Star Alliance - Battle for
Interview: Lars Hannig
There has probably never
been a better time to own a Jaguar. Since the official
support departed, highly dedicated enthusiasts have
taken the big cat's future into their own hands by writing
their own games. The hardware and commercially released
games thus far have never been more affordable, too.
Given the choice between a KFC Bargain Bucket and a
new Jaguar console, we know where our £10 would
in Germany, formerly known as the Jaguar Development
Club, recently announced the imminent arrival of its
first Jaguar game for general release. MyAtari is pleased
to have got the following interview with its founder
and lead developer, Lars Hannig.
MyAtari: Welcome to MyAtari, Lars. Please
tell us about your team and current projects.
Lars: Our team consists of three people
at the moment, Michael Hartmann, Christiaan Bogtman
and myself (Lars Hannig). Michael and I are from Germany
and Christiaan is from the Netherlands.
We are working on a new game
for the Atari Jaguar called, "Star Alliance - Battle
for Earth". It is a 2D shooter with some static
and some scrolling levels. I started the project with
the working title, "JDC Invader" on Tuesday,
31st Oct 2000. Originally I just wanted to do a Space
Invaders clone, but after it was finished I was not
satisfied with it and I decided to continue the development.
In the middle of 2001
I first got in contact with Michael and I contacted
Christiaan. They decided to help me with the development
of the game. I am doing all the coding, most of the
graphics, most of the design and other things that need
to be done. Michael Hartmann is a very good German comic
artist and he is helping me with design sketches, ideas
and suggestions. He also came up with the name, "Star
Alliance - Battle for Earth". Christiaan Bogtman
is a good musician from the Netherlands and he is doing
the sound FX and music. He also does additional graphics
work, for example, the status bar, that displays your
energy, score and lives.
MyAtari: Were you inspired by any other
programmers or games for this project?
Lars: Yes, many other games inspired
me for the Star Alliance project. Some of the were Raiden,
Raptor (PC), Tyrian (PC), Raiden Project (PSX) and some
others. The work of Duranik inspired me a lot as well.
Their work on Native inspired me a lot for the rendered
MyAtari: What do you enjoy about developing
for the Jaguar?
Lars: The Jaguar was always my favorite
system and when I started learning programming my main
interest was of course Jaguar programming. Jaguar programming
is very fun, because you can already do quite a lot
with MC68000 assembler. That makes it easy to start
coding the Jaguar, later you can port the routines to
the GPU or DSP to make them run faster and better. The
object processor is also nice because it lets you modify
the objects very easily.
MyAtari: Did you learn 68000 on the ST?
What productions have you done in 68000?
Lars: I got my first computer when
I was four years old... It was a C-64 and I started
to write tiny BASIC programs, at that time. I never
did more complicated programs in BASIC because I soon
got frustrated and stopped programming. Many years later,
in the beginning of 2000, I decided to look into programming
again, because I was very interested in the Jaguar and
wanted to learn Jaguar programming. Meanwhile I have
done several Jaguar demos/programs including the JDC
demos, the E-JagFest 2000 demo, the OP Tester V2 and
others. I never really used any MC 68000 based computers,
but I learned MC 68000 assembler on the Jaguar itself.
MyAtari: What's the dream game you'd
like to develop?
Lars: The game of my dream would be
an adventure game. Adventure games have always been
my favorite genre, I played most of the Lucas Arts and
Sierra Adventures and I liked them a lot. I love horror
adventures as well, for example The 7th Guest and 11th
Hour. Although I think inventory and environment puzzles
are much better than the mini game puzzles like chess
or so, that you find in The 7th Guest. Newer horror
games like Sanitarium or Blackstone Chronicles are very
good as well. I think I'd like to do a horror adventure
game, maybe something like Blackstone Chronicles. Something
like Resident Evil or Silent Hill would be great as
well. But at the moment games like this are only a dream
for me, but maybe one day I'll be able to do something
like that. :-)
MyAtari: Should large graphic adventures
be easy to do, now that anyone can record their own
CDs, or is it more complicated than that?
Lars: No. Games like Resident Evil
would be impossible because the Jag is not powerful
enough to handle it. But even graphic adventures like
Myst are almost impossible to do on the Jag now, because
the JagFree CD feature of Protector SE gets past the
CD encryption, but the CD development is still the same.
The problem is that I have no JagCD dev kit (development
CD drive with Atari Falcon and CD emulator hardware)
and as far as I know none of the current Jag developers
has one. That means that you would have to burn a test
CD for each tiny graphic, code or sound change. You
should also keep in mind that the Jaguar is not able
to read CD-RWs. Burning a test CD for each tiny change
is not only way too expensive, it is also much too time
consuming for real game development. The only real way
to use JagFree CD is writing a BJL based program that
you burn onto the CD. JagFree CD is able to load a BJL
based program from a CD to RAM and run it. So JagFree
CD is a simple and good way to publish BJL based games.
MyAtari: What existing games do you admire
or wish you had developed?
Lars: I admire a lot of adventure
games, especially the classic graphic adventure
games, but also newer adventure games. I wish I had
worked on classic graphic adventure games or games like
The 7th Guest, Sanitarium, Blackstone Chronicles, Resident
Evil or Silent Hill.
MyAtari: Do you plan to acquire and finish
unpublished games from the Atari era, like Songbird
has done, or are you concentrating on original titles
Lars: I am concentrating on developing
my own games. It is very difficult to find unpublished
games from the Atari era and sadly a lot of them are
not complete and the source codes are often lost. Developing
your own games is much more fun, because you can put
your own ideas and feelings into the game. And I am
programming for fun, not just because I want to do games
for the Jaguar. I program for fun and if something cool
gets finished and others are interested in it that's
MyAtari: How will you manufacture and
distribute your game? In the UK, two of the major high
street games stores (Electronics Boutique and Game,
which are actually under the same ownership) have started
selling Jaguar and Lynx hardware for incredibly low
prices and new, shrink-wrapped games for the same or
even less. Would you consider trying to distribute your
games this way and therefore perhaps sell more?
Lars: I'm not sure how I will manufacture
or distribute my game. I think I'll look into details
like that when the game is finished.
MyAtari: If the Jaguar could be re-designed,
what features would you wish for?
Lars: This question is easy to answer
:-) I think the most important features would be more
bandwidth, more RAM, less or no hardware bugs and texture-mapping
hardware. Of course, faster versions of Tom and Jerry
(code-names of the Jag RISC chips) would be cool as
MyAtari: What is the situation like regarding
development tools and libraries? Do you use the original
systems supplied by Atari or have you spent a lot of
time creating your own?
Lars: I do not use the original Atari
routines. I wrote everything myself except the object
list build routine for the GPU. That was done by Duranik
(developers of Native, the most impressive Jag underground
demo game so far). I am also using the Sinister Developments
mod player and the ICE compression de-crunch routine
that was also ported to the Jag by Sinister Developments.
Everything else was programmed by myself. I am using
an official Atari Jaguar Development Kit (2 MB Alpine
Board with development Jaguar) to develop Star Alliance.
MyAtari: Do Jaguar developers support
Lars: Yes, of course, most of the
remaining Jag developers support each other.
MyAtari: That makes sense, as it helps
games get finished quicker. Do you ever think the lack
of commercial deadlines might cause games to take longer
than they should? Jaguar fans are hungry for new games!
Lars: No, I think commercial deadlines
are some of the worst things that can happen to a Jag
project, because deadlines might cause frustration,
frustration kills the fun and fun is one of the main
reasons why somebody should develop for the Jaguar.
MyAtari: Do you think Sony "borrowed"
the idea for the shape of PS2 from Atari's (circa 1994,
unreleased) Microbox? The offset, two-tier design and
ability to stand upright, seems too much of a co-incidence...
Lars: Hmmm, I guess the idea of the
Microbox was similar. But I don't think that the designers
of the PS2 knew about the Microbox. I think they simply
had the same idea.
MyAtari: Thank you very much for the
interview, Lars. We look forward to the finished game
with great anticipation!