Interviews > Interviews with Demosceners & Developers

Interview with J.O.E


Hello J.O.E. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

My real name is Peter. I guess I am part of the first demo scene generation. I was born in Graz, Austria and lived there until I was 21. Then I moved to Vienna and in 1995 I moved to the United States. I mostly lived in Los Angeles but was also lucky enough to spend two years in Hawaii. End of 2004 I moved to Wellington, New Zealand, where I still live. I'm lucky to have a wife and two lovely children. I'm still a terrible geek and am interested in pretty much anything. This morning I spent bios hacking a motherboard so a Xeon Cpu runs turbo on all cores, haha. I also like to free dive, ride a motorcycle, cook and bake bread, building furniture, astronomy, photography, collecting headphones and vintage computers and enjoy making terrible music.

In 1984 my dad made a mistake and brought home a computer magazine for me to read - the German "Happy Computer" magazine. I was immediately vexed and started working on my parents to get me one of those magic boxes that could be hooked up to a TV. So for Christmas 1984 I got a Commodore VIC-20. And let's be honest - if you're not programming in BASIC, the VIC 20 was pretty much useless. So I had to bother my parents some more until I got a C64 in the summer of 1985. I played games like everyone. However, after a while I wanted to do more than just play games. I discovered a program called "Paint Magic" on one of my disks. I started it and was amazed that I could actually paint on the TV! I'd always been doing illustrations and been drawing up until then. But this - I could paint without the mess and with light. Compared to that, paper was dull and from then on there was no turning back.

What Amiga(s) did you have in the past and if you remember, what were the(ir) configuration(s)?

In early 1987 it was time to say goodbye to the C64 and I got my first Amiga. It was an Amiga 1000 (512K) with a 1081 monitor. Such a pretty machine and it filled me with a creative energy I hardly have experienced ever since. 32 colors at once instead of 4, :) Amaaaaazing! I was foolish enough to swap the 1000 for an Amiga 500 with 1MB of RAM. I did a bit of work with Sculpt 3D and with half a meg, the spheres just looked more like platonic solids than round spheres. I broke that 500 in 1990 by accident (swapping monitor cables between it and a PC-Engine - bad form) and got an Amiga 2000. The 2000s final configuration was 4MB and a 42MB hard drive. I did the graphics for "Whales Voyage" on that machine. And I still have it! A few months back my dad sent it to me to NZ and it still works - even the HD. I clipped out the battery and thank god, even though it leaked, it didn't cause any functional damage. Nowadays I also have an Amiga 1200 (recapped with CF and Micro Gotek in the Scoopex Special Edition case), an Amiga 500 in Vanilla condition and an Amiga 3000 which needs a lot of repairs due to battery damage.

What applications did you use to create graphics with back then and do you feel the modern applications today are lacking anything compared to the old ones?

Well, I mentioned "Paint Magic" on the 64 already. Painting with a joystick, not very intuitive, but I actually made the complete graphics for a game with it. On the Amiga I first used Graphicraft since it came with the machine. Then I used Dpaint I for a tiny bit, until I could get my hands on Dpaint II. I did a lot of work in 2. But my all time favourite is Dpaint III. Dan Silva is a genius for writing it. I guess I used Dpaint III the most. Even when 4 came out, I kept using 3 because I think the palette in 4 is really not well thought out and a pain to use. I still use Dpaint III on my 1200 when I do pixel painting these days. It's just such a nice familiar feeling to set pixels with the tank mouse, having all the keys where they're supposed to be. Nowadays, because of my job, I use a plethora of tools to generate imagery - Photoshop, Maya, Houdini, Clarisse, Nuke and many other ones. What's missing is the spark that Dpaint had, that ignited my imagination and hunger for exploration. But I guess that has more to do with getting old than the software. And I liked how simple things were - nowadays half of the time is spent to work around things that are not working or finding out why something is not doing that it's supposed to.

Can you tell us how you got involved with the demoscene?

The beginnings of my demo scene activity were on the C64. I had started working in "Paint Magic" and produced some images. Over the summer in 1986 I met another 15 year old, a coder named Georg. We started to hang out and he put one of my paintings to some music he made. No real scroll text. I guess that might have been my first kind of demo. We then made an Adventure game on the 64 which we actually sold to a distributor. I think in total we sold about 3 copies - but it got reviewed in the German magazine ASM and my gfx got a pretty good review. But I digress.

After that I got my Amiga pretty quickly and I changed to a school in the next biggest town. I always had to wait for the bus home. While doing that I was hanging out at a local computer store that had Amigas to pass the time.

Soon a little crowd gathered there and that's where I hooked up with the first other sceners. We formed a group called "The Professionals". We were short lived but we got greeted by DOC in their demo with the flying demon bobs - whatever that was called.

Around that time the network really got going and in late 1987 I went to my first copy party in a barn. The kid who organized it, Chris, became a lifelong friend. He and I joined TSK after the Professionals imploded. I released my first slide show under the TSK banner. During that time we also met the infamous Hans and made our Pan demos. By then both of my feet were firmly planted in the scene. There was no turning back.

What do you consider the best Amiga demos?

I loved all the demos that Delta/RSI put out, especially when Romeo Knight made the music. Like the "Doppelbock Intro" and the "Cebit 1990" demo.

I liked the Tomsoft demos. And back in the early days I really dug the Northstar Demos, the BarBarian demo and other crazy fun stuff.

And later all the high end stuff The Silents put out. Honestly there were so many good demos it is hard to remember now.

Were there any guys back then that inspired you to start doing graphics yourself?

Yes - two people made me want to up my game: Foremostly James D. Sachs - his early Amiga stuff, especially Defender of the Crown, was incredible. When I look at these images now, I can see how many things I failed to learn from them back in the old days. Secondly, Arno Seiler - Tristar's Terminator. When I first saw his paintings I was gobsmacked too. They were so clean and precise. Palette choices were impeccable. Too bad he stopped painting stuff for the scene so soon. What a talent.

You are back and active again, what do you think of the scene today compared with glory days?

Well, for one, some really interesting and life long friends. Secondly, it started my career. All I wanted to do is computer graphics and it allowed me to gain a fairly extensive body of work by the time I was 20. This helped me to get my first professional job at a post production in Vienna.

And even before that, not to forget, I helped create the RPG Whale's Voyage - which included the work of several other sceners too (S!P guys). That came directly out of my scene involvement.

And if you want to follow it further, it got me all the way to Hollywood. When I was 23, I moved to Los Angeles to work for a company called Digital Domain, which does visual effects for movies. My first movie was Apollo 13, I worked on the Fifth Element, Titanic, Final Fantasy - The Spirits Within, Lord of the Rings (Two Towers), Day After Tomorrow, Sin City, King Kong, Avatar and a lot more.

I can trace my enthusiasm for creating visuals directly back to my time in the scene. Funny enough - in the early VFX days I used to run into a lot of Amiga people - users. Very few sceners, but here and there I would run into someone who'd know what I was talking about when I said "Scoopex!" ;).

You mentioned Whale's Voyage, could you tell us a bit about Whale's Voyage and other games you worked on?

Well, during my scene time I had worked on a few games. Notably one simple ball in labyrith game called "Wangler" with Hans, that we sold to EAS Software and sold like 10 copies of, haha.

Another one was a shoot-em up called "Target". This one was with Crazy Typer. It was going pretty well, but all of a sudden his hard drive crashed and he had no back-ups. He was so pissed off by it, that he basically told me he'd had enough of coding and the scene and would just concentrate on going to Uni. And that was the last I had heard of him. Really strange ending.

In  the Summer on 1989 I was away with school on "sports week" in the province Carynthia on a beautiful lake for swimming and wind surfing. Of course being the geek I was, I quickly found the only arcade machines in that little town. I was just checking them out when I heard someone talking crap about "Gemini Wings" - a shooter I quite liked, which was there in that little arcade. So, I chimed in and defended the game and pointed out what I liked. The guy who didn't like "Gemini Wings" was called Hannes. We became fast friends. He wasn't in the scene, but was a coder and had written and sold a game on the 64 and just completed one on the Amiga.

That same summer I went to visit him for a week. We geeked out and made a little Amiga version of the old "Simon" game while I was there. In 1991, if I remember correctly, he asked me to do some graphics for his game "Project Icarus", which was released by Data Becker. That worked pretty well and the following year we started work on Whale's.

I was quite involved - I gave the game it's weird name too. I designed part of the story and game play, I did about half of the graphics - the actual level / world graphics were done by two other artists - they did a great job. I even contributed to the music - the combat theme on the Amiga version and I think also the game over tune. Hannes did a cover of that one for PC too. He wrote an AdLib sound routine that spawned the HSC music format on the PC during that time.

This game was also the first building block of getting Neo Software up and running. I was just a minority share holder (big mistake, haha), because I wanted to get more into high end computer graphics. I wouldn't have been mature enough for taking part in running a company anyway.

So I went off the the US and tried my luck in Hollywood while Neo Software lived on, to release quite a few interesting games on the Amiga and PC - like Whale's Voyage 2 and The Clou - until they became Rockstar Vienna.

I have to say that Hannes was one of the best people I've ever worked with. Fun, fair, loyal and always a step ahead. After Rockstar Vienna got closed down here, he undertook some other interesting ventures - most noteworthy recently, he produced Hitman 2 for IO Interactive.

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

My greetings and final words: I want to say hello to all my old scene friends. It's nice to have made contact again after so many years through the miracle of the internet. I'm glad to have been a small part of a sub culture that was unique to its time and will never happen again in that way. And a final thanks to Ola for being amazingly tenacious and persistent to get these few words out of me.

That is the end of this interview, thanks for taking the time to do it J.O.E, I am sure our readers will appreciate it :).


[0] Message Index

Go to full version