As a great man once said: ReboooooOOOOOOoooooot!
If you want an in-depth look at who we are and what we do, you came to the right place. In this small series of articles we aim to outline just that. Reading further you should gain a better understanding of the framework within which we do our stuff, the thinking behind our activities, what motivates us to create & produce and lots more besides. Much has been said about us and our fellow Jagware members, but it's not always accurate, occasionally borders on being weird and, unfortunately, is sometimes pure fantasy.
Part One - Who and what is Reboot?
Who is Reboot?
Who we are is an easy one - see the member list. Anyone not listed there is not a member of Reboot. We have friends we occasionally work with and those who help out quite a lot, such as other Jagware members - Reboot is a member of Jagware.
So what is Jagware?
Jagware is a gathering of like-minded Jaguar programmers, hardware hackers and development teams who came together to share ideas and information. Our group became a part of the larger collective when we realised we had much in common with them. People often refer to "Reboot and Jagware", but that's a nonsense - Reboot is a group member of Jagware, just the same as CVSD, same as Removers, same as SCPCD Corp., same as... you get the picture.
What is Reboot?
To define what we are it makes sense to first rule out what we are not - so let's cover that to begin with. We're not "game developers" in the way many think of that label; we don't see ourselves as "homebrewers" as that's a term we don't all buy in to, we're not a business out to make money from what we do and we're not on a mission to become the saviors of the Jaguar (no, sorry, we don't wish it was the early 90s all over again and we're not out to prove anything to the Jaguar's critics). Some people who work with old consoles such as the Jaguar, often come at it with a super-professional, very dry, boring, or solemn approach... almost business-like. That's not us. We don't take ourselves too seriously and don't have any lofty ideas about how important any of it is - it's just a fun pastime.
What we are is a group of active, productive Atarians. Think back to the 80s. Remind yourself of what playing and hacking away at your Atari was like - that's basically what we're about. Some people moved on from all that, they bought newer, more powerful systems - we did the same but didn't really leave the other stuff behind. These days we're slightly more organised and have the conveniences of modern hardware at our disposal, but what we do feels right and true to what we have always done.
We enjoy games. From those on the most basic of 1970s hardware to games that test the limits of state-of-the-art gaming PCs - between us we own and play the lot. We don't just find fun in playing games, we also enjoy creating them - generally the kind of games we grew up with and still enjoy today. We have a lot of love for that special time in gaming history when everything was new, genres were limited and breakthroughs in design and thinking came thick and fast. That time may be long gone, the hardware mostly forgotten, but we haven't lost the memories and feelings they invoke.
So why create games? Well, games are fairly unique as a medium. You go about creating your works as you would with any other artistic pursuit or pastime, but instead of keeping them in a book, hanging the results on a wall for people to stand back and observe passively, or having someone sit as the experience washes over them as with film, instead they get to interact with your efforts. You get to interact with your efforts! The experience can be solitary, shared with family and friends or even complete strangers - it all works. There's much that is good about games.
Many people enjoy playing games but not everyone gets the same kind of pleasure from creating and sharing them. The motivation behind this can come from all kinds of influences and thinking. Some programmers enjoy the technical challenges. Others are happier to be removed from anything so intense and prefer to concentrate on design elements. A programmer will often be drawn to a system that lends itself to their way of working. Someone who wants to push the boundaries of human-machine interaction or create something that is much more of an "experience" than a traditional game, isn't going to want to sit hacking away at archaic hardware. There are a great number of programmers who love to recreate that 1980s pixelated feel on modern, powerful machines, but like to add little twists and use new techniques to bring about interesting results. Then there are people who are so devoted to a platform of choice during their youth that they spend their free time producing software for it - they never left that spirit behind. To some extent, that's closest to what we're about and have been about in the past, but having said that, we are all individuals and have our own way of looking at these things.
So... we're not full-time software developers. We're not looking to create new experiences in gaming. We're not all about pushing any technical or game-play boundaries... we're certainly not in the business of proving anything to anyone when it comes to the prowess of the hardware we target. That's best left to those who have that burning desire inside them - it's not something we care for. Our approach is very much in the same spirit as many "homebrewers" working on their ever so slightly older machines than our Jaguars and Falcons.
So why the Jaguar?
For the most part we've taken a side-step away from the hardware we know and love and redirected that devotion and spirit for our older Ataris and applied it to something that isn't altogether too alien. It's not an uncommon progression when you look at people who have decided to tinker with the Jaguar. While we are all still fans and supporters of our Atari 8- and 16-bit computers, we have put most of our efforts into creating for a platform that shares a lot of the good aspects and removes a lot of the hurdles... and then adds in a few of its own to keep it interesting. ;-)
Of course, we still create for our older machines, but it's mostly the Jaguar that gets our attention for the moment. Our main programmer briefly worked on the platform back in the day (before Atari went belly-up and left those poor would-be developers high and dry) but he went back to the ST and Falcon first before returning to the Jaguar. Why? Matthew Gosling (of Caspian Software) puts his thoughts into one sentence better than we possibly could:
Another good reason for anyone to get involved with the Jaguar is the status of the machine itself - it's an open platform, released into the public domain by Hasbro, the owners at the time. Most of Reboot purchased the machine back in the early 90s (as all good Atari fanbois did) and still even own the original machines purchased back then. So it wasn't such a random choice. It's a system that offers a great deal of fun, exploration and possibilities. For anyone who wants to be creative and produce the kinds of games they loved back in the day, it removes plenty of hassles and lets them get on with the fun, but in a way that is true to the ST/Amiga/Atari 8. In the limited amount of personal free time people of our generation find themselves with, that's a perfect match.
While most people can take that for what it's worth, not everyone approves of such endeavours. It's not that uncommon to hear the odd dissenting voice...
"It's not a retro-gaming console!"...
"The Jaguar is capable of so much more!"...
Each to their own, we're just not so short-sighted. Our motivation comes from a desire to have fun being productive, not attempting to prove anything to desperate fanbois or non-believers regarding "look what could have been if only...". That might motivate some, but it doesn't do it for us, sorry.
There's much to address on this subject, but it is beyond the scope of this document. A follow-up will look further into the Jagaur scene with a brief reflection on what has been seen in the past, where things might have gone wrong and how the seeds of recovery are beginning to flourish and bear fruit in more recent times. There's also plenty to put under the microscope regarding the different approaches and motivations for creating games on Jaguar, how promising too much can end up leaving you with a millstone around your neck and how to plan and organise a realistic project in terms of resources, time and the overall most important factor - FUN!