Home / Official Editorials / Yar’s Revenge: A History Lesson

Yar’s Revenge: A History Lesson

Earlier this month, Game Informer ran a preview of the oldie-but-goodie revival of Yar’s Revenge.  Tentatively slated for a Q1 2011 release on PSN, PC, and XBLA here, the attached trailer offers a taste of the original’s modern day reinterpretation: a third-person on-rails shmup not dissimilar from Star Fox.

No doubt some folks might remember the original Yar’s Revenge as a definitive catalogue entry for the Atari 2600, but did you know about the significance behind the game’s name?

The short-and-sweet history of this industry can be mapped summarily in four chapters: inception, explosive growth, crash, explosive growth.  While the 10,000 foot view is a convenient one, there were of course many more upheavals and details such a simplified view cannot afford.  One such detail, the story behind Yar‘s name, is as colorful as the history of the seminal company of Atari itself.  The abbreviated version is as follows.

In February 1978, at one of the company’s troubled points, an accomplished, clean-cut, and autocratic business man named Ray Kassar was hired to turn an ailing Atari around.  In contrast to Nolan Bushnell—the original rockstar of this industry before Cliffy B or John Romero—Kassar symbolized a big corporate change.  A notoriously laid-back and undisciplined company culture was replaced with the no bullshit agenda of big business.

To put it in perspective, author Steven Kent quotes the chauffeur-driven, tailored suit-wearing Kassar as saying:

when I first arrived at Atari, Nolan was walking around the company in a T-shirt that said ‘I love to screw.’

At their first management meeting Kassar relates,

there were about six or seven of them drinking beer and smoking marijuana.

Although Kassar’s tenure at Atari is largely considered a successful one, the changes that came with him ultimately pushed accomplished and influential developers at Atari out the door, including the guys responsible for forming the first third-party developer, Activision.

Howard Scott Warshaw was one of the developers who remained at Atari, and it was he who built Yar’s Revenge.  The title, featuring Yar of the Rassak Solar System, is in fact Ray Kassar spelt backwards.  Supposedly the game and its success symbolized Kassar’s revenge on Activision’s very existence.

Despite a handful of early hits from Activision with Enduro, Robot Tank, and industry icon Pitfall!, the revenge part certainly played its role: Yar’s Revenge would go on to become Atari’s best-selling first-party title.

Although the success of the PSN, PC, and XBLA remake is uncertain, the pedigree is strong and the revisualization looks solid.  Be sure to check it out when Yar’s Revenge launches early this year.

For a bit more info on the remake, Giant Bomb has a great interview with gameplay here.

Comments are closed.

Scroll To Top