So, posting this as a quick rant to how technologist’s might come off to others. Since I’m being quick, this will be bloated. Sorry
This guy writes a story about the E.T. game, and how bad people thought it was, and changes to the ROM which make it better. He comes across as trying to be neutral, but that falls apart immediately.
Tech people tend not to be able to see or understand others’ viewpoint or, worse, don’t want to understand others’ viewpoint
The first hint you’re dealing with one of those “tech types” is the “I never understood why.”
I suppose everyone is susceptible to Confirmation Bias, but this is a tell-tale sign. “I know what I think. I’ll handpick some references to support what I’ve ALWAYS KNOWN.”
Another thing that caught my eye was this little bit under the download section. “If you don’t know how to use a hex editor, or if you’re just lazy,…” Hey, how about a third option of, “it’s not worth my time or effort to do this shit”? It’s a classic techie dichotomy. If you can’t, I will do it for you. If you can, then something must be wrong with you.
Tech people present things from their own viewpoint; if you don’t get it, something’s wrong with you, not them
Skipping over the quick cheat sheet of Hex code to patch the ROM, we go to the section on why people hated the game. Do we get any actual reasons why it was hated? No. In fact, we get the opposite!
When it was released, it was well ahead of its time. It pioneered a lot of concepts that we take for granted in games today, but were unheard of in 1982 […] While that seems like a great list of features, players in 1982 weren’t prepared for that much change. You really needed to read the manual to understand the game and how to play it. As younger children were the primary audience, it’s no surprise that it wasn’t well received.
So, the game itself was fine; it was the players that were broken! Brilliant! We’ll gloss over the fact that it was a game meant for children, that apparently required a thorough study of the manual before it was understood. Maybe the author is right and the game was ahead of its time. What actually matters is that it wasn’t for the people that would actually be playing it. Would a car given to medieval peasants be worth lauding?
Oh, and he lists a title screen as an advancement. Sheesh. Some of the other points are fair, but the fact remains, the game was unplayable to the intended audience.
So, we’ve established that he feels the game was fine, and the actual problem was unsophisticated players that didn’t do their homework. What about people that don’t like the game even now, after all those advanced features had been established?
My favorite techie answer appears in his list of reasons why people STILL HATE the game:
The game seems incredibly complex. This isn’t a real problem. Once you learn how to play, it’s really very simple. You just need to read the manual, or watch a tutorial video, to understand it.
MY GOD! It’s christmas morning, 1982. You are 8 and open E.T. and want to play. You can’t because the game is a piece of shit (and that book that’s still in the box goes unread because really guy? really?) I admit, I read manuals religiously before using things, but I know and accept that most don’t, and when I design, i design for this reality. The designer of E.T. failed.
This is the epitome of the “Clear Only if Known” fallacy. “Oh, it’s simple once you know how to do it”. NO. SHIT. And how, pray thee tell, do I get to knowing it if I can’t fucking figure it out to start with?
Technically correct; the best kind of correct
This is the part that really got me enraged and ready to write this mess.
The myth: A lot of people blame poor collision detection for this problem. That is simply not true. The collision detection in E.T. is perfect. There are no bounding boxes like in more modern games. Collision detection happens at the pixel level. You can’t get any better than that. If you fall in to a well, it’s because your player character visually overlaps it.
The actual problem: We don’t want pixel-perfect collision detection!
Let that sink in for a minute. First, he states what people perceive… that the collision detection on pits is broken. Then he says it’s literally “perfect”. And not broken at all. Then he says the solution is … get this … to handle the collision detection COMPLETELY DIFFERENTLY. And the fix is to not do it at all like it was originally implemented. If that isn’t the definition of “broken”, what is? Oh, that’s right… technically speaking, the collision detection is pixel perfect. BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT LITTLE JOHNNY WANTS TO HEAR ON CHRISTMAS WHEN HIS FUCKING GIFT DOESN’T WORK THE WAY HE WANTS.
When someone says a computer-y thing is broken, they almost always mean, “I expected this, and it did that.” Technically-minded people tend to think what someone says means exactly the same as if they said it.
We’ll ignore that Figure 1 actually has him say that the hit detection in the game will have E.T. fall into holes when his head (not feet though) overlap a hole and that it’s a “bad thing”. But, remember, it’s not poor collision detection!
The rest of the page talks about the registers and kernel changes to make the game actually work. The conclusion is laughable.
It turns out that E.T. isn’t a bad game after all. With a few simple changes we were able to dramatically improve an already good game by eliminating the most common complaints. With a few additional changes, we were able to clear up any confusion for players who care about the score, and were confused by the differences between what the manual claims and what actually happens in-game. Next time someone tells you that “E.T. for the Atari 2600 is the worst game ever made” you can tell them that this is not the case. It’s been fixed, and you know how.
I’ll be sure to let them know.
Now, back to the regularly scheduled content…