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The Story of Pacman on Atari 2600 (Retro Gamer Magazine)

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1 hour ago, lapetino said:

Digging this up--it's funny, because I stumbled on this thread while working on a new project I'm doing: https://twitter.com/365ofpac

But I also wanted to say that I wrote this article. It was an editorial oversight that they didn't print my byline in the article. See below:
 


And as for criticisms of this article, people asking why I didn't "call Tod on the carpet" on past discrepancies or ask "tough questions" about the game development, I think you're missing the point. This wasn't a GOTCHA article, and if you've ever been in a journalist's shoes, that's not generally how it goes. But my larger aim was to put this game in context, and to give him a chance to reflect and share his views. It wasn't my goal to prove that his approach or justifications were a cop-out, but to understand his process. They did what they did, and if you think anyone at Atari was half-assing it on a game that was so hugely hyped (and expensive to license!), then you're sorely mistaken. Everyone wanted to make money. The idea that there was already an established WAY to make arcade ports is silly--if there were, Atari would have been happy to embrace it. Easier, simpler, more money made. You can't ret-con the idea of what we think of translations today to what was going on in the pioneers' basement in 1981. 

But everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I just wanted to shed more light on this game and the topic. :)
 
 

Excellent perspective Tim! The pioneers ideas for the translations in the early 80's included a lot of creative influence from the artist.

 

I made a similar observation on contemporary 80's pacman ports with some examples on the other pacman here:

 

 

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I'd personally challenge one aspect of what was brought up:

 

"And as for criticisms of this article, people asking why I didn't "call Tod on the carpet" on past discrepancies or ask "tough questions" about the game development, I think you're missing the point. This wasn't a GOTCHA article, and if you've ever been in a journalist's shoes, that's not generally how it goes. "

 

 

Whilst i fully understand a mainstream publication like RetroGamer magazine is unwilling to upset industry figures, by paying lip service to them, it's earnt something of an unwanted reputation over the years.

 

likes of Jim Sachs not happy other artists were given free regin to take credit for his work,  Jez San (Argonaut)  and Mark Cale (System 3), Martin Hooley (Imagitec Design)  allowed to rewrite history in their favour and it went unchallenged. 

 

And as for RetroGamer allowing Jane Whittaker to pull the sh#t they did and RG staff knew Jane was lying, that was an all time low.

 

 

I've seen Chuck Peavey put on the spot about his claims and he reluctantly came clean, anything the Tramiel family stated in a commercial press interview deserves to be viewed with a very healthy dose of cynicism,  Sam Tramiel in particular.. 

 

 

I pulled an interview i did with Jim Gregory of Hand Made Software, once it became apparent he had used the interview to fabricate versions of events surrounding several key areas of the company and put blame entirely on Atari, rather than come clean and admit company had internal staffing conflicts and financial troubles carried over from the Mr Micro era.

 

if people don't challenge industry figures or simply take claims at face value or don't look to further sources, your risking not getting a feel for the real version of events.

 

My comment isn't meant as a slight on your article,  more a criticism of how the mainstream press works these days.

Edited by Lost Dragon

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2 hours ago, Mr SQL said:

Excellent perspective Tim! The pioneers ideas for the translations in the early 80's included a lot of creative influence from the artist.

 

I made a similar observation on contemporary 80's pacman ports with some examples on the other pacman here:

 

 

Good stuff! Yeah, I want to push back on this idea that there was THE WAY to do things that seems obvious in hindsight. History always compresses decision-making and makes things seem clear. But I appreciated the perspective of Tod Frye, even if people don't believe his story. After all, even if you think his answers aren't credible, you have to believe that Atari management (the "greedy money people!") would want the thing that would keep them in the clear. If they thought beforehand that the colors or maze arrangement wouldn't fly with customers, they would have made Frye change it. They even changed the box art probably at the 11th hour so that Pac-Man looked flat and 2-dimensional, so that there would be no mistaking the character! People who are that fixated on the details wouldn't have let something they perceived as sloppy fly through.

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4 minutes ago, Lost Dragon said:

if people don't challenge industry figures or simply take claims at face value or don't look to further sources, your risking not getting a feel for the real version of events.

 

My comment isn't meant as a slight on your article,  more a criticism of how the mainstream press works these days.


I can't speak to the other events or articles of RG--I'm just a writer who has done 2 pieces for them, and don't know anything about their editorial approach. I wrote basically what I wanted to write.

And while I don't know that I'd call RG "mainstream," I just don't think there was something that needed to be challenged in Tod's accounts. I had other older sources that confirmed any of the questions I had. I'm willing to allow some slippage for events that happened nearly 40 years ago, which is some of why I wanted to make this a more definitive account of the process, correcting some things that have come out, like the time he had to complete it. But also, it's a case of intent--MY intent with this piece was to paint a fuller picture of the man himself, and how he feels about the label of "terrible game," how he deals with the fallout as a real person in the public eye, and where he came from. Almost none of that other stuff had been stitched together before, which I think provides a more fleshed out version of the history of video games. People might think I was more or less successful in doing that, but that's their prerogative. :) 

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The various sagas concerning what RG magazine have printed as fact and why have been investigated and explained over the years and the information is still in the public domain.

 

Sometimes it's as simple as an article being submitted to cover a single format (Making.of Myth on the ZX Spectrum),  editor rejects it, wants it expanded to cover all versions and writer has no experience of anything but the ZX Spectrum version, so when told by Mark Cale the Atari ST version was finished and released,  takes comment at face value.

 

Mark was never going to explain the real reason it never appeared and the ST coder does not want events behind it made public.

 

 

Others are a bit more curious,  an ex-Thallion coder quoted as working on cancelled SNES Starfox 2 when he joined Argonaut,  a bit of simple fact checking by the article writer would of shown the SNES game canned 3 years before the coder joined Argonaut, but the writer in question not known for his research abilities. 

 

As for their editorial approach..Let's just say it's why myself and others stopped subscribing or even picking up odd issues, a long time ago

 

 

It's very reassuring to hear you had other sources who could confirm what Tod was saying, GTW'S Frank Gasking and Atari Historian Scott Stilphen taught me that lesson very well when i started assisting on sites like GTW and Unseen 64, never go off single sources, keep looking and sharing what turns up.

 

Slippage is very understandable given amount of years passed when we start asking about games they worked on, amount of people honest enough to say they simply don't remember or memory is hazy..and i would rather they said that, than lay blame at an individual. 

 

;-) People like myself (who did buy the issue of RG with your article in) are always going to read a feature with a big name and ask why were they not asked about?

 

That's our nature :-)) 

 

If you,myself and 3 other people spoke to Tod about the same base subjects, i have no doubt there would be a healthy overlap of the same questions, but also a good mix of unique questions, as each of us had pressing questions of our own we felt needed answering.

 

 

I've just grown tired of magazines like RG and Gamestm not pressing industry folk.

 

Mark Cale's agent issues a warning that Mark will not answer Q's about Unreleased games..you must use interview to promote System 3's latest product.

 

I had John Carmack's Agent say John would not be answering anything regarding his time developing on the Atari Jaguar..

 

My approach is simply to say ok then and try and find others from the teams who worked on the titles i am interested in and see if they are happy to chat.

 

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10 hours ago, lapetino said:

They did what they did, and if you think anyone at Atari was half-assing it on a game that was so hugely hyped (and expensive to license!), then you're sorely mistaken.

 

My opinion about Pac-Man has been on my web site for years. Time to update it:

 

randomterrain.com/atari-2600-memories-favorite-games.html#pacman

 

If Tod Frye wasn't half-assing it, maybe he was half-braining it. He said this in the video below:

 

"One thing I have never gotten is why people are so persnickety about the exact maze layout. My maze is simpler, takes less ROM, and I have these exits at the top and bottom and that freaks people out and I got no idea why. It's like, they're exits, so what if they're on the top and bottom instead of the left and right? I mean, come on, I just don't get it."

 

youtu.be/RqezF_Lv05Y?t=83

 

After all this time, he's still clueless about it?

 

I remember reading interviews where certain classic programmers would talk about going to the arcade as much as possible. It wasn't just to learn from the games, these programmers seemed to love playing games. They were "gamers" who made games. From the way he talks, Tod Frye seems like somebody who would rather bash his head on a fire sprinkler than play arcade games. He doesn't seem to "get" what makes each popular arcade game special and unique. The Pac-Man maze is the same as any Berzerk maze, right? A maze is a maze. What's the big deal? If Tod Frye poured you a big warm glass of yak piss and you complained about it, would he say "Yak piss and clean water are both liquids. What's the difference? Liquid is liquid. They taste the same to me. Why are you being so persnickety? I don't get it."

 

Tod Frye's myringa-molesting, malevolent maze of mucky movement (a.k.a. Pac-Man) was released in March/April of 1982. There were three big arcade ports that were released before Pac-Man that managed to recreate the magic of the arcade games. They got the vital things right.

 

Atari 2600 Space Invaders was released around March of 1981. It had the basics: aliens looked similar to the arcade aliens, gameplay was similar, you could shoot pieces out of the bunkers, and the background color was black. Atari also improved on the original by adding a ton of variations. The Atari 2600 game didn't have the exact number of aliens that the original version had, but Rick Maurer did a pretty darn good job capturing the essence of the arcade game. If Space Invaders would have had a hot pink background, bunkers that looked like moldy pickles, and rabid purple bunny rabbits instead of aliens, I'm pretty sure people would have complained. Maybe Tod Frye should have played Space Invaderss longer than 3 months back then. He'd be better at playing it and he might have learned how to recreate the essential parts of an arcade game. :D

 

Missile Command for the Atari 2600 was released around April of 1981. Some gameplay elements had to be pruned and the game had to be adapted so it would work with a joystick, but like Space Invaders, the essence was captured. There wasn't much to complain about. Rob Fulop didn't decide to turn the game sideways or use chartreuse as the background color of the first level.

 

Released around July of 1981, Atari 2600 Asteroids also had a black background (just like the arcade version). The ship looked similar and you could shoot in multiple directions. The asteroids were blocky and filled in with color instead of looking like those hollow vector things from the original, but that was excusable and possibly welcome for people who like colorful graphics. Gameplay was close enough and fun enough to stifle most complaints.

 

Back to what Tod Frye said about the exits in his version, that's exactly what they are; exits, not escape tunnels. As Video Games Magazine from August of 1982 said on page 75, "The exits on the top and bottom, at times, seem involuntary; on several occasions, as I passed by one, I was sucked in and spat out the other side." When playing the arcade version, you have to enter the tunnels on purpose. You can't get sucked in.

 

If Tod Frye would have given us a black background, an arcade-like maze, better joystick response, and sound effects that weren't imported from the depths of hell, Pac-Man would have received an overabundance of respect and praise. Pac-Man could proudly sit on a shelf next to Space Invaders, Missile Command, and Asteroids without cowering and whimpering like a mangy rescue dog that peed on the carpet.

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12 hours ago, Lost Dragon said:

The various sagas concerning what RG magazine have printed as fact and why have been investigated and explained over the years and the information is still in the public domain.

 

Sometimes it's as simple as an article being submitted to cover a single format (Making.of Myth on the ZX Spectrum),  editor rejects it, wants it expanded to cover all versions and writer has no experience of anything but the ZX Spectrum version, so when told by Mark Cale the Atari ST version was finished and released,  takes comment at face value.

 

Mark was never going to explain the real reason it never appeared and the ST coder does not want events behind it made public.

 

 

Others are a bit more curious,  an ex-Thallion coder quoted as working on cancelled SNES Starfox 2 when he joined Argonaut,  a bit of simple fact checking by the article writer would of shown the SNES game canned 3 years before the coder joined Argonaut, but the writer in question not known for his research abilities. 

 

As for their editorial approach..Let's just say it's why myself and others stopped subscribing or even picking up odd issues, a long time ago

 

 

It's very reassuring to hear you had other sources who could confirm what Tod was saying, GTW'S Frank Gasking and Atari Historian Scott Stilphen taught me that lesson very well when i started assisting on sites like GTW and Unseen 64, never go off single sources, keep looking and sharing what turns up.

 

Slippage is very understandable given amount of years passed when we start asking about games they worked on, amount of people honest enough to say they simply don't remember or memory is hazy..and i would rather they said that, than lay blame at an individual. 

 

;-) People like myself (who did buy the issue of RG with your article in) are always going to read a feature with a big name and ask why were they not asked about?

 

That's our nature :-)) 

 

If you,myself and 3 other people spoke to Tod about the same base subjects, i have no doubt there would be a healthy overlap of the same questions, but also a good mix of unique questions, as each of us had pressing questions of our own we felt needed answering.

 

 

I've just grown tired of magazines like RG and Gamestm not pressing industry folk.

 

Mark Cale's agent issues a warning that Mark will not answer Q's about Unreleased games..you must use interview to promote System 3's latest product.

 

I had John Carmack's Agent say John would not be answering anything regarding his time developing on the Atari Jaguar..

 

My approach is simply to say ok then and try and find others from the teams who worked on the titles i am interested in and see if they are happy to chat.

 

 

I totally get it. Well, hopefully some of what I wrote was worth the cover price. And thanks for picking it up! ;)

 

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10 hours ago, Random Terrain said:

 

My opinion about Pac-Man has been on my web site for years. Time to update it:

 

randomterrain.com/atari-2600-memories-favorite-games.html#pacman

 

If Tod Frye wasn't half-assing it, maybe he was half-braining it. He said this in the video below:

 

"One thing I have never gotten is why people are so persnickety about the exact maze layout. My maze is simpler, takes less ROM, and I have these exits at the top and bottom and that freaks people out and I got no idea why. It's like, they're exits, so what if they're on the top and bottom instead of the left and right? I mean, come on, I just don't get it."

 

youtu.be/RqezF_Lv05Y?t=83

 

After all this time, he's still clueless about it?

 

I remember reading interviews where certain classic programmers would talk about going to the arcade as much as possible. It wasn't just to learn from the games, these programmers seemed to love playing games. They were "gamers" who made games. From the way he talks, Tod Frye seems like somebody who would rather bash his head on a fire sprinkler than play arcade games. He doesn't seem to "get" what makes each popular arcade game special and unique. The Pac-Man maze is the same as any Berzerk maze, right? A maze is a maze. What's the big deal? If Tod Frye poured you a big warm glass of yak piss and you complained about it, would he say "Yak piss and clean water are both liquids. What's the difference? Liquid is liquid. They taste the same to me. Why are you being so persnickety? I don't get it."

 

Tod Frye's myringa-molesting, malevolent maze of mucky movement (a.k.a. Pac-Man) was released in March/April of 1982. There were three big arcade ports that were released before Pac-Man that managed to recreate the magic of the arcade games. They got the vital things right.

 

Atari 2600 Space Invaders was released around March of 1981. It had the basics: aliens looked similar to the arcade aliens, gameplay was similar, you could shoot pieces out of the bunkers, and the background color was black. Atari also improved on the original by adding a ton of variations. The Atari 2600 game didn't have the exact number of aliens that the original version had, but Rick Maurer did a pretty darn good job capturing the essence of the arcade game. If Space Invaders would have had a hot pink background, bunkers that looked like moldy pickles, and rabid purple bunny rabbits instead of aliens, I'm pretty sure people would have complained. Maybe Tod Frye should have played Space Invaderss longer than 3 months back then. He'd be better at playing it and he might have learned how to recreate the essential parts of an arcade game. :D

 

Missile Command for the Atari 2600 was released around April of 1981. Some gameplay elements had to be pruned and the game had to be adapted so it would work with a joystick, but like Space Invaders, the essence was captured. There wasn't much to complain about. Rob Fulop didn't decide to turn the game sideways or use chartreuse as the background color of the first level.

 

Released around July of 1981, Atari 2600 Asteroids also had a black background (just like the arcade version). The ship looked similar and you could shoot in multiple directions. The asteroids were blocky and filled in with color instead of looking like those hollow vector things from the original, but that was excusable and possibly welcome for people who like colorful graphics. Gameplay was close enough and fun enough to stifle most complaints.

 

Back to what Tod Frye said about the exits in his version, that's exactly what they are; exits, not escape tunnels. As Video Games Magazine from August of 1982 said on page 75, "The exits on the top and bottom, at times, seem involuntary; on several occasions, as I passed by one, I was sucked in and spat out the other side." When playing the arcade version, you have to enter the tunnels on purpose. You can't get sucked in.

 

If Tod Frye would have given us a black background, an arcade-like maze, better joystick response, and sound effects that weren't imported from the depths of hell, Pac-Man would have received an overabundance of respect and praise. Pac-Man could proudly sit on a shelf next to Space Invaders, Missile Command, and Asteroids without cowering and whimpering like a mangy rescue dog that peed on the carpet.

Hey, I appreciate that you're so passionate about this game. That's what I love about this hobby and our connections to specific games, and strong feelings abound. You feel this way (and I happen to disagree), but I guess then we can still play Atari and like the games we like. I was trying to show a different side. So, how do you feel about Dennis Debro's 4K Pac-Man and DINTA816's 8K? They are both impressive, IMO.

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3 minutes ago, lapetino said:

Hey, I appreciate that you're so passionate about this game. That's what I love about this hobby and our connections to specific games, and strong feelings abound. You feel this way (and I happen to disagree), but I guess then we can still play Atari and like the games we like. I was trying to show a different side. So, how do you feel about Dennis Debro's 4K Pac-Man and DINTA816's 8K? They are both impressive, IMO.

 

The DINTAR816 version looks and sounds closer to what my family was expecting in April of 1982.

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12 hours ago, lapetino said:

 

I totally get it. Well, hopefully some of what I wrote was worth the cover price. And thanks for picking it up! ;)

 

Please don't get me wrong, i don't intend this to be a cloud shouting exercise relating to how magazines like RetroGamer and Gamestm operated, i had the same reaction from likes of RVG forum and Unseen64 etc over the years, there is no way we can ask X what you want asked about games A to Z as it won't go down at all well and we need the interview for the site.

 

One of the Jaguar AVP coders was happy to answer Q's until it became apparent some were concerning Jane Whittaker's exact role.

 

Rebellion now field Q's via a Press Agent

 

I once had a lengthy interview with an ex-Domark coder, which spanned his entire career, but he had it pulled before it went live as he feared some of his answers would upset people he had once worked with.

 

It's always a risk that an ego will get bruised when you start asking questions.

 

I doubt Tod would of answered anything i might of put his way,  so you have my utmost respect for getting him to talk.

 

And on subject of 2600 coin-op on conversions that take a lot of flak, I know I am in the minority for liking 2600 Defender for it's simplicity over the Coin-Op.

 

As a kid, it suited my tastes far better.

 

Doubt i could stomach it these days though :-)) 

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I can totally understand Tod on this one - I've been there myself.

 

Management/customers want A, B, C but there are only enough resources for 2 of them.
That could be AB, AC or BC but not ABC.
The resources might be cartridge size, processor speed, RAM or developer time.
So he chooses 2-player mode and dedicates developer time and the meagre cartridge space to doing that.
Which means he doesn't have developer time or cartridge space to do ghosts without flickering.
If he'd dropped 2-player mode then he might have been able to flicker free ghosts

 

Some of his other choices were obviously wrong - but obvious only with 20/20 hindsight.
When you're one of the first to do it then you have no guidance about which is the "correct" way.
He had no way of knowing how much the customers cared about colour choice or vertical/horizontal exits.

 

And lastly, he took on a task that others had refused.
To quote JFK, "We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard".
Gotta admire a guy that takes on the hard jobs.

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1 hour ago, stepho said:

When you're one of the first to do it then you have no guidance about which is the "correct" way.

 

He had 3 other good quality Atari 2600 arcade ports to go by, but besides that, anyone with common sense should be able to grasp the essential elements of an arcade game. Jump in a time machine and talk to anyone walking down the street in 1981 (who was interested in arcade Pac-Man). Ask them how they would port the arcade game if they had the ability and they'd probably say "I'd just look at the screen and listen to the sounds and try to recreate those things the best I could. I'd try to recreate the maze shape within the limits of the home TV screen, use the same colors, and try to have similar sound effects."

 

The Atari computer version of Pac-Man was released before the Atari 2600 version, but it was probably released way too late to be of any help to Tod Frye, unless Atari computer programmers and Atari 2600 programmers got together to discuss their works in progress. (My mother and I played Atari computer Pac-Man at Woolco department store and we assumed that Atari 2600 Pac-Man would look similar, so that's why we pre-ordered it.)

 

Tod "I Just Don't Get It" Frye has had years of hindsight and many correctly-done ports and knockoffs of all kinds of arcade games to look at and he still doesn't get it. He was the 4th Atari 2600 programmer to port a major arcade game and those previous 3 games were very good examples to go by. His attempt failed because he was just as clueless then as he is now.

 

This Tod Frye situation reminds me of something that happened to my mother when she was a teenager in the late 1950s or early 1960s. She wanted a certain Rock & Roll record for Christmas and her parents bought her some crappy cover version instead. There wasn't that much difference in price, so why not get the real thing? I bet you know why; because they were clueless. "It's the same song, so what's the big deal?" It would be like asking for a Little Richard record and getting the soulless, dry toast Pat Boone cover version instead. When making Atari 2600 Pac-Man, Tod Frye was just like my mother's parents; out of touch/oblivious/clueless. Tod Frye gave us Pat Boone instead of Little Richard.

 

 

 

2 hours ago, stepho said:

He had no way of knowing how much the customers cared about colour choice or vertical/horizontal exits.

 

The 3 major arcade-porting programmers before him seemed to figure out what was important to players. Maybe those programmers went to arcades to play the original games and possibly talked with players while they were there? Some people act like Tod Frye was a poor little lost rabbit, all alone in the wilderness with no one to hold his hand.

 

 

 

4 hours ago, stepho said:

Gotta admire a guy that takes on the hard jobs.

 

Tod Frye gave Bob Polaro the choice to do Pac-Man or Defender and Bob Polaro chose Defender:

 

youtu.be/UTDUB_GiTKA?t=660

 

Here's the text version:

 

"The way that works is once it has been demonstrated that a coin-op copy, what I used to call a Xerox from a coin-op game, could do well in the marketplace, there was a not insignificant move or repositioning in the mindset of management at Atari that said that basically coin-op copies were probably the only sensible thing to do. That's putting it a bit harshly, a bit extremely, but it's actually kind of tragic when you think about it. I had just finished 400/800 Asteroids and Dennis Koble, who we saw earlier, was managing the group and another programmer Bob Polaro and I had both finished things right at the same time and the two of us were given Defenders and Pac-Man to do, right? And I let Bob choose and essentially Bob came back to me and says 'well I don't see how you can do Pac-Man so I'll take Defenders,' so I did Pac-Man, you know, and in retrospect it's as simple as that."

 

The way Tod Frye talks in that video, he seems to have a disdain for "Xerox" copies of coin-op games. I guess it never sank in that there was an art to capturing the essence of an arcade game. You couldn't "Xerox" it. You had to make a loving representation of the original, but he wouldn't get that since he seems to have no love for the arcade originals. For example, he calls Defender "Defenders." How can you not know the name of one of the most famous arcade games? His dislike for Xerox copies is probably why he mangled the hell out of Pac-Man. His urge to make something original contaminated the game.

 

Bob Polaro's Defender was kind of disappointing, but I'm sure Tod Frye would have found a way to make it worse.  Maybe he would have given us a booger-green background and a ship that looks like Santa's sleigh.

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As Random Terrain pointed out, Tod Frye was probably not much of a gamer.  But it's my understanding that Atari's policy at the time said only space games should have black backgrounds.  And taking a vertical arcade game and converting to horizontal layout, you might think that moving the maze exits to the top and bottom makes sense. But these were as much of a problem to customers as the flicker.

 

Adjusting the game logic to avoid flicker would have detrimentally affected gameplay.  Just as it did in Atari 2600 Asteroids.  Looking at the popularity of Asteroids and Missile Command cartridges it seems players were not all that concerned about gameplay accuracy.

 

Atari 2600 Pacman is a doubline line resolution cartridge.  Using higher resolution single line graphics and other techniques, flicker could have been reduced dramatically.  Were other programmers using those techniques at the time?

Edited by mr_me

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5 months.. 6 months..  Who cares? Maybe it was 5.5 months?

 

PacMan was a real stinker when we bought it home. And it put the VCS firmly at the back of my console collection. We stopped blindly buying games and became very selective. At least for that system. I'm not sure when I regained respect for the machine.

 

In contrast, I thoroughly enjoyed Missile Command and Space Invaders. Both were better (to me as a kid) than their arcade counterparts. The arcade versions were too hard and frustrating. But, hey! Easier versions, arguably with better graphics & palette, and playable for free at home any time of they day. What's not to like?

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5 hours ago, Random Terrain said:

talk to anyone walking down the street in 1981 (who was interested in arcade Pac-Man). Ask them how they would port the arcade game if they had the ability and they'd probably say "I'd just look at the screen and listen to the sounds and try to recreate those things the best I could. I'd try to recreate the maze shape within the limits of the home TV screen, use the same colors, and try to have similar sound effects."

I remember how we felt about 2600 arcade ports back then.  We knew the 2600 could rarely do arcade perfect,  but we were happy when they tried to capture the essence of the game.

 

So Pacman came out, and it looked like they didn't even try!   What are these awful colors?   Why does Pacman have an eye?  Why is the maze completely different, what are these sounds?  What are these "power pellets"?   In the arcade, the ghosts had personality,  on the 2600 I can barely even make out what color each one is.

 

Then there are the smaller things..   Pacman is supposed to change the direction he is facing, even up or down,  he is supposed to stop animating when he stops moving,  he's supposed to be rounder..   These probably wouldn't have hurt as much if they had gotten the basic things right.

 

Later Ms. Pacman came, and while still far from "arcade perferct",  it shows they made the effort, because they addressed all the above issues

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Maybe he was given six months but did most of the work in the last six weeks; ran out of time and didn't implement everything he wanted.

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Also I don't just blame Todd,  I blame Atari's management.   Pac-man was probably their highest profile title to date,  and they should have made it a showcase piece..   the way Coleco did for Donkey Kong on the Colecovision.   They should have said to  Tod-  "not good enough, we need these changes.."   Instead they had an attitude that they could just sell any old thing with the Pac Man name

 

Contrast that to exclusives today..   Nintendo generally won't release a Mario or Zelda game until they know it's right,  Same with Sony and Uncharted/TLOU, etc.   This earns gamer's respect.  Releasing crap in the name of a quick buck quickly tarnishes your reputation.

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1 hour ago, zzip said:

Also I don't just blame Todd,  I blame Atari's management.   Pac-man was probably their highest profile title to date,  and they should have made it a showcase piece..   the way Coleco did for Donkey Kong on the Colecovision.   They should have said to  Tod-  "not good enough, we need these changes.."   Instead they had an attitude that they could just sell any old thing with the Pac Man name

As I was reading through this thread, this is pretty much exactly the reply I wanted to make. Tod is to blame for making a bad port, but his higher-ups are to blame for releasing it.

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8 minutes ago, KaeruYojimbo said:

As I was reading through this thread, this is pretty much exactly the reply I wanted to make. Tod is to blame for making a bad port, but his higher-ups are to blame for releasing it.

Yeah, and I heard people bad-mouth Ray Kassar over the years,  but only after watching The "Easy to Learn, Hard to Master" documentary, and hear him tell his side of the story in his own words, did I realize just how clueless about videogames he really was.

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That was a big part of the problem. The cluelessness. I'm sure plenty of the suits at Atari thought they were looking at a good Pac-Man port (or didn't know enough to know they were looking at a bad one). It had all of what they saw as the important stuff: round(-ish) yellow guy, maze, ghosts, dots.

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18 minutes ago, KaeruYojimbo said:

As I was reading through this thread, this is pretty much exactly the reply I wanted to make. Tod is to blame for making a bad port, but his higher-ups are to blame for releasing it.

 

8 minutes ago, zzip said:

Yeah, and I heard people bad-mouth Ray Kassar over the years,  but only after watching The "Easy to Learn, Hard to Master" documentary, and hear him tell his side of the story in his own words, did I realize just how clueless about videogames he really was.

Atari was losing control over the market and losing some of their  best programmers was part of that so they were treating them better and much more respectfully as artist rockstars; Tod got a millions dollar check for being an artist vision as much as his programming prowess. I like his artistic vision for the port but I can understand some people wanting a more exact arcade port and less abstraction who may not like artistic variance.

 

Eye of the beholder applies as well; not everyone likes the same painting or style...

 

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4 minutes ago, Mr SQL said:

I like his artistic vision for the port but I can understand some people wanting a more exact arcade port and less abstraction who may not like artistic variance.

The key there is "port",  you aren't supposed to take artistic liberties with a port,  unless you commission a port for precisely that purpose (like say, Pacman 256 or Pac-man Championship edition),  but those spins on things make no sense until you first have the base game in your library.

 

as I said before, this was their biggest license.   It should have been the last game they took chances with.

Edited by zzip
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