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Why was Karateka so bad?


Silver Back
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Karateka could've been a great action game for the 7800. It's computer counterpart seems to be a much better and more cinematic experience. Was a reason as to the poor quality for Karateka on the 7800 ever given?  I felt it could've been so much more. 

And although it never released, I cite Missing in Action as proof. It plays a lot like Karateka, especially in combat. And while changing between movement and fighting in MiA happen automatically, the combat feels like a better Karateka to me. 

Anyway, I feel that it couldn't of been technical limitations as to why Karateka was butchered. And I was just wondering if anybody ever heard anything about the port or it's development. 

As always thanks guys. 

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@RickR I agree about the controls. I swear the first time I played (and didn't get knocked out within seconds) I thought I was still doing something wrong. They felt completely unresponsive and broken to me.

But the missing in action unreleased 7800 uses essential the same controls, or a variation of them, and I feel that game is decent. 

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I haven't tried the other game.  But Karateka is a game of inches.  You have to move a step forward and attack and keep pushing your opponent backwards, then run forward when you knock them out.  The controls don't allow that precision. 

Or how about the bird attack...stop running, kick up, then keep running.  You cannot do this with those controls. 

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1 hour ago, Silver Back said:

Karateka could've been a great action game for the 7800. It's computer counterpart seems to be a much better and more cinematic experience. Was a reason as to the poor quality for Karateka on the 7800 ever given?  I felt it could've been so much more. 

And although it never released, I cite Missing in Action as proof. It plays a lot like Karateka, especially in combat. And while changing between movement and fighting in MiA happen automatically, the combat feels like a better Karateka to me. 

Anyway, I feel that it couldn't of been technical limitations as to why Karateka was butchered. And I was just wondering if anybody ever heard anything about the port or it's development. 

As always thanks guys. 

hi guys,

it started out as a apple port i think. and the controls are bad due to something in the 7800 o.s. i remember discussing this with atari decades ago. so i do not remember what it was, something to do with controls riding on top of other code, it slows it down.

lance

www.atarisales.com

 

 

VIDEO 61 & ATARI SALES
www.atarisales.com
22735 Congo St. NE, Stacy, MN 55079
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Thanks @Video 61. That's sort of what I was looking for! 

We all know that most people don't want to make bad games, but creating retail games is a business and there are contracts where you may have to make a game that your not experienced in, or maybe there's technical difficulties, or deadlines and ship dates that can't be pushed back. These are usually the reasons for bad games and I was wondering if this was ever discussed for Karateka. 

Again thank you for providing the information that you could remember. 

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I thought the original programmer posted something about this in the AA forums a few years back? Something to do with him programming the game in Forth and that was likely part of the issue but was the only option available to him at the time or what he was familiar with? I'd have to search the AA forums to look for it again but I never play the game. I remember playing it a little on Apple IIe's in the computer lab in 6th grade but never got that far in the game. Kinda like how I could never get past the 2nd screen in Conan back then and now I only get stuck on the 3rd screen these days LOL!

 

See what I'm up to over at the Ivory Tower Collections: http://www.youtube.com/ivorytowercollections

 

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I remember playing Karateka on the Atari 8-bit computer in my teens. The controls takes a little getting used to. It's different, I will say that. I have it for the A8 and A7800. I don't play it very often, but maybe I should try it sometime. Interesting game. Was Jordan Mechner the creator of Karateka? I think he was. He also did Prince of Persia.

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You'd think someone could improve the controls in Karateka for the A7800. It would be a nice thing to do. I wouldn't mind playing it if it had improved controls. That would be fun then. I did some research, and Jordan Mechner is the creator of Karateka. It's a cool game and I think it was remade in HD in 2011. it has better graphics and they look polygonal in appearance. It's on Wikipedia where I found that info. Pretty cool remake, and Jordan Mechner was in behind the remake's development.

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3 hours ago, Video 61 said:

hi guys,

it started out as a apple port i think. and the controls are bad due to something in the 7800 o.s. i remember discussing this with atari decades ago. so i do not remember what it was, something to do with controls riding on top of other code, it slows it down.

lance

www.atarisales.com

 

@Video 61 This is absolutely correct!! :wreck-it-ralph:

 

 

5 hours ago, Silver Back said:

Karateka could've been a great action game for the 7800. It's computer counterpart seems to be a much better and more cinematic experience. Was a reason as to the poor quality for Karateka on the 7800 ever given?  I felt it could've been so much more.

 

The answer is simple. It's because Atari allowed it to be. No "Atari Seal of Quality" or serious QA measures taken at that time, too many games shipped - that should have undergone another few rounds of testing. There is no game without control over it. Poor controls, lagging controls, poor controller hardware, it all adds up to a ruined experience. Atari should've been taking more acute action to assure crisp, responsive controls on EVERY Atari game for every Atari system before they ship out to store shelves. They could start with packaging the Atari 7800 with something far better than the CX24 Atari ProLine Joystick or even the CX78 Atari Control Pad.

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As has been already said, the control is awful.  I've always wondered it would be possible to hack the game to fix the issue.  The lag is horrendous and the control system is just not good.  It looks nice but that's about it.

🖖 Going to the final frontier, gaming...

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3 hours ago, Justin said:

 

@Video 61 This is absolutely correct!! :wreck-it-ralph:

 

 

 

The answer is simple. It's because Atari allowed it to be. No "Atari Seal of Quality" or serious QA measures taken at that time, too many games shipped - that should have undergone another few rounds of testing. There is no game without control over it. Poor controls, lagging controls, poor controller hardware, it all adds up to a ruined experience. Atari should've been taking more acute action to assure crisp, responsive controls on EVERY Atari game for every Atari system before they ship out to store shelves. They could start with packaging the Atari 7800 with something far better than the CX24 Atari ProLine Joystick or even the CX78 Atari Control Pad.

hi justin,

 

 same with crossbow on the 7800, there is lag time when using the light gun. lag time usually means the code has to be loaded to use it. i wonder why cracked was not a light gun game? it sure needed it. but the lag time may have been a killer to game play. as is, its almost impossible to play.

 

lance

www.atarisales.com

 

VIDEO 61 & ATARI SALES
www.atarisales.com
22735 Congo St. NE, Stacy, MN 55079
651-462-2500

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13 hours ago, Video 61 said:

same with crossbow on the 7800, there is lag time when using the light gun. lag time usually means the code has to be loaded to use it.

It's unreal.

 

15 hours ago, RickR said:

"Fight Night" is another with horrible controls.

YESS!! @RickR @Video 61 I remember seeing both "Crossbow" and "Fight Night" in the Sears Catalog when they were new (that I posted about here) and thinking they looked like great 7800 games. Five years later when I began my journey as a Classic Gamer, I got a new 7800 game from Lance that came with the poster inside, and got my hands on an "Atari Advantage" poster for the first time. So much of my early (pre-internet) Classic Gaming journey came from Brochures - finding "clearance" Atari games at Kay-Bee Toy Stores etc., opening them up and discovering those beautiful Atari brochures inside. I loved flipping through the pages as all of those lost memories came flooding back, and I learned more about some of these games for the first time. Atari didn't do much for the 7800 or 2600 in the later years, but the Atari Advantage posters were an exception for both. Looking at the back of the Atari Advantage poster, seeing all of the neat games for the 2600 & 7800 that I still had yet to get ahold of.

This is a case of "I remember remembering something about Atari", which happens often when I reflect on my early days in Classic Gaming circa 1993-1994. That was nearly 30 years ago, but even then, my original Atari experiences of the early-mid 80s' were already a decade in the past. So I have memories from 1993-1994 of remembering and rediscovering Atari things from the 1980s that I had totally forgotten about. "Crossbow" and "Fight Night" were examples of this. Of course I had never forgotten about games like "Asteroids", "Missile Command", "Space Invaders", "Ms. Pac-Man" and all of the pillar titles. But "Crossbow" and "Fight Night" were more or less lost memories and not top of mind.

I remember in 1993-1994 seeing the Atari Advantage poster for the first time, and remembering games like "Fight Night" and "Crossbow" being out years before. Even by then I had not played them. I thought "okay, so 'Fight Night' is the Atari 7800 version of 'Punch Out!' which should be awesome! And 'Crossbow' looks like a light gun game, probably a more mature, more arcade-like version of 'Duck Hunt' which should be awesome." Sadly I was disappointed with both. Graphically they looked pretty decent, but controls were NOT GOOD and I had one of those moments where I felt like "Yeah, I can see why everybody seemed to dump Atari for Nintendo, the NES games are so crisp and have great control and are fun to play". Oh well.

 

large.904472425_SearsWishBook-Atari7800ProSystem.jpg

 

You can see "Fight Night" on the left page and "Crossbow" on the right page, both for $29.97 from Sears. I think "Crack'ed" is another game that would've benefited greatly from improved controls / Light Gun. 

 

14 hours ago, Video 61 said:

i wonder why cracked was not a light gun game? it sure needed it.

@Video 61 Totally agree. I realize this would be copyright infringement etc. but I'd love to see someone release an improved / hacked version of Crack'ed to use the Light Gun, the same way others such as Thomas Jentzsch have released games like "Missile Command TB" for use with the Atari Trak-Ball.

The Atari 7800 experience should be at least on par with the NES, and improved controls and controllers are a big part of that. You see that on the hardware end with your improved 7800-Compatible Grip-Stik and CX-30 Evolved Paddle Controllers. Crisp, responsive control makes all the difference, it's our connection to the game!

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4 minutes ago, Justin said:

The Atari 7800 experience should be at least on par with the NES

Bingo!  And also on par with the SMS, which also had better controllers, games, and marketing than the 7800. 

I don't think Atari understood at all that some of these bad games could seriously HURT their chances of success.  You mentioned Fight Night vs. Punch Out!, which is completely fair.  If your game stinks and theirs is fun, DON'T release yours like that. 

I've said it before about 2600 Pac Man.  Sure it's ok and a decent game.  But it planted that seed of "is this the best this system can do?" that caused an Atari kid like me to move on.  Almost every other system (especially the 400/800) had a better version of Pac Man (or clone), so why am I still wasting my time with the 2600?  That was the thought process of 13 year old RickR at the time. 

 

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Wow great discussion. All these years later it would fantastic to see these improvements to games like Karateka (improved controls), Crack'ed (light gun support) and more. 

So many Atari games and products felt incomplete or rushed to me, at least in my adulthood.  As a kid I didn't think of video games as good or bad, because video games were fun and fun is always good. After playing Mat Mania Challenge (for example, and as an adult) I felt like they had the starts of a decent wrestling game, but instead of filling it out with a few characters or modes and tightening up the controls, they just shipped what they had. Or as said before, Crack'ed had interesting backgrounds and a lot of them, but no light gun support.  And it desperately needed light gun support because it doesn't play well without it. 

I wish he quality had been there for the 7800 but so much of it just felt like they pushed it out the door because they either needed money, or maybe they didn't care. If they had the business foresight to have an Atari seal of quality and great quality control, maybe the 7800 would be remembered alongside the NES or SMS, especially here in the states. But if I bring the 7800 up most people don't even want to talk about it because they consider it inferior to the rest. Which is why I started searching out these communities. 

Love reading all of your thoughts guys!

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1 hour ago, RickR said:

Bingo!  And also on par with the SMS, which also had better controllers, games, and marketing than the 7800. 

:pow: :nintendo_mario_fireball: :Nolan_Bushnell: E X A C T L Y ! ! ! :Nolan_Bushnell: :nintendo_mario_fireball: :pow:

THIS IS EXACTLY RIGHT @RickR!!! I've ALWAYS felt this way, and I loved the Sega Master System too! But I know how I felt as a kid when it seemed like Nintendo had this massive presence everywhere, and even Sega had really sharp marketing for the SMS, and Atari had nothing. They gave us nothing. "The Fun Is Back" commercial and that's about it. I spoke about this in my post about creating my own Atari 2600 / 7800 Strategy Guide in 6th grade as being a big reason why I felt I needed to create that. Atari wasn't supporting us with any marketing, any goodies, anything at all, even their most loyal fan base. I felt this way as a 5-8 year old kid playing 2600 & 7800, and later on in middle school when I began my journey in Classic Gaming. It's almost as though Atari were one giant liquidation sale not interested in seriously competing with Sega Master System or Nintendo.

 

1 hour ago, RickR said:

I don't think Atari understood at all that some of these bad games could seriously HURT their chances of success.

ABSOLUTELY!! With Atari, Inc. under Warner Communications, Atari got lazy and greedy with releasing games before they were ready or properly play tested. Both Pac-Man and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial could've been so much better with SIMPLE, MINOR CHANGES or just a little more time and effort - as shown with Nukey Shay's Pac-Man 8K hack which is spectacular! It's not like these were obscure games, Warner allowing all of these PILLAR TITLES to be released with little quality assurance really HURT Atari's chances of success.

WIth Atari Corp. under Jack Tramiel it was a different story. Jack was all about "Power Without The Price" and "Business Is War". Building a business on a competitive advantage of being a low-cost alternative is a valid one. Members Mark and Kirkland products at Sam's Club and Costco are one example of this. "Power Without The Price" may have worked to a degree with the Atari ST being a viable, lower-cost alternative to the Apple Mac. A "Jackintosh" we used to call it. However, I think taking that approach with their home video games SERIOUSLY undermined the success of all Atari home video game systems after 1984. Atari video games went from being the world's premiere name in video games, to being a bargain-bin discount off-brand. All of the big red bins at Kay-Bee toys filled not only with clearance 2600 games made from before the crash, but new 7800 games as well. Pricing the Atari 7800 at half the price of the NES and SMS, and making games that were half as complex HURT Atari's image. "Low cost off-brand" is what came to mind for many people during the NES era. They had made Atari the Kirkland of video games. I also don't think it helped that Atari continued the 2600 as long as they did. I can understand Warner's Atari coming up with a smaller, cost-reducing Atari 2600 in 1983, to be released in 1984, but Tramiel's Atari continuing the 2600 through the end of the decade and into the 1990s put old Atari 2600 games on toy shelves right next too the NES, SMS, even TurboGrafx-16 and Genesis. I love the 2600 but the average consumer would've seen a side-by-side comparison on the store shelves and would've decided that "Atari was old and outdated". Then, once that image was engrained in people's minds, Atari releases the incredibly gorgeous and magically advanced Atari Lynx at a price twice that of the Nintendo Game Boy. "Power without the price - but twice the price of Game Boy from the Kirkland of Video Games" was definitely one factor in the limited success of the Atari Lynx. NOT GOOD.

 

1 hour ago, RickR said:

I've said it before about 2600 Pac Man.  Sure it's ok and a decent game.  But it planted that seed of "is this the best this system can do?" that caused an Atari kid like me to move on.  Almost every other system (especially the 400/800) had a better version of Pac Man (or clone), so why am I still wasting my time with the 2600?  That was the thought process of 13 year old RickR at the time. 

This is spot-on. You're absolutely right. The wild thing is the Grass Valley guys who came up with the 2600 "Stella" went on to create the 400/800 to be the next generation Atari video game system to be ready by 1979. It would have been the machine to first have games like Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Asteroids and Missile Command, and it would've been what went up against the Intellivision and to a degree the ColecoVision. Sadly Atari saw an opportunity to make it into a computer and nixed the home console version all together. Imagine if instead of the 400/800, they had released a console version of the ANTIC technology first, in 1979, using the existing Atari CX40 Joysticks and CX30 Paddle Controllers, potentially a detachable add-on keyboard later on, and had gotten that system out before the 2600 exploded in popularity with Space Invaders. It would've been an entirely different story. Games like E.T. would've had more memory and on screen text. Games like Pac-Man would've been released as about the same graphically as the 400/800 but without the keyboard.

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I disagree on Crossbow. It was on the games I saw in the Sears catalogs back in the day that made me want the 7800 and as soon as I saw it available at my local Service Merchandise, I scrounged up the allowance and mowed lawns to get it. I was NOT disappointed with the game at all and used it as one of the showcase games for how the graphics were impressive on the system to my friends back then. But I never had the light gun because I never knew back then that the XE lightgun was the one to use and always expected to see a 7800 branded lightgun released. As a result, I only played this game with joystick controls and I actually find it to be quite responsive that way. I have tried to play the game with a light gun since, but the lack of accuracy did not sit well with me. However, Alien Brigade is pretty much a light gun required game as that is the only way I've managed to beat that game.

 

See what I'm up to over at the Ivory Tower Collections: http://www.youtube.com/ivorytowercollections

 

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20 hours ago, CrossBow said:

I thought the original programmer posted something about this in the AA forums a few years back? Something to do with him programming the game in Forth and that was likely part of the issue but was the only option available to him at the time or what he was familiar with? I'd have to search the AA forums to look for it again but I never play the game. I remember playing it a little on Apple IIe's in the computer lab in 6th grade but never got that far in the game. Kinda like how I could never get past the 2nd screen in Conan back then and now I only get stuck on the 3rd screen these days LOL!

 

Yeah, I remember that too... although it was more like 10+ years ago when he posted (dang I'm old)... The same programmer/company (Ibid) did Choplifter too... And it was just as terrible as every game listed in this thread so far... He mentioned how he argued with Atari on what colors were to be used and other menial tasks and things... It would have been nice to hear more from the guy but I think we bullied him away by telling him how much his games sucked... 🤷‍♂️

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3 minutes ago, CrossBow said:

As a result, I only played this game with joystick controls and I actually find it to be quite responsive that way.

That's a great point. I've usually played it with the light gun, but the controls always felt not as responsive as they should have. Were you playing using the CX40 Pro-Line Joystick? I'll have to give "Crossbow" another play from a fresh perspective using a crisp joystick.

 

4 minutes ago, CrossBow said:

It was on the games I saw in the Sears catalogs back in the day that made me want the 7800 and as soon as I saw it available at my local Service Merchandise, I scrounged up the allowance and mowed lawns to get it.

ABSOLUTELY, same here! I always loved that graphic of the volcano with the lava flowing from it. Even seeing it on the back of the poster made me think "WOW, Nintendo could never do graphics like this!" To be clear, I always thought "Crossbow" on the 7800 looked great, and it was an exciting game that came from the arcades that would make Duck Hunt and Wild Gunman "look like a baby's toy". But when I actually bought it and played it I thought the light gun felt sloppy, and the lack of responsiveness hurt the experience of the game for me.

 

6 minutes ago, CrossBow said:

But I never had the light gun because I never knew back then that the XE lightgun was the one to use and always expected to see a 7800 branded lightgun released.

Atari's fault. My point exactly. Did any kid know the XE light gun was supposed to work on the Atari 7800 also, or where to even find one? It did not look like it matched the 7800 AT ALL. They should've released the XE light gun in the red color as originally shown, then it would've appeared like an accessory for any Atari system.

 

7 minutes ago, CrossBow said:

I have tried to play the game with a light gun since, but the lack of accuracy did not sit well with me.

I agree. Again, Atari should've spent more time on the software end of things to tighten up this accuracy to be on par with "Duck Hunt" etc.

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The arcade version of Crossbow used a light gun, and maybe they should have considered packing the 7800 game with a themed gun.  Remember the excitement of Indy 500 and Star Raiders -- they came with controllers in those beautiful big boxes! 

Personally, I had no idea the game supported light gun.  I used the joystick on it, and it works pretty well. 

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The biggest take away is that profit and price was king under jack tramiel, and so many interviews of people who knew him or worked with him confirmed this among many other things. He hated to spend money and hated for anybody else to make money. Again, this is according to what I've heard and looked into.  In his mind low prices meant more sales meant more profit. 

What he didn't seem to consider, understand, or care about is that people want quality too. Ideal products to a consumer is low priced and high quality. But when it comes down to it, people would rather spend a little more for quality.  And he had the low price in the 2600 Jr. That could've been his power without the price system, his sedan if you will, and the 7800 could've been the companies Cadillac.

Learn to drive in the sedan, then get the Cadillac when your older and wiser. They could've promoted get the 2600, power without the price while you learn to game. Then get the 7800 when you know what your doing, and advertise it "BEST power for the price". Then you could've charged a little bit more, but put some of that money back into the product for pokey or Gumby chips, marketing, etc. 

Of course this is moot now but i just thought I'd throw that out there as a what if scenario. 

As far as Crossbow goes has anybody used the Sega light phaser with the adapter?  That's what my kids and I use and crossbow is one of their favorite 7800 games. And while we do sit closer to the screen than I normally would, that seems to work great!

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1 hour ago, Justin said:

That's a great point. I've usually played it with the light gun, but the controls always felt not as responsive as they should have. Were you playing using the CX40 Pro-Line Joystick? I'll have to give "Crossbow" another play from a fresh perspective using a crisp joystick.

Yes because I wasn't aware of any others to use back then? I don't remember them being an issue with me when I was younger but I really wouldn't want to use them now since I have other controller options available to me.

See what I'm up to over at the Ivory Tower Collections: http://www.youtube.com/ivorytowercollections

 

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https://atariage.com/forums/topic/36432-i-officially-like-karateka/

From Mike Feldman: "Jack Sandberg was the lead programmer on the Karateka and Hat Trick Atari projects. I believe Jon Turner was lead on Choplifter. I was their boss at the time and I remember doing the PC version of Hat Trick that Jack ported to the 7800.  As the leader of the team at Ibid Inc who did these games, all I can say is the specs were tightly controlled by Atari -- they bought the rights to the game and subcontracted the conversion out to us. There was no room to improve, change or modify. The Tramiels (especially Jack's son) kept us on a very short leash.  I do remember that we had to create the development environment from scratch. We had had a lot of experience with C64s and Apples so we were familiar with the 6502. At that time, we wrote most of our stuff in Forth. This gave us the advantage of being able to develop debug on a PC and then port the results to the Atari. Forth is fairly portable and has the advantage of easily integrating with assembler code. The final product was probably mostly assembler, but the main control loops were written in Forth.  I vaguely recall having some kind of card that plugged into the cartridge slot that allowed us to download stuff our binaries and we also burned eproms and mounted them into blank cartridges. We also had a PAL 7800 and a PAL TV with some adaptation so it worked on US current.  I do not remember the work on these games as enjoyable. The environment was difficult, the 7800 is a pretty limited machine and the client was equally difficult. I clearly remember one trip out to Silicon Valley (we were Hartford based) where Len Tramiel spent an hour yelling at me because he didn't like the shade of blue used in the Choplifter sky."

I have some more info about Karateka on my site: http://www.ataricompendium.com/game_library/easter_eggs/7800/78karateka.html

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