Author Topic: How High did the original Developers think we could go?  (Read 994 times)

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Offline krehztim

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How High did the original Developers think we could go?
« on: January 02, 2018, 11:13:47 AM »
In pondering the answers to my previous thread, I wonder how high the original developers thought players would go?  And, no, this isn't a drug-related question.

I wonder if during development and testing, if they anticipated million point games, and I wonder if there was any analysis done back in the stone age about maximum scores (not likely).  If Activision could accept and TAS 5.54s, maybe Nintendo could envision 1.5 million. Or, maybe they didn't care.
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Offline homerwannabee

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Re: How High did the original Developers think we could go?
« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2018, 12:30:03 PM »
I don't think the developers knew about the killscreen.  Having said that, most developers underestimated the players big time.  Given that the game doesn't count the millions digit, I'm going with somewhere between 500k, and one million.
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Offline TheSunshineFund

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Re: How High did the original Developers think we could go?
« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2018, 12:43:31 PM »
Having said that, most developers underestimated the players big time. 

Yeah I think I read an interview with Jarvis when he said in testing they thought about 100k would be about the ceiling for scoring in Defender and he said within a few months of its release people were getting millions.
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Offline krehztim

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Re: How High did the original Developers think we could go?
« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2018, 01:14:00 PM »
Having said that, most developers underestimated the players big time. 

Yeah I think I read an interview with Jarvis when he said in testing they thought about 100k would be about the ceiling for scoring in Defender and he said within a few months of its release people were getting millions.

Yeah, and I'm still stuck at 100k
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Offline YesAffinity

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Re: How High did the original Developers think we could go?
« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2018, 03:29:24 PM »
I don't think the developers knew about the killscreen.
I think this is an interesting thought, and a question for any game with a kill screen.  Did the developers not know about it, or did they think it would never serve as a limitation?
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Offline marky_d

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Re: How High did the original Developers think we could go?
« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2018, 04:21:43 PM »
This could be totally wrong, but I have a feeling the 3rd elevator stage and beyond was intended to create a 50/50 survival situation to shorten play times. I doubt they thought players would find a way to master it.
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Offline dnickolas

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Re: How High did the original Developers think we could go?
« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2018, 06:51:53 PM »
And the steering barrels on 5+. To a new player it’s certain death since they’re being hunted by barrels.

Offline Sock Master

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Re: How High did the original Developers think we could go?
« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2018, 08:27:16 PM »
I'm pretty certain they didn't expect players to get beyond L=5.  The L=4 elevators would have been considered almost certain death.  The L=5 wild barrels were (intended) to home-in-and-kill, plus the high steering to kill Jumpman approaching ladders.
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Re: How High did the original Developers think we could go?
« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2018, 10:45:03 PM »
I often wonder what the HSL would look like if levels 5 through 21 were L4 wilds and L1 steering. Game would be absolute hell
Thank the devs for these oversights
« Last Edit: January 02, 2018, 10:46:36 PM by Barra »
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Offline dnickolas

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Re: How High did the original Developers think we could go?
« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2018, 06:19:08 AM »
I often wonder what the HSL would look like if levels 5 through 21 were L4 wilds and L1 steering. Game would be absolute hell
Thank the devs for these oversights

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Offline YesAffinity

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Re: How High did the original Developers think we could go?
« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2018, 09:27:07 AM »
The nail in the coffin would be the increased speed up to L5 speed level, for L5-L21, but with L3 wilds and unsteerableness.

Hmm...mild increased difficulty hack/variation anyone?  Sock Master?  ;D <popcorn>
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Online Barra

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Re: How High did the original Developers think we could go?
« Reply #11 on: January 03, 2018, 02:19:33 PM »
A really brutal variation could have seen the last 4 levels being a "finish", as opposed to the start now. L21 on WR pace and you get a couple of murder barrels to the head. I don't think DK would be a very popular game  ;D
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Offline ChrisP

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Re: How High did the original Developers think we could go?
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2018, 10:50:19 PM »
Remember that 40 years ago this was a "maximize the extraction of quarters" business, not a "maximize the depth of gameplay" business.

I'm with marky and Sock on this. It seems pretty clear that the third elevator board was designed to be as deadly as possible without being impossible, and I don't think it's a coincidence that they plateaued the internal difficult two boards later. Reaching level 5 would take about 10 minutes (without doing the goofy stuff that we do), and that would be about the limit for how long they'd want you on the machine.

Arcade games were designed to collect more quarters by making the player want to get better, but also to restrict play time to a reasonable maximum. So not too long, but not too short. It was a tough balance, but they definitely took that problem very seriously. Atari would field-test all of their games to make sure the average coin wouldn't last too long (I think they were shooting for 3 minutes or something like that), and if play times were too short or too long, they'd optimize until they hit their goldilocks target.

If long play times became a problem, manufacturers would release "speedup kits". "Speedup" as in, speed up the rate of quarter-turnover. The patch for the barrel cheat that Nintendo released for DK in December '81 was created exactly for that purpose.

So I can pretty much guarantee that the DK designers were not envisioning scores in the several hundred thousands, and certainly not in the millions (that's why there's no 7th digit), because that scenario was actually their worst nightmare. It would mean that they had failed at their jobs. They were doing whatever they could to PREVENT long play times, short of making the game cheat outright.

(Whereas the Crazy Climber designers just went ahead and designed the game to cheat outright.)
« Last Edit: February 04, 2018, 10:53:50 PM by ChrisP »
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Offline Sumez

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Re: How High did the original Developers think we could go?
« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2018, 02:01:34 AM »
This could be totally wrong, but I have a feeling the 3rd elevator stage and beyond was intended to create a 50/50 survival situation to shorten play times. I doubt they thought players would find a way to master it.
Judging by the code, I'd say the developers thought they had a fix for a killscreen potentially happening. In general though, the features that seem to be carried over from Radar Scope are really half-assed. The game is programmed to handle level display up to 99 without glitching (and as far as I recall, any level above will just display as 99 without issues, too), but that's probably just leftover code from Radar Scope.

Either way, I think the general impression that the game was expected to end at L=4 (or 5) is false, rather I think the apparently "impossible" springs on this level might be their mistake here. It is by far the worst designed challenge in Donkey Kong, and attempts at increasing the difficulty just doesn't result in the same depth as pretty much any other challenge in the game.
I think a more correct assumption is that it's attempting to be more of a random casaulty than an impossible barrier, allowing the player to sometimes get through via sheer luck.

The game code does nothing to intentionally place springs close enough to make the gap impassable, I think it's safe to say they just input some variables and tweaked them until they reached the difficulty they wanted. So I think a more realistic situation was that the stage was tested by just having someone attempt to make it through sporadically, and when they reached a low enough succes rate, they deemed the difficulty balance "correct".
In fact, I bet that's how every stage in the game would be tested, and I doubt they ever aimed for a 0% success rate - however as an arcade developer, even in 1981, I think they knew they could expect that even if they had a 1% success rate, crazy players out there would find a way to conquer the challenge. If they really wanted the game to end, why not just have a genuine ending? Instead, if the intention is to give the players an idea that L=5 or L=6 can be reached, it only makes sense that they would occasionally allow the player to successfully beat the stage.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2018, 02:03:33 AM by Sumez »

Offline KongTower

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Re: How High did the original Developers think we could go?
« Reply #14 on: February 06, 2018, 07:06:01 PM »
I found myself thinking this, actually, more with Super Hang On, coin-op.  More generally, how does one make a video game that they are sure is possible for someone to do even though they are beyond the level of skill of the creator of the game.  That was what I was left with after playing this motorcycle game trying to get all the way through the longest course was "is this even possible for anyone?"

When working on San Francisco Rush 2049 Tournament Edition, and while thinking of this, I made a save-and-restore physics state so that the game testers could save time setting up for a new portion of the track.  This was also used in order to ensure that driving for a very long period of time without making mistakes was not required in order to ensure that a challenge was possible to complete.

As we know from the barrels L=5 and beyond, the player input is used to affect the barrel behavior.  Once the brain sees this, it can be used!  One of the earliest versions of the ROM also prevented barrels from rolling down the ladder if your hand was high enough.  But this ROM did not last long.

But I do not think that it is a mistake that the game uses the inputs so much.  The game comes across as being impossible in many cases when it is not.  It's my belief that this is not an accident.

You don't end up with such water-tight restriction for squeezing out another 100 points to get the high score.  And it's the same game if you're stuck at 83,000 or 1.25M.  It was designed to have people trying to point press no matter what the "wall" was of "how high can you get?"