Rodolphe Czuba recalls a blast from
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
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.
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...
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 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
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.