From: Michael Harvey @1:124/101         Msg: 302
    To: Edward Baiz @{EchoMail}*4        Date: 12-10-95
 Topic: Beyond Games                     Area: Atari ST Dis

 MSGID: 1:124/1016.0@fidonet 30cad026
 REPLY: 1:236/50 00013db9
 PID: STFD 3.2.6 MC11

This interview is being conducted via the Internet by Mike Harvey  Writer for the San Diego Atari User Group (SDACE) and the
Atari User Group of Northern Texas (AUNT)

 RESPONDANTS: Kris Johnson, president of Beyond Games
              Clark Stacey, director of product development

1. Beyond Games has a history of developing great games for Atari. How long
have you been developing for the Lnyx & Jaguar?

     Our first release as beyond Games was BattleWheels for the Atari Lynx,
which came out in 1993.

2. How long did it take from initial concept to finished game to develop a
game like Ultra Vortek?

     We started on the specs in the summer of 1993, but didn't really start to
develop it until March of 1994.  By that time we had received the Jag
development gear, and had spent some time becoming familiar with it.  We
finished the game in June of 1995.

3. Not being into fighting games, I wasn't all to thrilled to hear of another
fighting game for the Jaguar, but when I saw posts saying things like

       "Scored an 11 on a scale of 10."
       "And even if your not into fighting games, you won't feel
        cheated on this game"

Must make you all feel better knowing that the superb graphics you created
have even brought some of us non-fighting game fans over to U.V.  Great job on
the graphics.

     Thanks.  The credit belongs to our twisted artistic team -- Chris Salmon,
Clark Walker, Jim Meier  and Chris Hansen.  Jim did most of the background
art, and the rendering he did on the SGI was really his first chance to spread
his wings into the digital realm.

It is certainly true that a lot of people have done 2D fighting games, and we
knew that the game's structure wasn't going to break any new ground.  It's a
fun genre, though--it wouldn't have lasted this long, otherwise.  Our goal was
to create a 2D fighter that would stand out from the crowd, and the feedback
we've gotten has encouraged us to think we succeeded.  The combination of stop-
motion animated, computer rendered, and human characters is unique, but it's
the LOOK and FEEL of Ultra Vortek that sets it apart.

4.  Is the Jaguar the only platform your company is currently developing for,
or are you all developing like Ubi-Soft for multi-platforms at the same time?

     This is an exciting time for us, because we're just now beginning to
develop for the PC, and we're in the preproduction stages of developing for
the arcade.  Until recently, PCs just couldn't handle the sort of games we
want to make--their processors just aren't built for gaming.  Cheaper Pentiums
and add-ons like Creative Labs' new 3D Blaster will change that, though, and
we plan to be one of the first companies to really push the envelope of those
capabilities.  This doesn't mean that we're abandoning the Jaguar, however. 
The Jag is a great system, and we'll develop PC and Jag versions of our games
concurrently as long as Atari will have us.   We don't currently have any
plans to develop for other home systems.

5.  How big of a company is Beyond Games?  Can you tell us a little about how
you came to decide to develop for the Jaguar?  With the slow sales of the
Jaguar console, do you plan to continue to develop for it or is the grass
looking greener on other platforms?

   We're pretty small--12 full-time people, along with a small gallery of
orbiting specialists.  We're now in the process of moving our offices and
hiring more people, in order to develop several of our current projects
simultaneously.  No matter how well our games do, though, I  don't think
you'll ever see us get too much bigger. We have a core of creative talents
that work smoothly together, and we would never want to get so big that that
is disrupted.

6.  I've heard some folks complaing that the high cost (Approx $8000) for the
Jaguar development kit, keeps a lot of in-house programmers who developed alot
of the great software for the Atari ST, from being able to afford to develop
for the Jaguar.  Was the cost a big consideration for your company?

     The fact is that the Jag development kit was pretty comparable in price
to the others out at the time.   It was cheaper than the Sony kit, and at
about the same level as some of the 16-bit systems. We weren't all that
concerned about cost, though.  When we were looking for a home game platform
to develop Ultra Vortek for, we were only concerned with its capabilities, and
there was nothing out at the time that could touch the Jaguar.

7.  What do you feel is the biggest drawback to developing on the Jaguar. 
Some people seem to feel it's a hard system to develop for since unless you
use almost solely the 68000 processor, you have to know Assembly for the RISC
processors of the Jaguar.  Did this slow down your development?

     Programming for the Jaguar definitely requires low-level programming
skills.  Fortunately, this is the sort of programming that Kris cut his teeth
on.  What slowed us down were the original sound and graphic drivers that came
standard with the Jag kit.  They just weren't up to par, and couldn't do what
we needed them to do We wrote all of our own low-level routines to replace
them, and if we hadn't needed to do that the game probably could have been
released four or five months earlier.

8.  How many colors and at what resolution is used on Ultra Vortek?

     Ultra Vortek's resolution is 320x240, in 16-bit true color. The
backgrounds are individually JPEG compressed.  Each character frame and
animation frame has its own individual 256-color palette, which gives us a lot
of freedom and variety.

9.  The backgrounds seem to come alive while playing U.V.  This must have
taken some time to develop this color background with all the features.

The credit for the backgrounds belongs mostly to Jim Meier.  He picked up the
basics of rendering on an SGI with amazing speed, though, and his stuff gets
more and more beathtaking as he becomes comfortable with the software
environment.  The backgrounds in Ultra Vortek are amazing, but the stuff he's
doing now will blow peoples' minds.

10.  Can you give us some tips on Ultra Vortek?  Whats the highest score by
the developers?

Don't play it in the bathtub.

Actually, we've tried to do something a little different as far as the cheats
and codes in the game are concerned.  Rather than leak them gradually over a
few months, we've created a forum for game players themselves to swap tips. 
We were amazed at how fast the codes were appearing on the Internet, so we
added a FAQ to our web pages that is created and maintained entirely by
gamers.  The only code we released was the Turbo code, simply because it
looked like no one was going to stumble across it and we heard some reviewers
say that the game play was too slow for their tastes.  No one who's played in
Turbo mode has made that complaint!  The current version of the FAQ is pretty
comprehensive--people have almost found all of the major stuff.

As for the developers' scores, that's hard to say.  We mostly play it head-to-
head, since we've played the CPU through all of its beta stages.

11.  How well does Atari support 3rd party companies like Beyond Games in your
development of games?

Their tech support has always been excellent.  It's sometimes hard just to get
a phone call returned, at least lately.  Of course, things have been pretty
chaotic for them in the last few weeks.  Our feeling is that since the deck
has been reshuffled at Atari, it's useless to speculate on what's coming or
what their past problems have been.  We'll just have to wait and see what
direction they feel their company should go.  If it's the same direction we're
going, I think we'll complement each other well.

12.  Can you confirm that U.V. has the Voice modem support built into it as
rumored to have been confirmed by someone at Beyond Games.

     It does, yes.  The addition of the voice-modem code cost us some time in
getting the game released, but  we felt it was important enough to justify the

13.  What would you think of developing a advanced flight simulator for the
Jaguar?   Falcon (Flt-Sim, not the computer) on the ST was always one of my
favorite games, and that ran on a 8 mhz 68000, so the Jaguar with all it's 5
processors power could do wonders I've always felt?

That's not a bad idea, and I'm sure the Jag could handle it admirably. We
don't have anything like that on the slate right now, but SOMEBODY should make

14.  Do you care to acknowledge anyone special that really helped your
development of Ultra Vortek?

There are a few people who are no longer with Atari, without whom Ultra Vortek
might never have been made for the Jaguar.  Bill Rehbock was our first contact
at Atari, and helped us get the equipment  we needed.  Norman Kalowski was a
priceless tech support contact, and Jay Patton was invaluable as well.  Jim
would like to thank his grandfather for showing him The Way, whatever that

15.  What's in store for Jaguar owners from Beyond Games?

     Hopefully, BattleWheels for the Jag will be developed concurrently with
the PC version.  We haven't heard from Atari whether they are interested in
pursuing this, but as soon as we do we'll announce it on our web pages

16.  Is there much sharing of development procedures among the various Atari
Jaguar game developers?

We've always enjoyed talking to other developers.   The guys at Hyper Image
are especially cool-- buy their game when it comes out!

17.  What tools, computers & software were used in the development of U.V.?

All of Jim's work is done on a Silicon Graphics Indigo2, using Alias Power
Animator, Wavefront and other top-end rendering tools.  We use PowerMacs for
various other graphics design tasks and a P90/P120 Micrno descks for
programming.  Some of this will be upgraded and replaced as we move into our
new offices, including a dedicated web server.

Thank you for your time and we all at the Atari User Groups wish your company
long continued Support in Jaguar Development..

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - For further
info on U.V. you can contact Clark Stacey at

------------------------------------------------- Heres the recent inteview I
did with them.  They are a very friendly bunch of guys and were very willing
to answer questions.