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Vector Tanks creator claims Atari "sullies treasured classic games"

Apple has offered many copycat games on its iTunes App Store for years, but decided to pull a number of apps in December due to copyright infringement complaints by Atari. The heavy-handed approach surprised many in an industry where new products traditionally draw from design features and concepts of previous games.

The creator of Vector Tanks, the iOS action game removed from Apple’s App Store on request by Battlezone intellectual property owner Atari, spoke to VentureBeat about this in an exclusive interview. Peter Hirschberg, the creator of Vector Tanks, is an industry veteran who collects arcade machines and has contributed to several game emulators. In the mid-1990s he came up with a translucent vector effect algorithm that replicates the glow effect of vector graphics arcade machine screens on computer monitors.

In 2009 Hirschberg created Vector Tanks for the iPhone in the hope of catching Atari’s attention, as he phrased it: “I ran up on stage before the big huge popular band starts playing, grabbed the guitar and did a really awesome lick and I was hoping they’d go: Dude, you’re totally in the band now. And instead they kicked me out of the show.”

Hirschberg said that he wanted Vector Tanks to be evocative of the 1980 Battlezone arcade game, but deliberately avoided making it a straight clone: “I used to say: They can’t come after me for a game of tanks drawn of lines, because that was the only similarity that I saw. That’s why I put jeeps in there, helicopters and power-ups – it was not supposed to be Battlezone. Every time I found myself steering into Battlezone territory I would purposely turn the other way.”

Hirschberg said he continues to be an admirer of Atari’s classic games, but is doubtful whether the company’s current strategy is doing the retro games market a great service: “If they [Atari] are gauging success by their current offerings (Breakout: Boost and Asteroid: Gunner, et al), I think they are both going to continue to sully these treasured classic games and alienate the inherently niche market for any future offerings.”

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