Torben Bakager Larsen / Kele Line
Added on November 22nd, 2010 (7218 views)
Hello and welcome! Please introduce yourself to anyone who may not know you.
Hi and thank you. I am Torben B. Larsen, once a Commodore 64 game artist/designer. I did artwork for several games on the C64, although most people within the retro scene will most likely associate with me with a couple of Amiga classics like Hybris and Battle Squadron.
How did you first get started with computers in general and the C64 in particular?
I started out with a Philips G7000 and I remember that you could do some very basic code stuff on it. It had great games at the time, but it wasn't good enough to write your own because the system was completely cartridge based with no option for saving. Then the ZX Spectrum showed up with its better colours and a more open system where one could create and save work plus type in and edit games from the Computer and Video Games magazine. Big change. One of my friends had a VIC-20 and after a while I came to realize that the CBM64 with its sound, sprites and all, was the next logical step. I remember that the CBM64 looked like a real computer with a real keyboard. It was hard to resist, but it was expensive back then. I had to work as a paperboy to save up money for it.
Tell us how your career in games started. Did you submit sample work to various games companies in order to procure jobs, or did jobs come to you?
After a while, I realized that the CBM64 was a machine with which you could create your own work, and being an experienced game player with all the type-in games on the ZX Spectrum, I was used to computers and was now experimenting with them.
I submitted an application to a Danish software house called Kele Line as an artist/designer. At Kele Line they had several creative people already at work and they put me on The Vikings project as an artist for the CBM64 and Amstrad. For reasons I am not sure of, Kele Line went bust right after the release of The Vikings. They may have been screwed over by their distributors, which wasn't that unusual in the industry back then.
What attracted you to the C64 as a development platform? In your opinion, was it as special as we like to think it was?
The C64 looked like a real computer to begin with, something straight out of the movie War Games. The presentation of the machine in stores was massive; it got big media coverage. The games were awesome and together with the SID sound chip – which people eventually learned to use to the fullest – the CBM64 just exploded, and the rest is history. The combination of look, pixels, colours and sound made this machine last for quite a few years, if not even to this day.
What C64 games did you work on? Please be as detailed as possible.
The Vikings, Tiger Mission, Thunder Force and M.A.C.H.
What companies did you work for, either in-house or freelance, and in what capacity?
I worked at Kele Line and then briefly did freelance work. It was in fact all freelance work, even at Kele Line. I was an artist and designer on all the projects. Most of the people pitched in on the design. The company was located way out in the country side next to cows and stuff. They had a very fancy office which they spent a fortune on, but why choose that location? They should have called themselves Cow Soft! :)
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
I was mostly nerding around on the computer and did art; nothing spectacular really. I briefly painted some real art posters, but nothing major and I do remember that electronic music was catching on too.
When you were assigned to a game, how much time did you usually have to complete your work?
In those days we pretty much just went along and worked almost all day. It was both fun and work at the same time. It can’t be better than that, huh?
What tools, development kits, etc. did you use, and did you create any yourself to fulfil a need?
I used some common sprite tool for doing the sprites and a common paint program for the screen art, although I do not recall their names.
Were there any games you worked on which never saw the light of day?
I did a Rampage arcade clone, although for some reason the programmer left the project and it fell on its toes.
Which game are you most proud of, which was the most fun to do, which became a real challenge, and which ended up giving you the biggest headache?
The Vikings. The sprites were most fun and challenging at the same time.
If you had the chance to edit your CV of past games, which ones would you add, edit or remove?
Thunder Force. I did a bad job on that one. I was never really happy with it.
Are there any particular games you would have liked to have worked on or converted from arcade?
Rampage, Green Beret, Rambo, and Commando – but they were all done by others.
Did you get much of a chance to play games as well as create them? Any favourites?
Summer Games and Elite are two games I spent a huge amount of time on!
What games did you feel were appalling and you could have done better, given the chance?
Not that I can remember. If there were any, I have without doubt forgotten them by now. *lol*
Was there a particular programmer, artist and/or musician who influenced you and possibly inspired some of your own work, or did inspiration come from somewhere else?
I think I was influenced by the whole industry. I was like a sponge, sucking in new information and impressions. Impression and inspiration came from the games I played, the magazines within the industry and the local junk food place where they had coin-up arcades. I remember that the C64 music scene and computer mags like Computer and Video Games plus Zzap!64 with their slick covers were thrilling.
Please share some memories from the old days! (Like something a colleague did or said, your time on the demo scene, crackers stealing development disks, going to computer shows, etc.).
I remember I was pretty impressed that Kele Line went out and got the rights to the Zoolook music from famous French electronic musician Jean Michel Jarre.
What made you eventually stop creating games for the C64?
The colour and pixel limitations. It was easy to jump to the next gen, more visually impressive computers. In reality, the big setback and the thing that made me quit the C64 came from none other than Ocean Software. After Kele Line went bust, I was looking for work and why not try Ocean Software! They were looking for artists and developers all over the place, so away an application went to Ocean and that Bracey dude. Luck was not with me and much to my surprise, I was turned down. I was not good enough! *lol* Maybe I should thank him today because what happened next was the introduction of a much more advanced computer system, The Amiga. Me and my buddies got hooked right away! What then happened can be read elsewhere. :)
What are you up to these days?
Not much really. In my spare time, I am working on porting my Amiga games to mobile handhelds, such as iPhone and Android. Have a look at http://www.cope-com.com.
Thank you for helping us preserve an important part of computer and gaming history! Do you have any parting comments with which to leave a final impression on our readers? Feel free to greet anyone you know.
I can see that the C64 and the retro scene is coming about for a second round, which is great. The C64 had and still have to some extend, great creative possibilities. Without the very talented people creating cool games for the wonderful C64 back then, our life would most certainly have been pretty boring. The C64 brought a lot of memorable joy and for that I thank you all. ;) "C64 is a shining star in the beautiful mist of the ageless retro scene..." /Torben
back to the list of available interviews