in their spare time and plenty of people willing to pay for a cartridge release.

 

Spitfall! staring Spitfall Larry? Seriously though, I would prefer a Pitfall!, Adventure, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jungle Hunt,... hybrid clone. Just a huge adventure game with traits from other games we love.

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IMO the best bet for a "sequel" would be for someone to do a game inspired and playing similar to the predecessors but not infringing on any existing rights.

 

Maybe sooner than you think, but for the 7800... :ponder:

 

-John

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