Asteroids’ Ed Logg Honored With 2012 Pioneer Award

Posted on February 07, 2012

On Thursday, (Feb 9) the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS) will present its 2012 AIAS Pioneer Award to Ed Logg, the man who created Asteroids as we know it.

Some history: In February of 1962, several programmers at MIT created Spacewar!. At the time, it was only available to those few with access to a massive computer, like university students. But nine years later, Nolan Bushnell brought the game’s idea into the arcade with Computer Space, developed at Nutting Associates. He and Ted Dabney took their proceeds from the game and founded Atari, which took off with Pong (1972).

Ed Logg had also played Spacewar! while studying at Stanford’s AI Lab, and followed his interest to Atari’s arcade division by the late 1970’s. His first completed assignment there was Super Breakout in 1978.

He ended up in a brainstorming session with Atari executive Lyle Rains. A follow-up to Computer Space had been shelved long before, due to rights and other issues, but Rains now wanted to resume work on a new spaceship shooting game. This time, instead of shooting another spaceship with an asteroid as incidental debris, the asteroid would be the focus.

Logg suggested using a high-resolution vector display instead of the standard televisions used in other games, which would allow for increased speed and precision. He also introduced greater complexity than Asteroids‘ predecessors. “Computer Space has a pattern,” Logg explains. “You just go through it and you keep running through it.” [1]

Pong had variety in its play, but simplicity in its controls. Computer Space had more complicated controls, but simple play. Logg thought it would be fun to put the two together.

Logg says, “I play a lot of the games in my mind long before I ever write them because you have to get all the interactions down pat before you can start programming.” [2]

Mark Cerny, Atari colleague, friend, and presenter of Thursday’s award, recalls, “What I learned from Ed was that creating the fun of a game did not require complex algorithms as much as it required the right approach… it was putting all the proper features in the game in the correct order. Of course, you needed an amazing intuition as to which were the ‘proper’ features, that was the difficulty in replicating Ed’s strategy!”

During Asteroids‘ development, other Atari employees would wait for Logg to go home, to get a chance to play. Asteroids was released in 1979, and has gone down as one of the most successful video games of all time. Logg clearly got it right, because the original is no less challenging, fun, or elegant over 30 years later.

Logg will be the third recipient of the AIAS Pioneer award. The Academy says, “As an innovator, game designer and programmer, Ed’s work contributed to the creation of some of the most iconic entertainment properties – including Asteroids, Centipede, and Gauntlet – arcade games that continue to shape the way that modern games are designed today.”

The awards will take place during the DICE conference in Las Vegas, and will be streamed live on beginning at 7 PM PST. They will show a short video segment with interviews on his career.


Watch Gamespot’s video of Mark Cerny presenting Ed Logg with the award.  It begins at 36:35.


AIAS website:
AIAS twitter feed: @AcademyIAS

[1] Excellent article on Ed Logg
[2] AIAS press release about the award
Excellent article on Computer Space at

Atari Releases Asteroids: Gunner for iOS

Posted on November 10, 2011

Atari released its latest official version of Asteroids today — Asteroids: Gunner, for Apple’s iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.

Experience the next evolution in the legendary Asteroids franchise!

Blast your way through deadly asteroids fields and alien war ships to become the most wealthy and powerful Gunner in space history. Work your way to the top of the gritty crystal mining business by traversing through the galaxy and collecting the treasures of the cosmos. Upgrade your ship as you climb up the intergalactic ranks and become a force to be reckoned with!

Asteroids made its arcade debut in 1979, and was followed up by Asteroids Deluxe and home game console versions (Atari 2600 etc). Atari all but disappeared from the scene for a while, but returned with revamped versions of their classic titles starting last year. Asteroids Online for Facebook was among the first, now followed by Asteroids: Gunner for iOS.

We first heard about this title in September, when the Edmonton Sun ran an article about local Canadian game company Fluik being commissioned for the job. “[Fluik CEO] Rubba was headhunted by Atari after they played his game Gunner Galaxies — starring a spaceship-piloting chicken who also blasts incoming asteroids — at a conference earlier this year.” Rubba sounded psyched to work with Atari.

Asteroids: Gunner is similar in concept to Asteroids Online, but simplifies the sprawling universe to just 3 galaxies, and many ship options and variations to three (the original Dart, the heavy-duty Bomber, and the robust Miner). The plot is also slightly revised: instead of working for the good of your mining company, you’re out for personal wealth and glory (plus, saving the Earth).

Both are more complicated than Asteroids (1979), where you are a polygon destroying other polygons.

The initial download is free from the iTunes App Store, and you accumulate in-game wealth from mined minerals for certain weapons upgrades. You have one ship and access to one galaxy. Further ships and galaxies can be purchased for the price of an average game, and there are online networking options.

The game play is fairly simple. The ship is locked in the screen’s center; one thumb controller scrolls the background, and the other is shooting plus aim. Unlike a lot of modern Asteroids clones, the graphics are sharp and uncluttered. And rather than a driving heavy metal soundtrack, the score has soothing Native American flute-like sounds with and a background beat.

In-game bonus items include gold, health restoration, and extra shields which function like a flower in Super Mario Brothers or power pellet in Pac-Man. You can also customize extra weapons, but again, they have a simple, straight-forward interface.

The game scales nicely, and is a pleasure to play on both iPad and the smaller iPhone (unlike Atari’s Greatest Hits, where some titles like arcade Asteroids are impossibly small on the iPhone/iPod — although it’s great otherwise). Of course, we’d rather have a beautiful, clunky vector screen, but you can’t carry that in your pocket.

Official Atari Asteroids: Gunner page:

More on Atari’s Online and Mobile strategy:

Asteroids Coming To Game Nation Theme Park

Posted on August 23, 2011

In May, 2010, some folks announced their plans to create Game Nation, an experiential video game theme park and resort. They’re still working out details like the park’s location, but they just announced licensing with Atari.

“The possibility of having great classic games like Centipede, Asteroids and Missile Command made into fully interactive rides and attractions would certainly be a global success,” announces Game Nation’s website.

Now if they include Atari’s Roller Coaster Tycoon, things could get pretty meta.

Atari in the WSJ, Plus: New Atari Controller?

Posted on June 08, 2011

The Wall Street Journal today posted an article about Atari: “Atari Takes A Trip Back To The Future.” It talks about the company’s current strategy of developing some new PC-based games, while modernizing select older titles for social and mobile platforms. In fact, packaged-games have been cut in half over the past three years, while “the digital-games business now accounts for about 30% of Atari’s overall revenue.”

Atari probably isn’t developing a new game console any time soon, but the article did mention that they’re working with Discovery Bay Games to make an iPad joystick-arcade accessory.  At time of writing, we can’t find mention of this anywhere else online.  It follows right on the heels of the iCade Arcade Cabinet, but with a smaller footprint and price tag ($30 to $70), and less retro design.

Read the first few paragraphs of the WSJ article here (or the whole thing if you subscribe).  Watch a video interview with the author, Yukari Kane, here.


[UPDATE] has given more details on the Atari iPad controller.  It’s due out in the fall, 2011.  Full story here.

Atari to Give Away an Asteroids Machine at E3

Posted on June 07, 2011

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) runs this week, from June 7-9, 2011, at the Los Angeles Convention Center.  Atari just made the following announcement on their Facebook page:

Guess what! This week at E3 Expo 2011 we will be holding a contest to give away an Atari Classic Arcade Cabinet each day to the person with the highest score on the respective machine. (The games are: Asteroids, Centipede, and Missile Command). These babies are collector’s items for sure so make sure you get your butts to the Atari booth at E3!

Sounds good!


At 4:00 pm PST on June 6, winner of the Asteroids Arcade Cabinet was announced: Josh Hollenbeck, with a score of 24,310.

Atari will be holding the contest for Missile Command on Wednesday, and Centipede on Thursday.

(Photo from @Atari)







[UPDATE 2] LA Weekly article on Atari at E3 here.

From the Archive: International Atari Tournament

Posted on June 03, 2011


David M. Ewalt at Forbes just dug this image out of the archive: Promotional photo of modular game stations at the first Atari International Asteroids Tournament, at the Chicago Expocenter on Halloween weekend,1981.

iCade Arcade Cabinet is Here

Posted on June 01, 2011

The iCade Arcade Cabinet has shipped, and has the review.  It pairs with your iPad 2 via bluetooth, and is designed to work with the Atari Classics app.  Price: $100.

Atari Classics released for iPad

Posted on April 07, 2011

Atari has just released Atari’s Greatest Hits for Apple mobile devices, with 100 classic Atari games: 18 arcade and 92 Atari 2600. The basic app is free and includes Pong. Games can be purchased in packs of 3-4 for $0.99, (there are 25 total), or you can get all of them for $14.99. A few truly great hits are missing (Pac-Man, Space Invaders, although these aren’t actually Atari games), but there are more than enough good ones that aren’t as readily available elsewhere.

The “Asteroids Pack” includes Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, Asteroids 2600, and Canyon Bomber (Bluetooth Multiplayer). In the iPad app, the arcade version offers three control options: Disc, Roller and Arcade, with the controls in the border around the video window.

In Disc mode, the device is held horizontally, with a left-thumb 360-degree disc area for direction and thrust, and right-thumb buttons for fire and hyperspace. Rotation is very responsive, but perhaps too responsive, and difficult to fine-tune without more practice.

Roller mode has a left-thumb vertical roller for rotation (up-down equals rotate left-right), and the right-thumb controls thrust, fire and hyperspace.

Arcade mode turns the iPad upright, with five buttons along the bottom in the standard arcade layout. It’s good, although when playing with thumbs, we prefer the roller.

Disc Mode

Supposedly this app has been developed along with ION, who will be releasing their bluetooth-connected iCADE iPad arcade cabinet in June. Currently, the Atari app can connect with other devices via bluetooth to play certain games head-to-head. With the iCADE, you place your iPad in the cabinet-looking holder and use the physical controls from there.

It goes without saying that the graphics can’t be compared to a vector screen, but they’re true to the original code with slight modifications. Specifically, when Asteroids is played on an LCD or CRT screen, the photon dot is almost too small to be seen. It glows brilliantly on a vector display, and the trace takes several seconds to disappear completely. But without creating some artificial effect, they’ve just increased the size of the dot so that it’s visible, along with the thickness of several lines. This is also the case with the online classic version at the Atari website, but missing with other authentic versions of the game, including the computer-based MAME.  Game play feels about right, although just a hair faster than at the arcade.

Speaking of other modern versions, Asteroids HD ($0.99) is an authentic replication of the game for iPad, with full-screen graphics and invisible control: slide your left thumb back and forth on the left side of the screen for rotation, tap on the right side of the screen to fire, and tap with two fingers to hyperspace.  Works well.  And while we haven’t tried the iPhone version of the new Atari app — and it may be great — the screen is almost certainly too small for the detail of the original.  A favored variation that retains the feeling of line-art simplicity but adapts it to the small screen, is Spheroids [we couldn’t find a browser link for this game — this will link to iTunes].

Back in the new Atari app, Asteroids Deluxe, is similarly authentic, with the faint background image found in the arcade.  The Atari 2600 version of Asteroids has the standard game console options on load, and decent play with a virtual joystick and fire button.  The graphics flicker like it would on a TV.

The games also include a gallery of original package artwork and images, and all-in-all, it’s a dollar well spent.

LA Times Article: Atari Reboot

Posted on August 07, 2010

Atari was one of the original video game leaders, although the company had all but disappeared during the last few decades.  It was sold to various companies around the world, eventually ending up in France.  However, starting around a year ago, we started seeing rumblings of a corporate rebirth.  Licensing stepped up, with a Universal Studios film deal for Asteroids among the more news-worthy items.

Recently, Atari’s website has been growing, offering both classic games for online play, plus the announcement of new initiatives, including the re-imagining of older titles (again, Asteroids).  Then, with echoes of Steve Jobs’s return to a floundering Apple, there came the news that Atari founder Nolan Bushnell was back on the board of directors.

The LA Times has just published a fairly comprehensive article detailing the past and future plans for the company.  Read it here:,0,3552511.story?track=rss

Asteroids Online Announced

Posted on August 03, 2010

Over at, Asteroids Online (working title) was announced today, with a big COMING SOON button and a few screen shots. As indicated by the name, it’s an online game based loosely on the original premise.

Asteroids Online is set in the distant future, where:

…Space is littered with the debris of a thousand years of human neglect, and coupled with the recent appearance of unexplained asteroid fields, many trading and transportation companies have resorted to hiring pilots to clean their routes of these impurities. This, as you may have guessed, is where you come in.

While the experience will be quite different from the sparse vector display and five buttons of the beloved arcade version, Atari says that this “re-imagining of its 1979 iconic classic… adds an expansive universe, flexible customization and social interaction while faithfully preserving the remarkably balanced mechanics that characterized the original arcade cabinet.”

Gaming has shifted out of the arcade and onto TVs, then computers and phones.  The online version is designed for casual and interactive play through social networks like Facebook and, and looks to be built on the concept of a longer-term game. Players will explore different worlds, complete various missions, and be able to customize their ships “with different hulls, shields, weapons and more.”  The addition of long-form narrative and episodic game play is a smart approach to keeping people coming back.

This is part of the company’s plan to revitalize some if its legacy titles. An article in today’s LA Times writes:

Northern California’s Cryptic Studios, which Atari bought in 2008, operates multiplayer online games such as the recently released Star Trek Online and Champions Online, both of which have very small user bases compared with the market-dominating World of Warcraft.

But to drive much of its growth, the company hired a veteran Microsoft and Yahoo executive to head its online activities. Thom Kozik, executive vice president of online and mobile, has contracted with outside producers to make 15 to 20 updated versions of Atari games for the Web.

Though some of its games will be pay-to-download, Atari is embracing the increasingly popular free-to-play business model used by companies such as Playdom, which was recently acquired by Walt Disney Co. in a deal worth up to $763 million. Most players of so-called F2P games spend nothing, while a small but avid group pay for virtual items that enhance the experience.

“Over the next six months you’re going to see some of our best brands coming out as casual online games and digital downloads across multiple platforms, and you’ll see a handful of retail releases,” Wilson said.

(Read the entire LA Times article here.)

Sample frames from Atari’s site indicate that the visual style is rendered in bright colors with oversized bubbly graphics. The company wants to move into the present and not just ride the rails of retro, and while this is bringing a beloved game into a contemporary venue, we hope that it stand out from the others in ways beyond the brand name (ie. design). We’ll wait to play the game before commenting further, but so long as things don’t become too busy, there’s potential for something fresh from the company that’s looking to live up to its past, while engaging players in the present.

Atari Online’s page can be visited at:

And for those who might simply want to combat white lines until invariably reaching a vectory death, Atari has already made the original program available for online play.