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All the running men...


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Something that bothers me a little bit is the way the Intellivision Running Man (tm) is often drawn using square pixels.  I'm looking at you Intellivision Productions and Intellivision Entertainment... ;)

intellivisionProductions1.png.01e9926666efec97543018ae17fae837.png  intellivisionEntertainment1.png.1f65ce766b1ce7397b1f4f96d140a1eb.png


It makes him feel squashed to me, with thin limbs.  To be honest, looking at the Intellivision Productions logo, I think Keith viewed pixels as more of a loose guideline, rather than a hard constraint.  In reality, the Intellivision's pixels are slightly taller than they are wide, with 5x4 being an often quoted ratio.  This seems to be based on the pixel aspect needed to get a 160x96 resolution (5:3 aspect ratio) to fit onto a 4:3 TV screen. Whilst this doesn't explicitly take into account screen borders or the vagaries of CRT overscan (mal)adjustment, it seems a reasonable scaling.  If so, the Running Man should be drawn like the version on the right below, rather than the square pixels on the left...



I've also been rather intrigued as to why the canonical Running Man seems to be taken from Football, rather than the first game written Baseball.  I don't know the answer to this, but it seems to go back to the Mattel Electronics days...



It looks as though the Intellivision Productions and Intellivision Entertainment logos are taken from the fourth frame of this image, although I notice that Mattel realised the Intellivision has rectangular pixels :P


Anyway, that got me to wondering what the other Running Man animation cycles really look like.  So here they are, all 14 of them!  Let's start with this familiar eight frame sequence from Football.  Our hero, complete with helmet and belt.  This animation was also reused by INTV in Super Pro Football...



This run cycle seems to be one of only two, the other being WSMLB, where the avatar faces to the left in the ROM.  It also doesn't start on the same frame as the Mattel logo, so let's standardise by having all cycles facing right, and starting on the thinnest animation frame to make comparisons easier like this...



Next up we have Baseball.  The helmet is replaced with a cap, and our guy is less bulky.  This animation was reused by David Rolfe in his tutorial game Killer Tomatoes, however, as we will see, it does not appear in either WCB or WSMLB...



Soccer drops the cap from Baseball, but otherwise is quite similar, with the exception of the bulky first frame...



Then we have Basketball.  Here the belt is always present, and figure is slightly squashed with a torso that is a pixel shorter than normal...



...this is because this animation is intended to be shown stretched vertically like this...



Making the players' slightly out of proportion with longer legs relative to their body, and then stretching the MOB, really makes the Running Man seem tall in this variation. The stretched basketball animation was reused by INTV in both Slam Dunk and Spiker.


Next we have Tennis.  This is the first game that uses a smaller run cycle with only six frames.  Like Basketball, the squat figures are expected to be stretched, and although similar, none of the frames are actually shared by the two games (even frame 2 has the figure one pixel to the right in Tennis)...



To round out the Mattel sports titles we have World Series Major League Baseball.  This is rather tricky as there are a ton of animations in the game.  Not surprising, given the sophistication of the game.  I think the nearest to a classic Running Man is this 4-frame cycle used for fielders.  Four frames might seem a little frugal, but I guess resources were limited, even in a 24K game...



OK, on to Action Network games and we have the minimal four frame cycle of AD&D that reuses frames 1, 3, 5 and 7 from Baseball.  This makes Baseball guy and his low frame rate AD&D derivative the most common Running Man, having been used in nearly 1.8 million cartridges according to the sales figures in Intellivision Lives...



I think that comparing this AD&D animation to the one in WSMLB really shows how the WSMLB is also based on the original Baseball, even though superficially it looks quite different.


Night Stalker reuses all but frame 1 of Soccer, replacing the the bulky figure with something more svelte. Is this the purest form of the Running Man?...



The figures in Tron Deadly Discs are obviously based on Football, sharing the helmet and leg animation, but the belt has been removed and the torso leaned out a bit...



And finally for the Mattel roster we have Maze-A-Tron, with it's very weird leaning, kicking 5-frame gait.  I'm not even sure if this qualifies as a Running Man really...



And so we move on to the INTV titles.  As already mentioned, SP Football, Slam Dunk and Spiker reuse the run cycles from Football and Basketball.  However, WC Baseball replaces the regular side profile animation for an isometric view when running sideways...



And World Cup Soccer ditches the elegant original for this 6-frame freak show...



Finally we have the two INTV action games Thunder Castle and Tower of Doom, both based on Knights with their face guard open.  Tower of Doom has a 7-frame animation with a couple of slightly awkward lunging poses in frames 3 and 4...



Thunder Castle cuts this cycle down to six frames.  Frame 1 is shared with Tower of Doom, with frames 2, 3 and 6 being minor variations.  The less said about frame 4 the better...



Now I've probably been a bit unfair here, because in both Tower of Doom and Thunder Castle your avatar carries a shield, which partially obscures the character.  This probably makes it necessary to exaggerate the limbs so they can be seen.


I think the variations we see in the Running Man animations shows why it was a good idea for Mattel not to bake the run cycle into GROM. Personally, I like the small variations that each game brings, allowing each to have its own personality whilst still belonging to a common brand.  It's a bit like the way each model in a well designed car line up has its own identity, but evokes common themes of the manufacturer.


So, did I miss any running men, and which is your favourite?  I wonder which was the first one drawn by David James for the CES demo back in January 1978?


Edited by decle
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Baseball may have been the first game programmed but football was the first one designed.  The NFL Football cartridge was to be the packin and the flagship cartridge of the system.  My understanding is that there was an attempt at Mattel to program football prior to the job being given to APh.

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Fantastic Decle, as always!!!

Thank you very much for sharing with us your outstanding and endless knowledge.🙏


When are you going to open the Intellivision Academy?

The world needs it!👍👍👍

Awaiting for the Academy, you should definitely gather all studies about Intellivision you did so far in a nice book and get it published!

I would love to buy a copy (signed by you of course) and have it in my bookshelf, next to my collection!!!😎😎😎

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My favorite running man has always been the Night Stalker one.

I thought it was interesting when you wondered if it was the 'purest form' of the Running Man.


Either way, for some reason when I was a kid I picked up on this one particular frame being the same between Night Stalker and Space Hawk ("floating man"?).

In my mind it was super cool for such different games to share something in common.




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3 hours ago, decle said:

I think the variations we see in the Running Man animations shows why it was a good idea for Mattel not to bake the run cycle into GROM. Personally, I like the small variations that each game brings, allowing each to have its own personality whilst still belonging to a common brand.  It's a bit like the way each model in a well designed car line up has its own identity, but evokes common themes of the manufacturer.

I did wonder for a while if the standard running man was in ROM before I learnt more about the system. The big advantage I guess would have been a lot of ROM space saved. But as you say - at the expense of a lot of games using very similar characters


If the Intellivision had more sprites to spare (or even proper multiplexing of sprites!) they could have maybe added to the standard running man by overlaying a helmet or jetpack or whatever but the movement would always be the same


The Running Man looked so cool in adverts and on game catalogues. Very iconic!

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8 hours ago, decle said:



we have the two INTV action games Thunder Castle and Tower of Doom, both based on Knights with their face guard open.






Wait, it was supposed to be knight with an open face guard this whole time?!  I thought it was supposed to be Elvis!!



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I always wondered why the AD&D running man had a Che Guevara cap.  As a kid, to me he looked more like a militant guerilla than an adventuring ranger.


Or perhaps your three-man party entertains itself by playing Baseball on their down-time?  It can get boring just trekking all day long across the plains with a bunch of dudes.



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On 3/3/2023 at 12:46 PM, decle said:

So, did I miss any running men, and which is your favourite?


The running men in MOTU Power of He-Man look unique, but it may just be the multi color sprites.


Growing up I tried to pick out differences in the running men from the games we had. Major League Baseball was always the definitive one for me, as it was the first game we got that had one.

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On 3/4/2023 at 12:01 AM, evg2000 said:

you forgot a running man

That's a really good point!  Well we can't have that!  I think this is the 6-frame animation of the Children's Discovery System (CDS).  It's a bit tricky to be certain because the screen has so much ghosting:



The CDS running man is unique.  It's the only one that uses square pixels!  As a consequence, it doesn't have half pixels, and therefore is 8x8 rather than 8x16 pixels in size.  Nonetheless I think it does a good job of evoking the original.


On a different point, it seems that the intellivision Productions / Intellivision Entertainment logo (right), is not quite the same as frame 4 of the Football Running Man (left):




In addition to the square pixels, notice how his arm and waist are one pixel shorter and the ankle is thicker, as highlighted in the middle image.  I could be wrong, but don't think it's actually extracted one-for-one from any of the animations.


Finally, I've put together a small ROM that allows you to try out all the Running Man animations in one place.  Tap the disc left and right to select a different animation.  Use keypad 1-8 to freeze on a particular frame of animation, or 0 to start the animation again.  All animations are set to cycle in about 40 frames, so the smoother animation of 8-frame cycles is really apparent.  The ROM should work in JzIntv or on a Flash cart and it can be downloaded from here:




And here is a video of the ROM running (please excuse the CDS animation not having square pixels, but the Intellivision can't show them ;))



Edited by decle
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20 hours ago, First Spear said:

This is great work. Thank you for compiling it!

I wonder how the designers of Tron Maze-a-Tron came to their decision to make the Running Man the way they did, the least amount of frames and detail compared to others.


I always assumed it had to do with Disney wanting Kevin Flynn to not look like a generic Intellivision running man, as distinct from Tron in Deadly Discs.

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This was a great series.  I still fall back to Football being the running man.  We used to make fun of the head movement as well. He had a pigeon like head thrust when running.  


What about Bowling?  The animation is short, but it's still a "running man" of sorts. Lol.

Edited by IMBerzerk
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