Is E.T. on Atari 2600 really that bad?

Reserved for classic gaming discussions.
Sut
Posts: 570
Joined: April 8th, 2015, 4:23 pm

Re: Is E.T. on Atari 2600 really that bad?

Postby Sut » June 3rd, 2016, 3:08 pm

Scotland and Gleebergloben123 Just wanted to post and say thank you for a very interesting and insightful thread. I have nothing to contribute other than to say it has been a enjoyable and fascinating read.

Gleebergloben123
Posts: 138
Joined: April 8th, 2015, 12:06 am

Re: Is E.T. on Atari 2600 really that bad?

Postby Gleebergloben123 » July 23rd, 2016, 6:15 pm

Was going to start a new thread, but thought I'd just continue here.

Has anyone here seen "Atari: Game Over"? I just finished watching it (I think on Showtime). It's about the ET cartridge dig in New Mexico. The film came out in 2014.

The story is about how many consider ET the worst game ever (it isn't), how it came into being, how it was developed, the effect that it had on Atari, and the subsequent land-fill dump of unsold ET cartridges in a New Mexico landfill.

Being a huge fan of Atari history (and gaming history in the 70's and 80's) I was psyched to watch the flick. Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari, plays a big part in this documentary, as well as Atari exec Manny Gerard, the guy who persuaded Warner to buy Atari. (Kind of odd that Bushnell plays such a prominent role in the flick as he left Atari in January 1979 and ET came out in October 1982). It was the the first time I ever heard either speak, and it was really cool to hear their insights.

The first half of the film was really interesting, but the second half was kind of smaltzy. Instead of letting the documentary do its work, the director opted for a forced nostalgic piece.

That being said, I'd suggest watching it. Cool look at Atari, the anecdotes, how ET came to be, and how people reacted to the game.

User avatar
VideoGameCritic
Site Admin
Posts: 11009
Joined: April 1st, 2015, 7:23 pm

Re: Is E.T. on Atari 2600 really that bad?

Postby VideoGameCritic » July 24th, 2016, 12:59 pm

Yeah I caught this on TV about a year ago and I LOVED it. It really provided some fascinating insight to what it was like to work at Atari back in the day. Highly recommended.

Gleebergloben123
Posts: 138
Joined: April 8th, 2015, 12:06 am

Re: Is E.T. on Atari 2600 really that bad?

Postby Gleebergloben123 » July 24th, 2016, 3:43 pm

VideoGameCritic wrote:Yeah I caught this on TV about a year ago and I LOVED it. It really provided some fascinating insight to what it was like to work at Atari back in the day. Highly recommended.


Agreed. I saw "Atari: Game Over" a couple nights ago. Scotland and I had a discussion in this thread about why Warshaw even decided to make ET in the first place considering the incredibly short time constraint, and I used the word "hubris" (before seeing the film), and Warshaw used that same word in the movie as to he made it. That made me smile.

But what was cool was hearing the stories and anecdotes. And I'll say it again, I was enthralled hearing Nolan Bushnell and Manny Gerard give their take. I've read so much about these two dudes, and hearing them talk for the first time was really cool.

If you haven't seen it, please seek this film out. You'll be glad you did.

Gleebergloben123
Posts: 138
Joined: April 8th, 2015, 12:06 am

Re: Is E.T. on Atari 2600 really that bad?

Postby Gleebergloben123 » July 24th, 2016, 4:35 pm

The movie also debunks the myth that ET is the worst game ever. Not even close. In the movie, one guy mentions how Fire Fly is so much worse.

VGC's grade of Fire Fly reviewed in 2004? F. And a pretty funny review to boot.

http://videogamecritic.com/2600ff.htm?e=81612#rev190

User avatar
scotland
Posts: 1864
Joined: April 7th, 2015, 7:33 pm

Re: Is E.T. on Atari 2600 really that bad?

Postby scotland » September 4th, 2016, 10:21 pm

Courtesy of this British gent, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwdOZjS6N4U, I learned that the ZX Spectrum actually has a port of E.T. the Extra Terrestrial. A port of the 2600 version. Well, mostly a port - actually an uncharitable person might say its totally a illegal copy, but let's not be uncharitable today.

Its called E.T.X. (as in Brand X, I guess). E.T.X. The Extra Terrestrial Xargon, 'made' by Abbex in 1983.

A review says
ETX Producer: Abbex, 16/48K £5.95
In 48K ETX speaks, though mostly what he says after the loquacious intro is ‘Ouch!’ ET is stranded on Earth searching for odd bits with which to construct a phone home. The bits are hidden in numerous wells. He’s pursued by a mad professor and a nasty from MI5 (or 6 or something). Only ‘young’ Ernie is nice. The game is charming to look at but a little puzzling to play since it seems impossible to escape the wretched professor. Program contained on both sides of the cassette. Joystick: Kempston.


Yes, Xargon, MI6, and Ernie (but where is Bert?), because this way no one would ever say Abbex, ahem, did not create this game totally themselves. I think the original E.T. on the 2600 is just 8k, so why the Speccy version is 48k might be due to the digitized sound of 'Ouch' and such. There you go, one more reason (if you needed one) to wish we colonials over here across the bright Atlantic had a Speccy too.

User avatar
Stalvern
Posts: 363
Joined: June 18th, 2016, 7:15 pm

Re: Is E.T. on Atari 2600 really that bad?

Postby Stalvern » October 8th, 2016, 3:30 am

I don't think that anyone genuinely believes that it's "the worst game ever"; it's just a convenient shorthand for an intersection of low quality and high exposure. It's like Plan 9 from Outer Space or the Ford Pinto - a turd that everyone happens to know about. If you asked someone, "Are you sure that it's the worst game ever?" they'd say something like, "Well, there's probably worse out there, but the point is that it's really, really bad."

And honestly, the worst thing about it might actually be how "good" it is compared to the genuine worst of the 2600's library. There are plenty of boom-era 2600 games that are just one screen with a couple flickering scribbles of sprites and no music, but that's not enough to hate; who would give half a crap about something whose own developer clearly didn't? When a game has several screens to explore and gameplay mechanics to work with and a beloved film's theme and still manages to do nothing fun with them, that's when people can work up genuine anger toward it.

User avatar
scotland
Posts: 1864
Joined: April 7th, 2015, 7:33 pm

Re: Is E.T. on Atari 2600 really that bad?

Postby scotland » October 8th, 2016, 9:34 am

E.T. being bad is not just about how bad it is as a game, but how bad it was for the industry.

The game is not the worst in the library, but that is not the standard. This was a high profile high production run release, and it was not what was expected. Not being what people expect is bad. If the next Star Wars movie is like Star Trek the Motion Picture, people are going to hate it, not because of what it is, but because of what they expect it to be.

Arcade action, whether a port or something inspired by arcade action like the Activision library was what people wanted. Heck, they could have made a game like Imagic's Cosmic Ark and called it E.T., and everyone would have been happy. No, the game was bad in many ways - gameplay is just one facet, and I think retrogamers focus too much on that. Sure, today, we all know what kind of game it is, and some ways to make the game more enjoyable. We understand it was slapped together in a short time...whatever, at the time, it was a bad game and bad business and we payed the price.

Overstock was one of the mortal wounds of the industry in 83. Those deep discount bins were short term gains for the consumers, but what about the retailers? If they could have returned the stock to wholesalers, they would have, but didn't. It was the retailers that must have taken a big hit. Wholesalers may also have been left with stock, but maybe they had better relations with the manufacturers. The manufacturers dumped stock in landfills. Everybody lost. There were probably others in the supply chain of manufacturing, not just Atari, that lost as well. It wasn't all E.T. or Pac Man's fault, or even Atari's or Activision's fault - the whole ecosystem was new. Yet it had dramatic impact.

So, when we ask was E.T bad, its not just about gameplay.

goldenband
Posts: 146
Joined: April 8th, 2015, 10:29 pm

Re: Is E.T. on Atari 2600 really that bad?

Postby goldenband » October 8th, 2016, 12:11 pm

I enjoyed E.T. plenty when it was released. As someone who has no real interest in chasing high scores -- and who lusted after the sophisticated 8-bit computer games of the 1980s that my family couldn't afford to buy -- having a game that was more like a flipscreen adventure was welcome. Even at a very young age I had no problem making sense of the gameplay, and it didn't take me long at all to figure out how to avoid (and successfully escape from) pits with little difficulty.

It wasn't one of my absolute favorites on the system, but it was fun, it took some interesting chances, and I liked it far more than the endless succession of mediocre arcade ports and copycat shovelware on the system (let alone cynical cash grabs like the Swordquest series).

I think a lot of the hate E.T. gets came from people who got a copy without the manual, who didn't bother to read the manual -- or, worse yet, who believe every game should be completely intuitive without a manual, and that needing to RTFM automatically means a game is bad. I couldn't disagree more with the latter, and am really indifferent to the opinions of anyone who thinks that way -- it's pretty much a disqualifier in my book, outside of joke reviews like the AVGN.

But it's not the game's fault if (for example) someone could only afford to rent it from a store that didn't at least include photocopies of the manuals. (If anything, companies have a real incentive not to cater to the rental/secondary market, and they can't be faulted for that.) And it's not the game's fault if someone's reading skills weren't up to the task of understanding the manual, either because they were too young or for other reasons.

And quite frankly, it's never a game's fault for not being something it's not trying to be. In this case, E.T.'s ambitions had more in common with Adventure or Riddle of the Sphinx than whatever people were expecting (a shooter? a platformer?), but with the added twist of needing to be nonviolent. But in all honesty, making a video game out of E.T. was a foolish idea to begin with, since either you were going to betray the property or end up with a style of game that almost no one liked (at least at the time; later on, console hardware was able to conjure enough atmosphere to make a non-violent adventure game more appealing).

Under the circumstances I think HSW did a fine job; any fault in the situation belongs to Atari, whose corporate arrogance at the time was legendary, and fully deserved the fate it met.

Gleebergloben123
Posts: 138
Joined: April 8th, 2015, 12:06 am

Re: Is E.T. on Atari 2600 really that bad?

Postby Gleebergloben123 » October 8th, 2016, 2:06 pm

Timing also played a crucial role. On December 7th, 1982, Atari released its quarterly financials which were way lower than had been expected. Warner, the parent company, saw its stock price drop an astonishing 35% in one day. This spelled the beginning of the end for the industry (until the NES came along in 1985.)

What does this have to do with ET? It was released just a few days earlier. People love a scapegoat or a symbol for such a negative event. Pac-Man was released for the 2600 in April 82. If ET had been released in April 82 and Pac-Man had been released early December 82, we'd probably be talking about how Pac-Man is the worst game ever.


Return to “Classic Gaming”