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Ok, so what is the reason behind 2 minutes and 16 seconds for so many early VCS titles? It's 136 seconds. I could understand if it was 128 or 256 seconds, but 136?

It didn't come up in any searches for 2:16 or any other variants I could come up with.

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Here is the answer from Joe Decuir himself:


The question has two parts:

- why have a time limit?

- why this number?


Having a time limit at all applies to some games but not others. E.g. Video Olympics will end on score = 21.

Some games end when the player uses up too many resources, or achieves some goal.

Some games (like Combat) could go on indefinitely, or until a certain amount of damage was taken.


This is a port of common Arcade (coin-op) logic.

These machines generated 60 frames/second. 8192 (2^13) frames is just over 136 seconds, or 2:16.

Some arcade game probably used a binary 13 bit counter, and the practice followed.

(The early arcade games were made with hardwired logic, not microprocessors.)


2:16 is long enough to have fun without being exhausting.

Sometimes there would be others waiting their turn to play.

Plus, the Arcade operator would want more quarters...

In the case of a home machine, it doesn't overtax a parent's patience.

'Mom, wait until I finish this game.'




Joe Decuir

Atari 1975-1979

Amiga 1982-1984

The value was developed by the coin-op designers.

They in turn listened to their customers.

The value is 2^13 TV frames (60 Hz).

In the original arcade machines, it was a hardware timer, not microprocessor firmware.


If the value is too short, it will annoy the end-customers (and miss their quarters).

If the value is too long, the operators (who want more quarters), the next people in line (who want to play) or the girlfriends (who are bored and want attention) will complain.


We just recycled their experience in the home systems.

We didn't realize (in the first generation) that we needed levels.

As Nolan told us: "the best games are easy to learn and difficult to master".


Joe Decuir

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