Most retro consoles have the ability to be linked together for multiplayer purposes, and the Jaguar is no different. If you look on the back of the Jag, you'll notice that there are two exposed circuit board connectors. The longer of the two is used by the Jaguar SCART or S-Video connectors, and the other one is - surprise - used by the JagLink system networking device. I'm going to go out on a limb here are say that there are probably very few Jaguar consoles out there that have ever had anything slotted onto that narrower connector, simply because the JagLink is a pretty uncommon peripheral and only three games actually use it: Doom, Battlesphere and Aircars. As you'd expect, in order to fully make use of the JagLink, you need two Jaguars, two TVs, a willing friend and two copies of whichever game it is you want to play.
The lesser-spotted Network Capable logo
I had pretty much everything on that tick list, apart from the second copy of Doom...but when I bought my JagLink from an eBay seller, I mentioned that I'd also be looking for another copy of Doom and he sent me a brand new (sealed) boxed copy for free! For that completely selfless act of kindness, I'd like to thank eBayer retro_xtreme.

It's actually a little odd that, considering how much of a fan of the Doom series I am, I've never actually played the game in multiplayer; so it was quite apt that my first ever taste of co-op Doom came about using the Jaguar version. Many times over the years I've looked at that gameplay mode option in the menu of Jaguar Doom, and only now have I had the ability to actually select 'co-op' or 'deathmatch' and been able to jump into a game with a second player...and it really does add something extra to a game I thought I had seen every side of (actually, you can only see one side of pretty much everything in the sprite-based engine...but you know what I mean!). To be honest, I was really impressed with the speed at which the JagLink networked my two systems and there was none of the stuttering or freezing up mentioned in the Doom manual (see image below). The only issue I encountered was that my modded 60Hz system does occasionally freeze while running Doom for reasons unbeknown to me, and that's not really anything to do with the JagLink - it does it in single player too.

Game-play experiences aside, the JagLink itself is a nice looking device. It comprises two network adaptor boxes that attach to the back of each system and a network cable that goes between the two. I do also have an unofficial network cable but I've not actually tried it to see if it works simply because the connectors on the ends of it are very wide and I can't connect the SCART and S-Video cables at the same time. If it does indeed work, it makes me wonder why the official version of the JagLink has the little boxes...but I digress.

It's a great little addition to my collection and that it's boxed and in really good condition is a massive bonus; and the free copy of Doom it came with only sweetened the deal.

Grab A Seat At The Jag Bar

There are plenty of videos focusing on the Jaguar on YouTube. Most of them specifically set out to berate the system, the management fumbles made by Atari and all that other stupid shit that idiots like to bring up whenever anyone even dares to utter the words "Atari Jaguar." It's with great pleasure though, that I am able to bring to your attention a totally new web series from YouTuber Brian Thomas Barnhart: The Jag Bar, a 64-bit Interactive Multimedia Show. It's a pretty original concept in which your host will sit down with a different guest in each episode and dissect some of the gems (and stinkers) that make up the underrated console's library. Here's a look at the pilot episode:

The Price We Must (Not) Pay

It's no secret that in recent times the cost of absolutely everything to do with retrogaming has gone through the roof. It wasn't too long ago that you could pick older games up for peanuts because they were considered junk by the vast majority. This trend has, until quite recently, not really been an issue for many Jaguar owners and collectors though. Certainly in my experience, the price of Jaguar games and consoles, while not exactly 'dirt cheap,' has remained fairly constant. Some games are almost universally cheap; while others such as Towers II, Iron Soldier 2, Fight For Life, Skyhammer, Gorf, and a couple of other CD-based and unreleased titles have always commanded 'premium' prices for whatever reason; and likewise with the Jaguar CD unit itself.

The reason I've been prompted to write this post though, is that I've recently been looking to purchase another Jaguar console. I do already have two systems, but the one I had modded with a 60Hz switch has decided that it doesn't like running Doom with the Jaglink (more to come on this in a planned post) and so I've been on the hunt for a reasonably-priced console so I might enjoy some co-op and deathmatch Doom without having the game crash every 5 minutes. I have seen a few systems in the wild but they've generally been priced at around £100...which in my opinion at least is a little bit too much to pay for what is essentially going to be a console that will only get played when I can convince somebody to play multiplayer Doom with me. Fair enough I thought - maybe I'll be able to find a cheap and cheerful 'spares and repair' or 'console only - untested' deal online. Wrong. The price of Jaguar consoles appears, in my absence from searching for them, to have gone absolutely stratospheric:
Yep. £580 for a Jag and some games?! £300+ for a boxed one? Who are these people kidding? Now, I'm not one to try to detract from the price of my own collection, but from what these jokers are charging my own Jaguar hoard must be worth about £10,000! Not a chance. So, it seems that the rip-off merchants have finally discovered our little secret and this makes me both sad and angry. How long until we start seeing copies of Cybermorph changing hands for £50 a pop? Hopefully this will not happen, but it's a scary prospect.
My own Jaguar collection, as of about a month ago.

Introducing The Atari PlayOne V2.0

Some time ago we featured the awesome looking all-in-one Jaguar and Jaguar CD system, the Atari PlayOne. This impressive looking beast is the brainchild of system modder 10p6 and features - as stated - a Jaguar cart system, a CD unit and a whole host of outputs in one customised shell. However, Do The Math can reveal that 10p6 is working on an upgrade to the PlayOne - the PlayOne V2.0. It's a work in progress at present, but the video below shows some interesting features, such as a more compact shell and a sliding cover over the cartridge slot. We'll be keeping an eye on the progress of the PlayOne V2.0, and hoping it develops into more than a wireframe model...

Behold The 60Hz Ultra Jag!

There are three types of gamer in this world. There are the ones who just play games they enjoy, and don't really give a toss about stuff like borders and speed and PAL, NTSC and all the other guff that you can get wrapped up in. Then there are the others who like nothing more than discussing the intricacies of an RGB output or the slight differences in frame-rate between one version of a game and another. Then there are people like me who sort of straddle the two. Sure - I play import games occasionally and I do sometimes dabble with a soldering iron and tinker with the innards of various systems...but to be totally honest, I can take or leave all that stuff. As far as I'm concerned, if a game can be played - I'll play it.

This probably stems from just having PAL systems as a kid and not really having the means to investigate the 'superior' 60Hz stuff from exotic places like Japan and America. I had what I was given, and I was happy to play it. Ignorant? You bet. Did I have much of a choice? Nope! Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that the whole 'PAL stuff is crap' thing never really bothered me, and to my untrained eyes, the difference between 50Hz and 60Hz is something I'm just not arsed about.

Recently however, my learned friend and co-writer here at Do The Math (we'll call him 'Andrew') told me that via the medium of arcane magic (also known as electronics) he could add a switch to a Jaguar console that would enable me to effortlessly move hither and thither between the plain old 50Hz I'm accustomed to; and the spangly 60Hz usually reserved for the rich, famous, politically motivated and bourgeois. So I sent one of my cats - that's how I affectionately refer to my Jaguars - off to Andrew in the far, treacherous and leper-ridden North; and nary a week later it was back with me in the South, smelling strongly of coal dust...but with an additional switch festooned upon it's side:
This little nubbin allows me to switch between 50Hz and 60Hz signals. It can't be done 'on the fly' like some other mods I've seen recently (you have to turn the system off before hand) but this isn't really an issue for me. The extra calories burned by moving my hand 30cm from the switch to the on/off button and back again are negligible. Andrew also kindly supplied me with some pictures of the modification process being undertaken:
This is all very good, I'm sure you'll agree. But what about the actual differences this type of modification makes to the operation of the games themselves? Well, I have to be honest here - I wasn't really expecting to see much of a difference because I had been informed that a lot of Jaguar games were programmed by European software houses and as such are optimised for the 50Hz console. And, for a lot of the games I have tried...I have to confirm that this is indeed the case. There are a couple of things that are instantly noticeable though, regardless of the game you're playing - the visible screen is noticeably bigger in 60Hz mode and the boot sequence does run slightly faster...but for the most part with a lot of carts, this is the only real difference. However, this isn't the case with every game. Oh no.

Certain games are improved to the point that the increased speed makes them feel like totally different experiences. Games like Doom and Wolfenstein are examples of this, and Doom in particular moves so much more smoothly than the 50Hz version that it's actually quite stunning. Super Burnout too, feels a little quicker...if that's actually possible. There doesn't seem to be any particular rule at play here - some games benefit massively from the switch to 60Hz, while others (rather disappointingly) do not. One game that I thought might be sped up by the change is AvP...but alas the only difference on display is the increased real estate on the screen. This is probably more to do with the actual game engine than the frequency of the console, but I was hoping for more. That said, this is a really interesting subject and below is a selection of screen shots from various games that illustrate the increased play area if nothing else.
60Hz Vs 50Hz Doom
60Hz Pitfall
50Hz Pitfall
60Hz Boot
50Hz Boot
60Hz AvP
50Hz AvP
All in all, I'm really impressed with the modification that Andrew performed and I pretty much exclusively use the 60Hz Jag now just because of the increased screen size on my TV. It's an operation that's well worth investigating and if you're interested in having this done yourself, drop us a message in the comments section and we'll get you sorted.

Jaguar The Musical

I was browsing the internet t'other day and one of those random adverts popped up in the sidebar of a website. Don't know what I'd been looking at for Google to target Cats the Musical at me...but it did. As I glanced at the advert, I noticed an alarming similarity between it and the logo of another 'thing' involving felines...

Or maybe my affection for the Jaguar has gone just a little bit too far.

Guest Article: Steve Mitchell (Lore Design) Interview

Lore Design was the company responsible for the production of Highlander: The Last Of The McLeods on the Jaguar CD. Released in October 1995 the game was an impressive Alone In The Dark style 3D adventure that used motion-captured characters along side 24-bit true colour backdrops. It was based on the Gaumont Multimedia animated TV series, that was in turn based on the film starring Christopher Lambert. A further two games were planned but never released. Here, freelance games journalist Kieren Hawken interviews Steve Mitchell, the owner of Lore Design and producer on all three Highlander games.

What are the origins of Lore Design in the video game industry?

The company was founded to do the Computer Moderated Play By Mail game Lore Lords of Britain, which ran for most of the life of the business. Whilst in a gap year I did the BBC Micro ports of the James Bond game License to Kill and Atari arcade game Return Of The Jedi for Domark with my college friend Chris Lowe.

Around the time I graduated I completed Kung Food for the Atari Lynx with Paul Johnson, Tim Harper and Christian Urquhart (who is famous for being employed by Ocean Software in the 80s while still at school). Working with Christian taught me a lot about gameplay and Paul was an inspired artist who could script whole games himself and proved to be a good at business too.

Can you tell us a little bit about how Highlander came about?

Atari licensed the Highlander animated series for a Jaguar CD game. They picked Lore to develop it as we had completed several Lynx games and Dave Worton, who worked with me on some of them, had started working with 3D Studio on a pre-rendered Z buffered backdrop that allowed for the limited polygon characters that were needed for the Jaguar system and the Alone in The Dark style perspective that Atari had picked for the game. Atari also paid for state of the art motion capture studio to be built at our development studio. They paid for all the original voice actors to be flown over and provided footage from the cartoon series for us to use. Sadly this was the last game completed by Lore as a dispute with the then Atari Corp on future titles resulted in the insolvency and ultimately the voluntary receivership of the business in around 1997.

It has long been rumoured that both Highlander II and III were completed, what can you tell us about the sequels?

There was a PC version of Highlander and the sequels were in production but unreleased, as they were licensed games and those licenses had expired. I can't imagine there being any official versions released however. But it is not impossible that either from QA (testing), Atari or an ex-Lore member that something may be out there. So I can't squash the rumour, though I'd be very surprised if it was a final version.

What was the Jaguar like to work with?

Personally I much preferred the Lynx over the Jaguar for development. Generally cartridge consoles had not only RAM but also ROM to work from directly. Adding the CD meant reads had to be cached into your RAM instead of just sitting in the ROM making the CD system less potent that the straight cartridge system.

The PlayStation was a much nicer console to develop for than the Jaguar with better tools, eight times more effective RAM and it could do basic texture mapping. Despite the lack of experience they also offered excellent support, something Atari and the Jaguar didn’t have.

What happened to the members of Lore Design and what have you all done since?

Many of the team stayed in the northwest and joined Magenta Software (who also worked on Highlander but still survive as a business to this day). Paul was a founder of Magenta and still runs it today developing console games for major publishers.

I myself had just got married and started a family back in 96/97 and so left Lore and become Development Manager (Internal) at SCEE in London. Whilst I was there I produced Total NBA ‘97 and NBA Shootout ‘97 before returning north and starting Diamond Apple Ltd. I still run Diamond Apple today making games, accessories and other game technologies.

I work with and see many of the people from the Lore period on a regular basis. For example our original producer on Highlander, who worked for Atari Corp at the time, is visiting the UK right now from the US. Some of the people on my team now were with me back at Lore or during my time at SCEE afterwards.

Are there any funny stories you can tell us about your time at Lore Design?

Whilst visiting Atari Corp in the mid 90s I was invited to a meal with Jeff Minter and some Atari QA guys, this was around the time Jeff was making the seminal Jaguar title Tempest 2000.  Jeff had taken us to a curry house he'd found near the Sunnyvale Atari offices in the Bay Area at which he had persuaded the proprietors to serve vindaloo strength curry to the Atari employees. I distinctly recall him telling the testers, at some point before the meal, to "Put the Bog Roll in the Fridge..." or similar such words followed by a wry smile. Jeff's time in California was legendary amongst the Atari Corp team at the time but I can only confirm this one anecdote from personal experience. The curry was good! I do not know if the QA guys took his advice though!

Do you have happy memories of your time as first party producer for Atari?

I personally loved making Lynx games and would still code for it if I had a development kit!

The Jaguar not so much!

Interview by Kieren Hawken. Special thanks to Steve Mitchell.

Read a full article on the history of Lore Design in issue 128 of Retro Gamer magazine.