A Designer of an Arcade Classic Critiques His Work

No secret one of my most favorite classic arcade games is Paperboy. I was one once. It's out on the iPhone, and the original designer rather likes the updated 3D version. His own work? He's a bit more critical.

Dave Ralston thinks the bicycle collision was too unforgiving. (Very true. Skidding almost to a stop and then touching a fence for the SMACK collision was all too common.) Sprite collision also worked against you when you tried to pick up the bundles on the sidewalk. Finally, he thought the obstacle course was "a last-minute add-on."

Ralston's thoughts were shared in news release by Elite Systems, the publisher of the iPhone Paperboy title. He reached out to Elite founder Steve Wilcox to praise the new 3D game, saying he preferred it even to the "2.5D" version he built more than 20 years ago. However, "I gotta ask a question that I immediately had, and have since seen in review comments," Wilcox said, "Was it not possible to incorporate tilt steering, as well?"

Here are Ralston's full comments to Wilcox, according to the news release from Elite.

"Hi guys. I wanted to give you some feedback, though I feel I still haven't played the game enough to give much. (I'm still trying to unlock the Time Attack and Challenge modes!)

First of all…GREAT job! I'm so impressed AND flattered that you so faithfully reproduced the original! (It's all coming back to me!) And I really enjoy seeing the 3D mode, even preferring it to the "2.5″. (Better visibility ahead of you.) The whole thing is very attractively done, I think."

Asked about what improvements he'd have made to the 1984 arcade game if he had his time over, Dave wrote:

"If I were able to go WAY back in time and re-do the game, given what I know now, I probably would've addressed at least some of these…

• Questionable, unforgiving, "all or nothing" collisions. I distinctly remember being very annoyed at feeling I had gotten by something, only to have it knock me over. Sure would've been nice to have some "close calls", even going so far as producing a wobble in the bike without knocking you down.

• Paper bundles are too hard to pick up. Would've preferred to be a little more generous with the collision detect on them.

• I never liked my design for the training grounds. It always seemed too much like a last-minute add-on to the game."

And asked about what improvements he'd have made to the iPhone / iPod Touch versions, Dave wrote:

"I gotta ask a question that I immediately had, and have since seen in review comments: Was it not possible to incorporate tilt steering, as well?"

Commenting on [Ralston's] input, [Wilcox] said: "It's been a privilege to communicate with Dave about his work and our ‘take' on it and you can be sure we'll be paying close attention to what he wrote (along with the reviews) when producing any update".

Arcade Paperboy Designer a Fan of iPhone Paperboy Revival [The Tanooki]