My New Atari-Themed Indie Game

Jake Riley Indie Game Introduction

Hello. I’m Jake Riley, and welcome to!  This is an indie game dev blog where you get to see the ramblings of a guy who’s fumbling his way through the process of making his very first video game project. In more confident words, here I discuss mostly creative stuff about a new indie game I’m currently working on. The idea for this project’s been brewing in my mind for well over three years now. I was going to launch this site earlier on, but I pushed it back for reasons.

Anyway, the indie game I’m developing is a story-driven 2D platformer. It’s also a tribute to one of the pioneers of video games, the Atari 2600. See, this game takes place within a (poorly made) Atari 2600 title. It’s set in a Wreck-It-Ralph-style world where video game characters are sentient. The North American video game crash of 1983 is when this story takes place. And on top of that, a (fictional) candy corporation (The Buscal Candy Company) made the game. It’s like Coke’s PEPSI Invaders or adjacent brand tie-in games of the time. It’s based on animated television commercials with characters from the candy company’s (fictional) sucker brand. They wanted to get a piece of the new video game craze.


The idea for this game’s concept spawned from a talk I had with a friend of mine in 2019. I saw him with a handheld Atari 2600 system playing the game Adventure. When he was selecting Adventure from the handheld’s game selection menu, I jokingly asked if it had E.T. on there, which resulted in the two of us talking about the video game crash of 1983. This eventually led me to imagine what a bona fide game that’s about the 1983 crash would be like. No such game exists, and so I took it upon myself to make one.


Let’s get into what this game will look like. I feel it’s important to get out of the way now. So, you would expect a game like this to look faithful to the console graphics of the late 70s/early 80s. However, I’m actually taking a different approach to the art. Remember when I mentioned this in-universe 2600 title is an advergame that features characters from cartoon sucker commercials? Well, I’m going all in with that idea and making this game look aesthetically similar to that famous old Tootsie Pop cartoon commercial, and 70s animation in general such as (perhaps more apparent) Schoolhouse Rock!, and the lesser-known ‘’The Point!’’ movie.

This game’s going to have hand-drawn animation (entirely done by me) with an intentionally rough look, limited frames, and even a filter to make it look older and more authentic. This is how the characters actually perceive their world, since their game’s based on 70s cartoon mascot ads. The style fits the early 80s time period well, and you could say this game will be like Cuphead, but imitating a different period of animation. Oh, and it won’t nearly be as well done, heh! I like to draw, so I chose from day one to make the game’s art myself.

The reason why I decided to take the look of my game in this direction is that, since this is a story-driven and character-driven game with a lot of dialogue and humor, and factoring in that I hand-draw myself, I simply couldn’t see it having the very, very rudimentary graphics of the time. My workaround to this was making the 2600 game based on cartoons. I’m planning to make a ‘’cover’’ for the game that’ll match the game’s cartoon style and look like an illustrated cover for the Atari 2600.

Retro Atari Elements

Don’t worry if the hand-drawn style won’t make it feel Atari 2600 enough, I’m blending the 2600’s aesthetic into the graphics as well. The heads-up display, textboxes and some of the other text will have that 2600 look, some sound effects will use the Atari 2600 sound, and the characters will have 2600 sprite versions of themselves to be used in certain places to show what they actually look like on TV screens in-universe. NPC’s sprites will be used in dialogue prompts when you’re in talking range, and the player character’s 2600 sprite will even come up as icons on the grey HUD bar on the top of the screen to show players that they can interact with something. It’s quite an interesting blend of looks.

You probably already saw what the protagonist’s Atari 2600 sprite looks like; it’s on the top bar of this site. It’s also featured in the image above. I’ll explain him momentarily. Also, the very start of the game will look like a genuine 2600 title, before flashing to the 70s cartoon style seconds later to really highlight the contrast.

E.T. Go Come

Another factor into why I chose to make this project look the way it will look is, well, this:

Yeah. This art is from a German Atari 2600 title which name translates as ‘’UFI and His Dangerous Mission’’. Though, if you’re already aware of this thing, you probably know it better by the hilariously misspelled ‘’E.T Go Come’’. It came out during the video game crash, and is not THE E.T. Atari game, I’m pretty sure they didn’t even have the permission to use E.T. in the first place.

There is admittedly a charm to this strange cover art, and the cartoon style reminds me of Schoolhouse Rock! (which makes sense, considering the cover was made in the early 80s). This is what sparked me to give my game a 70s animation art style despite being on the 2600 canonically. The ‘’cover’’ I’m making for my game is going to take heavy influence from the E.T. Go Come cartridge art. I’ve also based some characters off of ones from the E.T. Go Come cover. Because of that, anything goes when it comes to character concepts in this.

Story & World

The main character is Randall Buscal, more commonly referred to as Randy. His surname Buscal is the same as the founder and namesake of the candy company I mentioned earlier.

Anyway, Randy is a young living mushroom who wears a baseball cap and a bow tie. He’s the main mascot/commercial star of the sucker brand that created him, and is the player character of their advergame. There is a conflict that’s happening while Randy’s game is on the shelf in its fifth or sixth or seventh disappointed buyer’s home, and Randy wants to stop it. That’s all I will reveal about the storyline right now. I’m going to keep a lot of the plot under wraps for the time being.

Injecting A Little of Myself Into Randy

Writing this story gave me a perfect chance to vent about stuff in my life through allegory. Randy is partially an analogue of myself. He wants to solve the plot’s conflict because he’s not very respected by his family, which is unfortunately based on my own life. My family members rarely ever really listened to anything I had to say, have always baselessly assumed I did something wrong sometimes, and have always snapped at me for the slightest of reasons. They’ve always painted me out to be, well, insert negative quality here. They’ve always treated me differently than my siblings. My family members have always been rude, insulting, disrespectful, contemptuous, disdainful, and dismissive to me and me alone, and that’s just messed up! Makes me very ashamed of myself sometimes, frankly. My siblings have even always threatened me with violence constantly. I’ve spoken against all of this to my family many times, but again, they’re dismissive of me, so it never went over well. They’ve always tried to excuse their way out of it by saying they’re in a bad mood. Well, they must always be in a poor mood, and are only so when talking to me. Yeah, I’ve always seen right past that!

Randy wants to solve a plot that wasn’t artificially programmed. He wants to accomplish something big without being controlled by someone else in the real world. He wants to do this to get the respect from his family that he deserves and shouldn’t’ve even needed to work towards in the first place. If Randy’s being constantly watched and controlled by someone, whatever he does is not as fulfilling as it would be otherwise. Yeah, yeah, I know he’s also gonna be controlled by players in the main story, but canonically, he isn’t.

Video Game Crash of 1983

People who live in the games are somehow able to get television signals from outside game worlds of the time. They can even get TV signals from the real world. Public-access (which I’m not sure you’re aware of) is very, very popular in the game world this story’s set in. That may seem quite random to say, but it’s relevant to a specific aspect of the story. Anyway, the characters know about other game worlds through TV. The game’s denizens also know about the video game industry along with the 1983 crash, and this is part of the plot.

So how does the video game crash of 1983 factor into the story? Well, I’ll fully reveal how and discuss it in detail in another post. Right now, I’ll just say that the video game crash kinda ruined Randy’s life, and gave a chance for certain disgusting people in the game to pump out even worse- Wait! I said I was gonna reveal that later! Also, the fact that they live in a poorly-made game caused some people (including people that’re really close to Randy) to develop a poor outlook on their game world’s denizens as a whole and generally gain bad and rightfully looked-down-upon views. That’s how the disgusting people I just mentioned became the way they are!


This game will start off as just what it’s meant to be in-universe; six levels, and a frustrating experience with a good number of reasons why it’s so bad. If you can tolerate making it to the end of level six and beat it, the real game will begin, and its actual story will start to unfold.

During the story, you replay all six levels from the game within the game (with some extra stages thrown in), but they’ll be different. There’ll be new, better game mechanics to improve the experience. There’ll be story cutscenes, you can talk to NPCs (who just stand there in the actual 2600 game), there’ll be NPCs who weren’t there before, there’ll be background music as opposed to the usual silence of the era. There will be alleviations to the previously frustrating gameplay, and you’ll even take advantage of it’s poor game design.

For example, replacing the jump when collected in the in-universe 2600 title (but not replacing it in the real game), Randy can pick up a cruddy ranged weapon that he can use on foes, which flies in an arc. In the real game, while the weapon is still kinda trash, you can use it in different, better ways to progress.

Oh, and there’ll also be parts of the game that’ll clearly mirror old games of the time period thrown in here and there.

Creative Liberties

I am taking a couple of liberties when it comes to it being an Atari 2600 game in-universe. Like I said in the beginning, this is a 2D platformer, and the specific kind of platformer it is wasn’t really a thing on the 2600. Same goes for Randy having his own health meter in this. But, whatever. Though, the levels will be split up into different screens, so that’s in keeping with the 2600. The gameplay will be taking advantage of that limitation.


As for what the name of my game is, I’ve struggled on a title for a good while. I wanted it to sound like it belongs in the Atari 2600 library. It’s going to share a title with the game within the game after all. I thought maybe it’s name can be kinda generic, like ‘’Adventure’’ or ‘’Asteroids’’. Though, I couldn’t think of a good title that’s both generic and descriptive enough. I ultimately decided on ‘’Randy’s Crazy Mission!’’ with an exclamation point. The name is loosely based on ‘’UFI and His Dangerous Mission‘’, the English translation of that German E.T. Go Come thing’s official title.

Closing Words

The engine this project will use is Unity (Edit: Switched it to GameMaker, you probably know why). Shortly after the idea for this project popped into my head, I looked into C# programming, and while I’ve learned basic coding and can do a little bit of it, I’m probably going to end up getting some other people to work on the vast majority of the game’s programming and bug fixing, because one: I’m not very good at coding, and two: I’m making all of the art, and animation, and dialogue, and other creative stuff myself. Although, I haven’t been very consistent with things. I created this blog partially to help me get more consistent with the development.

Since I barely know how to program and learning in-depth would suck away potential time for me to work on the creative side of things, I decided it would be best to hand that off to someone else to ease development. I’ll use this site to recruit (reputable) programmers for this project when it (hopefully) gets enough attention. So far I’ve really just worked on the game’s creative aspects like art, story and character concepts. For now, the topics I’ll discuss on this blog will delve into the creative side of things, so sorry if you like all that technical talk when it comes to games. Like I said, there has been barely any coding done at this point in time.

I’ll eventually release a demo as a proof of concept because all things considered, I think it might need one. Until then, I hope whoever reads this thinks it’s a valid idea for an indie game. I’ll be showcasing a plethora of stuff for the project on this website.

That’s All for Now

“Y’all done heard that!? EHEHEHEH, y’all best get ready! Soon, we’re all gonna be taken back and-


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