Telling the difference between real and fake projects.
Do they look legitimate?
A number of "underground" developers have been criticised for developing
varpourware, and after some discussion we produced this guide to spotting
some the difference between a part-time developer who's missing their deadlines
and a fake company misleading you.
This problem has meant that some people feel some legitimate developers are
producing vapourware. Likewise, there are some other "companies" out there
who are apparently producing code or products for the Jaguar but could be
producing vapourware too. We hope that this objective guide to vapourware,
(or as we prefer to call the imaginative projects which have swamped the
Jaguar since Atari Corporations ceased to exist, "Imagination-Ware",) will
help you judge which projects exist, and which don't.
On this there are a few things which we would suggest you watch out for:-
1) Has the company been around for a while- at least a year perhaps?
2) Is there an individual or more than one individual clearly identified?
3) Does the company offer any explanation for supporting the Jaguar?
4) Does the web-site have a track-record, has it been around a while?
5) Does the web-site have a proper URL- or is it hosted in free space?
Can you see any evidence of credibility from the company or an individual
who can explain why they are supporting the Jaguar- is there a building to
see, an office address with a phone or fax number, That's a start- but good
evidence should be some visual proof, perhaps pictures of the team, the
development tools, the office space. In particular, even with a small part-time
team, there has to be some evidence of the tools.
Do they have the kit?
Below, we have a photograph of an Atari Alpine developer kit, manual, and
Flash ROM. This photograph has not been pulled from another web-site, I took
the photo and scanned it in. Some photographs from a trade-show or a fan-event
like Jag-Fest mght be an equivalent from other developers. Bear in mind pictures
of the development tools may not be possible as the developer may be under
NDA with somebody, in particular with Atari/Hasbro perhaps. Bear in mind
also that pictures of a Jaguar Server or BJL development kit does not mean
the developer has access to special tools. Both these products are publicly
available, as is the Atari Alpine developer kit since the demise of Atari
Corporation in 1996.
Do they have the knowledge?
Judging knowledge is a very difficult thing, but a few things may help to
judge. Firstly, it is not possible to program the Atari Jaguar with just
high-level languages, of which only 'C' was available in very limited form
from Atari. If the project does not include people with a knowledge of M68000
assembly language, and the Jaguar RISC processors (or similar) then it isn't
going to get anywhere. This may be obvious from the web-site marketing blurb.
Links to other projects which the team has completed might be useful in assessing
The other thing which a project needs from the developers in terms of knowledge
is a technical understanding of the Jaguar. This complex piece of hardware
comprises a 64-bit system with an M68000 as a boot and I/O handling CPU,
a graphics processor intended (but rarely used) to run the main program logic,
a digital sound processor which also handles the serial ports used for
networking, a 64-bit blitter capable of logical operations and moving data
around memory at high speed, and a 64-bit object processor which provides
some of the facilities of a traditional sprite processor as well as supporting
backgrounds and bitmap object scaling. Not a simple system which developers
can "pick-up" in a few weeks. The normal use of assembly language and limited
debugging facilities also make it hard. Consider that.
Do they have screenshots?
A "claimed" screen-shot of the title screen from "DefCon 1". (The name was
a bad start.) Unfortunately, even the developer was taken in by this misleading
screen-shot, Dark Knight Games. Dave Belll, the guy behind that company,
apparently believed that the company who was doing the coding for him, (VD3D
it's alleged), had written Jaguar code to produce it, but later it came to
light tha this was not so. DKG alleged they were just as misled as customers.
(We are not saying DKG is a fake, simply that this game, "DefCon 1", WAS
The above screen-shot is from an early ECS show demonstration of "F1 World
Tour Racing" by "Teque". The game was by no means finished, but there was
no way the game was a fake, Jaguar fans took this "illicit" screen-shot of
the game at the show, and it clearly shows that the game was on a monitor.
This is no result of playing around with "PhotoShop" or "Paint Shop Pro".
(It does not, to be fair, prove it was running on a Jaguar, and indeed it
is well-known that early 3DO M2 demos, and Sega DreamCast demos, did not
run on the real hardware, but on more powerful systems which people thought
were the "real thing". In this case, the photograph was backed by first-hand,
believable, witnesses of the game running.)
Do they have a "proof" binary?
The "proof" binary is not particularly useful for a PC game or a Macintosh
game, there are no special tools required to write code for those machines.
However, to write a game for a console, the developer needs to obtain a
"developer kit" which may cost thousands of $'s. In the case of the Jaguar,
a genuine Atari devkit will cost upwards of $600 even now, (most likely at
least $1100) but there are cheap "unofficial" kits, the Jaguar Server and
the BJL. The BJL is popular and virtually free if you make the Jaguar
modifications yourself, so if the developer only has a BJL then they may
not be serious, but with an Alpine they must be! The Alpine also allows
development of code designed for a real cartridge, and the BJL does not.
Do they have a track-record?
Generally, vapourware (or as we prefer to call recent Jaguar "projects",
Imagination-Ware) comes from companies you've never heard of before, who
appear from nowhere without any kind of history or track-record. Suddently
this big company appears with a small web-site hosted somewhere like AOL
or GeoCities, and announces that they have a team working on several projects
to resurrect that Jaguar and other "unsupported" systems. Often these projects
are quickly supported by impressive images and vague technical specs.. Quite
often within a short-time, as people start to attack them on boards like
Atari Interactive, their "representatives", usually from the marketing department
(because these organisations are always big, and have lots of departments)
start to threaten to withdraw their support.
Another element of a track-record would be if the company has other products
which are already available, and which people have bought. Such companies
have a value to their reputation and would not risk that with complete
vapourware, at least the company or individual is likely to intend to carry
out their projections, even if they are not achieved.
In conlusion... our last words.
In conclusion, if the company is not claiming anything for their work with
Jaguar that's a good sign. If they have plans for some interesting games,
and hope to release them commercially at some point, that is too. If they
have visual evidence, downloadable demos, and a history on the web, that
is too. If they don't even you to buy anything, and they don't hype up their
products, that is too. If they can't promise that their games will be released,
only that work is in progress and they can afford to develop it, at least
they're being honest. Look for other people or other companies with similar
standards of proof, and you won't be facing disappointment and disallusionment
in the future, we think. Go expose the fakes!
We do believe in 4Play (Battlesphere) and Carl Forhan (Protector) of course,
Steve Scavone (Gorf 2000), James Garvin (OMC Games- various), and Richard
Turner (JustClaws). Not mentioning other people doesn't mean we don't believe
in them, and likewise listing somebody does not mean that we believe their
product will ever be released, just that we DO believe in these people. If
we can't believe in the people, we can never believe in their products of