Author Topic: Interview with Rubberduck / The Black Lotus  (Read 4820 times)

Offline 4pLaY

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Interview with Rubberduck / The Black Lotus
« on: August 23, 2019, 09:08:38 PM »
Hello Rubberduck. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

Hi there!

Sure, I live in Stockholm with my wife and (soon) two kids. My scene life started when I founded TBL together with some friends. I have managed to become 45 years old somehow and realized the other day that it is 30 years (!) since we started TBL. Time flies when you are having fun. We should gather the old monkeys for some kind of celebration this summer. Professionally I have worked in the game business my whole life. I spent the last 19 years at DICE in various roles and also did some EA wide roles looking after studios from a dev point of view. Just recently I quit and started my own little game studio where I have gone back to the roots and is back at doing programming myself. Iím a big fan of cooking and drinking and have a reasonable large whisky collection and a microbrewery in the cellar where I make beer with a good friend of mine.

When did you get interested in computers and what was your first computer?

I guess my interests in computers started around age 10. My first computer was a Lambda 8300 which had a whopping 1kb of memory and big green rubber keys that made sounds when you pressed them. As I didnít have any tape recorder I had to program everything myself every time I wanted to use it. I remember it had predefined graphics which was a car, Pacman, an alien and a vampire. I wrote my own little games with cars chasing Pacman, vampires chasing cars and aliens invading. Later I managed to save enough money to buy myself a c64. I did a fair bit of gaming but mostly programming. I got interested in assembly programming and bought a book on the topic which I read in a forest cabin (with no electricity) and would go home in the evenings and try out what I had learned. Soon I realized that poking op-codes into memory probably wasnít the optimal way of developing so I wrote my own (very crude) assembler which also had an integrated sprite editor and a few high level commands. Later I bought an A500 which was when programming and the interest in the scene took off. Me and my friends would watch demos and try to replicate them at home (with mixed success). It was around this time TBL was started. We still had no involvement in the scene whatsoever but focused fully on learning programming. In an effort to improve faster I contacted a school and asked for a bit of funding to hold courses in M68k assembly. I got enough funding to buy a couple of books and access to a room once a week and ran the course for people interested. During my university time I used my A1200 most of the time and spent way more hours in front of Asm-One than in the class rooms.

Do you still have any Amiga machines today? If yes, which one(s) and what configuration(s)

Hmm I do have my old trusted A500 somewhere back at my mothers place. I should really go and find it. I also have an A1200/060 but I believe Kalms or someone have had that one for the last few years. Nowadays I usually use the emulator if I want to watch something Amiga related.

Can you tell us a bit about the story behind The Black Lotus?

As I didnít have any contact with the scene in the beginning I started my own group TBL together with an Atari friend. The name came from a hallucinate drug in fantasy literature. We would meet up and try to mimic effects from various demos. Friends of ours were also interested in demos and joined the group (Offa, Eq, Hokke and others) and we went to a few local demo parties. The first demos we produced were very code centric as we lacked talent in art and music at the time. As we started to go and compete in bigger competitions (The Gathering etc) we realized we needed to improve in those areas. As we had something a lot of groups were lacking, driven and good coders, and had started to build a small reputation in the scene we managed to recruit artists like Louie, Danny, Facet, Lowlife etc. All in a sudden we had some of the worlds best artists in the group. Our big break through was probably Tint. Eq had been working on a Ham c2p and him and Offa were coding like crazy every night producing effect after effect. I remember the empty beer boxes were stacking up to the roof in the end. We also started a dutch PC section who did PC intros and won The Party among other things. After that we started winning competitions and were really active for several years. I guess that was the first era of TBL. The second era came a bit later. Offa and Eq were not as active but Kalms, Louie, Blaizer, me and others carried on. We competed mostly at Breakpoint (Revision nowadays) and managed to win it 5 years in a row or something. One year we didnít win but ended up third (Iím to blame) and we got reactions from all over the place that we didnít quite expect. We were told we were done for, that we couldnít produce quality stuff anymore etc. I remember us sitting afterwards drinking beer being really angry. We agreed to win whatever big compo was next and that happened to be Assembly. Unfortunately they didnít have an Amiga compo as such but we said it didnít matter. We set out to win the PC compo with an Amiga demo. That whole summer we spent in Spites apartment coding and drinking beer. We didnít tell anyone we were working on a demo and later Kalms and Louie went to Finland to release it. The demo (called Starstruck) won the PC compo and we felt we were back. That was the second era of TBL. Now we have the third era where people like Emoon, Dep, Calladin (and our latest new member Hoffman) have been the driving force. We have always mostly focused on Amiga 1200/060 but the latest demo Eon was actually A500. I kind of wish I had gone to Revision this year to see that demo being released.

What would you consider the best production you worked on and why?

That is a hard question to answer. Some of the TBL productions Iíve been most proud of I only did limited (or no) work on. I was very proud of some of the early work as we were new and eager to learn. In retro respect they were not the best productions :). Tint, Starstruck, Magia, Little Nell, Perfect Cirlce and Silkcut were all great productions. I also particularly liked the ones we did that were a bit different from the common demo formula of the time like Ocean Machine and recently Eon.

Can you tell us, if you remember, what you considered the best Amiga demos back when you were active?

I was active for quite some time so there are many demos that comes to mind. Phenomenas Engima was a stunning piece, RSI megademo, Metal Hangover (stencilled vectors ftw), Hardwired, Guardian Dragon II, a lot of the Andromeda stuff etc. Later on it was a lot of the CNCD stuff like Closer and Virtual Dreams demos like Love.

Are you still coding anything today? if so, what and on which platforms?

I do a lot of coding but almost only work related stuff. It is PC coding and no Amiga coding unfortunately. I did a bit of c64 coding a year ago just to dust of my old skills. It was great fun but looking at what the c64 scene produces now it was a bit intimidating. In terms of Amiga I have mostly been discussing various theories with Emoon and others but they have done the actual coding :).

What do you think of the state of the demo scene today?

It was a long time now since I was an active part of the scene so I donít really have a finger on itís pulse anymore. I used to go to Breakpoint/Revision once a year to get my fix and meet old friends. Nowadays my scene contact is the TBL ppl and joining various c64 scene beers here in Stockholm and meeting with the Amiga scene in Gothenburg. Looking at the last years Amiga productions I think there has been a decline in quality. Therefor I was quite happy to see this years Revision compo which was the best in years. Hopefully this means a bit of a revitalization of the Amiga scene. The C64 scene seems to be strong as ever with quality productions (FLT and Censor Design and others) and a strong community, at least here in Stockholm.

Would you ever consider doing any demoscene work again, either on Amiga or other platforms?

Right now that seems unlikely. Iím too old for this shit :) But I do enjoy talking to my fellow TBLers about various coding and demo topics and drinking beer with the old scene. I also feel that the coding itch I had before when I didnít get to code at work is partly resolved now when I do a fair bit of coding every day. But you should never say never. Maybe inspiration strikes and it is time to show the youth how itís done once more :)

What do you feel you got out of the whole experience of being active in the Amiga demoscene?

From a personal point of view it was great fun competing with other groups and see how far we could push ourselves. It yielded a strong bond with the other people in the group and with the scene in general. Making demos, working nights to finish projects and going to parties and discussing programming and stuff over a beer was great. Watching the crowds reaction when your demo is shown on the big screen is among the best feelings there is. From a professional point of view it certainly helped me get into game business. In general it was the best hobby one could ever ask for and it gave a certain sense of purpose and achievement.

Is there anyone you would like to send some greetings to? Or perhaps you have some other last words?

It has been a long time and the greeting list would be too long. I hope we will see more high quality productions in the future and that the Amiga scene can stay as vital as the C64 scene has done. I will watch from the back seat eating pop-corn (or more likely drinking beer) :).

That is the end of this interview, thanks for taking the time to do it Rubberduck, I am sure our readers will appreciate it :).
« Last Edit: August 23, 2019, 09:20:42 PM by 4pLaY »