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Tag Archive: Atari


  

This week Atari teased it will be soon releasing a competitor in the home video game industry, a gaming console called Atari Box, the first hardware system from Atari in more than 20 years.  Atari has been licensing franchises, including making deals for tie-ins like the Blade Runner sequel Blade Runner 2049.  If you played the granddaddy of all video systems, the Atari 2600, then you may also remember the comic books the company introduced, Atari Force. Atari also released three comic books with the Swordquest video game series, and the stories included clues that contributed to the fun of the gameplay.  The comic books were written by Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, and illustrated by George Pérez and Dick Giordano.  The books not only helped guide players through the adventure, they provided information to help solve a puzzle required to win an unprecedented contest, a contest with a series of prizes offered whose total value was $150,000.  The gimmick was great–you had to buy all four tie-in games to be able to have a chance at winning: Earthworld, Airworld, Fireworld, and Waterworld.  A few of those prizes were awarded, for “The Talisman of Ultimate Truth” for the champion of Earthworld, and “The Chalice of Light” for the champion of Fireworld.  But a cataclysm of events occurred–this was 1983–including the release of the infamous E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial video game and other events that ultimately tanked Atari.  (The final prizes: a crown, philosopher’s stone, and sword, valued at $100,000, were never awarded, and are said to have reverted to the Franklin Mint and were destroyed, including the key item, “The Sword of Ultimate Sorcery,” valued at $50,000).  The prizes were the real thing, including real gold, with real gemstones.  Only the chalice is said to still exist.

Today, Dynamite Comics writers Chad Bowers and Chris Sims, and the artist known as Ghostwriter X have put together a new series called SwordQuest, which continues not the adventure found in the gameplay of the classic video game, but a re-imagined set of real world events surrounding the legendary contest that never concluded.  Check out a preview after the break below.  In 1984, Peter Case was on his way to being crowned champion of SwordQuest, set to win the last of four contests and lay claim to a golden sword worth over $50,000!  But when the game was discontinued, Peter found himself without a game to finish.  Now, over thirty years later, Peter’s stuck in the game of life, and he’s losing fast.  But when he learns that all the prizes meant for the SwordQuest contest of his youth are on display in the World Arcade Museum, he finds an unknown determination that sees him put together a team of like-minded losers for the ultimate heist job — a real-life sword quest!

  

Issue #1 is a great read, introducing the characters, Ghostwriter X’s cool mix of modern and retro artistry, and a glimpse at the fun ahead.  Strangely enough–and unrelated to the new series–a real person carried out his own quest in real life based on a similar contest: Twenty years after the Swordquest contest–in 2003–Peter Jackson offered screen-used props from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, as prizes for a contest called “Win the Sword of Aragorn,” a sweepstakes giving away eight items: Frodo’s Sting sword, the swords of Gandalf, Eowyn, Théoden, and Faramir, The Axe of Gimli, The Bow of Legolas, and, of course, Strider, the Sword of Aragorn.  A fan named Troika Brodsky entered but did not win.  So he instead tracked down and found the winners of four items and bought them from the winners–Frodo, Aragorn, and Eowyn’s swords, and Gimli’s axe.  Brodsky amassed the greatest, and only, private comprehensive collection from Jackson’s original trilogy.  When Brodsky decided to discontinue collecting ten years later, he sold them at an incredible auction–the best fantasy auction to date–which we covered here at borg.com.

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Centipede–It was one of the most addictive arcade and home video games in the first generation of video gaming.  Technically a “vertically-oriented fixed shooter arcade game,” it was designed by Ed Logg and Dona Bailey for Atari in 1980.  The player would defend against centipedes, spiders, scorpions and fleas, completing a round after eliminating all the segments of the centipede that winds its way down the screen.  Check out the video below from the Atari 2600 home version and you may remember it well, including the ever quickening, relentless impending beeps.

Co-creator Dona Bailey was one of the first women video game designers.  She intended for Centipede to appeal to female gamers, and it would become the second most popular coin-op arcade game behind Pac-Man for the demographic.

   

Dynamite Entertainment and Atari are releasing a new comic book series this summer based on the game.  Centipede #1 begins a tale of survival and vengeance, written by Max Bemis (Worst X-Man Ever, Foolkiller) and artist Eoin Marron (Sons of Anarchy: Redwood Original).  Dynamite reports the book will blend sci-fi, horror, and action to appeal to fans of Aliens, The Thing, and Predator: “When a terrifying creature from beyond the stars attacks his planet, protagonist Dale’s journey begins, but he is not out to save his world; it’s already much too late for that.  As the lone survivor, the only thing Dale wants is revenge.”

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atari

If you didn’t live through life with an original Pong video game console or the groundbreaking Atari 2600, then you missed out on the beginning of the video game phenomenon.  Coinciding with the advent of the coin-op video game, the home version ultimately sold 30 million units, making Atari the legendary brand it became to this day.  And it all started with a couple of visionaries and an idea to get a dot on a television screen to be moved using the vertical and horizontal hold.  The history of Atari is interwoven with the early history of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Apple fame, the founder of the Chuck E. Cheese pizza and gaming parlors, creators who would leave to form competitor Activision, and countless others who finally get their story told in Tim Lapetino’s book, Art of Atari.  We have a preview of the book for borg.com readers below, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment.

If you’re like many, including Lapetino, you likely threw away the boxes that housed the video game cartridges to your Atari 2600 immediately after getting the game home.  If you missed out on the Atari games altogether, like classic games Breakout, Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Asteroids, Centipede, Pole Position, Jungle Hunt, and hundreds more, you may not be aware of the role the box art played for early video game buyers.  The artwork on the boxes was much closer to the video game realities of today than the original games of the past, which frequently were as simple as boxes and line barriers with the same dot representing a football, a cannonball, a bullet, or a laser bolt.  But, as the designers interviewed in the book recall, it just didn’t matter.  It didn’t really, as the new form of gameplay was exciting in its own right.  Yet the box art is memorable for many, providing an easy recall to every game from Atari you once owned in an instant flashback.

Adobe Photoshop PDF

Lapetino provides interviews with former Atari designers and staff, including those who created everything from the games, to the consoles, and the marketing materials that sold it all.  The artists who created the box art are identified and featured in their own sections.  No doubt Atari fans will likely encounter games they’ve never seen, including countless movie tie-ins.  You might recall the Raiders of the Lost Ark game and the infamous E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, but how about Superman, Dukes of Hazzard, Pigs in Space, and Gremlins?

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Atari box

Atari, the company that brought us the Atari 2600–the game system that revolutionized what it meant to be a zombie–offered families in the early 1970s the benefit of the neighborhood arcade without that annoying quarter-gobbling component.  Adults who shake their heads today at kids zoning out over their smartphone games forget what it was like when they first zoned out over  Combat, Air-Sea Battle, Duck Hunt, Asteroids, Yar’s Revenge, Berserk, Pitfall, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and all their pixelated friends.

When Space Invaders was introduced, kids lined up at Woolco stores for hours on end to play the in-store demo model to try to beat the current high score.  The earlier Pong and Breakout games were revolutionary–and addictive–but Space Invaders was exciting, nerve-wracking, and required a different take on an old skill.  Hand-eye Coordination became a new, finely-honed, almost magical power.  Wielded the best by teenagers.

Then something strange happened.  We got distracted by something else.  Most of us didn’t even notice when Atari vanished.  When modern video games playable on PCs via compact discs came around we all went searching for the original Atari games and for years, nada.  What happened to Atari anyway?

Pac-Man game over    ET video game

If you didn’t track the business pages for Atari back in the 1970s and 1980s, a new documentary will get you caught up.  Atari: Game Over is a nostalgic look back at the first video game designers and how one designer created the first great game for Atari, and later the last, and then vanished into anonymity.  His journey parallels several die-hard fans’ strange and curious search to prove or disprove an urban legend–that Atari lost so much money on the E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial video game for the Atari 2600 (thought by many to be the single worst video game of all time) that Atari dumped at least a million of the unopened boxes in a desert town landfill back in 1983.  It’s also a story of one of the first Dot Com economic busts long before there were Dot Coms.

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