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An Interview with Atari CEO Wade Rosen

The latest entry in the Recharged series, Breakout Recharged revitalizes the classic brick breaker with challenging gameplay, all new power-ups, and modern graphics. Gamers Heroes spoke with Atari CEO Wade Rosen to learn more about this title and what the future has in store for the company.

Gamers Heroes
Breakout has a rich history dating back to 1976 and the days of Nolan Bushnell, Steve Wozniak, and Steve Bristow. What made you, Adamvision Studios, and SneakyBox want to revisit this property for Breakout: Recharged?

Wade Rosen
The Recharged series modernizes classic Atari games for contemporary platforms and players. As such a formative and iconic title, Breakout was actually one of the first titles we considered giving the “recharged” treatment to. Everyone on the team thought it was a solid candidate that would benefit from expanded gameplay and would be a worthy entry in the brick-breaker genre. Another important consideration was the potential for co-op play, which is a way for people who love our games to share that experience with someone who is important to them and perhaps introduce new generations to classics, like Breakout, that ultimately shaped what videogames are today.

Gamers Heroes
People like David Sudnow have a deep obsession with Breakout, studying the inner workings of its mechanics. How has the team worked with the community to make sure Breakout: Recharged is a worthy entry in the series?

Wade Rosen
Breakout is the original brick-breaker; the game from which everything in the genre that followed is built upon. We know that the choices we have made are going to be discussed, and we look forward to getting that crucial feedback. The core Breakout: Recharged team included Adam Nickerson, SneakyBox, and the series producer Jason Polansky. They know this genre extremely well, and they are familiar with the games that utilize and extend the core game mechanics from the original. An important thing to note is that our goal is to modernize the games without dramatically changing the core gameplay. So, while we might get some criticism for changing the game too much, or not changing it enough — that dialectical was our stated goal. We want to bring that memorable arcade experience to both old and new players in a way that is relevant for today’s gaming landscape.

Gamers Heroes
The Atari VCS is a fantastic piece of hardware that adds an air of authenticity — what was it like working on a version of Breakout: Recharged for this system on top of the more traditional PC and console releases?

Wade Rosen
The paddle functionality of the Atari VCS’ Classic Joystick is a real differentiator, and one that is so well suited to a game like Breakout: Recharged. There is work involved in fine-tuning the response of the joystick, but bringing these games to the VCS platform is an easy process. It is a modern device with support for games like Breakout: Recharged that are built in the Unity engine.

Gamers Heroes
Breakout: Recharged has come a long way from the black and white monitor of the original arcade release. How did the team come up with its one-of-a-kind look?

Wade Rosen
The team’s goal was “modern nostalgia”. They wanted the games to look and feel how you remembered them, instead of trying to replicate what they were in their time. The aesthetic of the first four games in the series is purposefully retro, with a neon vector graphics and an ‘80s inspired electro-pop original soundtrack.

The visual design of Breakout: Recharged was the most challenging of the four titles. The original Breakout is abstract and really quite simple. It didn’t give the designers much to work off of. So, the team used the “prison breakout” theme pictured on the side of the original arcade cabinet as inspiration, and even had the game situated in a space prison in early development. While that idea ultimately fell away, the final game retains elements of that concept, with bricks that require several hits to destroy, and power-ups that have a space-inspired look and feel.

Gamers Heroes
We saw that award-winning composer Megan McDuffee returned for Breakout: Recharged’s soundtrack — what was it like working with her again?

Wade Rosen
Megan manages to be both amazingly fun to work with and a remarkably reliable professional. She just gets this series and the mood and energy that the original soundtrack needs to have. It is a bit astounding, and when she submits her tracks for review we struggle to find anything we want her to change.

Gamers Heroes
We saw that you joined Atari as CEO last year — how has the last year been for you at such an iconic company?

Wade Rosen
Atari has a long-standing and meaningful place in both pop and gaming culture, something that few other brands can claim. That said, there is really no one experience that can prepare you for the role as CEO of Atari. The last 12 months have been exciting, exhausting, and at times even frustrating, but on the whole it is a role that has been tremendously rewarding and I am deeply grateful for having the opportunity to be a part of Atari. We are establishing strong, lasting relationships with studios and other partners, and we are building a talented team that is unified and working towards a common set of goals.

Gamers Heroes
What other properties would you like to see get the Recharged treatment?

Wade Rosen
We have already started working on the next four Recharged games, and there are going to be some surprises in this group. You are going to see some stylistic changes as we start to tackle titles that were first released on console instead of in an arcade cabinet. We will be announcing these games over the next few months and sharing some of our work-in-progress along the way. Stay tuned!

Gamers Heroes
Finally: When can we expect to hear more news about the Atari Hotels? We’re dying to learn more!

Wade Rosen
As excited as we are about the Atari Hotels, we need to let our partner who is behind this effort handle communications around the project timeline.

Breakout: Recharged is now available for PC, consoles, and the Atari VCS – all those interested can learn more here.

Casey Scheld

Casey Scheld has more than 15 years of experience in the gaming industry as a community manager, social media director, event specialist, and (of course) gaming editor. He has previously worked with gaming start-ups like Raptr, publishers like Konami, and roller derby girls at PAX West (check out Jam City Rollergirls)! Gamers Heroes is a passion project for him, giving him a chance to tap into the underground side of gaming. He is all too eager to give these lesser-known heroes of the indie space the attention they so rightly deserve, seeking out the next gem and sharing it with the world. Previously making appearances at events like CES, GDC, and (the late) E3, he is all too happy to seek out the next big thing. For those that want to talk shop, send over a tip, or get an easy win in a fighting game of their choosing, be sure to check out his social media channels below.

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