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The Misleading World of Atari 2600 Box Art 267

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the all-hail-marketing dept.
Buffalo55 writes "These days, you don't have to worry about misleading box art, thanks to sophisticated video game graphics. In the 70s and 80s, though, companies tried to grab a consumer's attention with fancy artwork that bore no resemblance to the actual game. Atari, in particular, was one of the biggest offenders, particularly with its 2600 console."
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The Misleading World of Atari 2600 Box Art

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @10:25AM (#33355816) Journal

    In the 70s and 80s, though, companies tried to grab a consumer's attention with fancy artwork that bore no resemblance to the actual game.

    You mean your box didn't have pages of perforated LSD blotters in the back of the manual? You got fleeced.

    • by jekewa (751500) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @11:15AM (#33356616) Homepage Journal

      Owning and/or having mates that owned almost all of the consoles of the era, I was keenly aware of the romance novel approach to cover art. I longed for the day when graphics in the game would match or exceed the package (and sometimes still do). I used to get by, however, by falling back on the imagination built as a younger child playing with Legos or other similar representations of near-real life. The blocky representations of characters and objects were abstract due to technical limitations, but by applying imagination to fill in the gaps, the sprites and geometric shapes would flush out in my head to be what was needed to make the experience enjoyable.

      No LSD required.

      • Re:Missing Contents (Score:5, Interesting)

        by fractoid (1076465) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @11:45AM (#33357132) Homepage
        You know what really annoyed me? Not the games (where at least the picture kinda represented what they would be aiming at if they had modern-era graphics). It was the spreadsheets. And the compilers. And the goddamn word processors. All of those had crazy 3D raytraced covers that made them look like they were the real-life incarnation of Neuromancer... and what they were was a text-mode office application. GAH!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Hoi Polloi (522990)

        I could say the same about album covers back in the lp days. "Hey, hot chicks, fire breathing demons...omg this album is awful!"

      • by SethJohnson (112166) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @04:49PM (#33362244) Homepage Journal
        Here's an anecdote to support your assertion:

        I once met a fellow at a party who told me that when he was a small child his mother was single and they had to bounce around from cheap motel to cheaper motels. For him, the Atari 2600 game, Breakout, was pure escapism. He had read every bit of text on the box about how the paddle you control is really a space ship and it is trying to destroy a cosmic cloud barrier that has trapped the ship with all its passengers. This fellow even had constructed a space helmet out of cardboard which he would wear while playing the game. He would often stay up late at night playing and so his mother could sleep in their small hotel room, he would drape a blanket over the television and himself to block the glow.

        The story he told me climaxes when he said one night the fire department came banging on their motel room door. The whole building was being evacuated. The boy, his mother, and the other residents were instructed to stand on the other side of the street opposite the motel. A landslide had weakened the foundation of the building. As they stood out there in the night, they watched as the motel slid down a cliff into the ocean. The boy cried as he watched, in his words, "his whole life being destroyed in that landslide." He meant that his Atari 2600 with Breakout had been lost.
  • by RogueyWon (735973) * on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @10:27AM (#33355860) Journal

    I never owned an Atari 2600, but I remember the same phenomenon on the C64. Box art was usually colourful and cartoony. Very few games (at least until you got to the tail end of the C64's popular life span, when you had games like the Creatures series) could come even close to living up to this. It was a good lesson at an early age that you should never take promotional material at face value.

    I also remember the loading screens you'd get on the C64 while loading the game from tape (a process which would take several minutes and often fail before the end). These were generally just as "dishonest", though they were at least limited by the display resolution. In fact, worse than that, I remember one particular game where the box description actually told outright lies. It was a top-down racer (think Super Sprint) where the box text advertised weapons, oil-slicks etc, none of which were actually present in the game. I later found out that this was a semi-infamous title (in the UK at least); a sort of 1980s equivalent to Big Rigs Over the Road Racing.

    Mind you, misleading box-art continued for quite a lot longer. X-Wing was a fantastic game, but I do remember being a little disappointed by the contrast between the movie-quality box art and the slightly sparse polygon graphics in game. That said, if I remember correctly, some editions of the first two Wing Commander games actually used screenshots for their front-cover art (or can somebody correct me on this - the screenshots may have been "touched up"?).

    Even today, it still goes on to some extent. Ok, the differences are probably less pronounced. Box-art still tends to save screenshots for the back cover, but this is usually clearly for stylistic reasons (in fact, the trend seems to be towards box art that is simpler and sparser than a screenshot would have been). But we still get plenty of cases of "touched up" trailers, pre-rendered cutscenes shown at conferences with the implication that they're game-play footage and so on.

    • We've all been subjected to so much false promises it's now part of culture. People expect, demand, massive promises, don't buy the product if it's not flaunted as an outright miracle, and don't complain when it ultimately doesn't fulfill expectations. It's established business practice, called marketing and advertising, and those who master it are rewarded with lots of money and prestige. Enforcing an actual, 100% fulfilled, do-as-you-say in the marketing business would mean practically a revolution. No
      • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @11:07AM (#33356514) Homepage
        To be fair, with 80's and 90's box art, we knew the graphics would look absolutely nothing like the cover, so it wasn't really dishonest.
        • by h00manist (800926)
          I clearly remember looking at it and knowing full well it was false, but that I could tell that it was attracting me to pick up the box and want it. I remember feeling tricked, and wondering what the actual game would be.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by xaxa (988988)

            I clearly remember looking at it and knowing full well it was false, but that I could tell that it was attracting me to pick up the box and want it. I remember feeling tricked, and wondering what the actual game would be.

            Could you just turn the box over? Almost all my games (which were for the Acorn Archimedes, and published around 1988-1994) have a nice picture on the front, and actual screenshots on the back.

          • >>>I clearly remember looking at it and knowing full well it was false, but that I could tell that it was attracting me to pick up the box and want it. I remember feeling tricked

            Ditto. Even now I see this beautiful picture on the front of a Windows 7 box, but the reality falls far short. ;-) But seriously: I don't know who did Atari's art but I always thought it was cool. The other art from Commodore, Mattel, Coleco was kinda "blah" but Atari box art always looked unique. Like the Star Wars po

      • by SomeJoel (1061138)

        We've all been subjected to so much false promises it's now part of culture. People expect, demand, massive promises, don't buy the product if it's not flaunted as an outright miracle, and don't complain when it ultimately doesn't fulfill expectations. It's established business practice, called marketing and advertising, and those who master it are rewarded with lots of money and prestige. Enforcing an actual, 100% fulfilled, do-as-you-say in the marketing business would mean practically a revolution. No more smiling hotties in car ads on empty roads, show traffic, stress, and endless expenses with insurance, parking. Lots of accident statistics, pollution. Just imagine the ads for junk food. Cavities, no nutritious properties, vastly overpriced and unhealthy salt-and-fat-and sugar based, fattening and artery-busting food. It implies deep changes in advertising profits, marketing, production, communication companies, culture.

        That's true. Another example of this is "just a buck" value items where they show some guy with a dollar bill buying the $1 item. At the end of the commercial, he's eating at a table with 3 or 4 of the items. This doesn't even take into account that sales tax applies to just about every item advertised that way. So the guy with the dollar bill, in real life, wouldn't even be able to afford one of the advertised "just a buck" items that he is enjoying.

    • by causality (777677) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @11:08AM (#33356526)

      I never owned an Atari 2600, but I remember the same phenomenon on the C64. Box art was usually colourful and cartoony. Very few games (at least until you got to the tail end of the C64's popular life span, when you had games like the Creatures series) could come even close to living up to this. It was a good lesson at an early age that you should never take promotional material at face value.

      Marketing is based on deception and considers it an important tool. This is nothing new.

      It's like when a toothpaste brand says "9 out of 10 dentists recommend it!". In reality they may have interviewed hundreds dentists in groups of ten, over and over again, until they finally found a group of ten out of which 9 preferred their brand. What they strongly imply but do not actually go so far as to claim is that their group of ten is a representative sample of all dentists. Because they do not actually make this positive claim, they escape any accusations of false advertising. Yet it's quite misleading.

      It's the same deal with the box art. They do not actually print "this is an in-game screen shot" yet they count on creating that impression. The intent behind this is clear enough.

      This should be called "The Misleading World of Marketing" that happens to use the Atari 2600 as an example of a much wider phenomenon. Like politics and public relations, marketing is a field that is very attractive to liars who can say anything with a straight face while performing just enough CYA to perpetuate their ability to do it. Maybe "How to Turn a Pathological Personality Disorder into Profit" would be a better title. I don't think the general public has enough appreciation for the fact that making demonstrably false factual statements is a very crude and inefficient way to deceive someone. The state of the art in those fields is far more advanced than that, relying instead on framing, subtle implication, emotional appeals, misleading use of statistics, selective presentation of information, etc.

      • I've heard this story many times, about how Atari, Intellivision, Coleco, and Commodore box art was misleading but I think it's ultimately silly.

        Nobody at the time actually believed they were getting a colorful cartoon instead of a lo-res 160x240 blocky game. We knew what we were getting, and besides the screenshots were *on the back of the box* or in the Atari Age magazine. We consumers knew what what we were getting before we got it, and yet we still wanted it. So what if Dig Dug looks like a mess of w

      • Someone who's in marketing recently told me this story, which demonstrates the most important aspect of marketing: target audience selection. Disclaimer, before I continue: marketeers don't usually go this far.

        You pick a random stock. You then send a letter to 4000 people saying this stock will rise, and a letter to 4000 other people saying it will fall. Wait two days, see what it does. Divide the 4000 people who got the right prediction into two groups of 2000.

        Pick a new random stock. Tell 2000 people it'l

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Quirkz (1206400)

      Even today, it still goes on to some extent.

      Oh man does it ever! To harp on the most disappointing game I've ever purchased: Transformers2 for the PS2 has movie-quality art on the front, and looks like utter crap when you play. (The PS3 version is downright stunning, though. I thought the robots looked nearly as good in the game as in the movie.)

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @10:28AM (#33355872) Journal
    You know how many sugar laden pitchers of Kool-Aid I drank waiting for a massive jolly anthropomorphic red pitcher to burst through the side of my house?

    And all I ever got was diabetes. Misleading advertising indeed.
    • by toastar (573882)

      You know how many sugar laden pitchers of Kool-Aid I drank waiting for a massive jolly anthropomorphic red pitcher to burst through the side of my house?

      You must of gotten some bunk kool-aid.

    • by eln (21727) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @10:36AM (#33356012) Homepage
      It could have been much worse. That giant anthropomorphic pitcher actually did burst through my wall. The entire side of our house caved in. The dog sustained a massive head injury from a flying brick and hasn't been the same since. My left arm was shattered, and my sister suffered compound fractures to both legs that prematurely ended her dancing career. That fat bastard pitcher just stood there with that self-righteous grin on his face while everyone was screaming and crying.

      We tried to get some kind of legal remedy, but let's just say you'd be amazed at how many lawyers can be bought with the proceeds from selling sugar water. Please, if you must drink Kool Aid do so outside and away from any structures. To this day I shake uncontrollably every time I see some kid drinking Kool Aid near a brick wall.
    • You know how many sugar laden pitchers of Kool-Aid I drank waiting for a massive jolly anthropomorphic red pitcher to burst through the side of my house?

      OH YEEAAHHHH!!! [jokes.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by hesiod (111176)

        That's worse than goatse, tubgirl, and lemonparty combined. Dane Cook standup? You are one sick bastard.

    • Mod parent up-- informative!

      I remember standing in the front door of my grandparent's house yelling "Hey! Kool-aid!" over and over, waiting for the exact same thing. They were baffled, but let me tire myself out. I think I was 5 or so.
      • by xaxa (988988)

        1. Put a sachet of powder on your tongue
        2. Add a shot of vodka, shake it around and swallow.
        3. ...
        4. Repeat until you start talking to walls.

        (I've never made a profit doing this.)

  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @10:29AM (#33355890)
    Mostly through concept art and cinematics presented as teasers to the customers, allowing them to erroneously believe this will be actual gameplay.
    • by ZaMoose (24734) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @10:37AM (#33356024)

      Penny Arcade coined a term for this: bullshot [penny-arcade.com].

      Still as relevant today as it was in 2005.

      • Still every bit 100% relevant every time you see a racing game demo where the camera spends too much time showing the car racing towards the camera rather than inside the driver seat or hovering above the car facing the road ahead.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          This is a complaint I've made many times. What I recently discovered is that once I started playing a photogenic racer, I was spending a significant fraction of the time watching the replays because they looked so cool. I've softened my stance about racer marketing since then.

    • by Pojut (1027544)

      I can't stand it when I go on Gametrailers and I see "OMFG WORLD EXCLUSIVE TRAILER FOR ::INSERT AMAZING GAME HERE::"...and then it ends up just being a CGI cutscene, with ZERO gameplay shown. Yes, Dragon Age 2...I'm looking at you, you fucking clod.

  • by suso (153703) * on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @10:29AM (#33355900) Homepage Journal

    I think it was more funny to pick up C64 games and see the words "actual C64 screenshot" during the late 80s when some game companies would put the Amiga screenshots on C64 boxes. I still see people referencing this phenomenon as a joke these days.

  • I liked it. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lectoid (891115) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @10:32AM (#33355948)
    I don't know. I really liked the box art. I think it helped make the game more than just the blocky pixels you saw on the screen.
    • Re:I liked it. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tverbeek (457094) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @10:53AM (#33356288) Homepage

      If they had shown actual screen shots, no one would have bought the things. ;)

      But seriously, in those days I saw the box art as similar to the painted covers on the paperbacks I was buying: a visual to feed your imagination, showing what the characters and setting "really" looked like. I didn't expect the latest Asimov or Niven book to be fully illustrated comics, and I didn't expect Atari or C64 games to be fully-rendered movies.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        They did have screen shots. Every Atari 2600 game I bought had awesome cover art on the front, and a some screenshots on the back. The Activision Anthology [gamespot.com] GBA cart reproduces the box art for each game. If you have a GBA (or DS), I highly recommend it. Great collection of classics.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @10:33AM (#33355964) Homepage
    This sort of thing was common even through the early 90s for computer games. People understood that the graphical level on the boxes wasn't anywhere near the level of the games. It is misleading to call this sort of thing misleading.
    • Calling this stuff misleading is like calling an illustration on the cover of War and Peace misleading. It's not like you'll get to see that exact image by reading the text in the book.
    • "Everyone knows" is the phrase tossed around when people comment on how an actor or actress looks in a photo shoot or on a movie poster. Kiera Knightley has been photoshopped more than once and commented on it, http://www.ministry-of-information.co.uk/blog1/keiramanip.htm [ministry-o...tion.co.uk] They like to endow her with a breast size nature didn't and one she won't use surgery to obtain. From presenting perfect complexions to lightening the skin of black female celebrities; especially Beyonce; we are bombarded by what mark

    • by kingduct (144865)

      In other news, people were heard complaining that the letters F A B I O look nothing like the hunky guy on the cover of their romance novels...

    • This sort of thing was common even through the early 90s for computer games. People understood that the graphical level on the boxes wasn't anywhere near the level of the games. It is misleading to call this sort of thing misleading.

      Gamers understood, but the deception wasn't aimed at them. As a child, I remember being gifted crappy games quite a few times because the non-gamer adults thought I'd like it based on what was on the box art. "This looks really cool, I'll bet my son, nephew, grandson, will like it!"

      The parents are the one with the money, so they were the ones that needed to fooled.

  • by suso (153703) * on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @10:34AM (#33355978) Homepage Journal

    If you remember video card boxes in the 90s, they always seemed to be starving for metaphors for faster speed. First a hot rod, then a plane, then a space ship. They finally just ended up putting some Aboriginy guy on the cover. I didn't know they ran that fast.

  • Ah yeah... (Score:2, Informative)

    by grub (11606)

    Remember that game The Black Hole? Based on the Disney movie? They had the goatse guy on the cover. I remember starting the game up and thinking "Hey, where are the hands?"

    Maybe I imagined that.
  • My favorite box art of the 80's was "Star Raiders" for the Atari 400/800 computers. It bore only an abstract resemblance to the game. I could waste a whole day playing that game. I'd love to see a faithful update to Star Raiders.

  • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @10:37AM (#33356030)

    Do you think gamers 30 years ago expected photorealistic games? If the game was well written, the screens became more than just a smattering of blocky pixels, in the same way that a cardboard box could become an impenetrable castle.

    I love modern technology, but it seems to be feeding a growing segment of the population with no desire for creativity or imagination. Read a book, people!

    </getoffmylawn>

    • I love modern technology, but it seems to be feeding a growing segment of the population with no desire for creativity or imagination. Read a book, people!

      Or at least go play Dwarf Fortress. That's probably the only 'modern' game that I know of where the ability to construct a mental 3D view of the world from 2D slices is essential to success.

    • Read a book, people!

      Books are even worse :
      You got a nice cover with a pretty picture, but once you open it, there's nothing else than lots of tiny letters everywhere !
      That's definitely misleading !

  • Remember (Score:5, Informative)

    by cdrguru (88047) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @10:43AM (#33356120) Homepage

    That artists that created the box art were often working several months in advance of the game being finalized. That pretty much means that they had the conceptual drawings by someone that were given to the developer and computer artists rather than an actual game.

    So they had no idea what the game might look like. The programming wasn't done yet.

    As someone that worked on a couple of 2600 games that were released under the Parker Brothers label, I can assure you that the boxes were done long before the code was completed. And the box production people were simply not interested in looking at what had been completed. We were in different parts of the country.

    Incredible as it might seem, this is how software publishing works. The manual get done before the code is done. The artwork is conceptual because it has a significantly longer lead time. Marketing materials are approved and printed weeks before the gold master CD is burned. Everyone has a schedule and deadlines and stuff has to be done pretty much the way it was planned or it looks like something that was put together by a couple of high school kids after school.

    Sure, it would be nice if everything could wait for the highly flexible and iterative development process to complete before committing to graphics for advertising. Except you would miss the big presentation at the trade show and nothing would get sold to the distributors, meaning nothing gets sold to the retailers. So everyone gets to go home and the furniture gets auctioned off along with the computers, phones and pretty posters on the walls. Yup, been there and done that as well for some people that didn't understand how the process works.

    • I'm glad you were good enough to mention the artists, since it seems they never get the recognition they deserve. Some of the artwork they produced for Atari is exceptional. Unfortunately, much of this work has disappeared, either thrown away or stolen by people at Atari. Among the creators of the "Atari look":

      Cliff Spohn is a talented and sought after portraitist of real people, sports figures in particular.
      http://www.artworkoriginals.com/JAAAAAOU.htm [artworkoriginals.com]

      Steve Hendricks also usually focused on portraiture and

  • Novels are also very guilty of this. They're just freaking words, not even crappy pictures! Quite a ripoff. I want to SEE the tits, not read about them. (Yeah, yeah, I should go to the magazine rack. Not the point, people.)
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Quite a ripoff. I want to SEE the tits, not read about them. (Yeah, yeah, I should go to the magazine rack. Not the point, people.)

      Oh, how quaint. Old fashioned glossy magazine porn. Do people still use analog porn? I figured the internet would have put most of those out of business.

  • Game Over (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mccalli (323026) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @10:46AM (#33356182) Homepage
    Anyone remember the 8-bit game 'Game Over'? Now that was misleading, even though they mimicked the box 'art' in the title screen. Gained notoriety for being the first box art needing to be withdrawn and redone (well, in the UK at least - not sure about anywhere else).

    Here's [mobygames.com] the game in question. Look at it, then click the title image. Yep, that's what you think it is. Then click on the gameplay images bottom-left. Err....hmm.

    Cheers,
    Ian
  • by AdamTrace (255409) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @10:48AM (#33356206)

    I remember buying Ikari Warriors for the PC, way back in the day. The box had killer screenshots... the game looked exactly like the arcade game!

    I loaded it up, and was met with horrific 4-color (white/black/cyan/magenta) graphics.

    http://www.giantbomb.com/ikari-warriors/61-1619/all-images/52-164216/1029683900_00/51-803378/ [giantbomb.com]

    When I looked more closely at the box, it had small print that said something like "Arcade-version images shown. PC images may be different", or something to that effect.

    I was pissed. :(

    • by RogueyWon (735973) *

      Oh god, I remember that. Ikari Warriors came bundled with the first PC we ever had in our household (a then-top-of-the-line 286 12mhz). CGA graphics and PC speaker sound effects in all of their glory. I took one look at it and went back to my C64. Funny, really, that PC gaming felt so far behind the curve compared to the C64 at the time. I'm trying to remember when that changed; I guess Their Finest Hour (WW2 flight sim) was probably the first PC game I played that was clearly beyond anything the C64 could

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      I loaded it up, and was met with horrific 4-color (white/black/cyan/magenta) graphics.

      Man, I haven't seen cyan and magenta on screen in years. That's hilarious. :-P

  • You know I have the same thing when I go to a restaurant. The picture of the burger looks oh so good but when I get it, it's just a smushed crap sandwich in a wrapper.

    • by rotide (1015173)
      You've made a mistake. You're calling McDonald's/Burger King/Wendy's/etc a "restaurant". You've misled.. yourself.. Now if you want a good tasting burger that looks like it does on the menu, go to Red Robin (if you're lucky enough to have one nearby!).
      • by Locke2005 (849178)
        They're not "burger joints", they are "preprocessed food disk vendors". See, the problem is your unrealistic expectations.
      • You consider a Red Robin burger to be good... Wow!
        You have obviously never eaten a good hamburger.
    • by Quirkz (1206400)
      I've always wanted to do a website called "the real sandwich" which would compare the advertised product to what you actually receive. I've been too lazy to do it, though. Recently stumbled across a site called FoodIRL ( http://foodirl.com/ [foodirl.com] ) that does the same thing, though it's woefully sparse.
  • by ShannaraFan (533326) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @10:49AM (#33356228)

    Back then, you filled in the missing content with your imagination. These days, nobody has one anymore. Games (and movies) have to spell out every little detail, leaving nothing to the imagination. Remember seeing the Balrog on film? Was that what you imagined it to look like when you read the book? Wasn't what I had pictured, but I can't read the book now without seeing it the way it was depicted in the movie. Kinda sad, in a way.

  • Screen shots of the graphics back then wouldn't sell the game (especially not in the case of unsavvy parents and grandparents buying the games for their kids/grandkids), so they usually designed box art that was attractive and evocative of the title. Many of them were really well done, and remember that that was in the days before Photoshop and Illustrator. Whoever owns the rights on those images should sell enlarged reproductions-- they'd probably do okay among the nostalgia crowd.

    If you wanna talk mislead

    • Exactly. Think about the art on the sides of the big arcade consoles. Few (if any) of them used only game graphics. The graphics sold the experience. The games stood on their own. I, for one, loved many of them, including Atari's "Dungeon" (was that the name) wherein the dragons looked like wierd ducks. The Raiders of the Lost Ark game was great, too, even if the graphics were blocky. Prior to that, there was Pong, and prior to that we had some (imo) lame hand-held football games. Heck, Activision's
  • Plenty of TV commercials show nothing but cutscenes and not actual game play.

  • Cap guns (Score:5, Insightful)

    by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @11:07AM (#33356510) Homepage
    And the cap gun you bought at the toy store didn't shoot real bullets. Before the age of computer photorealism, there was imagination.
  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @11:10AM (#33356554)

    It had a color picture on the cover.

    Yet inside there were just black letters on white pages bearing no resemblance to the scantily clad lady on the cover.

  • You think that's misleading, how about the awesome box art... for a text-based role playing game.
  • Not Just Atari (Score:3, Insightful)

    by StikyPad (445176) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @11:16AM (#33356620) Homepage

    Atari? Try Infocom, or any of the other less established companies that produced text adventures into the early 90s.

    Which isn't to say that I take exception with this practice; on the contrary, it's an example of why box art needn't accurately represent the contents. The art was simply something to admire, like the dust sleeve of a sci-fi novel. In some cases it added to the overall effect of the game; in others it added to the mystery. And back in the age of a prepubescent internet, genres were less rigid and reviews of a given title could be much harder to come by, so each new game purchase was almost always a mystery.

    Of course, there was also *zero* expectation that a game would resemble the cover art back then. Everyone knew this and for the most part nobody cared. These days, a CG scene on a box (or TV commercial) could reasonably be construed to represent the game content, and a variance between the two could therefore be seen as misleading, or worse.

    Still, I've always been told that you can't judge a book by its cover, and packaged software, while typically (though not always) sold on a medium other than book/paper, was no exception. That's was as true back then as it is today.

  • I see it as the opposite of the way the summary described it: When I had a 2600 I *knew* the games weren't going to look like they did on the box art. It just wasn't possible. These days, gamers are treated to bullshots, hi-resolution scripted renders, and other kinds of doctored media designed to make gamers think the game looks better than it really does. This is especially common, I've noticed, on the console side of gaming where the graphical fidelity achievable on modern computers isn't attainable anym

  • I still play text adventures/interactive fiction - but I remember getting a kick out of the box art on early Infocom games - the box my Zork came in had numerous pictures of a guy wielding a sword and carrying the famous brass lantern!
  • Nobody has even mentioned padded bras... oh wait, this is slashdot, isn't it.
  • The guy who wrote this must have been suckered in by misleading web hosting box art because the site is slash dotted.
  • by ahodgkinson (662233) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @12:22PM (#33357796) Homepage Journal
    Given that the Atari 2600 hardware only had 128 BYTES of RAM and that the entire game had to fit into a 2048 BYTE cartridge (later there were bank-switching cartridges with 4KB), it's amazing that the 2600 games had recognizable graphics at all.

    As to the box artwork: I remember programmers commenting on the nice box artwork, but there was never any mention about how it didn't match the game. Like someone else said, it was like looking at a cover of a science fiction book, knowing that the contents were probably very different.

    To put things into perspective: Back in those days pinball machines were still popular and people expectations of computer games were pretty realistic, e.g. rather low. The IBM AT and XT had just come out, and were targeted at businesses and considered too expensive for the normal household. Graphical user interfaces only existed in research labs and universities. Coin operated video games had much better (and much more expensive) hardware, as compared to the home versions. The home systems had to be less sophisticated, otherwise they would have been too expensive for their target market.

    I used to program these things and remember late night sessions pouring over hex dumps trying to recover a byte or two. The initial programming was done in 6502 assembler (to keep the cost down the CPU packed in a 28-pin DIP, which allowed for all sorts of tricks for saving bytes by addressing memory in unconventional ways). The last few weeks of the programming was typically done in hex, looking for opcode sequences that could be used as data. E.g. we spent our time hand optimizing the hex code. Sometimes we found enough space to put in a new feature or two.

    Now nearly 30 years later I can still remember some of the hex code a few of the 6502 instructions. 4C is JMP, A9 is LDA, etc.

    And by the way, we considered C a high level language back then.

  • Stupid article. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @12:54PM (#33358304)

    How many of you actually grew UP during that era? I'm willing to bet very few. Why? Because if you did, you'd know that THE BACK OF THE BOX HAD THE ACTUAL SCREENSHOTS. Want to know what the game looked like for reals? Flip the damn box over and use your damn eyes. Simple isn't it? See in the old days we used our hands to do things like that.

    OHH WAH you mean the cover of "Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar" doesn't have a high resolution guy in a robe conjuring up a tidal wave? Sheesh. The authors of this nonsense need to get a life.

    See back then, the actual box art was often something to be admired. The above mentioned "Quest of the Avatar" was painted by Denis Loubet, who made some of the best cover art for any game, bar none. There were many games that had fantastic cover art. Do you think any of us were fooled into thinking that this is what the game actually looked like? I used to KEEP the boxes around and mount them on the wall of my computer room (haw haw he said computer room he so old!).

    The whole article is just a sarcastic "haw haw look how primitive old consoles were, xbox is so cools!" my-dick-is-bigger fest.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The back of the box typically had screenshots from systems I didn't use, in my experience. That could be much more deceptive.

  • Check out Panic 1982 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wazzzup (172351) <astromac.fastmail@fm> on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @01:06PM (#33358556)

    Panic, maker of (excellent) Mac software has some Atari 2600 boxes for their current lineup of products [panic.com].

    Pretty cool if you ask me.

  • by blair1q (305137) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @01:27PM (#33358898) Journal

    We thought the box covers were lame, and the games were totally cool.

  • by shadowrat (1069614) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @02:16PM (#33359734)
    I don't recall seeing any progress bars on the box for WoW.

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