Jump to content
Arenafoot

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

Recommended Posts

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The best part of this story is the marketing guy who pushed to not release it.  A few small changes would have made the game a lot better.  Black background, blue maze, for example.  And remove the eye on Pac-Man.  They do mention that a lot of other programmers thought it was a tremendous accomplishment on the 2600, and it is.  Especially when you consider it was Tod Frye's first game!  But that's the frustrating part....just a few small changes.....

 

One part I still don't understand is the lack of oversight at Atari.  It always seemed like the programmer didn't have to listen to any input from other developers or a supervisor.  The decisions they made went unchallenged.  I'm not sure if that's entirely accurate, but it seems to be implied in a lot of stories like this. 

 

This was a good read, and thanks for posting it.  :pac_man:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How would they have really known that though? Video games were still a brand new thing. These things were all being done for the very first time and this was one of the first times an arcade port of this importance had been done. Space Invaders was the first port of an arcade game that brought a lot of success to the 2600, and it was different than the arcade version.

 

You would think Atari's own play testing and focus groups would have resulted in a "Pac-Man that plays just like the real thing" but that wouldn't happen until the 5200. Because of that I say Tod Frye had more of a hand in the collapse of the video game market than Howard Scott Warshaw ever did.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Excellent read. I still enjoy Tod Frye's Pac-Man. Its the version that I grew up with. Sure it could have been better with a few more tweaks and some different design decisions but it is still fun for what it is.

 

Did anyone else ever use the B&W switch when playing? It gives it a different look.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was forced as a kid to play my Atari on a black and white tv. My parents fell for the rumors about screen burn. I tried to tell them that it only happened when you play a single game for hours on end. Never got to play in color until the 90s.

I gamed in B&W at home till '87 for this same reason.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was forced as a kid to play my Atari on a black and white tv. My parents fell for the rumors about screen burn. I tried to tell them that it only happened when you play a single game for hours on end. Never got to play in color until the 90s.

My parents relegated me to the basement TV for this same reason!  Initially, it was B&W, but they did upgrade to a "Sampo" 19" color shortly after.  I did get to put the 2600 on the big console TV upstairs once when I was really sick.  They took pity on me.  It was a rare snow day, and I wasn't allowed to go outside...so they let me game on the big tv instead.  I remember that day well.  A ton of Circus Atari was played that day. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Was this thing perpetuated because of the burning that happened on arcade units? I remember the tvs at my work had a permanent burn from the CNN ticker being on almost 24 7 so I think it's possible, but you got to play a lot of the same game in order to do it. My parents were like we spent all this money on a tv, not going to have it ruined over a game.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have to say that I was not immediately impressed with 2600's Pac-Man because I had the 5200 and 5200 Pac-Man.  So when I seen the 2600's Pac-Man it was disappointing visually.  Then I played it and immediately starting thinking about my Pac-Man at home.  Today I have the 2600 Pac-Man in my collection and I like it.  After that reading about the game I can appreciate the game more now.  Being a newbie 2600 developer at the time pretty much said it all.  Atari was also good at rushing projects so it is not surprising how many developers demonstrated their stuff only to have Atari release an unfinished product as finished.  2600 Pac-Man could have used a bit more polish but it is a good game...I just don't think I would have called it Pac-Man.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 Atari was also good at rushing projects so it is not surprising how many developers demonstrated their stuff only to have Atari release an unfinished product as finished.  2600 Pac-Man could have used a bit more polish but it is a good game...I just don't think I would have called it Pac-Man.  

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

pacman2600_8k_v5b.bin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.ataricompendium.com/archives/articles/pac-man_monsters_ghosts/pac-man_monsters_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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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/~scottith15/pac-man_monsters_ghosts/pac-man_monsters_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:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

 

http://www.ataricompendium.com/faq/faq.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:

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebr9caOVlaU&feature=youtu.be&t=12m25s

 

(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/forums/topic/229152-new-pacman-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.

 

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×