Serve the public trust, protect the innocent, fix Robocop

Yesterday I went Full Nerd wittering on about Guru Larry’s “5 Purposely Broken, Unbeatable Games by Dickish Developers” fact hunt video. Today I thought I’d switch up a gear… by wittering on about a different entry in Guru Larry’s “5 Purposely Broken, Unbeatable Games by Dickish Developers” fact hunt video. Well, you’ve got to keep it fresh, haven’t you? (you just couldn’t let it lie could you? – Vic).

Another Ocean game to come under fire from Larry’s ‘deliberately sabotaged’ allegation is the licensed adaptation of the movie Robocop, which Ocean’s former development director, Gary Bracey, managed to secure the rights to for a pittance of $20,000 long before anyone imagined it would amount to anything more than a fly-by-night B movie starring mostly no-name actors. Whilst it’s a set-in-stone fact that the fourth stage of the Commodore 64 incarnation – the one right after you take on ED-209 – resembles an 8-bit pixelated scrambled egg due to the presence of severe graphical corruption, it’s not immediately apparent that there was any sort of cover up afoot on Ocean’s part.

Larry argues that Ocean were aware of the issue, though couldn’t be bothered to fix it so allocated a stingy time limit to the preceding level to render it impossible to beat, thereby smoke-screening their programming incompetence and laziness.

Yes, programming lead, John Meegan, did admit there was potential for complications when he explained that, “the eight sprites on a line restriction was always a pain with games like RoboCop as even with multiplexing, you had to be careful as the sprites would tear or glitch if the reused sprite crossed itself. And the colour scrolling was a huge processor hog, as was sorting the sprite table.”

With this in mind you’d have imagined the issue would have been thrice-ringed with a thick red marker pen when briefing the play-testers to ensure any such bugs were identified and squished long before the game was sent to the publishers. For whatever reason that didn’t happen. This much we know. Incidentally, when Ocean re-released the game via their budget label, ‘The Hit Squad’ they still hadn’t resolved the graphical corruption saga.

Despite the tight 3 minute time limit imposed on the warehouse level, some gamers claim to be able to reach the end without employing the notorious wall-glitch cheat Larry refers to in his video. That said, the only existing footage to demonstrate how to complete the level was recorded using ElfKaa’s 2012 RoboCop +2 101% fixed cracked/trained release, which boosts the allocated time-frame by an extra 30 seconds.

So how else could the ridiculously heartless time limit be justified? John believes, “RoboCop was way too tough, essentially because when you’d programmed and debugged the same gameplay over and over again, you knew exactly what to do and when, while the poor gamer doesn’t.”

Should you glitch your way through the warehouse in the original release, you can reach the garbled level, and complete that one too, assuming you can blindly navigate your way through Robocop’s equivalent of the Death Star garbage compactor without meeting your maker… ending up back at OCP’s workshop then? It’s one route to eternal life I suppose.

The crux of the matter is that the game was finished, albeit riddled with crippling bugs and should never have been sent to the publishers when it was, even if it meant missing the critical December deadline, and failing to cash in on the lucrative, present-buying frenzy in the run up to Christmas 1988. Enduring reputation surely would have been paramount over and above short-term sales figures in the grand scheme of things, given that Ocean were in it for the long haul?

Had Ocean figured out what the hell they did to produce a 100% working, NTSC, disk-based version targeted towards the US market (the one ElfKaa based his hack upon), they might have been able to salvage the European release before the damage had been done. Thickens the plot does, hmm.

Finally, in conclusion, to answer the burning quandary, was Larry right to suspect Ocean of subterfuge? [Shrug] I dunno. I’m sorry I started this now.

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