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Bill Rehbock Audio Interview - Producer of Doom, Atari Karts & More!

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Dear all

 

After I had the ultimate pleasure of talking with James Purple Hampton, I had the great honour of chatting with another Atari Jaguar legend - Bill Rehbock!

 

Bill is probably best known for being the producer on some of the Jags best titles - these include Doom, Super Burnout, Atari Karts and Wolfenstein 3D. He also talks about his work on the Nuon console, Tempest 3000 and much more!

 

He shares some great stories about working at Atari, his honest views on the true power of the Jag and the people he worked with! Please see all the links below to listen to this true legend:

 

http://arcadeattackpodcast.podbean.com/e/no-61-bill-rehbock-interview/

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/arcade-attack-podcast/id1174983594

https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/arcade-attack-retro-gaming-podcast

 

Please let me know what you thought of the interview and if you enjoyed the podcast feel free to subscribe for future episodes.

 

Kind regards

 

Adrian

 

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Did you ask him about any of the claims he was supposed to of made at the time regarding in his opinion, Jaguar Chequered Flag was better than Sega's Virtual Racing and that it's exclusive 2D fighting games were more than a match for Acclaim not having the insight to bring MK II to the Jaguar?.

 

As i would love to know if they were true and if so he really believed that or was he just towing the company line?.

 

Also is there any talk of his visits to Japan where he was supposed to be trying to secure deals with the likes of Capcom for Jaguar support?.

 

He was also quoted regarding several lost Jaguar games at the time, talking of who was converting Rise Of The Robots and saying wrong p.r statement had been sent to the press regarding other titles which never appeared, so it would be nice to get a degree of closure on those if he talks about that side of his role.

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Started listening to it, though have been skipping parts as Bill does have a tendancy to take a long time to get to the point...

 

I really appreciate his honesty over his memory being hazy, his stories of working with the Tramiels etc.

 

The talk about I.D was most welcome as well. .Carmack having a love-hate relationship with the hardware, Bill appreciated work Dave Taylor *though he refers to him as John , put in on Doom, combination of lack of cart space and bandwidth for Jerry being reasons he believes Jaguar Doom had no music.

 

Very glad you asked about Jaguar Doom II..If Bill doesn't believe it was ever signed to Jaguar, it shouldn't really appear on any credible lost Jaguar games listing...certainly not as some coding started..code lost.

 

At this stage i'm guessing you didn't ask about Jaguar Quake? but maybe Bill had moved on by time it was annouced?.

Edited by Lost Dragon
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Thanks Lost Dragon for your kind words. Looking back at your first post, there are a number of questions I now regret not asking. Bill certainly goes into a lot of depth. He was a legend to talk to. I didn't ask about Quake! Doh! His talk on John Carmack was fascinating I do agree!

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Thanks Lost Dragon for your kind words. Looking back at your first post, there are a number of questions I now regret not asking. Bill certainly goes into a lot of depth. He was a legend to talk to. I didn't ask about Quake! Doh! His talk on John Carmack was fascinating I do agree!

Your more than welcome, i found the interview to be a great listen.

 

Don't beat yourself up over Q's you missed :-). Bill was kind enough to admit himself his memory is hazy..gets confused a few times..Dave Taylor refered to as John Taylor, his talk of ST Star Raiders veers into Star Wars, there was confusion over Battlesphere at 1 point and you had to jog his memory at times.

 

Completely understandable given years passed since the events.

 

It sounds like he had left Atari by time Quake was even annouced on PC and his comments about how Atari would of signed up Doom II had Carmack conjured it up are pretty telling..if I.D,having seen how poorly Doom and Wolfenstien sold on Jaguar, weren't willing to do Doom II for Jaguar..can anyone really see Quake being a commercial possibility?

 

Out of personal interest,it would of been nice to hear who he approached in Japan and what the reaction was, when trying to gain support for the Jaguar.

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Are you still in contact with Bill?

 

If so, would you mind asking him if he remembers anything about the presentation he gave to Interplay after he showed off the Jaguar Hardware and gangs, trying to sign them up as a Jaguar developer?.

 

This claim in particular:

 

 

"Atari had geared all its marketing resources and

development bucks on the Panther a few years ago, and were hoping for a big

Panther/Lynx debut. Well, the Panther died. So, the Lynx got shoved out in

the cold cruel world by itself."

 

Many thanks ☺

 

 

I wouldn't worry about Jaguar Quake. .i think I.D themselves answered that one:

 

"..We are not working on any more jag projects at the moment ( PC Quake is

taking up all my time). We gave Atari a lot of our time and effort,

and we are now in a “wait and see” mode. If they hit their sales

projections, we will probably do something else late next year. We

are probably going to license the jag DOOM code to some other

companies though, so you might see a similar game before that.

 

John Carmack"

Edited by Lost Dragon
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I started listening to this last night and its been good so far. I live in the suburbs of Chicago so its neat hearing him talk about all the locations where things happened. I would have been 10-11 years old at the time.

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I added your show on Stitcher app, but noticed some uploads are missing such as Episode 61 here (jumped from 52 to 60, then 60 to 62). Enjoying the listen via Youtube. Just a heads up there. Thanks! Very interesting at 28 mins in so far.

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Would be fantastic to see a follow up interview sone with Bill...

 

Another potential question to put to him, would if he was trying to get Interplay to port Descent to the Jaguar?

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I added your show on Stitcher app, but noticed some uploads are missing such as Episode 61 here (jumped from 52 to 60, then 60 to 62). Enjoying the listen via Youtube. Just a heads up there. Thanks! Very interesting at 28 mins in so far.

 

Not sure what is up with Sticher. It seems ok now my end? Thanks for subscribing! I hope you enjoy!

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Would be fantastic to see a follow up interview sone with Bill...

 

Another potential question to put to him, would if he was trying to get Interplay to port Descent to the Jaguar?

Thanks Lost Dragon. Will use these if a follow-up interview happens.

 

:)

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Not sure what is up with Sticher. It seems ok now my end? Thanks for subscribing! I hope you enjoy!

Awesome. Just double checked for you. All are now showing up in Stitcher.

 

I'm about halfway through the James Purple Hampton interview. Great stuff.

 

I also listened to the Saturn episode while driving to a customer site this week. That's a story that gets truncated often. Solid, comprehensive overview.

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I hope you do chat to Bill about Interplay, as well as the Descent claim, it would be interesting to see if he can clear up what became of Jaguar Battlechess..

 

I know a source at Interplay said it would be their first Jaguar title, but i have still yet to find proof it was actually ever started.

 

There are also claims that despite having several Jaguar systems at Interplay, no Jaguar game development was started,in part if nothing else,due to Atari's licence agreements being too restrictive...

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Another potential question to put to him, would if he was trying to get Interplay to port Descent to the Jaguar?

I was a hardcore Descent player at the time, and it's much more sensitive to framerate then a Quake, which controls rather simplistic and primitive, compared to Descent's full 6-DOF (degree of freedom) axis movement.

 

I could totally perfectly play Quake 1 at sub-10 fps, but that's impossible with Descent, as there's simply not enough frames to hit enemy precisely at fast movement.

 

Even flatshaded, Descent couldn't run at more than 20 fps on jag. The engine complexity, and full-blown 6 DOF movement removes any hacks, and everything has to be brute-force.

The scene-management of the whole level, clipping, frustum culling, collision detection and all other stuff - I don't believe you can do that in just 1 frame time, you really need 2 frames for that, and rasterizing the polygons will take another frame, hence 60/3 = 20 fps.

Best case scenario. For simple rooms.

 

If somebody was crazy enough to split all the scene management work across both DSP/GPU, then you could get to 30 fps, but most of the time 20 fps, even with both chips doing scene management.

 

if you add texturing, then that would cost 3-4 more frames, hence 60/7 = ~8 fps. 8 fps with a joystick is laughably unplayable in 6 DOF. I would argue that 20 fps for such 6 DOF game is at the edge of comfortable playability with joystick.

 

 

Couple months ago, when i was doing some engine stress tests, with a Quake 3D scene, I obviously made a quick one also with Descent scene (as it's such a close game), and jag's GPU simply cannot keep up with the workload.

 

 

 

Please, no Hoverstrike comparisons, Hoverstrike is really technologically inferior to what Descent engine pulls off.

 

Descent is simply next-gen game and required some beefy HW to run smoothly. Much better HW than for Quake. I had Quake running super smooth many upgrades before I could say the same for Descent...

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@ValdR:I think you might miss understand why i hope Arcade Attack can as Bill about trying to have Descent converted to the Jaguar.

 

It's not to gauge how suitable the hardware was for it, but rather to discover just how seriously Interplay took the hardware as a development platform compared to the 3DO etc.

 

And if they were wary of far more than the Jaguar's lacklustre retail performance, but the terms and conditions for development Atari set out to third parties.

 

Battle Chess keeps popping up with supposed quotes from Bill Rehbock saying it'd been started, but the only quote i have found from an Interplay source is that it would be the 1st game converted to the Jaguar..After that they'd wait and see.

 

This quote along with the recent ones i have put up from Minter, HMS, Eclipse etc have not (as a certain individual suggested) come from EDGE or any other magazine.

 

The irony of it taking so long to find John Carmack and Shawn Green explaining G Jaguar wouldn't be getting Quake, was due to the fact the supposed expert who swore blind Carmack had said Jaguar Quake was up n running and looked better than Jaguar Doom..

 

Had claimed he'd seen it in a magazine interview, but couldn't remember which just magazine.

 

John and Shaun were very active within the community during the development of Jaguar Doom and PC Quake and regularly took time out to issue statements and answer questions.

 

Anyone adding likes of Quake and anything by Core Design other than Soul Star to supposed revised Lost Jaguar lists online is purposely miss leading others...

 

Overwhelming evidence now to show exactly why titles that kept appearing on lists were simply press claims copied and pasted without any real effort to look into the validity of them.

 

 

Arcade Attack are doing fantastic work here speaking to key sources, so my hope is there is enough scope for a few follow up Q's to be sent to likes of Bill and we get a clearer picture yet.

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I'm not aware of Battle Chess, or at least it doesn't ring any bells (not that it could, I was hardcore PC gamer at the time and didn't buy magazines that covered those disgusting consoles).

 

I'm only pretty sure that if somebody, even hypothetically, approached coders in Interplay, and told them that they are considering to port Descent to Jaguar, that the coders would either laugh them out, or quit on the spot, to keep their sanity.

 

Then again, it could certainly look great, on the screenshots, in the magazine :)

 

 

But only till somebody pushed the stick and tried to control the damn ship in the 3D space :lol:

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This is Battlechess:

 

 

Very long in the tooth by the time the Jaguar appeared and had been on systems like the Atari ST and C64, let alone PC and Amiga.

 

Descent was annouced for the Sega 32X by some of the UK Press, but later said to of been a mistake.

 

A Sega Saturn version was canned as coders were struggling to convert the Playstation code to Saturn hardware. ..

 

And it wasn't deemed commercially viable to write a version specifically for the Saturn hardware.

 

I suspect Bill would of been given a similar answer regarding Jaguar...user base far too small to justify coding a Jaguar specific version.

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Descent was annouced for the Sega 32X by some of the UK Press, but later said to of been a mistake.

 

A Sega Saturn version was canned as coders were struggling to convert the Playstation code to Saturn hardware. ..

 

And it wasn't deemed commercially viable to write a version specifically for the Saturn hardware.

This is actually incredibly ironic, because:

- Saturn, unlike Jaguar, with its HW-accelerated texturing, wouldn't suffer from a drastic slowdown (compared to flatshading). Maybe 3-5 fps, if even that much

- Saturn, unlike Jaguar, with its 3D libraries, wouldn't require coders to spend 3-6 months writing fast texturing method in Assembler

- Saturn, unlike Jaguar, had a working C compiler that could target all of its RISC chips, so they could literally just take the C code from Interplay, and start modifying it so it could compile for the target architecture

 

So, they didn't have to bother with texturing routines and performance, didn't have to bother with hand-written assembler, and just smash everything in C, yet it still didn't make sense, even though it's easily 10x less work than it would have been on Jaguar.

 

Just goes to show what kind of a beast, the full 6-DOF indoor 3D engine is, eh?

 

 

Now, all this topic needs, is some resident technology expert, like PhoenixIsDown, claiming that space sims are also 6-DOF and use it as a comparison. Or, even better, use jag's Batllesphere as a 6-DOF example :rolling:

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;-) What the thread really needs is Arcade Attack to very kindly see if Bill has the time to answer a few follow up questions regarding Jaguar and Panther and his presentation and talks with Interplay...even if it is just via an email exchange.

 

Hopefully that way ST Format etc claims can be removed from Wikipedia etc entries...

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If you do plan a follow up interview with Bill, can you get him to clarify that his recent podcast interview comments regarding Jumping Flash PS1 could of been possible on Jaguar, refer to the games file size.

 

It would of easily fitted on a Jaguar cartridge, not that there was the possibility of the game being written for the Jaguar, not Playstation.

 

It appears to be causing a certain degree of confusion to some out there.

 

 

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Adriano,

 

Great job. I just subscribed to your podcast, it seems like it is my cup of coffee.

Thank you Scrummy! Subscribing to the pod means a lot to me and the rest of the AA team. I hope you enjoy our witterings!!! ;)

Edited by Adriano Arcade
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Another Q for Bill:

 

Did he really make the claim that a reviewer from Next Generation magazine was fired on the basis of reviewing an incomplete version of fight For Life on Jaguar?

 

And if so, what's the story behind it?

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On 8/16/2018 at 5:43 AM, VladR said:

I was a hardcore Descent player at the time, and it's much more sensitive to framerate then a Quake, which controls rather simplistic and primitive, compared to Descent's full 6-DOF (degree of freedom) axis movement.

 

I could totally perfectly play Quake 1 at sub-10 fps, but that's impossible with Descent, as there's simply not enough frames to hit enemy precisely at fast movement.

 

Even flatshaded, Descent couldn't run at more than 20 fps on jag. The engine complexity, and full-blown 6 DOF movement removes any hacks, and everything has to be brute-force.

The scene-management of the whole level, clipping, frustum culling, collision detection and all other stuff - I don't believe you can do that in just 1 frame time, you really need 2 frames for that, and rasterizing the polygons will take another frame, hence 60/3 = 20 fps.

Best case scenario. For simple rooms.

 

If somebody was crazy enough to split all the scene management work across both DSP/GPU, then you could get to 30 fps, but most of the time 20 fps, even with both chips doing scene management.

 

if you add texturing, then that would cost 3-4 more frames, hence 60/7 = ~8 fps. 8 fps with a joystick is laughably unplayable in 6 DOF. I would argue that 20 fps for such 6 DOF game is at the edge of comfortable playability with joystick.

 

 

Couple months ago, when i was doing some engine stress tests, with a Quake 3D scene, I obviously made a quick one also with Descent scene (as it's such a close game), and jag's GPU simply cannot keep up with the workload.

 

 

 

Please, no Hoverstrike comparisons, Hoverstrike is really technologically inferior to what Descent engine pulls off.

 

Descent is simply next-gen game and required some beefy HW to run smoothly. Much better HW than for Quake. I had Quake running super smooth many upgrades before I could say the same for Descent...

You might like to hear how the Playstation coder converted Descent:

 

 

 

 

...there is actually 3.5 meg of RAM available. 0.5 meg for  sound effects, 1.0 meg in vram (for  textures
 and screen buffers), and then the 2.0 meg for code/data.

 


 Considering that the PC box says 4MB of RAM is the minimum requirement, that isn't such a bad leap.  But Descent 1
 really used about 9MB during runtime.
   
  So basically, we reduced everything to fit in the required slots. We made all the sound effects fit in the 0.5 meg of
 sound ram.  Then, we made it so that all the textures on each level fit into the 1meg of VRAM.  Each level load then
 fills the VRAM with all new textures.

  So then all I had left was the code and data.

 

 

  The code for Descent isn't that large, so I had around 1.5 megs left for all of the Descent data.  That was the hardest thing...

 


 so I basically looked for anything that used extra memory to buy speed and took it out.   For instance, we store a
 normal for each wall on the PC.  

 

On the PSX, I calculated all the unique normals in a mine and stored them separate from the walls.   Also, I took out the low-detail models for the polygon robots.  This slows the PSX down, because a robot in the distance actually draws with the high-detail
 model! Also, the PC used megs of data storing u,v's, lighting values, and texture info for each wall in the mine, even if there was no wall there!  On the PSX, I only stored these for walls that used them.

 

 

 I also went through all the data structures and restricted ranges of variables so that I could pack them in a short or a byte if they were originally stored in an int.

 

 

  The hardest part of the port was not making it fit in 2MB, it was making it look good and render fast using the
 hardware to draw textures.  The texture mapper only has  integer u,v's and only does linear interpolation,  and you
 cannot tile a texture more than 2 or 3 times.  

 

Even if the hardware is really fast, it is still linear, so you still have to do a lot of subdivision to make things look good,
 and each subdivision requires a good chunk of CPU time, and the CPU is only 33 mhz.   So this limits the number of polys,even if the hardware can draw billions per second.  

 

 

 

  The assumption that we didn't need as much code because the PSX does texturing in hardware isn't that correct because we actually had to put in quite a bit of code to make up for the
 limitations of the hardware texture mapper.

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