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Bullshots - screenshots that don't accurately represent the game

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It wasn't uncommon for marketing departments to release screenshot mock-ups of classic games.   These would be used in ads, magazine articles and even sometime put on the back of the box.  Often they kind of showed what gameplay looked like, but would appear impossibly detailed or hi-res for the platform it is supposedly running on. 

 

I know I would sometimes buy a game based on these types of screenshots, be disappointed by what the game actually looked like and assume that the graphics must have been taken from another platform that I don't own.    But then when I'd see the other versions in action, I'd realize it was a fake screenshot all along.

 

Here's the most innocent kind-   The shot kind of looks like the game in question, but there's no way the 2600 could produce resolution like that.   Also the action lines kind of give it away   (Activision did this a lot)

image.thumb.png.75398f22818ae5751a0a54866a9b55f7.png

 

This one is a bit more deceptive.  The image on the left is supposed to be the Colecovision version of Mr. Do!   But it makes it seem like the visuals are closer to the arcade version than it ended up being:

 

image.thumb.png.bad4592b1254be0f51e7e04c6d61f527.png

 

And finally here is one that is complete BS.  This is supposed to be Dracula for the Intellivision by Imagic, but this scene never actually appears in the game

image.png.2b65d9a5c73ed66f784332101464871f.png

 

What other examples can you find?

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interesting to see..  i'd imagine they were kinda sorta forced to that?    Like in the first set, if they only put the actual screen shot how would one realistically even see that as an octopus?  or that dolphin?  taken out of context with just a screen shot probably difficult.  not that i don't think they were also being shady and deceptive.  it's funny to look at now, it seems almost innocent compared to how shady and manipulative companies are these days with their deceit and dark design.

 

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8 minutes ago, NeonSpaceBeagle said:

interesting to see..  i'd imagine they were kinda sorta forced to that?    Like in the first set, if they only put the actual screen shot how would one realistically even see that as an octopus?  or that dolphin?  taken out of context with just a screen shot probably difficult.  not that i don't think they were also being shady and deceptive.  it's funny to look at now, it seems almost innocent compared to how shady and manipulative companies are these days with their deceit and dark design.

 

Well back then usually the ads and box had artwork that gave you an idea of what the game was about, and when you saw the screenshot you usually had to use your imagination.   Activision graphics are usually among the better 2600 games and mostly look like what they were trying to represent.

 

But I can more easily forgive that type of screenshot since it isn't trying to misrepresent the game.    I was just flipping through an old archived game magazine and clipped a few obvious fake screenshots.   But there are many more out there!

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I actually have the magazine, where that Dracula game screenshot was printed.  According to the article, that was a proposed version of "Dracula" all right.  But, I believe that it was a screenshot for the proposed ColecoVision version, and not the Intellivision game, which Imagic did release.

 

To my knowledge, the ColecoVision version of this game never made it past the concept phase.

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Here are two more of the innocent kind, which closely enough replicates the actual screenshot but for some reason were redrawn when posted in mail order catalogs. Both are games from Timeworks.

 

presidental-campaign.thumb.jpg.5d018f6f12a53e1017149562d2a33a63.jpg

Presidential Campaign

 

robbers-of-the-lost-tomb.thumb.jpg.0dfe76a07821c89ec5c10dde6abcee28.jpg

Robbers of the Lost Tomb

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Not really fake but still deceptive, European computer games were extremely prone to that.

The reason was mostly economical; as companies did used the same box for all of their game's version (up to using the same box for 8 bits tapes and 16 bits 3"1/2 floppies).

So you couldn't really trust the game screenshot because they would show the better version or the most famous, either a C64 shot or later, an Atari ST or Amiga shot.

 

(Amstrad CPC version; as the small text on the side says, the screens are for the Amiga version)

Les_Tortues_Ninja_1__(Release_TAPE-CARDBOARD)__FRENCH.jpgwcv

 

 

340.png

 

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4 hours ago, Tales from the Game Room said:

I actually have the magazine, where that Dracula game screenshot was printed.  According to the article, that was a proposed version of "Dracula" all right.  But, I believe that it was a screenshot for the proposed ColecoVision version, and not the Intellivision game, which Imagic did release.

 

To my knowledge, the ColecoVision version of this game never made it past the concept phase.

I've seen the screenshot reproduced in more than one place and not every article made that distinction.   Yeah it does look more like a Colecovision screenshot than an Intellivision, but looks like the game was only ever released on Intellivision.

 

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Another company that seemed to publish only bullshots, Xonox.   

Here's Spike's Peak and Ghost Chasers,  magazine ad vs reality

 

image.thumb.png.044657322db7ac667182f1ecc979ef7a.png

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For the Atari 7800,  here are the promotional screenshots released by Atari in 1984 vs reality.    It might be hard to see in the fuzzy magazine scans, but the promotional images all appear to be higher resolution, use more color shading, less dithering and more detail vs what we actually got.   I always found 7800 games somewhat disappointing and I suppose this is why, it's graphics never quite lived up to the initial promise.

 

image.thumb.png.0e4f2715d6fdcde5bf1747afc60398d3.png

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I guess it's more mockery of another decade than these, really don't have the time or care to go mine up specific examples but I remember when CD consoles started to pop up, honesty in rear of the jewel case(box) art went right into the crapper.  Even then they knew the low polygon minimally textured and/or goraud shading alone textures looked pretty bad compared to what they could do in FMV and stills, and even more so from what 16/32bit 2D console games pulled off.  So what did they do?  Rear imagery largely was manufactured shots, either pulled out of their collective asses or they would just pop FMV/still images instead like it was indicative of what you'd get playing the game which clearly wasn't the case.

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Could be that back then it was real hard to get a decent looking photo directly off a TV screen, I tried taking a picture to send for an Activision badge but nothing was on the screen except the flash bulb.

 

I was looking through scans of old magzines (Electronic Gaming July '82 pg. 31) and this is the only straight TV shot I found.  Of course they also did mock ups from the same game just to look good on paper.

 

When gaming magazines started covering NES games, photo captures got better with much improved equiptment for screenshots.

 

Real Screenshot.jpg

Fake Screenshot.jpg

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I'd be curious to know how they did, but my guess is more that they learnt about taking screenshots more than using "more advanced devices".

Colour film in the 70's was still quite expensive and remember that you couldn't know what your shot looked like until you developped the roll. It's most likely that those Munchkins shots might have been the best two shots out of a roll of 24 (or maybe 12).

Plus, the NES arrived in the mid to late 80's, by then, magazines would have started to use computers to realize the magazine articles, making photo insertion much easier than in the past.

 

But that would be a good reason in the examples snow by Carlsson and Zzip, as the screenshots aren't screenshots but drawn graphics.

It might have been to deceive people, but it might just have been to illustrate the game (gamers would have known that the 2600 couldn't have a cartoon outer line) rather than reflecting it.

It was also probably cheaper and more readible with the typical quadrichromia (CMYK) printing process of the time.

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I think this is more "trying to represent the game" than "trying to be misleading" in the 70's and 80's it was rather difficult to get a good screenshot, not impossible, just difficult. So hand drawing the image made more sense than trying to take a pic, then heavily edit it to make it look good.

 

Remember Nintendo power? Think of all its walkthrough maps that had funky artifacts and color issues, and that was even into the 90's!

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It's still difficult, it's just easier to preview it, instantly correct in post process and, most of all, print. Colour printing was still expensive in the early Eighties. Other thing is that colour could look different from telly to telly, console to even the same console model (eg NES) and system to system (the famous NTSC: Never The Same...).

 

I wouldn't put too much weight on all this anyway, it's a popular topic in modern days (same with the allegedly misleading covers, because it makes for good memes) but back then I don't remeber ever being "mislead". We all knew the capabilities of our machines and understood that cover art is just that - art - and could differentiate between screencaps from other platforms.

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On 11/24/2021 at 11:27 AM, MrMaddog said:

Could be that back then it was real hard to get a decent looking photo directly off a TV screen, I tried taking a picture to send for an Activision badge but nothing was on the screen except the flash bulb.

 

I was looking through scans of old magzines (Electronic Gaming July '82 pg. 31) and this is the only straight TV shot I found.  Of course they also did mock ups from the same game just to look good on paper.

 

When gaming magazines started covering NES games, photo captures got better with much improved equiptment for screenshots.

If you were doing it professionally, you would probably have a lab set up sufficiently dark, using the appropriate film speed so that a flash isn't needed.

 

Paging through EG magazines,  I'd say about half the screenshots are the real thing and the other half mockups.    The real ones are easy to spot now that I know what to look for.  Fuzziness, color bleeding, evidence of a bit of a curve in the graphics from the CRT-  stuff that's hard and pointless to fake in a mock-up shot.

 

On 11/24/2021 at 11:44 AM, CatPix said:

Plus, the NES arrived in the mid to late 80's, by then, magazines would have started to use computers to realize the magazine articles, making photo insertion much easier than in the past.

A magazine like Electronic Games was filled with screenshots, box scans, photos and artwork with text flowing around the shape of the images.  Not sure exactly how they did that in the pre-Desktop Publishing world, but it it required great effort they sure made it look easy!

 

On 11/24/2021 at 11:44 AM, CatPix said:

 

But that would be a good reason in the examples snow by Carlsson and Zzip, as the screenshots aren't screenshots but drawn graphics.

It might have been to deceive people, but it might just have been to illustrate the game (gamers would have known that the 2600 couldn't have a cartoon outer line) rather than reflecting it.

Some of the mock-ups do a reasonable job of representing the game,  but there are some are so far off base that it's hard to see how they aren't deceptive.

 

On 11/27/2021 at 9:16 AM, youxia said:

We all knew the capabilities of our machines and understood that cover art is just that - art - and could differentiate between screencaps from other platforms.

Well at the time I'd see that the graphics don't match the game and I would rationalize "well they must be showing the C64/Coleco/Apple version".   But years later when I finally got to see the other versions I'd realize they didn't look so good either and the screenshot didn't actually represent any version of the game, but was just a fake screenshot to make the game seem better than it was.

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https://archive.org/details/Electronic_Games_Volume_01_Number_16_1983-06_Reese_Communications_US/page/n111/mode/2up

Definitively a bogus one.. and a nice Easter egg tho!

image.png.54a0b3716f645c31cd7da428119fea90.png

 

Smurf - Rescue in Gargamel's Castle Colecovision - Vidéo Dailymotion

 

What's more weird is that this bogus screen not only had more details (on the house) but also, it seems to be made of various background elements that never appears together in-game.

 

The background dark spikes seems to be taken from the cave levels, and the Gargamel house (I guess it's what we see) appears in "plains" levels.

 

RETROGAMING] Les Schtroumpfs / Colecovision -

 

image.png.0f52136bd013c9f5452dc85e16aee1fa.png

 

 

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CRL had a short-lived label called "Actual Screenshots", with the idea being that the pictures on the back of the box were, well, actual screenshots from the game.

 

https://gamesdb.launchbox-app.com/publishers/games/4668

 

(unfortunately that page doesn't really show off the aforementioned actual screenshots, but it's interesting to see that even back then people were fed up enough of bullshots to make "actual screenshots" a viable marketing gimmick).

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Interestingly, they are all computer games. As I mentionned before, at least in Europe, computer games released on more than one platform would feature actual screenshots... But, not always the ones from the platform you bought.

ZX spectrum would feature the Amstrad CPC or C64 shots, and later, Amiga or Atari ST shots. Making them pseudo-bullshots.

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On 12/20/2021 at 3:29 PM, CatPix said:

https://archive.org/details/Electronic_Games_Volume_01_Number_16_1983-06_Reese_Communications_US/page/n111/mode/2up

Definitively a bogus one.. and a nice Easter egg tho!

image.png.54a0b3716f645c31cd7da428119fea90.png

 

Smurf - Rescue in Gargamel's Castle Colecovision - Vidéo Dailymotion

 

What's more weird is that this bogus screen not only had more details (on the house) but also, it seems to be made of various background elements that never appears together in-game.

 

The background dark spikes seems to be taken from the cave levels, and the Gargamel house (I guess it's what we see) appears in "plains" levels.

 

RETROGAMING] Les Schtroumpfs / Colecovision -

 

image.png.0f52136bd013c9f5452dc85e16aee1fa.png

 

 

I could the bogus screenshot be from a prototype?  A one screen sort of mockup?  It doesn't look impossible to do on a CV and as others have pointed out some of those graphics are from the actual released game, just slightly different.

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It could be, and well, as I pointed, the graphics are form the game, just not as detailled and never in the same screen.

If you open the link, you'll see that the screen is from a magazine where someone point out he found an easter egg (which I tried and found, too) so the game was released already.

Of course it might be that the magazine only had that bullshot screen to print... but it's still false advertising as not only the screen isn't from the game, but it's more detailed than the final product.

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I really wish Super Smurf had come out or someone would update the graphics.  It's a fun game but I always thought that the graphics could have been better.  Especially stuff like Gargamel's castle in the hills, it looks poorly placed.

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On 12/25/2021 at 11:34 AM, CatPix said:

Interestingly, they are all computer games. As I mentionned before, at least in Europe, computer games released on more than one platform would feature actual screenshots... But, not always the ones from the platform you bought.

ZX spectrum would feature the Amstrad CPC or C64 shots, and later, Amiga or Atari ST shots. Making them pseudo-bullshots.

When I bought a game and it was much more pixelated on my Atari than the pictures in the magazines or on the box, I'd tell myself that they must have been showing the C64 version.   But then years later I'd try the game on a C64 or do screen comparisons on Mobygames only to find that the other platforms usually didn't look much better.  That's when I realized the extent they were using faked screenshots!

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Mock up screens were a very common practice for the UK games industry, people like Martin Hooley (Imagitec Design) and Jim Gregory (Handmade Software) would have artists knock images and rolling demo's up, so the Press had something to run with, when previewing the titles.

 

 

Likes of Ocean did it with Toki on the ZX Spectrum, US Gold with Staring Charlie Chaplin.. 

 

 

Then there was the Zzap 64 review of Operation Thunderbolt, based on a rolling demo..

 

 

https://www.gamesthatwerent.com/gtw64/operation-thunderbolt-v1/

 

 

 

 

ZZap_64_Issue_057_1990_Jan_0014-150x150.jpg

ZZap_64_Issue_057_1990_Jan_0013-150x150.jpg

st-shot2-2-150x150.jpg

toki1.gif

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