Gaming Your Way

May contain nuts.

Go, go, go

This is a post that perhaps I shouldn't be writing. We don't often criticise companies, the web is full of hate spewing faceless idiots as it is without us joining that long list, but something I tweeted about the other day has kinda got under my skin since reading more about it to the point that these words are tumbling out of me.

Atari is re-branding it's self as "Atari Go" ( Yeah this posts title took some thinking of ). The overview is that it's going to push into online social gaming more using it's existing wealth of IP.
This could either be fantastic, a real reinvention of one of gaming's golden greats, or just a tired lazy way to get some investment money.

In an article on the Edge site, Tom Kozik, executive vice president of online and mobile, says the following in relation to clones:

"Now, instead of arming up a cadre of lawyers the smart thing to do is say, "Look, you're fans of our games, let us give you the legitimate version of the game," and then bring those affiliates into the fold by saying, "We'll actually share revenue with you." They've been running that less than optimal, if not [coughs] a little dodgy, version of Asteroids or Missile Command, so why not just run the original one, share in the revenue and still have the same appeal to the fans they want to draw to their site?"
Ok, you may think I've got a vested interest 'cause of cronusX, that I'm seeing this as some sort of attack. Far from it.
Asteroids is a timeless game mechanic, it's a true classic. Launched in 1979 the core gameplay still stands up. What doesn't still stand up is the game itself ( I hope that doesn't seem a contradiction ).
I had a quick google as I was writing this to get the correct date for when it first came out ( I was going to go '81 so good job I checked ) and I stumbled upon the official online version on Atari's site.
A really stunning port, but... it's a pretty shit game. Again I can't stress enough that I'm not contradicting myself, a game mechanic is different from the game itself. I'm sure all of us have played games that we thought had a great idea at their core, but the actual realisation was toilet ( And a lot of the time you have that "I wish I'd thought of that" feeling to go with the disappointment ).

Don't just take my word for it, give it a go.

Pac Man CE and the recent Space Invaders Infinity Gene were excellent reboots, keeping the core gameplay but just updating it to todays expectations. Like I imagine most people my age working in the industry I grew up with Atari as the kings of all they surveyed, they were the Disney of games.
Hopefully Atari will be taking their huge back catalogue and doing something really great with it, something that brings in new fans and reboots these classic games, and not just shove a mochi ad in there and include a Facebook like button.

As a side note to this, I was reading some comments on a gaming website, and the game "Centipede" came up, and one of the people replying said something along the lines of "I think I remember hearing about that". No company can just rely on nostalgia to keep people happy, people who used to force untold 10ps into arcade games and buy the [ Often crap ] ports for their C64's and Spectrums are in their mid 30's now. In terms of online gaming my demographic is largely negligible.
Even though I grew up in that era, those are my games much like for some of you Sonic or Mario or Goldeneye will be your games, I'd much rather play Cyclomaniacs than a port of a 30 year old arcade game, no matter how prefect and technically impressive the port.

<edit I stand slightly corrected, check this >


PS. A couple of times it's come about that I've almost worked on Atari projects. That to me would be like being in a Scorsese film, I could think of nothing more childhood fore filling than to work on a game for Atari, any game. That's why I'm so hoping with that existing IP [ To kill for ] they do something really worthy of it, a Tempest 2000 rather than an XBLA version of Asteroids.
PPS. I know I'm being a bit of a prick criticising a company before they've had time to get things moving. I just hope I am shown up to be a prick by this post.

Comments (3) -

  • Matthew

    9/24/2010 6:07:14 PM |

    I think it's important to point out that the Atari of today is not the bunch of programmers from the 70s and 80s coming up with genuinely new and novel ideas. Atari now is a company looking to profit from the IP it has.

    So I think you will be getting the classic version of Asteroids. By classic I mean untouched, old, nice-for-a-few-minutes nostalgic version. Rather than an updated, we-want-the-Kongregate-kids-to-play-it-lots Asteroids+ edition.

    The worrying thing is they might be doing this so as to offer an argument when they start trying to take other versions offline. Rather than just being able to say this is a clone that infringes our IP, they can say this is a clone and there is an alternative that would earn money too provided by us. So be nice and conform.

    I hope that's not the case, and still believe you can't stop someone building on an idea in the games arena. If that was the case there would be a lot more lawsuits flying around about most commercial games.

    You've also reminded me that a while back Sega tried to patent the use of 3D camera movement in games. It's stuff like that which reminds us companies, not passionate individuals, ultimately run the gaming business.

    Sorry if that was a bit ranty, two glasses of wine with my meal tonight...

    (pro game designer 9 years and counting)

  • Squize

    9/24/2010 6:37:56 PM |

    Borderline ranty mate, but all the better for it :)

    If they have got a hidden agenda to be able to push for the removal of clones, then I really don't have an issue with that. It's their IP, it's their right to protect it as much or as little as they like.
    Of course there's the whole grey area of what is too clone like and what is different enough to be exempt from trouble, but that's an issue for another day.

    I don't know why it pains me if a big company like Atari does something special with what they've got or not. It's got to be envy.
    I would kill to be in that position, to have all the gold dust there to play with. You've got the existing good name to get people in the door in the first place, and then it's your responsibility to expand on what you have.

    Instead of Asteroids and Centipede, which are totally niche now, let's have an updated version of Gauntlet with multiplayer, let's have Marble Madness with a level designer so all my Facebook friends can vote on the levels I've done, and me theirs and to be able to play the highest rated level packs.
    These aren't indie projects to be done on the cheap, fantastic versions of all their games could be done in Flash much cheaper than an iPhone equivalent, it's not silly money we're talking here.

    Wow, a rant and I've not even got the wine excuse ( Shit awful week work wise instead ) :)

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