Lost Dragon(Aka Ross Sillifant): It is with great pleasure i've been able to conduct this EXCLUSIVE interview on behalf of a very good friend of mine over
on Atari Age forums, Jag Chris, so he can bring it to the community on here, i give you a true, unsung hero of a coder, Mr Dave Taylor
who spent several years working at I.D, helping to bring both Wolfenstien 3D and Doom to the Atari Jaguar:
Lost Dragon: I'd like to focus, if i may on your steriling work bringing both Wolfenstien 3D and Doom to the Jaguar, both games have been described
as the best cartridge versions and in case of Doom, they 'shame' some of the CD based console versions (3DO and Saturn for example). Could
you talk us through your work on both? and what you personally felt of the Jaguar hardware, in comparison to the PC and also Atari's handling
of the system?.
Dave Taylor: Boy, it’s been a while. I remember having to make a MIDI music playback system from scratch, which was kinda cool and certainly
educational. I can’t remember what else I did on those. I think most of the rest of the high-level code ported over without too much hackery.
The hardware was vile. It was a grossly heterogeneous architecture with 5 different processor types: the GPU, DSP, 68k, object processor,
and blitter. The “DSP” chip, originally earmarked for sound, was one of the two most powerful processors on the system (alongside the GPU),
so the DSP had to be repurposed to doing more than just render sound. Small issue though: it couldn’t actually write memory offchip
reliably. No biggie, though, because it’s only generating sound, right? A pop now and then won’t bother anyone… unless it’s not
generating sound, and it’s generating random data needed for important calculations instead of broken bits of a sound waveform. Oh boy.
The controller D-pad buttons felt stiff and awful to me, and they bit into my thumbtips.
And it was a cartridge-based system, which means if you even mildly overproduce more games than the customers buy, you can wipe out your
Lost Dragon: Jaguar Doom often takes 'flak' for not having any in-game music, indeed Sega's Tom Kalinske took a sly dig at it, telling UK Magazine
EDGE, it had NO sound, in an interview (most bizzare, espically since whilst 32X version did have in-game music, it was'nt anything to shout
about). Could you detail just why the Jaguar version only has music on the intermission screens?. Is the hardware (DSP perhaps?) 'maxed-out',
was there simply no room on the cartridge?.I'm sure many of us would love to know the reasons behind it.
Dave Taylor: I don’t think it was a room on cartridge thing, because the music itself was stored just as MIDI files, very, very tiny files.
I have no idea why it didn’t play during the game. I remember writing the MIDI sequencer and getting it working after learning a lot about
the quirks of MIDI files. It’s clearly been too long. It sounds to me like I must not have gotten the load low enough, so John prolly
killed the music during gameplay and just did it during intermissions where it wouldn’t hurt performance? Maybe he remembers. The Atari
Jaguar was my first experience porting a game to a console, and I found the whole affair pretty traumatic. My guess is that I'm
suffering some psychological block due to an incident probably involving fecal smearing.
Lost Dragon: Leading on from above, whilst it did'nt effect the game in any way, IF Jaguar Doom had been written for Jaguar CD, or on cartridge, but
with benifit of hindsight, would you of liked to have seen it having option of in-game music?
Dave Taylor: I would like for Atari still to be run by Nolan Bushnell and to not have been sold to people who would lead Atari down the path to the
design (see above) and marketing (64bit? seriously?) clusterfuck that was the Atari Jaguar. Streaming it off the CD would have allowed us
to make the music utterly gorgeous for a system that didn’t sell for poop and didn’t deserve the effort.
Lost Dragon: I don't shy away from the more akward questions, so here's the 1st. Just why is it, the press never seem that interested in covering unsung
heroes like yourself, the coders who do all the essential coding like automaps, cheats, status bars etc etc?. Sure they aren't
the 'sexy' routines, but they are every bit as essential as anything else and if they improve over earlier versions of games, shouldn't
your hard work be credited?. I never saw your goodself interviewed, it was always John Carmack etc.
Dave Taylor: Mindshare is a limited resource. To stretch it thinly over the many names involved in the creation of anything is too difficult. I
am glad the attention was concentrated on John. He really deserves the bulk of it, and he has handled attention very well- by largely
ignoring it and focusing on his work. Like Romero, even modest amounts of attention tend to distract me from my work.
Lost Dragon: Did it 'hurt' being an unsung coder at all, whilst at I.D?
Dave Taylor: At the time, sure. I was in my 20s and eager to prove to the world my geeeeeenius.
Now, my mindset is quite different. Whether sung or unsung, the truth is in whether my code works and whether I'm enjoying my work. I’ve
lost a lot of interest in opinions, both others’ and my own. They tend to be overly reductionist and lack utility.
Lost Dragon: Ok i have to ask, are these stories of you physically passing out
after playing Doom for such long periods true? If so...were you not 'concerned' over what this was doing to your health?.
Dave Taylor: I couldn’t play Doom for very long, because it made me ill, which was a good motivator for me to not write bugs or to fix them quickly
if I did. However, my first job out of college was working for John, only nobody told me he was John *Fucking* Carmack. He was just John
at the time. I knew he was good, but I didn’t think he was some amaaaaazing coder. Quite the opposite. I assumed he was fairly
typical, and that I was the most unbelievably *horrible* coder known to man, that I was demonstrable proof of some new technology of suck
previously unknown to the game industry. I figured that I was going to be fired any minute as a result, so I worked hard to try to keep
up, to the point of passing out in the office because it was easier than going home to sleep. It took me a few months to realize there
was no catching up with John because I learned his *true* middle name, but the temporary naivite was incredibly educational for me, as I
learned a lot from him by thinking I could catch up.
No, I wasn’t concerned about my health. I was in my 20s and thought myself immortal, like most. A large portion of my diet consisted of
the all-you-can-eat special at the Waffle House, which involved a staggering amount of hash browns, cheese, bacon, and eggs. At work, I
was creating coral reefs around my desk of empty Snapple bottles and Diet Coke cans.
Lost Dragon: Ok, THE BIGGIE You worked for I.D, you worked on Quake, you coded on Jaguar (you can see where this is headed), so can you shed
ANY light on these claims that:Jaguar Quake WAS started and was at least 30% complete, John Carmack had said not only could he have
written Jaguar Doom at twice the frame rate and twice the resolution, if he rewrote code from scratch and it'd feature even better lighting,
but he was confident Jaguar could pull of a 'decent' version of Quake
Dave Taylor: I don’t recall Quake even being a brain fart of an idea on the Jaguar. I seem to recall that Wolf or Doom or both actually sold at a
better than 1:1 ratio with the system for a while, and even at that stupendous sales ratio, I think we still did some pathetic number of
sales, like a couple hundred thousand units tops, which with cartridge margins is super not worth the suffering. Between that and all the
dev suffering, neither of us was like, “Oh goodie, let’s do some more of that!”
Lost Dragon: Many of us have searched high and low to find these comments (no-one who's claimed they read them seems to be able to find them or recall
where they were said) and we'd love to know IF I.D really thought Quake WAS possible on the Jaguar and if so, what comprimises would of
been made. I'd assume it would of had to of been a Jag CD game?
Dave Taylor: I don’t think the CD would have made a difference. Pretty sure that for the Quake perspective-correct texture mapping, you needed to
sqeeze multiple divides in every fragment, and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a part of the Jaguar architecture, but I’d ask John this one, too
Lost Dragon: Another difficult question, but here goes:During the period you worked for I.d, the company had something of a...'reputation', perhaps
not the best of working enviroments.Is this a 'fair' comment? did you often leave work (as i do these days ), feeling the damn place was
getting to you, too much of a 'If your face fits' type enviroment? or were the press simply out to make up any stories they could?
Dave Taylor: It was mostly a lot of fun for me and a real adventure. It’s pretty surreal for your first job out of college to be working on a
game like Doom. Pretty wild, but it gives you a very skewed idea of how the world works.
Id had different sub-cultures, even though it was a tiny company. The biz dev, coding, art, and design all had different characters. The
design side could be very fun-loving but was also very (sometimes darkly) competitive and I think where some of those negative stories
come from. The art side was very Zen. They did great work in a dark room and mostly kept to themselves. Biz dev a combination of relaxed
and bluntly cocky (which from the inside was fun, from the outside considerably less so).
I only had to deal with the coding corner of it on a business level. Coding was really all about solving hard problems and trying to be of
use to someone who is an order of magnitude smarter than you. John is surprisingly laid back. I stressed myself out trying to keep up with
him, even in casual water cooler conversations, not because he was a poor manager. He leads by example, and you want to follow that
example. If you can use his lead as inspiration without getting bummed out because you’ll never be quite that good, you can’t ask for
a better boss. That’s a tall order for a young coder, though.
Lost Dragon: The question i always ask: Dave, did you work on any 'lost' (Canned) games?. IF so, which formats and what became of them?.
Dave Taylor: Golgotha (PC) was canceled after we ran out of money and went to the public domain. Bits of it were re-used for years in lots of
Worked on an educational math game I was quite excited about a year and change back written in coffeescript running under node.js, and
that was a lot of fun, but I lost the original coder to burn-out (from previous work) and couldn’t finish it under my own steam. Not sure
what became of that, but as I was the only one working on it at the end and had written most of the gameplay code, I imagine it’s still on
Lost Dragon: Finally what are your current and future plans?
Dave Taylor:Band Together came out for the iPad a couple years ago. I’m working on a new, sexier version that’s designed for lots of other
Lost Dragon: Dave, it's simply been fantastic being able to chat, i cannot thank you enough for this.
Dave Taylor: My pleasure.
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