The Mad Scientist Interviews Slartibartfast

I interviewed C64 scener and long time friend of mine, Damian Caynes, also known as Slartibartfast in the scene; in the Zeroeth issue of INC $D020. He has been a member of various groups and has made some really impressive looking demos, and he is also planning to make some games for the C64.

I talked with him to find out about his history and to discuss his C64 plans for the future, read the interview below.

 

When did you first use a C64? What is your first memory?

My mother bought my first c64 when she scored $10k for a damaged wrist, we took it home with a datasette and our first games were Brian Bloodaxe and Bombjack. We waited an hour for a game to load initially cos we heard tapes were so slow! But soon we also got a 1541 and an Action Replay IV cart, and I never looked back.

So what games inspired you to get into design and development?

So many different games, but mainly the games of Andrew Braybrook, Jeff Minter and anything I could get my dirty mitts on through the Action Replay IV ML monitor.

Which coders inspired you to become a coder?

Well as I said, the work of Andrew Braybrook and Jeff Minter, as they had dev diaries in ZZap!64 that revealed the coding techniques behind their games. But also the work of Martin Walker, Jon Wells, The Rowland Brothers, and Antony Crowther.

Who are your favourite SID musicians?

Oh it’s really hard to answer that question, as there’s so many talented scene musicians. But, in short, I’d say the work of Rob Hubbard, Matt Gray, Steve Rowlands, Chris Huelsbeck, Jeoren Tel, Ben Daglish, and so many more that I can’t remember at the moment.

What was your first piece of code?

Well, my first piece of code was probably just incrementing the border colour in a loop, but the first piece of raster code I wrote was a group of sinus colour bars animating on screen, I was really proud of it and it was the start of years of intro and demo coding.

Have you ever coded an intro or a demo?

Well actually, the only things I released in the scene were demos, but in classic Australian style they were little more than really stylish linked intros, but I did get a lot of praise for my parts.

As a member of the scene, have you ever done a crack?

No, even though I was in a cracking group in the 90’s scene, I didn’t release any cracks or even put an intro on a crack. But this week I joined a two man cracking crew with my old mate Fungus, and PROS will rule as a modern cracking crew.

Have you ever coded a game for the C64?

I have actually coded several games, but have never completed and released a project. Back in the 90’s I made a simple light bikes game and Tetris clone, and submitted them to Beam International in Melbourne, to show that I could code 6510 and would be able to handle 65816 on the SNES. Unfortunately they didn’t even know what to do with the disks, as the c64 was on the out and out at the time. More recently, in 2005, I half finished an awesome PETSCII game, TRONSCII, a 2 player multi scrolling playfield TRON clone, but I got stuck and that was like almost 10 years ago  It was really cool tho, two multidirectional scrolling grids, colour cycling light bike trails… I couldn’t finish the project and it lay dormant for a decade, but recently I decided to submit it to Games That Weren’t , and it will be featured in the December update.

Have you ever had a game commercially published?

Well, that’s actually a funny and slightly embarrassing story. When I was 17 I was engrossed with making SEUCK games, this was a year before I started coding ML stuff. My brother and I noticed that a local c64 game publishing company (ECP) was releasing an awful lot of SEUCK games, and on closer examination we discovered that most of them were made by the owner of the company. So we polished of our quite average shooter, The Final Attack, and submitted it to the company. A week later the owner got in touch and said he was publishing the game, and offered an advance on sales. Needless to say we were very surprised at this, but gladly took the money and bought an Amiga 500 with RAM expansion and paid for a $1000 phone bill. Our parents informed the local newspaper and TV station, who praised us as “young entrepreneurs” and “computer whiz kids”. It was very embarrassing for a kid in Year 11 of high school, and I got no cred for it cos the cool kids knew it was made in SEUCK. About two months later ECP got back to us and said there had hardly been any sales of the game, and they wanted their money back! Well, I was only 17, with no source of income, and they couldn’t sue me because I was too young. So I ignored their pleas, and about six months later the company went bust and was bought out by Electronic Arts.

What game projects are you planning at the moment?

Well I’m planning three different game projects at the moment, of varying complexity. Firstly there’s Magic Bag, a Match-3 RPG game, where you match magic gems to improve your stats, cast spells, or attack. Then I’m planning to make a multi-directional shooter using the SEUCK Redux engine. Finally my long term project will be a hybrid of Habitat and the SCUMM engine, developed to show off a friend’s c64 modem, called The City. As well as these projects, I’ll be working on simple arcade conversions with my group mate Fungus.

It’s been a great pleasure interviewing you. Thank you for your information about your upcoming projects and thanks for taking your time with this interview.

Thanks! I just have to let the readers to know to follow my C64 Code Hacking blog, and continue to read the tutorial series in this magazine, and remember, code is life!

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