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Classic Games (Games)

The Making of Ghostbusters on the Commodore 64 89

Posted by Zonk
from the how-to-run-a-business-empire-on-ectoplasm dept.
Next Generation recently began running content from the respected British gaming magazine Edge, and today they're sharing The Making of Ghostbusters. The article is a look back to a barely-remembered but (for the time) forward thinking movie tie-in for the Commodore 64. Instead of a lame 'action' title following the movie's plot line, the game was set in the world of the Ghostbusters, and allowed players to build a financial empire through ghostbusting. "Crucially, for a game with so many parts - driving, simple resource management, shooting and trapping ghosts - the pieces snapped together well, and the money-making, business-upgrading elements gave the game a lasting replayability. Activision's Ghostbusters is polished, intelligently-paced, and suggests a measured and meticulous development approach: something which wasn't the case at all. 'A typical C64 game took nine months from start to finish,' laughs David Crane, the game's designer. 'Ghostbusters took six weeks!' Crane is one of the most prolific developers of the early videogame era. Creating titles such as Little Computer People and Pitfall made him Activision's star programmer."
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The Making of Ghostbusters on the Commodore 64

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  • waaay to difficult to pick up category for me. I only managed to drive around, until I got tired of it and skipped to the next game.
    • by SQLGuru (980662)
      Actually, it took me just a little while to figure it out.....but then it took me only a little while longer to get bored with it. Capturing the ghosts was pretty much patterned. And then you'd get the Stay-Puff guy...and....and....and....

      Seeing that it only took 6 weeks to make, I now realize why it was so patterened.....they must have made a mint with it, though. With a dev cycle that short, and "free" marketing just by the name.....at least it was slightly better than most movie tie-ins.

      Luckily, I was
      • by Skater (41976)
        Yeah, it was a good game, but too easy.

        The way it handled your account was pretty neat, though - you'd get a code that you'd punch in next time you played (on any copy of the game). But as you said the difficulty didn't really increase so after two or three cycles it didn't matter.
    • by v1 (525388)
      I played this one on the Apple II and it was fairly entertaining. Not sure why you would have such a hard time with getting some action. All you had to do was drive to any house that was flashing (indicating it was being haunted) and trap the ghost. Take ghosts back to GBHQ and go get another. Rinse and repeat.

      There were quite a few options you could get, but bait was basically required. If you didn't have bait and the marshmallow alert went off staypuft would trash a building and you would get charged
      • by Wolfrider (856)
        You mean that this time, the goggles actually DID something??

        +1 FTW! ;-)
        • by v1 (525388)
          At least on the apple ][, they were "image intensifier" goggles. With them the slimer was easy to see and was animated the same as the men. Without the goggles, the slimer was only drawn lightly, and very intermittently, as a flicker around on the screen. He frequently disappeared for several seconds at a time. It was still possible to catch him without the goggles, but they definitely made it easier. You ony had one shot to trigger the trap, and if you missed, one of your men got slimed. Strictly spea
  • by macz (797860) on Friday May 11, 2007 @12:50PM (#19085483)
    Simple games with builtin psychological rewards always do well. Taipan is a good example of this... empire building is a classic videogame meme.
  • by Devir (671031) on Friday May 11, 2007 @12:52PM (#19085519) Homepage
    It brings back memories of driving the ghost busting mobile down the streets and capturing ghosts. building and customizing the car and people for better catching was amazing back then. I'm feeling old now.
    • That game was a lot of fun. You could get a Beetle, station wagon, the hearse, or a sports car to drive around. Then it seems like there were add ons for each car that I don't remember what they did.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lazerf4rt (969888)

      It was an awesome game, but very challenging. I remember finally getting the hang of it after a few weeks. You really had to think fast to decide where to drive to next, around the city.

      I remember the marshmallow man would show up, too... What did you have to do with him again? I think you had to place a bait somewhere so he didn't smash a building.

      I also remember listening to the intro sequence for 30 mins straight, watching that bouncing ball. That was some fantastic C64 music!

    • by shikadi (1100921)
      The best way to play the game is to get the pink sports car and the ghost vacuum and then loop through the city sucking up ghosts as you drive. Unfortunately it's a bad strategy for winning since you need to make a lot more money then to have a profitable franchise.
      • by madprof (4723)
        The best way to make money was ALWAYS the station wagon, making sure you were totally kitted out and then being quick with picking up the ghosts on the way into Zuul while you got to teh next place late in the game.
        After that it just became a little boring. I got to $128,000 and stopped playing but up until that point it was awesome.
    • by torqer (538711)
      This game and the Transformers C64 game are some of my earliest, and best, video game memories
    • by makellan (550215)
      This was a great game at the time. I played the Apple II version for months. Figuring out how to bypass the marshmallow man was by far the most difficult part for me as I didn't recognize that there was a door behind his feet. Graphics limitations have always plagued video games, whether the player is stuck trying to figure out what some arcane symbol means that is eventually determined to be a door, or a pattern repeats too often or too well and you miss a hiding spot in a modern FPS.
  • 6 weeks?! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Friday May 11, 2007 @12:52PM (#19085529) Homepage Journal
    Ghostbusters took six weeks!

    And that was one of my favorites back on the C64. It was very addictive. This really shows it's the overall creativity and playability that matters most in a game, not necessarily the complexity or graphics.

    Interesting coincidence that it's posted on the same day as someone from Microsoft belittling the Wii for its lesser graphics and simplicity. Doesn't make it less fun!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I agree. Some of my favorite games are 5-10 years old. Are the graphics mind blowing? no. But the graphics don't make the game. I wish modern game makers would quit making graphics laden games with no plot, no strategy, no replayability. Most new games won't even run on a middle of the road PC... (unless you count turning every single graphics option down to "low" - but at that point you've just thrown out most game's only redeeming feature.)
    • Interesting coincidence that it's posted on the same day as someone from Microsoft belittling the Wii for its lesser graphics and simplicity. Doesn't make it less fun!

      Funny, though, that this game is the one that finally made me jealous (game-wise) of my friends with C64s... and it was because it had great gameplay AND good graphics. Until then, I was quite happy with the PET2001, since there plenty of text and ASCII games that kept me content (never mind writing my own games in BASIC, which was perhaps

    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by madprof (4723)
      Although in those days the sound was amazing. The speech bit really blew me away as a kid.
      Listening to the Spectrum version made me realise how lucky I was to be a Commodore owner.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by j00r0m4nc3r (959816)
      "64k of memory should be enough for anyone."
    • by hal2814 (725639) on Friday May 11, 2007 @01:37PM (#19086605)
      Yeah, 6 weeks is impressive. Too bad Atari didn't have this team working on ET.
      • by dan_bethe (134253)
        Too bad the E.T. you're talking about was made for Atari 2600 with 128 bytes of RAM and all, rather than a state of the art complete home computer system five or so years later.
        • by vrmlguy (120854)
          Then it's too bad Atari didn't have a band of time traveling ninjas to kidnap this team and have them do E.T.
          • by dan_bethe (134253)
            Well they did one better... Stephen Spielberg and my buddy John O'Neill worked on "E.T. Phone Home" for Atari home computers!
            http://www.mobygames.com/game/et-phone-home [mobygames.com]
            I hear it's alright.
      • Team, nuthin' David "Pitfall" Crane pretty much *was* the programming team (well, apart from the intro sequence!)... But yeah, if he'd done the 2600 version of ET, it would have been much better, seeing as Pitfall was up there among the best for the 2600. I remember being jealous of the C64 version... The Speccy version was pretty crappy in comparison. Andrew
        • by macshome (818789)
          Hah! Software is for wimps! Remember Woz coded Breakout by himself, in freaking HARDWARE.
  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Friday May 11, 2007 @12:59PM (#19085671) Homepage Journal
    Man, did I ever love this game back then! I still fire up the C64 or SMS emulators every so often to replay it. A full-page ad for the game, torn from some computer magazine, had a place of honor among the posters on my wall.

    The game gets a bad rep nowadays, usually because of the botched NES port made by a team of crack-smoking monkeys, but the original will always be one of my all-time favorite computer games.
  • Time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Applekid (993327) on Friday May 11, 2007 @01:24PM (#19086297)
    Six weeks, eh? I suppose this was back when games were simple enough where all developers had to be intimiately familiar with the hardware and code Just Worked(tm).

    All the work done in code patterns and abstractions seem to have distanced developers from the metal. It's a necessary evil in some aspects (since the actual C64 hardware was always exactly the same so some safety stuff could be glossed over), but I've always wondered how some of the greats (like Crane) would have fared had they grown up 20 years after they did.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blincoln (592401)
      I've always wondered how some of the greats (like Crane) would have fared had they grown up 20 years after they did.

      I think they'd have an easier time of it now in some respects. As many computer nerd points as it may earn you to be able to code in assembly, it's a lot easier to write software when you have access to things like arrays and for/next loops instead of building them yourself out of e.g. register checks and jump commands.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ClosedSource (238333)
      "I've always wondered how some of the greats (like Crane) would have fared had they grown up 20 years after they did."

      You make it sound like Crane and all his peers are retired or dead, but we're not.

      As a former Atari 2600 programmer (although unfamous and less accomplished than Crane), I can tell you that today's challenges are just different from the ones we faced back then.

      For the 2600 we had to have very precise timing (sometimes to an accuracy of 1 CPU cyle) in our display routines, but we never had to
  • There's something you need to type in the beginning to get the Ecto1. I forget what it is, but it gives you like near infinate cash, and buying stuff in the beginning was like the most fun part.
    • by antime (739998)
      There was one code that gave you the maximum amount of money you could have, but as you had to have more money than what you started with when the gatekeeper and keymaster met this meant you couldn't complete the game.
      • by Cybrex (156654)
        In theory you could, as long as you somehow managed to make back what you spent on equipment. As long as you skipped the super high performance vehicle in favor of the ambulance used in the movie you could buy all of the other bells and whistles and pretty easily turn a profit by the time Gozer showed up.

        Good times...
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by antime (739998)
          This particular code really made the game unwinnable. Dunno if it was a bug or by design, but the code gave you $1000000 but you could not earn more than $999999 and therefore you couldn't repay your loan and automatically lost. I was rather young back then and played a pirated copy without instructions, but it still took me an incredibly long time to realize this. After switching to another code I at least got to the tower, but I still never managed to complete the game.
    • by Jerf (17166)
      IIRC, the game used a password system to store the amount of money you had for the next playthrough, and I'm pretty sure it was an encoding of the amount into letters, not a "level password".

      Thus, there's a lot of things you could type to get a lot of money; again IIRC, it doesn't take more than four or five playthroughs to be able to afford everything you want at the starting screen, and any money after that is just bragging rights.
  • Game Remake (Score:2, Interesting)

    by substance2003 (665358)
    I used to love this old gem. Took me a while to get the hang of it I remember.
    Was pretty amazed to discover that someone made a remake of the game for Windows.

    http://files.filefront.com/Ghostbusters/;6357091;/ fileinfo.html [filefront.com]

    I didn't enjoy it quite as much but that's because somethings seem different than what I remember of the game play. Anyone else try this remake? Would love to get opinions on this.

  • a lesson for today (Score:5, Interesting)

    by acvh (120205) <geek.mscigars@com> on Friday May 11, 2007 @01:49PM (#19086863) Homepage
    "First, if you want to design a game around a licence, you have to be very careful. The best strategy is to design an original game that would stand alone even without the licence. Our original theory was that a licensed game should be a great game first, and a licensed game second. The success of the Ghostbusters game reinforced our belief - that was clearly the right way to go."

    if only others thought this way...
  • 'A typical C64 game took nine months from start to finish,' laughs David Crane, the game's designer. 'Ghostbusters took six weeks!'

    Anyone else read this as...
    "We sold this game at full price to marks who bought on brand name only and then laughed all the way to the bank. Thanks - suckas!"

    (Long story short, I think the "license the movie tie-in and then release the cheapest game you possibly can" mentality is still out there and has never gone away.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by julesh (229690)
      No, not really. I read this as "the guy we got to develop it was incredibly talented." Not least because this game (or at least the Spectrum port of it I used to have) stands out as a substantially above-average quality game for the period.
  • by 1019 (262204)
    I played the hell out of the Sega Master System version was I was younger. Looking at the videos of the NES port, I'm glad I had what I did, that looks horrible.

    I think it's high time for the next-gen systems to come out with a present-day port! The concept would still be fun, I think, a lot of solid gameplay ideas ripe for using again.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I think it's high time for the next-gen systems to come out with a present-day port!

      Here, check it out.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghostbusters_(Xbox_36 0_video_game) [wikipedia.org]

      There are a few in engine action vids circulating around YouTube.

      Now here is where a clamp down on Copyright would be good. This movie is over 20 years old. Why does one need to license the material to make a game about the movie world? As long as they stay away from trademark issues, then they should be good without having to pay a license
  • by illumin8 (148082) on Friday May 11, 2007 @02:19PM (#19087391) Journal

    Creating titles such as Little Computer People and Pitfall made him Activision's star programmer.
    Wow I remember Little Computer People [wikipedia.org]. This was an amazing game for it's time. It was like the Sims, only about 10 years before the Sims ever was released. The god complex you got from playing this game was amazing. I used to delight in torturing the poor little guy. It was very funny to watch.
    • David Crane is one of the most important people in the gaming business. He invented the god simulation and puppet simulation with LCP, the Sims would have been nowhere without him. He and not Myiamoto invented the jump and run genre with Pitfall, Myiamoto can be credited to the first jump and run game with sidescrolling.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday May 11, 2007 @02:29PM (#19087587)
    Back then, you played a game longer than it took the people that made it to code it!

    Today, you can already feel lucky when you get a week of fun for every manyear invested.
  • Heh... I remember some earlier interview where he talked about it as an example of a game you couldn't do on the Atari 2600.... but then later I saw a fairly decent port. (To be fair, they may have been having bigger ROMs to work with by then...)
  • Where's the making of Zak McKracken? Now that was a sick game, possibly the best C64 game I have played. My uncle used to have hundreds.
    • by Sancho (17056)
      Zak McKracken was absolutely fantastic. I particularly love self-referential humor, so I really loved finding the gasoline on Mars. Fun game, even if I had to call the hotline to figure out one piece of it (grr).
      • Yea the game had some weird humor to it that I loved. We had a pirated version so when you had to start flying places and needed to refer to the manual for some ATM code or whatever we were screwed. Shortly after though we got an Amiga, which had a cracked version where you could enter any code and it would work. And then I advanced to like the amazon and mars and other things, tough to remember. I think everybody needs to try Zak McKracken.
  • Next Generation running an article on the making of a C64 game.

    "A little too ironic...and, yeah, I really do think...
    It's like RAIIIIIIN.."

    Hooray for Fridays!
  • Cheat mode: Use the name 'GOO' and the password '11111111' to start with plenty of cash if you're impatient.

    The opening of the game had digitized speech (!) and bouncing ball lyrics of the whole movie theme ... Really a great job.

    --
    Slashcode bug # 497457 - unfixed since December 2001 - Go look it up [sourceforge.net]!
  • I remember playing the Apple II port a ton when I was a kid. Great game.
  • Conglaturation!!! You beaten a great game

    Now I see why it only took 6 weeks
  • The article is a look back to a barely-remembered but (for the time) forward thinking movie tie-in for the Commodore 64.
    Just because it was a computer game, and not a Nintendo/Sega game, it's not fair to call it a "barely-remembered" title. It was one of the big hits of the year it was released, and was constantly referred to as an example of how to do a movie tie-in.
  • by PixelScuba (686633) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @08:43AM (#19094985)
    HRR SRIMED MRREEE!!
  • Just imagine what Duke Nukem Forever will be like!
  • It was written for a wide variety of consoles [wikipedia.org], including the Atari 2600 [atariage.com]!
  • So it's basically Ghostbusters Tycoon, eh?

    Sweet. The thought of minimaxing the tech development and customization of the blinking light ghost trap (as opposed to the positron collider* backpacks) such that, by the endgame, I can open one trap and suck down the nimble mynx in a 1-shot, makes me drool more than discovering a home video of Jessica Simpson and Shakira drinking a little too much, if you know what I mean.

    * I know nobody has actually collided two positrons yet, with physicists thinking electrons
  • Angry Videogame Nerd [cinemassacre.com] tackled the ghost busters games in a 3-part video series...
  • ... to create a C64 game? That's probably because back then there were about 3 guys involved in making the game! Not like the 100's we see making the games of today :-)

    east coast models [eastcoastmodels.co.uk]

All life evolves by the differential survival of replicating entities. -- Dawkins

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