After recently posting about how great I think Star Raiders is it was to my great surprise when I first heard it recently on the the Giant Bomb Podcast and later the AtariAge forums that Aric Wilmunder, one time Atari employee and long time LucasArts (nee Lucasfilm Games) developer/legend, released not only details of his almost complete sequel to the space combat sim classic but also the game itself ready for emulators everywhere.
In his words (as posted on YouTube):
In 1983 I was hired by Atari Corporate Research and in ’84 I transferred to Atari Coin-Op where I was part of a small R&D team under Lyle Rains, the brains behind Asteroids and Atari Football. I was tasked with designing and building a sequel to Star Raiders, the most sophisticated space battle simulator of it’s time. While I was still working on the design, Atari Marketing had purchased the rights to develop games based on the movie The Last Starfighter, and when the movie did poorly at the box-office, they quickly re-branded the Atari 800 game as Star Raiders II. The actual sequel that I was coding was just a few months from completion and as a result it never shipped, but it did serve as my resume when I went to work for George Lucas’ fledgling games group, Lucasfilm Games. So after more than 30 years sitting on a floppy disk in my garage, here’s the true Star Raiders II.
Checking out the video below, you can see just how much of a massive leap forward the game had made in the visuals department with 3D models of the ships and space stations. Hyperspace travel now involves keeping the ship flying through rings which makes for a more visually interesting addition to that part of the game and the map screen is interactive in a way that is almost Star Trek like. But what’s really striking is the addition of planets and the ability to travel close enough to travel over their surface in a way that we would later see become key in Lucasfilm Games titles Rescue on Fractalus! and Koronis Rift, the latter Wilmunder would contribute to.
It really is a shame that this wasn’t released when it should have because it has all of the hallmarks of being a true successor to the original game due to it keeping the core gameplay intact but its addition of 3D graphics were a massive advance that would have easily made the game stand out from its competitors of the time. A bigger, prettier Star Raiders would have caused quite a stir at the time if fans knew this was shelved in favour of what we ended up with.
I’m stunned to see this show up now after thirty years but it’s cool to see that everyone can now get a chance to play it, even if it is via an emulator.
Links to the files and further details can be found at the AtariAge forums.