In its shift to focus on digitally-distributed games, publisher Atari is dipping into its back catalog to find ways to reimagine classic titles and make them relevant for today's audience, according to the company's chief operating officer, Todd Shallbetter.
The company announced two new "re-imagined" horror games in August based on Haunted House and Alone in the Dark, and Shallbetter detailed the company's digital vision in a separate interview with Polygon. When we recently spoke with him, he said many of Atari's games still resonate with people and the game design still holds up. But instead of simply re-releasing older games, the company sees an opportunity to make them feel modern and relevant.
"In having this great catalog of over 220 IPs, it affords us a lot of challenges and benefits," he said. "The challenge side is what do you select? What is it that we really want to put resources behind and really blow out for this fan base that is clamoring for these new things? On the other side, you have the benefit of having that back catalog to choose from.
"[At Atari], we all have our favorites that we've had ideations on. What would this look like leveraging new technologies, new delivery methods, and what makes sense from an artistic, creative and also commercial perspective?"
For a game like Alone in the Dark: Illumination, it's the first time an installment in the Alone in the Dark series has received online and co-operative play. Built in Unreal Engine 4, the game will support four player co-op. Parts of it will also be randomly generated so that players can't memorize levels — enemies will spawn in different places, and locked doors and room layouts will change with each play-through.
The use of Unreal Engine 4 also allows the development team to integrate illumination techniques into the gameplay. Players will have a flashlight on them, and enemies will only be vulnerable when they are in the light. If players try to fire rounds of bullets into enemies while they're in the dark, they will cause little damage. According to Shallbetter, these may seem like small things, but they add depth to the experience, and they're things that were not possible when the earlier iterations launched.
"Our goal is to create new experiences with classic gameplay," he said. "Full, sustained relevance."