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Fred Gill (ATD) Interview.


Lost Dragon
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http://www.retrovideogamer.co.uk/index.php?PHPSESSID=6l3cp375eueu658ls9fjun5s13&topic=5502.msg78647;topicseen#new

 

Greyfox was kind enough to submit a few questions i'd always liked to have been answered, to Fred on my behalf:

 

Panther ver.of Cybermorph, just what went wrong with Blue Lightning CD as it did'nt look as good as inital screens, what ATD did regarding debugging Jag Chipset, did they work on Lynx?, did they feel Jaguar hardware had been eclipsed etc etc?

 

And Fred was kind enough to take time to reply.

 

Some cracking questions from all who took part as well, i hope others agree and find something of interest in it.

 

Huge thanks to RVG and Fred for making this happen.

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It is very much appreciated by myself that RVG/Greyfox were able to put the questions to Fred, i'd been itching to ask them these since the interviews/articles in Edge, where in case of the 2nd interview that Edge did, i felt they'd never followed up on aspects ATD mentioned in the 1st article, ie debugging Jaguar hardware.

 

Plus they never seemed to be asked by Edge or others that interviewed them years later much about Blue Lightning CD etc etc. So far too good a chance to pass up :-)

 

The info that the I.S guys had come up with a texture hack was a super bit of info and one i'd personally not seen mentioned anywhere else before.

 

So Kudos to Fred for sharing that and i'd love to hear more on.

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Nice to read although I wish he would habe told a bit more about Blue Lightning and Battlemorph. I always thought it was odd that the game shared so much concerning interface etc but had so little else in common. I would really like to know what they thought. Also like the part where he said that they did not had the gameplay down. I always enjoyed BL when I first got it but it was always clear that BM is the superior game.

Concerning Eclipse I think it is pretty clear they had a good understanding of what is possible on the jag and even improved the graphics for part 2.I wonder how that racing game with much more textures would have turned out. I'm still hoping one day Marc Rosocha pops up at Jagfest and shows some stuff like Daniel did a few years ago.

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I'm surprised the question "how much untapped potential did the Jaguar have" didn't make an appearance :P

 

although he did say "I loved the hardware, and we could see many opportunities to make [Cybermorph] a lot faster if given time; we used those techniques on Battlemorph, and used the extra CPU time it freed up to make the game better."

 

Despite the fact they were contractually obligated to finish Battlemorph was mentioned, It'd have been interesting to know if it was rushed or not developed to the extent it would've been had the Jaguar been doing better and other opportunities not quick becoming more attractive. I still like the game but the draw distance leaves a little room for improvement.

 

interesting interview :)

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a ‘hack’ which allowed the texture palette to be a texture source, doubling the speed of texture mapping for small textures

 

i think its a common routine/technic and they created just a clever way to manage its data/datasizes and shortcut some calculations

have no idea what he means with "texturepalette" and "texturesource"

maybe texture optimized or precalculated imagedata on chartridge rom (but then i have no idea why IS2 got so much more textures than IS1 :-o )

or maybe a color limitation on textures.. as far i remember the IS textures are color limited.. compared to HoverStrike where you got lot mor shades and colors in the textures

less possible colors (could) cause less need for calculation ;-)

 

any other thoughts?

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@Willard:If you combine answers Fred gave RVG with those given in the edge article (http://atariage.com/forums/topic/230874-lots-of-uk-magazine-scans-lost-dragon/?hl=%2Batd+%2Bedge&do=findComment&comment=3094580), it's always been my personal impression that as soon as ATD saw Jaguar was'nt going to be the next big thing, Saturn/PS1 were (in comparison) they were 'itching' to get started developing for these platforms instead, so did the best they could to get Battlemorph finished without cutting corners quality wise (ie putting in improvements they'd wanted if they had more time on Cybermorph), but were'nt going to give other 3rd party PS1/Saturn developers even more of a head start to get products out, whilst ATD were still busy working on their 1st game.

 

 

We'd always love more depth on interview answers, but time is always a factor so i'm just grateful for what Fred and all the others over the years, have been able to share with us.

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Regarding Trevor McFur being planned as original Jaguar in-pack game...that came up in the interview i did with B.J West, here's B.J talking to myself about it:

 

 

'....Until we were very close to finished with it, it was intended as the "pack-in" game you got included with the Jaguar, but when it was done it was wildly apparent that would blow up in Atari's face.'

 

 

So even Atari knew it was a stinker it seems :-)

Edited by Lost Dragon
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  • 1 month later...

@Peter G:Who better than the very graphics artist herself, Kristi Louise Herd, than to explain what went wrong with Blue Lightning CD:

 

' I made a game at Attention to Detail called Blue Lightning for the Atari Jaguar. It was absolutely awful! That has to be the one which gave me the most headaches. The company had an idea that we would scan all the backgrounds in and produce 3D models for the sprites. It was such a naff idea. It just didn't work and it caused me a lot of headaches and heartache as I was so unhappy not only with the game but with the company. The models looked great, but the scanned backgrounds looked awful. In the end, we had a mixture of drawn and scanned backgrounds. Needless to say, it got slated and I left the company. '

 

 

And what she'd do differently:

 

' I would remove all scanned images and create a 3D world.'

 

 

SOURCE:http://www.c64.com/gt_display_interview.php?interview=23

Edited by Lost Dragon
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@Peter G:Who better than the very graphics artist herself, Kristi Louise Herd, than to explain what went wrong with Blue Lightning CD:

 

' I made a game at Attention to Detail called Blue Lightning for the Atari Jaguar. It was absolutely awful! That has to be the one which gave me the most headaches. The company had an idea that we would scan all the backgrounds in and produce 3D models for the sprites. It was such a naff idea. It just didn't work and it caused me a lot of headaches and heartache as I was so unhappy not only with the game but with the company. The models looked great, but the scanned backgrounds looked awful. In the end, we had a mixture of drawn and scanned backgrounds. Needless to say, it got slated and I left the company. '

 

 

And what she'd do differently:

 

' I would remove all scanned images and create a 3D world.'

 

 

SOURCE:http://www.c64.com/gt_display_interview.php?interview=23

I actually have a bigger problem with BL gameplay, than with the graphics. I kinda dig the unique look of the game, at least it was doing something diferent. Not that it looked good or that i would like more games to look like that, hehe.

Thanks again Dragon.

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Kind of a tangent: I was always really stunned at how Blue Lightning on the Lynx, from 1989, was such a better game than BL on JagCD. The only thing I liked about the JagCD version of BL was the ability to choose between different planes. Aside from that, I feel like it was a step down in many respects.

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Kind of a tangent: I was always really stunned at how Blue Lightning on the Lynx, from 1989, was such a better game than BL on JagCD. The only thing I liked about the JagCD version of BL was the ability to choose between different planes. Aside from that, I feel like it was a step down in many respects.

 

It was the worst possible choice. Instead of including the demo for Myst, they could have easily included the full game and let Blue Lightning go into a longer development cycle (or just cancel the thing). Vid Grid was also fine as an inclusion, so I wouldn't have monkeyed with that either. It's amazing that they were smart enough to pull Trevor McFur as the pack-in title for the console, but not smart enough to pull Blue Lightning as the pack-in for the CD add-on. Again, none of it would have made much difference in terms of outcomes, but it still would have nice to see some smarter choices.

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Totally agree there Bill, from comments both Fred and Kristi have made,along with ATD talking about the Jag CD in past interviews, it's pretty clear ATD knew there were huge quality issues with the game and the 'wisest' thing would of been to either scrap it or totally rework etc.

 

My guess is ATD were under contract to do the game and thus wanted 'out' of Jaguar development so they could switch to PS1 development ASAP and Atari knew they were short of titles as was, for Jag CD, so it simply made it out as it did to have something else avaiable on Jag CD.

 

Writing was pretty much on the wall by this time, Jaguar had stumbled pretty badly at retail, Jag CD was going to do nothing to reverse it's fortunes, so cut yer losses, get game out and move on.

 

Amount of projects that were canned left, right and center though....

 

It'd been no great loss to see this join it.

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^ Agreed, for all the shortcomings that people point to about cybermorph, at least it looked somewhat "next gen" for its time compared to games on the snes/genesis. Something I can't really say for Trevor Mcfur.

 

What??? Trevur McFur was no fun, but that was the one that looked amazing at the time to me. 16.7 million colors in 1993 was a lot ... especially on screen at once. On the Genesis you had 64 on screen colors, the SNES, you had 256. Trust me, 16.7 million was a big step ahead in 1993.

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Trevor McFur definitely showed off the color capabilities of the Jaguar but IMO it really didn't look all that next gen. They wasted a lot of great opportunities to really make it a showcase game:

 

+The art quality itself had an amateur look, worsened by a mix of styles from CG to an Airbrush look.

+Could've used some in game music to show off the Jaguar's superior sound capabiltiies

+The low frame count for most enemy animations looked really tacky

+The entire game was a wasted opportunity to add extra layers of scrolling

+Sheer randomness of it all... dragons flying alongside scorpions that explode into multiple smaller scorpions? At least the cave level made a bad effort to add a ledge for the ground enemies to walk on.

 

I think Prehistoric Isle 2 shows off the direction Trevor McFur could've gone (and been more impressive, even). It'd be interesting to get the full story behind Trevor McFur considering it was intended to be the pack in game... Atari must've either stiffed them on the budget or the dev team must've been terribly incompetent with the game getting pushed out because Atari needed more launch titles and the game was in a scrap or release kind of situation.

Edited by Willard
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Since you asked nicely Willard, bit more from said interview i did with B.J West concerning Crescent Galaxy:

 

B.J :'I was given a design document for a character (or ship or weapon, whatever), and I built and animated it exactly to those specs. Everything you see on screen is exactly as it was intended to be by the designer. There was a deliberate emphasis on color, as they wanted to show off the larger color space the Jag was capable of, including fully aliased edges on sprites, which was new.

 

Most consoles were still 8 bit color, we were creating our art in 24 bit color,then compressing them down to 16 bit indexed palettes for each object, plus 8-bit greyscale alpha.'

 

Plus as Faran Thomason told me when i interviewed him, game simply had to be ready for launch.

 

So there's a bit of background info to it, by those who were involved to various degrees.

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Game was also meant to have been shown alongside the Jaguar casing and Cybermorph, to Atari shareholders at an annual meeting (where it was possibly only known as 'side shooter' at that stage) by John Skrutch and it's supposed to have impressed said shareholders with colours on display over existing hardware, but i have no means of confirming that, as i say, so far only have the replies from Faran and B.J (and Josh will probably kill me for sharing B.J's answer ahead of interview being published :-( ).

 

I'd still love to know how the game looked on The Panther Console and how much was changed for the Jaguar version.

 

Personally still feel as a game, it'd struggled even as a Panther title as it lacks the design skills present in things like the Thunderforce series etc.

 

Press might have gone a little easier on it if it was a Panther release, it'd of escaped the 'not what we expected on a 64-Bit platform' responses at least....

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And what she'd do differently:

 

' I would remove all scanned images and create a 3D world.'

 

 

SOURCE:http://www.c64.com/gt_display_interview.php?interview=23

 

 

 

YAY! Then it'd be a shitty game with a low frame rate, instead of a shitty game with a fast frame rate.

 

I actually would have liked them to do Blue Lightning ala Star Fox, fully polygonal and on rails. Maybe thats what she meant?. Of course, with the Jag usual polygon counts, they would have to ditch the realisic look of the game, and go for the usual futuristic V.R. look, which would have been fine by me.

 

Its a shame they never tried a game like that on the Jaguar. Pretty sure it would have looked pretty impressive compared with Star Fox, and frame rate should have been pretty smooth in comparison. And as usual the Jaguars trademark gouraud shadded look would be a nice touch.

.

 

 

 

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There was a single, early shot of Panther Cybermorph doing the rounds a few years ago.Never seen any 'rolling' footage of game itself though, sadly :-(

@Willard:Picture i'm getting from 'talking' to coders, reading old interviews/press articles regarding early Jaguar titles are that Atari basically wanted something to cover each aspect of the Jaguar hardware ready for launch.
So:Crescent Galaxy was the ideal game to demonstrate the color capabilities of the Jaguar.....
Cybermorph it's 3D capabilities (and they also wanted Ch.Flag II ready for launch but it slipped)
and apparently Raiden was seen as being the yardstick for the Jaguar's sprite handling etc and processing power as it would'nt feature the slowdown other, earlier versions had and would be the ideal comparison game..
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