Howard Scott Warshaw, the veteran programmer, best known in the game industry for his pioneering work at Atari on titles like Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, spoke at the last GDC about his work designing and coding Yars’ Revenge, widely believed to be one of the best Atari 2600 games ever made. Recently his name was also brought to light as the author of the infamous E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
The full video of his speech is available for free over Gamasutra’s website GDC Vault, and he is not ashamed to answer questions about both games, but the main emphasis is on the design aspect of Yars’ Revenge. Initially planned to be a coin-op conversion of the game Star Castle, Yars’ Revenge just came to life because Howard convince his manager that a plain conversion would end up in a very bad game, and he would like to try something different. The rest is history.
Some time ago I read the book “Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System“, and one of the chapters covers the design of Yars’ Revenge so some of this I knew already about some aspects, however, watching the video was very interesting as I could hear some of the same story directly from the game creator. The video goes beyond what the book covered when he explains several design decisions, based either on technical constrains or his personal vision of what would be a fun game.
The video cannot be embedded here, so you have to head over GDC website in order to watch it. Just follow the link below!
Link: GDC Vault