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Atari is 50! How a couple of Star Wars Easter Egg? – The Arcade Blogger

Today marks the fiftieth Anniversary of the creation of the Atari Brand, by founders Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney.

Rather than write some opus piece concerning the firm’s historical past, a lot of which is already well-documented (and I’ll guess you could find a whole bunch of these littered throughout the net within the coming days anyway), I believed I’d showcase one thing that in its personal means highlights simply why this firm was so particular and profitable throughout its heyday.

Atari’s official emblem, celebrating its fiftieth anniversary

Some time again, I wrote concerning the growth of Atari’s Star Wars arcade cupboard – verify that out right here. Since writing that piece, I’ve had the nice fortune to interview Mike Halley and had additional discussions with Jed Margolin concerning the growth of the sport. Of all of the issues we mentioned, it was one small factor that I discovered most attention-grabbing, and that was details about a comparatively unknown (I feel!) Easter Egg within the recreation.

The the explanation why it hasn’t been referenced earlier than now could be twofold:

  1. It shouldn’t have been positioned there within the first place and was in opposition to firm coverage
  2. It was so nicely hidden, it might be 99% unattainable to identify anyway

So earlier than I get to that, how did all this begin? A collector buddy over right here within the UK was asking about some names they discovered when engaged on an Atari AR3 sound board. They had been asking who these folks is perhaps. Here’s an image they shared:

You could make out “JANE”, “JED” and “JOE”

When I noticed this, I guessed that Jed was prone to be Jed Margolin, former Atari coin op engineer. I’ve spoken to Jed many occasions through the years (he’s been invaluable for a lot information concerning articles on this weblog through the years), so I believed I’d attain out and ask him. Sure sufficient Jed confirmed that JED was certainly himself. JANE would have been Jane Rodgers and JOE was Joseph Dieu. Jane and Joe each labored as PCB designers for Atari.

Jed went onto clarify that taking one’s personal identify and actually stamping it onto a PCB at Atari, was a reasonably unusual factor for workers to do, because it might result in hassle with administration. The firm line was they didn’t need different corporations stealing their expertise and folks. I suppose you possibly can additionally argue that Jed, Joe and Jane the place there to do a job, and to not personalise their work! And certainly Jed tells me that he (and them) landed themselves in some sizzling water for this stunt. But there was clearly a way that the staff wished some recognition for his or her efforts in serving to Atari be a hit, and with none viable means of doing so, nicely, why not stamp your work ultimately along with your initials or identify on the again of a Printed Circuit Board that only a few folks would see anyway? Your graffiti would possibly by no means get noticed, however no less than you knew it was there, proper?

The different frequent apply amongst programmers was to make use of their initials within the excessive rating tables on the video games – I wrote about that right here.

So clearly such practices went on. I get a way it was nearly a problem to see how this might be finished in such a means that it might slip previous any testing or Quality Assurance carried out by Atari.

Anyway, to get to the purpose of this submit: this led Jed to share with me how the design group of Atari’s Star Wars, managed to sketch their names really into the sport itself with out anybody noticing. Or in order that they thought.

Atari’s Star Wars. “The Coin Video Experience From Atari”

According to Jed, this was the primary time {that a} group did what you might be about to learn. For context, what made the group that labored on the Star Wars recreation completely different to everybody else writing different video games, was they had been a self-contained unit of people that labored very carefully collectively on one undertaking at a time.

For Star Wars, Rick Moncrief’s group (my group) grew to become a self-contained group. We had {hardware} engineers, programmers, our sound programmer (Earl Vickers), and our personal PCB designer (Denny Simard). We had been all in the identical workplace space and labs and all reported to Rick

Jed Margolin

This was completely different to different “teams” at Atari, the place the programmers would share engineers, for instance, with their colleagues. This meant that no group engaged on a recreation had their very own full-time engineer. The engineers labored on a number of completely different initiatives at a time. Which was high quality, however the group spirit was missing considerably, and likewise meant that video games had been labored on at numerous locations throughout the constructing quite than in a single space. Given the significance of the Star Wars franchise recreation being developed, issues needed to be completely different. And Rick was in a position to go to the supply and know fairly rapidly what the standing of the varied elements of the undertaking had been.

This presumably allowed the shut knit group loads of time to determine easy methods to drop their very own private Easter egg into the sport. So what’s it? Jed explains:

We put our surnames on the Death Star!

Jed Margolin

So in the event you’re not accustomed to Star Wars the sport, the dying star seems within the recreation on the finish of each “wave”. The names really seem on the construction each different time the participant reaches the star. There’s additionally already one Easter egg on the similar level that I feel is perhaps identified to some gamers (perhaps? perhaps not?), and that’s the looks (only for a cut up second) of the phrases: MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU as you swoop into the dying star.

The superb color vectors of Atari’s Star Wars

Well fortunately for you, I’ve finished the onerous work right here and might share beneath in these movies how these Easter eggs would seem.

So first up, right here’s the dying star strategy sequence throughout regular play. The brightness on the display screen is dialled in usually. This ostensibly is what you see as a participant:

Atari Star Wars Death Star Animation Sequence at regular pace

Quick isn’t it? But what in the event you control these dots on the dying star, and gradual the footage down?

Let’s begin with the all odd numbered waves. You can see that to the bare eye the sequence of dots are seen, however not a lot else is between them aside from black display screen. It all occurs so rapidly at full pace as we confirmed above, there’s no discernible message or phrases seen. But look carefully…. if we gradual that footage down, you’ll be able to nearly make out these hallowed phrases MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU:

May The Force Be With You

And right here is similar sequence for all even numbered waves. Again, just some dots would usually seem, however gradual the footage down and you’ll simply make out some phrases that are the surnames of the designers of the sport:

Atari’s Designer Names…

For completeness, the identical patterns seem when the dying star is destroyed, and the digital camera pans out. As proven right here:

The message keep on the star on exit too!

So in reality, odd quantity ranges present ‘May The Force Be With You’ and even quantity ranges present the 6 designers names. There’s one small drawback. They aren’t actually seen to the participant, by necessity, as this was one thing that shouldn’t have been finished, it needed to be hidden. So nicely hidden that it wouldn’t be seen.

But seen they’re! However as all the pieces occurs so rapidly, it was a secure guess they wouldn’t be noticed except you knew what to search for.

Even in the event you managed to note “something”, in every case, the vectors between the dots are drawn by the sport so faintly, that they will’t be learn beneath regular enjoying circumstances.

Unless! You had a pause button (which you wouldn’t again in 1983 in fact), and the brightness on the vector monitor is turned means as much as present the scan traces between the vectors.

Now, anybody who owns any vector recreation will let you know that’s its not a good suggestion to run a recreation like Star Wars with the brightness turned up something above the place it ought to be. Especially throughout a sequence just like the dying star blowing up, the place the vectors are going loopy. You run the chance of shagging your 40 12 months previous, uncommon, color vector monitor!

But within the pursuits of science we turned up the brightness on a Star Wars recreation, risking a small hearth and costly restore invoice, so as to seize fairly clearly, the names involved:

The Star Wars Arcade Team names 1
The Star Wars Arcade Team names 2

Please don’t strive that at dwelling. I don’t need lawsuits or a pile of vector {hardware} to restore from everywhere in the world thanks very a lot.

So for the document, from the highest, the names included within the recreation are:

Norm AVELLAR– Programmer

Earl VICKERS – Audio Engineer

Erik DURFEY – Technician

Mike HALLY– Designer

Greg RIVERA– programmer

Jed MARGOLIN– Engineer/Programmer

All labored tirelessly to make Atari’s Star Wars the good online game it turned out to be.

So while the brightness needed to be turned means up on the monitor to have any likelihood of even recognizing what had been added to the dying star’s vector element, doubtlessly seen for only a temporary cut up second because the graphics rush by, it was in fact noticed by somebody at Atari in some unspecified time in the future, and the group received some severe warmth for his or her hi-jinx!

For many video games after Star Wars it really grew to become pretty frequent apply for the programming groups so as to add their names to arcade video video games. Some went so far as having a full credit display screen – like on the finish of the flicks. Hard Drivin’ for instance lists everybody and all the pieces however the kitchen sink!

But Star Wars holds the accolade as the primary Atari arcade title the place this was efficiently pulled off, ostensibly, proper beneath the noses of the powers that be.

Massive due to fellow fanatic Les Potts for filming this footage for me (and within the course of risking the well being of his Star Wars upright recreation!) and permitting me to share it right here – thanks Les, you’re a gent sir. (I’m happy to report that the brightness pot is turned again down and all is nicely within the Les Potts dwelling arcade).

And not for the primary time (and I’m certain not the final) hats off to Jed Margolin for his countless help and deep insights into recreation creation at Atari again within the day. Thank you Jed for sharing all this mad element with the world in any case these years.

Anyway, blissful birthday to the Atari model. Maybe some extra on that within the coming weeks. I’m signing off to have a number of rounds of Tempest and Gravitar I feel.

Hope you loved this enjoyable have a look at the lengths some designers went to make sure their names lived for eternity inside their online game creations.

See you subsequent time.




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