CELEBRATE HOWARD SCOTT WARSHAW DAY 2016 AT THE ATARI I/O OPEN HOUSE!

Join your friends in the Atari.IO Forums on Saturday, July 30, 2016 for a day of Atari fun & festivities!

HOWARD SCOTT WARSHAW DAY
July 30th is Howard Scott Warshaw Day 2016! Howard was a game designer at Atari who was responsible for creating some of the 2600’s most memorable titles. Howard’s birthday is July 30th. We’ve chosen this day every year to celebrate Howard’s creations as one of Atari’s most prolific game designers! This year we’re celebrating with some fun events taking place in the forums:

NEW ATARI-THEMED YOUTUBE SHOW “7800 AVENUE”
This year Brian Thomas Barnhart will debut his new Atari-themed YouTube show “7800 Avenue” with a special Yars’ Revenge episode celebrating Howard Scott Warshaw. 7800 Avenue focuses on Atari 2600 and 7800 with a look at different games and accessories in each episode!

Celebrate #HSWDAY at 7800 Ave. by playing the Atari classic Yars’ Revenge. Happy Birthday Howard Scott Warsaw, and thank you for creating Atari’s best-selling original title for the 2600, this game still rocks! [Via] Brian Thomas Barnhart

ULTIMATE YARS HIGH SCORE CHALLENGE
Ultimate Yars is the most challenging variant in Yars’ Revenge! It can be played by setting the Difficulty Level to GAME 6.

Ultimate Yars features a bouncing Zorlon Cannon, plus some unusual twists that distinguish it from the other Difficulty Levels in Yars’ Revenge. First, you must bounce the Yar against the left side of the screen to make the Zorlon Cannon appear. Also, to make the cannon appear, you need five TRONS. TRONS are units of energy which you can collect at the following rate:

  1. Eat a cell from the shield: 1 TRON
  2. Touch the Qotile: 2 TRONS
  3. Catch a Zorlon Cannon shot after it bounces off the shield: 4 TRONS

If a Yar bounces on the left side with less than five TRONS, it will not get a shot, but it won’t lose the TRONS it has either. (Each time a Yar is destroyed, it loses its TRONS). Each Yar has a capacity of 255 TRONS. If a Yar tries to take on more than that, it will short out and the Yar will lose all its TRONS. The count of TRONS is not displayed on the screen. Yar scouts understand the count instinctively.
Yars Revenge Art

ABOUT HOWARD SCOTT WARSHAW
One of the most enduring and successful original games for the 2600, Yars’ Revenge was the first game created by Howard Scott Warshaw. Originally conceived as a conversion of the popular arcade game Star Castle, Warshaw believed he couldn’t do that title justice, and decided to create his own game using basic elements drawn from Star Castle.

The name of the game is even a reference to Atari’s CEO Ray Kassar, as “RAY” was spelled backwards to read “YAR”. Warshaw developed a detailed backstory for the game that ended up as part of an exclusive pack-in Yars’ Revenge Comic Book.
Yars Revenge - ET
Howard also created an unreleased game called Saboteur, as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Atari 2600 adventure game based on the movie of the same title. All of Howard’s games that were released by Atari became million-sellers.

Following on the success of Raiders, Howard Scott Warshaw was hand-picked by Steven Spielberg and Atari to turn another memorable movie into a game cartridge for the Atari 2600 – E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.

[Via] GameSpot Trailers

Zak Penn’s documentary Atari: Game Over was released in 2014 and focuses on Howard Scott Warshaw’s role in the development of the E.T. cartridge, the financial collapse of Atari during 1983-1984, the events that led to Atari’s warehouse dump in the desert, and how Howard Scott Warshaw became ensnared in the legend.

LIVE ATARI CHAT ROOM
Atari Chat will be active throughout the day and into the night. The friendly retrogaming community at Atari I/O will be on hand to share in your love of classic video games, tv, movies, and more!

Hope to see you there!

Justin is an avid Atari historian, technology entrepreneur, adventurist and raconteur who posts at the Retroist as ATARI I/O. You can follow him at his website and join the Atari I/O forums at http://www.atari.io/

CELEBRATE ATARI DAY WITH A ROUND OF WARLORDS AT THE JAG BAR!

Fresh squeezed orange juice, great friends, and Atari Day! Celebrate Atari Day at the Jag Bar with the 2600 classic Warlords!

Warlords is an awesome classic video game that evokes the early ’80s Atari experience at its best! Warlords makes for a great party game, as the Atari 2600 version supports up to 4 simultaneous players on screen at one time vying for absolute domination!

[Via] Brian Thomas Barnhart

At it’s core, Warlords is about using insane strategy and skill to defeat your best friends and family in your living room and is best played around a nice round of drinks and snacks.

Warlords is a battle between four Kings (players) and their Castles, one in each corner of the screen. A fire-breathing dragon appears on screen at the beginning of each round and spits out a fireball, which bounces around the screen destroying the castles one brick at a time, similar in gameplay to Breakout.

warlords_instructions

Each King and Castle has a shield (controlled by the player using a paddle controller) which deflects the fireball, or can grab the fireball and fling it furiously at an opponent.

warlords2600Screen

Among Atari’s developers in the Home Consumer Division the game was referred to as “Kings in the Corner”. The Atari 2600 version of Warlords was developed by Carla Meninsky and released in 1981. Carla was one of the two female game designers working at Atari in the early 1980s.

Image courtesy of Atari I/O's Facebook page.

Image courtesy of Atari I/O’s Facebook page.

Atari Day is part of a movement we started at atari.io to help spread interest, awareness, and to share our love of Atari and classic gaming with the world.

On the 26th day of each month, we’re setting aside a day to celebrate Atari, share great games with great friends, and remind the world why Atari’s still so awesome. Here’s how it works:

1. Wear Atari stuff on the 26th day of each month
Shirts, hats, wristbands, book bags, whatever. Put Atari stickers on your notebooks, bikes, the rear window of your car, the front door of your favorite bar, anywhere cool really. Let people see your enthusiasm. Take photos and post to your social media accounts with the hashtag #AtariDay. Create memes, print your own Atari stickers, make something new. If you need a T-shirt, you can usually find Atari stuff at Target, online, or in most any mall in America. Wearing Atari stuff, you’ll usually see a few smiling faces coming up to you and offering positive remarks. Each smiling face is another chance to share the fun of Atari with an old friend, or maybe make a new one!

2. Start a conversation
If people come up to you and say they love your shirt, just start talking to them! It’s easy to get people excited about Atari. People love video games. And a lot of people still have really fond memories of Atari! They just need to be reminded.

3. Share a game
Let’s say your friend said something about your shirt, you guys started talking about Atari and now they’re truly excited. You should be as awesome to them as you can possibly be. Share a game with them! Offer to lend them your Flashback console for a week. Better yet, invite them over for a game! Get a 4-Player round of Warlords going. Play a few of your favorite Atari games. Snacks, beer, and a retro movie could make a night out of it. Do something fun and memorable. Make it easy for people to want to enjoy Atari. Show them where they can get games and offer recommendations on your favorite titles. Offer them a few of your spare carts to get them started on their collection!

Why do this?
The idea is to share Atari with the world! People who remember Atari will go “Oh yeah! That was so much fun!” and those too young to remember Atari might discover it for the first time. The more people entering the World of Atari, the better! It’s always fun to welcome new people into classic gaming, and Atari’s legacy could use a little help.

In some people’s eyes the Atari we know and love doesn’t hold the best reputation. So much of what the rest of the world sees about Atari right now is negative. Documentaries about their failure, Atari garbage dumps in the news, criticism and crappy games. Now is the time to help people rediscover Atari and let them see how much fun we have with this stuff. We??re picking a day, the 26th of each month, to do just that!

Other gaming companies actively build on their legacy. They release new games based on old characters and franchises, and they make it exciting and fun to like their stuff. We wish the same was true with Atari, but unfortunately it’s going to be left up to all of us to make that happen.

For more information on Atari Day, visit the Atari Day page at Atari I/O here: http://forums.atari.io/index.php/topic/291-atari-day-on-the-26th-day-of-each-month-show-the-world-how-much-you-love-atari/

For more episodes of The Jag Bar, check out their channel on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/btbfilms76

Justin is an avid Atari historian, technology entrepreneur, adventurist and raconteur who posts at the Retroist as Atari I/O. You can follow him at his website and join the Atari I/O forums at http://www.atari.io

Richard Lewis for Boku Adult Box Juices

When I was little, box juices were a basic element of kid life. My mom would often give me a box juice when I was out running around the backyard with my friends, and in kindergarten you could bank on one being packed with my lunch.

Some days it was Minute Maid in the black box with the little orange straw glued on the side, other days it was a refreshing dose of Hi-C. Slimer’s Ecto-Cooler was a favorite with the juice box junkies in my first grade class. Even today, seeing those boxes in the juice aisle at the grocery store bring back a monsoon of great memories.

So I was surprised when a box juice came along that was made for adults. “Box juices are kid territory” I thought. “Would grownups be seen drinking box juice?” Well, maybe… if it were pitched by an edgy early-‘90s celebrity comedian such as the incomparable Richard Lewis.

Richard Lewis - Boku
“Flavor Just Slightly Over The Edge”

BoKu was a brand of box juice released in 1990 by McCain Citrus, Inc. that was marketed to adults and presented as being more mature than children’s box juices.

BoKu differentiated itself from kids drinks with boxes that were taller and more substantial. They had an adult look and feel, with a clean design that featured minimalistic ’90s graphics on a white box with a splash of color. Its sophisticated packaging tossed out the little straw in favor of a foil pull-tab. BoKu was adult without being alcoholic, and flavors like “White Grape Raspberry” and “Apple Peach” were aimed at adults with a crisp taste and a bit of a bite.

All this carbonation is very unsettling.

From 1991 through 1994, BoKu ran a big marketing blitz of television commercials that targeted adults and featured comedian Richard Lewis as BoKu’s spokesman.

The commercials were memorable, with an indignant Richard Lewis dramatically espousing the virtues of BoKu by saying things like “It’s my undeniable right as a man of the ‘90s to quench my thirst in my own way! I want a BoKu!”

Richard Lewis embodied BoKu’s adult-oriented persona. Edgy and popular, Lewis had been at the forefront of a wave of comics that rose to national attention in the ’80s as cable audiences grew in number and HBO stand up specials were becoming home box office gold.

Audiences today may think of Richard Lewis for his work with Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Throughout the 1980s Lewis made numerous appearances on Late Night with David Letterman and had a number of HBO specials. By 1990, Richard Lewis was on the comedy circuit A-List, and starred alongside Jamie Lee Curtis in their sitcom Anything But Love that aired on ABC following Roseanne and Doogie Howser, M.D.

Anything But Love ran for four seasons on ABC from March 7, 1989 to June 3, 1992.

Richard Lewis was cynical, honest and unapologetic. These characteristics became part of BoKu’s bold advertising campaign as ad dollars poured into TV commercials in an attempt to convince adults that box juices were no longer relegated to the kids table.

Richard Lewis’ commercials presented BoKu’s seven-fruit blend as an interesting and worldly alternative to Coke and Pepsi. “All this carbonation is very unsettling! I don’t want to belch anymore belching is for babies! I want to be refreshed naturally, calmly.” Lewis trumpeted in one commercial.

We’re talkin’ pull-tab here.

I very clearly remember the first time I saw a Richard Lewis BoKu commercial on television. It was a Saturday night, the week I had first gotten my Super Nintendo. I was sitting on the floor in front of the TV about to play F-Zero. Before I could change to channel 3, Richard Lewis came on and began ranting about all the great reasons grownups would want to drink box juice. At the end of each diatribe, Lewis would take a sip of BoKu, mug for the camera and say “Is that too much to ask?!”

[Via] Vintage Commerical

The people at BoKu were onto something, they correctly saw an opportunity to sell juice drinks to more than just children though they didn’t get it quite right. BoKu envisioned a “new normal” in which it would be socially acceptable for a sophisticated adult to order a box juice in a comedy club, or pack a BoKu in their lunch for work instead of Coca-Cola Classic. “I’ve had it.” said Lewis in the commercials. “People invite me to a party, I’m bringing my own BoKu!”

[Via] Gloop Trekker

Around the time Richard Lewis was on TV barking about BoKu, other juice drinks like Snapple were finding success nationwide and entering into pop culture. Snapple and its ’90s fruit juice cohorts were embraced by beverage aficionados of all ages. Snapple came in glass bottles with quirky messages under the caps and promoted a persona that was bright and fun. BoKu missed out on that broader appeal, and was in your face about being the only box juice for adults.

[Via] TV Ads Archive

Unfortunately, after an initial burst of intense popularity, BoKu never got traction with the general public. Later incarnations of BoKu would become watered down and forgettable, adopting the straw and flashy colors of mainstream box juices before being dropped from the market entirely in 2003.

Richard Lewis was a survivor though. He went on to have an endorsement deal with Snapple.

Justin is an avid Atari historian, technology entrepreneur, adventurist and raconteur who posts at the Retroist as Atari I/O. You can follow him at his website and join the Atari I/O forums at http://www.atari.io/

HOW ATARI & INTELLIVISION COMMERCIALS FOUGHT THE FIRST CONSOLE WARS AT THE MOVIES

When I was a kid the only “commercials” you’d see at the movies were for concessions and coming attractions. That’s changed in recent years and types of ads that you used to only see on TV are now commonplace in theaters. In 2002 I went to the movies with my best friend Jon to see Minority Report. We had spent the past 20 minutes devouring half a bag of popcorn and playing movie trivia as questions appeared on screen to entertain everyone finding seats. Movie trivia ended, the lights dimmed, coming attractions were about to start and we were hunkered down with our popcorn ready for the show.

Instead of movie previews, I found myself staring at a Hertz Rent-A-Car commercial. Why am I seeing this? What is going on? This is a TV commercial. It droned on for about 2 minutes while an actor pretending to be a business man was escorted to his gleaming Pontiac Aztec rent-a-car. At the time, the commercial felt totally out of place in a movie theater. It took me and Jon by surprise as this was the first time we’d seen such nonsense at the movies.

Today having to sit through a commercial 20 minutes into your start time is all part of the moviegoing experience. (I had been hoping for Jaws 19 this year..) Usually the commercial is for GoDaddy or TurboTax or some mundane thing that you see at home all the time anyway. What was once the “novelty” of seeing a TV commercial at the movies has since given way to the “impatience” of wanting our movie to start.

It surprised me to learn that some of the first battles waged in the console wars were at the movies, and that Atari and Intellivision had both been pioneers of big screen advertising. In the early ’80s both Atari and Mattel had commissioned some of the first advertising for consumer products, produced specifically for movie theaters to show before previews. Both Atari and Intellivision commercials were 2 minutes in length and shot in a widescreen cinematic format on 35mm film.

Intellivision’s commercial is based on the premise of a “Galactic News” broadcast. A Ron Burgundy-esq local TV anchor and his action news crew appear on the big screen, animated in the style of an Intellivision game. The three news broadcasters report on the day’s “events” that took place in the games of Intellivision, and features fictional news segments on games like Space Armada, Night Stalker, Utopia, Tron Deadly Discs, Boxing, Tennis, Skiing, and Star Strike.

The Atari commercial was a true cinematic experience created by Robert Abel and Associates, pioneers in motion graphics and computer animation. The Atari ad was called “The Fly” and tells the story of an Atari game designer (ostensibly a composite of real-life Atari game designers Howard Scott Warshaw, Carla Meninsky, and Brad Stewart) as he sits at his drafting table trying to come up with new game ideas. He finds inspiration in a fly buzzing around his office, and it leads him through a journey of imagination as he dreams up Yars’ Revenge, Asteroids, and Star Raiders, before returning to the real world and wondering aloud “Let’s see what we can come up with next..” The Atari commercial is a real technological achievement for its time as two-dimensional Atari 2600 graphics burst into the third dimension as you become immersed in the world of Atari.

Atari’s theatrical commercial “The Fly” was shown during the previews before the movie Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

Justin is an avid Atari historian and tech entrepreneur in the video game industry who posts at the Retroist as Atari I/O. You can follow him at his website http://www.atari.io

AtariTel Telephones And The Legendary Steve Bristow

Legendary Atari engineer Steve Bristow passed away last week. One of his most interesting accomplishments was AtariTel, a line of incredibly forward-thinking “smart” telephones far beyond anything that was available at the time.

To say Steve had been integral to Atari’s rapid success during the first half of the 1980s would be an understatement. By all accounts Steve Bristow was a genius, though there were a number of those working at Atari in those days. Steve was loved and respected by his colleagues and had become known for his trademark muttonchops. He was at Atari almost from the very beginning until his departure in 1984. Bristow was an intern working at Ampex with Nolan Bushnell, when Nolan began work on Computer Space, Steve was there to help. Bristow later joined Joe Keenan at Kee Games, a faux-competitor and wholly-owned subsidiary of Atari that they created as a rouse to corner the market. At Key Games, Steve Bristow developed a legendary game called Tank (Combat on the Atari 2600) and Indy 800, a popular early racing game. When Key Games merged back into Atari, Steve Bristow underwent a succession of promotions, first to VP of Engineering at Atari’s Coin-Op Arcade Division, then to VP of Engineering at Atari’s Home Consumer Division (home games) and eventually VP of Engineering at Atari’s Advanced Technology Division where all sorts of crazy things were taking place. (Think “Skunkworks”)

bristow

Atari was looking to expand beyond video games. Deregulation of the Bell Telephone System was about to happen and people would have vastly improved choices in phones and features. Steve Bristow saw this as an opportunity. He pitched the idea of Atari developing advanced new phones based on intercom technology that plugs into power outlets and allows for communication through electrical wiring in a home. Atari’s parent company, Warner Communications, loved the idea and created a new division called “AtariTel”.

Once again, Steve was promoted. For the next two-and-a-half years Steve and his brilliant team worked in secret, creating a whole new line of consumer electronics. Steve’s new phones could store numbers, place a call on hold, and work as a speakerphone. But they were so much more advanced than what anyone had expected. AtariTel phones acted as “home controllers” letting people have phone extensions throughout the house to make and receive calls, use them as room monitors, intercoms, control power modules, home appliances, adjust the temperature of the thermostat even while away from home, turn lights off and on, manage home security systems, and expand with added features to come through the ’80s. The AtariTel LumaPhone was an early videophone, letting people make video calls and send black and white images to each other which would appear on the phone’s tiny monitor.

Atari Press releases at the 1983 CES announced “AtariTel is a new, dramatically capable home network for voice communications, communications management, appliance control, security and environmental control. The AtariTel system incorporates new technology and features not available in other residential telecommunications products.” Atari telephones would have sold nationwide in Atari Adventure stores alongside Atari computers, software and games where customers would experience these new technologies up close and hands-on, often for the very first time. Alan Alda introduced one AtariTel product in the promotional video below, Steve Bristow is the “Steve” that Alan Alda is pretending to speak to on the phone:

Unfortunately the video game crash of 1983 nearly put Atari out of business. Atari’s CEO Ray Kassar left the company amid SEC allegations of insider trading, and was replaced by James J. Morgan who was tasked with saving the company. Just as AtariTel was ready to launch, James Morgan pulled the plug as Atari could no longer afford the AtariTel project. It didn’t save the company though, six months later Warner Communications sold Atari in a “fire sale” the highest bidder and most everyone, including James Morgan, was out of a job. It’s sad to think that maybe a few innovative new products like AtariTel would have diversified Atari and helped them survive the video game crash.

Justin is an avid Atari fan and posts at the Retroist as Atari I/O. You can follow him at his website http://www.atari.io

Scoring an UNREAL 360° surfing in California Games on Atari Lynx

Around this time of year I usually find myself craving California Games on Atari Lynx, particularly the Surfing level which is one of my all-time favorite games. It’s a great way to clear the Winter blues and get ramped up for Spring. The object of the surfing portion of the game is to launch your surfboard off of the wave and spin around in the air for points, scoring a 360°, Double 360°, Triple 360°, Quadruple 360°, – or the ultimate achievement: UNREAL 360°!

A few years ago I made a video for my website and incidentally pulled an Unreal 360° while I was recording the game! Getting an Unreal 360° in California Games used to be the stuff of legends (some people would argue that it was a myth!) and I had only managed to score an Unreal 360° one or two other times in my life. My excitement for Springtime fun and California Games inspired me to share the video with you, for anyone curious what the Unreal 360 looks like on Lynx!

California Games was released as the pack-in title for Atari Lynx in September, 1989. This version of California Games features four different “extreme games” selected from the title screen – BMX, Surfing, Halfpipe and Footbag – each with short-play arcade-style gameplay that allows just 1min 30sec to swing tricks and finish with a new high score. At the end of the round, your top scores from all four events are displayed on screen. With a variety of events for everyone, bright sunny graphics, and awesome midi renditions of Louie-Louie and Wipeout, it‘s not hard to see why this was the pack-in title for the Lynx. California Games was programmed at EPYX by James Donald, Pete Wierzbicki, Larry Abel and Stephen Jungels.

Justin is an avid Atari fan and posts at the Retroist as Atari IO. You can follow him at his website http://www.atari.io