I Am Overcome With Shame


I used to love Food Fight. I would dump quarters into it like there was no tomorrow. When it was released on the 7800, I was overcome with joy, for not only was Food Fight available on a home system, it was actually not a bad port at all. 
 
One of the cool features of Food Fight was "instant replay". Every few levels -- especially if you had a narrow escape -- the game would replay the whole level again, complete with bouncy music. 
 
The Atari 7800 version of Food Fight had an interesting quirk in this regard. It didn't actually record the action for instant replays; it essentially recorded your controller inputs during the level and played them back during the replay. Due to the way that it handled character movement and hit detection, this meant that the replay wasn't guaranteed to play out in exactly the same way that your actual playthrough did. In particular, if you had a very narrow escape -- if a piece of food only missed you by a pixel or so during your actual playthrough -- it was possible for that food to actually hit you during the replay. If this happened, the game would stop, play the death animation, deduct a life -- but then it would immediately catch its error, display "OOPPS MISSED", play the extra-life music, add a life, and carry on with the next level. 
 
Up until now, I would have sworn on my very soul that everything I said in the previous paragraph was true, even the typo in "OOPPS". Long ago, I posted about this in some forum or another. And as a result, as near as I can tell, I am the source of the "OOPPS MISSED" Food Fight story that has lingered in the back alleys of the Internet ever since, even making its way to this very site. 
 
   Well, last year sometime, Atari Museum actually released the source code for a number of 7800 games. I recently stumbled across this fact. And when I saw that Food Fight was on the list, it occurred to me to check to see whether "OOPPS MISSED" was actually in the source code. I used to program on the Apple II, so seeing 6502 assembly language again was a fun little trip down memory lane. So it didn't take me long to find that, yes, there's a routine that gets called if the player manages to die during instance replay, complete with this comment: 
 
; THIS ROUTINE IS CALLED FROM GAME IF PERCHANCE CHARLIE CHUCK WERE TO DIE
; ON AN INSTANT REPLAY.  BUT, AS WE ALL KNOW THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE (?).

  
And yes,  it plays the extra man tune and adds a life, and yes, it displays a text string... and that text string is... "ALMOST MADE IT". 
 
The word "MISSED" never even appears in the source code. Neither does the word "OOPS", with or without a typo. 
 
My childhood is a hollow lie, and I am a fountain of deceit.  
 
(Update: I've now submitted an edit for the page in order to conceal my error from history.)

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My New... Race Car, That's It, Race Car


My experience with Gran Turismo 5 tonight illustrates how inapproachable-and-yes-still-somehow-fun I'm finding it.  
 
Having reached A-spec level 9, and having sort of hit a wall in terms of what races I could field a competitive car for in the Amateur Series, I decide to double back and see if there are any interesting-looking races in the Beginners Series that I'd skipped. Okay, there's one... Japanese Classics. Open to Japanese cars from 1979 and earlier. Okay. Let's check my Garage... no, nothing there. 
 
Okay, so I'll have to find a car, hopefully a cheap car. But this being Gran Turismo V, it's not just going to say "Okay, here's all the cars that you can buy that will qualify for this race; pick one to buy." Oh, no. You have to go out and scour the dealerships. And given the nature of the race, even the dealerships weren't likely to be helpful, since most self-respecting car dealerships won't keep a car from the mid-70's on the lot. So, off to the Used Car Dealer. Let's see... any way to sort this list by year or by country? Of course not. What was I thinking? Okay, scroll, scroll, scroll... check the years, check the makes... Oh, look, here's one I can afford. A Subaru 360 '58, with barely 240000 miles on it. How much more Japanese Classic can you get? BUY. 
  
So, off to the tuning shop... and almost immediately I realize that there is trouble on the horizon. My bouncing blue arrival has a breathtaking... 18 horsepower. Yes, it has less power than my go-cart. But at this point, I'm feeling committed. I've bought this car to be a racing machine, and a racing machine it must be. So, a few strategic upgrades, and I've brought it up to a breathtaking... 28 HP. 
 
Hmm. This still seems somehow unconvincing. But I'm not prepared to lose hope yet. Maybe Japanese Classics were just really... really... quite slow. So, off to the track. And as I sit at the line, I feel a bit more of my confidence drain away. These other cars seem... larger. Their motors sound vaguely like actual motors, unlike my car, which sounds like a lawn mower with delusions of grandeur. And when the green light drops, the rest of the field rapidly recedes into the distance like a coalition of highly fuel-efficient cheetahs. 
 
But I have brought this car to race, and race I shall. And so, as the other cars screech through distant corners and jostle for position, I resolutely guide my three-speed missile around the track, reaching breathtaking speeds occasionally approaching an insane forty-nine miles per hour. And as I finally cross the finish line and collect my tenth-place prize, I imagine the tales that will someday be told of this race, and the driver who never gave up, and why he's no longer allowed on the grounds of Suzuka Circuit. 
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On Civ V And Possible Insanity

I'm trying not to read too much into the way I play Civilization V. There are days where just try to make the world a happy joyous place filled with art and song and music and lots and lots of money. Then there are the days where I refuse to finish off a civilization's last city, just so I can gradually culture-bomb it down to a pathetic resourceless scrap of land, from which its wretched citizens can watch in abject poverty as I fill the world with sterile machinery. Eventually, the rumor filters through the foreign slums like wildfire... the spaceship is ready. The ship that will carry my chosen elect off to an interplanetary paradise. And these poor souls look up at the night sky, straining to see the exhaust trail. But instead they see the fiery arc of a single, gleaming missile, heading downwards. And they have only a moment to make their peace, with each other or with their creator. And then the game ends.

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