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Leeroy ST

Was not releasing with CD at launch the biggest mistake Atari made with the Jaguar?

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I don't think I have ever seen anyone from Atari saying they thought Club Drive was better than Daytona, but I did put it to Arcade Attack that if they ever did a follow up interview with Bill Rehbock, could they ask him if he honestly believed that  Checkered Flag was better than Virtua Racing? or was that just a case of towing the company line?. 

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1 hour ago, Lostdragon said:

I don't think I have ever seen anyone from Atari saying they thought Club Drive was better than Daytona, but I did put it to Arcade Attack that if they ever did a follow up interview with Bill Rehbock, could they ask him if he honestly believed that  Checkered Flag was better than Virtua Racing? or was that just a case of towing the company line?. 

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Your last image scan mentioned it so I hoped it happened. 

 

Then again, they also called both Club Drive and Daytona driving simulators, and honestly neither of them are close to simulators. Well, Daytona is at least not far off. 

 

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Uk press reaction to Club Drive etc

 

 

DIGITISER
 
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For those of my generation, Atari had once been the dominant force in gaming. Though I was young when the Atari 2600 had been released, we - like so many families - had one at home. 

It was the only gaming system which really mattered at the time. Though the games may be crude by today's standards, the sheer weight of software support meant that the 2600 was the only real option for early-80s gamers. Well, until 1983, when it all went dreadfully wrong, and the entire industry collapsed in on itself like an imploding cow.

While I was a ZX Spectrum owner for much of the 80s, I think it was some latent loyalty to the brand which led me to choose an Atari ST over the Amiga.

That loyalty wasn't to last, even as Atari turned away from home computing and attempted a triumphant return to console gaming. Albeit, seemingly, without an invite.

"I'm a mate of Dave's... no, not Dave - Phil. I mean John. Big John. Johnny-oh! I brought a bottle."

Like many, I'd chosen Nintendo over Atari when it had come to handhelds. I was impressed with a friend's Lynx, but the cost of it, the short battery life, its sheer size, had led me to favour the Game Boy. As history records, it was the right call; the Lynx was woefully supported by third-party publishers over the course of its life, and its design meant that it was scarcely portable. For a handheld system, that was death.

By the time Atari would next release a console - its last - I was working as a games journalist. As a byproduct of this, I would witness Atari's demise first-hand... and it was not to be pretty. 

Indeed, Atari's stumble from grace may be the single most apocalyptic demonstration of self-sabotage the games industry has ever seen.
 
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THE RELEASE
Released in 1993 - the first year of Digitiser's existence - the Atari Jaguar was billed as the world's first 64-bit console. Though this statistic - the alleged power of its twin "Tom & Jerry" chips - was disputed by many, Atari sought hard to drive the numbers home. 

In an era where 16-bit was king, the Jaguar's hardware specifications were Atari's main selling point - but even then it felt like a mistake, that they were betting on numbers meaning more than software. Its initial slogan - at least in the US - was "Do The Math". Unfortunately, asking people to perform calculations has never been proven successfully as a marketing strategy (unless, y'know... you were selling a new calculator).

It took some work to establish a relationship with Atari's public relations team. And for "work" read "badgering". Digitiser was barely a year old when the Jaguar was released, and though our readership was already in seven digits, getting people to believe us was a battle that Digi fought throughout its existence. On that score at least, we could empathise with Atari.

We were new, we couldn't offer screenshots, we didn't always tow the marketing line like good little boys, and our readership seemed too high to be believable. We were annoyed that Atari didn't seem to take us seriously.

Atari UK's Daryl Still - then head of the Jaguar marketing - told Retro Gamer in 2014: “It was frustrating, because there was 12-15 of us TOTAL, doing a Europe-wide launch of a major electronic commodity with absolutely zero budget, getting pages upon pages of press coverage and building an enormous demand.

"And we were hearing that we were rubbish at marketing, from journalists who knew absolutely nothing about the reality of the situation. You felt like screaming at them ‘C’mon then, you come and see if you could do any better with our finances.’ But of course we couldn’t say a word. We just had to keep on going.”


The Jaguar's European press launch was held at Atari UK's HQ in Slough, and the PR team's lack of budget was clear to see; a boardroom was laid out with a couple of bowls of Twiglets, there was no alcohol (instead, they served us lukewarm orange squash in plastic cups), and there were a few Jaguars set up in an adjacent room. Every time Still stepped out, the assembled journalists - used to big, glitzy, launch events - gossiped about what a shambles it was.

To be honest, I remember feeling bad for him. It wouldn't be the last time.
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STILL WATERS RUN DEEP
Certainly, Still's frustration came through in our dealings with him. Somehow, through sheer force of our will and asking repeatedly, Atari provided us with a review machine, which arrived with the pack-in game, Cybermorph.

We weren't kind to either the game or the system.

The Jaguar's unwieldy joypad - with its pointless built in keypad - was bulky and unnecessary, we argued. CD-ROM felt like the future, and here was a cartridge system arriving at precisely the wrong time. Furthermore, the game they'd chosen to sell the system - a sort of free-roaming take on Nintendo's Starfox - was dull, repetitive, lacking atmosphere and, importantly, character. Most reviews felt much as we did.

Edge gave it 8/10.


Nevertheless, the Jaguar was - to a point - a hot commodity that Christmas. There wasn't enough stock to meet demand, with angry mothers reportedly camping out in the reception of Atari HQ to demand a console for their spoilt spawn.

A lack of product over the next year would ensure that the Jaguar never really capitalised on that early demand. 200 developers had signed on to produce games for the hardware, but once those initial sales figures were released, that number shrunk dramatically.

It didn't help that - at least in those early months - the Jaguar lacked a true killer app. The other launch titles - Trever McFur in Crescent Galaxy, Raiden, Evolution: Dino Dudes, all 2D games that could've been handled by the Mega Drive - scarcely demonstrating what the "64-bit" system could supposedly do.

Additionally, they weren't helped by some of the ugliest packaging design ever seen; they looked more like Ugandan movie posters.
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ALIEN PHWOARR!
Though early Jaguar sales figures had been catastrophically disappointing, there was a glimmer of optimism as 1994 wore on. Jeff Minter's Tempest 2000 was well received - though as trippy as it was, it was hard not to see it wasn't a huge step forwards from its ageing arcade predecessor - while Wolfenstein 3D at least proved the hardware could handle a basic first-person shoot 'em up as well as an old PC.

The killer apps were on the way, we were promised - with Alien Vs Predator and Doom both scheduled for release towards the end of the year. Though almost universally praised, Aliens Vs Predator once again demonstrated Edge's singular philosophy, as they gave the Jaguar exclusive a mere 4/10. Regrettably, despite otherwise proving popular, AvP wasn't enough to turn around the machine's fortunes.

Limp game after limp game trickled onto the Jag', scarcely supported by Atari's non-existent marketing budget. As 1995 lurched into view, Atari attempted to reverse public opinion, and actually spent some money on a sort of relaunch.

I remember it all too clearly. The party - and this time it was an actual party - was held at London's Planetarium, next door to Madam Tussaud's wax museum. Tony "Baldrick" Robinson was there as master of ceremonies - Mr Hairs and I, having partaken somewhat too liberally of the free alcohol, spent much of the evening stroking his back, and pretending we hadn't.

Prior to Atari's presentation, the Planetarium ran one of its regular star shows. We sat in the dark, giggling, as we had a tendency to do, whooping and aaah-ing unnecessarily loudly, and shouting out to ask whether the various projections were "To scale?".

We snuck out at one point through a side door, and found ourselves in the Madam Tussaud's gift shop. We considered taking an unsolicited tour of the darkened wax museum, but the light from a security guard's torch sent us scurrying into hiding behind a display of branded rubbers and pens.

We were awful people.

 

 

NYET CLUB
The Atari presentation was introduced by Robinson, followed by a highlights reel showing upcoming Jaguar games. The assembled gaming press - by this time far too drunk - greeted the entire thing with jeers and catcalls. For some reason, Atari had decided to include Club Drive - a risible drive 'em up, which clearly was in an unfinished state. The audience burst out laughing.

It was, no pun intended, a car crash - and it sobered us up quickly. Our mood on the way out was despondent, low. We bumped into a distraught and furious Daryl Still, who was fuming from the audience's response. We tried to calm him down, and mentioned that their opinion was sure to change once Club Drive was finished.

"But it is finished," he squeaked, the desperation in his voice impossible to ignore. "That's the finished game!"

It felt like game over for Atari. Based upon the reaction that night, the headlines would not be kind, and we could sense Still's frustration as he struggled to control the careening PR wagon, with virtually no support from his Atari bosses. He seemed isolated.

By mid 1995 - when the unwanted and unnecessary Jaguar CD add-on was released - the public had all but lost interest in the Jaguar. Software remained thin on the ground, and positive news even more scarce. By the end of the year there were reports of mass lay-offs at Atari, and rumours that the company had ceased manufacturing hardware, with a view to exiting the games industry altogether. 

 

 

 

 

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Atari should have waited another 15 years when showing and selling unfinished games became acceptable. They were too far ahead of their time. Lol.

 

It would be cool to see more written reactions to Club Drive. It's just so weird they thought that game was some flagship title.

 

At least Fight for Life made sense to hype up. Odd no CD version though. But Club Drive? Even in the best areas of the game the car is jerking and has no sense of speed. Not something you would show at E3 or even a small venue.

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1 hour ago, Leeroy ST said:

Atari should have waited another 15 years when showing and selling unfinished games became acceptable. They were too far ahead of their time. Lol.

 

It would be cool to see more written reactions to Club Drive. It's just so weird they thought that game was some flagship title.

 

At least Fight for Life made sense to hype up. Odd no CD version though. But Club Drive? Even in the best areas of the game the car is jerking and has no sense of speed. Not something you would show at E3 or even a small venue.

Doubt I'll be able to help on the Club Drive stuff. 

 

Uploaded and deleted from my files majority of Jaguar press coverage I once had, just getting up the misc stuff currently. 

 

There used to be a PDF file out there of all the commercial Jaguar reviews from the UK, but looks like that's now gone as well. 

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On 7/27/2021 at 2:03 AM, Stephen said:

Check out Tobal #1 on the Playstation, and compare it to Tekken 1.  Tekken 1 looks like total ass comparatively.  rather than block warped textures in 320*240, we got flat shading at 60fps in 640*480.  It was seriously jaw dropping when I first played the game.  I've not seen anything that showed why texture mapping was completely unnecessary in many instances.

Found this interview in my old files,thought i would throw it up for anyone interested. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Lostdragon said:

Doubt I'll be able to help on the Club Drive stuff. 

 

Uploaded and deleted from my files majority of Jaguar press coverage I once had, just getting up the misc stuff currently. 

 

There used to be a PDF file out there of all the commercial Jaguar reviews from the UK, but looks like that's now gone as well. 

What happened? Accidental deletion?

 

Sucks either way. But I guess there are still the American press archives. Sadly they require a subscription though. Unless someone already has the scans 

 

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13 minutes ago, Leeroy ST said:

What happened? Accidental deletion?

 

Sucks either way. But I guess there are still the American press archives. Sadly they require a subscription though. Unless someone already has the scans 

 

Honestly no idea. I just get an error message. 

 

 

It's a shame, there's an ever growing number of deadlinks out there now, regarding interviews and misc magazine coverage of all things Atari related. 

 

Interviews and press i read and basically took for granted. 

 

 

Best I can offer is something from my crude interview with B. J West at the time.. 

 

 

 Q. I'd also like to ask about your role on Club Drive on the Jaguar.  Here was a game that on paper at least, seemed rich with potential, a kind of 3-D Micro Machines or a modern take on Hard Drivin’, yet it too seemed rushed and not the game so many of us had hoped for.

 

 

B.J. West: I had almost nothing to do with Club Drive beyond creating the "dashboard" art.  That was Todd Powers' baby, and the big problem there was that Atari had no idea how to market it.  Todd's concept was best shown in the "Todd's Apartment" track, making it obvious that you are driving a miniature toy car, and the physics show that.  Atari kept pushing Todd to make it more of a "serious" racing game, and that really hurt it.  The look of the game seemed very dated, with flat-shaded polys with no textures.  Very few of our games seemed able to put textures on 3-D geometry.  Even the Black Ice engine had some issues there.

 

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19 hours ago, Leeroy ST said:

Atari should have waited another 15 years when showing and selling unfinished games became acceptable. They were too far ahead of their time. Lol.

 

It would be cool to see more written reactions to Club Drive. It's just so weird they thought that game was some flagship title.

 

At least Fight for Life made sense to hype up. Odd no CD version though. But Club Drive? Even in the best areas of the game the car is jerking and has no sense of speed. Not something you would show at E3 or even a small venue.

Here you go. 

 

UK advertising for Club Drive. 

 

Games World coverage of Club Drive and Bubsy. 

 

 

Games World Review of C. F, think the highest score i saw for it. 

 

 

Reviewer comments regarding it and Virtua Racing make for amusing reading 

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Edited by Lostdragon
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I have put this in the lost games thread, but probably the most bizzare UK Press story about Fight For Life.. 

 

 

Bit of Highlander CD Press whilst I'm at it.. 

 

 

 

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Edited by Lostdragon

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87 score for Checkered Flag.

 

Maybe Atari was on to something with screenshot graphics over gameplay. How else can you give CF an 87? 

 

3 hours ago, Lostdragon said:

Here you go. 

 

UK advertising for Club Drive. 

 

Games World coverage of Club Drive and Bubsy. 

 

 

Games World Review of C. F, think the highest score i saw for it. 

 

 

Reviewer comments regarding it and Virtua Racing make for amusing reading 

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"Jaguar has good ammunition for the battle of next generation consoles as is, simply demonstrated in the line up of new releases."

 

One thing I'll give Club Drive is it's scale is ambitious. If the game was finished, actually finished not Atari finished, it could have made for an interesting open racing game, but that's not what ended up happening.

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5 hours ago, Lostdragon said:

Reviewer comments regarding it and Virtua Racing make for amusing reading 

 

That is truly amazing. What a terrible magazine. At first I was wondering if they were maybe comparing it to the Genesis Virtua Racing, but obviously that was a better game than Checkered Flag, so I just don't know what they were thinking making such hyperbolic claims.

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1 hour ago, Leeroy ST said:

87 score for Checkered Flag.

 

Maybe Atari was on to something with screenshot graphics over gameplay. How else can you give CF an 87? 

 

"Jaguar has good ammunition for the battle of next generation consoles as is, simply demonstrated in the line up of new releases."

 

One thing I'll give Club Drive is it's scale is ambitious. If the game was finished, actually finished not Atari finished, it could have made for an interesting open racing game, but that's not what ended up happening.

Yep, that score really is quite something, tops C+VG, who gave it a double page review and 77% by some margin. 

 

 

Club Drive had potential, but potential Atari failed to realise during it's development. 

 

It should of been killed, it really should, once it became apparent it simply wasn't working. 

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3 hours ago, Lostdragon said:

I have put this in the lost games thread, but probably the most bizzare UK Press story about Fight For Life.. 

 

Screenshot_20210823-113238.png

 

You may have just referenced what could just be the pinnacle of juvenile game journalism. I guess they thought they were playing to their audience with that drivel? 

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19 minutes ago, Bill Loguidice said:

That is truly amazing. What a terrible magazine. At first I was wondering if they were maybe comparing it to the Genesis Virtua Racing, but obviously that was a better game than Checkered Flag, so I just don't know what they were thinking making such hyperbolic claims.

You've only to look at the TV show the magazine was based on:

 

 

 

 

At least Gamesmaster had Sir Patrick Moore. 

 

 

Even if they were comparing Genesis SVP V. R to Jaguar V. R, though the 32X version would of been a fairer comparison, the effort by Rebellion, a contract only title or not, pales in comparison in terms of what was done on host hardware and playability stakes. 

 

As for the Jaguar Jugs piece... 

 

 

It was the worse i saw during that era and if anyone has contact with Darryl Still, the scan really should be put to him to see if he actually said it and if so, just WTF he was thinking, acting as he was then as a representative of Atari UK. 

 

 

Sadly the UK press sank to far lower levels during the Playstation era and never really recovered, cue modern day magazines like Retrogamer etc letting the likes of Jane Whittaker run riot. 

 

 

It's always been a point of amusement when people over here bragged of writing for any UK Games press. 

 

Our Games Press has not been in held in any degree of high esteem for as long as i can remember. 

 

Terrible research. 

 

Review scores being fixed.. 

 

Gutter press type sensationalist news pieces. 

Edited by Lostdragon
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1 hour ago, Bill Loguidice said:

That is truly amazing. What a terrible magazine. At first I was wondering if they were maybe comparing it to the Genesis Virtua Racing, but obviously that was a better game than Checkered Flag, so I just don't know what they were thinking making such hyperbolic claims.

Here you go Bill, a wider selection of their Jaguar coverage, plus their reviews of Virtua Racing. 

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I mean if you never played crusin or VF, and you're only exposure to polygon racers was a Hard Driving arcade machine in the 80's, I can see how checkered f-

 

Actually no, Hard Drivin is still a much better game. Maybe even more so than VR too. Same for Winning Run.

 

1 hour ago, Bill Loguidice said:

That is truly amazing. What a terrible magazine. At first I was wondering if they were maybe comparing it to the Genesis Virtua Racing, but obviously that was a better game than Checkered Flag, so I just don't know what they were thinking making such hyperbolic claims.

Now I dont know if you or others were following the F1 scene, but this reminds me of all those broken F1 games with near unplayable controls and terrible track design being given passes and scored high for "realism" and requiring you to play as if you were driving "a real F1 car" so the worst games had the highest scores. While the best games were "toys", "not simulators", or not real racing games 

 

Checkered Flag is clearly a hard to control unresponsive mess with poor track design. I wonder if the F1 rule applies to the reviewers who gave it high scores.

 

1 hour ago, Lostdragon said:

Yep, that score really is quite something, tops C+VG, who gave it a double page review and 77% by some margin. 

 

 

Club Drive had potential, but potential Atari failed to realise during it's development. 

 

It should of been killed, it really should, once it became apparent it simply wasn't working. 

Club Drive may have been first to the market for it's game type. An explorable open world driving game with stunts.

 

You mentioned before there was a presentation at a UK event where the game was shown off to poor reception. I heard similar in the US.

 

I'm curious why Atari decided not to cancel and doubled down on releasing the game. Even the game lineup excuse doesn't work if the game is going to get panned by the press.

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Curiously, the best 3D racing game on the system is on the Jag CD, World Tour Racing. But I dont see it existing due to the CD. Outside of music you could probably still put WTR on cartridge and the devs may possibly have found a way to make the game run slightly better.

 

I dont see anything WTR uses the CD for to make the game better, unlike say, Iron Soldier 2.

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2 minutes ago, Leeroy ST said:

I mean if you never played crusin or VF, and you're only exposure to polygon racers was a Hard Driving arcade machine in the 80's, I can see how checkered f-

 

Actually no, Hard Drivin is still a much better game. Maybe even more so than VR too. Same for Winning Run.

 

Now I dont know if you or others were following the F1 scene, but this reminds me of all those broken F1 games with near unplayable controls and terrible track design being given passes and scored high for "realism" and requiring you to play as if you were driving "a real F1 car" so the worst games had the highest scores. While the best games were "toys", "not simulators", or not real racing games 

 

Checkered Flag is clearly a hard to control unresponsive mess with poor track design. I wonder if the F1 rule applies to the reviewers who gave it high scores.

 

Club Drive may have been first to the market for it's game type. An explorable open world driving game with stunts.

 

You mentioned before there was a presentation at a UK event where the game was shown off to poor reception. I heard similar in the US.

 

I'm curious why Atari decided not to cancel and doubled down on releasing the game. Even the game lineup excuse doesn't work if the game is going to get panned by the press.

There was the internal Atari report, where it's doubted Rebellion would be able to deliver Skyhammer on time and of sufficient quality.... 

 

 

Blue Lightning on Jaguar CD is mentioned and it's made clear Atari knew it was going to get hammered at review, but  basically since they so little CD software ready, they had little to loose by releasing it. 

 

 

I suspect Club Drive was in a similar situation, putting something out that can generate revenue, is better than killing it, might of been the thinking. 

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4 minutes ago, Leeroy ST said:

I'm curious why Atari decided not to cancel and doubled down on releasing the game. Even the game lineup excuse doesn't work if the game is going to get panned by the press.

It could just be a simple matter of investing x amount of dollars into the project and not being able to absorb the losses, so the easiest answer was just to release as-is (as was likely the case with several of the worst titles). It could also be Atari management at the time not really understanding what a good game was or maybe not trusting the intelligence of their audience, i.e., it's a 3D open world racer and that's enough, so the actual play doesn't matter. It's no doubt related to the texture mapped 3D edict when that had terrible - and obvious - effects on playability and smoothness (though some of the non-textured mapped stuff suffered as well, so who knows?). Maybe the answer is no more than something like a lack of strong, and informed, vision at the top of Atari at the time that affected the whole platform.

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4 minutes ago, Lostdragon said:

There was the internal Atari report, where it's doubted Rebellion would be able to deliver Skyhammer on time and of sufficient quality.... 

 

 

Blue Lightning on Jaguar CD is mentioned and it's made clear Atari knew it was going to get hammered at review, but  basically since they so little CD software ready, they had little to loose by releasing it. 

 

 

I suspect Club Drive was in a similar situation, putting something out that can generate revenue, is better than killing it, might of been the thinking. 

I dont know, as you said before, they likely should of killed it.

 

At the time of Club Drive they had games coming out. They didn't need a desperation release of that level.

 

3 minutes ago, Bill Loguidice said:

 or maybe not trusting the intelligence of their audience, i.e., it's a 3D open world racer and that's enough, so the actual play doesn't matter. It's no doubt related to the texture mapped 3D edict when that had terrible - and obvious - effects on playability and smoothness (though some of the non-textured mapped stuff suffered as well, so who knows?). Maybe the answer is no more than something like a lack of strong, and informed, vision at the top of Atari at the time that affected the whole platform.

Considering Club Drive barely had textures despite Atari pushing them, it may be just poor vision and Atari believing the concept was some genius thing by itself.

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7 minutes ago, Leeroy ST said:

I dont know, as you said before, they likely should of killed it.

 

At the time of Club Drive they had games coming out. They didn't need a desperation release of that level.

 

Considering Club Drive barely had textures despite Atari pushing them, it may be just poor vision and Atari believing the concept was some genius thing by itself.

I think we've only to look at comments made by B. J West, to get an insight into how Atari's mind worked :

 

 

 

 

 

B.J. West: Crescent Galaxy was the first game I ever worked on, and even while we were creating art for it, it was obvious it was going to be a dog - a pretty, colorful dog, but a dog all the same.  It just wasn't fun to play.  There's no clear storyline, and no progression in the game play.  The first level is just as difficult as the last, which makes it aggravating in the beginning, and boring by the end.  The things you fight are a random collection of animals and robots, with no rhyme or reason to them.

: There are the rumors the game was never actually intended to be a game but just a tech demo showcasing what the Panther was capable of, and also that you yourself wanted a very different game, visually, but your project manager (?) refused to allow you to make the game you wanted.

B.J. West: Crescent Galaxy was absolutely intended to be a game, and the designers behind it were extremely enthusiastic about it.  Until we were very close to finished with it, it was intended as the "pack-in" game you got included with the Jaguar, but when it was done it was wildly apparent that would blow up in Atari's face.

I didn't have any say in the look and feel of the game.  I was relatively inexperienced in the industry and had no clout at all.  I was given a design document for a character (or ship or weapon, whatever), and I built and animated it exactly to those specs.  Everything you see on screen is exactly as it was intended to be by the designer.  There was a deliberate emphasis on color, as they wanted to show off the larger color space the Jag was capable of, including fully-aliased edges on sprites, which was new.  Most consoles were still 8-bit color; we were creating our art in 24-bit color, and then compressing them down to 16-bit indexed palettes for each object, plus 8-bit grayscale alpha.

Any stories you've heard about me fighting Atari brass about the direction of the games we were making came later, after we finished all internally-developed games then on the books and were trying to decide what to do next.  That battle eventually led to me leading Black Ice White Noise.

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8 minutes ago, Lostdragon said:

I think we've only to look at comments made by B. J West, to get an insight into how Atari's mind worked :

 

 

 

 

 

B.J. West: Crescent Galaxy was the first game I ever worked on, and even while we were creating art for it, it was obvious it was going to be a dog - a pretty, colorful dog, but a dog all the same.  It just wasn't fun to play.  There's no clear storyline, and no progression in the game play.  The first level is just as difficult as the last, which makes it aggravating in the beginning, and boring by the end.  The things you fight are a random collection of animals and robots, with no rhyme or reason to them.

: There are the rumors the game was never actually intended to be a game but just a tech demo showcasing what the Panther was capable of, 

Wait, was Trevor Crescent started as a Panther game, or was that a mistake included in the interview?

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