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Art of Atari book review


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#1 Scott Stilphen

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Posted 12 February 2017 - 03:31 PM

A beautiful-looking book, albeit a misnamed one.  From the moment you flip open the front cover, you immediately realize the focus is on Atari’s VCS/2600 games, which is a shame since Atari was a coin-op company for 5 years before the VCS was released, and coin-op games are only briefly covered.  The author probably should have stuck to the topic of game artwork, instead of veering into other areas (like prototype hardware), and attempts at being a historical reference book only succeed in making some of the factual errors within even more glaring.  Starting at pg. 57, there’s plenty of photos of VCS game boxes, although some of the boxes photographed are noticeably creased or damaged – starting with the first box, Air-Sea Battle.  Hundreds of thousands of copies were made and sold of the games in question. Time should have been spent finding better copies to photograph, considering the overall look (and price) of either edition.  Also, the games appear in random order, not alphabetically, so finding a specific game requires use of the index.  The first and last 3 pages are all screenshots of VCS games – except one.  Of the 108 screenshots, one is the 7800 version of Galaga.  Two are of games originally released by Coleco (Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Junior), and one is a bad screenshot of BASIC Programming (which was used again on page 98).  
 
Notable errors (considering Marty Goldberg is credited for his "fact-checking", I suppose this is yet another book he has corrupted):
 
Pg. 18, 49 The 7800 was initially released by Atari Inc. in 1984, not Jack Tramiel’s Atari Corp., who re-released it in 1986.
 
Pg. 61  Cliff Spohn talks about Atari wanting to cut the artwork off from the outer edges.  Only the original, gate-fold Combat boxes included the full artwork as shown.  The 2nd trimmed should have been included for comparison.
 
Pg. 64  Atari’s coin-op Starship 1 was released in 1976, not 1977; the VCS version (Star Ship) was released in 1977.
 
Pg. 66   There were 3 coin-op “snake” games released in 1976 - Barricade (Ramtek), Bigfoot Bonkers (Meadows) and Blockade (UPL, Gremlin).
 
Pg. 76  “I thought of Monte Carlo, outdoors, images of the car…”  Should be “images of the cards”.
 
Pg. 86  Night Driver was the first VCS driving video game to offer a 1st-person perspective, but the arcade game was inspired by Nürburgring 1 (Dr.-Ing. Reiner Foerst GmbH 1976).
 
Pg. 87  No mention of Outlaw’s artwork being a copy of that found on the poster for the movie, The Outlaw Josey Wales.
 
Pg. 113  The interior manual artwork appears in the 1988 re-release of Pele’s Soccer.
 
Pg. 115  As with Outlaw, there’s no mention of the artwork for VCS Space Invaders being a close copy of the artwork for Boston’s early albums, particularly their 2nd album, “Don’t Look Back”, except for in the book's afterword.  The artist for the Boston artwork was Gary Norman, but the artist for S.I. is simply Norman.  There's no other information the book about him or whether or not he's the same artist, or why an in-house artist wasn't used.
 
Pg. 123  The Asteroids artwork is turned 90 degrees to the right, compared to how it appeared on the packaging.
 
Pg. 130  Only half of the interior 5200 Missile Command artwork appears in the manual, and only in 1 color (red).
 
Pg. 133  Both the coin-op and VCS versions of Warlords were developed concurrently.  The coin-op version was released first and featured multiple balls.  Programmer Jim Huether was the model Steve Hendricks used for his artwork, but the book makes no mention of this.
 
Pg. 135  States the photo on the preceding page was for a 4-player Football ad, but the photo shows a baseball pitcher.  Atari never released a 4-player Baseball coin-op.
 
Pg 136  States the VCS wasn’t able to reproduce the arcade game’s speech, which is incorrect.  Not only was the VCS capable of digitized speech, as shown with Quadrun and Open Sesame, Mike Mika released a version of Berzerk in 2002 that included voice samples during the game.
 
Also, the interior artwork shown is cropped, compared to how it appears in the manual.
 
Pg. 152  There’s no mention of this but besides Elliot’s expression, another change was made with the artwork – the “diamonds” around the center of the spaceship were made smaller.  The large diamonds appeared on a promo box and the initial run of cartridges.
 
Pg. 164 States, “Atari paid handsomely for the exclusive rights to bring Pac-Man to the 2600.”  According to Al Alcorn, Atari signed a deal with Namco in 1978 for $1 million that gave Atari the rights to all of Namco's arcade games.  Pac-Man (AKA Puck Man) didn't exist in 1978, and considering the success the game would eventually have, Atari paid far less than it was truly worth, and Atari also got Galaxian as part of the same deal.
 
Pg. 170  States, “the technical aspects of the 2600 made creating a mirror image of the arcade counterpart nearly impossible”, which is incorrect.  Several hacks and homebrews have been created in the last 15+ years to prove a better version could have absolutely been done with only 4K.
 
Pg. 182  The RealSports cover art is reversed on the packaging.  Also, only the 2nd interior artwork appears in the VCS and 5200 manuals, and both are in color.
 
Pg. 202 Ralph McQuarrie - the most famous artist outside of Atari mentioned in the book - did the artwork for VCS Vanguard and yet there's no story as to how this came about.  His name isn't even included in the index.
 
Pg. 206  The photo caption states the artwork shown appeared in the Yars’ Revenge manual, but it didn’t.
 
Pg. 211 The description for Big Bird’s Egg Catch says you have to catch eggs from one of two chutes, but different variations offer anywhere from 2 to 5 chutes, and a screenshot for the game on the first page shows 4 chutes.
 
Pg. 221  The top photo caption states the color guide and marker comp was for the 400/800 version, but the illustrated screenshot is clearly for the VCS version.
 
Pg. 222-223  The artwork shown is for the 400/800 versions, but the screenshots shown are for the VCS versions, which weren’t done by Atari but rather Coleco.
 
Pg. 234  Incorrectly states players in Mario Bros. hurl fireballs.
 
Pg. 238  The first interior artwork shown did not appear in either the VCS or 5200 manuals.
 
Pg. 244  The Pole Position artwork shown is actually for Pole Position II.
 
Pg. 246  The artwork shown on page 247 also appeared on the July/Aug 1983 V2N2 cover of Atari Age magazine.
 
Pg. 262  Incorrectly states the winner of the SwordQuest FireWorld contest, Michael Rideout, melted down the Chalice prize to pay for college.  The winner of the SwordQuest EarthWorld contest, Steven Bell, is the one who melted down his Talisman prize to pay for college.
 
Pg 264  Claims the SwordQuest WaterWorld contest was held and the Crown prize awarded, but as of yet, there’s no evidence that any of this happened.
 
Pg. 266  Claims the final 2 SwordQuest prizes were returned to the Franklin Mint and ultimately destroyed, but again, there’s no evidence that any of this happened.
 
Pg. 258  No high-resolution packaging artwork for SwordQuest EarthWorld; instead, a picture of a box with creases.  Also, Atari Age magazine is written as one word “AtariAge”.
 
Pg. 260, 262.  Atari Age magazine is written as one word “AtariAge”.
 
Pg. 276  Jr. Pac-Man featured a side-scrolling maze in the arcade version, but the VCS version features a vertically-scrolling maze.
 
Pg. 279  The first photo caption states this was interior manual art for the 2600 and 5200 versions, but it only appeared in the 5200 manual.
 
Pg. 280  Incorrectly states the artwork shown was for the VCS manual.  It didn't appear in the manual, but was featured in an ad for the game, on the back cover of Atari Age magazine (V2,N5).
 
Pg. 291  Incorrectly states KLAX was released 12 years after the VCS system was released; it was 14 years.
 
Pg. 298  The VCS model 2600A was a 4-switch version, not 6-switch as incorrectly stated.  Also, the Space Age joystick is a copy of Milton Bradley's proposed HD2000 joystick, and not based on the prototype trigger controllers shown.
 
Pg. 303.  The 5200 controllers were not “spin-sensitive”.
 
Pg. 317  Axlon is misspelled as “Axalon”.
 
Pg. 321  “Tank II was to be the numerical sequel to Atari’s Tank arcade game.”  Atari (under Kee Games) released a Tank II arcade game in 1974, the same year as the original.  The “II” moniker for the home console was likely to indicate it was for 2 players.
 
Pg. 328  Atari Age magazine is written as one word “AtariAge”.
 
Pg. 329  Key Games didn’t just clone Atari games, they released many exclusive games, like Drag Race, Sprint One, Sprint 2, Super Bug, Tank, and Ultra Tank.

Edited by Scott Stilphen, 16 February 2017 - 09:04 PM.

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#2 Yo-Yo

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Posted 12 February 2017 - 04:05 PM

So?


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#3 kamakazi20012

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Posted 12 February 2017 - 07:48 PM

Maybe that's why I always have a soft-spot for Space Invaders besides it being the first video game I ever played.  I am a huge fan of Boston and thought the label looked familiar.

 

To be honest, though, it doesn't look the same to me.

 

Boston_-_Don't_Look_Back.jpg

space_invaders_color_cart_2.jpg

 

And the term "copy" usually means "exact duplicate".  One might have influenced the other but Space Invaders' UFO artwork is not an exact copy.  Not trying to step on toes or anything but just pointing this out.  These have been a part of my life since my childhood and I have never thought about them being duplicates of each other.  


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#4 Lost Dragon

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 06:37 AM

I'm going to use Scott's post as a starting point for a wider topic, if that's ok?, as the point's he makes are valid and apply to the broader subject of book's that cover very specific era's/developers etc, be they Atari, Sega, Nintendo, Ocean, Gremlin, US Gold etc... 

 

Scott's is someone very much like myself by the sounds of it, when your paying £30+ for a book (as i've done with Art Of Atari, £34.95+P+P, yet to read :-/, The Britsoft book £30, plus Bitmap Bros Universe Book, £30, then there's been the History Of US Gold, Ocean books, Gremlin Graphics twin books etc), you do 'go in' expecting certain standards depending on the price.

 

 From a production point of view, higher range publications £30 onwards, i expect to be getting hardcover edition, colour photo's, book to have been proffessionally spell and grammar checked etc, that's a given..this isn't some £3-4 PDF magazine put together by a group of fans from a community, trying to fill a gap left wide open because hardware/games/subjects in question are too niche to be warranted for coverage in magazines like Edge/Gamestm/RetroGamer etc. 

 

 

You also have to expect (and i know i bang the moaning drum quite a lot on this subject), a lot of material to be stuff you as an avid magazine reader/researcher yourself have been aware of for years-These publications are aimed at people who maybe never played a video game since the 2600 and just want a warm trip back to the golden childhood years.... So that's my stall set out as it were, but it's when you hit the degree of research needed/expected..issues do tend to crop up, espically within the Atari community.

 

 

 Obviousily a line has to be drawn at some stage, otherwise the books in question would never be written, so you have to go with what you've been able to source, so no, boxes might not be mint, hardware looking a little battered etc, but if it meant either having something to use, or delaying the book even further or having to invest a lot of time and money trying to secure a better condition item, i can understand why images are used, but also the frustration from some buyers :)

 

Now the issue of fact checking:Huge can of worms there from the very start, espically Atari related...it's the 1 area i've never seen so much.....'Policing' as it were, by so few vocal people, who, forgive me, seem to demmand to be seen as THE NAMES on ATARI and as soon as anyone posts a YT video, forum post, writes an article, BAM, up they pop to correct people and not in a friendly, constructive manner at times on YT comments, people ahem, suggesting other people shouldn't even be doing videos devoted to:The Jaguar, 7800, Lynx etc and were folk aware far better research could be found in their recent article for Magazine X?. 

 

All utter nonsense as more often than not, the very 'facts' they point out as corrections are themselves incorrect (ahh the irony), articles they promote full of errors and many of us researching the supposed 'experts' claims have discovered a very different version of events...

 

Big post so far, so i'll end here, let folks read this part and do seperate post to close...

 

 


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#5 Lost Dragon

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 07:47 AM

When i look at a recent purchase:Britsoft:Oral History, they take the 'correct' approach, state clearly and from the start book is a collection of personal recollections from KEY UK Games industry figures, it's NOT the UK Games industry bible.

 

There's not 1 researcher/writer/historian/blogger etc among us who is a true expert and i don't care where people have had work published/who they write/research/fact check for, who's dumpsters were raided, how many 1000's of hours of interviews were carried out or whatever else is factored in.

 

 

They are same as you/myself anyone else from human race and they are doing exactly the same, asking people who worked on projects 30 years+ ago to try and remember events as clearly as they can.

 

Documentation, internal mails etc fantastic resources, but just more parts of a very big jigsaw and DO NOT take into account VERBAL argreements made with Atari figures by chance encounters...

 

 

 

I'm going to look at 3 areas of interest that were supposedly Fact Checked by 'experts' before going into print, that i call into question.No particular order but:

 

 

Atari Lynx Sales...people can and have quoted various magazine claims for total number of units sold, Ex-Atari UK staffer Darryl Still was asked and replied quite honestly, he probably did know at 1 point, but had since forgotten, so then a SUGGESTED figure was put forward, maybe 3 Million? he suggests that sounds about right....

 

Bang it's in a magazine taken as fact and if you dare question it, your trolling..see Wkipedia for this.

 

 

The UK side of the 7800..covered in depth by RG, various different writers over the years, last article i read seemed to have no concept of Atari UK's plans for the 5200, the 'Official' reson for it's cancellation, the inital London showcasing of the 7800, price detailing etc, let alone Atari UK's Bob Gleadow's explanation of why they went with the XEGS instead....

 

 

Now as a UK Atari owner during that period, i was shocked to be paying good money to read an article, fact checked, which seemed to bear no resemblance to what happened here in UK, but written by a UK 'writer' for a UK Publication.....

 

 

The Panther:It has been stated by Marty G on Atari Age in the past, that the ONLY games in development were:Plasma Pong, Crescent Galaxy and Cybermorph.....Jeff Minter had done test coding etc.

 

 

Yet RVG and myself have asked various people from ATD about Panther Cybermorph, they cannot recal anything with any degree of clarity and thus so far there is no real evidence game started on Panther.

 

Shinto and myself have asked various Ex-Atari USA figures about Panther origins of Crescent Galaxy etc, again in my case, people had no recollection as simply joined when game was in development for Jaguar, Panther never even mentioned or in Shinto's case, HIS source stated NONE of the Launch Jaguar games had ever started life on Panther.

 

So i've yet to see the source Marty had that 'proves' any work done on Panther for games he claims.

 

What i do know, is the Panther games he missed:

 

 

The Crypt (RPG) Guildo H.which, as Guildo kindly explained, started life on the Konix, the only agreement between him and Atari was a conversation he had in a lift, thus NO internal documentation to be found...

 

Shadow Of The Beast:Peter Johnson told me of the work he did on it's graphics, as a favour to a friend of his.

 

 

Hand Made Software having a version of Elite up n running within a few weeks, info thanks to Jim Gregory.

 

 

It was EDGE magazine who interviewed Minter and Jeff spoke at more length about the test routines being basis for his (planned) Star Raiders-esq EPIC on Panther.

 

So, yes, it IS frustrating not seeing the info you wanted in a book you paid good money for-Gremlin Graphics book had no info on ST Litil Divil, found that online for free, nor Jaguar version of Zool 2-Coder didn't reply to Mark.It happens, as do errors getting through, no matter WHO does the fact checking.

 

 

I now tend to view my purchases a celebration of the subject material and go after the answers to Q's i want myself, you don't need a 'status' in the community for industry folks to talk to you :-)

 

And i've never taken Marty or anyone elses viewpoint as an authority, the important thing is events are documented, but made clear they are based on..... and information continues to be shared from new sources, shared etc so the bigger picture can be collected.

 

 

 

Now, i really must crack on and actually start on reading Art Of Atari :)


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#6 Scott Stilphen

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Posted 13 February 2017 - 06:55 PM

 

Maybe that's why I always have a soft-spot for Space Invaders besides it being the first video game I ever played.  I am a huge fan of Boston and thought the label looked familiar.

 

To be honest, though, it doesn't look the same to me.

 

And the term "copy" usually means "exact duplicate".  One might have influenced the other but Space Invaders' UFO artwork is not an exact copy.  Not trying to step on toes or anything but just pointing this out.  These have been a part of my life since my childhood and I have never thought about them being duplicates of each other.  

 

The same-shaped saucer, with a glass dome on top with a city/buildings underneath, a hole in the bottom with 3 rays coming down, with mountains all around?   You don't think they look the same?  Really?  No, the S.I. graphic doesn't say "Boston" on it, and there's 3 saucers instead of one, and it's night instead of day, so it's not an exact duplicate. lol   But there's no way in hell 2 different artists came up with the same design like that.  I suppose you're going to tell me Outlaw's artwork is original too...

 

It's like any artistic field - the artists of today are influenced by those who came before them, whether it's intentional or not.  But that S.I. artwork certainly is something the artist for Boston's albums could have had a very good case for, and probably should have received some money from Atari for, esp. considering how many copies of VCS S.I. they sold.

 

 

Scott's is someone very much like myself by the sounds of it, when your paying £30+ for a book...

 

That's just it.  If this was some quick-publishing thing somebody cranked out for $9.99, I'd say, you got what you paid for.  But I paid a lot more than that (and I bought both versions).  This was something I was looking forward to ever since the author announced it 3 years ago (http://atariage.com/...s/topic/220583-), and according to him, he had already been working on it for several years before then.  So considering the quality of some of the photos included, It's hard to believe better copies could not have been found anywhere within the last 5 years.  At least have someone Photoshop some of the creases out.  Besides Atariage, I don't know if he asked for help anywhere else, but not everyone is on that site.

 

Questionable photos aside, some of the factual errors are just maddening, like claiming SwordQuest FireWorld winner Michael Rideout is the one who melted his prize down (!?), or that the 5200 controllers are "spin-sensitive" (??).  I get that Tim Lapetino isn't a 'history' guy; clearly his focus was on artwork.  But to have someone like Goldberg fact-check your book?   He can't even fact-check his own book.   I wonder if Tim ever read that awful book Goldberg put out.  Why not have someone like noted author Leonard Herman (http://www.rolentapress.com/) do your fact-checking?


Edited by Scott Stilphen, 11 September 2017 - 06:15 PM.

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#7 Ballblaɀer

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 01:42 AM

It's like any artistic field - the artists of today are influenced by those who came before them, whether it's intentional or not.  But that S.I. artwork certainly is something the artist for Boston's albums could have had a very good case for, and probably should have received some money from Atari for, esp. considering how many copies of VCS S.I. they sold.

 

I am fairly certain that the cover artwork for Don't Look Back and the Space Invaders artwork were created by the same person: Gary Norman.  As Scott points out, the art is unmistakably similar, for one thing.  But if you look at the (vinyl) album cover for Don't Look Back you can see the other half of the artwork that's not usually seen.  Compare the artist signatures:
 

 

32738228162_b2b94751cc_o.jpg  32738228212_3ea412956b_o.jpg

I'd be surprised if those signatures weren't from the same person.  That said, I can't seem to find a hint of additional information about Gary Norman.  He doesn't seem to have done any other album artwork as far as I can tell, and I haven't been able to locate any other fantasy artwork by an artist with that name.  Perhaps it's a pseudonym?

 

Roger Huyssen was the artist who first created the Boston "city-within-a-guitar-spaceship" (see the portfolio on his website) for the debut (self-titled) album in '76.  The credits for Don't Look Back have Gary Norman credited for "Cover Art", while Roger Huyssen is credited for "Cover Illustration".  I suppose this credit may be a result of Norman using the Huyssen spaceship concept in his own artwork.  I may try contacting Mr. Huyssen to see if he can fill in any of the blanks here...


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#8 Lost Dragon

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 07:22 AM

I must say it's a credit to the community here, that book purchases can be discussed in a sensible, grown-up manner and no-one is jumping in saying people are hounding the writer or simply don't understand the amount of work involved in creating a publication like this...which is the kind of nonsense i've encountered when giving feedback on magazines i've paid around £5 for in the past.

 

I find creaters of books like the Gremlin Graphics 2 volumes, are far more open to constructive critiscm over things like screenshot layout, book content (contained and missing), any errors that creep in etc and they do engage with you, the PAYING CUSTOMER and are 100% open and honest about why certain formats get so little coverage (formats are niche, coders, artists etc were approached, but never replied/didn't want to talk about..).

 

Compare that to the responses from some Freelancers for magazines, who feel hard done by after a FB interview, some screenshots taken from old UK magazines and someone elses research which had previousily been posted on a forum or worse still, reprinting a company website and passing it off as an article on the company itself, it's very very refreshing.

 

 

 

I fully understand a writer etc getting 'defensive' over their work, but in cases where your putting your PRODUCT out there on sale for £30+ be it on Amazin or via your own online store, your essentially putting it in the same entertainment bracket as say a PS4 game i COULD buy instead (i never buy day 1 on games these days-wait 3-4 weeks, price drops, patches out game might be playable by then :) ) so yes, people like myself will be vocal about what dissapointed us, espically if you plan a 2nd or 3rd volume in the future.

 

 

 

There does seem to be a degree of 'It's MY baby'/reluctance to ask for others help with a lot of books like this...kind of a double-edged sword as i know Unseen64 used a lot of different writers for their book, but then so many formats to cover, but Luca himself admits in hindsight some were not the 'right' people to cover certain formats..it's clear the person covering the Atari Jaguar was NOT 

a Jaguar fan and that came across in the write-up, but then it would of been just as bad for someone with a fanboy bias to write it, but if you've not the writers willing to work for free, your options are limited.

 

 

 

I'm totally with Scott on the aspect of eagerly awaiting a book, espically if it's been years in the making..i know projects suffer delays, life/health issues etc but if a book, like say Atari Inc, has been marketed on the aspect of years in the making, countless X amount of hours of interviews etc, i expect a good degree of that time has been dedicated to ensuring the actual book is edited to a high degree, 

 

A few minor typo's, errors with grammar etc creeping in, i can forgive, but the content and approach has to have a sense of purpose...

 

You cannot simply throw together a collection of interviews, internal documentation, photographs etc and hope it all sticks.

 

A true editor has the gift of taking the raw material and turning it into something that keeps you turning page after page, not scratching your head thinking why have they changed tense all of a sudden?.

 

It becomes distracting.



#9 Lost Dragon

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 08:09 AM

And YES, i finally HAVE started reading the Art Of Atari book :)

I'm fine with the title, as for so so many of my age group, Atari simply meant the VCS and Coin-Op era Artwork, rather than the later years and thus as i said in earlier post, i know people who bought the book just to look back at the 2600 years, they never bought anything Atari related after the 2600.

 

And the art/photographs/general imagery i've seen so far in the book is simply gorgeous and the book delivers exactly what i wanted.

 

 

Where i know i'm going to struggle however, is the write-up's/features on the hardware itself...

 

 

A few examples:

For myself and many, many others, the XEGS, was simply Atari trying to clear old stocks and have something to compete with NES here in UK and it was old, outdated hardware..that's something the book doesn't make clear enough i felt...

 

 

But on flipside, writer is honest enough to make clear the Jaguar was designed to compete with SNES and Genesis (along with 3DO), so that aspect is very much appreciated.

 

Also i have to keep reminding myself this is a book very much based around the USA side of things, UK scene quite different, so there's no mention of inital plans for 5200, 7800 and XEGS being chosen to replace the by then, very aged 2600.

 

I'm actually of the mindset the book hadn't tried to do a potted history of the home consoles, understand why it's there, but given limited amount of text avaiable for each etc, it just felt somewhat out of place, i'd rather of had more pages of the lush Atari Art, than this shoe horned in.

 

It just broke the flow somewhat, i buy 'Coffee Table' books like this purely for THE ART and whilst the artist profiles etc work great, i just didn't find the hardware design really had a place, if that makes sense?

 

That's more suited to engineering aspects of it.Same with the unreleased hardware..throwing in PR images of things like Jaguar VR, Pro Vision etc? why? it's NOT art...

 

 

These features feel somewhat like the red headed stepchild :-), i personally felt they didn't need to be in there and went agains't the grain as it were of the basis of a book devoted to the art aspect.

 

I wonder if they were added as bonus content or to try and beef up the page count and offer better VFM ?

 

Whatever the reasoning, i did feel it was a case of going beyond the purity of the original concept and made the book fall between 2 stools, espically towards the end and would of been much better focusing on the art.

 

It could of stood easily on it's own 2 feet based on art alone, there was no real need to try and do historical documentation aspect of hardware and by the sounds of it, trying to cover this, opened itself up to a few errors creeping in.

 

Might be just me, but when you have such wonderous artwork at your disposal, is there any need to strech out for historical looks at hardware? your standing tall as is...



#10 Scott Stilphen

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 09:41 PM

I am fairly certain that the cover artwork for Don't Look Back and the Space Invaders artwork were created by the same person: Gary Norman.  As Scott points out, the art is unmistakably similar, for one thing.  But if you look at the (vinyl) album cover for Don't Look Back you can see the other half of the artwork that's not usually seen.  Compare the artist signatures:

 

 

It's possible, but we don't know.  I noticed the "M" in both signatures is written a bit differently, and the sig in the S.I. artwork doesn't have a first name.  Typically artists always sign their works the same way with every piece they do.  Lapetino certainly didn't dig any deeper on it, since he simply lists the artist as "Norman".  Apparently this Norman wasn't an in-house artist, as none of the other artists had anything to say about him or his artwork.  And if this was an outside contract job, why?  Why not turn to your own in-house artists?  Maybe Huyssen can offer more info about him.  Let us know if you have any success contacting him.

 

Likewise, what's the story with Ralph McQuarrie - the most famous artist outside of Atari mentioned in the book - doing the artwork for VCS Vanguard?  The book only mentions he's worked on many films.  His name isn't even included in the index.

 

@ Lost Dragon

Yep, the book is called "ART" of Atari, not "History of".  A book shouldn't try to be something it was never intended to be to begin with.  I mean, you don't set out to write a cooking book, and spend 1 or more chapters on the history of stoves and cooking utensils.  What you end up with is some glossed-over section that ultimately doesn't need to be included.  There's plenty of books already on the history of game consoles and vaporware hardware, so why bother covering the same ground, especially when that's not the focus of your book?

 

Well, it seems Lapetino is certainly going to "milk" the topic for a bit longer, as he already has 2 more books out on it.  There's Art of Atari: Capsule Edition and Art of Atari: Poster Collection.  Not sure why the Asteroids artwork continues to be shown at a different angle than how it was originally used, but I'll stick with my original poster I guess.

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Edited by Scott Stilphen, 14 February 2017 - 09:44 PM.

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#11 Lost Dragon

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 06:24 AM

@Scott:Your spot on with how there simply wasn't any need for the historical section of the consoles to be included in the book, espically when there is a wealth of material covering these aspects out there.

I don't wish to sound overly harsh or make a mountain out of the flaw, but it has caught me off guard and put a slight taint on the book.

Basically I purchase books like Art Of Atari as they have the luxury of covering aspects like the art, that magazines, would at best only devote a 1 off, 4-6 page feature on, if i'm lucky.

where as historical features on 7800,5200,XE GS etc popped up in RG for example countless times over the years,many written by Marty G himself, so i simply see it as surplus material.

I think it niggles so much more because the book isn't even looking at art used on games packaging for Jaguar or XE GS, is it?

I've not discovered any so far, but i'm only a 3rd of the way in.

;-) I wonder if these formats might be covered in later volumes?

Since we are seeing companion books appearing.

Poster edition I get, but what is the capsule edition?.

 

 

I think it's also only fair to say that when any of us, actually do make contact with the industry folk, vast majority of time we have to accept we are getting anecdotal evidence- small, personal accounts from folks who worked on hardware, software, playtesting, music, marketing..whatever the aspect they were involved in was...

 

 

Plus there's a tendancy to maybe load a question as it were? 

 

:) I know i've done it in the past, as i'd come away very dissapointed by the A.I Routines in Rebellion Software's PS3/Xbox 360 AVP compared to the Windows '95 PC edition, many years earlier, plus the horrendous steering in Jaguar Check.Flag II..you sometimes just can't help yourself, your like right, at last, chance to find out WTF went wrong here and it's reflected in how you phrase the question..human nature.

 

This is sloppy, i admit, but when your just doing it for fun or a gaming website and it's more to answer your own personal desire to know why the product you paid £45+ for, turned out so badly, it can be allowed to slide somewhat..your not doing a dry, historical piece designed to be THE reference material for all works after...

 

It's when your doing paid for research, setting your work out as the definitive guide to....this aspect of Atari's history, i feel it gets somewhat 'Danger Close'...

 

 

If you suggest actual sales figures, person just goes along with that, your in muddy waters, credibilty wise and if you cannot keep a personal bias out of a question when refering to rival hardware, to the point where rather than give constructive views on why it dissapointed you, you simply describe it as ahem, 'Nintendo's Piece Of Garbage'..then your not an unbiased historian are you?..your letting personal feelings colour your investigation.

 

 

So yes, i have started to look at lot closer at sources used (for all aspects involved) and the manner in which questions are laid out, in professional books like Art Of Atari, as when your paying these sorts of prices, subject material simply has to be done right, if those involved hope to get further purchases from you.

 

 

Things like errors at printers end are out of your control, time consuming and somewhat damaging to the brand, but part n parcel of getting book out in physical edition, it's when your investing years into producing the book itself, i feel you need to ask does this aspect really need to be part of the book? does including it add VFM or simply detract from it's purpose?..does it really fit in? and am i using the best suited people to handle other key aspects like grammar/spell checking/proof reading and fact checking..or simply those avaiable/most well known or simply fit within the limited confines of my budget?.


Edited by Lost Dragon, 15 February 2017 - 12:18 PM.

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#12 kamakazi20012

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 06:32 PM

It's possible, but we don't know.  I noticed the "M" in both signatures is written a bit differently, and the sig in the S.I. artwork doesn't have a first name.  Typically artists always sign their works the same way with every piece they do.  Lapetino certainly didn't dig any deeper on it, since he simply lists the artist as "Norman".  Apparently this Norman wasn't an in-house artist, as none of the other artists had anything to say about him or his artwork.  And if this was an outside contract job, why?  Why not turn to your own in-house artists?  Maybe Huyssen can offer more info about him.  Let us know if you have any success contacting him.

 

Likewise, what's the story with Ralph McQuarrie - the most famous artist outside of Atari mentioned in the book - doing the artwork for VCS Vanguard?  The book only mentions he's worked on many films.  His name isn't even included in the index.

 

@ Lost Dragon

Yep, the book is called "ART" of Atari, not "History of".  A book shouldn't try to be something it was never intended to be to begin with.  I mean, you don't set out to write a cooking book, and spend 1 or more chapters on the history of stoves and cooking utensils.  What you end up with is some glossed-over section that ultimately doesn't need to be included.  There's plenty of books already on the history of game consoles and vaporware hardware, so why bother covering the same ground, especially when that's not the focus of your book?

 

Well, it seems Lapetino is certainly going to "milk" the topic for a bit longer, as he already has 2 more books out on it.  There's Art of Atari: Capsule Edition and Art of Atari: Poster Collection.  Not sure why the Asteroids artwork continues to be shown at a different angle than how it was originally used, but I'll stick with my original poster I guess.

 

I learn something new everyday about the 2600 artwork.  After seeing the signature on both S.I. and Boston's Don't Look Back it is very possible that the same artist did both labels.  And overtime the artist(s) may change their signature on their work.  I know...I have done it...especially during college.  Either that or a very slim chance that two different, but very talented, artists have close to the same writing and art style.  

 

Look at it in this perspective:  

 

Release Date - Boston - Don't Look Back - August 2, 1978

Release Date - Space Invaders (2600) - 1980

 

Two years between these two now pop-culture icons attacking the public's eye.  And we all have to eat so it is possible that someone at Atari loved Boston and wanted a similar appeal for the Space Invaders game being produced for the 2600.  Correct me if I'm wrong but wouldn't S.I. on the 2600 be the first game to use artwork that didn't use the same style found on Othello, Video Chess, and others before it?

 

Interesting conversation for sure.  If nothing else, see if Gary Norman is still alive and ask him.  The worst he could say is "No" or ignore any messages asking about it.


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#13 Scott Stilphen

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 06:41 PM

Poster edition I get, but what is the capsule edition?.

 

 

Don't know, but I will soon.  My guess is it's just a "light" version of the original that doesn't include everything.

 

 

...overtime the artist(s) may change their signature on their work. 

 

 

Sure, but you already answered your own question, as we're only talking about 2 years between pieces :)  Until someone finds out more about the artist (and that person should have been Lapetino...), we just don't know for sure the same person did both or not.


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#14 Ballblaɀer

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 07:07 PM

 

Don't know, but I will soon.  My guess is it's just a "light" version of the original that doesn't include everything.

 

 

 

Sure, but you already answered your own question, as we're only talking about 2 years between pieces :)  Until someone finds out more about the artist (and that person should have been Lapetino...), we just don't know for sure the same person did both or not.

 

The Capsule Edition is a limited run version made exclusively for subscribers to LootCrate DX, the monthly mystery gaming-and-geeky-stuff box delivery service.  I don't have one so I can't comment on how condensed/abridged the book was for this edition.

 

Roger Huyssen kindly wrote me back and said that he was not at all involved in the artwork that was used for Don't Look Back -- he'd created entirely separate cover artwork that went unused.  So he's unfamiliar with Gary Norman (like the rest of us).  As for the similarities of the DLB and SI artwork and the signatures, he shares my opinion -- that while the artwork style is somewhat different and the signatures aren't exactly identical, he "would guess it's the same artist."

 

I've written again to ask if he might point me toward anyone else who could shed additional light on this.  Will report back if I get any further...


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#15 Lost Dragon

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Posted 16 February 2017 - 11:35 AM

Wow...so now we are seeing limited, limited editions of books?...curious times.From a purely curious viewpoint it would be interesting to see what differs in the capsule edition.Huge thanks for explaining just what it was.

 

And really appreciate the research and time put in contacting Roger Huyseen.

 

Damned if i don't love this community :)


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#16 Scott Stilphen

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Posted 16 February 2017 - 07:58 PM

Roger Huyssen kindly wrote me back and said that he was not at all involved in the artwork that was used for Don't Look Back -- he'd created entirely separate cover artwork that went unused.  So he's unfamiliar with Gary Norman (like the rest of us).  As for the similarities of the DLB and SI artwork and the signatures, he shares my opinion -- that while the artwork style is somewhat different and the signatures aren't exactly identical, he "would guess it's the same artist."

 

 

As an artist, he should know how critical his signature is when determining proof.   Just to give one example, with the U.S. TV show Pawn Stars, how many times have you seen the owners bring in an expert to prove/disprove the signature or do a writing analysis on something (usually memorabilia, but quite often for documents or books)?  Something simple like that 'M' would have been enough to raise doubt in an expert's mind (why would the same artist take the time to PRINT it differently?).  I agree, it's likely same artist did both pieces, but then again who's to say the S.I. one wasn't faked in the style of the original artist?  I for one would like to see this mystery put to rest.  37 years is long enough :)


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#17 Ballblaɀer

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Posted 16 February 2017 - 08:15 PM

As an artist, he should know how critical his signature is when determining proof.   Just to give one example, with the U.S. TV show Pawn Stars, how many times have you seen the owners bring in an expert to prove/disprove the signature or do a writing analysis on something (usually memorabilia, but quite often for documents or books)?  Something simple like that 'M' would have been enough to raise doubt in an expert's mind (why would the same artist take the time to PRINT it differently?).  I agree, it's likely same artist did both pieces, but then again who's to say the S.I. one wasn't faked in the style of the original artist?  I for one would like to see this mystery put to rest.  37 years is long enough :)

 

I hope to unearth something more on this, but Robert Conte mentions in the book's afterward that "months of research" weren't enough to verify it.  I agree - it'd be pretty cool to solve this mystery!


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#18 kamakazi20012

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Posted 17 February 2017 - 02:06 AM

Just a theory...what if (I know...big word) Gary did change his signature on the Atari cart to separate that work from other works just in case something went wrong. In doing so he would be able to protect the work enjoyed and deny work that failed.

#19 Scott Stilphen

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Posted 17 February 2017 - 05:56 PM



I hope to unearth something more on this, but Robert Conte mentions in the book's afterward that "months of research" weren't enough to verify it.  I agree - it'd be pretty cool to solve this mystery!

 Thanks.  I missed that.  It should have been mentioned somewhere -in- the book, and not -after- it. 

 

I also updated my comments about Pg. 164 regarding Atari paying "handsomely for the exclusive rights to bring Pac-Man to the 2600.”

I knew that wasn't true, and I tracked down comments about it from Steven Kent's "The First Quarter/Ultimate History of Video Games" books.  In them, according to a quote from Al Alcorn, Atari signed a deal with Namco in 1978 for $1 million that gave Atari the rights to all of Namco's arcade games.  Pac-Man (AKA Puck Man) didn't exist in 1978, and considering the success the game would eventually have, Atari paid far less than it was truly worth, and Atari also got Galaxian as part of the same deal.  Here's the quote from the book:

 

 

"Skip Paul and Ray Kassar told Joe [Robbins], "You go over to Japan and talk to Namco, but don't sign anything with them."  We [Atari] felt that they owed us money.

 
A week later Joe comes back.  He's had his picture in the paper, signing this deal with the Japanese and playing with [Masaya] Nakamura on a golf course.  He agreed to give them $1 million, and they got to renew their contract, but we got the rights to their coin-op games.  At that point they had no hits at all.
 
It was like Jack and the Beanstalk, and Joe came back with these worthless beans.
 
Well, one of those beans was a little game called Pac-Man.  In retrospect, it was the best buy of the decade, but at the time, I think it pretty much cost him his job."  - Al Alcorn

 

 
 
The deal would have covered Galaxian and Pac-Man - both of which were released in 1979.  So Atari had a good 2, almost 3 YEARS to port both games, and what we got was a lousy 4K port of Pac-Man, done in the 4th quarter of 1981, and finally released in March 1982..  VCS Galaxian wasn't released until a year after VCS Pac-Man, and even then was contracted out to GCC.  Atari had all the time in the world to do both, and didn't.  Makes me wonder how many games Atari licensed to port, and didn't for whatever reason (never assigned, forgotten about, etc).
 
Btw, the deal didn't cost Robbins his job, since he was with Atari  until 1982.  If anything, Robbins should have lost his job over the $50,000 Centipede contest fiasco (http://allincolorfor...h?q=joe robbins).  Alcorn was right about Namco not having any hits.  In fact, they didn't have much of anything at that point, other than Gee Bee.  How long (how many years) the deal was effective is unknown, but it didn't cover Pole Position, which was released in 1982, which was part of a different deal Atari made with Namco. 

Edited by Scott Stilphen, 17 February 2017 - 06:00 PM.

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#20 Scott Stilphen

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Posted 23 February 2017 - 10:31 PM

I received the Capsule book today.  It's only 119 pages, or 1/3rd as many as the original edition, and much smaller in dimensional size as well (see photo).  There's an abbreviated Introduction and image credit section.  All other sections were removed.  Basically all the book has are photos of boxes and packaging artwork for mostly VCS/2600 games and some 5200 games, with a few pages devoted to artists or 2-page spreads for ads and artwork.

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