Friday 4 September 2009

A Start

Hello Everyone

Well I guess its finally time I made a start on telling people about the homebrew project.
Some of you may know I've been around the Atari scene for a while, firstly with the Falcon and CT60, and then the Atari Jaguar (Atari's Last Gaming Console), but keeping rather quiet.

I started coding the Jag a few years back but didn't really know what I was intending to do, I knew I wanted to do 3D but that was about all. I therefore began thinking what kind of graphics engine would be suitable. In coding parlance, the graphics engine is the part of the computer code which determines what is to be shown on the screen, in a 2D program this will be layers of oimages, in a 3D program this will be geometric objects transformed via perspective calculations into images suitable for display on a TV or monitor. In modern game developments these sections of code, these "Engines" are often licensed from other devlopers, you will frequently hear for example that a game is based on 'the Unreal engine'. This means that the major part of the code determining what will be displayed is a licensed version of that contaned in the game 'Unreal Tournament", theree are also many other examples. For the Atari Jaguar there was example 3D supplied to official developers, but when I began coding i did not have a copy of this, and so I began to write my own.

In the end, impressed by Phase Zero on the Jaguar, I started on a voxel engine (from scratch) - for those unfamiliar with the term, Voxel is short for Volumetric Pixel, I could give a lot of background but the essence that you need to know is that it's an extremely efficient method for displaying convincing, shaded, rolling landscapes such as that shown in the attached screenshot.

Shortly after that I began coding a 3D polygon engine (also from scratch as I had not seen the Atari demo code). The Polygon engine is what current gameplayers will be most familiar with, essentially it is a section of code which uses a large number of geometric shapes (usually triangles) to simulate the shapes of the objects, characters and vehicles seen in the game world, it will simulate the direction of light on these objects and their ability to reflect this light, it will also draw pictures onto these, to give them texture, which may be skin, or rock, scales or hair, bricks or slime, anything the game producer desires.

For a while both pieces of code (engines) ran entirely separately, but I demo'd the voxel engine on its own at JagFestUK in Rochester in 2004. Finally the polygon code was added to the voxel engine and they merged successfully in time for JagFest 2005. I'm attaching a picture of what was shown then, including a coloured voxel landscape, fogging and a whopping big textured triangle in the foreground poking out of the voxel landscape.

I hope this finally starts to answer a few of the questions that people have been asking about the project and as time rolls on (and depending what we show at JagFest this year) I'll talk about it some more.

Atari Owl

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