Tag Archives: star wars

30 YEARS AGO

MOVIES

THE SHINING (d. Stanley Kubrick)

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (d. Irvin Kershner)

KAGEMUSHA (d. Akira Kurosawa)


MAD MAX (d. George Miller)

RAGING BULL (d. Martin Scorsese)

ALBUMS

JOY DIVISION – CLOSER

THE CURE – SEVENTEEN SECONDS

DAVIE BOWIE – SCARY MONSTERS

U2 – BOY

JOHN LENNON & YOKO ONO – DOUBLE FANTASY

COMICS

RAW #1 is published


The Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont & John Byrne (Uncanny X-Men #129-138)

Domu by Katsuhiro Otomo begins its serialization in Young Magazine

Epic Illustrated begins

The New Teen Titans by Marv Wolfman & George Perez debuts

G.



The Tangled Web: Williams, Midway, Atari and Warner Bros.

It appears that on July 1st, Warner Bros. will assume control of the company currently known as Midway Games.  This will be the THIRD time that Warner will have control of the old Atari properties and also marks the end of an era for both Midway and the brand once known as Williams.  This article outlines a history of these four companies as they relate to each other. 

 

TIMELINE

1972: Atari is founded by Nolan Bushnell.

1973: Midway and Williams enter the arcade video game industry.

1976: Warner Communications acquires Atari.

1984: Atari splits into two: the consumer division is sold off as Atari Corp while Warner keeps the arcade division, Atari Games

1986: Atari Games becomes independent.

1988: Williams acquires MidwayRIP MIDWAY

1990: Warner again acquires Atari Games.

1996: Williams acquires Atari Games from Warner.

1998: Midway becomes independent, taking all of Williams‘ intellectual properties with it.

2001: Midway closes its arcade division.

2003: Midway closes Midway Games WestRIP ATARI

2009: Warner acquires Midway.

 

NOTES

Williams and Midway were fierce competitors in the pinball market before and after their entry into the video game world.

The 1984 split of Atari was really weird, as the intellectual properties were similarly split (for example, Atari Games could make Centipede games in the arcade and Atari Corp. could make Centipede games for consoles/computers).

When Williams acquired Midway in 1988, they only retained the services of two Midway game designers.  Although Williams kept the Midway name alive and used it even more than the Williams brand, the original Midway basically died with this acquisition.  This wasn’t really a huge loss, though, as the original Midway was really much better at importing Japanese games than creating games of its own.

Williams decided to leave the video game business in 1998, turning over all of their original intellectual properties to Midway and then spinning Midway off into an independent company.

Midway’s decision to close its arcade division in 2001 is significant from an Atari Games perspective, as the arcade was the only arena in which Midway/Atari Games had the rights to use pre-1984 properties (although they never really used them, anyway).

 

NOTABLE GAMES

Atari (1972-1983): Pong, Breakout, Warlords, Asteroids, Centipede, Battlezone, Missile Command, Star Wars

Midway (1973-1987): Wizard of Wor, Rampage (also imported Space Invaders, Galaxian, Pac-Man)

Williams (1973-1987): Defender, Blaster, Robotron 2084, Joust

Atari Games (1984-1995): Marble Madness, Paperboy, Gauntlet, Pit Fighter, Rampart, KLAX, Primal Rage, Area 51

Williams-Midway (1988-1998): NARC, Smash TV, Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam, Cruis’n, NFL Blitz, Revolution X

Atari Games (1996-2003): Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey, San Francisco Rush

Midway (1999-present): Hydro Thunder, Ready 2 Rumble, TNA Impact

-AM- LucasArts adventure games

In the 1980s, the adventure genre was dominated by Sierra On-Line. In 1986 they earned a competitor: LucasArts. Forget what you know about the current company that is LucasArts – there was a time when they were actually a very innovative and respected developer. Unlike Sierra, which cranked out adventure games by the dozens on a series/franchise basis, LucasArts averaged about one a year.  AdventureGamers.com maintains a “Top 20 Adventure Games” list and 8 of them are by LucasArts.  That’s pretty dominant considering they only made 15 of them.  I’m just getting into these games myself so I’m not an expert at all but here they are!

Part 1: The Labyrinth Era (1986)
LucasArts, then known as Lucasfilm Games, entered the adventure gaming market with an adaptation of the Jim Henson film, Labyrinth. In a Wizard of Oz move, the game begins strictly as a text-based game but when the main character enters the labyrinth it becomes a graphical adventure.

Part 2: The SCUMM Era (1987-1997)
This era makes up most of LucasArts’ adventuring career. SCUMM was the name of a very flexible game engine that allowed for other engines: audio, graphical, text, etc. to be inserted. LucasArts would use this engine for a decade. This era comprised a few short series and several stand-alone games.  It began with Maniac Mansion and was soon followed by Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders.  These games established the LucasArts style of using quirky characters and cheesy (bad?) humor.  Mansion was followed years later by Maniac Mansion: Day of the TentacleSam and Max Hit the Road, based on the comic of the same name by LucasArts artist Steve Purcell, continued in this vein in the early 90s.

LucasArts made more serious games, as well, starting with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a very well-received game that closely follows the plot of the movie.  A few years later it was followed by Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.  An original game, Loom, used an apocalyptic, fantasy setting and used music for all of its commands.  In the mid-90s, The Dig feature a pan-planetary sci-fi adventure.  Full Throttle featured MOTORCYCLEZ.


In 1990, the company released their biggest hit and the beginning of their only long-running adventure series with The Secret of Monkey Island, followed only a year later by Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge.  Several years later, the SCUMM engine was retired with the 3rd game, The Curse of Monkey Island.


Part 3: The GrimE Era (1998-2000)
In 1998, LucasArts decided to modernize and created a brand new, 3D engine, debuting with Grim Fandango, which has gone on to become perhaps the most critically acclaimed adventure game from LucasArts.  It featured the “humor” they were best known for and dealth with themes of the AFTERLIFE.  The imagery is heavily inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead.  The entire adventuring journey came to an end with the release of Escape From Monkey Island.  After that LucasArts began a new Sam and Max game but eventually cancelled it and fired all their employees and took a bath in Star Wars money.

Part 4: Legacy
Several LucasArts adventure developers eventually started a new company, Telltale Games. They have had surprising success, utilizing online distribution. Unfortunately, all of their games have used licenses, a couple of which are HORRIBLE licenses. For example, they have made two CSI games and have an upcoming Strongbad game in the works.  Thankfully, they’ve also worked with a genuinely cool license: Jeff Smith’s Bone.  They made games based on the first two books but have decided their current focus is on “episodic” content, which Bone is apparently not compatible with.  In other words, they’re sellouts.  Yes, I hope someone searches in Google for “Telltale are sellouts” or “Telltale Games are sellouts” so they can see this and cry over the horrid truth.  Telltale is best known for their current revival of the Sam and Max series, which is released in “episodes”.  Jeez.

LucasArts stalwart Tim Schaeffer went on to create the lauded and beloved platformer Psychonauts and he has a very cool-looking new game in the works featuring bikers and roadies, much like the LucasArts game Full Throttle.

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