Posted on May 30, 2016
11 Things You Didn’t Know About Yars’ Revenge
Yars’ Revenge is one of my all-time favorite games for the Atari 2600. In the years of playing it, and the years of being an obsessed gamer, I have found that there are many, many things to this little, one screen, game that is fit for legend. Here are ten things that I never knew about Yars’ Revenge. Let’s see how many of them you knew.
1. Yars’ Revenge was supposed to be an arcade port of Star Castle.
The arcade game Star Castle was a lot like what the Yars’ Revenge ended up being. Game programmer (and legend) Howard Scott Warshaw, didn’t think that they would be able to replicate the game like the arcade. Even though Atari bought the license for the Star Castle arcade port, the farther into production they moved, the farther the game was from Star Castle. Finally it was decided to make their own game.
2. Yars’ Revenge is the most successful, original Atari 2600 game.
Even though it didn’t start out as an original game, it became one. Not only did it become a hit for Atari but it sold over a million units. That was huge because the games of theirs that sold that many were usually either straight arcade ports, from third party developers or a license from a movie.
3. The guy that made it, was the same guy that has been blamed for the Crash of ’83.
Howard Scott Warshaw programmed this game for Atari. It was a success. His next game would be Raiders of the Lost Ark. Another finical success. His third and final game for the company would be E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. The game, even though initially a commercial success (selling over 1.5 million), the game was so difficult that many returns were made and it was panned by critics. Personally, it’s one of my favorite games and if you read the manual, you will understand how to play and see how ahead of it’s time it was.
4. Yars’ Revenge was an inside joke.
Some people might ask, “What the heck is a Yars?” What the term Yar(s) came from is that it is Ray backwards. The planet Razak IV that was destroyed by the Qotile is actually a play on the name Kassar. Ray Kassar was the Atari CEO at the time and a far cry from the fun loving Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney. Ray Kassar was responsible for telling David Crane that he was no more important than the guy on the assembly line who puts the game together. That led to Crane and three other developers to leave the company and found Activision, the first third-party developer. Some say that Yars’ Revenge is Ray’s revenge on Activision, while others claim that the whole thing was just an idea joke to poke fun at Ray.
5. Yars’ Revenge was released with a comic book.
The story for Yars’ Revenge was so deep and fun, that Atari decided to make a mini comic book out of the back story to help people understand what was going on. In the 9 page book, it tells the story of how Yars were once common house flys that were on a spaceship from earth. They somehow morphed into the creatures that were the Yars. The Qotile had destroyed their home planet and now they need to take revenge for it.
6. It’s Yars’ not Yar’s.
This one might seem rather nit-picky, but it’s one that irks me to no end. The “Yars” end with an “s” so to make their revenge on the Qotile become possessive to them, the apostrophe needs to follow the “s”. Another thing is that if some people get confused and just call the space fly a “Yar”, then putting an apostrophe followed by an “s” means that it is just “Yar” fighting the entire Qotile army. The same is true if you do not use an apostrophe at all. If you just write “Yars Revenge” it becomes the revenge of only one of the Yars.
7. Yars’ Revenge had a theme song and a radio drama vinyl record!
Atari released an album that explained in more detail the story behind Yars’ Revenge and also about the Zorlon Cannon. The recording including a theme song which has to be heard to be believed. The person who recorded and produced these was John Braden who also worked on Magnum P.I., The A-Team, Knight Rider, Dukes of Hazard and The Fall Guy. You can hear the entire album on Youtube here.
8. Yars’ Revenge has had many re-releases, reimagining’s.
Yars’ Revenge has been re-released on Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance, Atari Flashback and even the Xbox Game Room. A reimagining of it has been released at Atari.com for web browsers as well as another one for Xbox Live Arcade. This one, wait for it, is called “Yar’s Revenge.” That’s right. Apostrophe before the “s”, but I guess in this one, you play one girl named Yar in power armor, so I guess they get away with it…for now.
There was also a prequel game called Yars’ Revenge: First War released on Facebook in 2011!
9. Yars’ Revenge Hacks
Yars’ Revenge has had its fair share of fun in the hack market as well. One game called Yars’ Defeat tells the story of how the Qotile defeated the Yars’ in the first place. You play the Qotile this time.
Another one called Yar vs. Yar is exactly what it sounds like.
A hack that moved far from the Yars’ Revenge story is Borg’s Revenge which is the same gameplay…
but this time you are the Borg against the Federation from Star Trek!
10. Seth Green was in the original commercial for Yars’ Revenge.
This is my favorite piece of trivia. A young Seth Green hits on his babysitter by trying to get her to play Yars’ Revenge with him. Watch it here.
11. Yars’ Revenge has an Easter Egg.
If you are able to shoot the swirl while it’s in flight with your Zorlon Cannon, and then fly through the black line that goes through the screen (known as The Ghost of Yars), the next screen will have the programmer’s, Howard Scott Warshaw’s, initials instead of the game select. It appears HSWWSH, so it is forwards and backwards. Some say that this is because of the background mirroring technique that was used in designing Atari 2600 games.
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