Speaking With… Michael Fahrny, Producer of Yar’s Revenge

Due to their impressive history, Atari are constantly linked with their huge back catalogue of games. So much so, that when even mentioning the name Atari, you automatically conjure up images of classics such as Centipede, Asteroids and Missile Command.

Another Atari classic is Yars Revenge, a fixed shooter in which players assumed the role of Yar, an insect like creature, who is hell bent on (yes, you guessed it) revenge. Since its initial release in the 1980s, the Atari 2600 title has been subject to quite a few remakes, spin offs and re-releases over the years. So it should come as no surprise that the game is set to remade again, this time completely revamped with lush, vibrant, anime inspired graphics, rail shooter gameplay and a fully fleshed out story featuring betrayal and revenge.

In anticipation for the game’s release, the game’s producer, Michael Fahrny, kindly took time out to sit down with us and answer a few questions about the reboot of Yars Revenge.

What made you want to revisit this particular game out of all of Atari’s classic titles from that era, and how closely does it resemble the original game?

We felt that Yar’s Revenge fit well into the overall digital strategy at Atari. Taking in the Anime direction also just seemed like the right move for the classic IP and we are excited to see what we could do with it.

Now obviously this new re-imagining of Yar’s Revenge has brought the game into the modern gaming era with some spectacular HD graphics, what other changes have been made in order to make the game more socially relevant?

The gameplay mechanics have changed pretty drastically. Moving into the Rail Shooter genre really opened up a wide variety of options for combat, level design, environments, and the list goes on…

The game itself seems incredibly stylised, the whole look the game is tremendous. The environments, the character design, it all has a definite Japanese, Animé inspired look, what was the inspiration and the thought process behind this?

Killspace, as a developer, has largely been influenced by Anime both on the art and design side of things. We planned from the very beginning to go in this direction because we thought it would do this franchise justice and help to bring it to a wider and modern audience. We are very happy with how it’s turned out in both look and feel.

Along with the highly stylised HD graphics, the original story of Yar’s Revenge has had a bit of a makeover too, can you tell us a little bit about that?

I don’t want to give too much away, but while we kept the general mutated, space faring accident base, we also wanted to update it so that it had a little more “revenge.”

Yar’s Revenge will feature 2-player local co op, how will this impact the story of Yar’s Revenge? Will the co-op mode have its own story? After all the game is centred solely around the character of Yar.

We kept this very light. The co-op is just a drop in/drop out at any time and will add a second yar to the screen. The difficulty will ramp up, but it won’t change the story.

What do you think the reaction will be from fans of the first game? And how have you tried to appeal to fans of the original game, as well as cater to new gamers that aren’t familiar with the first Yar’s Revenge?

I’m certainly hoping that both sets of fans will enjoy the game. I think there is enough homage paid to the original that those fans will appreciate it and the gameplay has been taken into such a modern direction that new fans will also find it enjoyable. We have tried very hard to make something with Yar’s that will suit both sides of the coin.

Rail shooters seem to be a bit of a forgotten genre in the video game industry, but seem to be undergoing a bit of a revival with the likes of Child of Eden and Nintendo’s Kid Icarus: Uprising for the 3DS. How are you looking to recapture the magic of those classic titles, and how does your game improve on them?

Making a rail shooter has been one of the most difficult games to make so far in my career. I have a new found respect for anyone who’s chosen to go down this path. Honestly, we didn’t look to do anything to revolutionize the formula or change how a rail shooter is perceived. We wanted to take our favourite elements of the games that inspired us to go in this direction and see if they made sense for Yar’s Revenge. Some of them did, some didn’t, but I am happy with what we’ve ended up with.

What were the main challenges you faced when developing a game on a variety of different platforms?

Timing, always timing, is extremely difficult to make sure everything lines up properly between the different platforms and keep everything on schedule.

If you were given the choice of reviving another Atari classic of your choice, which would you choose and why?

I would love to bring back Battlezone and Air Sea Battle. I spent endless hours playing both of those as a kid.

What elements of the original game have you tried to keep in the game? Have any of the original members of the team from the first game made their way into the dev team for this reboot?

I’m not going to give any secrets away, but I will say that Nolan Bushnell was involved through the making of the new Yar’s Revenge and is happy with the direction we’ve taken it.

Michael, thanks for taking the time to speak with us.

Yars Revenge is due for release later this year on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Stay tuned to The Newb Review for more coverage of this game in the coming weeks.

- Kieran Roycroft

Mon, March 21 2011 » Interviews

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