Games during the era of the arcade were basically a completely unrecognizable medium from what they are now, but there are certain gems from that bygone era that remain timeless classics to this day. A lot of those arcade gems are under Atari’s belt, and recently, the company’s been bringing back expanded and improved versions of many of these games. Not long ago, they brought Centipede: Recharged to PC and consoles, bringing the 1980s arcade shooter to modern platforms with a number of improvements and modernizations. To learn more about that process and the game itself, we recently reached out to Atari with some of our questions and learned some interesting things in the process. Below, you can read our interview with David Lowey, Marcoms and Operations for Atari VCS and Atari Video Games.
NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to the game’s launch.
“Atari has a rich catalog of game titles that are extremely well-known and fondly remembered. Countless people still seek out and play our original games from the 70s and 80s, so we know the games remain popular.”
Centipede was, of course, a classic arcade game back in its time. How did the idea to bring it back and reimagine it this way first come about?
Atari has a rich catalog of game titles that are extremely well-known and fondly remembered. Countless people still seek out and play our original games from the 70s and 80s, so we know the games remain popular.
We plan to bring these classic titles back in a number of ways.
- Making the classic games easier to find and play, so that you can get the original games on PC, consoles, mobile and streaming services without having to run emulation or hunt for original hardware
- Reimagining our games in ways that significantly change or expand the game play, for example the re-imagining of Food Fight we are developing with Mega Cat Studios.
- And the Recharged series, which seeks to modernize our classic games while staying true to the original game play
Taken together, our goal is to continue to engage with players that know and love these titles, while at the same time introducing them to a new generation of players.
Given how much time has passed since the original game release and how dramatically the medium as a whole has changed, how did you find the balance between staying true to the spirit of the original and modernizing it for the current market?
For the Recharged series we have built a team of creative people who love video games, love our classic titles, and leapt at the opportunity to update them. The guiding principle the team adheres to is maintaining and celebrating the gameplay that made the original titles so much fun to play. With every decision flowing from that starting point, it was easy to make decisions along the way that maintained a balance.
What are the biggest changes Centipede: Recharged makes to the formula of the original Centipede?
Our goal from the beginning was to stay true to the original game play, but modernize it so that it made sense for modern screens, controllers and the expectations of contemporary players.
The biggest change was the switch from a vertical playing field to a 16:9 ratio for modern screens. A lot of our decisions flowed from that initial reorientation. For example, the power ups we have added to the game obviously represent a big change, but they also become critical assets if you want to survive. With a 16:9 playing field the centipedes come at you faster, and the wider player area at the bottom of the screen just begs for power ups that allow you to clear out mushrooms and enemies with side shots.
“For the Recharged series we have built a team of creative people who love video games, love our classic titles, and leapt at the opportunity to update them. The guiding principle the team adheres to is maintaining and celebrating the gameplay that made the original titles so much fun to play.”
A game such as this one has inherent replay value, but do you have plans to add to it with additional content down the line to keep players coming back?
A lot of players have already said that the unique challenge modes add a ton of replay value. That said, additional content and a few other potential extensions of Centipede and our other Recharged titles are under consideration. We have already created 10 additional challenge levels for each game on the Atari VCS version, so bringing more challenges (and leaderboards) to the other platforms is a possibility. We have had a lot of feature requests, but we want to take a beat and listen to our players to find out what they really want before making any final decisions.
Megan McDuffee’s work has its fair share of fans, and rightfully so. What was the process like of working with her on Centipede: Recharged?
From her very first discussion with the Recharged producers, Megan locked onto what we were trying to accomplish. She composed a soundscape that evokes the era of the original arcade games, complements the visual aesthetic of the series, and has a hand-in-glove energy for the frenetic gameplay. Every time she submitted one of the 16 tracks she produced for the series, our producers would say “she nailed it, again!” Her work was so spot on that we never requested a single revision. She’s that good.
Do you have plans to add online co-op to the game?
We are always looking for ways to enhance the games, so online co-op might appear in some later titles in the series. While we have no immediate plans to add online co-op to Centipede: Recharged, the door is not closed.
Is Centipede: Recharged a blueprint of sorts that fans might expect to see applied to similar classic arcade revivals in the future?
Absolutely. We’ve already announced the next titles in the Recharged series — Black Widow, Asteroids, and Breakout. All the titles are built upon the same fundamentals and featureset. You will see rich vector-based visuals and particle effects, power ups, both arcade and challenge modes, and local co-op across all the titles.
When Black Widow: Recharged launches on October 28, you will immediately see that it shares the same exact power ups as Centipede: Recharged, the same visual aesthetic, and Megan has composed four tracks that are in the same general audio space as what she created for Centipede: Recharged, but match the unique vibe of Black Widow perfectly.
“We are always looking for ways to enhance the games, so online co-op might appear in some later titles in the series. While we have no immediate plans to add online co-op to Centipede: Recharged, the door is not closed. “
Since the reveal of the PS5 and Xbox Series’ specs, a lot of comparisons have been made between the GPU speeds of the two consoles, with the PS5 at 10.28 TFLOPS and the Xbox Series X at 12 TFLOPS. How much of an impact on development do you think that difference will have?
For the Recharged titles, we haven’t encountered any real difference in our development efforts. The games were engineered to achieve 60 FPS at maximum resolution for Switch, so we were never at a point where we bumped up against limits on the PS5 and Xbox Series X. That said, the added horsepower on those systems allows us to easily achieve native 4K output at 120FPS.
Both the PS5 and Xbox Series X boast Zen 2 CPUs, but there is a difference in the processors of both consoles. The Xbox Series X features 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.8GHz, whereas the PS5 features 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.5GHz. Your thoughts on this difference?
Despite the fast gameplay and rich visual effects in Recharged games, we’re not really taxing either of these CPUs. We set out to max the performance of each hardware platform, which in the case of the PS5 and Xbox Series X is 4K at 120FPS.
The Xbox Series S features lesser hardware compared to Xbox Series and Microsoft is pushing it as a 1440p/60 FPS console. Do you think it will be able to hold up for the more graphically intensive games as this generation progresses?
Just like there are graphics cards for PCs that range from powerful to ultra powerful, you see a progression from the Series S to the Series X. It is our job as game creators to make sure we can get every ounce of juice from each hardware platform, optimizing the games in such a way that they deliver the best possible performance without compromising the gameplay experience.
What frame rate and resolution will the game target on the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S?
The Atari Recharged games will target 4K at 120FPS on PS5 and Series X, 1440p at 120FPS on Series S.
“We’ve already announced the next titles in the Recharged series — Black Widow, Asteroids, and Breakout. All the titles are built upon the same fundamentals and featureset. You will see rich vector-based visuals and particle effects, power ups, both arcade and challenge modes, and local co-op across all the titles.”
What frame rate and resolution will the game target on the Switch in docked and undocked modes?
The Atari Recharged games will target 720p at 60FPS in handheld, and 1080p at 60FPS in docked mode.
What are your thoughts on the Steam Deck? Do you have plans for any specific optimizations for the device?
We are excited that more hardware is coming into the handheld space. Handheld is a great format for pick-up and play games like Centipede: Recharged. We are looking forward to getting our hands on the Steam Deck. Once we have it in hand, we’ll evaluate what we need to do to get optimal performance.