Interview with Olivier Cappelaere (Outrun69) [EN]

Commodore brand computers were also sold in France, although in a much lower percentage than other contemporary systems and than in neighboring countries. Models such as the Amstrad CPC and the Thompson TO7 dominated the market at first and sales of the Commodore 64 were unfortunately much lower than those of the Amstrad computers. To talk to us about this, its curiosities and what happened to Commodore in France we have with us Olivier Cappelaere, a devoted follower of C64 from a very young age and who is still in the gap like all of us.

  • Name: Olivier Cappelaere (Outrun69)
  • First system played and owned: A clone of Pong (branded Soundic)
  • First computer: Commodore 64
  • Land: North of France

–Explain your beginnings with computers

–My first contact with computers was in 1983 when i was 11. I went to the hypermarket with my parents and i saw in the hi-fi sector of the store a Thomson TO7 with a light pen plugged. I was stayed in front this wonderfull machine I just discovered. In fact it wasn't a wonderfull computer but in my eyes of kid it seemsed to be extraordinary! My first Computer was the beloved Commodore 64. Unfortunately my parents have sold it a few years later to buy me the new Amiga 500.

–What is your history with the C64 in a country where the C64 was almost marginal?

–We have bought The Commodore 64 in a computer store in Calais, it was in october 84 for my 12th birthday. First My dad wanted to buy the Laser 200 and the first time we entered in this store we were only interrested by this one. But the seller told us to comme back in about one month to see the newcomer : A batch of new C64 that he had to pick up in UK. (at the begining, it was not officialy imported in France and the easily way to import the C64 in France was from the UK). Finally when my daddy saw the Commodore 64 in demonstration He couldn't refuse to buy it for me! ;)

My first game was the very good Super Pipeline from Tasket. This game was a present for me from the seller.

–Was it difficult to find C64 software in France?

–As I told it, at the beginning, the C64 was not officialy imported in France and the only chance to have one was to find a store who imported them by themselves from english stores or in Germany and for find software it was the same. In 1984 my seller was buying the games from UK (Durell Software, Taskset...) and USA (Datasoft). But a few months later, in the early of 1985, I have started to buy my games from MICROMANIA, I cut the delivery forms in Tilt magazine, one of the first video games magazines in France and I sent it by post accompanied by a bank check. I had to wait several weeks to receive my games!!! Then quickly, the lists of Commodore 64 games grew quickly and in the game catalogs the list of C64 games was often the largest!

–Were there magazines dedicated to C64 or did you have to turn to multi-system magazines to stay informed?

–Yes of course ! Commodore Revue, Commodore Magazine and Microdor. But they didn't spoke enought about video games. And I was young and I prefered video games but not texts editors or the technicals information about the news C128 or the C16! These magazins had 脿 video games section but it was not enough for me ! So I bought TILT Magazine, a multiplatform magazin who whose spoken about all video games for C64, Apple 2, Ti99, Vic20, ZX Spectrum and all the other computer sold at this time. Amstrad games appeared for the first time in TILT 17 published in November 1984

–What can you explain to me about the French companies and the C64? Was there a love / hate relationship?

–Unfortunatly, The Commodore 64 had very little French video games. The french publishers would prefer to edit games in french for the Thomson MO5 which was very well established in France then later on the Amstrad CPC for 8 bit computers. I was really sad because some French publishers like Loriciel, Infogrammes, Ere Informatique were developing games in french for Thomson Mo5 and Amstrad CPC but in English and German for Commodore 64. I guess it was more profitable to edit games in these languages.

However, some games in French have been released. Mandragore, 1789, Danse Macabre, Eureka!, La geste d'Artillac, Island, Omega plan茅te invisible, Star Crash, Phalsberg, Serenade, Trivial poursuite, James Bond - Dangeureusement votre, Voyageurs du temps.... among a few others.

–There are games that are not translated into English but into German (Omega - Planete Invisible or Geste d'Artillac), which is quite curious since it has always been the other way around. Do you know what reason there is for this?

–Yes, there have been a few games like the ones you are talking about that haven't been translated into English, I don't really know why.

Maybe there was a partnership with development teams in Germany who took care of translation and distribution. For Mandragore or Omega, in English there were already big Licenses like the Ultimas or the productions from SSI "Advanced Dongeons & Dragons" like Questron I & II or Gemstone Warrior, the competition was therefore very important and maybe Infogrames did not want to take any risks.

–A lot of the French software are not arcades but they have always gone to look for more complex themes and developments, deeper stories with multi-load games . On many occasions it seems that it has been programmed beyond the possibilities of the computer with games that dragged mechanics slowly or very long disk loads. On the other hand, in the neighboring countries most of the games were single-load and simpler. What do you thnk about this?

–It is true that some French developers have created a style of play, more oriented on the artistic side, with original concepts, atypical graphics but with gameplay that is often poorly managed and highly criticized!

It's true that at the time, pure action games often came from the United States or England. Many were inspired by arcade games! 

In France we have always wanted to do things differently than the others! For my part, even if I recognize that the French developers had much more creativity than the English and the Americans, I preferred a good shoot'em up or a platform game than spending hours trying to understand the principle operation of certain games made in France! :)

For Bob Morane (who was never released in French on Commodore 64), he's a French comic book hero, I think he shouldn't have been known enough outside of France, the English version was called Lee Enfield in the tournament of death. An English budget edition was published in 1990, 2 years later named "The Tournament of Death" without Bob Morane and without Lee Enfield with a cover that has absolutely nothing to do with the original!

There were other games that also lost their original name when they were imported to the USA, Asterix published by the Australian publisher Melbourne House had been renamed Arlok with a completely ridiculous cover! :D

For the original French games there was L'arche du Capitaine Blood, with its special dialogue system with aliens and its huge unuverd! Or Bivouac from Infogrames, which is clearely a mountaineering simulation, pushing the realism to the preparation of your expedition bag, the choice of the track and the grips on the walls of the mountain. This game is called Final assault in the USA and Chamonix Challenge in Europe.

–In Spain happened that the software houses, since the C64 had a different processor than the Z80 (ZX, CPC, MSX), did not have programmers for the 6502 and had to resort in most cases to foreign programmers. This was necessary if they wanted to export the game since they always asked for the c64 version. Do you know if something similar happened in France?

–I was never really interested in this subject but I know that certain French companies recovered the rights of certain foreign games to Frenchize them and sell them under their label like the company Micro Application or Loriciel to name only them.
Otherwise the purely French production were developed by French coders.

–Why did the Amstrad CPC and the Atari ST triumph and, on the other hand, the Commodore computers had it more complicated?

–I think Commodore 64 did not sell very well in France due to a lack of commercial communication from Commodore. Procep was the official Commodore importer in France and I think they weren't price-aggressive enough and there was really little advertising. Commodore did not put enough money into communication. I discovered the Commodore 64 in 1984 thanks to the seller of a specialized store. I had never heard of this computer before when it had been out since 1982! Amstrad France was much more aggressive on commercials, whether on TV or in magazines. Amstrad France created the crocodile: the Amstrad mascot. They were also very competitive in terms of prices. In 1984 in France, a Commodore 64 alone, that is to say without screen, without cassette player or floppy disk cost 3990fr in importation which corresponds with inflation to 1164 euros nowadays. Then it was sold 2990fr, at the same price as the Amstrad CPC 464 with an integrated cassette played + a monochrome screen. Parents quickly made the choice!

This is heaven!!!!!

–What games were the ones that impressed you the most?

–My first game ! Super Pipeline with the superb music! and my best game ever : Raid Over Moscow with the multiple gameplays. more recently L'Abbaye des Morts and Briley Witch Chronicles which once again pushed the limits of the C64. I bought Sarah Jane Avory's RPG and I'm over 20 hours into the game and far from finishing it! it's amazing ! My favorite French game is StarCrash from Olivier Barth茅l茅my (Micro Application) for the awesome intro music. I also love the rpg Mandragore and 1789 adventure text game.

–Actually, how is the current C64 scene in France and which systems are the most active?

–In France, the scene is clearly turned towards megadrive / nes game consoles ... unfortunately there are very few computer developers. The retro video game culture in France is Mario, Zelda, Sonic and out of that is nothing!

For 8bits computers it is Amstrad which is the most present, then there is the Commodore 64 but there is really not a lot of French developer who codes on this machine. For 16bits computers it is clearly the Amiga which stands out followed very closely by the Atari ST

Games released in french

–And fairs or meetings? Are they common and organized by brand or are they multi-system?

–Yes there are conventions which retrogaming in France. The RGC which takes place in the Paris region which is immense! In this convention we find really everything, both 8/16/32 / 64bits consoles of old generation as computers of all brands (Commodore, Sinclair, Alice, Exelvision, the MSX standard, Atai, Amstrad, Hector, and many more!

There is also the AC which is a little smaller and which concerns only the computers so to my great joy no crap of Japanese consoles!! lol

There are quite a few other conventions in France but I don't know them, they take place far too far from my home.

Published by a French publisher but never released in French but only in English and German

–What do you think of the return of the classical systems, after so many years, in our lives? There are some good and some not so good unfortunately!

–Good because we relive the good old days like when we were children and we played with our C64. There is a lot of nostalgia for me. There is good too because a lot of passionate developers release great quality games every month! Almost as much as in the past with professional editors! It is thanks to all these enthusiasts that the Commodore 64 is always there and always in the first place far ahead of the Amstrad CPC in terms of the release of new quality games!

And there are some not so good! The speculation, the rising prices of old hardware and games has become shameful. There are untested Commodore 64 (therefore potentially broken down 9 times out of 10) at prices exceeding 150 euros !!!!! I often see them on "Le bon coin" (a site selling between individuals) at 200, 300 euros!!!

Olivier's favourite french game

–What do you think of current video games?

–I admit I don't play current games as much as I play on my Commodore 64 :)

But I have a PS4 and I love playing games like Tomb Raider, Horizon zero dawn, Assassin's Creed... I love adventure and exploration games. I don't have a PS5 yet but I will probably buy one in 2 or 3 years when there will be more games 100% dedicated to this console.

–And the programming, hasn't it crossed your mind?

–Oh yes I have already tried but I have a bad memory and I forget every time what I learned before so I am constantly re-learning certain things which do not do me really moving forward, so I gave up the idea of making a game one day!!!

–What do you think of the Mega65, the Ultimate64 and everything there is regarding hardware and what is emerging around our hobby?

–I think it's great! Even here I find it all way too expensive! especially the Mega 65 although I can understand that the manufacturing costs for this kind of material is very high. I own the Ultimate 64, it's a great machine !! easy to use is with an additional video output in HDMI which is great for users without a CRT screen. I also have a 1541 Ultimate 2 and a Kung fu flash. The 1541 Ultimate 2 is a must have! I absolutely will not be able to do without it even if I still use the original media very often. To make my videos I need something quick to implement and thanks to this cartridge or to the Ultimate 64, I can very quickly test a lot of games without worrying about having to save everything on real floppy disks, I have a colossal time saving!


Taking advantage of the interview, we enclose the preservation of the 6 Logitheque tapes that Olivier himself has preserved. We have also compiled the existing French software, with titles that you already know and others that may surprise you and that we hope you enjoy.

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