When There's Something Strange In Your Commodore
May 11, 2007 5:01 PM   Subscribe

“A typical C64 game took nine months from start to finish,” laughs David Crane, the game’s designer. “Ghostbusters took six weeks!” Remembered as one of the better games on the Commodore 64, Ghostbusters still has a fan base after all these years. Never played it before? You really should see it in action, or, better yet, download the modern retro remake.
posted by Servo5678 (62 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also, the Angry Video Game Nerd did a few episodes about Ghostbusters games
posted by rxrfrx at 5:04 PM on May 11, 2007


David Crane co-founded Activision in the days of the Atari 2600. He programmed one of my favorite games, Chopper Command.
posted by Pastabagel at 5:11 PM on May 11, 2007


Sign me up for the marshmallow sensor.
posted by phaedon at 5:12 PM on May 11, 2007


Yay, loved this game in the C64 heyday, along with Blue Max, Jumpman, California Games.

The C64 was heaven for gaming in the early '80s - every kid on the block had a C64 with floppy drive and 13" color TV in the den. We did a ridiculous amount of sneakernet and snail mail floppy piracy in those days.

IMO, there has been nothing like the C64 before or since. For $200 you could score a C64, connect it to a TV and start programming BASIC. Hook up a tape drive for cheap storage! It was the perfect move for Atari kids like myself who wanted to explore coding - the bounty of games made it even sweeter.
posted by porn in the woods at 5:17 PM on May 11, 2007


All about the goggles, I say.
posted by Samizdata at 5:18 PM on May 11, 2007


Dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun

Dundundundundundun

Dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun

Dundundundundundun

GHOSTBUSTERS!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:24 PM on May 11, 2007


damn. i LOVED this game.

load "*", 8, 1
posted by gnutron at 5:39 PM on May 11, 2007 [6 favorites]


David Crane also created A Boy And His Blob, Pitfall!, and Pitfall II (the Atari 2600 version of which is probably the most technically accomplished game for that system).
posted by JHarris at 6:02 PM on May 11, 2007


That little clip really sent me back like a flashback to the 80s. I remember every pixel of those screens, although I didn't know that until just now.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:03 PM on May 11, 2007


It's not like Ghostbusters was that complicated.
posted by smackfu at 6:09 PM on May 11, 2007


It's not like Ghostbusters was that complicated.

Designed, created, and tested a game for mass market in six weeks, without the benefit of Photoshop for art asset creation or higher-level languages that abstract low-level things away from you. Coordinated several people for sound and art assets during this time and made sure they worked in-game as intended.

Yeah, totally trivial, man.
posted by Mikey-San at 6:28 PM on May 11, 2007


I never thought it was that fun, so maybe if you loved it, it seems like more of an accomplishment.
posted by smackfu at 6:39 PM on May 11, 2007


Whoa, David Crane's brother was Hogan? Howza bout dat.
posted by Tacodog at 6:40 PM on May 11, 2007


IMO, there has been nothing like the C64 before or since.

The Amiga 500 was incredibly powerful -- in many ways, it had the first recognizably modern operating system -- and you could get them fairly cheap after they'd been in production awhile.

It was, sadly, much harder to program, also like a modern computer, so something of the DIY nature of the C64 was lost... but it was an unbelievably powerful machine, better than the 64 at the things the 64 was good at.

I'm not slamming the 64.. for its time, it was really quite neat. I just differ with the 'or since' part of what you're saying. The Amiga 500 was an entirely worthy successor, raising the bar of what was possible with a cheap home computer more than any other machine ever has.

It took PCs between 8 and 10 years to truly catch up in all respects.
posted by Malor at 6:44 PM on May 11, 2007


I had a C64, and I used to salivate over the Amiga games in Compute! Especialy the ones from Cinemaware.
posted by smackfu at 6:46 PM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I forgot all about this game, until I heard the C64 music, pause pause GHOSTBUSTERS, pause pause, C64 music resume
posted by bottlebrushtree at 7:20 PM on May 11, 2007


I'm not slamming the 64

NO ONE had better be slamming the C64 when I'm in the room... but in my earlier post I should have emphasized the price tag of the C64 making all the difference in the world.

At $600 MSRP, the Amiga 500 was 3x the cost of a C64 (still a great deal.) Being poor, I ignored the Amigas in their day, still rocking a C64 with an Epyx FastLoad Cart ;-)

It's that magical $200 price point, opening it up for nearly all comers, which makes it so legendary in my eyes. Even an Atari 400, membrane keyboard and all, was too pricey in my youth. A lot of eyes were opened and more than a few kids were set on great career paths thanks to the affordability of the mighty C64.
posted by porn in the woods at 7:21 PM on May 11, 2007


Screw the Commodore game. When's the next sequel gonna happen? A few years ago the rumor was a plot had been hatched involving overpopulation in Hell, and Satan's response was to throw the riffraff back into the real world and let living people deal with it. Also allegedly there'd be new actors doing the legwork, and the old Ghostbusters would supervise them. Sounded very 'meh.'

Most recently the rumors are that Ackroyd wants to do an all CGI Ghostbusters 3, a la Polar Express or Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. I mean, these guys are way old. Hopefully whatever they decide, the end result won't pass for a C64. Ick.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:24 PM on May 11, 2007


I had that game for my Apple IIc (or maybe it was the IIe, which we got later) and the graphics looked pretty much the same.

It was hella fun riding around NYC in a '63 hearse, sucking up ghosts.
posted by Kronoss at 7:24 PM on May 11, 2007


porn in the woods: "NO ONE had better be slamming the C64 when I'm in the room..."

*slams a C64 across the room*

Zach: You wanna step outside..?

[they go outside. Fists and feet fly for fifteen seconds. PornInTheWoods walks back in unscathed. Melodramatic pause.]

Zach: (offscreen. whiny) Commodore still sucks, PornInTheWoods! Where's my other ear!?

[distant thud. silence.]

Zach: Dun-duh-duh-dun-duh-dun... Dunduhduhdunduhduh....

posted by ZachsMind at 7:53 PM on May 11, 2007


I never thought it was that fun, so maybe if you loved it, it seems like more of an accomplishment.

You may see a simple game that you didn't really enjoy to begin with, but that does not decrease the amount of effort required to produce it. Six weeks is impressive here.
posted by Mikey-San at 7:58 PM on May 11, 2007


Holy crap! I played the hell out of this game on my C64 back in the day, but somehow had forgotten it completely. Thanks for this.
posted by zardoz at 8:21 PM on May 11, 2007


Me too, Kronoss. Apple //c, green monochrome monitor and all. I recited that on-screen text at the beginning of the video from memory as I watched it. The things that are stuck in this dumb brain...
posted by emelenjr at 8:29 PM on May 11, 2007


load "*", 8, 1

Damn. Went and made me all misty. So, back atcha: Q-Link
posted by The Deej at 11:08 PM on May 11, 2007


Yes, have some.
posted by fusinski at 12:34 AM on May 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


I used to have this game, but I never understood what the point of it was (partly due to me, uh, obtaining it under circumstances in which the instruction manual was unavailable).

So you bought a car and some equipment and drove around trapping slimers then taking them back to HQ in your ghost traps. This part of the game never ended and was basically a way of making money to buy more equipment. Some of the equipment could be used to prevent those four corner ghosts from converging on the ZUUL building. However, it was only through allowing the corner ghosts to get to ZUUL that you could end up in that part where you dodge the marshmallow man to get into the ZUUL building and do something that I never did because the marshmallow man always trod on me at this point.

And that was it. If you trapped all of the corner ghosts you could just keep on making money, but you'd never win. The only way to win was to deliberately avoid doing part of what was apparently your job.

My memory is a bit fuzzy on some of these points, though. Can anyone reach back through time and enlighten me?
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:31 AM on May 12, 2007


All you c64 lovers obviously never had an Atari 800. THAT was the computer. The graphics alone blew away the C64. Then you add the games.. That was a powerful little machine back in the day.
posted by thedoctorpants at 2:32 AM on May 12, 2007


Ah, there's a Slashot article on it, with a comment linking to an article from Your Spectrum. Hopefully this will explain some of the things I missed...
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:34 AM on May 12, 2007


As a kid, I didn't have a C64. I had some friends who did, and I was terribly envious, partly because they got to play this game whenever they wanted, where I could only play for a few minutes at a time when I visited them.

Looking back at the gameplay video now, I cannot believe I wasted even five minutes of my precious time on this Earth playing that horrid piece of trash. What a lame, tedious fraud. It hooked you with the hope that any minute now, the game would actually become fun. But it never did.
posted by Western Infidels at 5:27 AM on May 12, 2007


We did a ridiculous amount of sneakernet and snail mail floppy piracy in those days.

As soon as I downloaded my first C64 emulator, the first program I got for it was Fast Hack 'Em, just out of respect. Don't need it anymore, but it wouldn't feel like a C64 without that close at hand.

Bruce Lee
Krateka
MULE
Seven Cities of Gold
Commando
Infiltrator I & II

It's a wonder I can function in the normal world. Still waiting for punks to kidnap my wife off the street.
posted by yerfatma at 6:21 AM on May 12, 2007


Ghostbusters..
G.I. Joe...
The Great American Cross Country Road Race...
Frogger...
Rescue on Fractalus...
Archon...

Great stuff.
posted by starman at 6:28 AM on May 12, 2007


snail mail floppy piracy

I was young but remember this being incredibly prevalent amongst C64 owners. Is that era at all meaningful in the history of digital piracy or did no one care?
posted by pokermonk at 6:36 AM on May 12, 2007


I SHIFT-S my C-64
posted by MtDewd at 6:38 AM on May 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ghostbusters was a decent game but my favorite C64 game was Spelunker. I still play it from time to time with an emulator. I really wish I had saved that wonderful little machine and all the software I amassed via download at 300 baud!
posted by digiFramph at 6:53 AM on May 12, 2007


Karateka, Archon, and M.U.L.E. made my C64 an unmovable object in my house. Ghostbusters was fun, though, too.
I played a ridiculous amount of CongoBongo, too, but more because I had a cartridge for it, which made loading times near instantaneous (felt that way), as opposed to waiting for the frakking 1561 floppy to read, read, read ERROR (mine was cursed, and I lack the funds to replace, though repairs were attempted...)

thanks for the linkage, he's a hero (no sarcasm)
posted by Busithoth at 7:28 AM on May 12, 2007


load "*", 8, 1

Psha! You Commie-poseur. Us true hackers used the C64 loading shortcut: L(shift-O). It would render an upside-down 'L'. Also, you usually didn't need to add the ",1" to the end.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:32 AM on May 12, 2007


I thought without the ",1" the program would load but you'd still have to type "RUN"?

I have fond memories of hitting the spacebar during the titlesceen to make it shout "Ghostbusters!"
posted by skryche at 8:03 AM on May 12, 2007


Remember manually typing in C64 BASIC programs from the back of COMPUTE! and COMPUTE!'s Gazette?

that.was.hardcore.
posted by porn in the woods at 8:05 AM on May 12, 2007


SYS 64738
posted by papercake at 8:15 AM on May 12, 2007



Poke 53280,0
Poke 53281,0

Very goth. Wish I could remember the Poke for white text though.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:29 AM on May 12, 2007


thanks to the affordability of the mighty C64.

Um...okay. I couldn't afford one. I played Uridium and Forbidden Forest on my friend's dime.
posted by cribcage at 9:42 AM on May 12, 2007


I played Uridium and Forbidden Forest on my friend's dime.

Forbidden Forest had the best soundtrack, IIRC. It also took about half-a-fucking-hour to execute off my C64 cassette drive.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:36 AM on May 12, 2007


ZachsMind: During preproduction talks, Harold Ramis and Dan Ackroyd disagreed on how Hell would be depicted. Ackroyd wanted something similar to Dante's Inferno, while Ramis felt the Underworld should look exactly like New York, but with worse traffic, crowds, litter, etc. In other words, the was the Apple looked when Abe Beame was running things.
posted by Smart Dalek at 11:19 AM on May 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


No ones mentioned the primitive speech? That was a major selling point IIRC, that every so often it would say "GHOFFBUSTARGthth" or "IF BEEN SLIGGGHEDthth!"
posted by Artw at 11:24 AM on May 12, 2007


Bards Tale 3
Raid over Moscow
Raid on Bungeling Bay
Beach Head

Those four games were two whole summers for me.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 11:24 AM on May 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Can't forget Impossible Mission...

"Another visitor! Stay a while. Staayyyyy forevaaaaaar!"
posted by papercake at 12:34 PM on May 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


All you c64 lovers obviously never had an Atari 800. THAT was the computer. The graphics alone blew away the C64. Then you add the games.. That was a powerful little machine back in the day.
posted by thedoctorpants


FLAME WAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by The Deej at 12:47 PM on May 12, 2007


Can't forget Impossible Mission...

Fucking ruled! I remember whenever you fell down a chasm (which was often), it had that same quasi-recorded scream:

"AaaaahAAaaaahh!"
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:31 PM on May 12, 2007


holy crap impossible mission lived up to its name. civil, I totally remember that scream.
posted by Busithoth at 2:05 PM on May 12, 2007


Remember manually typing in C64 BASIC programs from the back of COMPUTE! and COMPUTE!'s Gazette?

In retrospect, another piece of amazement for me. I only did this once and it didn't work and I spent about 10 hours trying to find the mistake. And now I write code for a living. Think I would have learned a lesson.
posted by yerfatma at 3:09 PM on May 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


You crossed the streams! Fortunately your proton pack shorted out in time.
posted by darksasami at 3:34 PM on May 12, 2007


Remember manually typing in C64 BASIC programs from the back of COMPUTE! and COMPUTE!'s Gazette?

I used to love looking at the disk space used by Microsoft Word and proclaiming in mock horror: "When I was your age, I used a word processor so small, I typed it in from the back of a magazine!" But somehow, the bigger Word gets, the less amusing that is.

SpeedScript. Give it up.
posted by straight at 4:10 PM on May 12, 2007


We were still heisting C64 games via sneakernet even in the late 1980s. I remember coming home with Howard the Duck after an afternoon swap meet.

Before MAME was out I remember firing up a C64 emulator so I could play (fairly decent for their time) arcade adaptations like Dig Dug and Zaxxon. There were a lot of C64 warez which were somehow extracted from cartridges - while I know how to do this sort of thing with my Gameboy Advance flash cart "developer kit," I'm still stumped as to how it was done on the C64.
posted by porn in the woods at 4:11 PM on May 12, 2007


JUNGLE HUNT!

(and what everyone else said, sorry, just reacting to a rush of memories!)
posted by JBennett at 4:36 PM on May 12, 2007


porn in the woods, those adaptions were probably made by Atarisoft, which was a short-lived label Atari used for producing arcade adaptions for non-Atari systems. They did excellent work. I still have my amazingly decent, considering the platform, cartridge of C64 Robotron around here somewhere.
posted by JHarris at 5:38 PM on May 12, 2007


Oh, and straight, it's worth noting that empty Microsoft Word documents are larger than SpeedScript, by a factor greater than three if the Wikipedia page is accurate about it length.

(Oh, and your link is broken.)
posted by JHarris at 5:41 PM on May 12, 2007


I only did this once and it didn't work and I spent about 10 hours trying to find the mistake. And now I write code for a living. Think I would have learned a lesson.

Me, too, only it was for the Timex Sinclair 1000, and I didn't understand the correlation between "program crash" and "coding error." I just thought the guy who wrote it must have made a crappy game that broke in the middle of playing it. And like you, I didn't learn from my mistake, either.

I was talking with my SO about this a week ago: we were discussing whether, if we ever had children, should they get their own computer, and at what age, and all that. I was thinking about how I learned: first I played games on the C64, then the IBM PC 8088. By the time I had built my own system (a turbo XT 8088 rocking along at ~10 Mhz.) I started going "online" with my rockin' 300 bps. modem. It was at least a year before I could get "elite access" to a pirate BBS, and a year after that I was running my own.

Anyway, point being: it's just too easy for kids these days. If they had to build their own systems, and could only go online when the phone wasn't being used, and even then only for half an hour or so, and there was a solid user-base and strong social etiquette policies that could get you banned (which was death, since there were only a handful of local BBSs and my parents would agree to long-distance charges)... well, then I'd fully support my kid having their own system.

But now? Meh, for so, so many reasons.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:12 PM on May 12, 2007


I used a word processor so small, I typed it in from the back of a magazine!

By the way, just for posterity's sake (and a nod to the good 'ol days), here's the program listing (aka: source code) for SpeedScript. For the kids at home: yeah, you really had to type all those numbers in. There was no internet to download someone else's efforts. The best you could hope for was going to a local computer club meet-up and copying someone's floppy, or if you were really lucky, Compute! would send a diskette with their latest issue (expensive for the publisher and very rare, though I believe they did it with SpeedScript 3.0).

The reward for your efforts was a kick-ass word processor (for the time). And you'd get really, really good at typing numbers.

Now get off my goddamned lawn!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:40 PM on May 12, 2007


My first was a T/S 1000 as well. C64 was my second. But I did learn my lesson. After learning enough BASIC to do some fun things, I took more of an interest in graphics, then web design and HTML.

But you are correct C_D... getting on a BBS, and knowing how hard it was to find a good one; you didn't take that for granted.

Once on the C64 my world opened. CompuServe, Q-Link, NVN, and many now-forgotten services. But my favorite was GEnie, because they had an active C64 group, and some enterprising members had created a GUI for the C64 to use on GEnie. It was a kick, because by that time the C64 was long obsolete, and being it chatrooms where most everyone was on Windows or Mac was great fun. Most people didn't believe I was connecting with a C64.

You also didn't take it for granted because it was so dang expensive!!!!!
posted by The Deej at 6:48 PM on May 12, 2007



A bit late..

I think I owe a lot to the C64.. got it when I was 13, loved the games, and music.. then one day I thought "this game is kinda ok, but I bet I could make it better" which started the whole path down into coding.

BASIC for only a couple of weeks, it was clear it was not good enough. Then straight into assembler.. luckily, Dad was an assembler person from mainframes, so we could explain some of the finer things.. then onto Amiga, more code, demos, games, hack and crack. Eventually into the Games industry to produce more games.

It was a great idea to bring out a Games device that you were allowed to develop on yourself. There days, all devices have to be packed full with security and kept secret. You can't even get dev APIs legally as a hobbyist, not that'll do you any good without the dev hardware, so what kid will try to make their own code these days.

C64 FTW!
posted by lundman at 6:45 PM on May 13, 2007


From IGN:
"Ramis continued, "So we create a device to do it, and it's in a warehouse in Brooklyn. When we step out of the chamber, it looks just like New York, but it's hell. Everything's grid-locked; no cars are moving and all the drivers are swearing at each other in different foreign languages. No two people speak the same language. It's all the worst things about modern urban life, just magnified."
So, like, midtown on a Friday?
posted by Mikey-San at 11:55 PM on May 13, 2007


For the kids at home: yeah, you really had to type all those numbers in. There was no internet to download someone else's efforts.

I remembered there was a checksum, but I'm a bit surprised they used a 3-digit one for every six triplets of numbers. That's a lot of extra typing.
posted by smackfu at 6:22 AM on May 14, 2007


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