The first part of our Atari/Jaguar double bill is a chat with Wave 1’s Jeffrey Johnson, one of the leaders of the Jaguar homebrew movement. Many of you will be familiar with his work but even if you’re not, this is a truly fascinating read…
Can you remember your earliest memory of gaming and what was your favourite computer / console while growing up?
The earliest games I remember playing in the arcade with my father were the original Pac-Man and Pole Position. There was also a Coleco Adam computer with tape deck we played some 3D-ish space game on.
As for my favorite console growing up that is a tough question to answer and I have thought about it before. I actually had 3 favorite consoles. I was lucky enough to have a lot of consoles growing up. I owned the Atari 7800 Prosystem and nearly every 7800 game. (Plus a ton of 2600 games) I spent a huge amount of time playing these games and I really loved the system so this would have to be the first. My second favorite was Super NES and I was absolutely obsessed with the Donkey Kong Country games, Starfox, F-Zero and all of the Mario games. Finally the console I spent the absolute most time in my life playing was the N64. I owned nearly every game for it and I have a ton of happy memories with it.
So in short, Atari 7800, SNES and N64 were my favorite consoles.
Do you remember the first time you played on a Jaguar console and were you instantly impressed?
Yes I do remember and I was instantly impressed. As I stated in the prior question I owned a lot of consoles growing up and one of them was the Jaguar. It was very unique and some of the effects blew me away. The games I owned with my first Jaguar were Tempest 2000, Defender 2000, AVP and Battle Morph for the Jag CD. Being a fan of the 7800 it was really cool to see things such as particle effects used the way they were in D2K and T2K. Battle Morph was like Starfox on the SNES but 10000 times better and these 3 games remain my favorite Jaguar games to this day. (I never liked AVP so much)
How did you get the opportunity to enter the video game industry?
This has been a journey I have been on since I was 18. With rB+ it made it easy for me to reach a large dedicated audience to share my ideas. Previously I had made some indie games for the PC and a few fangames but they never really took off like my Jaguar projects have.
Can you remember the first ever video game you worked on?
Using the Games Factory back in 2000 I attempted to convert the Super Mario Bros movie into a traditional Mario platform game. I never finished this fangame but it got pretty far. Unfortunately that was 18 years ago and its lost now.
What initially inspired you to make Wave 1 Games and can you tell our readers a little more about this growing company?
I needed a logo and a brand for my games. I tried to think of what type of games I would be making and what I wanted the logo to represent. Being a hardcore 80s gamer and that huge 7800 fan that I am I wanted to nod towards that era. A lot of the games such as Asteroids and Robotron 2084 had “waves” of enemies in numerical order, so I chose the WAVE 1 and gave it a digital style font.
Out of all the games you have worked on, which one are you most proud of and why?
Fast Food 64. I am proud of it for many reasons. The first reason is it was a project that was only supposed to take 2 weeks, just to see if I could do it. It took 4 and I had a blast while making it. It was totally worth it. It was my first Jaguar game to be released and has sold over 200 copies! (which is great for a Jaguar homebrew release)
Can you briefly run through how easy (or difficult) it is to create a game from scratch on the Atari Jaguar?
It’s a pretty difficult process. The Jaguar itself has bugs built in so you have to work around that. The rB+ software has new bugs being discovered everyday and at its core is the Raptor engine which also has bugs being discovered everyday. So you have to do a lot of work-arounds. On top of these factors you are extremely limited to memory resources as the cartridge formats can only go up to 4MB and the Jaguar can only load less than 2MB into RAM at a time.
Roughly how long does it take to make a complete Jaguar game?
At the least 1 month to get everything stable and fun. It really depends what type of game you want to make. I could easily spend a year on a really in depth game for the system.
The Jaguar has had such a big resurgence over the last few years. How does it feel to be one of the main developers for this console and what are your personal views on the huge homebrew scene?
It’s exciting! I look forward to all of the upcoming games from other developers and I am proud to be one of the people out there still breathing life into the Jag.
Many games were never completed for the Atari Jaguar. Which game which was in development would you have loved to see completed and why?
Mortal Kombat 3. Because the fighting games on the Jaguar left a lot to be desired.
Which game on the Jag do you think really pushed the console to its ultimate limits?
Battle Morph. The usage of textured polygons and the overall size of the game are just incredible! The audio is also very immersive. (we agree – Ed)
I feel the Atari Jaguar was underappreciated and never really got the attention it deserved. What do you think are the main reasons the console was not a success back in the day?
Atari didn’t market their IP’s and capture their spot in the market with the Jaguar because they didn’t care enough to do that. Poor management and a lack of money and vision contributed to all of this. There are always talks in retro gaming forums of “what could Atari have done to save the Jag?” I always believed they could have done this with a large line of retro remakes based on their own IP’s. S.T.U.N. Runner, Blasteroids, Food Fight, Centipede and a few others come to mind.
What games are you currently working on and when do you hope to get them released?
I have a lot of projects going on for the Jaguar. I am currently actively working on JagZombies (a zombie shooter) and Vortex Fighter (a space shooter) I hope to have both of these released in the first quarter of 2018.
I have been working on JagZombies and I am aiming for a release date of July 30- August 15th. The game is a zombie shooter in the style of an old gallery shooter. It will be available on a blood red see through cartridge.
(sorry, we were a bit late to press on this one! check their Facebook page for more info – Ed)
If money and time was no object, do you have an idea for original Jag game you would love to see released?
I sure do. 🙂 An epic Sci-Fi adventure game on an alien planet.