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Jaguar Story

Rodolphe Czuba recalls a blast from the past

From July 1992 to December 1993 I was managing the Atari department at Retour 2048, the agreed French European technical competence centre for the Falcon. And the best product I designed and produced (in March 1993) was the CENTram 14, the first SIMM-based 14 MB RAM expansion board for the Falcon. All the developer machines in France received this card, because Atari had no card at this time.

In July 1993, I signed the Jaguar developer agreement. Retour 2048 was the first French company to have a Jaguar development kit (it cost 50,000 FF), even before Ubi Soft! In fact only Brainstorm in Paris (the crew coding the Jaguar development tools) got one before us.

After December 1993, I created Virtual Xperience with the manager of Suite 1024, the parent company of Retour 2048, which was closed because of big management errors from the two general managers. VX, located in Paris, was specially created for Jaguar development.

Early technical problems
At the beginning, the development board was not finished... I remember I had to change the ROMs and put a selector switch between the old ROM and the new ROM that I programmed into bigger EPROMs!

The software from Brainstorm was bugged, and each time they released a new version, they added new bugs! And our bug reports were not considered at the beginning because our skills were not recognized by the existing Jaguar developers!

But one day, it changed because VX was listed three times on a bug report history file. After that, we were considered as a "real" Jaguar development company!

At this time Richard Miller (Atari VP of Engineering) was very busy solving some big bugs in the chips of the Jaguar. We later received a bug report that explained some things we already knew, like the problems with the JUMP intructions in the GPU (Graphics Processor Unit) and the DSP, and new information about the fact that the FIFO of the NET port (on the DSP) was bugged. Coders had to load the bits one by one without the FIFO! It is why games using the the Jaguar link were very rare and/or didn't work well like with Doom (the fact that sometimes you start again at a new location was explained as a feature of the game when it was really a problem with data corruption!). These bugs were not correctable because the chips were already produced.

Jaguar CD
In April 1994 we went to a confidential developer conference near London Heathrow, in a very nice 4-star hotel, to see the prototype of the CD-ROM unit. It had no plastic case!

And among more than 100 developers in the conference room, 80% were new UK coders (they had just signed at the last CES a few days earlier).

Atari's Bill Rehbock tried to explain the Jaguar GPU blitting functions and asked Jeff Minter for help! Jeff moved to the front of the room, and everybody applauded him, like a star!

When he took the micro and began to speak everybody tried to understand his blitter explanations! He wore a pullover with a llama on it! A nice scene I will never forget...

Big Boss
Sam Tramiel once came to visit the team at VX, I remember well that I was very enthusiastic to come and he seemed to be a very enthusiastic guy like a child playing games! He always had a Lynx in his pocket!

We discussed a bit about the fact that Atari Corp. may come back to micro computers: he told me that he liked Atari computers and wanted to have new computers after the Jaguar! It was for me very nice news from him! He also showed us a photo of a secret 3D joystick prototype for the Jaguar.

I remember we had the first features of the Jaguar 2. It was announced to be 10x more powerful than the Jaguar, and it was exciting but the information was very poor, so it was too soon to understand the machine or think of what to develop next.

The games
The only real thing that VX did on Jaguar was Super Burnout (see the press release below). We received a US$200,000 advance from Atari Corp. and the three-man (external) crew of Super Burnout received 50%!

Two more games were in development:

  • Zzyorxx, a great shoot-'em-up!
  • Indy Jag, a platform game.

The first was stopped two months before the end of the development by my managing associate at VX! A real shame. Only some graphics were done for Indy Jag, a concept like a humorous Indiana Jones with a jaguar figure.

Thierry Schembri, formerly a programmer at VX, managed to retrieve these great pictures of the main game he was working on, Zzyorxx.

Screen-shots of Zzyorxx

Screen-shots of Zzyorxx


SUNNYVALE, Calif. - July 5, 1995 - Earlier this morning Atari Corp. released "Super Burnout," a fast-action cartridge title for the 64-bit Jaguar system.

In this crash-and-burn arcade-style game, motorcycle players compete head to head with friends, computer-generated racers, or against the clock.

"Super Burnout" has 60 frame-per-second break-neck action graphics and intense realism of motorcycle racing. Players criss-cross the globe to compete on the most intense tracks in the world. All eight racetrack locations feature awesome scenery and the hottest music soundtracks.

The key to a player's driving success is to choose a custom sports bike that provides them with the winning edge. "Super Burnout" offers numerous motorcycles for players to choose from, each with individual style and powerful driving capabilities. The two-player "versus mode" applies split-screen details, which allows competitors to view their racing progress all the way to the checkered flag.

Sceen-shot of Super Burnout

"Super Burnout is a great addition to our library of software titles," said Ted Hoff, president of Atari Corp.'s North American Operations. "It is a fine example of the high-quality, competitively priced software we continue to bring to our Jaguar 64 consumers."

"Super Burnout" players can race day or night and choose the number of laps in one of four racing modes. "Super Burnout," rated KA (appropriate for kids through adults), is available for sale now for $59.99 (suggested retailed price). Additional Atari Jaguar summer releases will include: "Ultra Vortek," "White Men Can't Jump," "FlipOut!" and "Rayman." These are just a few of the many great titles for the Atari Jaguar library, which will approach 100 titles by the end of 1995.

For over 20 years, Atari Corp. has provided consumers with high-quality, value-priced entertainment. Atari Corp. markets Jaguar, the only American-made, advanced 64-bit entertainment system. Atari Corp. is located in Sunnyvale.

Note to editors: Super Burnout (c) 1995, Atari Corporation, Virtual Xperience and Shen Technologies SARL. All rights reserved. Super Burnout, Atari logo and Jaguar are all trademarks of Atari Corporation. Virtual Xperience, The Virtual Xperience logo and Shen Technologies SARL are the trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies. Other products may be trademarks or registered trademarks of their owning companies.

MyAtari magazine - Feature #4, January 2001

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