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Video: Pitfall! postmortem: The making of an Atari 2600 classic Exclusive

August 20, 2012 | By Staff

August 20, 2012 | By Staff
More: Console/PC, Design, Exclusive, Video, GDC

[Note: To access chapter selection, click the fullscreen button or check out the video on the GDC Vault website]

Pitfall!, Activision's classic platformer, isn't just one of the most successful releases of the Atari 2600, it's also one of the most iconic and revered games from the early 1980s.

The title was the top selling game for the console for an impressive 64 weeks, and is so fondly remembered that Activision co-founder and Pitfall! creator David Crane recently set out to fund its spiritual successor via Kickstarter. And at the 2011 Game Developers Conference, Crane took a moment to reflect on how his popular action title came to be.

During his classic postmortem, Crane explained that Pitfall! arose because he was growing weary of the types of games that were appearing on the Atari 2600. In the early '80s, the console boasted plenty of vehicular combat games, Pong-derivatives, and other simple titles, and Crane was looking to make something a bit more dynamic.

"I didn't want to make every game I did out of jets and airplanes and tanks and things. I really liked the idea of trying to get an animated character into a game... But every time I tried to figure out a game to make out of it, nothing came to mind," Crane said.

"So I sat down with a blank sheet of paper and I drew a little running man, looked at it, and said, 'Well, he's running, so let's give him a path to run on... let's put the path through a jungle... In literally 10 minutes, or 15 minutes max, I had the design document. That's it!"

With the simple design document in hand, Crane says it then took about 1,000 hours of programming to bring Pitfall! to life.

To learn more about the whole process, as well as the challenges Crane faced along the way, check out his full classic postmortem in the above video, courtesy of GDC Vault.

About the GDC Vault

In addition to all of this free content, the GDC Vault also offers more than 300 additional lecture videos and hundreds of slide collections from GDC 2012 for GDC Vault subscribers. GDC 2012 All Access pass holders already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscription Beta via a GDC Vault inquiry form.

Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company. More information on this option is available via an online demonstration, and interested parties can send an email to Gillian Crowley. In addition, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault admins.

Be sure to keep an eye on GDC Vault for even more free content, as GDC organizers will also archive videos, audio, and slides from upcoming 2012 events like GDC Europe, GDC Online, and GDC China. To stay abreast of all the latest updates to GDC Vault, be sure to check out the news feed on the official GDC website, or subscribe to updates via Twitter, Facebook, or RSS.

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