Prototype Cornucopia


By Scott Stilphen



One of the things we're most thankful for on this Thanksgiving weekend are videogames, and to help celebrate this holiday, I'm writing this article to describe some of the prototypes that I've recently archived and made available to the gaming community.



Pitfall! 1982 Beta Version
Activision, for Atari 2600

I spoke with David Crane about some Pitfall prototypes that I own - one dated 1981 and the other 1982. The really neat thing about the 1982 version is that the background shows extra tree branches! (similar to what was done with versions for other systems, such as the ColecoVision and Atari 5200).

Mr. Crane offered the following comments:

"The 1982 version you have is of the most interest to me. This version of the game came very close to being released. (I have told this story at CGE in the past, and it is an example of how the Activision design group worked.) My original concept gave the player only one life to complete the game. As you might imagine this would be very hard, and very frustrating. But game players were getting really good, and I thought this would appeal to the purists.

My cohorts disagreed, and over the last month of the project they fought for the change. It wasn't until they all ganged up on me that I began to see their point. I added the lives counter and the code to drop the new life from the region of the counter as it was decremented - visually illustrating what those tally marks represented. (It just occurred to me that this may have been an industry first... I don't know for sure.) It is probably important to note that Pitfall! would never have had such wide appeal in its other form. It would have been too hard for casual players and appealed only to hardcore players.

I had completely forgotten about the extra tree branches. But looking at the sequence of events, it is only logical to assume that I had to free up memory and display kernel cycles to implement the 3 lives feature. So while I have no clear recollection of that detail, I am going to go with that explanation."


Pitfall! 1981 Beta Version
Activision, for Atari 2600

Mr. Crane offered the following comments:

"What is less clear is how the version you have with the 1981 copyright is a newer game version than the one with the 1982 copyright message. I can only assume that we were getting changing input from legal council as to which date to use. (The proper notice would be "Copyright 1981, 1982 Activision Inc." But with limited space we had to choose one date or the other.)"


Cabbage Patch Kids
Konami, for ColecoVision

This is a prototype of the earlier (unreleased) version of CPK - the one with Konami in the title screen credits. You'll notice a number of other differences between this and the retail game: there are only two options (1) one player or (5) two player whereas the released version had the standard 8 options; the copyright screen lists 1983 OAA and 1984 Konami vs. the released version which lists 1984 Coleco; the opening scene starts in Babyland Park instead of Babyland General, etc. There are other tweaks as well.


3-D Rubik's Cube
Atari, for Atari 2600

It is what it is... a completely different version of Atari's Rubik's Cube (aka Atari Video Cube), this one is in a quasi-3D perspective. The game has been around for awhile and was at one time burned to EPROMS and sold in cartridge form but we haven't seen the binary file on the 'net so here you have it.


Tunnel Runner Demo
CBS, for Atari 2600

You may notice a few differences in this early release. There's no music on the title screen, and the first run only has one Maze Zot in it! Also, the map doesn't show the location of the key, nor does it show you the exit when you get it.

Side note: the little symbol that appears on the title screen (in both versions) is actually the letters "db" (for programmer Dick Balaska).

Tunnel Runner started out as a completely 3-D concept, called Black Box (see
this picture), and the game was to include holes in the ceiling and floor! But the system's limitations proved it to be impossible to pull off (even with the RAM Plus upgrade), and it was changed to be more 2-D.


Mystery Activision Color Demo
Activision, for Atari 2600

Plays much like Imagic's Cubicolor, except, there's no gameplay. A later version does exist that is more complete, with sound and 2 more variations that you actually can play. Hopefully the owners of that version will share it with the rest of us someday.



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