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Hacker ‘fixes’ E.T., the worst game ever

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E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

New Mexico residents might want to grab their shovels.

Those long buried copies of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, the infamous Atari 2600 game that many believe contributed to the great North American video game industry crash of 1983, might be worth digging up thanks to a hacker who has seemingly fixed its biggest bugs.

The game, which was released in December of 1982 after being rushed through development in less than six months, was a total mess. Players who braved it found themselves continually falling into wells from which they could not escape, making the game immensely frustrating and eventually earning it a spot on most every 'worst video game ever' top 10 list.

Perhaps because of its awfulness, though, it amassed a fan base -- and a group of those fans decided to make things right. Ultimately one, David Richardson of Greenville, PA, succeeded in that quest.

The solution gets a bit technical, but came down to two things: Adjusting the code to ensure E.T. wasn't quite so clumsy around those wells and adjusting the settings so E.T. didn't pass out in exhaustion after just a few steps (though he does still tire when he runs, falls or hovers).

The result isn't an E.T. game that everyone will love, but it's a vast improvement over what many people consider to be the worst video game of all time.

While E.T. is certainly notorious, it wasn't exactly a flop when it first came out. In fact, it sold some 1.5 million copies, making it one of the best-selling titles for the Atari 2600.

Atari had much higher hopes, though, given the popularity of the movie on which it was based. That led to millions of unsold copies left on storehouse shelves, which were ultimately buried in a landfill near Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Richardson's hack won't help Atari as a company, but it does earn him high marks from those who still like to play classic games -- and, more notably, the person responsible for creating the game in the first place.

“He brought a lot of integrity to the project,” says Howard Scott Warshaw, designer of E.T. as well as the Atari 2600 classic Yars Revenge. “I think he did a nice job.”

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