The original Star Raiders first saw the light of day on the original Atari consoles of the late 1970s. The game was revolutionary for its time: a first-person cockpit-view space shooter that let you travel from sector to sector of hyperspace while battling the evil Zylons. More than 30 years later, the publisher now known as Atari is bringing back the classic game to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. We get the details from Atari senior producer Jonathan Moses and developer Incinerator Studios president Joel Goodman.
GameSpot: Why did you decide to bring Star Raiders back? Why did the time seem right?
Jonathan Moses: Star Raiders was such an amazing game for its time. Epic dogfights in space, a galactic map that gave players an open world to explore--all on the Atari 2600. There have definitely been other games that have built on this formula, but Star Raiders was the first. I'm a huge fan of the genre, and the opportunity to go back to that original with the new elements that Incinerator Studios is bringing to the table--there was no way to pass that up.
You're going to be seeing more of this from Atari in the near future. Along with some exciting new IP that we're working with, we're not ignoring our history. We're bringing back some of the classics in a way that makes them relevant now. We recently released a reimagination of the classic Haunted House and are gearing up to launch Atari's Greatest Hits Volume 1, which features 50 of our gaming classics. It's an exciting time at Atari.
GS: Once the decision was made to bring it back, how did you settle on the approach--that is, a full-on update of the game versus a more retro version?
JM: I think there could be really fun games in both directions--and you're going to see Atari revisiting the classics both ways. However, for Star Raiders we're going with a full update--really taking the core of the original game and reshaping it around a modern approach. There is a story and gameplay that will be familiar to people who play shooters today, and a universe that we can continue to build and explore. At the same time, players who remember the original Star Raiders will feel instantly at home.
GS: How did you settle on a developer?
JM: The core team has a great deal of experience working with vehicle gameplay and have worked with us at previous companies, so hiring them for this project was the best way to make sure the pictures they have on file never get to the authorities. All kidding aside, besides our own comfort level with them as developers, we received several concepts from other teams too. The game that Incinerator proposed was easy for everyone to sign up for. They spun a great story about what the legacy represented, how to build on it, and why they were perfect for the project. They continue to deliver on that initial promise, and I couldn't be happier about how the game is turning out.
GS: What interested you in updating Star Raiders? What do you remember most fondly about the original Atari game?
Joel Goodman: It isn't often that a developer gets to work with a genre-defining intellectual property, and Star Raiders is just that. Great games such as X-Wing and Wing Commander were influenced by this Atari classic. The original game had great tension when you warped into a sector not knowing what you would be facing, and at times you were immediately thrown into combat. Having to manage the flow of the game from the Galactic Map was a very unique and exciting experience.
GS: Have you given any thought to including the original game somewhere as an unlockable bonus?
JG: We are currently looking at quite a few options in order to provide the richest experience for the consumer. Providing the original game is a possibility.
GS: What are the key elements you feel the update must retain from the original game? What's more flexible?
JG: For gameplay, we are building on that great feeling that the original had of dogfighting in space, while adding another dimension through ship transformations, where the combat vehicle changes its flight characteristics on the fly. Other original components that we felt were important are the galactic map and the energy pool. Managing the energy pool was a core part to combat and gives players another layer of strategy.
GS: What's the underlying direction of the update? Are you taking any inspiration from more-modern sources?
JG: Since the original came out, there have been quite a few exceptional flight combat games, as well as remakes of classic sci-fi movies and TV shows, and they have all played into how we are bringing Star Raiders into this generation. We also wanted to give this version a bit more character by building a story arc for the player.
GS: How did you settle on the game's art style?
JG: We wanted to have a style that balanced classic sensibilities with modern expectations, and we believe that we achieved that. You see elements of modern sci-fi realism merged with a strong focus on rich color.
GS: Could you give us some more detail on the game's online modes? Are you planning any DLC?
JG: Players will be able to engage in various online modes, from team deathmatches to last-man-standing battles. They can also duel one-on-one, or play cooperatively against common enemies in a hostile environment. Plans for DLC are being discussed now, as the new Star Raiders universe is extendable in many forms.
GS: Thanks, Jonathan and Joel.