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A Plea to the Jaguar Community and a Call to Action

kgenthe

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Ah the Jaguar community. Without a doubt, the most hostile of all the gaming communities... this is my personal story of the Jaguar community. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

 

I've been a member of AA since 2005, and for 6 years managed to weave and dodge my way around all of the foolish nonsense. From double accounts, to heated discussions regarding roms, a blind loyalty to the system and it's games, and the constant bickering and antagonizing of members that don't fall in line with the "norm." At times it has been downright toxic.

 

Two forums emerged from the 2 "factions" of the divide, one being FreeJag and the other being private. Neither has picked up any steam. Leaving AA the premier place for Jaguar enthusiasts, which seems appropriate.

 

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

 

Since I had the internet, approximately 1998, I've loved the free flow of information and the sharing of knowledge. One of my earliest obsessions was with the Sonic community, and I was huge into that scene around the time the Sonic 2 Beta was released. There was so much information being shared and discovered. And the rom was released to the public! Instead of an elite few controlling the flow of information, it was available for the whole world.

 

From there, FAQs, hex charts, and documentation was shared and more great things happened. With Hex editing alone (meaning no source code) awesome hacks of the Genesis Sonic games were released. Beta levels were restored, beautiful palette swaps were released, and previously undiscovered badnicks were restored. Sonic Mega Mix, which is a terrific hack of Sonic CD, is freely available for you to burn to a CD and fire up on your Sega CD. Nothing is required to play this gem. You don't need to be a member. You don't need to donate money. The community is still thriving, and Sonic Retro is a HUGE forum, and even has an official relationship with Sega. You read that right, a rom hosting, sonic hacking, IP violating, group of people have an official relationship with Sega.

 

This is just the tip of the iceberg, there are hundreds of examples of bending, and sometimes breaking, rules/laws resulting in wonderful things. A more recent example was a very dedicated chap who disassembled the original Super Mario Bros. (NES), reworked the code into a fully documented source code. I can't even fathom the amount of time and energy that went into this project. And it was released free to the community.

 

And you want to know what happened when some gave away there hard work asking nothing in return? Someone took the source, and ported it to the Sega Genesis. And you know what he did? Released it to the world, free of charge, free of obligation. And from there, people started helping with the project, donating source code and other files to help make the Genesis Mario even better, and more accurate. This is what happens when people share their work. Wonderful things happen.

 

But for some reason, these types of things quite simple don't happen in the Jaguar scene. Perhaps it's because the Jaguar is not terribly popular, and does not attract enough people to warrant the time and energy it takes to do such great things. But my gut tells me it's something else.

 

Avoiding the drama that was the summer of 2009, and to keep with this blog's terms of use (specifically, not naming anyone) let's just say there was a shake up. A perfect storm of sorts was brewing. And when the dust settled, there were casualties. Member of the Jaguar community started rejected the "norm" and Jag fans started wanting a piece of that community pie. People wanted to download roms without being shunned. People wanted to talk about emulation. People wanted to hack, crack, explore, share, the games they've loved for years.

 

But during this renaissance, there was resistance. The ugly term "piracy" reared it's ugly head.

 

Now I must take a brief break from story for a disclaimer. This story and my thoughts are not meant to offend, anyone. If you are offended I offer you my sincerest apologies. If you think any of my comments are directed at you personally, they are not. And now to continue our broadcast.

 

The term piracy reared it's ugly head. Yes, downloading roms of commercial games is illegal (unless the developer released it's rights... and speaking of that, check out the Amiga CD32 community, awesome). There is no doubt about it. But what does that really mean? I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. Generally speaking, developers and publishers do not want their intellectual property released for free to the public. Piracy is a real problem, and does negatively affect companies. But this very website is host to thousands of commercial roms. The owner of this website has not been sued. Draw your own conclusions.

 

This leads me to my first problem with the Jaguar community. If you visit other game forums and mention how you played Darxide (rare 32x title) via an emulator, no one is going to berate you, no one is going to call you a pirate, no one is going to threaten litigation. In the summer of 2009, you couldn't mention you downloaded Rayman and played it on a Jaguar emulator. A vocal minority of the Jaguar community wouldn't allow such talk.

 

This leads me to a personal lesson. Live and let live. Not everyone agrees with you. You won't agree with everyone. Chances are very high that nothing you say will change the other persons mind. The point of debate is not to "convert" the other person. It's not even about persuading the other person to believe what you are saying. The point of debate is to understand the other side. Not agree with the other side. Live and let live. It takes all kinds of people to make the world go round. And yes, that means I empathize (but not sympathize) with those that disagree.

 

So here we are today. Coming up on the 2 year anniversary of the Jaguar's renaissance. Things are moving slowly, but I believe the community is slowly moving towards a new era of sharing and discovery. We've seen a few interesting hacks, including extracting Art and Voice files from the bubsy rom, and some work disassembling the code. Perhaps someday we'll have Bubsy hacks with tweaked controls, new sprites, and other things I can't even imagine.

 

We've also seen some hex editing (very crude hacking) of Checkered Flag to start to tweak it's horrid controls. Who knows, if enough people show interest, share there findings, maybe someday Checkered Flag could be playable, maybe even fun!

 

A Call To action

 

If you've made it this far, perhaps you are wondering what the point of all of this is. Up until this point, I've been bobbing and weaving my way through the Jaguar Community, only stepping out of line once and a while to voice my opinion. But some recent experiences have made me want to step out of the shadows. It's something that I, and many others, should have done a long time ago. It's time for the Jaguar community to be a community. You don't even have to do anything if you don't want to!

 

1. Be civil, not everyone agrees with you, and you can't change there mind. That is ok!

2. Support emulation. Piracy and emulation are NOT the same thing. Emulation makes programming and debugging easier. Emulation can give you a way to play freely released games without dedicated hardware. You can support emulation by supporting those who are writing emulators. Get involved, test them, offer feedback, offer support.

3. SHARE I can't express this enough. Share your findings and your discoveries. The more you share, the more others will share. The more they share, the more you get. Some people will object to sharing for "legal" or "moral" concerns. And that's fine, everyone is entitled to there own opinion.

 

Dig through roms and find sprites that were never used in game. Take those sprites and make animated gifs and share them with the world. Find hex edits to give games unlimited lives. Find sound clips. Document and share. If whatever you are doing violates forum rules, then start your own website! Blogger and Wordpress (among others) make for great ways to document and share.

 

As I said at the beginning of this blog, there are 2 factions of Jaguar fans. Those who like the status quo, who refuse to allow any new ideas, and stand on what they perceive as the moral high ground with a firm stance against any sort of "hacking." The other side wants to see the Jaguar flourish in it's after life, like most classic gaming systems.

 

Which side should you be on? Neither. There is room for everyone. If you strictly want to play commercial games on your actual system, and nothing else. That is fine! I support you! There is room in the community for you. I will not try to change your mind. And you should not try to change mine. If you want to see emulation, rom hacking, sprite ripping, and game modifying, there is room for you to! All we have to do is respect each other, from the people on the extreme ends, to the the quiet majority in the middle.

 

So please, end the hostility. Who knows, maybe we'll see the Super Mario Bros. source ported to the Jaguar. Now wouldn't that be awesome?

 

-Kris

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I agree with you wholeheartedly. I started FJP two summers ago in order to help spur the community to evolve and to catch up with the communities of every other classic game system out there. It's been a rough ride since then, but the openness that we're finally starting to see now is the fruit of that hardship.

 

You're dead-on about how the community members need to try to understand and respects each others views. I've been trying to say that for years, but you put it much better than my nearly incoherent ramblings have over all of this time. A big kudos to you! :thumbsup: :)

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I don't know how I missed this yesterday, but this was an excellent read (albeit completely unexpected). I empathize (;)) on everything stated above. :thumbsup:

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Well I've been working on it since yesterday, and when you "save as draft" it locks in the time code... I didn't post it till this morning.

 

Thank you both for responding, much appreciated. I really did pour my heart into this blog post, and it is one of the most passionate things I've written in a long time.

 

-Kris

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Interesting reading, Kris.

 

While I agree with all three of your points, point 2 particularly interests me. The debug version of the Atari ST emulator Steem, with its Boiler Room debugger, has been a great aid to much of the productivity on that system over the last, well, it's quite a few years now. If the Jaguar had something similar - a highly accurate emulator with advanced features, put simply there would be a lot more going on than there is today. Let's hope subqmod continues to work on his emulator in the limited time he has available these days. Virtual Jaguar is also something to keep an eye on, Shamus posted news of a potential update a little while ago.

 

As for your throughts and feelings as a whole, you echo the thoughts of plenty of others I've had contact with over the last couple of years, albeit more often private contact and not in an open forum. People who genuinely enjoy their Jaguar want to see good things happen, but not at the expense of flame wars and dividing the community into factions. Time will tell - openness, the free sharing of information and discoveries and new releases both freely and for a fee - those things all have a positive impact. Many of the things you mention would do likewise.

 

It's good for the majority of Jaguar fans that the two major forums are now in a much healthier and positive phase of existence than they once were. If other more secret but active forums keep their actions internal/out of plain sight, I don't see that any real harm can be done - it keeps the majority of the community and the public perception of it in a much tidier and healthier place and thus somewhere outsiders may feel they want to participate without fear of a verbal beatdown. Maybe their secrecy and sense of belonging will help spur them on to be more productive, so maybe some good can still come of it. OTOH, radicalising an already small and diverse community, forcing people to comply or leave by the nearest exit, however well intentioned the conception of such a place... well, I can't see that having much legs.

 

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to work on a piece like this - progressive, informative and well conceived. :thumbsup:

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Well put together post! nice one, agree with you completely. I do believe a lot of the 'piracy' stuff is mainly aimed at trying to keep the price of games high, more feeding others pockets than helping the community. Although personally I would respect the wishes of someone if they put time into producing say a new game on cart but asked that it not be dumped and spread for free, as you say that is their wish and it is technically their IP to do with as they wish. Personally I prefer the free release of ROM/ISO backed onto a physical release of a cart for any who want them.

 

I hack at my jag for the kudos, the beer and the buzz. Hopefully this renaissance will make the place friendlier too, meaning I don't get sick of it and start playing wow instead.. again :D

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Speaking as one who sells Jag stuff I can see and admire aspects from both sides.

Personally I like the interaction of a group of enthusiasts and being able to contribute since i am not a coder or hacker. However I do respect intellectual copyright, if someone has worked on something they MAY want something back for it. So we should respect that.

 

I also enjoy the new hardware hacks that come out for Jaguar, and look forward to a replacement for the CD.

 

Overall a well thought out and considered article, much better than some of the "guff" we have had in the past in JF2 and AA

 

Kudos to you Sir

 

Nick Harlow

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Thank you everyone for the responses! And thank you everyone who responded privately as well (from both "sides"). I've had some really great conversations, and as @Nick has stated, it's nice to have a talk about the scene without a flame war erupting.

 

From what I can tell, during all of my "weaving and dodging" I've missed out on a lot of personal attacks and other ugliness. Many people are more or less done with the Jaguar, and others are done with certain individuals altogether. Thankfully, for the most part, I've managed to get by without anyone being too tough on me, and I hope that is the case for the majority of the Jaguar community.

 

On a personal note, I'll clarify a few things. I did say there is room in the community for everyone. However I do not believe there is room in the community for those that can't accept the fact that not everyone will agree with them. The person that has to berate everyone that does not follow his/her views doesn't have a place in the community. Thankfully, I am not a Mod/Admin or person with any authority, so this is thankfully not something I have to concern myself with :cool:

 

@Nick and @LinkoVitch bring up some great points regarding piracy as well. I generally do not download roms. But I have the financial ability to buy games and systems and play the real deal. Not everyone has that ability. Someone in Eastern Europe, South America, and other nooks of the world, have no real means to get ahold of real games and hardware at reasonable prices. And hence they rely on roms/emus to enjoy many classic games.

 

But I'm rambling. My personal view is that I do not want to take money out of someones pocket. Downloading Pier Solar, Madbodies, or a Goat Store release, affects someone's pocket book, and therefore I cannot in good conscience download them. However, something like Checkered Flag or Zool 2, which are past their profit cycles, I don't have a problem with. Sure it's still not legally sound, but it does pass my moral standards. And if it doesn't pass yours, that's fine too, just don't start calling me (or anyone) a "pirate" "troll" and other nonsense. Live and let live. But the piracy talks just takes us backwards, and not forwards.

 

Lastly, the "private" forum I referred to above is not JSII. JSII is a 7 year old forum and is public. Hope that clears that up.

 

Again, thank you to everyone that responded. It really is appreciated! Even though it is just a blog post from a quiet voice in the community, I hope it does have an impact in the community, even if it is just a small one.

 

Cheers

 

-Kris

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