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AtariHero

If you were to Re-design Atari Karts...

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I can't believe it's been almost three years since I blogged about this but it seems appropriate to share as I'd like to hear your thoughts.

 

From a side blog that I haven't updated in a while:

 

https://arcryphongames.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/redesigning-atari-karts-atari-jaguar/

 

(Yes, I am aware that many images in the post are broken, I'll have to fix that)

 

I always liked Atari Karts but there were aspects of it that felt off - particularly that it only used Bentley Bear as an Atari character and didn't feature a roster based off Atari's rich history from the early 80s. Driving as Yar, Major Havoc, Charley Chuck, Berthilda The Witch, Robot 1984, Louie (Scrapyard Dog), Commander Champion and others. 

 

On top of that I think the game could have better fulfilled its name by featuring levels & items based on Atari universe scenes.

 

I don't really have any issues with how the game plays (maybe except for an improvement on getting stuck on the sides in certain levels...I've seen kids get frustrated with that), it's more that the game doesn't really feel "Atari" when it barely references the company otherwise.

 

Agree or disagree? Any changes you would make if you could?

Edited by AtariHero

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In terms of features and theming, Mario Kart certainly is a more complete game although graphically I think that Atari Karts stands strong in that regard thanks to full screen, hills, color, animations and frame rate. I also don't mind the more arcade-like focus on racing although when I first grabbed the game I had an odd expectation of there being a battle mode. That said, I really haven't found battle mode on MK to be very fun any more, maybe it's just age.

 

Power-ups apart from having more offensive items and Atari related items could have been more visible as you mention. I can't imagine having the symbol floating above the track as a sprite would have affected the engine that much although I'm a backseat driver when it comes to coding.   

 

One place that AK was odd too was the music. Too melancholy at times, particularly on the scores/ranking scene. It could have used something a little more upbeat (YaK's TxK has this problem - too many 'smooth' tracks that feel out of place with what the gameplay was trying to do). That said, it is quite distinctive whether you like it or hate it, easy to remember which cannot be said for so many other games. 

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Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of classic characters to be drawn from Atari's golden era games.  I think this is one reason why we only see Bentley Bear in Atari Karts.  The most popular Atari arcade properties predate character driven games. As mentioned above, you're essentially limited to Charley Chuck, Berthilda and Major Havoc.  While a lot of fun, Crystal Castles, Food Fight and Major Havoc are not exactly top tier Atari titles in the vein of Asteroids, Centipede, Tempest, Missile Command and Battlezone.  That said, the classic IP could have been leveraged for world building.

 

For example, imagine a Missile Command inspired world where you're driving your kart racer in a city while ballistic missiles rain down around you.  Or driving through a mushroom filled land where spiders, scorpions and centipedes are the hazards.  Atari missed an opportunity to find creative ways to themes from their best known games into Atari Karts.

 

I won't dwell on other improvements like better control, longer tracks, and more obvious power-ups and hazards.  We all know the game didn't have a lot of depth or polish.  For what it is - a generic kart racer - I've always enjoyed it. 

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Oh man, you are so right.  What a wasted opportunity. 

 

I know some of these probably had licensing issues, but some cool characters they should have tried to include:

  • Pitfall Harry
  • Pac Man
  • The Adventure square.
  • E.T.

The special animations and power ups for these characters almost write themselves. 

 

And atarilbc's idea of Atari themed tracks is inspired!  Asteroids, Missile Command, Pong, Combat. 

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That sad thing is is that the game came out when the Jag was pretty much dead when it came out. And at the time, retro wasn't as in as it is now and Atari characters would not have added much appeal to the general public.

 

However it would've been cool if they did add some old Atari characters with matching stages:

 

(I will copy some, but I won't include Atari Games characters, since it was a different company, even though they had a good, working relationship with Atari Corp.)

 

Adventure Square outside the Yellow Castle, using the bridge to jump, magnets that pull the cars of the track and dragons to eat the karts.

Yar, driving on the neutral zone similar to the rainbow roads in Mario Kart.

Ninja from Ninja Golf, driving through a golf course, and underwater!

Charley Chuck with pot holes on the course with random chefs popping up.

Desert Falcon on a pyramid themed course.

Pole Position course where the Pole Position car drove a kart ;)

Sentinel orb on a space course

Tempest U driving on a rotating tempest tube.

Centipede Elf driving through a mushroom forest

Haunted House eyes in a (duh) Haunted House

Combat Tank on a very basic course

Outlaw guy on a generic desert course with cacti

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Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of classic characters to be drawn from Atari's golden era games.  I think this is one reason why we only see Bentley Bear in Atari Karts.  The most popular Atari arcade properties predate character driven games. As mentioned above, you're essentially limited to Charley Chuck, Berthilda and Major Havoc.  While a lot of fun, Crystal Castles, Food Fight and Major Havoc are not exactly top tier Atari titles in the vein of Asteroids, Centipede, Tempest, Missile Command and Battlezone.  That said, the classic IP could have been leveraged for world building.

 

For example, imagine a Missile Command inspired world where you're driving your kart racer in a city while ballistic missiles rain down around you.  Or driving through a mushroom filled land where spiders, scorpions and centipedes are the hazards.  Atari missed an opportunity to find creative ways to themes from their best known games into Atari Karts.

 

I won't dwell on other improvements like better control, longer tracks, and more obvious power-ups and hazards.  We all know the game didn't have a lot of depth or polish.  For what it is - a generic kart racer - I've always enjoyed it. 

As some of the later posts mentioned, there are a few more characters in the Atari world than usually come to mind but it's really hard to put any Atari character in the world recognition category anymore.

 

But those areas where you didn't have a lot of character to pull from, the themed worlds certainly could have been done and made the game much more interesting, especially if hazards from the themes were used as you suggest.

 

Now that you mention it, I wonder if the track length was a technical issue (not enough RAM), development time or something else. 

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Atari badly needed a developer like Mev Dinc and his team onboard, to design/produce a serious Mario Kart Rival on Jaguar.

 

They had approached Mev with regards to developing on Panther, but Mev flatly refused, as he said Atari's track record with consoles wasn't that great (2600 aside, he was right..XEGS, 5200 and 7800), but when i look at Street Racer on Genesis and later Saturn:

 

 

http://www.google.co.uk/url?q=https://www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DcZq2PxG2w1c&sa=U&ved=0ahUKEwjfl73opZXTAhUnKsAKHUSDCTAQtwIIFTAA&usg=AFQjCNHnykie-kQw7WLBZV3UdoGfYO8Y_Q

 

Never mind PS1...

 

 

You just know the Jaguar needed something of this standard, not Atari Karts...to be taken seriousily, it's like night and day...

 

Even the Genesis game shames it.

That shows the Sega Saturn symbol, not the Genesis ;)

 

nice comparison of the two. Although that said, no one really remembers Street Racer or any of these others as all these years later it's just Mario Kart. There are a lot of gameplay elements that Atari/Miracle could have done to make it a better game but part of playing on nostalgia is using the characters/IP you've got to keep them in mind:

 

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I was thinking about this today. They could have had cool Atari themed environments. Like one which is the Blasted landscape of Missile Command with missiles raining down in the background. But I think someone already said that. Or how about where missiles could be targeted at the opponents and they have like a few moments to get out of the way.

 

Race through Bentley Bears Castle. A Tempest 2000 inspired track. Where it looks like your sort of racing down the web like Black Widows and or Tempest 2K. Maybe you have to dodge spikers?

 

How about the power ups could have been like super zapper.

 

The possibilities could have been fun.

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Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of classic characters to be drawn from Atari's golden era games. I think this is one reason why we only see Bentley Bear in Atari Karts. The most popular Atari arcade properties predate character driven games. As mentioned above, you're essentially limited to Charley Chuck, Berthilda and Major Havoc. While a lot of fun, Crystal Castles, Food Fight and Major Havoc are not exactly top tier Atari titles in the vein of Asteroids, Centipede, Tempest, Missile Command and Battlezone. That said, the classic IP could have been leveraged for world building.

 

For example, imagine a Missile Command inspired world where you're driving your kart racer in a city while ballistic missiles rain down around you. Or driving through a mushroom filled land where spiders, scorpions and centipedes are the hazards. Atari missed an opportunity to find creative ways to themes from their best known games into Atari Karts.

 

I won't dwell on other improvements like better control, longer tracks, and more obvious power-ups and hazards. We all know the game didn't have a lot of depth or polish. For what it is - a generic kart racer - I've always enjoyed it.

Whoa you beat me to all this. Good call.

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