RE: [stella] ET improvements

Subject: RE: [stella] ET improvements
From: Pete Holland <petehollandjr@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 3 Jul 2001 13:31:32 -0700 (PDT)
I have some questions about these suggestions from
programming and design perspectives.  I am curious
since this seemed to be (AFAIK) the first cart it was
considered sport to dump on.

> - re-map the screen linkings so that you can use a
> cube as a map.  This
> would have been cool, because Atari could have
> included an origami-like map
> in the packaging that you could put together
> yourself

Don't quote me on this, but I seem to recall an actual
hint book for the game, complete with a cardboard cube
you could punch out and use for reference.  You'll
have to verify that, though.

I don't have the bin for this on my computer, but the
first question is how big was the game?  It seems to
me, if it was 4K as I'm suspecting (but don't quote
me), maybe they could have gone 8K and added more
screens involving elements from the movie.  Increasing
the scope would have been nice.  But just how much was
required to make the game?  Aside from coming up with
the pattern for the trees, it doesn't look like it
would take much.  There's only, what, seven screen
total in the game?
> - don't put pits at the edges of the screen. 
> Falling into a pit immediately
> upon entering the next screen was very annoying

This was also something that had me using those
naughty words I heard my dad say.  Was there any
reason they were put where they were?  Was it to
artificially increase the difficulty?
> - the humans should have to walk AROUND the pits,
> just like you do

That was unfair, but a little more unfair was how
humans just seemed to pop up without rhyme or reason,
making me leery of changing screens or walking by the
edges.  I'm assuming (and would be willing to bet
money) that the humans were made with player graphics.
 Could this have been fixed simply with collision
detection, or was there just not enough room on the
cart to include a redumentary AI to move them around
the pits?

> - zones that opened and closed certain pits.  And if
> you opened up a pit
> underneath a human, he would fall inside!  And put
> the "call elliot" zone
> close to the "open a pit" zone, so you can call
> Elliot, and when he
> approaches, you open a pit underneath
> him...Aaahhhhh! :)

What?  The Yar wasn't enough for you?

Actually, the zones seemed more a design problem. 
There were a lot of features ET was supposed to do
(eat the candy, call the ship, etc.), and I think a
better control scheme (like using the game select
during the game to control the actions) or changing
how the quest was approached (instead of finding a
call ship zone, you hear different levels of static
until you get a clear channel, then the ship is
called) would have helped.
> - different difficulty levels should have different
> pit placements

Either that, or maybe incorporate one more character,
like a bully, who would just knock you in the pit.
> - remove the "arrow" zones.  99% of the time, they
> merely transported you into an open pit anyway

Is this another problem collision detection could have
fixed?  It seemed that, once I got the lay of the
different maps, I could avoid that by memory, but that
still doesn't make it fair.  Especially considering it
only moved you one screen.  Since the humans vanished
each time you moved, it was easy enough to get to the
edges.  The arrows just didn't seem to justify the
> - fix the bug which causes the humans to get "stuck"
> at the bottom of the screen

That never happened to me, I don't think.

> - be able to go inside Elliot's house

Another thing that bothered me was the limited scope. 
A little more advance warning would have helped with
strategy, or at least there being some rhyme or reason
to their movements.  It seemed arbitrary to me.  Once
again, though, would there have been enough room on
the cart to do this?

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