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Interview With WVL
by Cactus/Oxyron/Padua

Werner (WVL) is famous for not only coding demos, but also for his "Pinball Dreams C64" development and X party organisation. You can meet him better by reading this interview...

Interviewer: Cactus/Oxyron/Padua
Interviewed: WVL/Xenon

C: Hi Werner. How do you feel today?

W: I'm feeling weird today. :) First of all it's Monday morning, and I'm sitting here at the university, where I'm supposed to be working. I'm not really in a working mood on Mondays, nor on mornings in general. So you can understand I'm happy that I can use this interview as an excuse to do real work...

C: Yes, I can understand it very well, the same usually goes for me... :) So at the beginning could you say something about yourself?

W: My real name is Werner van Loo, right now I'm 26 years of age and living in Leiden/The Netherlands. I'm busy finishing my physics study at the university here, and looking for a job. I have about 8 C64's, a C128, a Plus-4 (which I traded with Graham in exchange for beer) and a nice girlfriend. I've been in the "scene" since about 1991 or 1992, but that was mainly locally with some friends. My nickname in the scene is WVL, but I've also been known as Altera. Right now I'm a member of Xenon, but I've also been a member of DCT (the local lame group) and Slash Design. Some more or less interesting things: I'm allergic to cats (which my girfriend has 2 of), I love pizza, but don't like cola and I always need coffee (stronger is better).

C: You excited my curiosity by statement of trading Plus-4 with Graham in exchange for beer. Could you relate the story with full particulars?

W: The story is not that weird. :) Graham was always boasting on parties how Plus-4 was a lot better in some respects, but then again quite similar to the C64. I wanted to see for myself, but couldn't find a Plus-4 in the Netherlands. So Graham agreed to trade a Plus-4 for a crate of GROLSCH beer. We finished the beer pretty quickly, and I tried coding on that Plus-4 a bit. Maybe it will result in a demo in the future, who knows...

C: So what are the exact differences between C64 and Plus-4?

W: The biggest difference is of course the lack of SID, and there are no sprites. The system that displays bitmaps and charscreens is pretty similar though, there is a sort of $D011 and most other registers have an equivalent too. The BIG difference here is that a badline takes 2 rasterlines, because it needs extra cycles to fetch the extra colordata (Plus-4 has more colors). And the computer switches to 2 MHz, when in the borders. To conclude, Plus-4 has a lot in common with C64, so you already have a lot of knowledge about how things work, but still there are some cute differences to make it interesting!

C: Can we expect a Plus-4 demo from you in the near future then? :)

W: In the near future certainly not. :) Maybe something small after the next Xenon demo, but then again maybe I will make another C64 demo... Time will tell.

C: Okay. Let's leave that Plus-4 topic. How did you get to know about the C64 scene at the time of early 90's?

W: It all started when we (Oxbow, Thundax, me and some other kids) discovered a dude where we could copy C64 games for 1 guilder a disk. He lived in the next village, very close to Thundax's place (if I remember it correctly, we actually got to know Thundax there). Anyway, it was a really dirty fellow without a job. Copying disks for money was his way to come around. The house always had a weird smell (I'll never forget that weird smell in my whole life!) and his kids runny noses. Disgusting. :)

On some of the disks we discovered things that were not games. Demos! :) Ofcourse we were intrigued and we tried to do it ourselves too. After a lot (A LOT) of trying, we finally felt we were good enough to enter the Game On demo competition, which we won (and never got the money for). At that time we didn't really know other sceners yet. But that changed after we met Spectator, and Xenon was born. I joined Slash Design instead, but joined Xenon later.

C: What kind of competition was Game On and what demo did you participate in it with?

W: It was a demo compo you could compete in each month. Winners included Oxyron ("Out of Coma"), Slash Design ("World of Chaos") and a lot more, I don't remember all demos that won. Anyway, we won on Game On 2/93 with a demo called "Paradise". It was the first demo we ever released and I still have fond memories of it, even though it's kinda lame by all standards. :)

C: Standards. That's something I would like to talk about with you. Demo standards have been raised dramatically during recent years and it's hard for newcomers to achieve this level in their demos. What's your point of view on this subject?

W: I'm not sure that overall demo standards have actually been raised. However, I think to actually stand out, you will really need to use all the skills you've got. At the moment it's almost impossible for a newcomer to make a top-notch demo for several reasons. The most important is that you learn by experience and actually making demos, tools, games, whatever... Maybe everyone will think of his latest work as the best he ever did, only to be superceded by his/her next work...

C: What kind of demo being released today would you consider holding the current standards?

W: I'm not sure what the answer is... But I think it should show the maker put a lot of effort into it. Also I like to see people's skills growing each next production.

C: What's your opinion about current situation in the C64 scene? Is it lacking of something? Is there anything you don't like about the scene?

W: I don't like the small amount of demos at parties, the lack of really skilled people and people who make the scene their complete live. Come on dudes. :) It isn't that hard and please don't make it all too serious! It's just for fun, remember!

C: For how long have you been a Xenon member?

W: I don't really remember, though I have it on a piece of paper somewhere when I joined exactly, it must have been 1995 or 1996. For fun we made a "contract" that everybody signed and I still have it somewhere!

C: It must bring you back some great memories, doesn't it? Do you remember in what kind of circumstances have you joined the group?

W: Well, I always have been part of the group, just not an official member at the beginning. I've been debugging Xenon intros, tools and music collections from the time Xenon got founded, even when I was not a member. I just had to become a member because we were going to release the first Xenon demo at that time. I still have fond memories of that first demo, it really was a big achievement for us at that time! Also it featured the invention of the sideborder sprite-zoomer that Graham later redid in "Comajob". His one is much nicer though! That definately learned me a lesson about "presentation". ;)

C: How many demos have you released under Xenon label and which one do you consider being the best one?

W: Up to now we only released 3 Xenon demos. My favorite one is "Design Overdose", mainly because it was our first and nobody expected anything from us. :) Also it featured the first all border zoomer!

C: You made very nice part in "Singles Collection 2". Do you have time for making demos nowadays?

W: For one thing I didn't think the part in singles collection was very nice, did you read the scroller? ;) As for making new demos, I'm a bit short of time nowadays, especially because I plan to graduate in physics next August (and there's the girlfriend too). But I can still find time once in a while to do something, and I still enjoy coding very much! I don't think I'll ever stop doing it! In the old high-school days, there obviously was a lot more time to work on demos. It was so fun back in the days to go to Oxbow's and Thundax's place to work on something. Nowadays we do meet every couple of months, mostly to party though.

C: Do you have any favourite demo effect?

W: My most favourite effect must be Graham's original wobbly-zoomer from "Parts". Man, I was shocked when I saw that. :) Ofcourse the routine is pretty simple when you look at it. Amazing nobody thought of it before. :)

C: Do you think it's possible to invent any new demo effect, which hasn't been presented in a C64 demo before?

W: Yes, I do. And I will prove it. :)

C: Wow! I'm really looking forward to it!

W: Hehehe. :) Like mentioned before, this again is very simple, but oh-so-nice. :)

C: Where do you find inspiration for your productions?

W: I watch MTV too much. ;) Nah, really I don't think everything is that "inspired", I just like to get things to work.

C: Any effects that have impressed you recently?

W: Lately only in Cruzer's latest "You Know The Routine II". I especially like the plasma in the last part!

C: Do you prefer watching hard math demos or rather concept ones? Is it possible to combine those two different ways of presentation?

W: Well, I don't like watching 4x4 a lot, no matter how advanced. I mostly like things that look good, and fit the C64's capabilities. That also includes concept demos. Ofcourse it's possible to combine the two, if you can find the right crew.

C: What is the right crew for that?

W: I didn't find one yet. :) The trick is to find a bunch of good friends that have very different opions, but can still work together without compromising each others ideas.

C: These days we're watching more and more concept demos. Do you think it's clearly marked direction for C64 demo-crews in future?

W: I'm not sure. I think it all depends on what people like to make, so it will depend on the crew. I do see more and more crews trying something in that direction to see if they can pull it off. You won't see a concept demo from me anytime soon though!

C: All right. As a member of Xenon you could probably tell us what's currently happening to the group? We haven't heard too much about you guys recently.

W: Girlfriends and jobs. We're waiting for Oxbow to get married with his girlfriend and for me to get a job. Actually we haven't been very active lately, but that's going to change with the release of our upcoming demo and of course Pinball Dreams C64. PD64 is not a real Xenon release though, it's independent. And ofcourse we're organising the X2004 party in October!

C: Pinball Dreams C64 and X2004 is what I would like to talk about with you... So maybe the X party first. X was always considered one of the best pure C64 party. Why did you decide to organize another edition of it in the year 2004?

W: Mainly Oxbow is the reason X2004 is organised again. He always manages to motivate all of us to do it once more. I can truly say all of us are looking forward to what will for sure be one of the best parties ever! Also organising a party is a good way to see all your old friends again, especially all the old Dutch ones.

C: What are the clues to organise such a successful demo party as X?

W: Beer and chicks for the organizers! No, really it's all in having fun doing it. If we weren't that eager to be there ourselves, the party wouldn't be half as good. X has always been a "bigger" party with the feeling of a small meeting, that's the strenght!

C: As you have mentioned before you're working on "Pinball Dreams C64"... At which stage of development is the game at the moment?

W: Right now the main engine is finished, except for some small things. We're working on some tools to help us creating the game-data, which is just too much to do by hand. :(

C: "Pinball Dreams C64" was first announced as a REU only game, but later it was changed. So I have two questions to You: why it was first supposed to be a REU only game and then why did you change your mind so that all the C= can play it?

W: Mainly it was because I realized none of my friends actually had REU's. Also a big reason is that I was developing using "CCS64" at that time, which crashed a lot when I used it with an emulated REU. Right now I'm using the latest "Vice", but still I first want to try to make the game for all C64's. My final goal is a ROM version to be flashed into the RetroReplay, so I can always play it.

C: How do you find it to use PC tools to develop C64 stuff?

W: It comes natural, it's just how you developing comes easiest to you. I remember I used to make parts in monitor, now that was real crap. I don't understand why not everyone is using the PC as cross-compiler, it's just so much easier and faster this way...

C: Well, let's finish this conversation here. So thank you very much for this very interesting talk and good luck with your projects!

CACTUS/OXYRON/PADUA

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