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Strange Pitfall Proto

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Got a strange one for you folks.  This prototype rom was sent to me by a forum member who said it looked and played like the released version of Pitfall, but had some weird bugs in it.  After examining the rom I'm stumped on what it could of been for.  For starters the date is from 1983 (we think it's 3/18/83 but the middle digits are hard to read), but that's not all.  The rom has been hacked for infinite lives and infinite time, but it was done in a very sloppy manner.  The timer starts at 20:00 then goes to 20:59 and cycles back around each time it reaches 20:00.  You have infinite lives, but if you move after falling into a lake or pit you actually fall into the tunnel below and can keep moving until the death tune stops.  When you hit a deadly obstacle (scorpion, snake, fire, etc.) you can hold the joystick in any direction to 'freeze' the death tune on the current note, releasing the joystick will start the tune over again and you will die when it finishes although no lives will be deducted.  It's a very strange prototype.  

 

My only guess is that someone at Activision was trying to look for a bug in the code or something and needed infinite time and lives to do that so they did a quick and dirty hack to make that happen.  Beyond that theory, I've got no ideas.  Take a look for yourselves and see.

 

http://www.atariprotos.com/2600/software/pitfall/beta.htm

pitfall_proto.bin

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Without looking at the code, I would guess that this was used for play testing (e.g. mapping).

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No idea. The code is almost like the final version. Only a few bytes regarding lives and timer have been changed. Also it looks like the code was patched, because unused old code has not been removed but replaced with NOPs.

 

Looks like a hack. Maybe for checking scores and solutions?

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So what would cause you to be able to still move after falling into a pit and appear in the tunnel below?  Is that a side effect of hacking the game for infinite lives?

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Must be a side effect of the hacks. The same with the tune stopping. There are no intentional code changes for this.

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It would make sense, like I said it looks like it was done pretty sloppily.  I still wonder what the heck this prototype was really for.

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I go by my theory from above. Someone, who didn't have the necessary skills, wanted to e.g. map the game.

 

BTW: The odd timer looks like a failed hack. I suppose they wanted the timer to run longer. That would fit to my theory too.

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Everything about this 'proto' screams hack, but it's on a real Activision proto board and the dates on the EPROM check out (according to the owner).  It's all very strange. :)

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Interesting theories. But I have a theory where the 1983 date would actually make perfect sense.

 

What if a programmer at Activision (perhaps even David Crane himself) did a quick & simple hack to his game as part of his research & development that he was doing for its upcoming sequel?

 

Many programmers save time when programming new games by recycling / reusing / repurposing previous code.

 

The time period fits when he would have been working on Pitfall II as it was released in 1984.

 

And Pitfall II does indeed have both unlimited time & unlimited lives.

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Here's my theory...

 

Could this have been a quick and dirty hack to assist with porting Pitfall to other systems?  It sounds like the goal of the hack was to just make the game infinitely playable.  The player could progress through the various screens without fear of dying.  They could then compare to a work in progress port to make sure that the screens and other elements appeared in the same sequence and any onscreen elements (treasure, snakes, scorpion) also appeared.

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Could be.  That's as good of a theory as any, although the late 83 date would put that in doubt.

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Just a few thoughts. 

David Crane would have known his code intimately.  He probably would not have made a "sloppy hack" of his own game. 

There don't seem to be any known bugs that would have needed searching for at this time frame.

Eproms were expensive yet the maker kept this for posterity rather than erasing it and using it for the next project.  I think this would make sense if you were  working to port Pitfall to other systems, after all when you finished the C-64, then there is the 5200, and the Intellivision and the.... 

Pure supposition only.

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Slightly off subject but does anyone know the reason why Activision never fully exploited the power of the other systems to improve their games graphically?  Pitfall for example was a disappointing conversion to such systems as the Colecovision and home computers for aside from some minor graphical tweaks it looked pretty much the same as the 2600 game.  The same was true for River Raid.  So much extra memory to play with yet only basic tweaks to what was already there.

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3 hours ago, Thomas Jentzsch said:

Minimum invest vs maximum return?

You know I always believed that, I just hoped it wasn't for such a blatant reason.  Imagic utilised the extra power of the Intellivision with Demon Attack and what a result.  Guess for Activision profit was truly the reason. :(

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I disagree.

Activision’s versions of their 2600 games on other systems were indeed improved graphically if & when it was possible to do so. And even massively upgraded as well; such as was the case with Pitfall II : Explorers Edition for 5200 & 400/800.

 

And in some cases, it just wasn’t necessary to make any major changes because the gameplay itself was what made the game so good. Say for example Kaboom; where it’s all about hand-eye coordination. Graphics are barely relevant.

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10 hours ago, Supergun said:

I disagree.

Activision’s versions of their 2600 games on other systems were indeed improved graphically if & when it was possible to do so. And even massively upgraded as well; such as was the case with Pitfall II : Explorers Edition for 5200 & 400/800.

 

And in some cases, it just wasn’t necessary to make any major changes because the gameplay itself was what made the game so good. Say for example Kaboom; where it’s all about hand-eye coordination. Graphics are barely relevant.

Well I disagree with you on certain points.  Pitfall could have been made a lot more pleasing to the eye for all that was done was putting leaves on the trees and the walls in the tunnels looked like Bricks.  Kaboom could have been enhanced but all it had was a skyscraper landscape.

 

I did not mention Pitfall II for although graphically there was little graphical improvement there was an entire 2nd element to the game more complex and difficult than the 1st part.  Pitfall II was perhaps the most prime example of how a company could push the envelope of an existing game for a bigger system and the point I made was why did they not push the envelope on their other games released for bigger systems which I received conformation on what I already suspected but you are entitled to your opinion in the matter.  I just choose not to readily agree to it.

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On 9/28/2019 at 10:02 PM, Supergun said:

Activision’s versions of their 2600 games on other systems were indeed improved graphically if & when it was possible to do so. And even massively upgraded as well; such as was the case with Pitfall II : Explorers Edition for 5200 & 400/800.

The expansion of Pitfall II did come about somewhat by accident.  Tim Shotter was having a bit of difficulty porting the game to the Commodore 64 but Mike Lorenzen was able to complete the 400/800/5200 conversion very quickly and simply chose to use that extra time to his benefit and did something constructive with it.  It wasn't originally planned though, and the management supposedly wanted Lorenzen to remove the extra world but he left it in as an Easter egg.

 

On 9/28/2019 at 10:02 PM, Supergun said:

And in some cases, it just wasn’t necessary to make any major changes because the gameplay itself was what made the game so good. Say for example Kaboom; where it’s all about hand-eye coordination. Graphics are barely relevant.

If the story about the extra content in Pitfall II is true, then it can be assumed that they mostly felt the games were good enough as is and didn't want them altered significantly on different platforms for marketing reasons.  Also keep in mind that most of the ports weren't coded by the original programmers and some of them were actually done outside Activision on contract, which is all the more reason they wouldn't have wanted anyone messing around with the game too much (apart from some basic graphical enhancements).

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20 hours ago, Psionic said:

If the story about the extra content in Pitfall II is true, then it can be assumed that they mostly felt the games were good enough as is and didn't want them altered significantly on different platforms for marketing reasons.  Also keep in mind that most of the ports weren't coded by the original programmers and some of them were actually done outside Activision on contract, which is all the more reason they wouldn't have wanted anyone messing around with the game too much (apart from some basic graphical enhancements).

Now that makes a great deal of sense and goes a long way to explain things.  Thank you for your input.  Appreciated.

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