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

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10 minutes ago, Mr SQL said:

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.

Tod got that check because millions of kids thought they were going to be bringing home a faithful recreation of their favorite arcade game, not because they admired his artistic vision.

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4 minutes ago, zzip said:

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.

All good points but when Atari treated young programmers like rockstars they took more pride in their work and were more liberal with their artistic vision.

 

 

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3 minutes ago, KaeruYojimbo said:

Tod got that check because millions of kids thought they were going to be bringing home a faithful recreation of their favorite arcade game, not because they admired his artistic vision.

Atari considered Frye a 100M commodity and did not want to lose him!

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I agree. The whole idea of "calling someone out" is so absurd.  You are a much better man understanding that in any argument, today's attitude and perspective on things is absolutely foreign to the reality of a thing when it originally occurred.  Great job Tim.   

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1 hour ago, Mr SQL said:

All good points but when Atari treated young programmers like rockstars they took more pride in their work and were more liberal with their artistic vision.

 

 

That's all fine,  but if Atari was a record label, this would be like them paying artists who write their hit songs as if they were session musicians (and having them leave),  then hiring someone to record a cover of "Stairway to Heaven", and paying him as though he were Robert Plant!  (even though he delivers the song in the style of Tiny Tim with added hip-hop record scratching for artistic reasons,  and it pleases few of the fans of the song.)

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6 hours ago, scrummy said:

I agree. The whole idea of "calling someone out" is so absurd.  You are a much better man understanding that in any argument, today's attitude and perspective on things is absolutely foreign to the reality of a thing when it originally occurred.  Great job Tim.   

 

The perspective I have today is the same one I had in April of 1982, except now I have a quote from the programmer calling people who expected the same quality as previous ports "persnickety." Thanks for helping him blame the victims.

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I was just thinking that if we were going to apply today's attitude and perspective on things, we'd be giving Tod Frye an emotional support animal, a group hug, a gluten free cookie, and a participation trophy instead of the humiliating kick in the crotch that he and his so-called superiors deserve (not literally, of course).

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8 hours ago, high voltage said:

It was my first game, I never visited arcades, for me it was an excellent console game. 

 

I played the arcade version to death back in the day. And I was happy to have PAC-MAN in my house on my 2600! Sure it didn't compare to the arcade version, at all!

But man, I had the best high score challenges with my brother back then.I still had fun with it, warts and everything.

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16 hours ago, Random Terrain said:

I was just thinking that if we were going to apply today's attitude and perspective on things, we'd be giving Tod Frye an emotional support animal, a group hug, a gluten free cookie, and a participation trophy instead of the humiliating kick in the crotch that he and his so-called superiors deserve (not literally, of course).

 

18 hours ago, Random Terrain said:

 

The perspective I have today is the same one I had in April of 1982, except now I have a quote from the programmer calling people who expected the same quality as previous ports "persnickety." Thanks for helping him blame the victims.

 

I would love to hear more about your victimhood regarding this game.  Sometimes it helps to write these things out in detail.  I am totally up for hearing all the ways in which this stupid cartridge ruined your life. 

Perhaps your support hamster could shed some light on the situation if it dared come out of its cave. You sound like a snowflake melting into the abyss of the attitudes you ascribe to today. 

 

 

 

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Everybody, programmer and gamer alike, must face the fact that the game sucked then and sucks the same today.

 

It is important to understand there is a nostalgic or sentimental component to the whole thing. At least for me. It was an early to midlife VCS game and we loved and welcomed any cartridge we could get. In that way it's memorable, just like any other game. Was it my fav? No. Was it special? No. Did it leave us wanting? Yes. Was it played as much as other games? No.

 

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I'm curious where this idea that disliking Pac-Man is a new phenomenon or revisionist comes from. Plenty of people thought it was a bad game long before snarky 12-year-olds started making fun of it on YouTube. The reviews when it was released were not good. Some people may have genuinely liked it at the time, but a lot of us were at the very least disappointed with it.

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18 minutes ago, scrummy said:

I would love to hear more about your victimhood regarding this game.  Sometimes it helps to write these things out in detail.  I am totally up for hearing all the ways in which this stupid cartridge ruined your life. 

Perhaps your support hamster could shed some light on the situation if it dared come out of its cave. You sound like a snowflake melting into the abyss of the attitudes you ascribe to today.

 

Did I say it ruined my life? Some people act like "persnickety" players have been victimizing the poor little Pac-Man programmer for years, but it seems pretty clear in interviews that he had very little love for arcade games and seemed to dislike the idea of "Xeroxing" them even more. Players who were expecting something similar to the arcade version were victimized by him; it's not the other way around. It's not our fault that he was a clueless "Xerox" hater who couldn't tell you the difference between Pac-Man and Lock 'n' Chase if you put a gun to his head.

 

The difference between 1982 and today is that more people didn't know their "video game rights" back then. Seemed like a lot of people didn't know they could return a game if was horrible. You only returned things if they were broken when you opened the box. People who pre-ordered the game paid close to 40 dollars. That was a lot of money to piss away in 1982.

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2 minutes ago, Random Terrain said:

The difference between 1982 and today is that more people didn't know their "video game rights" back then. Seemed like a lot of people didn't know they could return a game if was horrible. You only returned things if they were broken when you opened the box. People who pre-ordered the game paid close to 40 dollars. That was a lot of money to piss away in 1982.

A lot of times you couldn't return a game because you didn't like it.   I remember Electronics Boutique had a policy of "if it's opened, you can only exchange it for the same game".

 

(of course the loophole there was to exchange the game for a sealed copy, then refund the sealed copy if you were persistent enough, but I suppose many gave up after the first try)

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8 minutes ago, KaeruYojimbo said:

I'm curious where this idea that disliking Pac-Man is a new phenomenon or revisionist comes from. Plenty of people thought it was a bad game long before snarky 12-year-olds started making fun of it on YouTube. The reviews when it was released were not good. Some people may have genuinely liked it at the time, but a lot of us were at the very least disappointed with it.

Kind of like how the "Legend of ET" grew?

I don't remember people complaining about it when it came out,  not like they did for Pacman anyway.

But then the press noticed how poorly it sold-   it was an early symptom of the crash.

then rumors started to spread about ET cartridges in a landfill (because Atari produced far too many)

 

Then the narrative became "ET was such a horrible game that it caused the entire industry to crash and Atari had to dump all the carts in a landfill."   Makes a great legendary story, but way exaggerated.

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13 minutes ago, Random Terrain said:

 

Did I say it ruined my life? Some people act like "persnickety" players have been victimizing the poor little Pac-Man programmer for years, but it seems pretty clear in interviews that he had very little love for arcade games and seemed to dislike the idea of "Xeroxing" them even more. Players who were expecting something similar to the arcade version were victimized by him; it's not the other way around. It's not our fault that he was a clueless "Xerox" hater who couldn't tell you the difference between Pac-Man and Lock 'n' Chase if you put a gun to his head.

 

The difference between 1982 and today is that more people didn't know their "video game rights" back then. Seemed like a lot of people didn't know they could return a game if was horrible. You only returned things if they were broken when you opened the box. People who pre-ordered the game paid close to 40 dollars. That was a lot of money to piss away in 1982.

Random,

 

I'd like to offer a peace pipe in your direction.  I actually wanted this game, and I probably would have felt more upset about it if I had gotten it, instead I got the Atari 800 version, which off-course I loved.  My neighbor Mike had the game you are speaking about and it did suck, but It was still fun, plus his sister was cute.  I also had the KC Munchkin for Odyessy.   One of the many reasons that the VCS/2600 shines bright in my mind is that I had wanted one badly in 1980, but instead got an Atari 800, which was cool, but not what everyone else in the neighborhood was getting.

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36 minutes ago, scrummy said:

Random,

 

I'd like to offer a peace pipe in your direction.  I actually wanted this game, and I probably would have felt more upset about it if I had gotten it, instead I got the Atari 800 version, which off-course I loved.  My neighbor Mike had the game you are speaking about and it did suck, but It was still fun, plus his sister was cute.  I also had the KC Munchkin for Odyessy.   One of the many reasons that the VCS/2600 shines bright in my mind is that I had wanted one badly in 1980, but instead got an Atari 800, which was cool, but not what everyone else in the neighborhood was getting.

 

Thanks to that Atari 800, you got the good version of Pac-Man, so you ended up being the winner of the neighborhood, even if that's not what you wanted.

Edited by Random Terrain

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27 minutes ago, scrummy said:

Random,

 

I'd like to offer a peace pipe in your direction.  I actually wanted this game, and I probably would have felt more upset about it if I had gotten it, instead I got the Atari 800 version, which off-course I loved.  My neighbor Mike had the game you are speaking about and it did suck, but It was still fun, plus his sister was cute.  I also had the KC Munchkin for Odyessy.   One of the many reasons that the VCS/2600 shines bright in my mind is that I had wanted one badly in 1980, but instead got an Atari 800, which was cool, but not what everyone else in the neighborhood was getting.

Wow, I would have killed to get an 800 instead of a 2600!  

 

It might be different from what everyone else had,   but when I did finally get an XL+disk drive,  all my friends started hanging out at my place to play games they couldn't play at home

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I think the article is good. The article presented a pretty neutral standpoint, letting Frye speak freely and give his side of the story, then presented some facts. There was no need to discredit Frye. His attempts to shift blame for his weak port of Pac-Man are evident throughout the article without having to slant it at all, so he effectively discredited himself.

 

I was pretty disappointed with 2600 Pac-Man as a kid, more so than any other game to that point. I also didn't like E.T., but honestly, I just laugh about E.T. since I met HSW and saw his presentations and found him to be such a cool guy, rolling with the punches graciously, while Frye is apparently still trying to defend his low-quality work. If Frye had taken on the same attitude as HSW and fully owned up to his failure then I am sure we would not be having this conversation today.

 

This article made me think of exactly why Pac-Man was so disappointing to me back in the day. I think it is just overall a weak port and feels like little care was put into it, as if Atari didn't give a crap about its loyal customers. However, there was no one thing that ruined the game; it was the combination of many factors that came together in my eyes as a kid. To name a few: The maze that doesn't even remotely resemble the arcade, the jarring, dissonant sounds, fewer dots, dashes instead of dots, the blocky "vitamin" instead of fruits, the flickery ghosts, the eye, not facing up or down when moving those directions, the tunnels on the top and bottom, and the strange colors all worked together to betray the arcade-game look and feel that we all hoped for as kids.

 

If you were to ask me, though, the two biggest things that could've changed this from a completely disappointing game into something acceptable would be the maze and the sounds. While Tod claims the maze saves RAM (over what? A correct maze?), he could have at least tried to make it better resemble the arcade. And there is no excuse whatsoever for those horrid sounds. It would be better for the game to make no sounds at all than the "bong" when Pac-Man eats a dot or the godawful opening "tune." The other sounds the game makes are decent, so clearly he could have done better. That makes me wonder if a hack exists of the original game that fixes just these two items.

 

 

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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.

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10 hours ago, scrummy said:

Random,

 

I'd like to offer a peace pipe in your direction.  I actually wanted this game, and I probably would have felt more upset about it if I had gotten it, instead I got the Atari 800 version, which off-course I loved.  My neighbor Mike had the game you are speaking about and it did suck, but It was still fun, plus his sister was cute.  I also had the KC Munchkin for Odyessy.   One of the many reasons that the VCS/2600 shines bright in my mind is that I had wanted one badly in 1980, but instead got an Atari 800, which was cool, but not what everyone else in the neighborhood was getting.

 

Do you remember the month you got Atari 800 Pac-Man or the first time you remember seeing it in a store? I got an E-mail saying that it was impossible for for me and my mother to have played Atari computer Pac-Man before Atari 2600 Pac-Man was released. I don't want to OCD on it, but that's a major fuzzy memory for two people to share. I might make a new thread about it in the Atari computer forum.

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Tod did create something of a rod for his own back in that article, when he talked of wanting to capture the ethos, the soul as it were of Pac-Man and he honestly intended his version to be as faithful a representation as he deemed possible and necessary.. 

 

But has admitted the decision to make the maze colours different from that of the arcade version was his and to this day, he still doesn't get why his simplified maze layout with the exits on the top and bottom of the screen, not the sides, causes so much anger amongst Pac-Man fans.

 

 

If you start out by saying you basically did everything you could to replicate the Coin-Op within the limits of the primitive 2600 hardware, but then switch to an attitude of something like, so I changed the maze colours and moved the exits, so what?

 

Your heading for trouble as clearly you looked at the game from the standpoint of an engineer, not a gamer. 

 

I never felt he really understood Asteroids either,  the Atari 8-bit version i personally found worse the 2600 version.

 

Gameplay seemed very, very dull,but again here Tod had ticked the boxes, you had big space rocks, spaceships etc.

 

You find similar issues on far later arcade conversions to far more powerful home systems, coders simply given a project and a deadline and years later say they had previously never played the original or if they had, were not fans of it, so i am not singling Tod out.

 

 

I just really struggle to believe he really understood what the appeal of Pac-Man was to so many of us.

 

To capture something, you need to study and fully understand it's essence.

 

I don't see that with Tod converting Asteroids or Pac-Man.

 

The f##k the press line was a bit stupid of him as well.

 

Given the price of 2600 and A8 games here in the UK, the press was all we had to guide us.

 

If you came from a working class background where money was tight and you could only afford to treat your child on special occasions, you were thankful there were people out there trying to steer you in the right direction when it came to purchasing choices.

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1 hour ago, Lost Dragon said:

Tod did create something of a rod for his own back in that article, when he talked of wanting to capture the ethos, the soul as it were of Pac-Man and he honestly intended his version to be as faithful a representation as he deemed possible and necessary.. 

 

But has admitted the decision to make the maze colours different from that of the arcade version was his and to this day, he still doesn't get why his simplified maze layout with the exits on the top and bottom of the screen, not the sides, causes so much anger amongst Pac-Man fans.

 

 

If you start out by saying you basically did everything you could to replicate the Coin-Op within the limits of the primitive 2600 hardware, but then switch to an attitude of something like, so I changed the maze colours and moved the exits, so what?

 

Your heading for trouble as clearly you looked at the game from the standpoint of an engineer, not a gamer. 

 

I never felt he really understood Asteroids either,  the Atari 8-bit version i personally found worse the 2600 version.

 

Gameplay seemed very, very dull,but again here Tod had ticked the boxes, you had big space rocks, spaceships etc.

 

You find similar issues on far later arcade conversions to far more powerful home systems, coders simply given a project and a deadline and years later say they had previously never played the original or if they had, were not fans of it, so i am not singling Tod out.

 

 

I just really struggle to believe he really understood what the appeal of Pac-Man was to so many of us.

 

To capture something, you need to study and fully understand it's essence.

 

I don't see that with Tod converting Asteroids or Pac-Man.

 

The f##k the press line was a bit stupid of him as well.

 

Given the price of 2600 and A8 games here in the UK, the press was all we had to guide us.

 

If you came from a working class background where money was tight and you could only afford to treat your child on special occasions, you were thankful there were people out there trying to steer you in the right direction when it came to purchasing choices.

 

Those are the characteristic reactions of an artist, when someone doesn't like their art. With millions of fans, not everyone will be pleased.

 

TodFryeTalkingToAngryFan.jpg.2644bc3420cfe6299d6d05a15dc45290.jpg An angry Pacman fan confronts Tod Frye a retro gaming expo....

 

I created a very liberal port of KC Munchkin for Atari a few years ago that most players loved, but there were some fans that were equally outraged at the variations from the original:

Of course I continued to make the port different with the computer taking over control of "Pacman" if you let go of the stick, and a larger maze with screen scrolling like Jr Pacman; I don't like Ms Pacmen that scroll so I understand the resistance to the idea for some players, but a fun variation can be a lot like Green eggs and Ham; you have to try it and you may like it even though it's different. With this example the original author, KC's Dad Ed Averett loved the new variations and seeing it on the Atari 2600, and his encouragement was really awesome, because I'm one of his biggest fans :)

 

Along those lines I wonder what the author of the original version of Pacman, thought of Atari Pacman. It shouldn't be too hard to find his commentary from bitd and I bet it was favorable!

 

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Regarding the Artist and fan reaction to their Art, i don't really see that applying to Tod with 2600 Pac-Man,

 

He was hired to convert an existing creation, someone else's creation and paid well for the translation, but he made personal choices that effected that translation and he really needs to own the aspects he decided to change.

 

Taking the Art comparison,  it'd be like someone redrawing The Last Supper,using cruder tools, but rearranging the sitting order of the individuals featured and then going..what's the matter? I got everyone in didn't i? 

 

They are all recognised,  so I had a few sitting on the left, now sitting on the right and changed hair and clothing colours here and there.

 

Still a group of blokes sat at a table.

 

 

I'm using The Last Supper as an example as that was a nightmare for Da Vinci:

 

He hadn't worked on such a large painting before, had no experience in the standard mural medium of fresco.

 

 Painting was made using experimental pigments directly on the dry plaster wall, unlike frescos, where the pigments are mixed with the wet plaster, it has not stood the test of time well. Even before it was finished there were problems with the paint flaking from the wall and Leonardo had to repair it. 

 

Edited by Lost Dragon
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2 hours ago, Lost Dragon said:

Regarding the Artist and fan reaction to their Art, i don't really see that applying to Tod with 2600 Pac-Man,

 

He was hired to convert an existing creation, someone else's creation and paid well for the translation, but he made personal choices that effected that translation and he really needs to own the aspects he decided to change.

 

Taking the Art comparison,  it'd be like someone redrawing The Last Supper...

I disagree, we were all writing Atari games in the early 80's regardless of which system we wrote them for - these seven pacman posted earlier, were all Atari pacman:  

 

KC Munchkin was also Atari pacman despite running on another system and taking the genre to the next level; it was indeed even more of an Atari game than Atari's Atari pacman. My favorite ports of Pacman are KC and the Grabber port above, and both are Atari 2600 games.

 

There are games like ET and Raiders of the lost ark that are not "easy to play and difficult to master" - these are not Atari games according to Nolan Bushnell, yet his definition is very liberal and Atari most recently specified "any system" in their last contest. This also makes Double Dutch on the playground an Atari game; the concept is very broad and yet ET cannot prepare to quality like Pitstop and Enduro.

 

Back then there was a demand for Atari games as Nolan defined them and most enjoyed pacman and Yars but returned ET; we knew whenever we had succeeded in writing an Atari game, because it sold really well - it didn't matter what system we wrote for beyond the userbase market size. Some companies got smart and wrote their Atari games for all the systems, maximizing the market size.

 

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