Alien vs Predator
Platform: Atari Jaguar
Release Date: 1994
Genre: First Person Shooter
Alien vs Predator is a 1994 first-person shooter game that was developed by Rebellion and published by Atari for the Atari Jaguar. It was extremely well-received is considered to be the best Atari Jaguar game. It set the standard for future Alien vs Predator games where you could play as Marines, Predators or Xenomorphs. Rebellion later returned to develop 1999’s Aliens versus Predator and 2010’s Alien vs Predator.
The Jaguar version of Alien vs. Predator is completely different from the Arcade and SNES games of the same name. The Jaguar version takes place entirely on a Colonial Marine Training base. A ship infested with Aliens is found floating near the outer-space training facility. Of course, once the Aliens get inside the base, they kill off nearly everyone. Meanwhile, the Predators dock their ship on the training base as well. They see this as an opportunity to catch an Alien Queen, and bring honour to their clan.
So there are three scenarios in which to play: First, you can play as a Marine. Your job is to find a way to self-destruct the base, and make your way to an escape pod before it blows. The second scenario allows you to play as an Alien. Here, your job is to find and protect the Queen from the Marines and the Predators. Finally, you can play as the Predator. The Predator must simply find and kill the Alien Queen.
The game plays like a first person shooter. The playing field consists of the 5 levels of the training base, plus areas for the Predator and Alien ships. All the areas of the ship are inter-connected, giving the game a huge virtual environment. Depending on the scenario you choose, you will have to choose different strategies based on the capabilities of your character. For example, the Marine will have to make use of his weapons and his ability to use the ship’s computer terminals. The Aliens, on the other hand, will have to make use of their great numbers and ability to cocoon their enemies. And finally, the Predator must fight with honour, and not over-use his invisibility capability.
Alien vs Predator was originally being developed for the Atari Lynx by Images Software. The UK developer created a demo (which you can download and play today) that featured a Marine and a Predator as playable characters. The idea was to use characters and locations from the Dark Horse AvP comics series. It was a first-person shooter but the Atari Lynx game was put on hold and eventually cancelled by Atari as they focused their resources on the Atari Jaguar.
Rebellion was founded in 1992 by brothers Jason and Chris Kingsley and Atari commissioned them to make Alien vs Predator and Checkered Flag. Producer James Hampton picked up the project in Autumn 1992. Atari were wanting to make a port of the beat ’em up Aliens vs Predator for the SNES but he felt that the genre didn’t fit in with the franchise. He submitted a new proposal to 20th Century Fox and Activision to make a first-person shooter with three playable characters that didn’t tie into the comic books. Atari didn’t have any kind of agreement with Dark Horse to use their material anyway. The idea to have three playable characters came from Rebellion founders Chris and Jason Kingsley who wanted to play as either species. Atari then shared some assets and documents of the cancelled Atari Lynx AvP game with Rebellion Developments.
Rebellion originally developed Alien vs Predator internally at Oxford. Mike Beaton programmed the graphics engine. The game initially used hand-drawn graphics using 256-color format but they weren’t realistic enough for the atmosphere of the game. Stuart Wilson and Toby Harrison-Bamfield came up with the idea to use tile panels for the texture-mapped graphics and model figures for the sprites. Production sketches were created for the characters and tiles, and the developers created the tiles. 5×5 inch tiles were created from latex, wax and resin and then airbrushed to add details. These were then photographed using a 35mm camera. Similar materials were used for the character models which were from ready-to-buy and custom-made model kits. Animations seen in the game were filmed using stop motion and digitization.
Atari showed the game off in a very early form at an August 1993 press conference. It was one of the first games to be announced for the Jaguar. GamePro magazine showed some screenshots from the game during its October 1993 issue which differed from the final game and the game was rumoured to be released in January 1994.
Rebellion was expanded to work on Checkered Flag. Andrew Whittaker helped Mike Beaton with programming AvP‘s game engine. Alien vs Predator was scheduled for release in Q2 1994 but the game’s low budget caused a few development issues. Andrew Whittaker and Mike Beaton said in Spring 1994 that they hadn’t been paid by Rebellion because Rebellion had already spent their contracted budget.
At this point, Atari relocated the two Rebellion programmers (Mike Beaton and Andrew Whittaker) to their Atari headquarters in California. This allowed them to work directly with Jaguar engineers to fix the technical issues that the game had. Rebellion was able to use Atari’s design and audio team to create level maps, story work, sound effects and music. Rebellion spent a lot of time into compressing the game into a 2Mb cartridge, and then about a month from completion the cartridge size was doubled to 4Mb. A lot of development could have been saved had they had the 4Mb cartridge to begin with. All of the game’s graphics were compressed by using JagPEG, an Atari adaptation of the JPEG format, which compresses art assets by an 8:1 ratio without loss of quality.
Almost completely finished, the game later appeared at SCES ’94 and later appeared at Autumn ECTS ’94. The game runs 10-15 fps in 16-bit colour format while the cutscenes are in 24-bit color. The cover art for the packaging and the title screen were rendered in LightWave 3D by artist Andrew H. Denton.
Alien vs Predator CD
Atari producer James Hampton revealed that an AvP CD version was planned. Atari released the Atari Jaguar CD peripheral in September 1995 which allowed for game sizes up to 790MB, significantly more than a 6MB cartridge. The Atari design team submitted their proposals for CD-Rom version to 20th Century Fox who then passed it back to Rebellion. It took them 4 years to make Aliens versus Predator for PC.
Virtual Reality Sequel
It was rumoured that Atari was in negotiations with Beyond Games (developer of Ultra Vortek) to make a sequel to the Alien vs Predator game on Jaguar and it may well have used Atari’s virtual reality helmet which surfaced in 1995 but was never commercially released. Atari was eventually forced to abandon the Jaguar due to struggling sales and exited the video games market. You can view a scan from CVG magazine from 1995 which mentions the sequel.
Release & Reception
Alien vs Predator was released on October 21, 1994. The game was also released in Japan on December 8, 1994 by Mumin Corporation where it included an exclusive Japanese manual and became the pack-in title for the system.
Alien vs Predator remains one of Atari Jaguar’s greatest games on the console and was well-received among fans and the press. They praised the tense atmosphere, graphics and sound effects and the diversity between each species. Video Games Magazine praised the graphics and sound giving it 9/10: “Congratulations to the entire A.V.P. development team. I’m still in shock from this game, even with the slight directional confusion. It’s an experience you will never forget.” Next Generation gave it 4/5: “Controls aren’t as easy as they could be… but neither of these quirks stops AVP from delivering some really good play. Definitely the best Jaguar title we’ve seen so far.”
Fangoria praised the atmosphere: “Atari spent a lot of time and money to get this title right, and the game delivers the goods.” Edge was one of the few outlets that were quite critical of the game. They gave it 4/10: “Despite some attractive backgrounds and reasonable scrolling, AVP has turned out to be a lumbering, lame and unfocused imitation of Doom that only the most masochistic gamers will get anything out of. Those people who held on to their Jaguars in the belief that AVP would rescue the machine from mediocrity are likely to be sorely disappointed.”