Percepts (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

1972 Percepts Überlay: Not the most attractive of the lot, but hey, it was FREE!1972 Percepts Überlay: Not the most attractive of the lot, but hey, it was FREE!

Percepts is the free Odyssey game you get for registering your Odyssey. You know the drill: you fill out a little slip of paper and mail it in to Magnavox; they get your personal information for nefarious marketing purposes and you get a free game. Not a bad deal!

Quick FYI. For some reason I've heard (or I've imagined I've heard) this game misnamed as "Precepts". For those of you who care to know: it's Percepts, as in perception. This isn't an outright tip, but let's just say it's a lot easier to find one of these on eBay if you're allowing for the probability that many non-gamer-sellers misspell the title as Precepts.

This game falls into the "seek and go to" category of Odyssey games in that a player must determine where to go on the screen and get there before their opponent does. Percepts comes with two decks (Purple and Green) of 15 cards each, an Überlay (both sizes) and a set of instructions. There are two Percepts games described in the instructions, but you can have fun coming up with your own variations if the mood hits you.

The title of first game variation is Patterns.

You take the 15 green cards and lay them out, face-up, in a 3x5 grid--the same configuration used to display the blank rectangles you see on the Überlay. Study those real-world, physical cards carefully for about 30 seconds.

Remember, in this variation, Patterns, you're to focus on the purple, dot-grid thing on the bottom of each card. Next, you and your opponent sit facing the face-up cards, each of you with your hands off your controllers. One of you, the lucky one perhaps, draws a purple card from the here-to-fore unused purple deck and lays it down for both of you to see.

Both of you study the pattern (the purple 3x3 grid part) on the drawn card. Do this intently, with knitted brows to indicate a high level of concentration, for about 15 seconds. Here's one to help you practice.Percepts Racket Card:: For some reason I keep thinking of the Incredible Hulk?Percepts Racket Card:: For some reason I keep thinking of the Incredible Hulk?

Then, you each must find the pattern on the drawn card among the 15 green cards already laid out; be sure note the position of this green card! After that, it's a race! Starting out with your PlayerSpots on the little square gray spots on the left side of the screen, use your controllers to maneuver your respective PlayerSpot to the position on the overlay corresponding to the grid position of the green card with the matching pattern before your opponent does! Be careful not to stray from the red path, as that will cause you to lose a turn. If you get to the corresponding on-screen coordinates first ... you win the green card! Do this until there are no more green cards or until the child with whom you are playing gets too upset to continue.

When it is over, count the cards you each possess and the one with the most green cards gets to gloat over their superior perceptive powers (tip: don't actually gloat if you've stopped playing because of an upset child). We personally think it makes more sense to win a purple card because winning the green card steadily narrows the field of matching green card candidates. This causes the game to become easier as it progresses, which we thought made it rather anti-climactic.

The second game, Symbols, is similar to Patterns, but after studying the positions of the symbols (cute little green icons) on the face-up cards, you turn them all face-down! Then, when you draw a purple card, you have to go the corresponding on-screen position of the now face-down green card that you suspect hides the symbol in question. In theory, one would think this would be more challenging than Patterns, given that you're dealing with 15 face-down cards, but my 7-year old son had a much easier time with Symbols than Patterns (i.e., he didn't get upset). This is probably due to the symbols being easier to recognize and remember. I mean who could forget such an adorable kitty cat?Hello, Kitty: Early Odyssey icon actually predates Sanrio merchandising powerhouse.Hello, Kitty: Early Odyssey icon actually predates Sanrio merchandising powerhouse.

It should be noted that the card sets aren't identical. The purple card with the same symbol as the green card does not have the same patttern. This is an important feature because the symbols turned out to be so much easier to remember that it would've been an easy way to cheat on the Patterns game by ignoring the patterns and only paying attention to the symbols. Of course, one could always memorize the pairs of symbols that have matching patterns, but I can't picture anyone wanting to work that hard to become so well-studied on this game.

I'll give Percepts the point for being a working kind of an on-screen/off-screen Memory Match. It took us about 30 minutes to get through both game variations and it was way better than going outside and playing in the intense 98 degree Texas heat which we were avoiding at the time. Percepts would have captivated us for an entire episode of Ultraman, maybe just once, but that's enough for the point.

The Score: Ultraman: 4, The Odyssey 6

Next entry should be about Shooting Gallery which uses a light gun, so get excited.

Comments

Matt Barton
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Moving a Point of Light

Wow, another great, in-depth review, Mezrabad. I think you're quickly becoming the world's foremost expert on this lineup. One question, though. Am I correct in assuming that basically all the Odyssey does is allow players to move points of light around on the screen? Does this mean there's no PONG type game built in to the Odyssey? I'm a bit confused about what the actual hardware can do.

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Bill Loguidice
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The Odyssey's Abilities
Matt Barton wrote:

Wow, another great, in-depth review, Mezrabad. I think you're quickly becoming the world's foremost expert on this lineup. One question, though. Am I correct in assuming that basically all the Odyssey does is allow players to move points of light around on the screen? Does this mean there's no PONG type game built in to the Odyssey? I'm a bit confused about what the actual hardware can do.

The Odyssey has the ability to generate moving blocks and lines (various features can be turned on or off with the jumper cartridges). It has minimal collision detection. There is no scoring/tracking ability or sound. It has a game called "Tennis" that inspired Nolan Bushnell to create Pong. "Tennis" is like Pong with English and no scoring or sound.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
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Michael McCourt
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Bill thanks for explaining

Bill thanks for explaining that, it really is a barebones system.

Matt thanks for the compliment and for indirectly bringing up a good point: I've never actually "introduced" the Odyssey and all of it's capabilities per se, so it's likely you're not the only one going "wait a minute, are we just talking about moving two little squares on the screen?" That's more or less true for many of the games. Some carts set the collision detection so that it turns off one of the squares if it touches the other square, other carts have a square (what I've been calling the PlayerSpot) turn off if the BallSpot hits it. You know how PONG segments the paddles so that the ball's trajectory and speed may change depending on where it collides with the paddle? Well, the Odyssey does the exact opposite of that in that it doesn't do anything at all like that. All the paddle (PlayerSpot) does is reverse the X direction of the BallSpot. The Y direction is controlled by another knob on the controller called the english. Technically we're talking about three knobs and a reset button on the controllers. The two big knobs on either side move the appropriate PlayerSpot either left or right and either up or down. A third knob in the center of the left knob (a knob within a knob) controls the english of the BallSpot as it travels left or right. The controller with that power is the control controlling the PlayerSpot that touched the BallSpot most recently.

I can see I need to write a real intro to this old beast, but can't right now. Gotta run.

Matt Barton
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Still Confused

Okay, I'm still not sure I understand fully the Odyssey's capabilities. It sounds like the Tennis game is the most sophisticated of the lot, with the rest being mostly just (from a technical perspective) just two dots moving around on a screen, with some degree of collision detection (i.e., one can snuff the other one out). The "English" button sounds interesting, though I still don't understand precisely what it does.

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Bill Loguidice
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Magnavox Odyssey Videos

Here's a good one demonstrating some of the prototype "Tennis" gameplay from the brown box, which eventually morphed into the commercial Odyssey, which probably was as sophisticated as the system was able to produce (again, all functions are built in, the "cartridges" are just jumpers turning various features on or off):

Here's another one, with some background and the actual Magnavox Odyssey in action:

Obviously, despite being more sophisticated than Pong in terms of movement, it was more primitive in regards to a lack of score and sound. As with all Odyssey games, a lot is up to the player's imagination.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
======================================

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Mark Vergeer
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subtitles in second part are Dutch

FYI the subtitles in second clip are Dutch

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Mark Vergeer - Editor / Pixelator
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Xboxlive gametag
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davyK
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These reviews are great,

These reviews are great, though they show that the Odyssey really was quite primitive. It makes the 2600 look like a powerhouse which was really only designed to play Pong and Tank variants. It (supports two "player" objects and 2 "missile/ball" objects in hardware along with support for a symmetrical background - the rest being done by the underpowered processor.

But then that's the difference - the 2600 had a actual processor matching Von Neumann's stored program concept while the Odyssey is really only a finite state machine.

Bill Loguidice
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Odyssey Classification plus Finite and Infinite State Machines
davyK wrote:

These reviews are great, though they show that the Odyssey really was quite primitive. It makes the 2600 look like a powerhouse which was really only designed to play Pong and Tank variants. It (supports two "player" objects and 2 "missile/ball" objects in hardware along with support for a symmetrical background - the rest being done by the underpowered processor.

But then that's the difference - the 2600 had a actual processor matching Von Neumann's stored program concept while the Odyssey is really only a finite state machine.

I've had quite the argument with one of the editors over at my publisher about what I was classifying the Odyssey as in the book's text. In my opinion, while it has many of the elements that were found in future videogame consoles, it seems absurd to put it in quite the same classification. To me, it has much more in common with future fixed state Pong-style consoles than future fully programmable videogame consoles. I'm going to tweak the wording a bit in the book to avoid the issue all together, but in turn I may add an additional sentence or two clarifying the Odyssey's extreme limitations (relatively speaking of course and not to take anything away from being the first home TV game and three years before anything else).

By the way, I like your term "finite state machine". I may want to work that over a bit. I've been trying to distinguish between Pong-style systems with a fixed number of games and are not programmable, and videogame and computer systems that can accept new games and are fully programmable. "Finite state" and "Infinite state" machines. I like it. If I use it, I'll be sure to acknowledge you in the book.

======================================
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
======================================

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davyK
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I certainly wouldn't want to

I certainly wouldn't want to take credit for that term though Bill - its a well known concept which is covered in computer science courses - a quick google will reveal that!!

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