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Maria chip has been resythensized...


Curt Vendel
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Reading this thread got me remembering this article from Don Thomas 13 years ago:

 

"Did You Hear Anyone Say Goodbye?"

by Donald A. Thomas, Jr.

October 4, 1996

 

 

 

It's odd to imagine an institution, which was as big and as powerful as Atari once was, to have been shut down in recent days. The real amazement for me is that it was all accomplished without a measurable flinch from within or outside the gaming industry. I can understand that gamers wanted to push Pong out the door early in the timeline. I can appreciate that the classics such as Missile Command and Asteroids do not push 32-bit and 64-bit systems to any technological limits. I know all these things intellectually, but the heart cannot face the truth that the world and the corporate machine known as Atari could not find an amicable way to coexist.

 

On Tuesday, July 30, 1996, Atari Corporation took each and every share of its company (ATC), wrapped them all in a tight bundle and presented them to JTS Corporation; a maker and distributor of hard disk drives. On Wednesday, the shares were traded under the symbol of JTS. Within a few weeks, the remaining staff of Atari that were not dismissed or did not resign, moved to JTS's headquarters in San Jose, California. The three people were assigned to different areas of the building and all that really remains of the Atari namesake is a Santa Clara warehouse full of unsold Jaguar and Lynx products.

 

It was only as long ago as mid '95 that Atari executives and staff believed things were finally taking a better turn. WalMart had agreed to place Jaguar game systems in 400 of their Superstores across the country. Largely based on this promise of new hope and the opportunities that open when such deals are made, Atari invested heavily in the product and mechanisms required to serve the WalMart chain. But the philosophical beliefs of the Atari decision makers that great products never need advertising or promotions, put the WalMart deal straight into a tailspin. With money tied up in the product on shelves as well as the costs to distribute them to get there, not much was left to saturate any marketplace with advertising. While parents rushed into stores to get their kids Saturns or PlayStations, the few that picked up the Jaguar were chastised by disappointed children on Christmas day.

 

In an effort to salvage the pending WalMart situation, desperate attempts to run infomercials across the country were activated. The programs were professionally produced by experts in the infomercial industry and designed to permit Atari to run slightly different offers in different markets. In spite of the relatively low cost of running infomercials, the cost to produce them and support them is very high. The results were disappointing. Of the few thousand people who actually placed orders, many of them returned their purchases after the Holidays. The kids wanted what they saw on TV during the day! They wanted what their friends had! They wanted what the magazines were raving about!

 

In early 1996, WalMart began returning all remaining inventory of Jaguar products. After reversing an "advertising allowance" Atari was obligated to accept, the net benefit Atari realized was an overflowing warehouse of inventory in semi-crushed boxes and with firmly affixed price and security tags. Unable to find a retailer willing to help distribute the numbers required to stay afloat, Atari virtually discontinued operations and traded any remaining cash to JTS in exchange for a graceful way to exit the industry's back door.

 

Now that JTS has "absorbed" Atari, it really doesn't know what to do with the bulk of machines Atari hoped to sell. It's difficult to liquidate them. Even at liquidation prices, consumers expect a minimal level of support which JTS has no means to offer. The hundreds of calls they receive from consumers that track them down each week are answered to the best ability of one person. Inquiries with regard to licensing Atari classic favorites for other applications such as handheld games are handled by Mr. John Skruch who was with Atari for over 13 years.

 

In spite of Nintendo's claim that their newest game system is the first 64-bit game system on the market, Atari Corporation actually introduced the first 64-bit system just before Christmas in 1993. Since Atari couldn't afford to launch the system nationwide, the system was introduced in the New York and San Francisco markets first. Beating the 32-bit systems to the punch (Saturn/PlayStation), Atari enjoyed moderate success with the Jaguar system and managed to lure shallow promises from third-party companies to support the system. Unfortunately, programmers grossly underestimated the time required to develop 64-bit games. The jump from 8-bit and 16-bit was wider than anticipated. In addition, Atari was already spread thin monetarily, but were required to finance almost every title that was in development.

 

After the initial launch, it took Atari almost a year before an assortment of games began to hit store shelves. Even then, having missed the '94 Holiday Season, many of the planned titles were de-accelerated to minimize problems caused by rushing things too fast. Consumers were not happy and retailers were equally dismayed. The few ads that Atari was able to place in magazines were often stating incorrect release dates because that information changed almost every day although magazines deadline their issues up to 120 days in advance.

 

It was in 1983 that Warner Communications handed Jack Tramiel the reins of Atari. By this time, Atari was often categorized as a household name, but few households wanted to spend much money on new software and the systems were lasting forever. No one needed to buy new ones. That, combined with Warner's obscene spending, amounted to a daily loss of over $2 million. Atari was physically spread all over the Silicon Valley with personnel and equipment in literally 80 separate buildings; not considering international offices and manufacturing facilities. Mr. Tramiel took only the home consumer branch of Atari and forced Warner to deal with the arcade division separately. Within a few years, Jack took the company public, introduced an innovative new line of affordable 16-bit computers and released the 7800 video game system.

 

To accomplish these miracles for Atari, Jack implemented his "business is war" policies. While people who publicly quoted his statement often felt that policy meant being extremely aggressive in the marketplace, the meaning actually had closer ties to Tramiel's experience as a concentration camp survivor. Of the 80 buildings in Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and Milpitas, almost every one of them were amputated from Atari's body of liabilities. The people, the work, the heritage, the history were fired or liquidated. Those who survived were unsympathetically required to fill in the gaps and while most tried, few actually found a way to be successfully do what a dozen people before them did. Atop the mountain, Jack pressed with an iron thumb. All Fed/Ex mailings were required to be pre-approved by one of a handful of people. "Unsigned" purchase orders went unpaid regardless of the urgencies that inspired their creation. Employees found themselves spending valuable time trying to find ways around the system to accomplish their jobs. Many of them lost their jobs for bending the rules or never finding a way to make things work. As horrible as it all sounds, it actually was the only way to protect Atari as a company and give it a chance to survive as it did and did very well.

 

Jack's introduction of the 16-bit computer was initially hearty in the United States but it went extremely well in Europe. Europeans were not accustomed to "affordable" technology and although the Atari computers were not IBM compatible, it didn't matter because people could afford them. Jacks' private laugh was that the computers were sold at prices much higher in Europe than Americans were willing to pay. As a result, most of the machines made were being shipped to European destinations to capture the higher margin. This enraged the people in the United States that had been Atari loyalists. While waiting months for stores to take delivery domestically, international magazines were touting ample supplies. Those in the know within the U.S. became dismayed. The remainder never knew Atari was slowly abandoning the value of Atari's name recognition as it became easier and easier to forget some assuming Atari had long filed for bankruptcy.

 

On a technical level, Atari 16-bit computers were designed beyond their time. For less than $1,000, consumers could enjoy "multimedia" before the phrase was ever really widely used. The icon-based working environment proceeded Windows popularity although the essential attributes of the two environments were very similar. MIDI was built-in and became an instant hit in the high-end music industry. Tasks were activated and manipulated with a mouse and the system accepted industry standard peripherals such as printers, modems and diskettes.

 

With all the genius that went into the technology of the machines, very little of equivalent genius went into the promoting and marketing the machines. Mr. Tramiel was the founder of Commodore Business Machines. When he introduced the PET computer in 1977, Jack discovered he didn't have to call a single publication. Instead they all flocked to his door demanding an opportunity to see the product. News magazines. Science Journals. Business newsletters. Newspaper reporters. They were all there with microphone, camera and pen in hand. And they kept coming back. Adding a switch, announcing a new 4K application or signing a new retailer were all big stories the press wanted to handle.

 

Today, a new video game announcement may generate a request from any of the dozens of gaming magazines for a press release, but a lot of costly work has to be done to assure fair or better coverage. Editorial people are literally swamped with technical news. Samples are mailed regularly to their attention. Faxes fly in through the phone lines and e-mail jams up their hard drives. It takes a lot to grab their attention.

 

While Atari retained hopes to be successful with the Jaguar, Atari's marketing people were fighting established standards in the industry with severe handicaps. Since cartridges (the Jaguar was/is primarily a cartridge-based system) were so expensive, editorial people were required to return them before new ones would be sent. Editorial people like to assign review projects. So finding cartridges they sent out was not always easy to do. Additionally, reviewers often love their work because they get to keep what they write about. Regardless, the few magazines willing to cover Atari products were more often turned away because of a lack of programmable cartridges or any number of other indecisive barriers. In-store signs and posters were sometimes created, but many retail chains charge premiums to manufacturers that want to display them. Some direct mail campaigns were implemented, but Atari often could not afford to keep those things being advertised on schedule. Therefore, the advertisements were published and distributed, but the product was not available.

 

Clearly, Jack's experience with the world beating a path to the door of a company making a better mousetrap no longer applied. The world had revolved a few times beneath him and he never noticed. The tactics used to successfully sell Commodore computers were simply antiquated notions from the past. Meanwhile, Sony launches the PlayStation with over $500 million in marketing funds. Today, the PlayStation is considered the most successful next-generation gaming machine throughout the world. Sony bought the market. Tramiel's Atari never learned how to do that. Actually, they never could afford it anyway.

 

After the 1990's got underway, Europe as well as the rest of the world, discovered that IBM-compatible computers were becoming more powerful and more affordable. The world always did want computers at home just like in the office and companies like Dell and Gateway exemplified the industry's trend toward home-based office computers. As a result, companies like Commodore, Atari and Next couldn't compete any longer. While the dedicated user base of each of them felt abandoned by these companies having to leave the computer market, the inevitable prevailed. Commodore jumped ship, Next changed business goals completely and Atari invested what they had left in the Jaguar game system. Even today, Apple is kicking and screaming. As good as Apple was at creating a huge niche for themselves, they focused more heavily on education. When kids grow up and get jobs, they want business machines. IBM was always the business standard.

 

When one examines the history of Atari, an appreciation can grow for how many businesses and people were a part of the game over the years. Chuck E. Cheese Pizza was started by Atari's founder, Mr. Nolan Bushnell. Apple Computer was born in a garage by ex-Atari employees. Activision was founded by Ace Atari programmers. The list goes on and on.

 

But for some pathetic reason Atari's final days came and went with no tribute, no fanfare and no dignified farewells. Why? Where did all the talent go? Where are all the archives? Where are the vaults? Where are the unpublished games and where are the originals of those that were? Why has no company stepped forward to adopt the remaining attributes Atari has to offer? Where are the creditors? What has happened to all the properties and sites? Where are the databases, warranty cards, promotional items, notes on meetings, unanswered mail? Who owns P.O. Box 61657? Who goes to work in Atari's old offices? Where do consumers have their systems fixed? Who is publishing new games? Who still sells Atari products? Why are there still a lot of people talking about Atari on-line?

 

I'm an ex-Atari employee and proud to have been. I'm still an Atari devotee and proud to be. To me, these are questions which all deserve an answer, but who will ask them?

 

The best people to ask these questions are those who have exposure to the public. If you believe Atari left us without saying goodbye, contact Dateline at dateline@nbc.com. If you really believe, then send this article to 10 of your friends in e-mail. And if you really, really believe, mail a few to newspapers or other news programs. A letter in your own words would be great!

 

I'd spend money for a thorough retrospect on Atari. Wouldn't you?

 

Wouldn't it at least be nice to say "Goodbye"?

 

 

 

Don Thomas

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Thank you for posting that, Drak. I especially liked this part:

 

But for some pathetic reason Atari's final days came and went with no tribute, no fanfare and no dignified farewells. Why? Where did all the talent go? Where are all the archives? Where are the vaults? Where are the unpublished games and where are the originals of those that were? Why has no company stepped forward to adopt the remaining attributes Atari has to offer? Where are the creditors? What has happened to all the properties and sites? Where are the databases, warranty cards, promotional items, notes on meetings, unanswered mail? Who owns P.O. Box 61657? Who goes to work in Atari's old offices? Where do consumers have their systems fixed? Who is publishing new games? Who still sells Atari products? Why are there still a lot of people talking about Atari on-line?

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Yes, thanks for posting. I still miss ICWhen. Don apparently stopped updating it after 9/11, and since then it's all but disappeared. I'm glad I saved the contents so I'd still have them to refer to without resorting to the Wayback Machine, because it was a great resource. I imagine that keeping a project like that up to date in today's world would have been a full-time job in itself, considering all that's happened in the Atari homebrew scene alone in the last decade.

 

Reading that article from the dark days of 1996 makes me realize how much work has been done in collecting and archiving Atari's artifacts over the last thirteen years. Don Thomas asked: where are the archives, vaults, unpublished games, databases, and internal documents? Many of them have been rescued and are now safe in the hands of the Atari community, thanks to the efforts of dedicated historians like Curt Vendel.

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Shawn: WTF, if you don't like what Gorf is saying then at least try and debate him in a civilized manner. Otherwise don't post in the thread. Posting a "Congratulations on your gay posts" image drags the whole thread down another notch.

 

 

 

Wow, looks like the humor in that image was totally missed I guess. I edited my posts in this thread. I'll try my best to tread a little more lightly but damn I feel like I'm walking on broken glass sometimes.

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FB2 chip from 2005 is now owned wholey by Atari, Inc. I did an improved version -codenamed "Toby" which is my design, but its only in Xilinx FPGA and I haven't gotten it done to ASIC due to the last year of medical problems and my finances.

 

 

Curt

 

That is cool, but I want to know how you're going to synthesize TIA chips...

This is the 1702B. I have another tape out with the 1702C, I think I may have found the PAL MARIA as well, but I need to finish 2 other Corporate Research chip recovers first.

 

I have also recovered "Stellette" which is a later improved version of the Stella/TIA chip. What may be interesting is the recovery of the Ricoh 3in1 chip, if that can be recovered, it is a CMOS chip design and between that and recovery of the 1702C, that is the core of what is needed for a new true hardware 7800 recreation. Throw in some SRAM, re-do the video out (basically just drop the RF all together and go out straight Composite) and there is the potential of bringing the 7800 in a much smaller form factor back to life.

 

 

Curt

 

Hmm, so which model is this 1702, 1712 or 1722?

 

Oh, and nice work, by the way. :D

 

Mitch

 

The JAN chip was the integrated VCS ASIC designed for the 2600 Jr. right? (and actually used on sole late Jrs I seem to recall).

 

 

You've already got a fully compatible VCS ASIC used for the Flashback II, right? Couldn't that be used in conjunction with a new MARIA chip to create a modern 7800? (optimally you'd want a single chip ASIC though, and if built-in games were planned, perhaps POKEY built-in as well -the 2 POKEY games being some of the best 7800 games -BallBlazer especially)

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Think of GDS (which is now moving to Oasis format) as much more complex version of PC board gerbers, it builds the layers of a chip. In a sense I guess you could also relate it in very simple terms also to CNC router code to make a physical object - just these happen to be the size of 1/4 of a pinky nail.

 

 

Curt

 

Please excuse me if this is a dumb question (speaking as a non techie) but what is the difference between GDS and VHDL (re the GTIA chip thread on A8 forum) and which one is the new standard (or have they both been replaced) and does one standard have any advantage over the other

 

Did Atari use one standard or both of them

Carmel, I believe they are "programming" languages (or more accurately, markup languages). Both will describe an integrated circuit. GDS is definitely the older format.

 

***EDIT to include a link***

Some info

 

Stephen Anderson

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I would be excited to see something done in whatever form to the 7800. If a remake or improved version is created, you can count me in for buying it. Personally, it's my favorite system of all time. I've collected systems and games from Pong to the Xbox, but my favorites have always been the 8-bit Atari systems.

 

It's good to see people who have an interest in preserving gaming history and possibly even resurrecting parts of it.

 

I realize games are a business and new technology has to be constantly developed to push new limits and keep the interest of more and more people, but as for me... I have no use for the newer systems. Don't have a 360 or PS3 and wouldn't want one. The games don't interest me and frankly, I think they're all the same any more, (I realize most people would disagree, but this is my view). I've stopped at the Xbox which is a darn good place to be because it allows me to enjoy a good bit of modern gaming as well as having all my classics in one place. Now my entire 8-bit and 16-bit collection as well as prototype games I would never have gotten to play are all on the Xbox hard drive and most of the emulators run perfectly, (except for a few 7800 games).

 

To all of you who are working on arcade ports and original games for the 2600, 7800, 5200, etc... I say THANK YOU and keep up the good work. I really hope to join you one day. I'm planning on taking classes to get my feet wet in coding for the sole purpose of it opening a door for me to learn how to code for these older systems. I can see myself still playing the old systems (hopefully with my kids if I ever get married) 20 years from now. BTW, I also love the Jag, but that seems to be a system that would require a team of people to do a commercial quality game... and that's also probably WELL beyond my mental capabilities to program for.

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BTW, I also love the Jag, but that seems to be a system that would require a team of people to do a commercial quality game... and that's also probably WELL beyond my mental capabilities to program for.

 

Nah.....if you can code other systems in assembler then the Jaguar should not be that hard to code for you.

It's the toolset that might drive you nuts more than anything.

 

Many great projects to correct this were started and never finished. SMAC and SLN are a great start but

they are still buggy in a few respects and make it tough to really do proper J-RISC main code execution

which is really how you want to appraoch the Jaguar if you plan on doing serious apps. These if SubQMod

ever gets back to them(he has much more important and pressing matters to attend to) They could lead to

a nice optimizing main code execution J-RISC C compiler.

 

 

My appologies to everyone in this thread. My bitter and insensitive responses are a direct result of some

rather unfortunate events concerning the dumping of Mad Bodies and the lack of a useful renderer for the

Jaguar that I've waited more than 10 years for. If I had better 3D math understanding, it would have been

finished by now but my abilities are more game logic and AI coding. I was not too pleased with these rather

unfortunate events and even less pleased with the lack of understanding from some I thought would be more

understanding.

 

 

With that said, I should also point out that Curt is a great guy and so are the classic game coders on

this site. It is to them I appologize, especially to Curt since I came across so negative and insensitive.

It is a great thing Curt has done with the refab of the MARIA chip and Bob(PacManPlus) is the best of the

best at getting other great classics converted to the 7800. IT was Bob who got me rolling on the 7800 after

all and Curt and I think more alike than I have come across in this thread.

 

So as penance, I will try to find a way to rekindle and revitalize my love for both the 7800 and Jaguar.

I will also do something I normally would not do, but I think it is called for.

 

Demo bins of the three 7800 games I started work on to be posted right here in this thread.

 

Please understand, these are cheesy at best as they are all a handful of hours worth of coding. If Bob

(PacManPlus) is interested(and can forgive my bad behavior), I'd like to offer him the sources to what

is the start of Gorf7800 that he may finish the game. I've had enough trouble with legalities on this

as you all know. I will help him in any way he needs if he so chooses to accept this mission. At very

least, he might find my MARIA sprite interface useful for other projects. It is a staticly updated list

alg that requires a lot less updating and rebuilding every frame(I think anyway.)

 

The other two games I will complete myself and do something to help a certain someone we all know and love here

on AA. Those details I will withhold for now.

 

Please forgive the less than stellar sounds and familiar backgrounds as I was working them all from an interesting

start of of said static list alg, with the intent of differing them all as time went on.

 

Now the goods(pretty cheesy actually)

 

A twist to the O^2 classic UFO.

UFO!.A78

 

A start of a phoenix/Gorf like game based of the Gorf 7800 code.

WarBirds.A78

 

Use the second joystick button to get to the next levels of Warbirds..some levels

are just useless at the moment.

 

And last but not least(still kinda cheesy) Gorf 7800

 

Gorf.A78

 

 

Enjoy as best you can and suggestions are welcome. Most of all, once again, my appologies to Curt, Bob

and the rest of you 7800 fans.

 

 

 

EDIT: I should mention these have only been tested on the prosystem emulator so feel free to try

them out on real hardware if so desired....Im pretty sure they are signed...if not, I'll do so.

Edited by Gorf
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Enjoy as best you can and suggestions are welcome. Most of all, once again, my appologies to Curt, Bob

and the rest of you 7800 fans.

Big thumbs up. :thumbsup: Most of your above post should probably be broken out into a new thread to give better exposure to what you are saying as well as the demos you are kindly sharing. :)

 

..Al

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Enjoy as best you can and suggestions are welcome. Most of all, once again, my appologies to Curt, Bob

and the rest of you 7800 fans.

Big thumbs up. :thumbsup: Most of your above post should probably be broken out into a new thread to give better exposure to what you are saying as well as the demos you are kindly sharing. :)

 

..Al

 

 

Be my guest to do so if you feel that would make a difference. I figured keeping it within the thread

would be a better way of not drawing attention to the nonsense. Your call.

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Gorf, I am really sad to hear this. The Jag scene has not been at all kind to you. Maybe for now hop down to the 8-bit machines - I think you'll find some :love:

 

Apologies in advance - maybe start a new thread if you're interested Gorf. Any interest in the VBXE2 for the 8-bit Ataris? You could do a wicked old-school shooter.

 

Stephen Anderson

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Gorf, I am really sad to hear this. The Jag scene has not been at all kind to you. Maybe for now hop down to the 8-bit machines - I think you'll find some :love:

 

Apologies in advance - maybe start a new thread if you're interested Gorf. Any interest in the VBXE2 for the 8-bit Ataris? You could do a wicked old-school shooter.

 

Stephen Anderson

 

Being reduced to a telemarketor froma $70 an hour install business that was doing well until the ecomony went to hell

in a hand basket was'nt helping either but...Dont be sad for me. I'll take my troubles as a learning experience.

I'll make a new thread and point a link to the post.

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icon_thumbsup.gificon_thumbsup.gificon_thumbsup.gificon_thumbsup.gif To the Gorfman!

Go to hear that your back!icon_mrgreen.gif

 

 

well...that reamins to be seen....I have much to deal with and my time is more limited than ever before.

 

Sad to hear about your job, I feel for you. Im in the same pickle.

 

If it were a Job it would not be as painful...it was my own business...that really hurts.

 

 

 

And Gorf on the 7800icon_lust.gif

Now I only require TRON and Frenzy, and I'll be the happiest gammer ever!icon_ponder.gif

 

Well Bob is working on the Frenzy. As far as TRON....that would be quite an undertaking.

Edited by Gorf
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Gorf, I had struck out on my own too. Was about the time I was doing Ooze, and I had the time of my life, and the bucks were good.

 

Economy + a health care situation just completely destroyed everything. Been climbing back up the ladder, slowly, and life is kind of good now, but man... what a chip that kind of thing leaves on your shoulder, and tell me about the time. It sucks not having your own gig in that way.

 

BTW: Your UFO port was one I was looking at closely. That game should be on more systems, and with some variations too.

 

Anyway, cheers! I'm pretty sure it won't always suck this badly. (and it does suck huge for most people right now)

Edited by potatohead
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This it totally off topic, but I've been wanting to ask anyway... I know I met the Gorfman at JagFest in '98. Is there anyone else here who I may have met? (Jagfest '98, 2001, or Austin Gaming Expo 2003).

 

edit: Totally forgot to say THANK YOU for the binaries!

Edited by KevinMos3
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This it totally off topic, but I've been wanting to ask anyway... I know I met the Gorfman at JagFest in '98. Is there anyone else here who I may have met? (Jagfest '98, 2001, or Austin Gaming Expo 2003).

 

edit: Totally forgot to say THANK YOU for the binaries!

 

NP.

 

You met Scott Walters(JagMod) and Terance Williams(The Graphics Man).

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