Jaguar CD Ready to Pounce

Bill Rehbock of Atari lets the cat our of the bag

by Jer Horwitz

What's going with the Atari Jaguar CD? Recently, Bill Rehbock, Atari's vice-president of Third Party Development, talked with GamePro about the new system.

What can you tell us about the Jaguar CD-ROM? Price? Release date? Early titles?

Bill Rehbock:
We're shooting for a $199 price tag with a ship date late this year.

It looks like [we'll see] Dragon's Lair and Space Ace from Readysoft, Activision's Return to Zork, and Rise of the Robots by ArtData. Atari's doing Chaos Agenda, a science-fiction arcade/RPG. [In the game,] you're an operative who discovers that the government you're working for may not be using your services 100 percent for good. It's a first-person-perspective game, but a camera trails behind you as if attached by a rubberband, so as you're running down a street, the camera moves back. Chaos Agenda will ship after the release of the CD-ROM unit.

What will make the Jaguar CD special?

Outstanding graphics. You'll see perfectly seemless games that approach (surpass??) the visual experience of playing cartidges. Also, the unit will be able to display graphics produced by costimized graphics compression/display software routines that deliver 320-by-200 resolution with 16-bit true color at 30 frames per second.

Can you clear up some ambiguity regarding the audio/visual powers of the Jaguar? How many polygons and sound channels can the Jaguar manipulate simultaneously?

Well, if anybody quotes numbers about those capabilities, they'd be lying; they're dependent upon what else you're doing in the system. From strictly specifications standpoint, the maximum number of rendered polygons it can produce is over half a million, but to throw around that number is ludicrous, because the software must do other things.
Audio capability is all software too. Depending on what kind of audio you're doing (FM synthesis, eight-bit samples, 16-bit samples), you can run the range from one voice to well in excess of 25 voices on the Jaguar. But at 25 voices, you'll trade off sampled stuff with FM stuff, and it's going to depend on your music score and sound effects.

And now that Tempest is complete, what does Jeff Minter (the programmer for Tempest 2000) plan to do?

Jeff's next project is the Virtual Light Machine (VLM) light synthesizer for the Jaguar CD. The VLM is based on technology he's used to create light shows and raves across the United Kingdom for the last five years. It will display really cool, very polygon-based, very partical-physics-based visual effects for the music CDs. It uses a realtime frequency analysis of music to display a 3D image with one axis for each time, frequency, and magnitude. You see the music roll from right to left and go from close to you to very far away. High frequencies move down to low ones, and the whole thing bubbles like the ocean.

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