Atari 50 (subtitled The Anniversary Celebration) is a video game compilation and interactive documentary about the history of Atari that comprises newly shot interviews with former Atari employees, archival footage, emulated games from the company's catalog, and six new games inspired by Atari classics. It was developed by Digital Eclipse and released on Atari VCS, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S in 2022, the 50th anniversary of Atari's founding. The main feature of the game is an interactive timeline that lays out the history of the company and its products in an intuitive way.[3]

Atari 50:
The Anniversary Celebration
Developer(s)Digital Eclipse
  • Drew Scanlon
  • Bao Calvin Vu[1]
Composer(s)Bob Baffy[2]
ReleaseNovember 11, 2022
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Critics have compared Atari 50 favorably to a museum or traditional documentary.[3][4][5] They praised its thoroughness and hoped other developers would receive a similar treatment.[3] The Verge called it an achievement in video game preservation.[6]

Digital Eclipse later announced that they would be producing more "interactive documentary" compilations in the style of Atari 50 under the Gold Master Series branding, beginning with The Making of Karateka in August 2023.[7]

Content Edit

Atari 50 compiles of 103 video games made for arcades and stand-alone handhelds as well as game consoles Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 8-bit computers, Atari 7800, Atari Lynx and Atari Jaguar.[8][9][10][11] Additionally, new games have been created for the collection such as part of Atari Reimagined series by Digital Eclipse staff.[12][13] Each of the original game is given a single save state, controls can be remapped, and a CRT-like filter can be enabled, while bezels recreate art and fill out the wide screen.[4]

The game has a interactive timeline presenting the history of Atari.[8] It is split into five categories: "Arcade Origins", "Birth of the Console", "Highs and Lows", "The Dawn of PCs", and "The 1990s and Beyond".[14] The timeline includes archival material such as design documents, game manuals, context for games and contemporary quotes about them along with video interviews with game creators.[10] Atari employees and former employees are interviewed in the collection including Allan Alcorn, Owen Rubin, David Crane, Jerry Jessop, Bill Rehbock, Tod Frye, Eugene Jarvis, Howard Scott Warshaw, Nolan Bushnell and Wade Rosen, as well as other members of the game industry such as Cliff Bleszinski, Tim Schafer, and Ed Fries.[15][16] The games included can also be browsed through a list as in most retro collections.[6] Some games feature enhancements, such as Star Raiders which has overlays that show player status and rumble effects when entering hyperspace.[17]

Development Edit

Atari 50 features an interactive timeline (pictured) which presents, text, images, video footage and playable games to form a narrative of the history of Atari.

Stephen Frost, producer of Atari 50, found that as there had been several compilations of older Atari games, they felt it was an important goal for the release to give the story for the company and how their hardware influenced both the arcade and video game industries. This led to Digital Eclipse to develop with an interactive timeline which presents, text, images, video footage and playable games to form a narrative.[8] The engineers at Digital Eclipse built a system that allows them to add material in a timeline without extensive programming.[15]

Some games could not be included with the release as Atari no long had the rights to them such the arcade games like Marble Madness (1984), S.T.U.N. Runner (1989), San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing (1996) whose rights belonged to Warner Bros. following the bankruptcy of Midway which had previously had the rights to Atari Games. Other games that were not able to be included were titles attached to other licenses such as the arcade game Star Wars (1983), the Atari Jaguar game Alien vs Predator (1994), and the Atari 2600 game Raiders of the Lost Ark (1982).[4][12] Frost explained that processes were started on getting permission to include certain titles and art assets for other games for the systems which was allowed for games like Yoomp!. Some initial work was made to create an emulator for the Atari ST line of computers, but halted when Frost concluded that there wasn't enough resources required to complete the emulator to the quality required.[12]

Dave Rees the programming said that a few games for the Atari 2600 required unique emulation. This included Secret Quest which uses the switch to display a code-entry status screen. This game required unique code to get it to toggle with a press of a button.[15] Rich Whitehouse created the Atari Jaguar emulator and found it particularly challenging. Whitehouse stated that there wasn't a lot of documentation for the system's hardware, and what documentation did exist had inaccuracies or was missing information. Whitehouse stated that getting the system to run smoothly on the Nintendo Switch "ended up being its own challenge."[12]

From the developing stages of Atari 50, the team wanted to make new games for the compilation. Initially unsure on whether the new games should be, the different team members eventually just went off to create their own games based on their own interests and expertise.[12] These six new games are under the Atari Reimagined label. These include Haunted Houses, Neo Breakout, Quadratrank, Swordquest: AirWorld, VCTR-SCTR (pronounced "Vector Sector") and Yars' Revenge Reimagined.[10][13] Swordquest: AirWorld was an attempt to make a final game in the Swordquest series of games and had consulted Tod Frye, who had worked on developing the game in the 1980s on what the new version would be. Yars' Revenge Reimainged was developed by Mike Mika. The game adds more effects and audio to the original game. VCTR-SCTR is a completely new game inspired by vector graphics by Jeremy Williams. Williams wrote his own software renderer that let him model vertices in a 3D space and connect them to form wireframes.[13] Haunted Houses is in 3D and features voxel-based graphics.[18]

Digital Eclipse gathered video footage from The Strong, the National Videogame Museum and the Museum of Videogame Art and private collectors to include in the release. Chris Kohler, who worked on the editorial direction of the compilation, stated that there was no shortage of footage to draw from but stated that they had to whittled the content down to what was important for the narrative.[8] All archival footage is captured from original sources. Commercials for Atari were provided by Hans Reutter, including a film scan of the Atari advertisement which ran theatrically.[15]

List of games Edit

There are 103 games available in the collection.[19]

Title Arcade 2600 8-bit family 5200 7800 Lynx Jaguar Other Note
3D Tic-Tac-Toe Yes
Adventure Yes
Air-Sea Battle Yes
Akka Arrh Yes Unreleased arcade prototype[20]
Asteroids Yes Yes Yes
Asteroids Deluxe Yes
Atari Karts Yes
Basic Math Yes
Basketbrawl Yes Yes
Black Widow Yes
Bounty Bob Strikes Back! Yes Yes
Breakout Yes Yes
Canyon Bomber Yes
Caverns of Mars Yes
Centipede Yes Yes Yes
Cloak & Dagger Yes
Club Drive Yes
Combat Yes
Combat Two Yes Unreleased Atari 2600 prototype[21]
Crystal Castles Yes Yes
Cybermorph Yes
Dark Chambers Yes Yes
Demons to Diamonds Yes
Dodge 'Em Yes
Evolution: Dino Dudes Yes
Fatal Run Yes Yes
Fight for Life Yes
Fire Truck Yes
Food Fight Yes Yes
Gravitar Yes Yes
Haunted House Yes
Haunted Houses Yes Atari Reimagined game
I, Robot Yes
Liberator Yes
Lunar Lander Yes
Major Havoc Yes
Malibu Bikini Volleyball Yes
Maze Invaders Yes Unreleased arcade prototype[22]
Millipede Yes Yes Yes Unreleased Atari 5200 prototype[23]
Miner 2049er Yes Yes
Missile Command Yes Yes Yes
Missile Command 3D Yes
Neo Breakout Yes Atari Reimagined game
Ninja Golf Yes
Outlaw Yes
Pong Yes
Quadratank Yes Atari Reimagined game
Quadrun Yes
Quantum Yes
Race 500 Yes
RealSports Baseball Yes
RealSports Basketball Yes Unreleased Atari 2600 prototype[24]
RealSports Boxing Yes
RealSports Football Yes
RealSports Soccer Yes
RealSports Tennis Yes
RealSports Volleyball Yes
Ruiner Pinball Yes
Saboteur Yes Unreleased Atari 2600 prototype[25]
Scrapyard Dog Yes Yes
Secret Quest Yes
Solaris Yes
Space Duel Yes
Sprint 8 Yes
Star Raiders Yes
Super Asteroids & Missile Command Yes
Super Breakout Yes Yes Yes
Surround Yes
Swordquest: Airworld Yes Atari Reimagined game
Swordquest: Earthworld Yes
Swordquest: Fireworld Yes
Swordquest: Waterworld Yes
Tempest Yes
Tempest 2000 Yes
Touch Me Yes Digital reproduction of stand-alone LED handheld.[11]
Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy Yes
Turbo Sub Yes
VCTR-SCTR Yes Atari Reimagined game
Warlords Yes Yes
Yars' Revenge Yes
Yars' Revenge Enhanced Yes Atari Reimagined game
Yoomp! Yes

Reception Edit

Atari 50 was released on November 11, 2022 on the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC and the Atari VCS.[5][6][35] It garnered "generally favorable reviews", according to review aggregator site Metacritic.[26][27][28][29]

Critics complemented on the releases timeline structure. with Sammy Barker of Push Square proclaiming the timeline to be introspective and interesting and that the Atari's history that was shown as a "warts and all perspective, which is appreciated"[33] Andrew Webster of The Verge echoed this, stating that without the timeline structure he would have played these games "for a few minutes and then moved on; with it, I'm much more invested in understanding what they are and how they fit into gaming history, and I know what to look for when I dive in."[6] Matt Gardner of Forbes discussed the documentary footage in the timeline, stating that the former Atari employees certainly show pride in their past work and also expressed appreciation of the examinations of the highs and lows of the company, finding that it "knows when to fight its corner–like declaring the Atari Lynx was underappreciated–but the game doesn’t pull its punches, whether that’s criticizing business decisions, former CEOs, games, advertising campaigns, or minor things like how crap the Atari 400’s keyboard was."[14] Samuel Claiborn of IGN desired that more people could be involved in the documentaries such as the prominent women developers, Atari's art and marketing departments as well as decades of journalists, historians and collectors could have added further context.[4]

Many reviewers commented that many of the games included have not aged well.[5][4][33][14] Shaun Musgrave of TouchArcade expanded on this stating that "not every game here is good, of course. But there’s something interesting about each of them. Even the familiar old arcade and 2600 games that have been endlessly re-released can be appreciated a little more with the extra info attached in this collection."[17] Claiborn found that some games had better ways to be played due the nature of the original hardware such as Centipedes trackball, Tempests spinner controls, and the controllers of the Atari 7800 and Jaguar controllers but found that other games, such as the Atari 2600, controlled better due the quality of the original systems control stick.[4] Barker, Massey and Musgrave lamented some historically important games missing such as early titles like Computer Space (1971), Firefox (1984), one of the first Laserdisc-driven arcade games, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) or any games for Atari ST computers.[31][33][17]

Both Gardner and Webster declared the release to be among the best compilation video games titles released[6][14] [31] Massey compared the compilation to the Capcom Arcade Stadium (2021), finding that the title "comes with pretty 3D-rendered gimmickry that resembles an actual arcade, but lacks the internal warmth exuded [on Atari 50]." [31] Jason Fanelli of Game Informer declared it had set a new standard for a future historical video game compilations.[5]

In 2023, Digital Eclipse announced they would be adapting the historical timeline format used in Atari 50 into other projects, under the Gold Master Series branding. Kohler stated that audience immediately picked up the idea of going through a timeline within Atari 50 and following the history, which gave the team at Digital Eclipse the confidence to continue with the format. The first Gold Master Series release was The Making of Karateka (2023), which chronicled the history of Karateka (1984).[36]

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. ^ Digital Eclipse (November 11, 2022). Atari 50 (Nintendo Switch). Atari. Credits Producers: Drew Scanlon, Bao Calvin Vu
  2. ^ Digital Eclipse (November 11, 2022). Atari 50 (Nintendo Switch). Atari. Credits Audio/Music: Bob Baffy
  3. ^ a b c d Russell 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Claiborn 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d e Fanelli 2022.
  6. ^ a b c d e Webster 2022.
  7. ^ Romano 2023.
  8. ^ a b c d Thorpe, p. 36.
  9. ^ Thorpe, p. 39.
  10. ^ a b c Orland 2022.
  11. ^ a b Digital Eclipse (November 11, 2022). Atari 50 (Nintendo Switch). Atari. Touch Me: Platform: LED Handheld Game. [...] Atari incorporated [Ralph] Barer's improvements in their own handheld version of Touch me, which has been digitally reproduced here by Digital Eclipse.
  12. ^ a b c d e Thorpe, p. 41.
  13. ^ a b c Thorpe, p. 37.
  14. ^ a b c d Gardner 2022.
  15. ^ a b c d Thorpe, p. 38.
  16. ^ Shaw 2022.
  17. ^ a b c d Musgrave 2022.
  18. ^ Bonifacic 2022.
  19. ^ Machkovech 2022.
  20. ^ Digital Eclipse (November 11, 2022). Atari 50 (Nintendo Switch). Atari. Akka Arrh: Platform: Arcade. Unreleased prototype.
  21. ^ Digital Eclipse (November 11, 2022). Atari 50 (Nintendo Switch). Atari. Combat Two: Platform: Atari 2600. Unreleased prototype.
  22. ^ Digital Eclipse (November 11, 2022). Atari 50 (Nintendo Switch). Atari. Maze Invaders: Platform: Arcade. Unreleased prototype.
  23. ^ Digital Eclipse (November 11, 2022). Atari 50 (Nintendo Switch). Atari. Millipede: Platform: Atari 5200. Unreleased prototype.
  24. ^ Digital Eclipse (November 11, 2022). Atari 50 (Nintendo Switch). Atari. RealSports Basketball: Platform: Atari 2600. Unreleased prototype.
  25. ^ Digital Eclipse (November 11, 2022). Atari 50 (Nintendo Switch). Atari. Saboteur: Platform: Atari 2600. Unreleased prototype.
  26. ^ a b "Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration for Switch Reviews". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. November 11, 2022. Archived from the original on January 8, 2023. Retrieved June 11, 2023.
  27. ^ a b "Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration for PC Reviews". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. November 11, 2022. Archived from the original on 2023-01-08. Retrieved January 27, 2023.
  28. ^ a b "Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration for PlayStation 5 Reviews". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. November 11, 2022. Archived from the original on January 8, 2023. Retrieved January 27, 2023.
  29. ^ a b "Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration for Xbox Series X Reviews". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. November 11, 2022. Archived from the original on January 8, 2023. Retrieved January 27, 2023.
  30. ^ Castelli 2022.
  31. ^ a b c d Massey 2022.
  32. ^ Ronaghan 2022.
  33. ^ a b c d Barker 2022.
  34. ^ Dellafrana 2022.
  35. ^ Shea 2022.
  36. ^ Webster 2023.

Sources Edit

External links Edit