Hello again from Scott

It does float! And doesn't get soggy in milk! :)

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Hello again from Scott

Post by gpumgr » Tue Jul 15, 2014 1:40 am

Hey there -
a31chris suggested I pop in here to chime in with some HVS memories... I think he has some questions ready to go but if anyone else is interested, I'd be happy to think really hard about any questions and come up with plausible-sounding answers that might have happened.

As I mentioned on another board here, any memories I have are just based on my incomplete information and my perspective. I probably don't have answers for any long-standing Jaguar mysteries!

And for those of you who are wondering what the heck is going on, I'm Scott Corley, I was at High Voltage Software from the very early days, I wrote Ruiner Pinball, I wrote the legendary and quite possibly mythological "GPUMGR" and the C compiler integration to go with it, and I was personally in shock for weeks when I found out the Playstation 2 had an architecture even more crazy than the Jaguar.

Ask away,
Scott

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Re: Hello again from Scott

Post by a31chris » Tue Jul 15, 2014 2:06 am

I can't remember what I was going to ask now lol.
What came after the Jaguar was the PS1 which for all it's greatness, ushered in corporate development and with it the bleached, repetitive, bland titles which for the most part we're still playing today. - David Wightman

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Re: Hello again from Scott

Post by a31chris » Tue Jul 15, 2014 2:07 am

1. What years did you work with HVS and what do you do now?

2. What can you tell us about the company? Did it not get its start with Atari?

3. HVS first game as a company was White Men Can't Jump. That was done for Twentieth Century Fox. I'm assuming somehow as a newborn company you guys were gotten ahold of by Twentieth Century and asked to do this game for the new Atari Jaguar? Do you know if this is how you guys got Atari's attention as a company?

4. HVS second game as a company was Ruiner, is that correct? It seems Atari contacted you folks to do a Pinball game for them? Can you tell us about that arrangement?
What came after the Jaguar was the PS1 which for all it's greatness, ushered in corporate development and with it the bleached, repetitive, bland titles which for the most part we're still playing today. - David Wightman

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Re: Hello again from Scott

Post by a31chris » Tue Jul 15, 2014 2:13 am

Tell us more about the anecdotal origin of the GPU manager if you can. Not so technical but at what point did you guys say this is horseyshit and there's gotta be a better way to do this.

Is this gpumanager your brainchild?
What came after the Jaguar was the PS1 which for all it's greatness, ushered in corporate development and with it the bleached, repetitive, bland titles which for the most part we're still playing today. - David Wightman

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Re: Hello again from Scott

Post by gpumgr » Tue Jul 15, 2014 4:00 am

a31chris wrote:1. What years did you work with HVS and what do you do now?
I started with HVS in 1993. At that time, Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo were mature platforms. While I was at HVS we worked on (not in order) the Genesis, Super Nintendo, Sega GameGear, Atari Jaguar, Sega Saturn, Sega 32x, Matsushita M2, Windows 95, Sony Playstation, Nintendo 64, Playstation 2... what else? I'm probably forgetting a few.

I left on 9/9/1999, which happened to be the day the Sega Dreamcast was released. Just a coincidence :) it wasn't like the Dreamcast was the last straw or anything :)

After that, I started making games independently for the Palm Pilot. That was great fun, did that for a long time, until Palm completed the transition to FacePalm. I worked at another game studio for a while after that, and now I still write software, but not in the gaming industry anymore. Every now and then I think about kicking out a new iPhone game, but haven't gotten around to clicking XCode->File->New Project yet, so that probably won't happen for a while!
a31chris wrote:2. What can you tell us about the company? Did it not get its start with Atari?
HVS was a straight-up independent video game company. Originally we were working on Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo games for publishers. I had somewhat of a corporate programming gig out of college. I knew Kerry (HVS founder) in a roundabout way from the Chicago BBS scene. He knew I was a programmer from that scene, from some demos I had done. Somehow he tracked me down on a BBS, and I can't tell you how blown away I was by this whole idea. This may sound naive, but at the time I really didn't have any idea that anybody in Chicago was making video games for Genesis or SNES, or that you even could. HVS had maybe 3 people at the time. I would take off early from my other job and go check things out at the original HVS office. I was sitting there modifying Sonic the Hedgehog on the SN Systems Genesis dev kit, disassembling code, giving myself infinite free lives, and playing for hours on a little TV next to a computer. Needless to say I quit my job and joined forces with HVS. It's still exciting to think about today.

There was no bootstrap from a big publisher. It was entirely a leap of faith. The basic model was - find a publisher at E3 (or CES, in the early days), pitch them your own games or see if they have a game that needs to be made. They pay for the development and promise royalties. The game either gets published or the publisher goes broke or the game is published and the publisher pretends to be broke so they don't have to pay you, standard game industry stuff. Rinse and repeat.
a31chris wrote:3. HVS first game as a company was White Men Can't Jump. That was done for Twentieth Century Fox. I'm assuming somehow as a newborn company you guys were gotten ahold of by Twentieth Century and asked to do this game for the new Atari Jaguar? Do you know if this is how you guys got Atari's attention as a company?
White Men Can't Jump came via Trimark Interactive. They had acquired the video game rights for the movie. The sequence of events is a bit hazy for me. We had a really good relationship with Bill Rehbock at Atari, and also with the guys from Trimark, but I don't recall exactly what came first. As far as I know, this all came out of a CES blitz (CES is the Consumer Electronics Show, where video games were shown before E3 existed. It was twice a year, once in Las Vegas and once in Chicago - I had been going to the Chicago show since I was 16, another long story...). We would take trade shows by storm, talking to anyone and everyone. Kerry would book meetings with EVERYBODY, we were always running from publisher to publisher. I would give very impassioned pitches about how we could and would do anything under the sun. If I had to guess, we may have connected with Atari first at a Chicago CES, and the Trimark relationship came after that, but I really don't recall the exact sequence.

The idea of a "license" back then was really important. There was quite a bit of "common knowledge" in the business, all of which was totally flawed of course, but one of the bits of wisdom was, if you wanted your game to sell, it had to have a "license" attached. Of course, you wanted a license like "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", but hey, in a pinch, here's a movie that some people have probably seen, better than nothing - I think that was Trimark's strategy. For us, it fit our model - you'll pay us to develop it, we'll learn a new system in the mean time, grow our skill set, grow our portfolio, build relationships, etc., and hey, if it sells 50 million units somehow, icing on the cake. And of course it gave us a nice relationship with Atari.

There are some famous reviews of that game out there, but developing it was a really fascinating experience. We were all into rotoscoping back then, that was the cool technology because of Mortal Kombat. All of the moves in the game were actually done by real dudes jumping off a small trampoline. I mean... when you see a guy in the game jump in the air, do a FLIP, and slam dunk, a dude actually DID that in real life. There is a locally-famous organization in Chicago known as the Jesse White Tumblers (in fact I just saw them perform on the 4th of July this year!) and they have kids who can do these amazing things. We hired them.

We just videotaped it, and our artists had to cut out all the frames in Deluxe Paint. There was no blue-screen... we filmed it all in a gym...

It was all good experience for things we did down the line - in later years we were always very efficient with mocap studio time because we learned the hard way how many different motions you really need... we learned to come prepared with a COMPREHENSIVE move list and burn through it with time left over for do-overs...

The programming for that was all done by Adisak, he did the 3D work with a doom-style perspective-correct basketball court.
a31chris wrote:4. HVS second game as a company was Ruiner, is that correct? It seems Atari contacted you folks to do a Pinball game for them? Can you tell us about that arrangement?
We pitched the idea of a pinball game to Atari. I liked pinball, we all liked pinball, we liked the idea of doing a pinball game. I loved Raster Blaster and Night Mission Pinball on the Apple ][ as a kid. Both of those games are still incredibly awesome! The way we pitched the game is how I've basically done everything since - make a demo, and they can't say no. Kerry gave me free reign to make a demo of a pinball game. I wrote one in a few days. We pitched the idea of the game with a working demo, they said ok, I was really pretty excited. If I ever need to pitch an idea these days, the demo comes first - It's easy to say no to a sketch, almost impossible to say no to something that is already running...

We started working on the game, at some point Atari said they needed a name for the game. I think they were releasing a list of "coming soon" games to promote the Jaguar, so they needed a title. I looked at my stack of CDs... Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral was on the top. I told Kerry "Ruiner" was the name, he faxed it over, and there you go. I still like the name :) (btw if you look at the track listing for that album, almost every other song title would make a hilariously BAD name for a game... e.g. "I Do Not Want This" :)

THAT game was another very cool development experience - the game gets criticisms, if you ask my wife what really drove me nuts about the game (she was my girlfriend at the time), she'll say "the flippers"... I had two ways to do the flippers, one which leveraged the collision detection of the rest of the board, and one which would have worked much better :) time constraints left version one in place. What can I say, it was my first game.

You can kind of tell that a lot of work went into the Ruiner board, and the Tower board feels a bit less refined. The original idea was to just have one awesome board. But it was the publisher's strong opinion that two were needed, so the second board was added. When the publisher is paying the bills, you do what the publisher wants.

The artwork for the Ruiner board was actually hand-painted. It's incredible. The artist, Mike Baker, hand-painted the whole thing on a huge board. We scanned it in, which was not easy, because there was no scanner that large! So Mike had to piece all of it back together in Deluxe Paint, and of course none of the pieces were exactly rotated right, so he had to fix it all in DP. Rotating a large image in deluxe paint a few degrees probably took 10 minutes to finish processing. Unbelievable. Whatever the critiques are of the game, there were certain things that we wanted to do, and we just did them. We wanted the thing painted, Mike wanted to paint it, and he did. I wanted him to paint it, because it looked cool. I mean, you wouldn't just decide to make a computer game out of something hand painted, normally. But that's what we wanted to do.

I don't even know if people actually played Ruiner all the way through... if you get far enough, a nuclear armageddon is nigh, and hordes of little tiny people start panicking and running out on the playfield... if you hit them with the ball they squash and die... good fun.

Scott

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Re: Hello again from Scott

Post by T2KFreeker » Tue Jul 15, 2014 5:07 pm

Ah, Nine Inch Nails fans. I always wondered about the title of Ruiner...now I actually know for sure. Thanx' so much for clearing that up for me and Welcome. Some awesome facts there.
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Re: Hello again from Scott

Post by gpumgr » Wed Jul 16, 2014 3:02 am

a31chris wrote:Tell us more about the anecdotal origin of the GPU manager if you can. Not so technical but at what point did you guys say this is horseyshit and there's gotta be a better way to do this.

Is this gpumanager your brainchild?
The chips on the Jaguar were the first time I had experienced a "manually-managed" cache like that. Now, having any cache at all was a step up from the 65816 and 68000 that I had been programming. At that time there seemed to be this approach to game console hardware that was like "only the most elite will get performance out of this architecture. Are you worthy?" This was due to cost restrictions of course, but there was also a slightly odd attitude that hardware was something that gets better over time as programmers figure out how the heck to make it work right. I have a slight suspicion that this philosophy gave the hardware designers more of a free pass to make things "theoretically possible, but practically impossible", in the expectation that some maniac programmers would find a way to make it work.

At the time we got the Jaguar dev kit, I was fairly fresh out of school with a nice computer science degree, and one of the things you learn about is the design of caches, and the theory behind them. Most of you will know this, so apologies for the review, but the basic idea is that it is very expensive and difficult to have very fast RAM close to the CPU, due to limits in the number of transistors that you can cram on the die. RAM on the same die as the CPU is going to be super fast, but you just can't have much of it.

That's OK though, because pretty much all software tends to access small bits of code and data repeatedly. Think of a software-based texture-mapping routine - you're going to access the same texture many times, and the code to do the texturing is going to repeat many times. If those things are in-cache, the performance win for all of those accesses will outweigh the cost of loading the stuff into the cache in the first place, and when it's done, something else can use that cache space.

Of course, the more recently the code or data has been accessed, the higher the likelihood that it will be accessed again really soon.

Every cache on the planet leverages these facts - with a very simple instruction cache architecture, you can get very high hit rates in the cache. The basic algorithm of every cache on any computer we use today is "load small chunks of code in if they aren't there, and replace the least-recently-used chunks if you need space" (and the same approach for data, as well).

The designers of the Jaguar obviously had in mind that high-performance code would be loaded in cache. But they didn't have enough space on their die to put in the functionality for a cache that manages itself.

The GPUMGR was just an idea to replicate this functionality in software.

Short answer - the motivation for it was that I saw myself spending way too much time figuring out what the "fast stuff" should be, figuring out when to unload it, etc., and I didn't relish the idea of doing all of that work while still running 90% of my code in "slow mode".


Scott

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Re: Hello again from Scott

Post by a31chris » Wed Jul 16, 2014 5:04 pm

Fun interview.
What came after the Jaguar was the PS1 which for all it's greatness, ushered in corporate development and with it the bleached, repetitive, bland titles which for the most part we're still playing today. - David Wightman

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Re: Hello again from Scott

Post by a31chris » Wed Jul 16, 2014 5:12 pm

I was wondering if we could get a HVS page going or just a thread with pics of the offices and the original HVS team from that era(with consent) and post them in the thread or webpage.

The Nuon team did something like that which kinda gave me the idea.

http://www.vmlabs.de/team.htm

I think it would be cool to see pics around the new office at that time with pics of a young Adisak, McGroarty and Corley etc there. It would be interesting to see the office back then along with you guys. We could imagine some NIN or mayube Bush playing in the background,'It must be your skin I'm sinking in...' Some song from that era.
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Re: Hello again from Scott

Post by a31chris » Thu Jul 17, 2014 5:49 pm

VID GRID! Now that is the part game! On the weekends when my friends would come over with their n64s and PSXs after we'd play them at night we'd usually end up chilling out with the Jaguar CD player VLM and Vid Grid. That game got so much play! We still never unlocked the third level or whatever with Teen Spirit on it. But we had fun for at least a couple years nearly ever weekend with that. And my CD player still works.

So what can you tell us about Vid Grid. What roll did you have in the creation of that etc. Some talk about what it was like converting those videos to something the Jaguar can play etc.

And unreleased stuff we don't know about from HVS.

And stuff we do know about like Dactyl Joust. A

And Fight For Life. What was HVS role in that? Just art stuff?
What came after the Jaguar was the PS1 which for all it's greatness, ushered in corporate development and with it the bleached, repetitive, bland titles which for the most part we're still playing today. - David Wightman

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Re: Hello again from Scott

Post by a31chris » Thu Jul 17, 2014 5:51 pm

And Thea Realm of Fighters! Did you meet Ho Sung Pak and the guy who use to play Johny Cage? Tell us about that fiasco.
What came after the Jaguar was the PS1 which for all it's greatness, ushered in corporate development and with it the bleached, repetitive, bland titles which for the most part we're still playing today. - David Wightman

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Re: Hello again from Scott

Post by Walter_j64bit » Fri Jul 18, 2014 3:18 am

Talking to yourself chris? :wink: Say, Scott I enjoy all HVS Jag games, I didn't know that HVS made games for the other systems at that time, I'll have to check them out. :mrgreen:

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Re: Hello again from Scott

Post by Austin » Sun Jul 20, 2014 2:54 pm

Really great info all around!

I am one of those who have a big problem with the flippers on Ruiner (I play tons of real pinball now, so it especially bugs me these days, haha). It's great to know why they are the way they are though, haha. Really interesting stuff about the background on the Ruiner table as well. I never would have been able to tell it was originally a painting! Very cool.

Come to think of it now, I think I played quite a few HVS games back in the day, not just on the Jaguar.

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Re: Hello again from Scott

Post by gpumgr » Mon Jul 21, 2014 3:19 am

a31chris wrote:VID GRID! Now that is the part game! On the weekends when my friends would come over with their n64s and PSXs after we'd play them at night we'd usually end up chilling out with the Jaguar CD player VLM and Vid Grid. That game got so much play! We still never unlocked the third level or whatever with Teen Spirit on it. But we had fun for at least a couple years nearly ever weekend with that. And my CD player still works.

So what can you tell us about Vid Grid. What roll did you have in the creation of that etc. Some talk about what it was like converting those videos to something the Jaguar can play etc.

And unreleased stuff we don't know about from HVS.

And stuff we do know about like Dactyl Joust. A

And Fight For Life. What was HVS role in that? Just art stuff?
These projects (Vid Grid, Dactyl Joust, and Fight For Life) involved other people more than me. So... here's what I can remember.

The Jaguar CD player was a cool peripheral, obviously it worked, and one thing I remember specifically about it was that Atari had decided to write the data to it without the usual extra layer of error correction that CD-ROMs typically had. Basically, they were writing data to the disk in the same format you would write audio. By leaving out the data error detection and correction bits, they could store 700+MB of data storage, versus the typical 650MB that a standard CD-ROM would have.

Atari was able to write data in this format and reliably read it back without errors - but CD-ROMs are an error-prone medium. I don't know how this would have affected the disk's ability to handle scratches and things like that. I imagine if the Jag CD was around longer, at some point there could have been a manufactured batch of CDs that weren't quite as high quality and maybe would have needed the error correction. But it worked for us, and sounds like it worked for other people... and still works...

I'm not really sure where the converted videos came from. I think they may have been converted somewhere outside of HVS...

McGroarty did the programming for it, as I recall it was one of the smoothest projects that HVS maybe ever did. The video playback worked really nicely, blitting around the tiles worked nicely... I just have pleasant memories of that project going well without any major "how the heck is this going to get done" moments.

Dactyl Joust... well, Joust is just an awesome license. I love Joust. It's a great game. Some very clever mechanics, and such a cool world... the original arcade game had so many neat little details for the time. So it was a great thing to have this license.

But doing Joust in 3D is really tricky. The whole idea of this game had two major challenges. First, of course, getting the performance out of the Jag for a game like that is hard. The other major problem was coming up with a game design that would actually be as fun and intuitive to play as the original Joust. Translating a 2D game mechanic into 3D is very difficult, particularly when the original 2D joust mechanic depends on you being able to see the position of every bird in the game at the same time. But those challenges were being met... it would have been nice to see the game released.

Fight For Life... yeah I think we were just doing art for it.

As for things that nobody ever knew about... I pitched a game with a kind of textured-wireframe style, I thought we could get 60FPS out of a 3D game if we were really creative with the rendering style, cutting down on the required fill rate. No demo or anything ever made.

Scott

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Re: Hello again from Scott

Post by a31chris » Mon Jul 21, 2014 3:36 am

Hey speaking of Vid Grid I found this YT video from Wired or something on Jasmine Multimedia. It talks about Vid Grid, or features the PC version quite a bit. I didn't realize there was a PC version. I thought it was country music.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnqqDmFmsMk
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Re: Hello again from Scott

Post by a31chris » Mon Jul 21, 2014 7:23 am

a31chris wrote:And Thea Realm of Fighters! Did you meet Ho Sung Pak and the guy who use to play Johny Cage? Tell us about that fiasco.
Here is a bump for the Thea Realm Fighters question.
What came after the Jaguar was the PS1 which for all it's greatness, ushered in corporate development and with it the bleached, repetitive, bland titles which for the most part we're still playing today. - David Wightman

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Re: Hello again from Scott

Post by gpumgr » Wed Jul 23, 2014 3:09 am

a31chris wrote:
a31chris wrote:And Thea Realm of Fighters! Did you meet Ho Sung Pak and the guy who use to play Johny Cage? Tell us about that fiasco.
Here is a bump for the Thea Realm Fighters question.
Not much I can tell you about TRF, I wasn't really directly involved in it.

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Re: Hello again from Scott

Post by Martin III » Thu Aug 07, 2014 8:50 pm

Very cool. Vid Grid is one of the few Jaguar CD titles that actually intrigues me; I love the whole FMV Puzzle genre.

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Re: Hello again from Scott

Post by txg/mnx » Fri Aug 08, 2014 8:08 am

Hi Scott did you manage to get a look a the scsi harddisk?

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Re: Hello again from Scott

Post by MikeFulton » Fri Aug 08, 2014 9:48 pm

gpumgr wrote:The Jaguar CD player was a cool peripheral, obviously it worked, and one thing I remember specifically about it was that Atari had decided to write the data to it without the usual extra layer of error correction that CD-ROMs typically had. Basically, they were writing data to the disk in the same format you would write audio. By leaving out the data error detection and correction bits, they could store 700+MB of data storage, versus the typical 650MB that a standard CD-ROM would have.

Atari was able to write data in this format and reliably read it back without errors - but CD-ROMs are an error-prone medium. I don't know how this would have affected the disk's ability to handle scratches and things like that. I imagine if the Jag CD was around longer, at some point there could have been a manufactured batch of CDs that weren't quite as high quality and maybe would have needed the error correction. But it worked for us, and sounds like it worked for other people... and still works...
Oh, gosh, I'd forgotten about that. Yes, Jaguar discs were essentially mastered as audio discs. I was not happy at all with that idea at the time. I had questions about the error correction stuff, but my main issue was with the way it complicated the process of mastering a disc. We had to write custom software that would take a collection of files and coalesce them into an audio-style image.

Although it probably did make Pradip's job with creating the CD emulator setup with the Falcon030 somewhat easier, since he didn't have to create an ISO9660 image out of the pile of files.

The reason I was given for why we did it that way was to avoid the need to read and parse the ISO9660 file system, and to avoid having to grab the 2048 data bytes out of each 2336-byte (I think that's the size) raw block and move it. Not to mention actually applying the error correction information when necessary. I guess they just didn't want to deal with that. I'm not sure what role copy protection may have played in the decision process.

With raw block reads you just kept track of what block your data started at, and how many blocks it took on the disc. Then you could just read blocks sequentially into a big buffer without having to move stuff around during the process.

As regards the error stuff... I seem to remember being told that "developers can just put multiple copies of their code on different parts of the disc, so if they get an error on one they can switch to the next copy."

Seriously. And I had more or less the same reaction as you just did.

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Re: Hello again from Scott

Post by a31chris » Fri Aug 22, 2014 11:48 pm

Scott,

In your browsing around any emails you find or notes such as the one about the gpu bug, if you are willing to share them we would love to see them. The notes/emails in general for historical purposes and the Gpu/hardware bugs for documentation purposes. Whatever you are willing to share. :)
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Re: Hello again from Scott

Post by The Laird » Sun Oct 05, 2014 8:28 pm

Some fantastic insight there, incredibly interesting indeed!!!!

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Re: Hello again from Scott

Post by a31chris » Sun Dec 21, 2014 2:40 am

Can you tell us a little bit more about what you remember about Dactyl Joust?

A programmer was looking at this video and commenting how it seems like the resolution may be better than 320x240.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XG904E964Ts

Is that just a YT video illusion? Care to elaborate on what we're seeing here from a technical perspective?
What came after the Jaguar was the PS1 which for all it's greatness, ushered in corporate development and with it the bleached, repetitive, bland titles which for the most part we're still playing today. - David Wightman

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