lunes, 15 de octubre de 2012

Interview with Cadaver (Lasse Öörni)

Entrevista a Cadaver (Lasse Öörni) versión original en inglés. La versión en castellano la podéis ver aquí.

1.   Tell us a bit about Lasse Öörni. Who are you? What do you do for your living?

I live in northern Finland, city of Oulu. I'm somewhat of a creative person, the two major things I express myself through are (metal) music and (game) programming. I play guitar/bass/drums/vocals and have written software on C64, Amiga, PC and Gameboy Advance. I studied physics to become a teacher but then it happened that I also found professional employment as a game programmer. I work at a company called LudoCraft ( ) and we do both serious and entertainment games, mainly on PC but also on mobile devices.

2.   Which was your first experience with a computer?

I believe it was playing Pitfall II on the C64 at a friend, when I was about 7 years old (year 1985.)

3.   Can you remember your first game you tried or what made the strongest impression on you?

See above, though games like Impossible Mission or Summer Games on the C64, which had very fluid animation, and in the case of Impossible Mission, digitized speech, made a much stronger impression a year or
so later.

4.   Can you tell us how you began to make programs and what tools you used and are using right now? 

I started using the C64's Basic interpreter, following the tutorials that were available in the Finnish computer magazines (such as MikroBitti) at the time, 1987-1988. My big brother, 7 years older, also programmed on C64 for a couple of years and he was an inspiration early on. For quite some time we used Mikro Assember, in which you wrote the assembly source code as a Basic listing, and then assembled it. You could not fit terribly much source code into memory at once.

Now the primary tools I use are the Dasm crossassembler and Exomizer compressor.

5.   Did you ever put aside the 64 for another system? What differences are there in making programs like the 64 and the AMIGA?

Certainly, I moved to Amiga and PC coding and forgot the C64 completely for at least 6 years, and only came back when I found the internet and crossdevelopment and realized that there were still people interested in C64 development and games. This was in 1998, when I started making the first Metal Warrior C64 game. In the meanwhile I had acquired a better grasp of programming larger projects as I had written complete games on Amiga & PC (still not much to write home about..)

On C64 direct hardware hacking was expected; Amiga was kind of an uneasy middle ground that the official documentation told you not to hardware hack, but still most games did that anyway, as the
graphics/sound routines the OS provided could not fully exploit the hardware power. But as Amiga had more of a "real" operating system than C64, and more memory, the build / test -cycle for your programs became faster and more comfortable. And with PC that has naturally improved even further.

6.    What kind of tools are you using to make the graphics and sound of the games?

Selfwritten level editors running on PC (that mimic the SEUCK background and sprite editors somewhat) for level graphics, and Grafx2 for bitmap graphics.

For sound/music it has varied a bit, as I've both written music directly as assembly source code, used music editors running on C64 (SadoTracker, NinjaTracker), or on the PC (GoatTracker.)

 7.    Which is the title of your catalogue you feel most proud about and why?

Metal Warrior 4 certainly, for it combines action and story, and has a somewhat advanced AI which allows for example friendly characters to fight alongside you. It also stretches the C64's memory limit quite
tight, there is pretty much 0 bytes free memory when the game is running :)

 8.    You got already 4 games based on Metal Warrior. What is so special about them for you that you were working so much on this series? Do you plan to publish a fifth part?

As I had come up with characters and a setting that I liked, it felt natural to continue the story, while also advancing the game engine technically for each part. But to tell the truth, I didn't plan for an arc of 4 games in advance, so each game continued the story in a somewhat arbitrary manner. Part 4 was specifically written to be the last, and as such the story outcome (such as who lives and who doesn't) can vary greatly, so no fifth part planned.

 9     Right now you are develloping Hessiah. What novelty will it give us compared to the previous titles?

Hessian will indeed be quite similar to Metal Warrior games, but the aim is to implement more fluid and versatile player controls, more action onscreen and varied enemies (MW4 practically had one enemy AI routine that all the human enemies used, with varied parameters, and furthermore it was very CPU heavy meaning there could not be more than 2-3 enemies onscreen without the game slowing down) and a new story/setting/characters which hopefully turns out epic.

10.   Which is the equipment you've used in the past and keep till right now?

All C64 equipment I originally had has been broken down, so in the 2000's I scavenged for a few working C64's and disk drives, and those have fortunately worked for now. In 2008 I also got the 1541-Ultimate so the disk drives can rest for most of the time.

11.   How did you see the 'death' of the 8 bits and the C64? Do you still keep something from this back times (graphics, diskettes,etc)?

I do have diskettes from the old times, but they just contain games, not own creations. I'm not much interested in the nostalgic or sentimental side of any hardware platform, the C64 just happens to be my favorite 8-bit platform, with some very good games developed on it, and such a good set of hardware features that I'm still interested in
exploring it further.

12    Have you got any game you left aside? And why?

No finished games. In the year 2001 I started writing an overhead action/adventure called Detective Takashi, but cancelled that due to lack of inspiration. In fact I already had ideas for MW4 at that point, but they needed more time to mature.

13.   Do you think that people arrived at the top of the programming of the 64 or are there still other things to be dicovered?

I believe the individual tricks and limits of certain routines (scrolling, sprite multiplexing, VIC-II side effects etc.) have already been discovered, but the challenge is how you combine them in a given game project. Of course, not every C64 game even needs to push the machine to the absolute limit, but you can also get far with great
game design and atmosphere (for example as Joe Gunn or Knight'n'Grail proves.)

14.   How is the relationship amongst the people of Covent Bitops when you are preparing a title? You normally write the code. Do you organize all the work?

To tell the truth, Yehar has been inactive C64-wise a long time so for now Covert Bitops is pretty much a one-man team. However, music for MW3 and MW4 was done by people I knew from the tracked metal music
(MOD/XM) scene, but they weren't actual Covert Bitops members. In these cases people would just contribute music and I would arrange the finished pieces on C64 and select where they fit the game best.

15.   What made you dominate all the aspects, making programs, graphics and sound when producing a game?

Mainly this comes from the wish to learn all aspects of a C64 production, and because it's possible, at least to a degree, unlike on more powerful systems. Also, when we're talking about purely voluntary and hobbyist efforts, it's a way to ensure the least amount of hurt feelings: others don't get mad in case I'd have to reject some
contributions that didn't fit, and I don't get mad while waiting :) However, I know for a fact that I am not as good a graphician as a coder, and for that reason for example MW4's level graphics are not the absolute best they could be. We'll see what happens with Hessian in this regard, however it's still very early in the project as I'm just getting back to it after a break where I concentrated on a completely different project, an open source 3D game engine on the PC (see here: if interested)

16.   What is you major motivation when you make programs?

I believe it's split quite evenly between the wish to 1) accomplish something technically better than last time, and 2) to get to play your own game, tweak the gameplay, and tell a story (in case the game is story-driven)

17.   Which is your favourite lenguage when making programs?

There are several, so I can't pick just one. 
- Engine and framework programming on PC: C++
- Gameplay programming on PC: Anything but C++
- Quick and dirty crossdev tool programming: C
- Programming on C64: assembler :)

18.   What do you thing about the fact that after so many years, the scene of C64 is so active and they are even still producing new programs and videogames?

It is excellent. The amount of large and ambitious game projects (Knight'n'Grail, Prince of Persia conversion, Soulless) is actually picking up, and I'll have to catch up :)

19.   What do you think about the latest videogames for the big platforms? Do you think that the characteristic traits are lost?

Actually I find it funny that the basic mechanics are still pretty much the same: you move around, pick up things, shoot, and make multichoice decisions, but it's just dressed up in a much more fancy way. I know I have become less hardcore as a player so it doesn't bother me that games have also become less hardcore; today I
necessarily wouldn't want to find that I've locked myself out of victory 4 hours ago and have to start all over :) Some things do suck however, such as too much tutorials and handholding. Recently I've enjoyed playing Diablo 3 and the Mass Effect trilogy.

20.    Thank you for answering all the questions, would you like to add something...

Nothing to add for now..

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