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INTERVIEW

 

The Fox interviews Jeff Minter, author of Tempest 2000 on the Atari Jaguar.

Conducted October 20th 2002 in the #emuunlim channel on EFNET
Hi Jeff

<}Yak{> Bleatings!

<}Yak{> Nice to meet ya ;)(

same with you :)

so whats happening in the world of Llamasoft at present?

<}Yak{> Well, I'm buzzed at the moment.

<}Yak{> Just started work on a console.

any juicy news on that project?

<}Yak{> Working on a new game... not Tempest... but I think anyone who liked Tempest will enjoy it.

so what type of game is it and what should we expect?

<}Yak{> Well, "abstract shooter" is a nebulous enough term to describe it without giving anything away I shouldn't. Though it will be more than that, possibly a lot more, if I can do the stuff I am imagining right now.

what are your thoughts on the project tempest emulator?

<}Yak{> It's wonderful. Really brought a tear to my bovine eye to see That Game running on my left-hand monitor :). I look forward to being able to play my Jag games again without having to haul out my ancient tech :).

how long did it take to complete tempest 2k, and what was your thoughts on the reaction of it?

<}Yak{> T2K took about a year and a half. For most of that time Aiari just treated it as a cheap lo-profile project, not an A title at all, and I was just as surprised as they were when it did so well.

If you could change ANY aspect of the game, what would it be?

<}Yak{> Well... if I had modern tech I would no doubt improve the graphics. And the 2-player version kinda sucked, an afterthought. That could have been made into a better game.

What did you think of the PC version of Tempest 2k?

<}Yak{> I thought they did pretty well. Considering how hard it is to port stuff all written in assembler for the Jag's chips.

What did you think of the Atari Jaguar, and if it was up to you, how would have you handled it?

<}Yak{> The Jag was a great machine... ahead of its time. I think the mistake they made was not to capitalise on their titles that they owned... there should have been another 10 titles based on Atari rights equally as good as T2K ready at launch. <}Yak{> I would have paid good programmers with the right insight to update other titles as well as t2k.

Any titles come to mind?

<}Yak{> Star Raiders... they spent 2 years developing something that never got released, tried to overdo it with texmapping and all kinds of stuff that they felt they "had to do" rather than what played to the Jag's strengths... many game journalists remember SR as the perfect Atari game...

Other than Tempest 2k, what was your favourite Atari Jaguar title and why?

<}Yak{> I liked Doom, and of course AVP... I remember taking a copy of that home to my dad and seeing him roll his chair back across the room as the aliens came at him... great game, lotta depth, that one

one final question about the atari jaguar, what did u think of the keypad?

<}Yak{> The pad was kinda clunky, in view of more modern designs. At the time it sufficed. Now I know better :-]. It was clunky, but I was able to make the game playable with it, so I guess at the time it did its job.

Moving away from the atari jaguar, what do you think of emulation in general?

<}Yak{> I love it. I love the fact that these old games will never be lost. I like the fact that someone researching the history of videogames in 300 years' time will actually be able to play T2K or anything I made. I love the fact that I can play some obscure game only I remember from a lads' holiday in Corfu fifteen years ago. Everything is kept alive. I love that.

I totally agree.

<}Yak{> It's a beautiful thing, ands an important one.

<}Yak{> You guys do a great job :).

Thanks Jeff, I think its great that old classic games (even the bad ones) are not allowed to rot and die.

<}Yak{> Exactly. It's ALL interesting. The good and the bad.

<}Yak{> It should never be lost

If you could make one last statement to the fans of Tempest 2000, what would it be?

<}Yak{> "Watch the skies" ;).

So, changing subject completely, tell me a bit about yourself, what are your hobbies etc etc?

<}Yak{> Hmm... well, Llamasoft has turned into a really nice social scene as well as just being Llamasoft. So I enjoy hanging out with all the Llamasofties. And I play games, and hang out with my animals, and eat curry, and go down the pub... interesting stuff to do, and good mates, and a few beasties, are pretty much all I want out of this life and at the moment I am getting them, so iz good...

<}Yak{> I like it here in Wales, I can be happy here...

<}Yak{> V. happy to have another Big Project to get into though...

<}Yak{> and buzzed that it does seem to be rather excellent... probably the best opportunity I have had in my years in the biz

<}Yak{> I think the next couple of years will be rather excellent provided I don;t get cancer and die or anything sucky like that ;).

Ahem..So what did you think about Wales beating Italy the other night? :)

<}Yak{> well, it was a major boost for Welsh self-esteem. You must understand that our religion is rugby here, and in recent times (1999 excepted) we haven't had a lot of luck there. So a good sporting victory does us all a power of good ;).

right, talking about wales...

<}Yak{> mm?

Your titles include mention of sheep, being welsh is this your inspiration for the addition?

<}Yak{> I'm not actually Welsh. I have Welsh blood (my grandfather was born not far from here, in Fishguard) but I was born in England, in Reading. The sheep thing evolved independent of nationality. I was notorious for a fondness for ungulates baack when I was at school, way before I ever clapped eyes on a computer.

<}Yak{> My best mate at school designed the Jaguar.

really? (getting back to the subject) what happened?

<}Yak{> Well, I mean he was instrumental in bringing it to market. he designed the Nuon... the Jag was of course mainly John M's work... (John Mathieson currently works for nVidia - ed) but Richard Miller is an old schoolmate. We were mates at school, and ended up coming into the biz from entirely different trajectories. One day I went in to Atari and there he was, having just designed the Falcon. I'm like "Hey Rich" and he's like "Hey Jeff" ;).

<}Yak{> I worked on John's previous designs too... he was part of "Flare 1" baack when they designed the guts of the Konix Nultisystem.

How far into the release was John involved with the Jaguar

<}Yak{> It was his baby all the way until launch time IIRC. In fact we had a bit of a run-in at the launch party. I think we were both well drunk and he was anxed at seeing his baby go out into the real world at last :).

what were his initial thoughts, and have you spoke to him recently?

<}Yak{> He *hated* T2K at first. Told me he didn't think it stretched the Jag at all and that Atari considered it to be nothing more than a "makeweight" title. I agree in that it didn't make optimal use of Jag h/w and that Atari didn't think it was going to be an A title. Haven't talked to him for too long... suffice to say that we long since settled our differences and that he was a good friend to me during my time at VML and a damn fine engineer to

<}Yak{> I hope he has come out of the VML thing OK. I hope they all did. Great guys to a man.

Did you ever think of doing a Tempest game for the Jaguar CD?

<}Yak{> It would have been nice perhaps purely for the audio... Tempest is an inherently algo game, so doesn't need a lot of space without the audio. Better audio would have been the only real reason to go CD. After all we didn;t need FMV or aught like that for Tempest...

very true

<}Yak{> Even on Nuon I think the actual code came to less than 128K all zipped up.

So would you class Tempest 2000 as YOUR favourite title of date, if not, what is?

<}Yak{> I think T3K is a better game, but does suffer from not a high enough frame rate at times. For what we were trying to do and what we had in Nuon though I feel we did quite well. I am very pleased with GR++ on the PC... some have called it my best work since T2K... and technically it ain't all that (being just a sprite based shooter) but I think the gameplay works on that one.

Do you know roughly how many copies of Tempest 2000 were sold for the Atari Jaguar?

<}Yak{> IDK. I heard once that we had a 95% market penetration, more than for Cybermorph that was given away with teh console for a lot of its life. I figure that's not a baad thing.

So Infogames owns the rights of all Tempest games, what are your thoughts and do you think they'll release another?

<}Yak{> Well, I'm sad to see it go, of course... I grew pretty close to Tempest, and I don't know how it will fare in another's hands. If Infogrames do anything with it, I hope they do so with respect. Too many "updates" of old games go too far, lose the essence of what made the original game great... I like to feel that I avoided that with Tempest, that it still felt Tempest-y after I had done what I did. Tempest is a great game, and deserves respect

It sure does.

<}Yak{> Amen.

What are your favourite games of present, that you like to play?

<}Yak{> I play a lot on my Cubie... Animal Crossing is weird to the point of being trippy, and of course I follow Miyamoto as one should. PS2 I play less but I am enjoying Burnout 2. And my GBA playing has revived a lot just recently, now that I have an Afterburner-equipped GBA and can finally see the screen. Whoever did the Robotron conversion needs shooting though.

So you have a well known fetish for Llama's (you've been to peru twice to be with them), will you be working on future Llama related titles?

<}Yak{> Soomewhere in anything I produce, there will always be beasties ;). Flossie's baa, or pictures of my llamas... they will always be there. You may have to get up at pi o'clock on Flossie's birthday to be able to see them... but they'll be there ;).

pi o'clock?

<}Yak{> And Llamatron ][ isn't out of the question. Spare time, weekends, you know ;)

<}Yak{> Pi o'clock is 3.14 in the morning ;)

ahh

<}Yak{> A couple of my mates used to be able to recite pi to 400 decimal places. If conscious we used to celebrate pi o'clock ;).

hehe

<}Yak{> Well, time to roost for me I think. Bits to shovel tomorrow.

<}Yak{> Trippy things to do ;)

thank you for the interview, nice to meet you, keep watching Project Tempest, named after your wonderful work.

<}Yak{> Great to meet you too. Love the emu, and respect for getting it to work and bringing Jag games to anyone with a PC :)

<}Yak{> Take care, good luck, and I'll cya on the wires :)

 


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