Super Pacman easter egg

Don Hodges found an easter egg that I’d left in the Atari 400/800 version of Super Pacman.  link   Here’s my response to him:


Oh, lordy.  I’d forgotten that was still in there. 

At one point the code at that address did put up a message or something. 

Super Pacman wasn’t a really hot conversion title at Atari (I suspect it didn’t do all that well in the arcades, either).  I had serial marketing types who were put in charge of it; they would show up once and I’d never see them again.  This probably had a lot to do with the many, many layoffs happening all over Atari, but especially in Marketing: My theory is that the people most prone to being booted out were given SuperPac as a kind of “Well, they can’t do too much damage with that title until their number comes up.” 

The one marketroid that I did see more than once came to me with what he thought was a great, original idea: “Why don’t we put a . . . what do you call them, uh, ‘easter bunny’ in the game, then people can have fun finding it.” [He really didn’t know the term.] 

“Easter egg.” 

“Right.  And we can tell people that it’s in there, and it’ll be a big mystery, and it can do something flashy, and maybe we can have a contest or something.” 

And I couldn’t think of anything to put in.  To tell the truth, I was pretty burnt out (and this was like April or May of ’84, with layoffs happening literally every two weeks), and my heart wasn’t really in it (I had some personal things going on – girlfriend-moving-to-Minnesota type stuff), and I drew a blank.  So all I did was to repurpose some display code I already had around, and stuck that scrolling message in.  91BD was supposed to do something more interesting (I dunno, maybe a shower of pacmen or ghosts or something), but I didn’t finish it up. 

Also, once you have permission, nay, /orders/ to do something, it’s not that much fun any more.  Suddenly doing an easter egg flipped from being something hidden, a secret way to sign the work and get credit, to a product feature that would be reviewed by other people.  And I probably still wouldn’t get credit. 

So, yet another lame easter egg.  The DK one I can blame on having essentially no ROM space left to do anything interesting with; this one you can put squarely on my shoulders – a lack of imagination, zero enthusiasm, depression, and a lack of “by sticking in this secret easter egg I’m poking a virtual finger in The Man’s eye.” 

I think I’m proud of /everything/ in SuperPac except for that stupid easter egg.  Ironic, innit? 

[Brad Fuller did the sounds on that one.  He did a fantastic job.]   

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6 Responses to Super Pacman easter egg

  1. Allan says:

    Disappointing but it’s nice to know the real story. It still doesn’t change the fact that Super Pacman was one of the best arcade conversions done at Atari. It’s to bad it never saw an official release.


  2. I always enjoy reading your posts that talk about your past work back at Atari. Takes me back to a simpler time 🙂

  3. Gary says:

    I love reading your posts! I’m especially fond of the Atari related ones! But they are all excellent!

    So… thank you, thank you, thank you!!

  4. Steve says:

    I love stories about lame marketing goons, so this one has happy ending for me. “Easter Bunny”. that’s a spit-take moment right there.

  5. C'est moi says:

    Quick question. Roughly how long did an 8-bit game take to develop?

    I’ve been trawling the blog to see if you’ve answered this but I’m coming up blank. I swear I read something that mentions development time. What prompted the question was loads of interviews I read today about 16-bit game dev (Amiga and ST) and all(*) the programmers said it was from 6 to 9 months work for a programmer (full-time) and a graphics artist (part-time).

    (*) And I mean all. It seems to have been the accepted norm.

  6. landon says:

    I did Donkey Kong in about five months; started late October 1982, out the door in March. The last 3-4 weeks were bug fixing and sitting around waiting for Q/A to do their stuff. This was an unusually short amount of time for our conversion group.

    I think it took Judy about 7 months to do Robotron. Donkey Kong Jr took about ten months and they fired the first programmer for incompetence (he wasn’t making progress for a /long/ time).

    Super Pac-Man took about nine months, and I felt that I’d had a leisurely time at it. It felt about right for a sustainable pace of development.

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