There were some ground-breaking (pun intended) titles on the Atari Jaguar despite its commercial failure. One of those, and a favourite in the AA offices is Breakout 2000! We managed to track down its creator Mario Perdue for this fascinating insight…
How exactly did you get the opportunity to enter the video game industry?
I had been working on other projects for the Atari ST/TT at the time and got to know some of the people working there.
Do you remember the first ever game you worked on?
My first game program was a breakout style game based on Arkanoids called WalZ.
You are probably most famous for your role on the awesome Breakout 2000 Jaguar game. How did you first get the opportunity to work on this title and were you given a lot of freedom?
I had been having some health issues in the early 90’s and was talking to J Patton at Atari after I had recovered. J recommended that I try doing something with the Jaguar and got me a loaner system to work with. I ported a version of WalZ over and someone there decided it was worth pursuing.
During development I was given absolute freedom. They had ideas that they wanted incorporated but they were always presented as suggestions. Mike Fulton, Bill Rehbock and J Patton all contributed to the final game.
The original Breakout is a true gaming classic. Did you feel a lot of pressure when working on the revamped sequel and what elements of the original did you try to recapture?
There was a little pressure from that. I tried to make the retro version as close to the original game as possible but I got complaints about it when it was done. The problem is people don’t remember the original Breakout, they remember Super Breakout. So, my retro breakout wasn’t good enough (oh no – Ed).
For the 2000 version I was very focused on making it easily playable with the Jaguar controller. That was hard to do. Breakout works best with a paddle controller, not a rotary controller or the push buttons I was working with. The stops on the paddle controller are important to the feel of the game. Anyway, my main focus was getting it to play smoothly.
Breakout 2000 famously started development as an Atari release but was completed and released by Telegames. What was it like working on this game with two separate publishers and would you have preferred it to be an official Atari release?
I didn’t have many dealings with Telegames. Breakout 2000 was completed for Atari shortly prior to them shutting things down. Telegames licensed everything from them.
Was there ever any plans to implement rotary support for Breakout 2000?
There were, but the controller never materialized so I didn’t have one to work with (shame – Ed).
Can you explain your work on the mysterious Skycopter II and Speedster II Jaguar games and why they were never released to the public?
Skycopter II, Speedster II and an unnamed spaceship project were not intended to be released as games. There were for coin operated kiddie rides. As Atari was shutting down they were trying to sell as many of the Jaguar systems as they could. Carousel International purchased a large number of them to use as controls for their rides.
With the Jaguar homebrew scene now bigger than ever, are you tempted to release physical copies of both Skycopter II and Speedster II or any other game for that matter?
No, I’m now retired and having a good time building 3D printers and models these days.
The Atari Jaguar was underappreciated and never really got the attention it deserved. What do you think are the main reasons the console was not a success?
I don’t really know. Atari sure tried to market it. I think there were a couple of other systems released about the same time with much bigger advertising budgets.
What was it like working with Atari and do you look back fondly on this time?
I was working for myself and Atari was my customer. I can say they were a very good customer. I don’t recall any negative issues that occurred during that contract.
Were there any games on the Atari Jaguar or other consoles you started work on but never managed to release?
I did a couple of game apps for the iPad and had a couple more in the works when I decided to retire.
If you could give the 2000 treatment to another classic retro game, what game would you choose and why?
It will sound strange, but I think Pong needs an update (someone please do this! – Ed).
If you could travel back in time and work on any video game, which game would you have loved to be involved in?
I think Missile Command would have been a fun one to work on.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently retired and spend my time building models of items related to the exploration of space, real and imaginary.
Sounds great! One more before you leave us Mario, if you could share a few drinks with a video game character who would you choose and why?
Duke Nukem – he’s a badass.