Video: Pac-Man (2009, Tim Ryan & Fredric Blaholtz) for the Fairchild VES/Channel F/System II

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Since I had to pull my Fairchild console out anyway to capture some additional footage for the documentary, I thought I would take a moment to do something I've been meaning to do for some time. This is just a direct capture of the 2009 homebrew Pac-Man cartridge by Tim Ruan and Fredric Blaholtz for the Fairchild Video Entertainment System (VES), which was the first ever programmable cartridge-based console, released all the way back in 1976. This was recorded off of my Fairchild Channel F System II, a later revision of the console that redirected the previously internal sound out to the TV to better match the feature set of later competing systems like the Atari 2600 VCS. Naturally, this game is an amazing achievement for a Fairchild system that has a library of fairly simple and blocky games. The occasional graphical glitchiness in various parts seems to be related to my system and/or my capture device, not necessarily the game itself.

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Mark Vergeer
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WOw nice footage Bill!

Wow great game - although you do need to practice a little more :P

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Bill Loguidice
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Fairchild-Man
Mark Vergeer wrote:

Wow great game - although you do need to practice a little more :P

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Armchair arcade Editor | Pixellator | www.markvergeer.nl

I'm actually a pretty good Pac-Man player, but the proverbial deck is stacked against the player in this version. The Fairchild controllers are both bad and good for the game. At times they're very responsive, at other times not so much. Also, the collision detection in the game is very unforgiving. The character sprites are a bit large, so movements that would normally allow you to escape don't work in this version. Again, it's insane to nitpick one of the few 5 star games on the platform, though.

It also seems like I need to get another Fairchild at some point, a third one. The one unit I have has no sound and the capture unit seems to get a bit buggy after a short period of time. Also, between the two systems I have four controllers, but only two seem to be working well. I've yet to acquire an original model, the one with the built in controllers and sound coming from a speaker in the unit. That's not terribly important, though, as I'd be perfectly happen with another System II.

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Mark Vergeer
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Cool that you could grab footage from this device

@Bill, so the Pacman game is definitely hard to play on the Fairchild. Very cool you could grab video from it including the sound. I still am having problems with my setup and grabbing footage is not working out right now.
I even went as far as to upgrade my system to Windows 7, even tried swapping in a faster CPU but to no avail. I think I am going to see if my gaming-rig - which is faster anyways works better as a video grabbing machine. Still configuring :(

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Bill Loguidice
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I was able to use my Archos.

I was able to use my Archos. It seems to work great for everything but the Atari 2600, which has trouble syncing correctly with anything except one miscellaneous USB capture device that I have on a spare Dell XP system.

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Dana E (not verified)
Can you imagine....

...if this would have come out the same time as the Atari 2600's horrible version or if someone (Activision perhaps) had this port for the 2600. How things would be different today I wonder.

Bill Loguidice
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Too true, but...
Dana E wrote:

...if this would have come out the same time as the Atari 2600's horrible version or if someone (Activision perhaps) had this port for the 2600. How things would be different today I wonder.

The Fairchild was all but dead by 1979 anyway, so even if the game came out in 1981 it wouldn't have made a difference (the recent ColecoVision homebrew is also amazing, as it's as arcade perfect as can be for a system of that vintage). All that really mattered at that point was the Atari 2600, Intellivision and Odyssey2, as the Fairchild, RCA Studio II, Coleco Telstar Arcade, Astrocade and APF all had either misplayed their hands or never got off the starting blocks. However, the fact that the game puts the original 2600 version to shame is pretty telling, as is how good even Atari's own Ms. Pac-Man was, which came out not too long after and was not under "rush" programming conditions. The crash certainly wouldn't have been averted with a good version of Pac-Man (or ET for that matter), but it sure would have not created such obvious scapegoats (and frankly, contributors).

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Spin
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WOW

Simply amazing!
The talent that a single player with immense limitations never ceases to amaze me.
Funny that nothing now requires this level of perfection.
I really think that limitations make for a better end game.
The Fairchild was ahead of it’s times but this proves the point.
The cost of RAM was obviously the biggest reason things like this truly never came about.
Thanks for the capture of the great Fairchild.
The controllers I bet worked well knowing the oddly cool design.
Bill you also said cut scenes All of them? Simply Remarkable even that it had 1

Bill Loguidice
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Definitely, Spin, there are

Definitely, Spin, there are many,, many reasons why classic era programmers weren't able to do stuff like this. The developers of this Pac-Man had modern techniques and technology available (2KB extra RAM in the cart to add to the stock 65 bytes in the system, as well as necessary bank switching) to them to help them create the game, but the bottom line is that they still had to figure out how to do it, which was certainly no easy task. Again, going with either ColecoVision Pac-Man or Fairchild Pac-Man as the greatest conversion of the game ever created given the hardware is a toss-up, as you can make a case for each. (I should put up the Coleco Pac-Man cartridge (with multiple Pac games in it) as a video just as a point of comparison, though of course like Fairchild Pac-Man there are already several videos up))

The controllers are not bad and work well for the most part, but they really weren't designed for the precise movements a game like Pac-Man requires. That combined with the pinpoint collision detection and oversized character sprites and it definitely makes the game a bit more challenging than it should be. Given the speed of movement, that probably helps balance the gameplay more, though in my opinion it still errs on the harder side.

By the way, I'm still waiting on a personalized multi-cart (all known games) from the same developers of Pac-Man: http://www.atariage.com/forums/topic/149932-fs-fairchild-system-channel-... . That also has a version of Pac-Man on it, though without the extras like intermissions, full color box and manual, the latter of which are top notch.

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Rowdy Rob
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Which is the Greatest Version Ever Created?
Bill Loguidice wrote:

Again, going with either ColecoVision Pac-Man or Fairchild Pac-Man as the greatest conversion of the game ever created given the hardware is a toss-up, as you can make a case for each. (I should put up the Coleco Pac-Man cartridge (with multiple Pac games in it) as a video just as a point of comparison, though of course like Fairchild Pac-Man there are already several videos up))

Based on the videos you've shown us here on AA, I have to go with the Colecovision version of Pac Man. While probably few (if any) people here on AA are truly qualified to make a judgement based on the sheer programming/technical prowess of either version, I have to side with the Colecovision version based on these criteria.

1) Hypothetical "impact" on platform sales if the games were released back in the day.

I don't believe that the Fairchild version of "Pac Man," as astounding a technical achievement as it is for that platform, would have done much to increase sales or garner respect for the platform. Fairchild owners would have been very happy, but the general public would have looked at the Atari VCS and concluded it was still a superior system. And while it's as good a Pac Man as possible on the Fairchild, it still has many obvious play differences with the original.

The Coleco version of the game, though, would have had an explosive impact on the gaming scene if released back in the day! It may well have extended the lifespan of the Colecovision platform if it was released back then, simply because of its astounding accuracy to the coin-op!

2) Arcade perfection.

I am not trying to slight the technical achievement of the Fairchild version, which may have been 10 times the programming challenge of the Colecovision version. However, the Coleco version looks pretty much arcade perfect, which was the holy grail of coin-op conversions for the consoles back in the day. Players would have been astounded and ecstatic, and the Coleco platform itself would have garnered incredible respect as a result. Based on the videos you (Bill) uploaded, the Colecovision version of Pac Man may very well be the best coin-op conversion to an 8-bit console ever created!

In truth, it may not be fair to compare the versions, simply because the Fairchild was so far behind the Colecovision, technically, that no matter what the Fairchild programmers did, it would still pale behind an uninspired Coleco Pac Man. After all, it might be an impressive feat to get a Ford Model T to reach 70mph, but getting a Ford Pinto to do 200mph will still get more attention....

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Bill Loguidice
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Good points, Rob. Each is

Good points, Rob. Each is probably the pinnacle of what can be achieved on their respective platforms, and, ultimately, that's all that really matters. It's not really relevant to definitively say which is "best" since they're such radically different platforms from two different eras.

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