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Interview With Oswald
by Cactus/Oxyron/Padua

I suppose I won't be much wrong when saying that you have just loaded the interview with the best Hungarian C64 coder, also one of the best in the world (well, the charts say it all). You haven't heard much about him for a while? Well, take your chance to find out what he's doing nowadays and what are his views on things...

CACTUS/OXYRON/PADUA: Hello Zoltan!

OSWALD/RESOURCE: Hi Cactus! Nice to meet you... err... getting interviewed. :)

C: The very first question will be standard. Tell our readers a little about yourself...

O: My real name is Zoltan Tallosy, I am 27 years old (OMG almost 30), and I live in Hungary, Budapest. I am working in a psychological research lab. :) Don't think of anything weird, I just have take care of 6-8 PC's, and I'm involved in some misc computational stuff. Don't ask me when I was gotten into the C64 craze, I was a child back then so I don't remember when my father exactly bought our C64, but it was around 1985 or so. From the very beginning I was interested in programming and discovering the machine, it simply always bugged me how this wonder works, and it was a *must* for me to know everything. :) Sadly the scene was far away from my town, so I only got into it in 1996, when I realised with the help of the Internet that there are still quite some freax like me out there. :)

C: OK. So as you wish... When were you gotten into the C64 craze? :) Just kidding... You say that the scene was far away from your town. Does it mean that you have entered the C64 scene in the year 1996?

O: Exactly. In my hometown nobody was involved with scene matters, there were just quite a lot gaming guys around. This changed when I went to secondary school, where 2 of my schoolmates shared my interest, so these were the times of wonder for me, when I finally learned to code in assembly, and made my first raster bars, ripped my first music, and so on. :) We teached and motivated each other. But I still haven't got much idea of what the scene is, what's happening outside, although I have seen a few demos (including "Dutch Breeze", wow! :)).

C: When have you finally realised that there is a big C64 scene out there?

O: When I went to university I met the Internet, pretty soon I found myself on an Amiga mailinglist, where I met a Polish C64 guy. We planned to make a demo group, but the idea died in months. Then I found the #c-64 channel on IRC, and got to know a lot of nice people. I also met there with Vic of Coma. After he saw my codings he invited me to the group, so that's how it all started for me.

C: How good were your coding skills at that time?

O: My best effect at that time was an ugly a bit bugging filled vector. But I really knew nothing compared to this date. :)

C: How did you learn more advanced coding in assembly? Did the contact with the C64 sceners help you or were you a self-taught person?

O: My knowledge comes from many sources. I loved to chat for hours about code on the IRC. Then the ASCII mag "C= Hacking" helped me extremely lot (especially articles by Stephen Judd, hi man!). I also freezed and checked the code of every demo that came out at that time, and at parties we coders always discussed our new effects, how to do this or that etc. Last but most important: I spent ages on coding effects and trying out things.

C: So how would you describe your skills now? Is there anything impossible to code for you?

O: Sure. :) First of all our C64 has its own limits. Secondly there are some things that I haven't done either because I'm not interested in them (sprite multiplexers over rastersplits etc.), or since I have not enough knowledge of some stuff (realtime doom clones, real 3d worlds, realtime phong, bla bla). Luckily I feel that I'm rather limited by the hardware, not my knowledge, and that's the fun part of coding: getting around the limitations, and trick down the sun from the sky. :)

C: What would you advise beginning coders? How can they quickly increase their skills?

O: It requires a huge amount of motivation, and a lot of time spent on coding, it's good if there is always someone to ask. I have always freezed and checked the code of other demos, most of the time I didn't understand the whole effect, but I always learned little dirty tricks. It's also a good idea to use all possible information that can be found on the net.

C: Do you know any good sites containing such information?

O: For innovative extremely fast algorithms for your effects: www.ffd2.com/fridge/, you can also find here the ASCII mag "C= Hacking" with tons of coding info on the C64. If someone needs to ask something it's a good idea to open a topic in the coding forum of noname.c64.org/csdb/, and if you are into game coding the best site there is for you is covertbitops.cjb.net. Sometimes I also look around on PC sites, e.g. the PC GPE archive contains lot of info on how to do effects that are possible on C64 too.

C: For a long time you've been a member of Resource group, which has made some impressive things. Can you please say something more about this leading Hungarian crew, how did it bear and how's it going today?

O: I joined the scene by joining the group Coma, but I haven't gained much support from this group. During the years we built up a good relationship with the Resource coders Edhellon and Dale, which peaked in the co-op demo "Void". As slowly all Coma members went inactive, it was a clear decision to leave my one man group, and to team up with them, and I was welcome with arms open. :) Dale retired soon after this, but we had a lot of fun with Eddie coding quite a few demos together. Nowadays Eddie went inactive aswell, but we have a marvellous new coder: Bubis. He is from the Plus4 side of the 8-bitters, but as no Plus4 scene exists, he decided to do some nice stuff on the 64 with us. :) His effects will make some jaws drop, I promise. :)

C: Great to hear that. How did you get in touch with him? It's not usual these days to see a new marvellous coders entering the C64 scene!

O: There is a Hungarian C64 mailinglist, once upon a day Bubis wrote a mail that he was a Plus4 owner and the last week in the office they held a little nostalgia 8-bit party, and he got quite motivated to code some stuff. He really had a lot of ideas of effects that wasn't done before, after seeing his works it was no question to invite him to the group. :)

C: How many active members are there currently in Resource?

O: Me and Bubis makes only two... But I think I could fire up Edhellon, Blondie or even AMN if there would be a real damn need for them. :)

C: "Soiled Legacy", a great demo, was made in 2001. When can we expect another big production from the outstanding C64 coder?

O: We are working on the next "Soiled Legacy", and as usual we will again set new limits. I think the scene needs demos with new/enhanced effects, otherwise it will descend to boredom (how many 8x8 plasmas would you like to see yet?). Another way to go is what Hollowman does, you can do fantastic demos without hardcore code too. Back to topic: we joined the remaining Hungarian forces for this demo, namely coders: Bubis, Murphy, Bigfoot, me, gfx: Jailbird, msx: GRG (oh yeah, GRG is not Hungarian, so what? :)). It's hard to set a release date, maybe the end of this year, or next Easter... We really want to make this demo an ass kicker (as always).

C: I'm really looking forward to this one. Will it be released under Resource label or maybe it will be some cooperation product?

O: It will be some kinda coop demo. The scene is so small nowadays, that I don't think this label thing is very important. I guess it will simply get a name, and a grouplist of who was involved. :)

C: How could you describe the process of making a demo in Resource?

O: Chaotic. :) I can't tell you when I *start* to make a demo. Before really deciding doing one, there is an effect collecting stage. I experiment with new codings, realise my ideas, then I end up with about 6 *new* effects. Then it's time to make a demo out of them. I try to collect the group, awake people from inactivity, find a man for the music, one for the graphics, one for helping me out in codings. The music is the most important part, as I base the whole demo, the line-up of the effects and so on it. We set up a script of the demo, then comes the hardest part: to put all pieces together. Sometimes I spend more time to link one effect, than coding it. A million of new bugs come up when linking. It's a very slow and hard process to track them down. You have over and over to start the demo from the beginning to reach the bugged part after minutes, just to find out that something is still wrong... Arrgghh. :) Then you also have to code all those faders, to bring in, take out the parts of the screen and this takes also a lot of time. What I don't like is that when the demo is finished I already have seen it about 200 times. :) This is not good. Not only since I get bored of it. But I can't step back and watch it with the eyes of one who is looking at it for the first time. So I don't see things others do, bad concept, bad design is invisible.

C: You have made quite a few demos. Which one do you consider as a turning-point production and why?

O: My skills developed constantly during the time, so from my point of view each one is just a "bit" better compared to the previous one. If I really have to pick one, it would be "Noxius Visions", which did not make any impact, and probably no one remembers it, but this is the demo where I learned the real new school way of coding (you know: lda ora sta :)). This was a point where my view on coding totally changed, and I understood the philosophy of speedcodes.

C: Have you learnt those things by yourself? Or maybe with a help from someone outside?

O: Both. :) But mostly myself, by experimenting and trying, and by always doing things a bit better. It's a good idea to first have a working clean effect, and just then getting started with the heavy tricky optimizations. :)

C: Coding which effect was so hard for you that was giving you a headache?

O: Unfortunately mostly these ones don't look as nifty as hard they were to code. :) For example I spent a total of two weeks on coding the texture mapper which is seen in "The Larch", I believe it has the most complex code and does the most calculations of all my effects. And then on the demo sites I get reactions like "in this demo everything is recycled", grrr... :) Then there is that phonged face in the same demo which is just lda ora sta, and the only hard thing in it was to have enough courage to try to do a fullscreen effect with 2x2 pixels, where 1/3-1/2 of the CPU power is wasted by doing FLI... And the people loves it. :) By the way... Making outstanding effects needs courage. :) A few years ago when I was doing 4x4 effects, I never thought this is possible. Sometimes it's just about this: if you believe something is possible most of the time you can also code it!

C: These ones were the hardest to code... And what about the most impressive effects by you? Making which one of them amazed people the most?

O: I think that one is the 16-color-phonged face from "Larch". When the demo was shown first at one of the Fyanica parties, at this part one of the Amiga guys was saying "I don't believe it! This is impossible!!!". I never felt so proud. :)

C: Do you use any special tricks which are not known by other coders? :)

O: Nope. I'm afraid rather other coders use a lot of tricks that I don't know. ;) Of course I have done 1-2 really crazy optimizations at some of my effects, which I consider not really known/used, but it would need a lot of text to explain them, and most of the readers won't understand it, or would get bored. :) The only thing I can think of as my "invention" is the trick not to update the whole screen at once, just the half/quarter of it per one run (bump mapper, phong face, filled vector, tunnel from "Soiled Legacy" use it).

C: What inspires your work on the C64?

O: To create effects which weren't done before. To achieve this in terms of speed, size or resolution, and the most important to amaze people. This may sound ridiculous, but if I manage to finish a really amazing effect, sometimes I just stare at it and think: wow, I thought this is impossible and now it's there and *I* did it. This is the feeling why I do it. :)

C: Do you have any favourite effect(s) that you can't get bored when looking at?

O: These would be the bump mapper, and the phong face from "Soiled Legacy". :) By the way, I have a bad habit: I can stare long hours at my effects. :) This is what I like the most in coding: if I finish one part, I spend hours on optimizing it visually... To find the best movement, colors, etc. etc.

C: Do you think that visual optimization is so much important for people watching demos? Do you know any example of the demo, where outstanding effect is visually looking bad?

O: Not for the people, but for the effects to look good. :) On C64 life is really hard, you have to use low resolutions, you cannot use a lot of colors, you don't have much speed, somehow you have to hide all the limitations. Choosing the best colors, movements, etc. can really boost an effect. It can look a hell lot better if you invest some time in these things, and visual optimization may help the watcher to forget that he is actually staring at only 3 colors, and 80x50 pixels. :)

C: Watching what kind of demos do you prefer? The ones with a concept or hard math effects?

O: Ones with well presented, nice hard math effects, with good design and music. For example I would cite Reflex, Oxyron, Arise demos from the near past. I don't think a demo needs concept, the most important thing is the feeling it delivers you, and it can reach the goal in many ways, so if it cuts it you will watch it over and over again.

C: How small/big is the C64 scene in Hungary nowadays? Are there any other groups except for Resource?

O: It became extremely small, I only count Singular beside Resource as an active group. All the rest slowly silently died during the past 6-7 years. I think the reason is the missing fresh blood. You can't make today's youngsters get interested in C64 scene biz. I also don't think it's the way to keep the scene alive... If one won't get into the scene by his own, none will get him.

C: In an interview in 1997 you stated how long will the C64 scene live: "I give it maximum 10 years." Do you still think that your prediction can become true?

O: Haha. :) And as far as I remember this number was the double of what I honestly thought. :) Now I think that the scene will go on almost forever. Look at the Plus4'ers, they still have their web portals, sometimes even new demos... Somebody will always be around in our scene too... It's just a matter of opinion wether a scene without real activity is still a scene...

C: I think that's it. Would you like to add anything at the end of this interview?

O: Keep up the spirit and the good work all of you reading this. Thank you. :)

C: Thank you very much for this very interesting conversation.

O: Thank you Cactus, for making this great diskmag, and kicking my butt all the time to support ya! :)

Interview was made in November 2003 by...

CACTUS/OXYRON/PADUA

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