Author Archive

LowRes #4

February 4, 2011
Cover picture for issue 4.

The issue 4 cover by Greyfox

Earplug #4

February 4, 2011

For this issue we recommend 505’s album Cirrus for you to enjoy while reading it.

505’s Cirrus

Issue 4 Editorial

February 4, 2011

Phew, issue 4 has been released. Collectors edition. Last issue evah!!!!oneoneone

Nah just kidding. It’s probably not the last issue but it’s most likely the last for a long time. When we started this mag it was with the sincere desire for frequent quality releases regardless of the quantity. Even if it were just 5 articles, we would release. Unfortunately, like most things in life it’s much easier said than done. First of all, real life forces us to change priorities in an unpredictable manner thus pushing back projects like this. Secondly I guess people didn’t really care about Low Res enough to participate, with some notable exceptions of course, and lastly, there isn’t really that much going on for us to report.

So is the ST reaching its final days as a thing that we give a damn about or as a greek amiga user told me, does the ST scene live in the twilight? I’d like to think no. There is a constant development of MiNT, a steady flow of demos, 3 parties planned for 2011 and two hardware projects, the ACP Firebee and the Supervidel actively supported.  Oh and a new Chossneck is planned and at least three Low Res authors will support it, because we might not write for our own mag but we do love a good diskmag anyday!.

In the meantime, on this issue we unveil our new logo that was made by Greyfox who the team would like to thank. Also our cover for this issue was also made by Greyfox.

So enjoy this issue and stay Atari.

Issue 4 news

February 4, 2011
  1. Freemint 1.17.0 and XaAES 0.999 have been released after a lot of work. There is also an ongoing project for a multilingual XaAES and finally a freemint wiki. They are very active at the MiNT front!
  2. There’s  a new version of MyAES released by OL. Looks very good!
  3. Mikro is collecting interest about a new Noise party. It might be that we’ll get along with Sommarhack, Sillyventure, Outline four Atari Demo parties this year (that include 16/32).
  4. The Atari forum is back online after some hosting problems.
  5. Nature have fixed some problems in the Svethlana, ethernet device.
  6. Saulot has ported Grafx2 2.2 to MiNT. Pixel artists go and take a look.
  7. m0n0 has ported netsurf to MiNT. Internet users go and take a look.
  8. Paradize have released a new game. Read all about it in this issue.
  9. Saulot has also started an Atari coding wiki. Anyone with the necessary knowledge don’t hesitate to participate.

Links:

  1. Freemint wiki
  2. http://myaes.lutece.net/
  3. http://noise.atari.sk
  4. http://www.atari-forum.com/
  5. http://nature.atari.org/
  6. Grafx2 Atari port
  7. Netsurf Atari port
  8. http://paradize.atari.org/
  9. Bus error wiki

Capture videos of your Atari in action.

February 4, 2011

As you might or might not know I have this hobby of capturing falcon and ST stuff and uploading them to youtube with mixed results as far as quality goes. For that reason I have bought an Easycap DC60 USB 2.0 capture device from somewhere in China, in all likelyhood a clone of the original device now called EzCap.

The device I bought feature the STK1160 chipset which doesn’t allow capture of PAL 60. And though this isn’t much of a problem for capturing from an ST(E) since most software works on 50Hz ,this isn’t always the case for the falcon or for newer demos. Otherwise the DC60 allows capturing from either composite video or s-video and in stereo in resolutions up to 720×576 and in 25 or 30 fps(PAL/NTSC). It also comes bundled with video editing software and drivers.

The first problem I witnessed with the device was installing appropriate drivers for it since it does have problems with windows 7. I believe that now they have been included in the windows update service but I am not quite sure. After a few hours of fighting with it I started capturing using the debut capture software which is a pretty cool program that works very well with the Easycap. Unfortunately I noticed that there was frame drop when recording and having deinterlacing on, probably something to do with my 3.06GHz Hyperthreading processor and IDE hard drive. So I went to the best in my view pieces of software for this kind of work. DScaler and Virtual dub.

Dscaler is a free software solution for viewing video from a capture source that has some excellent and fast deinterlacing algorithms. Unfortunately you can only record the interlaced video and since hard drive space is a commodity I don’t want to waste, I am using the Hufyuv codec.

Virtual Dub is used for post processing and mainly for 3 things.  Removing of unwanted video segments and cropping, deinterlacing and compressing video and audio.

So the process is somewhat like this:

1. Record the video in full size from dscaler using the YUV format since it’s faster.

2. Load the video in Virtual Dub and select the following. Full processing mode in the video and audio menus so as to compress the video and audio parts of the video to mp4 and mp3 respectively (of course you can use your favourite codecs).

3. Go to the filters option in the video menu and select the method to deinterlace. After that you’ll see the cropping button being selectable. Pressing it will allow you to crop the video image.

4. Save as avi.

Now, I’ve found the deinterlace methods already in Vdub to be somewhat lacking for our purposes, perhaps because the atari outputs such a strange signal. However since Vdub is such a nice program, you can find various loadable filters. As such I’ve found the Smart Deinterlace filter that provides very good results. There are various options but I found that the combination of:

-Frame only differencing

- Edge directed interpolate

- Compare color channels

- Motion threshold 15

Deinterlace settings

Deinterlace settings for the smart deinterlacer.

to be more than adequate. After that you can upload the final video on youtube or wherever else you want. The above method can be used with any other capture device as well.

Links:

1. Dscaler: http://deinterlace.sourceforge.net/

2. VirtualDub: http://www.virtualdub.org/

3. Smart deinterlace filter: http://neuron2.net/smart/smart.html

Top 10 Atari ST indie games.

February 4, 2011

By ChrisTOS

The Atari ST had it’s large share of shareware, freeware and PD games. They were generally found in the PD pages of Atari ST magazines and were collectively known as public domain. Nowadays we call those indie games (from independent) and I prefer that term since it’s broader than all the other terms combined and pretty much explains them. One term to bind them…

So before I start the list, let’s set some ground rules. First of all the list didn’t come from any collective effort. It’s not even comprehensive since only a small fraction of the Indie  games available have been played by the authors of lowres.  Also the games included are the ones that appeal more to the author, which sadly means that you will not find any RPG’s.

So let’s start the countdown.

10. Sinister Developments Centipede. Centipede is a well known game from the arcades that made it to the ST thanks to the efforts of Sinister Developments. There is not much to say about the game other than that it’s nicely drawn, super smooth and with nice sound effects. Unfortunately there is a small logic flaw in the game that might spoil the fun but I had to know it was there to spot it. Still Sinister have given us some great arcade conversions and they are worth a place in the list. Even if it is the last.

9. Holocaust. Holocaust is a 2d vertical scrolling shoot’ em up game.  It features many levels, smooth scrolling, good looking graphics, nice music or samples as well as animations  and a little of voice narrative -with the use of a speech.tos the st speech trademark- to promote the story. Did I mention everything runs in 1 VBL?  The enemy waves don’t shoot at you, which is a good thing, but issues such as the high level of difficulty and the total lack of information such as  shield, score etc award it only the 9th place.  Still the game outshines most commercial efforts and is very polished for an indie game.

8.  Entombed. A Rick Dangerous clone. You are an Egyptian trapped in an Egyptian tomb and you need to escape. So pick up your bow and arrows and keys, avoid the pikes and the fires and the waters, solve the insiduous puzzles enjoy the beautiful graphics and the simplistic sound effects and whatever you do don’t forget to have someone call you after a few hours of gameplay to get you back to reality. There are five tombs, one worse than the one before.

7.  Frantick. In 1993 Atari released it’s ill fated Atari jaguar console. The best game for it was Tempest 2000 but the ST version of Tempest is better left in the bad memories of those who bought it. So why this introduction? Is Frantick a Tempest clone? No, not quite but I bet it was inspired from that. You see the gameplay is similar… only in 2d. The enemy waves come to you from up and down and are strikingly similar to those in Tempest. There are power ups, bombs and bonus stages, great samples and the music fits the frantick gameplay. Though it doesn’t induce Jeff Minter’s epileptical seizures, Dave Munsie comes close with one of the best arcade shooters on the ST. With 4 game modes and 50 waves there’s a lot of gameplay time.

6.  Grandad 2 – In search of Sandwitches. Grandad 2 is a beautiful graphic adventure. You are an old person who lost his sandwiches and is trying to find them. The humour is excellent, the main character is the stereotype of the grumpy smelly old man, the puzzles are interesting and the graphics are beautiful.. but using the joystick to control an adventure game kind of feels wrong. There is very little sound in the game but the game is one of  the best written adventures made for the ST. The game was well worth the shareware fee Mr Ian Scott demanded.

We are almost ready to move to the top 5.  Now things get difficult :D

5. Crapman. Pacman has been one of the most remade games in the history of videogaming. It’s never been done so well in the Atari 16/32 platform at least. Crapman was part of the Synergy mega demo and it inherits all the achievements of the demoscene. Smooth 8-directional  scrolling, constant framerate and great level design make this excellent dot eating game.

4. Cybernetix: What happens when Defender meets Asteroids? A very smooth game (but with some drops in the framerate when a lot of sprites appear), beautiful graphics and lovely sound effects. Quite a few types of enemies, a lot of sectors to clear and a more than reasonable 5 quid asked by Mr Paul Andrews and Mr Rodney Smith.  The game is fast paced and of excellent quality. Plus you don’t lose your power ups when you lose a life. How cool is that?

3. Superfly: All games by Reservoir Gods deserve a place in the top 10, but this one is probably the most addictive one of them all. Simplistic graphics, beautiful music, great looking sprites and more modes to play in this one button avoid em up then you can count, make for an amazing gaming experience. Go save Kylie from Dr Evil, from water to air to space and open all the secrets.

2. Starball, a pinball game where you have to shoot monsters and ships using the ball.  It’s a game that combines the usual gameplay of a pinball game with forcefields, space stations and minigames. If you ever wanted to know how it is to play space invaders and arkanoid with pinball rackets then this is the game for you. Starball will run on all ataris and will make use of the extra hardware. Beautiful graphics and sounds, fast action and lots of hours will be spent on it. Only complaint is the ball physics. It feels like Newton’s first, second and third laws don’t work the same way in starball’s universe.

1. Llamatron: Once upon a time there was in the arcades a game called Robotron. Jeff Minter prefers Llamas so you get to go on a shooting rampage with your friendly neighborhood llama. So pick up the powerups and beasties, kill everything else, finish all the levels and get your epilepsy medicines. The game can be played with one or two joysticks just like the original Robotron. Llamatron was probably the most succesful shareware game ever released for the ST. Jeff Minter has said he received thousands of letters, and while not all the people payed the shareware fee a significant portion did. 5 pounds well spent.

Llamatron

A random level from llamatron

So, this is our list. What’s yours? Please send us your comments and your favourite indie ST games.

Kolmik (Deluxe Edition) review.

February 4, 2011

Kolmik is the new Atari ST game from Paradize and as you would have guessed it’s another puzzle game which this time has the player create columns and lines of same colour tiles (depending on game mode).

Presentation: The presentation of the game is quite good actually with a lovely Paradize logo displayed and a nice mod being played at the beginning, while the game logo is one of the nicest I’ve seen. The game options screen is very informative and it includes the game type selection, the game rules while the setup screen allows you to select between music and sound effects on/off and the difficulty level.

Kolmik Options screen

The Kolmik options screen

Graphics: The game graphics are very reminiscent of the graphics used in the Paradize previous offering Znax with the usual for the group predominance of purrple. They work very well and are easy on the eye and after all this is a puzzle game. The colours do fit very well.

Sound: This is really the strongest part of the game with some lovely tunes from DMA-Sc. There are separate tunes for each game mode, for almost every screen and game mode and though music is in the ear of the beholder I like all of them very much. The sound effects are minimalistic but they do complement the game very well.

Classic Kolmik screen

The classic Kolmik screen.

Gameplay: There are two game modes, classic kolmik and square frenzy. In the classic mode you get 3 rows of 12 tiles each and you need to drag them left or right so as to make columns of the same colour. You have a limited amount of moves and for each column completed you get an extra move. In the square frenzy mode you have a square of 8×8 tiles and you need to complete one row or column of the same colour. Again you have a limited number of moves which get renewed once you complete a row or column. The game is controlled with the mouse and three methods are used, a drag and drop method where you drag and drop a line left or right, the use of arrows left or right of the tile area and the keypad. Square frenzy only supports drag and drop. I personally prefer using the arrows but the drag and drop method isn’t that bad. It’s not that good either.

My biggest complaint though is that it’s not really addictive. While you get used to the controls I find little point in the game. I can’t really point my finger at one thing I find dull in Kolmik, perhaps it’s its slow nature or the fact that I’ve matched colours on tiles so many other times before but it really didn’t do it for me. I am sure though that others will love it and disagree with me right here in the comment section.

Grades:

Graphics: 3.5/5

Sound: 4.5/5

Gameplay: 2.5/5

GEMworld. Alive and kicking. An overview on what’s new

May 15, 2010

GEM world news.

Apparently quite a few Atari users are fond of GEM and its apps. Otherwise why would there be so many new releases? LowRes will try to test that hypothesis with an overview of what’s new in the GEM and general non Game/Demo software for our favourite platform. Forgive the mistakes in the chronological order and what I may forget. I just got the idea and it’s late March already.

So, what’s new since our last release?

GemPlay 1.95

SWE released a new version of this excellent player of SNDH, mod, AM, ACE, Graumf tracker etc music files. This release [1] futures some bugfixes, FlexTracker support (minus the dsp effects) and a database. This player is mostly for the falcon but ST users can use it to play SNDH tunes.

KKCmd

Rajah Lone released a bugfix for KKCmd [2] his Total Commander clone for the ST. The fixes are primarily towards the ST and MSA disk images handling as well as the slider bar.

Zweather 1.2

This is mainly a bugfix which means that weather data can again be taken from weather.com . Zweather [3] is a small utility to display weather forecasts for any region.

AHCC v3.b8

A Home Cooked C Compiler [4] is a Pure C compatible compiler that is constantly updated by Henk Robbers. The newest feature is experimental Coldfire V4e support which means that old Pure C projects will be able to be ported natively to the FireBee once that is released. I don’t know much about C compilers and IDE’s but this one seems pretty well made.

GemDict 0.1

Gemdict [5] by JFL is a GEM client for the Dict protocol which allows the online search of word definitions. It requires MintNET, NVDI and AES 4.1.

MyMail

MyMail [6] reached version 1.94 last february. Erik Hall added support for UTF-8 encodings among other things. I still miss TLS support though. Otherwise MyMail seems  excellent.

Conholio 0.5b

This [7] is a Linux type console by PeP for MiNT systems and on its road to become a TOSWin replacement. It’s faster than TOSWin, supports fullscreen, VT102 emulation and also multiple fonts.

Qucik Extract v0.4

Quick extract [8] by ChrisTOS (that’s me) is a small program that allows users, once installed at the desktop, to quickly extract archive files to either the current folder or to a new one with the filename as folder name.

Kabooter

It’s [9]  an interesting program aimed at falcons. Are you bored at looking at those boot messages? Well now you don’t have to and you can instead look at your favourite picture. Download and enjoy. From ggn.

Mass storage solution

David Galvez has been working on a mass storage application [10] for the Ethernat. So far it supports FAT16 devices and is very slow. Hopefully since Ethernat and Netusbee share the same USB controller owners of that hardware will be benefited as well.


Links:

  1. GemPlay
  2. KKCmd
  3. ZWeather
  4. AHCC
  5. GEMDict
  6. MyMail
  7. Conholio
  8. Quick Extract file Projekt infos
  9. Kabooter
  10. David Galvez mass storage project

Interview with SCPCD and Zerosquare. JagCF getting near

May 15, 2010

As you have noticed, this is a jaguar heavy issue. Maybe because the jaguar has seen a rebirth or probably because I have one and only a cartridge and I’d like to know what I can do with it.
In that respect, every console out there has a way to load games that are distributed in binary form. With CD-ROM based consoles, in most cases it’s just a matter to burn the image in your home PC. With cartridge based consoles, there are flash cards etc that allow it to emulate a cartridge.
So far, the jaguar has had Alpine boards by Atari which are expensive and hard to find, BJL modifications that allow loading the executable in the main RAM (thus taking up space and limiting the possibilities for the game) and recently the Skunkboard. A flash card that does exactly what is needed but is unfortunately out of manufacturing with no plans to make another one. So either newcomers or people who missed the release of the Skunkboard are left with no options.
However, the hardware division of Jagware, namely SCPCD and Zerosquare are developing the JagCF. A small device that allows the possibility to have a CF card connected to your Jaguar and use it to load binaries, develop on the console and adds quite a few things to it. The development of this piece of hardware started a long time ago so we decided to talk to them about the JagCF and its current status and also give them an opportunity to address the various issues that have been raised concerning this kit.

LR: So let’s start by telling me a couple of things about you. How you got involved with the jaguar included :)

SCPCD: I love the jag since the day when my father came back from the Atari show with a jaguar and a lynx :p

Zerosquare: I didn’t know anything about the Jaguar until I met SCPCD in electronics engineering school a few years ago. He was very passionate about this console and I’ve always liked unusual hardware, so I thought “why not ?”

SCPCD:    some years after that, I started to be interested in programming (on a MegaSTe, a TI92+ and on PC with Delphi), and I looked for a way to program the jaguar but I hadn’t enough knowledge to modify the jaguar for bjl. And I finally entered into an engineering school where I burnt the BJL rom onto a EPROM by the robotic club of the school and started jaguar programming and modding in the same year :p

LR: Did you have any other involvement with atari computers and consoles before the jaguar?

Zerosquare: nope, I never had any Atari hardware before the Jaguar.

SCPCD:    yes, my father had a 1040 STe, a 520 STe, a MegaSTe (the one where I wrote my first Assembly program and that I used many years to assemble code for the jag) and he also had a Falcon :)

LR: So, SCPCD you are responsible for giving Zerosquare the Atari virus ;)

SCPCD:    :D

Zerosquare:    basically yes :)

SCPCD:    indeed.

Zerosquare:    I also discovered the ST and Falcon afterhand thanks to SCPCD and friends   and I think they’re cool machines :)

LR: The two of you met at electronics engineering school and then you decided to develop the jagcf. What brought this decision?

Zerosquare:    SCPCD. In fact it was already in development for some time. but he’ll explain it better

SCPCD:   I had made in the past some prototype project to expand the jaguar. The first one that I have made is an IDE & ST cartridge interface for the jaguar for a “TIPE” (note: a kind of a 6 month assignment in French universities) that can use the Audio input/output interface described in an STmag. The second project was the “Jaguar Evolution 2″ that is based on 2 IDE interfaces, ACIA interface (like an STe), memory extension, ATX connector, FPU, and several not finished expansion boards. But this one was cancelled when I started the JagCF (because it was much more powerfull)

LR: And what are the main features of the jagcf at its present (final?) state?

Zerosquare:    features:

- Compact Flash connector
– 60 MHz custom RISC processor
– extra RAM
(but the base clock is 120 MHz ^^)
– USB connection to a PC
– PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports
– non-buggy networking of several dozens consoles
anything else I’ve forgotten, SCPCD ?

SCPCD:    hmm, I don’t think so.

Zerosquare:    so, with it you can run existing homebrews, commercial games (if the controversy about the piracy problems settle), and new JagCF specific games

The CF card PCB

LR: I see, before we talk about the piracy controversy, would you mind answering a few technical questions?

SCPCD:    yep
Zerosquare:    no problem

LR: While the connectors and the cf slot are pretty much self explanatory, the extra RAM and the RISC aren’t. So I’d like to know if the extra RAM can be seen from the 68K and the other chips of the jaguar.

SCPCD:    the jaguar can have access to all the extra RAM with a Bank Switch operation. Each ram page is 4Mbytes

LR: And what benefit will software developers see from that feature?

Zerosquare:    not running out of memory for their games ;)    The Jaguar can use 64k and 16M color graphics, but they use a lot of memory. a lot of games could have better graphics but have to be scaled down because of the lack of RAM, same things with the sound.

SCPCD:   the extra ram can be used for exemple to store data read from the CF to reduce loading time so that streaming HQ video is possible :)

Zerosquare:    when you think of it, the Jaguar technically outperforms the NeoGeo easily, but the later use lots of memory to compensate

LR: And what about the DSP as I’ve seen you refer to it? What does it do exactly?

Zerosquare:    the DSP is used to speed up math calculations, it can be used to calculate 3D objects, scale graphics, synthetize sound, decompress audio or video, etc

SCPCD:    and can be used to make some work to discharge the jaguar

Zerosquare:    yes, it can run in parallel with the other processors in the Jaguar, without needing bus access so it solves the problem of bus contention which is another common issue on the Jaguar.

SCPCD: but I haven’t yet finished the graphics part of the DSP, the finished part is like a boosted jaguar RISC. Also  the DSP can directly address the whole SDRAM memory at a very high speed (optimised burst etc…)

LR: I see. Then again the Falcon’s DSP has been used for graphics without actually having graphics functions (selfnote: I should stop talking about the falcon in jaguar topics :P )

Zerosquare:    yup, but graphics-specific functions are a plus. For example, the processor will include features for hardware-accelerated alpha-blending. It’s not something you see usually on the Jaguar because it requires too much processing power to do “by hand”

SCPCD:    The DSP is used by the jagcf firmware for FAT16 read/write, remote debugging, network, audio stream

LR: A part of the controversy surrounding the jagcf is that with those two features the jaguar stops being a jaguar. You were frequently told to make a new console. Myself coming from a computer background I can only partially understand that argument though I don’t agree with it. What are your views on that? There is also the issue that this could raise the cost.

Zerosquare:    hehe. What makes you think that we’re not planning on making a console from scratch someday ? :). More seriously, yes, it’s a valid argument but the fact is that you don’t have to use the new features. you can use it as a simple compact-flash reader if you like and the extra features doesn’t raise the cost much. a lot is implemented in a FPGA chip which would have been needed anyways. It’s basically a lot of firmware.
SCPCD:   I think that it’s like the 32X or the CT60. It’s always a jaguar with it’s limits (cartridge bandwith for example), but with more potential and like Zerosquare said, the FPGA used in the Jagcf is more powerfull than the one originally planned, but it costs less ! (higher technology ! ;))

LR: However as I understand it it did increase the development time. Anyway, if you make a new console I’ll buy it ;)

Zerosquare:    yes, it did increase the development time, but you’re not creating a new extension for the Jaguar everyday, so you tend to want to include as many bell and whistles as you can ;)

SCPCD:    the thing that increases the development time is the job, when I started the jagcf I was at school, so much much more free time :D

LR: What’s the current status of the project, how much is done and how much is left?

Zerosquare:    the current status :  one prototype has been manufactured  so the hardware is basically done (save for the last-minute few tweak and fixes that you can’t avoid).Firmware and software development is now the priority

SCPCD:    whith possibility to make 3 others when the first one is completly checked

Zerosquare:    (I don’t know if you can estimate a percentage of how much is done, SCPCD ?)

SCPCD:    hmm difficult to say

Zerosquare:    anyways, don’t ask about a release date :)

LR: ha ha ha!

Zerosquare:    we did try to set milestones in the past, but our day jobs and other factors always got in the way  so to disappoint nobody, we prefer not to give false hopes :)
SCPCD:    :)

LR: the other dreaded question: cost estimate? I know it’s a function of quantity but let’s say for a realistic 100 units…

Zerosquare:   do you still have your cost worksheets SCPCD ? While he’s looking for his files, we don’t plan on making any profit on it (or very low ones, at most), so the costs are purely based on the price of manufacturing

LR: yes, if you sell something you are required to make “some profit” by law

Zerosquare:    also, the JagCF will be sold by preorders, so no shortage and the price will decrease if more people are interested

LR: right, the ct60 method

SCPCD:    I should update prices because my worksheet is with chip cost of april 2009

Zerosquare:    give an estimate anyways :)

SCPCD:   but I think that it should be between 120 and 150 euros. The prototype cost us about 240euros

LR: that’s not a bad price :)

LR: Another issue with the jagcf are the piracy concerns. That people will use the jagcf to play pirated games and especially a specific game. What do you have to say about these things? How did it all start?

Zerosquare:    well the Jaguar community seems to be very sensitive to piracy questions, much more than any other console community I’ve seen before. the fact that the authors of that specific game are mentionning it regularly is probably a significant reason. Honestly, I don’t think the JagCF will have any notable effect on piracy.

SCPCD:   I think that jaguar community is based on atari fans and “collectors” that will always have original games and that the possibility to play original games onto the jagcf could permit to have more people that will play the jaguar.

Zerosquare:    Jaguar games are not protected, and the technical ways to dump them have been available for years and there are also ways to copy games (Alpines, Flash cards, or just swapping the ROMs on a standard cartridge). Now there’s also the Skunkboard, which didn’t seem to disturb people when it was released. Regardless of all of these factors, piracy is very low on the Jaguar, much lower that in other scenes. A lot of people are willing to pay for homebrews even when they’re not technically impressive just to support the authors.

SCPCD:    but the world is not a “bisounours” world, so there will be some guy who will use the jagcf in a pirate’s way, it’s life %)

Zerosquare:    besides, on other machines, the availability of dumps doesn’t prevent games from being sold, so, basically, I think it’s a non-issue, it’s possible to pirate games using the JagCF, but you can also do it without it. And if you’re going to pirate that one specific game, burning EPROMs is even cheaper

SCPCD:    yep, burning a cartridge is not difficult, burning a cd is not difficult…

LR: So I think I am covered about the jagcf. Do you have any other projects you’d like our readers to know about? Jaguar and possibly other old platforms?

SCPCD:    On Jaguar we (me and Zerosquare) have planned one or two games using the jagcf

Zerosquare:    yup :).    I also tend to do various hardware and software projects on other consoles, so don’t be surprised if you see my nickname elsewhere :)

LR: well, if you do anything for the ST, give me a shout ;)

SCPCD:    and I have another hardware project after the jagcf but this one will not be for the jaguar :)

Zerosquare:    ChrisTOS: I’ve written some effect for a ST demo, but it was never released, because some members in the group are too lazy ^^.. maybe someday :)

LR: he he he.   Demosceners are lazy! it’s a necessary quality to enter the demoscene :P

SCPCD:   I think that I will take some more time on the falcon after the jagcf :)

Zerosquare:    and there’s a programmable cartridge project on the Bandai Wonderswan I have to finish ^^

SCPCD:   Zerosquare, maybe i will finish the jagcf before :D

Zerosquare:    who knows :)

LR: Thank you very much for this interview. It was thoroughly informative and I enjoyed it. If you have anything else to say to our readers now is the time to do it. Also I’d like to invite you to the comment section after this article because I am certain our readers will have a lot of questions.

Zerosquare:    Sure.Thanks for interviewing us and long live to your mag, it’s a fresh breeze :)

SCPCD:   :)

Zerosquare:   what’s the saying already ? “stay cool, stay atari” ?

So, with a timeframe that rivals that of the CT60 and the CTPCI the JagCF is reaching completion. Let’s hope that it will deliver as much as the aforementioned projects did.

Reboot! A new atari group was born. Another interview

May 15, 2010

Reboot Logo

A year or so ago, a new Atari group was created from existing sceners. Soon, that group of people became one of the most productive and controversial groups in the history of the Jaguar. In just a few months they released one complete game, the first level of another, source code and a utility that enables anyone to make their own Jaguar CDs out of homebrew binaries. On the other hand, they became a headache for webmasters of two Jaguar forums. I personally know them as good friends and that’s the best part of being an Atari scener. It’s not easy to interview your friends, the two roles might mix badly. Hopefully this interview is balanced but I’ll let you be the judge of that.

LR: I know you guys from your other groups. Why start Reboot?

Reboot: Because it was a new start for us all. We’ve never worked together on the same thing before and we wanted a unified name for us as a team. It was something new that didn’t fit in with our existing groups and allowed active members from these groups to come together without any hanger-ons.

Also, the idea was that Reboot would be a reboot for those involved – a chance to go off & do different things under different names, without any pre-conceived ideas from people or having any history to live up to or be compared with. No pressure, all fun, on our terms. That freedom was refreshing but also had downsides.

LR: However that didn’t sit well with some people, especially with those that had no previous scene affiliation where that sort of thing is normal. Why is that?

Reboot: The downsides… In computer scenes, new teams formed from existing sceners under alternate names is just par for the course. It’s a way for new stuff to come about that doesn’t fit with existing groups. But that’s not what irked some people. It was the simultaneous use of both existing & Reboot nicks in the same forum discussions that caused problems. That was a mistake, but the past is the past – we said our piece & tried to put things right & that is that. Nobody was really hurt, except for maybe their dented pride… after all, it was just talk in an Atari forum, not life or death. Some people respected what we said at the time & others have more recently agreed to let bygones be bygones which is clearly the best way forward for everyone who wants a community that is productive & friendly. Unfortunately, there’s still one or two people who’d prefer to continue the unproductive nonsense, but luckily for the community as a whole, it’s just a very small minority who are already infamous for such actions & it’s all taken with a pinch of salt. We certainly just laugh it off these days – we might have learned that hard way but we know that’s all the attention it deserves, and attention seems to be the motivation behind it. People want new Jaguar games & utilities, not arguments, pissing contests or bitter rivalries. That’s compatible with the way we do things now.

And we’re not so arrogant that we haven’t looked at things from the other perspective. When we bust into the Jaguar community some people wanted to give us a fair go; others just saw yet another cocky group of developers promising them new things for the Jaguar or another group possibly coming in and stepping on toes… the Jaguar community had already been stung by these kind of promises several times before & some didn’t expect anything different from us, which in hindsight is fair enough. We speak here of the kind of ‘groups’ who had the Cafe Press mugs ready before even creating the first line of code… well, that’s just not our style. We never deceived anyone like that or set out to profit from the Jaguar in any way. We’re sceners & that spirit will always run through our work – free downloads of everything we do, free source code where we can, openness & sharing of ideas & findings. So yes, if we ever said we’d ‘Reboot the Jaguar’ it’s in that context it should be viewed – promoting an open scene spirit rather than embarking on a closed commercial venture. If that was our thing we’d be making iPhone games instead, but it’s a million miles away from who we are & what we’re about. And we never claimed to be better than anyone or tried to impose our way of doing things on anyone either – that’s not our motivation… we’re just doing our own thing in our way & we’re happy as we are now.

Joining the Jagware collective was interesting. Being mostly a French collective, it was a little difficult at first for us to get involved in things with the language barrier (luckily, most of the Jagware guys know English better than us). To be fair it did put us under a little additional & slightly unexpected pressure initially as there were already existing issues between a few people & the ideas/plans of some Jagware members. But we can’t say we regret that decision one little bit – Jagware is the most productive team on Jaguar today, they’re doing some of the most impressive & exciting work and to a man they are very friendly and willing to share. That fits with our ideas like a hand in a glove. As we see it, Jagware will continue to be one of the most productive teams on Jaguar & we’re really pleased to be a part of that… and with each release we shall show our commitment to making Jaguar games & take another step closer to having a library of routines that will allow for the creation of pretty much any flavour of 2D game we can think of.

Going on from that point, our forthcoming releases could well be quite varied & involve specific gameplay mechanics/effects/routines, but without making things just for the sake of it. We do actually have a good internal system of how we go about things now & no one voice speaks louder than the others. We’re still very much learning all about the Jaguar, practically from scratch. It’ll take time before we are in a position to push things to a high level, but that’s not to say what we do should be subject to any kind of snobbery or looking down the nose, because it’s ‘just’ 2D or has tried & tested gameplay mechanics.

We’d like to show that making Jaguar games can be somewhat easy, fun & even sometimes fairly quick, as long as you play to your strengths as developers – both the strengths of the team and to the strengths of the hardware itself. Yes, we enjoy making & playing a certain style of games – if people want to play them or try them out all they have do do is click on a download link. If they are collectors or really like the game & want to have their own copy, we’re committed to providing a limited number of those as a service & that also allows us to make our own copies & to give some to our friends, which is win-win for us.

LR: Apart from the three of you, are there any other members?

Reboot: There have only been three of us active in anything we have released as a group so far. There are 2 other members… Dot Dot Dot and Oblivion, both of whom aren’t working on the Jaguar or in fact working on anything for Reboot right now. This could change in future if Oblivion steps up form the ST, but Dot Dot Dot is unlikely ever to grace the Jaguar with his skills. If other atarisceners want to get involved in working on jaguar, we’d be quite open to helping them make the move & support them with the hardware/software required.

We should mention there is also a support team of 3 testers: remowilliams, partycle and your good self, christos. Without remowilliams’ help providing the first skunkboard, there would not be a Reboot on Jaguar today – so a big thanks to him for that.

LR: Only the three of you took part in the internet wars as well. In hindsight what would you have done differently? If anything?

Reboot: “Internet wars” is overstating things hugely. Really, it’s just some computer geeks on forums (of course, ourselves included) some perspective is required. We’re not so high & mighty to think of ourselves as anything else, it’s a fun hobby that has its challenges & rewards, along with some pitfalls, but war is a long way from the truth. Maybe one man’s war is another man’s silly-buggering-about on a forum? But what could we have done differently? Never posted anything in an Internet forum would have been a good one. Simple as that. Just released binaries & let others get on with making of it what they would. Heads down, STFU and release stuff. But hindsight is 20/20 and there will always be stuff aimed at you when you dare to have the balls to make something for the Jaguar. It took us a few months to realise this, but it is a lesson learned & we intend to do our talking through our productions, not in petty arguments.

So yes, we came out too vocal on the Jaguar as newcomers and it wasn’t the best planned arrival into a community – that’s for sure! But in however many years time, none of the forum chatter will remain in any meaningful way, it’ll all be just that, words typed into a box once upon a time… all that will be left will be the games & tools and who will honestly care?

LR: You’ve recently released a game for sale. How well did Beebris do?

Reboot: How well it did is a subjective thing. It was much more popular than we expected (at the time of writing, there are over 60 copies of Beebris out there, with 8 of these being gifts & prizes). What we thought would be a little service to a handful of friends & people we had met turned into a mini production line. What it has done is put things into perspective. The vocal minority of nay-sayers are just that – a minority. It would seem the vast majority of Jaguar folk are true blooded gamers & collectors. I think we’re all in a much happier place than we were a few months back now we realise the kind of support we have out there. If a port of a 20 year old ST game (albeit a perfectly nice 20 year old ST game) has this kind of interest it, our follow-ups should prove even more popular or at least offer more experiences to Jaguar gamers. We received some great e-mails of support with the orders and that’s very motivating in itself.

Beebris though is a special case. It does not demonstrate the level of our games on Jaguar and especially not our intentions to go about making others. It was made all those years ago on the ST with the intention of being a great game, but as popular as it was, it was never quite what it should have been (the in-game music was only a title music for instance). The Jaguar allowed the game to be realised as it was originally intended with a simple graphical makeover and a further one with the SE release.

Then, after people either made their own copies up or requested we did for them, it was used as a means to test what kind of interest people would have in an already freely-released game… a test of how popular an official release of a game might be even if it was already freely available. We thought this was worth pursuing – the poll results suggested we might need to make 15 to 20 copies and originally we made 10 to be on the safe side. But the current numbers speak for themselves & also back-up the findings of Atari Owl’s poll on Atari Age – people love the idea of huge, technical masterpieces & look forward to them greatly, but there is also a need for other stuff in between that keeps them interested & gives them a reason to leave the Jaguar set up & not in the bottom of the wardrobe.

We should point out that the release did not target turning a profit – it was simply done to cover our costs & allow us & our friends to have a ‘real’ copy of our own game. Of course, what it has also done is prove that a ‘commercial’ Jaguar release will still attract sales of sufficient volume even when a binary already exists of the full game. Providing digital versions on a second CD as well as a CD image for the user to make their own back-up has proved very popular also – it shows a level of trust we have in the users that we equip them with everything they need to be able to play our game the way they prefer, but also everything they need to ‘pirate’ it (as it is slightly different to the original release). That has been well received.

We didn’t set out to gain fans or seek praise with Reboot. It was a personal thing, a desire to test new ground & have some fun on another Atari (even though CJ had already been there to some extent with the ex-ST-hacker-turned-game-developer group, Sinister Developments). Recent feedback following the release of Beebris SE has been the single most motivating factor in all the time we’ve been together as a group. So yes, all-in-all, it has been a really positive experience for us and we look forward to future releases in a similar fashion.

LR: Myself being a bit of a coder, I know all about feedback and how motivating that can be. And I find that you are happy with it. Would you mind doing a short overview of what you released so far and what was the response?

Reboot: Well, first up was:

Tapperesque Video:

CJ had been toying around with the Jaguar devkit for a few days, just playing around following the ‘escape’ of JetPac (it’s far too buggy to call it a release!). A playable version of Tapperesque was up and running and remowilliams kindly made a video of it. At that point there was no Reboot, just CJ , DOSBox and Virtual Jaguar. Remowilliams was running test builds on real hardware but what was working in the emulator wasn’t necessarily working on the real thing, so he kindly donated a Skunkboard to CJ. Soon after that arrived Tapperesque was running properly on the Jaguar. However, it was not really much fun to play and would need serious work to make it really enjoyable and would also have to be overhauled to prevent any © issues – this is the Jaguar after all, not a scene machine such as the ST or Dreamcast where such releases would be universally accepted. Thus it hasn’t been released yet, it was more of a “remember how this console works” kind of project. Bizarrely, the Tapperesque title screen actually evolved into…

Project One:

Our first Reboot release was Project One (level 1 demo). We worked hard on it for three months. P1 has far more to it than the released preview might show to the average gamer (see the tech page of the P1 pages on the Reboot website for some in-depth details). With time it could have become a decent game for the Jaguar and while we would like to see something come of it one day it doesn’t fit into our new self-imposed restrictions on the kind of project we will work on together. So it’s in Limbo. We’re not going to get into anything that will in any way have a detrimental effect on our personal lives again (P1 took over for a while), real life comes first, other interests may take priority, what we have left we will use in a rational, targeted way to produce things that are doable, fun and achievable in a reasonable time limit. We don’t want to work on an enthusiasm-killing DNF project ever again. But lessons learned, while learned the hard way, have helped us get to where we are now & we’re all happy about that.

Looking back, we’re actually really proud of what resulted from those three short months, it’s just a shame we didn’t get as far as actually working on the playability or real gameplay design or producting something that looked ‘Jaguar’ graphically beyond the title/menu. Realistically though, P1 was stuff bolted on stuff bolted on stuff & that is no way to go about designing a game. It would be simpler & easier to start again, using what we learned in making it & taking that knowledge to make something far better & more technically impressive. We did toy with the idea of stripping some stuff out of it for a different shoot-em-up experience, but there’s more effort and compromise involved in that than any of us are comfortable with now.

Beebris Tribute:

A quick port of an old ST game, to try to spark CJ’s interest in Jaguar again & to realise Beebris as it was originally intended.

Beebris SE:

An improved version of the previous game, with a bit more time and effort spent on it to improve presentation. It still has slightly laggy controls on the slower levels & rather twitchy movement on the super-fast ones (mainly due to its previous existence on the ST), but it is a reasonably solid & bug-free game that fills a gap in the Jaguar game library… and what most people tend to agree on is that you don’t fix something that isn’t broken – so no need for some crazy for-the-sake-of-it ‘jaguar-looking’ face painted on a classic puzzle game… what that kind of action usually results in is a worse game experience for the sake of some needless eye candy. Gameplay comes first and this was exactly what we said it was – a quick port with a little polish to brighten it up.

The next game release will be shown at Outline 2010 and a collectors edition, full download & website will follow shortly afterwards. Other than games, we have also released a couple of tools:

CD Encryption Tool – skunkboard version. GGN modified this one to be used with the skunkboard rather than the old BJL method, released with source code. This paved the way for:

ULS. The Universal Loading System is clearly our most important release to date. It gives regular users the ability to create bootable, encrypted CDs for the Jaguar CD from practically any of the homebrew games & demos out there. The Jaguar encryption process is not so much difficult as time consuming, certainly wasteful & really not everyday end-user stuff. ULS does away with all that hassle for single-load prods. It also means it is not necessary to own a development system/flash device/modified console of any kind in order to see homebrews on a Jaguar with CD drive – that should not be underestimated! You own a Jagaur & JagCD? Then download any BJL/COF/ABS, fire up ULS & minutes later you could be playing it on your machine. Version 1.1 now supports the .JAG Jaguar Server type 2 & 3 files, so that’s another whole stack of things people can easily put on CD.

Of course, that’s not all there is to it. With ULS it is VERY easy to produce a run of CDs that are all individually signed & can be tracked to an individual purchaser – you just create a series of slightly altered binaries for inclusion on the CD. It is trivial for any developer to create a tool to do this for & also record the details in a file. It would also be possible to create a version that applies slightly modified audio warning track to perform a similar function, or even a combination of both, but this isn’t strictly allowed under the terms of use, but we’re open to discussion & if a developer wants to use this technology we’re here to help.

So in effect, we made a very simple anti-piracy measure when we released ULS. To do a run of 100 discs like this by hand, not using our technique, would literally take days & days & waste another 100 CDs. Sure, it won’t stop someone copying a game, but it does allow for accountability should the developer care about that kind of thing.

As usual, GGN worked really well producing the PC tool in record time, CJ & his skunkboard did the hard work on the Jaguar side & the concept & testing was down to sh3 – again, real teamwork bringing great results. In short, this team just works. We find a 3 person team is ideal, one drags the other 2 into activity and the three of us manage to cover a lot of ground between us in what we can do; the whole really is greater than the sum of the parts & this bodes well for the future. It also helps that we all have a similar outlook on life, share a somewhat refined sense of humour & are all fans of games spanning the genres. We have our new goals & a new way of going about things & it seems to be working well for us. And that is our story so far, coming up to 10 months on the Jaguar.

LR: What are your new goals?

Reboot: The new goals are simple: Re-affirm why we started this group in the first place – to have fun & explore new ground. We won’t normally take on anything that is in any way too big to be completed within 3 or 4 months or so, but we won’t just make quick tech demos or churn out releases for the sake of doing so or jump from game to game & have them sit on the shelf part-finished for years, because we have all found that kind of thing really depressing & demotivating in the past. This is about making fun but manageable games in a decent time frame while enjoying it all the way. If people want to play them – great! If they want to even own a boxed copy that’s great, too, we’ll oblige.

We realise some people might call what we’re doing “creating mini-games” or “old school” or “retro”, simply because we prefer 2D gaming… but we’re on a platform that was designed to be a 50/60fps 2D paradise & 2D gaming is something we love and it’s what we’ll continue to do. Take a look around the 2D gaming websites that have sprung up over the last few years – there’s a lot of very interesting stuff going on in 2D & some really good in-depth articles concerning misguided 2d/3d snobbery & the perceived worth of games because of their format. All 2D games are not mini games or of less worth per se, and similarly, all 3D games are not instant classics & worthy of greater respect (as a number of the officially released Jaguar games prove). Every game should be judged on gameplay first and foremost… for instance, we don’t see the point making a classic game in 3D unless it brings more to the experience… maybe the appearance of 3D with pre-rendered sprites is possibly the way to get the best performance in such circumstances, despite the Jaguar’s memory limitations. There’s no reason why we won’t someday explore some kind of 3D gaming on Jaguar as GGN has the mathematics background to take that anywhere he likes, but for now we’re quite content doing what we’re doing & enjoying it plenty.

A lot of the 2D snobbery, generally speaking, comes about because many people just don’t realise how much work goes into even the simplest of games, irrespective of the genre/2d/3d/whatever, because they know so very little of the actual processes involved in making a game. If someone can take the time to criticise a game & still be productive themselves, great, at least they have the releases, the work-in-progress or the knowledge to back their comments up. We’re not fond of classifying games as 8-bit, 16-bit & 64-bit or minigame/ midigame/ puzzlegame/ actiongame/ epic/ etc,. Games are games. Pigeon-holing software in such an arbitrary way is easy to do but serves little purpose at the end of the day other than for yet more pissing contests or finger pointing. If a game is good people will play it whether it looks like a VCS game or a PSX game, whether it took 6 weeks to make or 6 years, whether it was coded in C or pure asm, whether it runs entirely on the 68k or has Tom & Jerry melting under the pressure. This is the way we look at games, when you detach yourself from the “But it’s 64-bit!” mindset, you allow yourself a much freer hand & the resulting software will be better for it.

Making games is not strictly easy on any console platform when compared with doing so on computers and some are more difficult than others. What is easy though is making mock-ups & quick tech demos as proof of concept on any platform (as all the unfinished projects we have seen over the years on the ST/Falcon show). Taking that forward into a proper game engine that’s fully tested and allows for a playable, fun game to be created around it, that’s a different thing altogether & a discipline all of its own. You have the basic engine, the proof of concept, or whatever, but then comes the real ‘game’ and with it all the boring stuff – the user interface, menu, the behind-the-scenes management etc., etc… all way more time-consuming & all rather tedious compared to the fun of the rest of the process but all completely necessary for all but the most basic efforts.

LR: What kind of games appeal to Reboot? What can we expect from you?

Reboot: The 3 of us have diverse interests, so we cover most of the gamimg spectrum, but finished games appeal! For us games are there to be made and then played. It’s the reason they exist. To never finish them is counter-productive and anyone who completes a project on any retro platform deserves a pat on the back and a big thumbs up from everyone.

What to expect from Reboot? Releases are what you can expect and if we’ve learned anything from working together in this group it would have to be: “the unexpected” – our ideas can turn into code far too quickly.

Getting our games to as wide an audience as possible is also key. We want anyone and everyone to be able to take a look, whether it’s on a Jaguar with dev cart, a ULS CD or via emulation on a PC. That’s why we’ll always release our games in digital form. And we have more ideas than there is time to refine & realise them, so at the very least, what you can expect is _something_. We’re approaching this with a realistic outlook & sensible, solid goals and we’ll also do our best to try to get some of our games to other Atari platforms, we’re an Atari group after all, not just a Jaguar group.

LR: You keep mentioning you are an ATARI group. So far you have been Jaguar exclusive. Do you see ST or Falcon games in the future for Reboot?

Most definitely. Right now CJ is enjoying the freedom the Jaguar gives him as a coder. GGN believes the Falcon is as unexplored as the Jaguar for us, even more so – it deserves some attention. The ST is by far a tougher environment to work in and requires more thought and effort to get good results: lower bit depth (in annoying planar modes), slower CPU, etc, etc. but we’re actively looking for concepts that can be realised on an ST or Falcon & made to shine on Jaguar.

LR: Most of our readers (and authors) have experience with the ST/Falcon but not the Jaguar. Would you outline the differences between coding the two technologies. And of course what’s it like to draw for those machines?

GGN: day/night. I’ll just mention that the dev environment is very poor compared to what is available for me on the 16/32 (Turbo Assembler/Bugaboo/STEem Engine), and debugging stuff can get a real pain (I wore out sh3 while adapting the JagCD encrypter). The Jaguar hardware is a 2D games paradise: tons of hardware sprites, blitter, chunky modes, free transparency, special fx and not forgetting zooming, rotations…

sh3: Personally I’ve had to relearn just a little of what I do. I have been quite happy working within the restrictions of 320x200x16 for as long as I can remember. At first, I stuck to what I knew best & was reluctant to attempt to use a PC for producing artwork for P1. I then attempted to use the Falcon to create the artwork with only slightly improved results. Since then I have got over that barrier, the newer work I’ve done for Reboot on the PC has been better, while still retaining the ‘pixel fun’ of previous stuff.

Cyrano Jones: Debugging is horrible, but not impossible. Virtual Jaguar, while it might not always render correctly, will give a nice error log when it crashes. I’ve used that a few times to find bugs. Also, with notepad, a simple macro, and DosBox – assembling is very easy. As I’ve said earlier, coding on the Jaguar makes the ST look hard. It does everything for you… sprites, scaling, transparency, scrolling, etc… all done via the custom chips. Having three CPUs to run in parallel is also handy for leveraging performance. Of course, you need to code tight, optimised code to exploit the GPU, but its instruction set is nice so its not that difficult. The actual coding environment at first appears harsh, especially compared to the ST with all the integrated apps, however once you set up Notepad++ and DOSBox with a few macros and batch files you are just one button away from assembling and testing. It’s not as bad as it was back in ’94 by any means. In short, what can take a few days to get done on the ST can be done on the Jaguar in a few minutes. The hardware simply ROCKS.

LR: The Jaguar has the: 68000@14MHz, the Blitter, the Object processor, the GPU and the DSP. What’s the role of each one of those processors in your mind?

Cyrano Jones: Ok, in my mind:

68000: core logic and synchronisation
Jerry: audio
TOM: grunt work
OP: The OP renders the graphics to the screen from a “script”, it can do a lot of crazy stuff (scaling, flipping, etc) without having to code up routines for it. Very nice!
Blitter: What blitters do. Moving RAM around quickly.

LR: Can you tell me a bit about the Jaguar’s display modes?

Reboot: Vid modes… the Jaguar doesn’t have any video modes, not in the traditional sense. It has a linebuffer that is generated by the object processor. Takes a while to get your head around this, but it’s really powerful. It’s better to go read the technical docs than discuss this I think.

LR: From your comments on the Jag being a 2d powerhouse I understand you aren’t really fond of 3d for the Jaguar. Why is that? The GPU should be fast enough to render fast 3d and we’ve seen some great 3d stuff (of course mostly in demos) on the less powerful Falcon. Excuse the constant reference to it but I am much more familiar with the Falcon, it’s not a comparison.

Reboot: It’s not that we are not fond of 3d or 3d on the Jaguar, we all own & play current gen consoles or PCs. We just think it makes sense to play to a machine’s strengths & that it takes a lot of effort to push its weaker areas. On our budget of $0, we’re happy to aim for fun, slick 2d games that play well & use features the Jaguar has more & more in order to make the best trade off of time/effort/results. We’re glad there are others who are willing to put in a lot more time & effort into their large-scale productions but we think we all have a role to play.

LR: Is there something else you’d like to say to our readers?

GGN: “Don’t just moan about stuff, pick up a keyboard and start coding!”

Cyrano Jones: “Judge the Jaguar for yourself. Don’t let other people tell you what it’s like. Have your own opinions!”

sh3: “Thanks to everyone who has given so much positive feedback recently, your support & kind words have been highly motivating – we’ll repay that in releases.”

LR: Alright. Thank you very much for this interview. I enjoyed it a lot.

Apparently Reboot are here to stay. They are motivated and ready to produce more stuff. I personally am far more interested in the 16/32 aspect of things and I hope I will see them soon. They went with the wrong foot in the Jaguar scene, and I understand that that was as much a cultural shock for them as it was for the community. Hopefully now that things for them are back on track they’ll be able to become more productive. Low Res has been priviledged to a sneak peek into their latest work that will be released (if all goes as planned) at Outline. So expect a review of S…uper Secret Project in the next issue.

Since Outline has passed. The super secret project was Superfly DX


Links:

  1. Reboot website

The future for the CT63 lies in smaller things?

December 28, 2009

I had a discussion a few days ago, with a certain scener that has a CT60 [1]. He was telling me that he had expected much more from the machine, he expected a machine that would be more geared towards demos and games but it instead proved to be aimed to GEM users.

Essentially this is true. We’ve only seen two major demos for the CT60, Supernatural by Evolution and Derealization by DHS and various smaller intros with the most notable in my view being Genocidal, again by DHS. I am not mentioning Mikro’s ports of the TBL demos because they aren’t demos specifically made for the Atari, great as they are (and a good way to tease amiga users I might add :P). In the game front things are even worse, with only ports of old open sourced games and game engines. Great as they are again, nothing specific for the ct60.

DHS videodb for a much better quality video:

You don’t need an explanation for that. Usual excuses apply. Basically it can be summarised to real life. We aren’t young students anymore. But if we also take a look a bit deeper I would like to point two or three more possible reasons. The first is the bad timing of the CT60 appearance. It came at a time when the remaining sceners had abandoned the plain old simple falcon and went back to their ST/STE roots. All we need is to take a look at the recent releases for those machines. Though their numbers aren’t really high, the quality generally is.

and again better video at DHS videodb:

The second reason has to do with the great power of the accelerator, and as they say with great power comes great responsibility. The responsibility here lies with doing something spectacular, something as good and better to what the Amiga scene has been doing with these accelerators for years. This however besides the skill, that already exists, needs time, needs a lot of work from lots of people which adds to the time.

The third reason has to do with GEM. Many of the people who got the 060 are GEM users and not that much interested in the scene. People who want a fast GEM machine. Indeed this accelerator has boosted software production in that area a lot. Of course that argument falls into the false dichotomy category. We are all gem users. We all to some or more extend use GEM apps. I am writting this on a GEM app ;). Still, false as it may be this dichotomy exists though I really can’t understand it..

What I can understand though is the fact that I want this CT63 to become more enjoyable. I vote therefore for smaller demos and more cheating :). As much as I enjoy full featured demos, I’d really like to see more intros, even if they are just a couple of screens and a scroller. I think that those smaller projects could start a chain effect. I really don’t know that much about demo making but I’d think that a great time is spent towards making all things fit, finding new effects that appear coherent, collecting graphics and all those things that make a demo. Like in life, big projects are hard to start and even harder to finish.

I think I am bringing an owl to Athens (obligatory greek expression put in order to confuse readers) and those are things everyone’s already thought. But hopefully it will spark some interesting discussion in the comments section below..

Links


1. Powerphenix – Website of the CT63

My life with the CT63

December 28, 2009

CT63 as main computer. Yes! in 2009! What’s it like to use a CT63 equiped atari falcon 030 in 2009? This is what LowRes will try to explore in this article. I must say that I’ve re-written it at least 3 times since I wasn’t happy with how it turned out the first two. Hopefully three is a charm.

Prologue

In the beginning the article was an idea. How would it feel to have the ct63 as my only computer for just a week? The week became 3 months since my PC broke and I started using the Atari. After all 50% of my computer usage was Atari related. Chatting at irc, playing games, a bit of coding. The rest was my thesis, wasting time at youtube, reading the news etc. But let’s look at the available hardware first.

Hardware

That would be an Atari Falcon +CT63 with 14MB STRAM and 256MB TTRAM, 40GB hard disk, a PeST adapter, a joystick and a jagpad. For networking, I got an ethernec adapter. The ethernec and the PeST are gifts from my good friend ggn whom I publically thank. Your friendship means a lot to me. The CT63 runs at 70MHz though I found it to be more stable at 66.6MHz. The PeST allows me to use a MS optical mouse and the ethernec to have internet access.

Software

The software I use is Highwire for browsing (with some CAB for pages that cause highwire to crash – css overflow), AtarIRC for my IRC needs, aFTP for FTP, Aniplayer for music and video and FalcAMP for online radio. This document is written on Atari Works and oh I forgot to say that I use an EasyMiNT setup. What I couldn’t find was a mail client that could use TLS that my email provider needs. Webmail naturally doesn’t work. As for my Thesis, I read PDF’s with zVIEW and I have compiled with g++ 4.4.1 the software I’ve written. Unfortunately, and this is a big problem, I haven’t found a way to type Greek on the Atari in a way that can be easily read from other computers. And since my thesis is in Greek, I have a problem.. Still, simple txt files can be converted with a program I’ve found and compiled. Also that’s a problem for greek websites, so that I’ve no problem viewing them, but a hell of a problem writing. There are a lot more programs I use, such as Two in One and KKCommander, QED and 7up, Taskbar and more.

My Teradesk powered desktop

Numb3rs
We’ve all seen benchmarks of the CT60, so no point in adding more. But since they are important I’d like to point out some. First of all the uptime, that can range from 10 seconds to 14hrs or until I shut down the machine. Once I figured out which programs to use and which not to touch, stability was increased a lot. I have found out though that sometimes NVDI or XBOOT crash on startup. Resetting the machine fixes it. Network speeds are around 400K/s locally and up to 100K/s on the internet. However with 99% of the downloads, speeds up to 30K/s are much more realistic. I’d have to stick with an average of 25K/s. There are more than 25 processes running at any given time, with an average of 28 and there are approximately 3GB’s of data sitting in my harddrive. A good cleanup will most likely eliminate about 200MB’s but since space isn’t really an issue…

KKcmd and sneek peak on my HD

Games and Demos
Unfortunately that’s where the CT63 fails to deliver. While applications are generally good, games and demos aren’t. Only very few of the falcon patched games by D-Bug and Klapauzius run, and things aren’t much better on the falcon only front. Falcon games that will run include Robinson’s Requiem CD (which benefits from the extra speed), Spice, Llamazap, Rave, Q-blue and RoadRiot 4WD. Steel Talons also runs but at a slideshow framerate.
With demos compatibility is also an issue with Underscore running like a slideshow until it crashes and Sonoluminszenz having the same effect. Various other demos will either crash or not run at all and only Beams taking advantage of the extra speed. Generally demos that make heavy use of the DSP exhibit slowdowns on the 060. I think that was explained in a previous issue of Alive. Stotro runs very well though and I am very happy for it :).
Games for the 060 simply don’t exist, with the exception of game engine ports, such as Doom, Quake, OpenTTD and SCUMMVM but I don’t play fps and SCUMM won’t run on my system. The 060 demos though, as well as the TBL ports are absolutely brillant. Please, more!

My Thesis
This is the only thing I must do on a computer, and sending mails but I’ve already discussed that. My thesis is a computer model – a simulation of a physical system that I’ve programmed in C++. Fortunately it compiled with relative ease on the falcon and it can now be executed here. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a program that will do some of the calculations I need after I run it. So I either have to program it myself or use a PC. I could use the program Euler to do those calculations, but unfortunately that will not run on the 060. Not sure if a recompile could fix that, but I have been unable to recompile it. My knowledge of C is very limited.

Coding
That’s another problem I’m facing but that is mostly a problem of me not knowing enough about Atari coding. I have no problem with console coding, and I know nothing about GEM coding, so the problem is in something I’d like to do. Demo coding. So I would have to write a system that would get me at STlow and back to my current MiNT desktop, but that is something I have been unable to do. It’s OK you may say, go back to TOS. Well, not so easy.. Lack of knowledge means I constantly need to use material that is either online or in hypertext documents or in simple documents. That means I need a multitasking environment. All in all, I miss STEEM! GBE is great though :). And now I stop whining!

Media

Well, you can play audio files and do other stuff as well. No problem there. Video is another issue. Apart from youtube that is out of the question, it’s not very likely you get to play a 320×240 divx movie, though the divx codec exists (aniplayer again). I suspect that the 060 can be just about fast enough (with the help of the DSP) but the slow bus bandwidth and the low colour depth might not allow it. It’s possible though that the supervidel or the radeon will fix that. I’d like to hear people’s opinions on the subject.

Highwire and Aniplayer

Epilogue
The Atari is just not up to the task to be a modern computer. It’s close though. It covers approximately 75% of my computer needs and about 50% of my computer wants. I found out that the features I mostly need are web stuff. More particularly Javascript and ssl. That way I wouldn’t need to move to a pc every few hours to check something on my webmail. Also, a bigger resolution than 640×480 would have been nice. My TFT screen doesn’t like the manipulation done by programs such as Videlity or Blowup so I am stuck. Generally the software in the Atari world is very good. I don’t think my falcon doesn’t have a program that was equivalent to the one I used on the PC, with the exception of a program that could process scientific data in the way I want it to.
The transition from the PC to the Atari was a bit hard but now that I will go back to using a PC I find myself not that excited. I think that people who will switch to the Coldari, when that becomes available, won’t have a hard time to do so. It’s probably harder for me to go back to the IBM compatibles (remember when that was the word we used for them?) than staying on the Atari, but truth be told, there are a few things missing that do make life harder than it should.
I am very interested to see people’s responses on this article, what do you use your atari for, what would you like to be using it for and what do you miss from the days when the atari was your main computer?

A brief history of the ST.

December 28, 2009

The Atari ST was unveiled to the public In January 1985 at the CES in Las Vegas. To see what the ST was though, we need to go one year back, to the ousting of Jack Tramiel from the company he founded, Commodore. We’ll skip the intrigue that surrounds that event and we’ll just say that Jack didn’t go alone, but also brought with him the engineer behind the 64, Shiraj Shivji.

When Jack lost his position at Commodore, he founded a company called Tramiel Technologies and Shiraj Shivji started working on a new 16-bit machine. How far the development had gone is at this moment unknown. What we know for a fact was that, as per the Atari Historical Society’s documents [1] and as dadhacker describes in his blog [2], he bought Atari with the dream to make this new computer that would bring the 16-bit revolution in power but without the price. That computer would eventually become the ST, we all know and love, but since the details are sketchy to say the least, Low Res decided to boldly go to the one person that knows more about Atari than Atari ever knew for itself.


The original 520 ST*

Curt Vendel is the man that created the Atari museum, founded Legacy engineering [3] and got the new Atari reinterested in their legacy with the Flashback 1 and 2 consoles. If there is one person respected and admired by all Atari fans, regardless of their favourite poison that would be him. We are therefore honoured that he agreed to answer a few questions.

Low Res: We’ve read the descriptions of dadhacker, who worked in TOS development but from those we can’t tell if the Tramiels had come to Atari with just an idea of a computer or if its development had already reached a good level. Rumour has it that it was the Amiga deal and Lorraine that actually forced Atari’s hand in both the ST’s design and the rush to the market. Are those two rumours true and if so to which extend?

Curt Vendel: Those rumors are completely false. Tramiel setup shop in May of 1984 in some office space in California where Shiraz went to work on his design for a new low cost computer (Codenamed – “RBP” for Rock Bottom Price). The Tramiels knew nothing about the existing contract between Warner owned Atari Inc and Amiga Corp, this relationship had been on going since late 1983 and Atari and Amiga went into contract in late Feb 1984 and paid Amiga an upfront advance of $500,000 towards the development of the Amiga chipset. Amiga would then receive $3mill from a stock buy by Atari when Amiga delivered the chipset to Atari at the end of June 1984.

Low Res: When was the Atari ST sent to the production lines?

Curt Vendel: “RBP” was in design and development within Atari from July 1984 through its showing at the 1985 Winter CES were it was shown to the public. Through the spring of 1985 the custom chips were being finalized and initial runs of the chips were made in May & June. Atari User Groups and Developers received small quantities of sample units in June 1985. Full production began in July through August 1985 and Retailers began to see shipments in late September 1985.

To speed up time to market, the “TOS” (The Operating System, or Tramiel Operating System) was initially delivered on diskettes as the new OS rom chips were not masked and ready in time for production release.

Low Res: You’ve written in the Atari Age forum that the ST was to be fitted with the AMY chip but instead it got the YM 2149. Were there any other corners cut in a bid to rush to the market? Was the ST supposed to have more such as hardware scrolling, sprites etc?

Curt Vendel: I wouldn’t called them “cutting corners” it was more of a strategic decision. AMY was and even today, still is a very remarkable audio chip design. However it still had bugs in its designs and time was running out to get it ironed out and then integrated into the ST design, so it was moved to be put into an XE series computer – however it would never make it into that computer design either. “SHIFTER” and “GLUE” were pretty much unchanged in their features and designs from what Shiraz envisioned them to what came out, so with that and from engineering notes and internal emails, it doesn’t appear that graphics features were cut back on in the initial design.

Low Res: The ST was marketed as a rival to the Macintosh, and truth be told it was a better machine. The result proved the Tramiels right since only the “business machines” survived, but what was the rationale behind it?

C.V. : Everything became a casualty of the X86 Win/PC machines. Once Windows 3.1 came out, it began to spell the doom for most computer platforms that were not X86/Windows. Even Apple in the 1990’s nearly went under and came close to stepping out of the PC business. The ST’s however had a simple design with intelligent features like a PC compatible disk drive design, color graphics, decent sound and built in ports for all basic needs from a computer user. Its ASCI port was actually SCSI done slightly better as devices self-assigned ID’s to themselves. Overall the ST was a good machine.

LR:The ST case design is.. interesting. Somebody thought to put the joystick ports underneath the keyboard. What were they thinking?

C.V.: I was never a fan of the Gray cased ST/XE look. It was so foreign to what Atari products looked like and should look like. Cost wise- doing an all in one case may be good, but visually I found it ugly. These are my own personal opinions of course. Yes the positioning of the joystick/mouse ports was a poor/clumsy choice, but given that most space around the sides was already occupied, there wasn’t much choice. I gained a lot more respect for the ST’s when the Mega ST line of “pizza box” styled systems and hard drives. It was an attractive look. Most importantly – a detachable keyboard that everyone wanted and expected in a computer by that time. Of course then the design went back to the 1040ST styled case again. The Mega Ste and TT030 were unusual looking systems, they had a unique look to them. I did like the fact that the TT030 came in an off-white appearance, it was much more pleasant looking then the dull gray color.

LR: Any other interesting insight we forgot to ask?

C.V: I think you asked some good questions.

TOS, The Operating System or Tramiel Operating System as it has been nicknamed was developed in a very short time on an Apple Lisa and in the offices of Digital Research. Anyone with any OS experience from Atari was sent there, they were given the x86 source code and the giant hack that is TOS became a reality. The descriptions of working there are an interesting read. Go to dadhacker’s blog and read them.

Atari actively marketed the Atari ST as a Mac beater and an IBM undertaker but unfortunately that didn’t really take off. The war would be with the Amiga. Atari had the fame of a home computer maker, at least in the United States and so had Commodore.

Ads like this:

would do little to change the climate and the first battle with the Amiga would be on the TV set of a show called computer chronicles[5]. The war that included various schoolyard battles, angry magazine writing campaigns and other favourite childhood memories was started then and ended… well it pretty much goes oon various internet forums where grown men (and women) can be kids again and behave like such ;).

Links


1. Atari Museum
2. Dad hacker blog
3. Legacy engineering
4. Atari ST vs Amiga

*ST image compliments of the Atari museum.

An interview with Rygar about the Lynx and its 20 years.

December 26, 2009

It’s 2009 and 20 years have passed since Atari released the Lynx. To commemorate that event the Lynx community is holding various events, including contests, releases and en masse party participations. None at the Low Res are so much involved in it, we are ST people for the most part, so as usual we go to the experts. All the people we talked to pointed us to Rygar, a French Lynx collector who not only collects but learned how to code the Lynx so as to release a game!

LR: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into the Lynx. Was it your first Atari or do you show an interest in all of them?

Rygar: I had my first one Lynx at the age of 14. It was my first portable console. I had waited for him during almost one year and I considered it to be the most beautiful day of my short life! Dices the beginning the games were very hard to find for this console, few stores had it and I sometimes had to make more of 100km to find a game (there was no internet in the time) so that the pleasure to find a game was very big when I reached there, it is at this moment I believe that the passion and the pleasure of the collection began to be born one my heart.

LR: Let’s say the Lynx is in a shop and you are a seller. Sell it to me

Rygar: Lynx is the best portable retro console, the full set is easily accessible for not too expensive step, the available games are often excellent and it is one of the few consoles where those that develop for it currently produce quality games upper to those of old time. Lynx reserves some more surprises and thanks to the new converters which land regularly on the scene the future lets augur only of the voucher!

LR: What are the best 5 games for the Lynx?

Rygar: Lemmings, shadow of the best, stun runner, cristal mine and bill & ted And indeed on alpine games if you also consider the games post-Atari.

LR: What are the newest developments? And is there a way to change the screen since all the Lynxes I can find have a broken one?

Rygar: For the projects in court of development on lynx you can ask Matthasen for the creator of lynxoplly, he teems with idea and it is a brilliant converter. It is unquestionably towards him that it will carry quite the hopes of the players! For my part I would take out probably some small compilations of my various demos but no true game for the moment. Indeed, you can change the screen of lynx, it’s enough to open him and you will see that it is very simple to replace.

LR: You learned how to code the Lynx so as to release a game. How hard was it? And how enjoyable?

Rygar: All that I know about the programming lynx I owe it to Fadest the creator of the Yastuna, he is the type brilliantly bright that taught everything to me he took time to explain me point by point and since the beginning how to make programs for lynx. Then I used small ends of codes found on the clear to progress and finally take out a game. It is an adventure very long and very complicated especially for somebody as me who did not know how to program before. I think for the moment that I am going to put that of quoted and to occupy me a little my family.

LR: What is being done for the 20 years anniversary by the community? And don’t be modest. You are doing something too

Rygar: 20 were celebrated already with dignity with Lynxoply, the flashcard (and my small game) and then he remains zaku who shall have to go out before the end of the year!

LR: Lynx demos. I can only find 3 of them. Don’t Lynx fans like demos? Why aren’t there more?

Rygar: It is a good question;) can be lynx touch you she a public less numerous than of the other console such as the 2600 or jaguar and then there exists much less documentation to learn to develop on lynx that he exists for the other console there, it is doubtless for it that can of people it launches in projects on this console.

LR: Thank you very much for agreeing to this interview!

Rygar: It is one always a pleasure to see people being interested in the lynx! Long live the lynx!

Links


1. Handy a lynx emulator

Free Jaguar Project. An interview with Overlord.

August 30, 2009

The Atari Jaguar scene. It’s all about politics.

If you are an Atari ST user, or even worse an ST scener that decides to join the Jaguar community, you are in for a surprise. At least I was and I can start by telling you that it wasn’t a pleasant one.

I got my first Jaguar this year at Outline as a gift and to cut a long story short, I became involved in the Jaguar scene. But that for someone going there with the ST mentality (or Amiga, or Dreamcast, or Mega Drive, or Atari 2600, or insert the name of your favourite dead console or computer here) means a constant flamewar.

Just visit the Jaguar section of Atari Age. You’ll find that there are different rules there than there are for any other system. And this was determined by need not by choice.

These are the rules of the Jaguar community:

  1. You are not allowed to talk about ROMS, emulators, multicarts etc because even talking about these things means you are a pirate.
  2. You are not allowed to develop for the console unless you have signed a statement of submission to the “renowned” developers.
  3. Any new development must conform to the legal and moral standards set by said developers. Other standards simply do not apply.
  4. The law of double standards. Actions we brand immoral for other people are OK for us.

Why do those rules apply though?

The Jaguar community mentality may be summarised to a MMORPG behavioural pattern. There are two things of value. One is the experience points that can be collected by attacking users on forums and by simple post
count. The other are the quests for items to add to your collection. With that in mind and at irregular
intervals, ebay auctions are being held for such rare items. Respect is gained by the amount of such items
one possesses. And needless to say that if you pay $800 for such a prize you do not want it devalued. .

This is all however about to change. The Free Jaguar Project (fjp)[1] is a web forum that promises to offer a paradigm shift for the jaguar community. So I had a discussion with the site admin that hopefully will shed some light to what is actually going on.

ChrisTOS: Hello Overlord

Overlord: Hello ChrisTOS!

ChrisTOS: I appreciate that you agreed to give this interview for the Low Res Mag.

Overlord: Not a problem! I look forward to reading it.

ChrisTOS: I guess you read my introduction to this interview. What did you think?

Overlord: I would have to agree with your introduction. The Jaguar scene for far too long has kept with the closed mentality of a commercially viable system. Many of the developers have kept with the closed source and no free ROM policy as if any games they would release would really be affected by people able to play the ROMs for free. Thus, the Jaguar scene has not been able to evolve into what is now experienced by every other classic game system.

ChrisTOS: So I guess this is where the free jaguar project comes into the equation.

Overlord: Exactly. I was tired of sitting on the sidelines watching people new to the Jaguar as well as potential developers being shouted down if they brought any ideas to the table that did not “conform” with what a vocal minority agreed with.

ChrisTOS: Is it a minority though? Like I wrote I am new to it and I haven’t followed it very closely for as many years as you have but reading the atariage backlog and to some extend the js2 one (before they closed it down) I cannot really tell.

Overlord: It really is a minority. Most people who play or collect for the Jaguar do not care to participate in what end up becoming the political discussions of the scene. While there are a good many people who do fit in with that vocal minority, if you take a close look, you will see it all comes down to being a group of no more than 15 to 20 people who have to try to force their viewpoints on everyone else.

Overlord: And even at that, at most there are a handful who really hold any kind of power over other’s opinions on these matters.

ChrisTOS: I see. I must tell you that this behaviour is putting off many potential developers, at least people on the ST who want to participate in the jaguar community. How does fjp plan to change that?

Overlord: We are providing a save haven of sorts for people who wish to discuss topics about the Jaguar that are currently a taboo on AtariAge or JS2. By giving an open place to discuss these matters, we hope that people who are either new to the Jaguar or were driven away from the scene years ago will find that not all members of the community have to engage in constant flame wars with each other.

Overlord: On the other hand, we also do wish to respect the current “closed” developers by not allowing discussions of pirating their games. I think it is a good compromise that should help in uniting the community.

ChrisTOS: A paradigm shift then. I must agree with you if you are an author of a game you have every right to close it, sell it or shelve it. In my experience with the ST I’ve seen that the availability of really old software and of good emulators gave it new life. I know amiga users who started liking the ST and amiga sceners that started coding for it.

ChrisTOS: So why isn’t there a good emulator for the jaguar?

Overlord: I agree with that statement. The ST scene has seen a very big revival due to old games becoming more available and easier to run as well as the excellent emulators. STeem in particular is a wonderful emulator that makes most other system owners jealous. :)

Overlord: As for why there is not good Jaguar emulator, that is difficult to answer. There have been a number of attempts over the years to create a Jaguar emulator, but each one so far has appeared to fail before coming anywhere close to 99 or 100%. The Jaguar is a hard system to emulate due to its multi-processor configuration, but there has also been resistance by the aforementioned “vocal minority” in the creation of a good emulator.

ChrisTOS: Well hopefully fjp will help there. I see you have an emulation sub forum which is something new to the jag scene. I can’t even begin to tell you how much steem has benefited ST development.

ChrisTOS: And I see that a large number of developers have joined your forum. I guess they are not afraid of the piracy? :D

Overlord: I think the fjp should help. I have heard no small number of developers who have stated that emulation has been a godsend to developing due to the ease of being able to test builds without having to go through hacks to get their code over to the target platform.

Overlord: I would say they are not. :) Most of the developers who are on fjp right now are those who are writing their games for the pure love of it. The ones who have released games so far have released them for free and are not concerned at all with “piracy”. After all, how can you “pirate” a free product?

ChrisTOS: Or they might have also read and understood your mission statement :D

Overlord: Yes, I would hope so. I know many of the other developers have read it, but not all of them seem to understand it. Which is most unfortunate, because they have then attempted to “blacklist” any members who join our forum. A simple understanding of our mission statement would lead one to realize that our goals are not at all incompatible with theirs.

ChrisTOS: I must say, I really liked that text. It surprised me though that you actually had to type it. But reading the reaction, it was obvious why you had to.

Overlord: I wish there was no need to have to do so. However, if the Free Jaguar Project is able to achieve its goals, then there will no longer be such a need for it. Which I think is what most of us want to see.

ChrisTOS: I am going to speak of my personal story.

ChrisTOS: I went from my Atari 130xe to the Falcon in 1995. A few years later The jaguar was being sold for a very small price in Greece when shops were stock dumping. I always regretted not getting one. But then I got into the Atari ST user community and then into the ST scene.

ChrisTOS: But when I looked at the jaguar one, I quickly left. So when I was offered the jaguar at outline my initial reaction was thank you but no.

ChrisTOS: Have you ever heard of similar stories?

Overlord: Oh yes, you are not alone. I have known many people who were scared away from the Jaguar simply due to the community. I have met many a person who owns and actively plays their Jaguar systems, but refuse to participate in the community due to how closed off and destructive it is.

Overlord: In fact, there have been times where I have taken an extended hiatus from it because they simply made the Jaguar not fun for me anymore.

ChrisTOS: That’s the point isn’t it? Fun! Is fjp fun for you?

Overlord: It has been an enormous amount of fun for me so far. Just thinking of creating it many months ago is what helped to bring me back into the Jaguar community. So far there have been no flame wars at all on there. Everyone who is on there has been civil and already are participating in discussions that have gone nowhere on other forums.

ChrisTOS: It helps if the flamewars about fjp happen on other forums doesn’t it? :D

Overlord: Yes it does! I could not believe the size of the fjp thread on JS2 before they closed the site off to outsiders. I even tried creating an account on there in order to give them my own reasons for the website and to correct a few misconceptions, but I did not have the right permissions to do so. What is also funny is that the fjp thread on AA has not evolved into a flame war either. I think that goes to show where much of the negativity in the

ChrisTOS: I imagine that that sentence would be completed with “…community is”

Overlord: the last sentence was “I think that goes to show where much of the negativity in the community lies…”

Overlord: I should make my responses shorter

ChrisTOS: close enough :D

ChrisTOS: It’s really hard for me not to turn the discussion towards what I’ve seen from the jaguar community. I must tell you that it didn’t bother me so much until I saw people at Outline that weren’t even atari sceners come talking to me about the skunkboard and the jag.

ChrisTOS: I saw a potential there that was hindered by such stances. And being an Atari fan I didn’t like it.

ChrisTOS: I mean, if you are a fan of a retro system, don’t you want to open it up to as many people as possible? How does closing the doors help you?

Overlord: I understand what you mean. I don’t like it either, which is why I am trying to change the community for the better. The vicious wars that are constantly ongoing in the Jaguar community have just never existed for the ST or 8bits.

Overlord: I have seen posts on non-Atari boards where people express interest in the Jaguar but then have to mention how negative the community is towards its own. Closing your doors will only help to kill off what’s left of the Jaguar.

ChrisTOS: Exactly, even the A8 vs C64 thread on AA that went on for 300 pages didn’t have that. And in  the end I am sure that creative people on both platforms will try to be creative on both systems due to that thread.

ChrisTOS: And because they’ll have the tools and the information to do so.

Overlord: Yes, I agree. Due to those discussions the Atari 8bit scene has seen C64 sceners try their hand with the Atari. Having that openness can only be beneficial.

ChrisTOS: It’s like the old Atari NDA’s still apply, even if you find the knowledge on your own

ChrisTOS: This is what I like about fjp. It promotes the sharing of information. And that is great.

Overlord: It is funny that you mention that. The Atari Jaguar is the only classic game system that has ever been officially opened up to developers. It is shameful that those same developers who are benefitting from that have to try to close it off to others.

Overlord: Sharing and openness has helped in bringing the Jaguar games from Jagware. We have already seen several excellent titles from them, in particular Do The Same. I do not think that would have been possible several years ago without a dedicated group who were willing to share their knowledge and tools.

Overlord: I hope that the fjp can take what they have done and bring it over to the rest of the Jaguar community.

ChrisTOS: Do the same is a great game indeed. But if you ask me, what is needed most is a way to load the game to your jag. Something that is cheap, easy and not crippled.

ChrisTOS: But to create such a thing you need to go back to the sharing of information.

Overlord: Yes, it has sorely been needed. I cannot wait for the JagCF for this very reason. Of course, the same vocal minority managed to flame the Jagware team due to piracy concerns. Yet the Skunkboard was embraced by them but still allows for ROMs to be played from it. Only a small handful of games will not be playable from it. It is a shame that these people have to have such a double standard.

ChrisTOS: I am not being objective in this interview and I guess I am being very harsh but I do feel a certain anger. I don’t like seeing potential being wasted because of those patterns. I apologise for that.

ChrisTOS: And I also apologise for the length of this discussion and for tiring you.

ChrisTOS: So tell me about the future for the fjp.

Overlord: No apology needed. It is hard to be objective when you come across something that offends your sensibility. And I am more than happy to discuss this with you, as it feels good to talk about it after all of these years of basically having to hide how I felt about things.

Overlord: As for the future of the website, we do have a number of plans. We will soon be opening a Downloads section that will contain a treasure trove of date and information for the Jaguar. Curt Vendel of Atarimuseum.com was gracious enough to open up his Jaguar archive to us, so we will feature a number of items from there.

ChrisTOS: That’s great :)

Overlord: We are also hoping to become a prime download location for homebrew developers who wish to release their games for free. Reboot have already agreed to make Project One available for download on fjp, and we hope that this will just be the beginning!

ChrisTOS: I must say you started off great. I really like the forum so far and I wish you the best of luck for the future. And as they say luck favours the bold and to start something like that in the current environment is bold.

Overlord: Thank you very much, I am glad you are enjoying the forum! I have heard nothing but positive feedback from everyone who has participated on there so far, and I hope that will continue into the distant future.

ChrisTOS: Thank you for this discussion. I have thoroughly enjoyed it :)

Overlord: Thank you as well, I have enjoyed it too!

Speaking with Overlord, I cannot but acknowledge his dedication to the Jaguar. So I urge anyone who is remotely interested in the Atari Jaguar to visit the Free Jaguar Project site. I know that I fail miserably at being objective, this article is opinionated and harsh and if it were for something else than a scene web mag I would have probably been fired for submitting it. But this is a scene mag following the tradition of the disk mags of the past, just on a new format.

So, my opinion stands. I didn’t like what I saw in the Jaguar scene. I didn’t like the ad hominem attacks against any individual that dares to have a different opinion and I hope that fjp will lead the way towards a more open community.


Links

  1. Free Jaguar Project

That is STOT ( ST Offline Tournament)

August 30, 2009

This article was written some time ago, and was intended to be published in the Alive diskmag.

STOT – SEASON 1 REVIEW AND PROSPECTS IN THE 21ST CENTURY

In this review article the author will examine the patterns displayed during the first season of the somewhat popular ST Offline Tournament gaming contest and will attempt to predict the future behaviour of the system while providing ideas and thoughts on future improvements.

1. Introduction.

The ST Offline Tournament [1] is based on similar contests that are being held on and for other systems such as the ATARI 2600 [2] and the ATARI 8-bit computer systems [3]. It is a contest in tournament form, where Atari ST(e) gamers can compete with others on their favourite game and thus get a measure of who is better at a particular game. One could say that it was born during a discussion in the Atari ST channel, #atariscne on IRCnet when the two STOT organisers discussed the concept and agreed that those contests can provide a lot of fun. The STOT organisers, namely ChrisTOS and ThorN, have since then laid out the terms of the contest, the point awarding system and the game selection scheme. The contest was decided to be held in the site http://www.atari-forum.com [4] due to the large number of Atari ST gamers that are present in this forum. During the contest, sh3-rg created a logo that has been first unveiled in STOTRO by ChrisTOS [5].

The STOT logo

The STOT logo by sh3-rg as used in STOTRO

2. The ST Offline Tournament process.

As described in the rules, the ST Offline Tournament is generally held in the following manner:

  1. The contest is bi-weekly. The selected game is being played for two weeks.
  2. In the second week of the contest, a game for the next round is selected
  3. The points are awarded after the contest is closed in the following scheme: 8 points for the player with the highest score, 6 for the second and 4, 3, 2, 1 for the players that score less.
  4. Newly released games take precedent in the tournament. From the above it should be clear that only games that provide a scoring system can be selected for the tournament.

3. To be discussed

There can be made little connection between the games played and the amount of players, with the exceptions of very bad games (f.e. Enchanted land) and games not suited for STOT (f.e. Sudokuniverse) that all displayed a negative impact. No positive relationship could be found.
Graph 1
Another factor that might have contributed to the falling participants trend may be the constant high level performance of Xerus. However the hete dans actie known to have been performed by at least one of the three people who managed to defeat Xerus may be a factor that should be taken into account when examining the aforementioned suggestion. Examining the trends found in other offline tournaments [2,3] one can see similar patterns.
Another observation that can be made is that the polls attracted much more attention than the amount of players in the contests. This could be attributed to Atari community’ s desire for the right to expression without actually deciding to exercise that right by acting upon it, or to sheer boredom.

4. Conclusions and Prospects

The Atari ST game database consists of more than 4000 games. It is reasonable to assume that at least 2500 of them are suitable for the needs of STOT. With 24 rounds per season a simple calculation shows that there are enough games for at least 100y. Therefore the only two reasons that the author can see for an end to STOT – excluding major catastrophies or death- are the lack of interest by the organisers or by the players. The death of the Atari ST and the slow decline of the community are the key elements in the lack of interest, together with an equally negative to STOT thing called “real life”. However, as demonstrated by this paper, STOT has become a known name in the Atari world and the ST gaming experience is still strong in many atarians. With people working on new games and with authors finding nice the fact that people play the games, the future of STOT seems NOT gloomy, though one would have a hard time to call it bright. Still website is up [1].


Links

  1. STOT web site
  2. Atariage VCS HSC
  3. Atariage ATARI 8 Bit HSC.
  4. STOT on Atari-forum
  5. STOTRO on Pouet

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