ByCassie Benter, writer at
Breaker of Games, Mother of Bug Finding. Co-creator of AdventureJam. Twitter: @FenderBenter
Cassie Benter

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is an adventure game that was released for the Atari 2600 in 1982 - the same year as the highly successful Steven Spielberg film which held the same name. The game was intended to be a loose adaptation of the film, and was expected to achieve high sales figures based on its connection with the film. Unfortunately for Atari, that was not the case.

Maybe Atari should've made a "dress up E.T." game instead.
Maybe Atari should've made a "dress up E.T." game instead.

By the time the rights were secured to create the game, Howard Warshaw (designer of E.T.) was only given 5 and a half weeks to develop the game in time for the Christmas season. Not having much time to perfect the title, it resulted in the game often being cited as one of the worst games ever released, and is one of the biggest commercial failures in gaming history. The game is also frequently cited as a contributing factor to the video game industry crash of 1983.

Never understood the hatred for E.T.? Here's your answer:


However, E.T. is proof that even some of the most despised video games in the world aren't hated by everyone. Several nostalgic fans of the game decided to dissect what made E.T. frustrating, and edited the game's code in order to fix it and make it playable again. One of the most important fixes being the explanation of the "wells" or "holes" and why people constantly fell into them.

The enemy? Pixel-perfect collision detection.

It's easy to blame E.T. for having poor collision detection as the problem of falling into a hole, but in reality, it's perfect. The problem is that we expect E.T. to stay on solid ground as long as his feet are not hovering over the hole. This is a completely realistic expectation, and is how the game should be played! That said, a poor design choice during development meant we had to play differently.

I'd imagine this screenshot gives most players anxiety just by looking at it.
I'd imagine this screenshot gives most players anxiety just by looking at it.

In the retail version of the game, you cannot let a single pixel of E.T. hover the hole or else he will fall in. This isn't exactly a natural thought to think about, so it's only to be expected that players would rage at the illogical manoeuvres. The fix is quite simple, however! All that is required is editing the game's code so that it only recognizes E.T.'s feet as a possible collision. By opening the game's ROM file in a hex editor, all you need to do is make the following changes:

  • 002A: 4C F6 BB
  • 0BF6: A5 9C 69 07 85 F6 4C AB BC
  • 1013: 05 D9 65 E3 65 F6 85 8B 4C 4B F0
  • 101E: 08 E4 8B D0 06 24 13 70 02 85 2C E4 9E 08 E8
  • 102D: A4 86 8A
  • 1034: 85 02 84 1C
  • 1060: A5 87 85 1B A5 88 85 06 8A A8 B1 BA 85 0E B1 BC
  • 1070: 85 0F E4 9F 4C 1E F0
  • 18F3: 2E F0
  • 0B40: A9 EF
  • 07ED: E9 04
  • 0BA5: 22

Help! I don't know how to edit the ROM file!

It's okay, editing ROM files can be a little daunting! For those of you out there who don't know how to manually add the changes to the game's ROM file, you can always download the modified version here.

Voila! E.T. can now manoeuvre like you'd expect!
Voila! E.T. can now manoeuvre like you'd expect!

After all this time, players can finally rest at ease knowing that there's a fix to the pixel-perfect collision! But even with fixing the falling problem, there are still several other things that E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial needs before being what it should have always been - including changing E.T. to usual brown color instead of that silly lime green. For a full list of changes, and the complete explanation of why it was broken and how to fix it, be sure to visit! Now go have fun!

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