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Guido Henkel's Lost Atari Panther RPG: The Crypt

Lost Dragon

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I did not want to just drop a link into The One Magazine and it's article on the Panther hardware, for this one as, the magazine had no idea this was being developed and it also started out on another doomed format, the Konix Multisystem, so i did not feel it fitted in that well, if Albert thinks it's better suited in that thread? please move.



It's another rough and ready email exchange, original plan was for GTW to use it, tidy it up, but plans change.....


Thought folks would like to see the information and be made aware there were more games in development for The Panther than just Cybermorph, Plasma Pong, Crescent Galaxy and a conversion of Shadow Of The Beast


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The late Les Player, was kind enough to put me in touch with UK ST Product Manager Bob Katz, when i ran the interview with him and, Bob and myself have been exchanging emails for some months now.



I forwarded a copy of the interview to him and he had this to say:



"Interesting read. From a UK perspective this was Darryl & Alistair's era, though I recall more and more developer liaison going to Bill Rehbock and John Skruch's team in the US.....




I was with EA from 1992 I think, never heard a single word said about Panther or Jaguar there. EA followed the money and their money-pit was income from Megadrive. Then there was the 3DO venture..."

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Bit more in from Bob Katz:


"EA were important, but worked so close to Sega that it was dubious that they’d ever side up to another console manufacturer while milking the success of Megadrive. It took the failure of 3DO (in which they had an equity stake), a rapidly declining Sega, the advent of Playstation along with Sony’s financial encouragement for them to move to another mainstream console platform. While Atari commissioned its own software (particularly John Skruch’s group in the US) I can’t recall an instance of us paying a financial incentive for a publisher to support one of our platforms. I don’t think the company had deep enough pockets to even contemplate that!




Amiga did OK because risk was mitigated by a low cost of goods and no manufacturer royalty and, as far as games went, ST rode off the back of that. Consoles had a completely different business model with the need to purchase from the platform holder and an extremely high cost of goods – if a game didn’t sell it hurt!"






Sadly no pictures were supplied for the interview, just the text and even that was a stroke of luck, as he said he didn't normally do interviews, but as it concerned the Panther, he'd make an exception.



Nice to see Panther is generating some interest on here, it's often a very over looked platform, been great to be able to show there was more in development than 1st thought and get some wide ranging industry views on it and discover just who worked on it and on what, but i've had to respect wishes of some who replied, who do not wish to be quoted, but did not rate hardware and do not feel it would of done Atari any favours, had it been released.

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Atari wanted variety in its launch titles and was very interested in getting an RPG on the console, so they added us to their developer program.


Nice interview! Their interest in getting an RPG wasn't very evident with the Jaguar :P Has me wondering what happened to Legions of the Undead though.

Edited by Willard
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Thanks my friend, please feel free to add it to your site.


Rebellion have talked about Legions on the RVG interview,Jason Kingsley said he still had a few of the models lying around somewhere, probably some code in Rebellion's archives,but he'd have to ask the I.T guys, game got as far as basic game engine, few bad guys running around...

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Thanks for the very kind words.



Regarding 'proof' of Cybermorph on Panther:





Greyfox put the question to ATD's Fred Gill on my behalf, but as you can read in the interview, Fred's memory was very, very patchy on this matter, just talked of Panther/Jaguar sharing a 68000 CPU, so any common gameplay code would of 'worked' between them.


I have been in contact with Brian Pollock from ATD also, but he knew nothing regarding the Panther (though i did fire off a few Jaguar related Q's, yet to hear back as Brian wants to finish off looking at his Konix Multi-System work 1st).



The Atari Corp folks i spoke to regarding Crescent Galaxy, gave some curious answers...



B.J West saying in his personal experience, Panther never existed in models or drawings and was never even mentioned, other than being a mere footnote in the development of the Jaguar...


Ted Tahquechi talked of Cybermorph being the Panther Tech Demo, that was 'morphed' into a full game for the Jaguar, but made clear he was asked NOT to discuss the Panther hardware....



This seems to suggest Atari Corp might well have wanted to put all talk of Panther firmly behind them, clean slate for Jaguar, Panther yesterdays news, didn't happen, nothing to see here, move on etc....


Frank Gasking over at GTW was in contact with Susan McBride, was putting Q's to her regarding various C64 games, he fired over a few regarding Crescent Galaxly early Jaguar showing (more cartoony look, Trevor sticking out of Jaguar console etc) as well as it's claimed Panther origins, despite repeated assurances she would answer the Q's, Frank never had anything back.



Peter Johnson confirmed his work on Shadow Of The Beast graphics, when i interviewed him for ST Gamer...



Lee Actor and Richard Brown were the 2 sources who told me The One Magazine's Domark working on Panther Pitfighter, claims were simply untrue, as Lee said, had any work been started, he'd of been the man to know....



It was thanks to Jeff Minters interview in Edge, i learned that the Panther tech demo's he did were test routines for his planned Star Raiders-esq Sci-Fi epic,



Frank Gasking is hoping to meet him again in a few months and will try and learn more from Jeff then.




There have been other people as well as Joel S, who i've chatted to regarding The Panther, but some do not wish to have the information shared, which is something i respect and appreciate the time they did give to talk about it with me.



But i also asked the likes of:Darryl Still/Les Player (RIP)/Mike Fulton and Bob Katz from Atari UK...



Richard Walker, Jim Blackler, Martin Brennan (waited a full 12 months to see if he could fit us in, work just got more and more crazy)....



And once i'm off shift there's 1 more set of comments i need to get cleaned up and up online, to sit alongside Guildo's personal view on Panther.



Other than that? the only other 'loose end' set of claims i tried looking into were claims Imagitec were working on Raiden on Panther, so far utter dead ends as contact made with 2 artists, 1 coder, questions sent, no replies back...



I did see 1 interviewed on a C64 site years ago, memory very, very hazy..thinking Lynx title worked on was released (it was never finished), Jaguar CD game worked on was canned, it wasn't, it was released...



And despite interview coming back in, still no idea what chap told Luca (Unseen64)...so still waiting there myself.


But i've never personally seen any Imagitec staff list Panther work on a C.V.


3DO M2 yes, but Panther no.


So much like the Konix Multi-System, a lot of research has gone into trying to find who did what, but it's been so long, people simply cannot clearly recal in many cases, so i'm very grateful for what has been shared and hope folks will enjoy the last 'chapter' i found regarding Panther once it goes live.


All i've done is use The One article as a starting point, put in some leg work to see what was over looked in years since the article was done and from a European viewpoint.

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Nice info & interview. Shinto touched on the Panther in his podcast episodes of Cybermorph & Cresent Galaxy but I couldn't recall which was the dead end.


Seems like the Panther was extremely short lived and what little was written was moved over to the 64 bit chip set. Making it aessentially a footnote between the Konix MS & the Jag.

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Glad you liked it.


I plan to forward the last interview over to Clint on Atari I.O in next few days, it was intended to provide balance to the planned GTW article, so it's a developer who wasn't so keen on Panther hardware and why, plus he talks of the game they had up and running on it, which again seems to have gone undiscovered.


Again Panther work there short lived and focus moved onto Jaguar....



So yes, in my eyes the Panther fits in nicely between Konix and Jaguar and deserved to have a little more research put into what went on.


From the information i've managed to cobble together, whilst the hardware had it's fans (Guildo, Jeff Minter etc), these seemed to be few and far between, likes of Mev Dinc refusing to even touch it, others thinking it wasn't the SNES beater Atari would of needed, hardware was a mess etc and there simply were'nt the games in development that would of made it stand head and shoulders above what the Mega Drive/SNES were already delivering.



It has however been fantastic to get the insights and few gems of games that were missed in previous reports, out there.

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Just had this in from Guido:


"Thanks a bunch for the heads-up. I just checked it out (The interview now being up online) and it looks cool. Nice comments, too. If I ever find the prototype of the machine I’ll take some pictures, outside as well as under the hood, so you could potentially post them as well.



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