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:
- You are not allowed to talk about ROMS, emulators, multicarts etc because even talking about these things means you are a pirate.
- You are not allowed to develop for the console unless you have signed a statement of submission to the “renowned” developers.
- Any new development must conform to the legal and moral standards set by said developers. Other standards simply do not apply.
- 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) 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? 😀
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 😀
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? 😀
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 😀
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.