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Interview With Pantaloon/FairLight
by Bepp/Triad

King of Datastorm, game developer and multi-platform demo coder Pantaloon of Fairlight has been programming since he was 13 years old. I managed to catch him between two beers on his vacation for some dealer quality data chat!

[Bepp] Tell us a little about yourself.

[Pantaloon] My name is Magnus Sjoberg and I'm 37 years old. I work as a Software Engineer at Digital Illusions / Electronic Arts (since 2004). I live in a place called Basna (230 km North of Stockholm) together with my wife and two kids (10 and 12 years old).

[Bepp] How did you get into the scene?

[Pantaloon] I used to run a group called Starkids in 1989 together with Stasi, Heat and a local guy called Organic. Back then I went by the handle Embryo and although coding was my main practice, I also did some graphics - believe it or not! We made a couple of demos together, but they never really spreaded as our swapper (Heat) spent most of his time drinking beer instead. :)

[Bepp] How did you learn to code assembly on C64? Did you have any mentor?

[Pantaloon] My mentor was the C64 machine language book. :)

[Bepp] You also did some time in Noice?

[Pantaloon] Yes, in 1993 (I think), we joined Noice and I took the handle Pantaloon. Can't really recall why I chose that handle though. :) I wrote some routines together with Bagzy, but I'm not sure they ever ended up being released. To be honest, I had a greater interest in beer at the time. :) Me and Stasi did a gfx collection that we intended to release, but as far as I know it never got out. It might still be here on a disk somewhere though... Maybe it will surface eventually!

[Bepp] Then you got the call from Uncle J.

[Pantaloon] I used to hang out with Joyride/Noice and Tao/TRIAD when they went to school in my hometown back in 1996. Me and Tao coded on some routines and a gfx disk for Sliver/TRIAD (Liquid Sword). After that I got a phone call from Jerry who asked if I wanted to join TRIAD. I thought it was revitalizing as I had lost much of my interest in the scene. Unfortunately, I didn't do much more on the C64 after that, just a few effects that I never released.

[Bepp] Apparently you didn't quit for good?

[Pantaloon] I was done with the C64 and turned to Amiga instead, joining a local Amiga group for which I did a BBS intro. But then nothing much happened and I really put demo coding on pause... Until 1998 when I started to mess around with some effects on the PC. I had some friends in Razor 1911 on Amiga at that time and they wanted to start making demos on the PC, so I and some other dudes tagged along (Smash, Graffik, Alan and some others).

[Bepp] You won Dreamhack 99 with Razor but there were things going on in the background.

[Pantaloon] After we released a few demos with Razor 1911 an internal fight was going on in the group. So JBM (former Fairlight Amiga leader) asked us if we wanted to start making PC demos in Fairlight instead - and so we did. Thus, in late 1999 me, Smash and Alan left Razor to join Fairlight.

[Bepp] What was it like to do PC demos for Fairlight?

[Pantaloon] It was great to start something up from the beginning. Coding on the PC was a lot easier too, compared with the C64. First thing we did was to create our own framework, Demolition. At the time, only the engine was there, so we had to create the scripts manually. The editor now exists in two versions: mine and Smash's, but essentially it is still my old code from 1999. :)

[Bepp] In 2010 you made a comeback to C64 with the demo "One Little Wish", which was the starting point for a winning trend to come. What made you come back to C64?

[Pantaloon] I was kinda tired of coding PC demos and wanted a new challenge, and Louie/TBL was tired of pixelling Amiga graphics. So the only platform left was C64. We teamed up and started working on a demo, trying to focus on design and not just effects. The first demo didn't turn out exactly the way we wanted though, but we learned a lot (thanks Jackasser).

[Bepp] You work at Digital Illusions (DICE), the company behind the very successful Battlefield series. What's your role within DICE?

[Pantaloon] When I joined DICE I got hired as a graphics programmer, but at that time we were going to do BF2 and there were some other positions that weren't occupied. One was a coder for the UX/UI. So I jumped onto that and started to develop our own DICE Flash Engine with our own "action script" virtual machine.

Now, years later I'm Lead Software Engineer for the UX team. Working mostly with Battlefield but sometimes helping other studios and teams to build the next generation interaction tools and engines. In my position, I get to work in a lot of areas: game programming, graphics programming, input etc. which makes it really fun.

[Bepp] I've heard there are quite a few other sceners working at DICE. Who are they?

[Pantaloon] From the top of my head, Danko/FLT, Kalms/TBL, Rubberduck/TBL, Emoon/TBL, Zyrax/Obscure, Antiaction/DefJam, Rayban/The Silents and of course a lot more sceners (mainly Amiga). Louie was also working here until recently when he moved to work for 343 in the US. As some of you may already know, DICE was started by some of the guys from The Silents.

[Bepp] How does Fairlight work in 2012? Tools for communication, code, sharing ideas etc.

[Pantaloon] We mainly use Dropbox for all data in our demos and Github for the code. Sharing ideas is done by talking to each other. :)

[Bepp] I understand you work with agile methodologies. So you're the Fairlight's scrum master?

[Pantaloon] Usually we just have a text file where we nail things we are done with. We try to get somewhat of a schedule as well (and we try to stick with that). Nah, Louie is more of a scrum master - yelling at people to finish their stuff. :)

[Bepp] Who's responsible for the design in your demos?

[Pantaloon] We have no "lead designer", we just try to come up with something to do a demo around. Maybe some effects or other ideas. Then we just add ideas on top of that. Louie, Hollowman and Vodka are all very good at this. Demos like "One Quarter" were designed by myself, which means there isn't really a design but a bunch of effects. :)

[Bepp] Do you have any special tools to make things easier for you, like Demolition that you developed for PC?

[Pantaloon] I've developed a little framework in Visual Studio that works together with KickAsm and VICE, so it's easier to create disk images for trackmos. That Visual Studio plugin works for both C64 and A500 as well.

[Bepp] Speaking of Amiga - you recently surprised us with a brand new Fairlight Amiga demo. What's the story?

[Pantaloon] Me and Celebrandil had a talk on the Fairlight 25 year cruise. He said he was interested in maybe doing some Amiga coding again but he couldn't be arsed to create a whole new cross platform system. So I told him I already had such a system for Amiga as well. As a proof of concept, I did a small announcetro (!) on Edison. I've had some ideas for Amiga effects for a couple of years and it's time to do them now!

[Bepp] So we can expect to see more from Fairlight on Amiga?

[Pantaloon] Yes, I'm currently working on a trackmo. Wiklund and Danko will do the soundtrack. Celebrandil will assist in coding ? if I can convince him. And Louie has to start pixelling on Amiga again! Kenet (graphician) is also on board the project.

But before the Amiga demo will be released next year we will release at least 2 more C64 demos as well. :)

[Bepp] You've been porting PC and Amiga effects to C64. But when will you port a C64 effect to Amiga or PC?

[Pantaloon] In the next Amiga demo you will see some C64 effects that's been hotted up for Amiga. And also some PC effects that have been hotted down for Amiga. :)

[Bepp] Which of your own routines are you most proud of?

[Pantaloon] The physics part in "One Quarter" as it is realtime and it's actually quite fast. It can operate on any shape (not just triangles) so you will see more of this effect in the future.

[Bepp] Fairlight has been dominating Datastorm the past couple of years. What's the magic formula?

[Pantaloon] We have been determined to deliver a great demo every time - to support the best demo party in Sweden (hej Sickan!). And we will not stop!

[Bepp] At LCP 2011 you ended up #6. What are your reflections about that competition?

[Pantaloon] We did that demo during 4 nights after work, so we didn't really have any expectations... We knew we were on BOOZE territory. It's better to compete in Gothenburg! :)

[Bepp] What can you tell us about your upcoming X2012 release?

[Pantaloon] Can't tell much about it really... If we manage to pull it together with the little time that is left, it will be AWESOME! And a lot bigger than "We Are New" (from X2010)!

[Bepp] Drool! Are all Fairlight coders involved?

[Pantaloon] I shouldn't name the people involved in this demo coz it would spoil the fun. :)

[Bepp] What do you think about your chances in the X compo?

[Pantaloon] Oh, all groups will be a competition, there aren't many bad groups on the C64. Most groups are really skilled and are alone capable of winning any demo party. So it will be tough. But we will fight. :)

[Bepp] What impresses you?

[Pantaloon] I'm impressed by most things that groups like Oxyron, Crest, Booze Design, Camelot and Offence deliver. Most of their effects are like "WTF!?".

[Bepp] Who are your scene heroes?

[Pantaloon] Crossbow/Crest, Axis/Oxyron, Graham/Oxyron, Slammer/Camelot, Cruzer/Camelot, Tron/Fairlight, Glasnost/Camelot, HCL/Booze Design, Jackasser/Booze Design (in no particular order).

[Bepp] Got some gossip from the Fairlight 25-year cruise? Tell us!

[Pantaloon] The Fairlight cruise was simply awesome, awesome beer, awesome people. :) To finally meet Strider and The Shark was awesome as well. :) They supplied me and Danko with beer in the pool the day after. :) Strider and TS didn't want to do the pool thing, so they just stayed outside and went to the bar whenever we ran out of beer. Hahaha.

[Bepp] What keeps you motivated to still code demos in 2012?

[Pantaloon] It's so damn fun to let go of professional programming that I do for a living and just code whatever you want to code. And as long as there is a scene where we can release our demos in, I will continue to make demos. And I'm sure demo programming makes me a better programmer in "real life" as well.

[Bepp] Thanks for taking the time!

[Pantaloon] It was great fun! See you at X!

Note: During the interview we managed to dig out a couple of the early Starkids demos that might just surface on a scene database near you. :)

Interview conducted on the August 5th 2012.

Gubbdata 4 life!

BEPP/TRIAD

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