Talk:Marble Madness/Archive 1

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Dual trackballs

Can anybody think of a good way to phrase that a solo player could use both trackballs to change direction quickly, instead of being restricted to a single controller, as is more typical of arcade games?--SarekOfVulcan 30 June 2005 20:22 (UTC)

Just say that. "In single-player mode, Marble Madness allowed both trackballs to be used to control the player's marble. Experts used this feature for improved control and speed." --Pelladon 00:02, 7 September 2005 (UTC)

Incorrect information about hardware's video capabilities

I removed the following incorrect information from the "Notes" section of the main page:

 The game can only make horizontal and vertical lines, so diagonal lines had to
 be rendered by hand.

This is incorrect for two reasons:

  • The game hardware only displays "stamps" and "motion objects" (more commonly known in the industry as sprites), and in fact cannot generate even horizontal and vertical lines. ANY lines that the programmer might want to display must be synthesized out of suitable stamp patterns from the graphics ROMs.
  • The graphics were all rendered on a minicomputer, not "by hand". The minicomputer then compressed the images by assigning a single stamp to identical image blocks.

--Brouhaha 01:29, 4 August 2005 (UTC)

Purposely imprecise

The article says "the trackball controls, which are purposely imprecise and difficult to master.". Is this saying that the trackballs were degraded in quality to sabotage the users' efforts? Or does it mean that "trackball technology was, as always, imprecise", ie - it just comes with the territory?

I have an interest in that when I was a child one year this was my game of choice on the annual fortnight spent at a (shudder) holiday camp. And I never did manage to get past the aerial level. If I knew that the controllers were intentionally subverting me I'd feel both vengeful and strangely vindicated. --bodnotbod 18:19, 19 October 2005 (UTC)

I think the article is completely wrong; the controllers are not precise (purposefully or otherwise), nor are they particularly any more difficult to master than any other kind of controls. The game may be difficult to master, but that's not caused by the trackballs. The microcomputer ports of Marble Madness that used joysticks were generally much harder to control. --Brouhaha 20:03, 19 October 2005 (UTC)


An article I read about Steven Speilberg that came out at the time this game was new mentioned that a Marble Madness game was a prominent fixture in his offices. Dunno if this might be trivia-worthy if confirmable. Jafafa Hots 20:43, 24 January 2006 (UTC)

I don't know about that. But I do know that one was in the cafeteria in one of the buildings of Apple Computer's Cupertino CA campus 1990-1991, because I brought it in myself. Not particularly newsworthy, though. --Brouhaha 07:13, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

First of its type?

What marble madness the first video game of its genre/type? 00:59, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

Exactly what genre/type are you referring to? It certainly appears to have been the first 2.5D roll-marble-through-maze race video game. It's also the first video game to feature a stereo soundtrack for each level. --Brouhaha 07:09, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

Removal of ext links

Well done to Wgungfu for removing all those Marble Madness clone external links.[1] They belong somewhere like dmoz, as per WP:EL. --Oscarthecat 18:44, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

Thanks. They'll be back though, as these types have required frequent reversions across game entries. Just take a look at the history for the Pong entry. --Marty Goldberg 19:15, 11 October 2006 (UTC)
I've added a warning, ready for the onslaught. --Oscarthecat 19:22, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

Add to external links?

Game with original Atari maps and sound. "Rolling Madness 3D" write by Luca Elia, used OpenGL in 3d engine. [2] —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:45, 6 September 2007 (UTC)


Shouldn't the passage at the end of Ports (listing Super Monkey Ball, etc.) be moved to an "Influences" section? Since technically those aren't ports of the actual game but rather similar games that were influenced by MM? --Marty Goldberg 19:19, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

Good point, now done.--Oscarthecat 19:22, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

I think this section should also be renamed. In an article on Marble Madness, I would expect a section called 'Influences' to be about earlier games that influenced Marble Madness, but this section is the opposite. Bobbyi 17:17, 22 October 2006 (UTC).

Actually, "Influences" is a standard subject on Wikipedia video game entries and refers to games the article subject has influenced. --Marty Goldberg 00:25, 23 October 2006 (UTC)

Stereo Sound

Verification needs to be made as to whether or not Marble Madness was the first game to feature stereo audio. The game Sinistar from 1982 claims to have had stereo sound in the sit-down version.

The entry uses the phrase "true stereo sound," but doesn't explain what is meant by "true."

TheAlmightyGuru 19:29, 3 May 2007 (UTC)


Why exactly was the gallery detailing the apparent differences between platforms removed? -- megA (talk) 09:29, 23 July 2008 (UTC)

I don't know. Here's what the edit history looks like on the date of that edit:
(cur) (last) 15:37, 9 April 2008 Random832 (Talk | contribs) (9,499 bytes) (→Gallery: no.) (undo)
My assumption is that the images didn't have fair use attached to them. If so, I wish we had a warning so that it could have been fixed. Major bummer. (talk) 17:42, 23 August 2008 (UTC)

WP GAN Process Discussion Area

Since Guyinblack25 and my self are moving this article towars GAN and ultimately FAC, I'm starting this discussion area for discussion points related to the process.

First - I changed the external link to Midway. Atari Games was a different company than the company that now has sole ownership of the Atari brand. Briefly, Atari, Inc was split in '84 with Warner Communications initially keeping the arcade division and renaming it to Atari Games, and the Consumer Division being sold to Jack Tramiel which he folded in to Tramel Technologies Ltd. and renamed TTL to Atari Corp. (later changed to the full name of Atari Corporation). Atari Corp. (manufacturer of consoles and computers) is what eventually wound up with Hasbro and then Infogrames. Atari Games went through a period of ownership by Namco, then self ownership, the Time-Warner Interactive, and then Midway. All arcade properties from 1984 on (done under the Atari Games name) are owned by Midway.

Second, I'm concerned about a few claims in the article. First is the claimed notability for using a trak-ball when trak-balls had been used in plenty of games before it. Second is the claimed "first use of true stereo". The Sinistar manual states the cockpit version uses true stereo via two separate sound cards for each channel. Likewise the Atari Inc. arcade game Crystal Castles released the same year as Sinistar, had true stereo as well via dual POKEY chips and a two channel amp. --Marty Goldberg (talk) 23:29, 20 October 2008 (UTC)

Ok, the Midway part makes sense. I guess the question now is whether or not to mention that in the article. Something like "...and published by Atari Games (now Midway Games) in 1984." comes to mind. My only concern is if this portrays the info well enough.
As far as the claims, I think changing the stereo part to "It was one of the first games..." should work. In regard to the trackball, I tried to convey that the control scheme was different from the normal joystick and buttons people associate with arcade games, not that it was the first to do so. I'm not sure how to rewrite that part. Any thoughts?
The only thing I think is missing is a picture of the cabinet. But I'm hesitant to just grab one off a website. You wouldn't happen to know where to get a free one would you? (Guyinblack25 talk 23:55, 20 October 2008 (UTC))
I would just say it uses a trak-ball (please realize, Atari has always spelled it trak and track). The idea of "non-normal" is a subjective one, and in hind site. At the time, there were a plethora of controllers and control schemes with no one standard. Trak-balls, spinners, steering, multi-joystick, etc. were all seen as the norm. When JAMMA became prevalent in the latter part of the 80's (post crash), that's where you had a lot of the arcade games move to the now more prevalent joystick w/ multi-button control panel layout. As far as the cabinet, take it off the arcade flyer. Its an advertising flyer and permissible for reproduction because of that. I would also say, there's not a big need to add Atari Games corporate history to the article, that's covered by clicking on Atari Games. Maybe a short short sentence by the external link? BTW - just picked up the latest issue of Retro Gammer to hit the states (#55 with Ant Attack on the cover), which includes an article on Marble Madness II. Another perfect example of the haphazard proofing/fact checking in that magazine, they refer to it in the developer bar as being done by "Atari" rather than Atari Games, and simply state "Atari" throughout the article. Yet, in the same issue is a look at S.T.U.N. Runner, which is correctly attributed to Atari Games. --Marty Goldberg (talk) 02:22, 21 October 2008 (UTC)
In addition, just looking it over you should probably mention its been included in the Arcade Treasures package on several platforms. --Marty Goldberg (talk) 02:38, 21 October 2008 (UTC)
I did some tweaking and will do some more tomorrow. Quick question, would that Arcade Treasures be an Atari compilation or a Midway one? (Guyinblack25 talk 02:53, 21 October 2008 (UTC))
I think the info at the external link is clear enough. I added the Marble Madness 2 KLOV link there too.
The only possible problem I foresee with the flyer image is that there is no text in the article to link it to the topic. I'm afraid it could be interpreted as decorative at the FAC. I posted a question about using an image from the KLOV page. Let's see what turns up. (Guyinblack25 talk 03:25, 21 October 2008 (UTC))
Ummm....try checking out Midway Arcade Treasures, heh. As for the flyer, I was suggesting culling a cabinet image off the flyer. --Marty Goldberg (talk) 04:36, 21 October 2008 (UTC)
Added in the Midway Arcade Treasures info and am working on cropping the image from the arcade cabinet. I should get it uploaded and in the article soon.
Regarding the trackball/Trak-Ball, I think it might be confusing to change all the instances of the common term to the Atari term. How about in the lead we say "...marble by using a trackball (marketed as Trak-Ball)." Sound good?
Nothing else comes to mind. If you don't have any other concerns we'll send it to GAN and start working on Pong. GAN is backlogged right now, so it may be sometime before it goes to FAC.(Guyinblack25 talk 14:57, 21 October 2008 (UTC))
Regarding Trak-ball, I wouldn't call it marketing, but the wording is fine regardless. Atari was the first to use these for arcade video games (via 4-player football, baseball, basketball and soccer in 1979 [3]) and later for their home systems [4], and used the spelling consistently through both Atari, Inc. and Atari Games. As far as anything else, nothing off the top of my head. --Marty Goldberg (talk) 15:24, 21 October 2008 (UTC)
After adding in the image, I wonder if the cabinet should be placed in the info box and move the screen shot to the gameplay section. What do you think? (Guyinblack25 talk 15:29, 21 October 2008 (UTC))
I was thinking that as well. Also, I'm thinking the Trak-ball bit should be in the development/technology section in the section that describes the hardware technology. I'm not a big fan of stuff on a main page in parenthesis (to me it looks unencyclopedic and more informal, such as in my user here in our conversation). Possibly something that it uses Atari's trademarked and patented Trak-Ball technology. --Marty Goldberg (talk) 16:30, 21 October 2008 (UTC)
Ok, I'll switch the images. Moving the parenthesis to the development section sounds like a good idea too. Do you happen to some kind of source for the Trak-Ball technology? Maybe the patent number? (Guyinblack25 talk 16:39, 21 October 2008 (UTC))
The flyers I gave have the TM's on them and talk briefly about the technology. I'll try and look through some manuals as well for more specific info. --Marty Goldberg (talk) 22:14, 21 October 2008 (UTC)
I tried doing some searches at Patent Storm and the US Patent and Trademark Office websites, but I couldn't find anything. I think what we have now is good enough. If there's nothing else you can think of I'll put it up for GAN today. (Guyinblack25 talk 15:23, 22 October 2008 (UTC))


In the box it only lists arcade for the platform, but we might include the ported platforms (NES, PS2, Xbox, etc) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:29, 2 November 2008 (UTC)

Technical sentences

These sentences:

Instead of drawing the courses on the pixel level, he created a ray tracing program that generated the courses for him. The program generated the course graphics by tracing the path of light through an image plane based on a heightmap (in this case a raster image used to store elevation data). This format allowed him to create shadows and use anti-aliasing to provide the graphics with a softer appearance.

seem to me a little too loaded with jargon. No doubt these words are familiar to those who know the history of video games, but I'd like to suggest a rewrite to make this material a bit more accessible to those coming to this topic without any background.

How about:

The course images were not drawn pixel by pixel. Instead, Cerny defined the elevation of every point in the course, and stored this information in a heightmap array. The course images were then defined by a ray tracing program that traced the path of light rays, using the heightmap to determine the appearance of the course on screen. This format also allowed Cerny to create shadows and use anti-aliasing, a technique that provided the graphics with a softer appearance.

Any comments on this version? I am also curious to know why ray tracing allows anti-aliasing. At first blush they seem unrelated techniques. Any information on that? Mike Christie (talk) 03:33, 15 December 2008 (UTC)

I appreciate the help with this troublesome section. It is easier to understand, but I worry the ideas have become too choppy. However, that may be what is necessary to make it more accessible. :-\
Here's a tweaked version.
Unlike other arcade games at the time, the course images were not drawn on the pixel level. Instead, Cerny defined the elevation of every point in the course, and stored this information in a heightmap array. The course graphics were then created by a ray tracing program that traced the path of light rays, using the heightmap to determine the appearance of the course on screen. This format also allowed Cerny to create shadows and use anti-aliasing, a technique that provided the graphics with a softer appearance.
Not a lot of changes, but what do you think?
In regard to the anti-aliasing, it's a blurring technique applied to diagonal and curved lines to make them appear as smooth lines. It's normally used for vector-based graphics like fonts and lines generated by vector programs like Adobe Flash and ray-tracers. The reason it's used is because though they are technically perfect lines in the computer, they are displayed on digital displays that use pixels, like monitors. Hope I explained it well enough. (Guyinblack25 talk 04:56, 15 December 2008 (UTC))
Yes, that's better. One more tweak and two questions:
Unlike other arcade games of the time, the course images were not drawn on the pixel level. Instead, Cerny defined the elevation of every point in the course, and stored this information in a heightmap array. The course graphics were then created by a ray tracing program that traced the path of light rays, using the heightmap to determine the appearance of the course on screen. This format also allowed Cerny to create shadows and use anti-aliasing, a technique that provided the graphics with a softer appearance.
The questions: First, should it be "most other arcade games" rather than just "other arcade games"? There's no mention in the article that Marble Madness is the first game to be designed this way; if it was the first, that should probably be mentioned. Second, I now understand the reason why anti-aliasing is connected to the ray tracing -- because of the imperfect representation of the straight lines. Does "allowed" really cover that correctly? Perhaps it should be "required", or something to that effect, since it wouldn't have been necessary with pixel-level design. Or is the point that the anti-aliasing was a positive benefit, leading to an appearance more satisfying than would have been obtained with pixel-level design, but that it would not have been possible with pixel design? I assume it would not be possible to anti-alias a pixel design. Mike Christie (talk) 11:53, 15 December 2008 (UTC)
It was not the first game to use vector graphics, though I can't say with certainty that there were others that used it in a similar fashion. I mainly didn't say "most" because I thought it would be redundant. However if it clarifies the point better, then let's add it in.
Anti-aliasing is something that is technically not required. It's only required if the designer wants the lines to look smooth. Something similar could be draw pixel by pixel, but again it all depends on the look the designer is going for.
I'd say this version conveys the information well enough. I'll add it in with your other suggestion. Thanks for taking the time to help fix this issue. (Guyinblack25 talk 15:44, 15 December 2008 (UTC))
  • I am surprised by the "too much jargon" argument as I am barely technically aware, yet understand the article. You have links for the common words like antialiasing - which I actually know about, even in my state of technical ignorance. I have not been through the article for a while, and maybe will take a past through soon. The changes I have been noticing recently have been good, in my opinion. I was tempted to add something stressing the 3-D aspect, as well as the fact the music was following and matching the action in real time. I would have liked to have known about the German artist who inspired the graphic style - in what way , etc. —Mattisse (Talk) 05:58, 15 December 2008 (UTC)
    • I was a bit surprised as well, and disheartened that this looks to be the only point keeping the article from FA. But if the community deems it too technical/inaccessible, then not much I can do but try to comply.
      As far as the inspiration, Cerny was a fan of the artist. His family had artwork hanging in their house when he was young. This seemed like a trivial detail from the interview to me so excluded it.
      If you're looking for some more info about the game, there's a great fan site dedicated to it. It has a few good tidbits the wiki-article doesn't; since it's not a reliable source I couldn't include them. Thanks for the help and support. (Guyinblack25 talk 15:44, 15 December 2008 (UTC))
      Sorry to hear you were disheartened by the comments; I think the article is in good shape and I have switched to support at FAC. Thanks for working with me on those sentences -- I do think it's an improvement, and I hope you agree. Please do say if you think some of the changes are unnecessary or even harmful -- I'd be happy to talk through it and see if we can get to consensus. Mike Christie (talk) 16:07, 15 December 2008 (UTC)


This is part of the FAC review, but I wanted to place it here.

  • Please complete an {{Information}} template for each image.
  • There appear to be three non-free images in the article. This tinges on NFCC #3 issues, but my biggest reservation is with NFCC #8: the rationales are not substantial. Instead of stating in File:Marblemadnessscreenshot.png The image is being used for no purpose other than to identify the subject of the article., this needs to be amended to state explicitly why this image is so important to the understanding of the concept behind the game. What does the image show, and why is it integral to the reader to see this instead of read about it? Similarly, for File:MarbleMadnessCabinet.png, This image illustrates what the arcade cabinet and its control scheme (trackball) looks like to the reader. why is it important that the cabinet of the arcade game is important for the reader to understand? Might it be significant that video games are so different from when this one was released in 1984? Specifically, what components should the reader understand are important in this image? Again, for File:MarbleMadness-diagrams.jpg, The image is used to illustrate important characteristics of the game mentioned in the article, which conveys to the reader an idea of what they look like. which important characteristics are in the image that are also in the article? How is the reader's understanding of the game improved by using this image? Have you contacted Mr. Cerny to see if he may release a low-resolution image to Wikipedia for this article, making it then a GNU Free Documentation image?
  • Please let me know if you have questions. --Moni3 (talk) 16:39, 16 December 2008 (UTC)
In regard to the issues above.
  • I was not aware {{Information}} was a requirement for FAC. Is there anything wrong with the current format?
  • I have expanded the description and rationale for File:Marblemadnessscreenshot.png.
  • File:MarbleMadnessCabinet.png primarily illustrates the track ball, which was not uncommon in the eighties, but I doubt most readers under twenty would have actually seen one as arcade games now are primarily fighting, racing, and shooting games.
  • I have expanded the description for File:MarbleMadness-diagrams.jpg. Some of the concepts are described in the text of the article in the paragraph next to the image.
  • I do not believe Mr. Cerny is the copyright holder of any of the images. Midway Games hold the copyrights to Atari Games' products, which I assume includes the development documents. I doubt they would make an exception for one of their games and I do not think I would get a prompt answer from them before the FAC concludes.
(Guyinblack25 talk 17:41, 16 December 2008 (UTC))
  • Non-free images should have as much information about them as possible. The information template asks for a description, source, author, date, and type of license. All images should have this basic information. See Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2008-09-22/Dispatches under "The Rationale" section (Necessary components).
  • Just below that section is "Purpose writing" that may explain how to write an explicit rationale, and why "to illustrate the subject" is not enough.
  • If Mr. Cerny does not own the copyright to the drawings, and the non-free image is necessary, the onus is on the rationale. It has to be explicit why the image in question is being used. If you need to present a track ball because they are no longer used, you would need an image of a track ball in File:MarbleMadnessCabinet.png. I'm not trying to be difficult; this is something I had to learn through lots of trial and error. Try this for a rationale: "The image is necessary in the article because 1. it shows the marketing display of the game as it was released in arcades in 1984; 2. it shows the standing cabinet design of the game, which was particular to this game when it was originally released; 3. it shows the track ball and control panel necessary to operate the game in the cabinet format." Similarly, for File:MarbleMadness-diagrams.jpg, a rationale should explain why Mr. Cerny's drawings are so important to the understanding of the article.
  • Let me know if you have questions. Thanks. --Moni3 (talk) 18:12, 16 December 2008 (UTC)
I expanded File:MarbleMadnessCabinet.png per your suggestion, but excluded the information of about the standing cabinet design. Virtually every arcade in existence uses a similar format and it is not a standout feature of the game. If you feel it and File:MarbleMadness-diagrams.jpg still do not meet criteria, let me know and I will remove them. (Guyinblack25 talk 18:32, 16 December 2008 (UTC))
I tweaked the layout a bit, here. It makes the info a bit more accessible, and the same can be done for the other two images in the article. Thoughts? --Moni3 (talk) 18:49, 16 December 2008 (UTC)

Design notes caption

The caption on the design notes claims that most of the ideas in the diagrams did not make it into the game. I clearly remember two of the four, the ramp-to-nowhere and the black-hole. I never made it very far into the game, so I wouldn't be surprised to learn that others made it in to. The caption is wrong in saying "most" at a minimum, and may be completely wrong. Can someone be more specific? Maury Markowitz (talk) 16:30, 11 January 2009 (UTC)

Here's a link to the full design documents. A lot of ideas actually got cut or only partially used, and replaced with new ideas not in the original designs. Here's a link to a fansite that has the level maps too if you're curious.
Any rewording suggestions, or do the links above answer your question? (Guyinblack25 talk 18:55, 11 January 2009 (UTC))
Fixed! Maury Markowitz (talk) 12:24, 12 January 2009 (UTC)

External link

Would an external link to an open-source remake be appropriate? //Blaxthos ( t / c ) 18:41, 11 January 2009 (UTC)

Generally, I would say no because external links are meant to provide extra information to the topic. And while an open source remake is cool, I don't see how it really expands on the subject in a significant way. Plus, looking at the screen shots, the level designs look identical to the arcade version. I'm not sure, but I think that may invalidate the open nature of the game because it is copyright infringement on the original property. Best to exclude it to be be safe. (Guyinblack25 talk 18:59, 11 January 2009 (UTC))