Atari: From the beginning, part 3

A little ambiance to help set the tone. When you worked at Atari Corp, you commuted to Sunnyvale, deep in the heart of Silicon Valley. Sunnyvale is neither sunny nor vale. It is an office park, which is to say that you can't walk anywhere, as there are no sidewalks. It's like Los Angeles that way, but with far fewer attractive people.
 
Speaking of attractive people, let's take this time to mention the Atari Kill Krew. It was me, New Guy Artist, attached by social bond to BJ West, Lead Artist and soon-to-be Game Designer. Chris Hudak, Cyberpunk Writer -- Chris can fill a whole shelf full of books on his own, and we won't get too into it here, but see the attached picture to get a glimpse at what he was all about. That's not a costume, that's him. Chris Hudak IS cyberpunk.
 
The three of us comprised the heart of darkness that formed the center of the BIWN (bewn! bewn bewn!) team. Peripheral to this story, but not to my heart, is a cadre of fantastical personalities and rogues whose exploits continue to warm the cockles of my cold, dead heart even unto this day. In no particular order:
 
Faran Thompson, producer. It is entirely to Faran's credit that he remained as cool and collected as ever during the gestation of this project, given all the crap he must have had to endure -- from both sides of the equation. 
Chris Thompson (no relation), artist. Our buddy "Chicago" -- so-called 'cause he was from there... probably still is, come to think of it -- provided a great deal of moral support, even though he had nothing to do with our product.
Ford Minton, artist. We picked him up during a visit to CES in Las Vegas, where he was working a schlub job doing graphic art work for strip club flyers and raves. Honestly, I can't say that working for Atari was a step up.
Lance, Hank, Tal, and the rest of the tester gang. The only way these poor bastards managed to get through their day was by being completely and hopelessly insane. They gave the word "broken" a completely new definition, all on company time. I shed a single tear.
 
And this is not to forget the Suits, those lovable scalawags who were ultimately responsible for What Happened To Atari, but we'll reveal the perps in upcoming posts. No sense in letting it all hang out too early. As Ryan Davis knows, you can't start the show with a show-stopper.
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Atari: From the beginning, part 2

From the start, we had a great many lofty goals for Black ICE\White Noise (hereafter referred to as BIWN, which you may pronounce as "bewn" if you're into using your fingers as laser guns). First of all, we wanted to bring to gaming William Gibson's vision of cyberspace -- the "consensual hallucination" of virtual reality. When players accessed c-space -- or "jacked in, as was the popular parlance at the time -- they'd see an infinite plain of solid black, adorned with polygonal constructs in Lawnmower Man-esque colors and shapes. We wanted hacking to feel more active and exciting than simply sitting at a terminal and typing. More on this later.
 
Second of all, we would shoot full-motion video of all of our in-game characters, a la Mortal Kombat. This would mean casting, travel down to LA to shoot against a blue screen (this was before the industry standardized on green screens -- I know, the history of it all!), and constant reshoots. Agonizing detail to come.
 
Third of all, we'd devised a rather ingenious (as we thought) idea for in-game advertising: billboards within the virtual space of the game. Players, traversing the city, would walk, drive, or fly past advertising emblazoned across and above buildings, just like in real life. No other game had done this by that time, and we thought we'd invented a particularly crafty addition to the standard marketing model. Who knew that it was an idea ahead of its time?
 
BIWN was going to be packed with references, in-jokes, and pop culture to the nth degree. We were psyched to start, we had the green light, and everything seemed as rosy as the light from a pixelated explosion. If only we knew exactly how apt that metaphor would prove to be in the months to come.
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Atari: From the beginning

Excelsior, O Readers! As promised, here begins a behind-the-scenes look at life at Atari, back in The Day. The Day of the Jaguar, that ill-fated console of shattered hopes and dreams that wasn't the Dreamcast.
 
How did this begin? I moved to California from Hawai'i by following a friend.
BJ West (http://www.bjwest.net/ ), formerly of San Jose, CA, migrated to Honolulu to work at Ditto's, the copy shop (which is actually the Hawai'i branch of Kinko's, but by a coincidence that proves that the universe is a goofy place, there already was a copy shop named Kinko's in Hawai'i, so the mainland Kinko's had to change its name -- which has nothing to do with this story, *ahem*). I was on staff, we became friends, and he and his girlfriend lived there for about a year before deciding they were going back to Cali, Cali, Cali (yo, I don't think so). I flew the coop alongside them, and ended up in San Jose, living semi-on my own for the first time in my life.
 
BJ landed a job at Atari due to his credentials and talent as an artist, and eventually hired me on to work with him (based on quasi-nepotism and a smidgen of talent on my part) as a junior artist. After putting in the hours on titles like AvP, Hoverstrike, and the like, we were awarded the opportunity to create our own IP. Needless to say, we jumped on this like a trampoline made of taffy. Our eyes were bright, our spirits were high, and our future was dim. If we'd known then what we know now, we'd have hightailed it for the horizon. Instead, we pushed on and developed what we'd later call Black ICE\White Noise... a "cyberpunk adventure". 
 
And it's here that our story truly begins.

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Apropos of Nothing

For those of you wondering what it was like to work for Atari in the days of the Jaguar, I'm going to lay it all out for you. You'll wish you had been there, if only for the business meetings we used to conduct at The Brass Rail... and if you can't figure out what that was, you wouldn't have enjoyed it.

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