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What are the real facts behind Pac-Man’s 2600 development?


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#21 Scott Stilphen

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Posted 22 November 2016 - 09:08 PM

I wrote an article about this years before that book came out, where I detailed the history of when the monsters in Pac-Man became ghosts.  Here's a copy of the article:

 

http://www.ataricomp...ers_ghosts.html

 

 

The authors of that book took issue with it because it didn't jive with their pre-conceived assumptions.

 

 

Cool story. The guys who wrote that book can be excessively pompous to the rest of us though. If you don't know every detail of every story or you don't bow down to kiss the ring.... or say you'd like a refund for something you paid them $200 for in 2010 and never received.... then they talk down to you like you're a meaningless nothing of a person. Whip out an old Atari id badge though and it's a different story.

 

Yes, yes they are.  But more than that, their book is full of incorrect information, which I mentioned a few examples of in my article.


Edited by Scott Stilphen, 02 January 2017 - 03:43 PM.

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#22 Atari Creep

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Posted 27 November 2016 - 04:00 PM

Great read, all around!!!!


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Don't just watch TV, PLAY IT!


#23 Justin

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Posted 28 November 2016 - 05:47 AM

Thank goodness we now have the right version that Atari should have released  :pac_man:.  .  .  .  .  .  .  

 

Pac-Man 8K might be the best Atari 2600 game ever made. DINTAR816 has given the world a gift. Excited for V7.

 

Albert Yarusso posted a video of Tod Frye (original 2600 Pac-Man game designer) discussing Pac-Man 8K. A few things stuck out about this interview to me. Really makes you think:

 

 

 

I wrote an article about this years before that book came out, where I detailed the history of when the monsters in Pac-Man became ghosts.  Here's a copy of the article:

 

http://home.ptd.net/...rs_ghosts1.html

 

The authors of that book took issue with it, because it didn't jive with their pre-conceived assumptions.

 

 

 

Yes, yes they are.  But more than that, their book is full of incorrect information, of which I mentioned a few in my article.

 

Fantastic article Scott  :emoji-E420:  I like the idea of ghosts as monsters. It plays well with the ferocious ghost monsters in Hiro Kimura's unused artwork for Atari 2600 Pac-Man, shown in Art of Atari.

 

blog_art_of_atari_review_7.jpg

 

 

 

Great read, all around!!!!

 

Agreed  :100:


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#24 Scott Stilphen

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Posted 04 December 2016 - 11:57 PM

There's some info about Frye in the VCS FAQ:

 

http://www.ataricomp....html#general25

 

Frye has contradicted himself more than once, especially when it comes to specifics. But generally, he wasn't rushed with making VCS Pac-Man (Atari signed the licensing deal for it sometime in 1980, well before the game became a huge hit) and all the design choices were his and his alone. Frye is a very good technical programmer, but not one for making games that were interesting or having a lot of replay value. The fact is, VCS Pac-Man is atrocious. Most of his VCS games were either never released (Aquaventure, Save Mary) or finished (Ballblazer, Shooting Arcade, SwordQuest AirWorld, Xevious). Even his Atari 8-bit computer Asteroids is clunky. The one SwordQuest game he did finish and release (FireWorld) was a disaster, along with the whole contest. He actually never understood why people flipped out over the fact the tunnels in his Pac-Man were on the top and bottom, instead of the sides, as the above video shows.  And that's the essence of why his games (especially his arcade conversions) really aren't anything special. Todd wasn't a gamer, he was a programmer. To him, making games was simply a project to be completed, like making a deck. You get some boards, you put some posts up, and you nail all the boards together. Pac-Man was a maze game with dots and tunnels and 4 enemies, so he made a maze game with dots and tunnels and 4 enemies:

 

 

 

(jump to 12:25 to hear his comments about Pac-Man)

 

In his mind, it was "Mission Accomplished". Making the game look or sound even remotely close to the arcade version simply wasn't a priority of his, and yet... that was the first thing everybody noticed before they even played it. And of course once they played it, they realized it had even less in common with the arcade game. Nobody expected it to be as good as the latest homebrew version (http://atariage.com/...for-atari-2600/) but there's been several hacks and homebrews in the last 15+ years to prove a better version could have absolutely been done with only 4K, so there's really no excuse for why it's so bad other than he was the wrong person for the job.

 

 

  I like the idea of ghosts as monsters. It plays well with the ferocious ghost monsters in Hiro Kimura's unused artwork for Atari 2600 Pac-Man, shown in Art of Atari.[/quote]

 

Yep, Hiro's original artwork makes perfect sense since he depicted them as monsters and not ghosts :)


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#25 dauber

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Posted 08 December 2016 - 12:46 PM

FTR, Jr. Pac-Man and Professor Suck-Man were not Namco games but unauthorized Midway creations.


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Supernatural, perhaps...baloney, perhaps not.


#26 Scott Stilphen

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Posted 08 December 2016 - 06:39 PM

Neither was Ms Pac-Man (though Namco and Midway were consulted by GCC over a few aspects of the game)  ;)  They're still Pac-Man games, though.


Edited by Scott Stilphen, 26 June 2017 - 01:45 PM.


#27 Lost Dragon

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Posted 09 December 2016 - 03:49 PM

Bit late in reply to this one, but again, simply fantastic info all around here.

 

 

Very interesting to read:

 

Frye has contradicted himself more than once, especially when it comes to specifics....

 

 

Different coder here, but last night Luca (Unseen64) and myself chatting about Argonaut's Jez San...topic got onto fact he hardly ever does interviews these days and it would of been nice to learn more about what was dropped from ST Starglider...

 

 

I said i'd personally not bother trying to ask Jez, not only because of sheer amount of time passed, but also he's contridicted himself   

a number of times over the years...

 

 

1st telling Edge he never did any Jaguar Projects, Argonaut knew when not to take risks, then suggesting Creature Shock (Jag CD might well of at least been started, in much more recent Retro Gamer Mag.interview)..time you throw in Darryl Still (Atari UK's) comment Atarti couldn't pin Jez down, ie he wouldn't commit to converting game to Jag CD, your left to various ex-Argonaut sources to suggest inital work was at least tested, but soon abandoned.

 

 

Jez himself, not the best source to ask.

 

What was worse in said RG interview, is where Jez says the Genesis was a pure 2D machine, despite it having the same 68000 CPU featured in the ST and Amiga, conversions of polygon 3D games from these to Genesis (F-15 Strike eagle II, Mig-29, Corporation, Hard Drivin, F1 World Champ., Kawasaki Superbike etc) let alone likes of F-22, M-1 Abrams, LHX Attack Chopper etc...

 

 

 

 

Yet the magazine would tell you that the had THE exclusive interview, spoken to the man best suited to answer etc etc and in fact he'd be the worst...

 

 

Yet if you pointed that out, you'd be shouted down by the team.

 

The UK Lynx sales figures, the UK Writer emailed me to say had to be true as Marty G himself had proof read them and magazine was not allowed to print incorrect claims, utter nonsense.

 

 

I'm more than happy to go along with the well researched and structured information presented here, as it builds a very solid case.


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#28 Scott Stilphen

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Posted 25 July 2017 - 11:09 PM

Just to reiterate some of Frye's contradictions:

 

Development - has claimed:

6 weeks - as quoted in the book, Racing The Beam (pg. 67)

5 months - as quoted in the April 1998 Next Generation article

6 months - as quoted in the documentary Stella At 20 -  (12 min in)

 

4K vs 8K - in the same Next Gen article, Frye mentioned 8K ROMS weren't available when he started programming it.  VCS Asteroids came out in July/August 1981 and was the first 8K VCS game released.  The bank-switching technique was developed (but not put into production) 2 years before, for Video Chess.  In this thread (http://atariage.com/...rom-1982/page-8), Goldberg claims to quote Tod from a Facebook conversation they had regarding the story about him being offered use of an 8K ROM for Pac-Man, which is something Rob Zdybel said happened in Once Upon Atari:

 
Goldberg: Were you offered to move to 8K for Pac-Man towards the end of coding for it?
 
Frye: Nope. 8k wasn't even an option until after Pacman coding was complete.  I did have a meeting after Pacman came out, to assess the possibility of a quick revision with less flicker, if we used 8k as an option.
 
Goldberg: So where did the claim that you originally asked for 8K come from?
 
Frye: It came from thin air. I never considered 8k. rom was not really an issue. ram was.

 

Popularity - Frye also stated, "Pac-Man wasn't a particularly big game.  'Pac-Man fever' hit between the start and the finish of the project."   PuckMan was released in Japan in May 1980 and the Midway Pac-Man version in October 1980.  Working backwards, VCS Pac-Man came out late March 1982, and production took a good 10 weeks (2.5 months, so Tod likely finished it no later than December 1981 (since the game's copyright date is 1981 which reflects when programming was completed).  Go back 5 months at most for programming, so let's say he started no later than July 1981.  So since October 1980, Pac-Man wasn't a huge hit by the following summer?  A friend of mine remembers the Tomy and Entex handhelds coming out almost immediately together and Coleco's arriving quite a bit later (all in 1981).  Can't find any release date for Odyssey2 K.C. Munchkin; it was definitely out by January 1982 (it was reviewed in the March 1982 issue of Electronic Games), and possibly a few months before that.  Also, Buckner and Garcia's song was released December 1981 (and the album in January 1982). 

 

Colored background - In a keynote from the 2015 Portland Retro Gaming Expo, Frye states he wish he had made a black background with a blue maze, but claims Atari had a rule against black backgrounds because it would have burned the maze into the CRT (apparently this rule didn't apply to space games...).  This makes no sense since Atari touted the anti-burn-in effects of the VCS from day one, plus Tod included the color cycling code routine in his Pac-Man game!  And I've never heard any other Atari VCS programmer state such a requirement, either.  The story I heard back then was that Pac-Man had a colored background and muted colors, to help make the flickering monsters less noticeable (and they were relabeled as ghosts because of their flickering, which was more logical to accept than having flickering monsters).

 


Edited by Scott Stilphen, 07 August 2017 - 12:25 PM.

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