The Tribe

Atari Labs/Infogrames

I began working in games at Atari, and here I was again at the latest incarnation, several owners later.

Atari Labs was a think tank which was supposed to implement its thoughts. The other five guys in our six-person South of Market office were working on cutting edge software and hardware, but I was brought in to develop The Tribe.

The idea was to unify Atari’s games with a common cast. Not all of them could appear every time, but some of them could, and the cast was wide enough to connect to any kind of game. As with Tron2.0, or MILLENNIUM on the comic book side, there were problems with this idea of a political nature, but I was aware of them. Each development house had to feel that their game was their game, not an adjunct; each development house had to learn to trust me not to hurt their game.

The upside was the establishment of the players' comfort and familiarity with the Atari brand, not to mention anticipation - because the Tribe would develop and change over time. Events in each game would establish relationships between the characters and these relationships would be saved like everything else worth saving, except that the relationships would be accessed by other games. If a Désirée and Leo broke up in a game that allowed that much interaction, they would not like each other in the next game. This would not affect gameplay! Leo might not have Desi as an option when it came to surfing buddies, but he could still ride the waves. So the characters would develop in and around the gameplay, until the Tribe eventually appeared in their own series of games where significant events could take place, changing the Atari Universe.

This was a truly brilliant idea. But then the economy went south and so did the resources needed to pull it off. Nevertheless, I still hope to do something like it again someday.



Art by Xavier Schon.