Scroll / New Hellmates,
Lurid & Tricycle
Added on February 6th, 2007 (7238 views)
Tell us something about yourself.
My name is Ruben Spaans. I was born in May 1973 in Mo i Rana (Norway) and I am 33 years old. For several years I had an unchallenging office job (not programming related) which I quit. I am currently studying computer science at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. My interests are computer games, programming, and recreational mathematics.
What handle(s) did you use and how did you come up with it/them?
My handle was Scroll which was derived from my pre-scene handle Stubbscroll. I choose this name simply because I enjoyed to create scrolling messages in various ways. In later years, when entering the cracking group Lurid & Tricycle, I took back the name Stubbscroll.
What group(s) were you in?
My first group was New Hellmates which I joined around August 1988. The group later became a subgroup to Megastyle. In January 1989, New Hellmates dissolved and I became a direct member of Megastyle Incorporated. In 1989, another subgroup of Megastyle was formed, namely the music group Jolly Poppers, which I became a member of. In 1992, Megastyle decided to become more serious and changed name to Megastyle Productions. In 1995, me and Price started the oldie cracking label Lurid & Tricycle, which also was a subgroup of Megastyle.
What roles have you fulfilled?
My main task has always been coding. Occasionally, I did tunes and simple graphics like charsets. Around 1995 when I became more interested in games, I started to crack old games and tried to improve upon them as much as possible, for example by fixing bugs and installing highscore savers.
How long were you active for?
My main active period was between 1988 and 1992. I made a comeback in 1995, but mostly as a swapper and stuff collector. From 1997, my only activities were cracking plus some game coding. My last production was done in 2001. I still keep an eye on what's going on in the C64 scene, and download new games and demos from time to time.
Tell us about those years and how you got into the scene in the first place.
It started when I got some demos from a friend of mine. I was extremely impressed by demos like Micro Sleep/XAKK and Why Think?/SSS. I had already seen simple sideborder sprites, but not as impressive as in those demos. This inspired me to learn these techniques. I guess I entered the scene when I became a member of Megastyle. Being in the scene simply meant that I could more easily get hold of demos made by others, and to get feedback on our productions.
Describe a typical day for you in front of the computer.
A typical day back then would first consist of waiting for school to finish (the time there was often spent by writing assembly code in my notebooks), followed by spending most of the day in front of the C64. Me and other Megastyle members (about four-five of them) would usually meet a couple of days each week to trade the newest demos and think about new demo ideas. At other times I wasn't so productive, I guess my time was somewhat equally split between scene activity and playing games.
Did you personally invent any special techniques or tools to make things easier for you?
I used some tricks to code faster, like automatic generation of unrolled loops instead of coding them manually. I also made some tools for other Megastyle members, like adding Amiga mouse support in Advanced Art Studio. I made a debugger which made it possible to run assembly code step by step (like modern day debugging tools) which made it easier to follow complex copy protections after I started cracking.
When you look at what you did back then, what are you most proud of?
This isn't particularly scene-related, but very important to me: The thing I'm most proud of is that I have been true to my programming hobby all the time since I acquired that interest. I resisted well-meaning (but wrong) teachers at school who thought it was more important to increase my skills in areas I wasn't interested in (like improving my handwriting). In recent times, I've reinforced my interest in programming by quitting a steady job to pursue a degree in computer science. When it comes to demos, for the most I'm not particularly proud of the demoparts I've made. Most parts weren't very well executed and not particularly original. Anyway, I think some of my parts were nice, like the full screen upscroller in Piece of Cake 1, and some of the technical parts of Kalle Kloakk. I'm also proud that Seal of Focalor turned out to be so successful, especially since it was close to not being finished. After all, this was two years after I began losing motivation for doing demos. This may sound strange, but I'm more proud of my cracks than my demos. My finest cracking accomplishments are Chip's Challenge, Auf Wiedersehen Money and Bubble Bobble, where I had to rewrite parts of the games in order to free enough memory to create a highscore list and saver. On cracks like this I could spend up to a full week. Another proud moment was when I sold Burgertime '97 to Loadstar. I could finally call myself a professional games programmer!
Who were your heroes on the scene and why?
I was totally amazed (and I still am) by Crossbow/Crest and his ability to come up with new VIC tricks. During 1989-1992, no-one did better than Crest in being imaginative and productive at the same time. Manfred Trenz is also a hero to me. Not only did he create some of the greatest C64 and Amiga games, but the circumstances in which Enforcer was done under proves that he was extremely passionate about C64 programming. For those who don't know the story, look in the memory (around $3000 if I remember correctly) when the title screen has loaded.
What, for you, was the coolest thing ever invented on the C64?
The coolest invention for sure is the opening of the borders, which I think is the mother of all undocumented VIC tricks. The coolest thing to happen during the latest years is the release of the SuperCPU, and the "oldie crack" movement fronted by Remember and Nostalgia which gave game maniacs like me high quality versions of classic games. By high quality I mean completeness (pictures, loading screen, intro), documentation, high-score saver, and fixed bugs.
Did you go to any copy-parties, meetings or tradeshows?
Unfortunately, I was not allowed by my parents to go to copy-parties, not even the one that was co-hosted by Megastyle. I attended (at least) three internal Megastyle meetings, two where we finished Brainstorm 1 and Brainstorm 2, and one in 1991 where we worked on Seal of Focalor. I never visited any tradeshows, I don't think any were arranged in Norway, and I couldn't afford to travel abroad.
In your opinion, what was the scene all about?
For me it was all about the fun and excitement in excelling in my favourite hobby, competing against other demo groups for new record breaking demoparts, and the thrill of seeing our chart-positions in the newest diskmags. It was also a way of meeting people who had similar interests.
What were the particular highlights for you?
There are really too many highlights to mention. I could mention any game I played for more than 50 hours, or any demo I watched more than ten times, and there are still too many to mention. Some great games were Thrust, Wizball, Alter Ego, Zak McKracken, Pirates, Turrican 1 and 2, Mayhem in Monsterland, and Bubble Bobble. Some great demos for its time were the Think Twice series, some of the Babylon demos by Mr. Cursor, Micro Sleep/XAKK, Why Think?/Super Swap Sweden, Partysqueezer/Rawhead, most megademos by Crest, and a ton of other demos I can't recall.
Any cool stories to share with us?
As I was the boring guy in Megastyle who only wanted to code (and play games), I don't have any funny stories about lamer bashing or things like that. Besides, the cool stories have already been written down in our scrolltexts. Anyway, I have one rather uninteresting story to share: In the middle of the 90's, I was a huge fan of the great strategy game Civilization which I wanted to port to the C64. I was actually very serious about this. Among other things, I made an IFF converter so that I could transfer pictures from the PC/Amiga to the C64, including the graphics from Civilization which I wanted to use as placeholder-graphics until I could get someone to paint for me. About the game itself, I spent much time planning how to represent the graphics by using sprite overlaying etc. However, real life took too much of my time and this over-ambitious project really never got started. I only managed to make a small demo showing the in-game graphics and pseudo code for the game engine written in Notepad (I still have it!).
Are you still in contact with any old C64 people today?
I have semi-regular contact with most Megastyle members, and I have also stayed in touch with a member of Full Force. In addition, I have sporadic Internet-contact with some of the people I used to swap with.
When did you get your C64 and do you still have it lying around somewhere?
I got my C64 in September 1986 after bugging my parents for several years. That particular machine died in the early 90's as the graphic chip became defect (all hi-res graphics flickered), and shortly after the keyboard was worn out. Over the years, I bought several other machines like a C128D, a SX-64, a Plus 4 etc. I also had a massive collection of original games and a huge demo and games collection on 5,25" disks. Almost all of this was sold in 2005 when I started studying. I moved from my hometown and I had nowhere to store so much stuff. I have kept one C128D with SuperCPU and FD-2000 which is in a box at my parents' house. I currently use an emulator for checking out C64 stuff.
Was the C64 really as special as we like to think it was?
The C64 meant a lot to me since it was the machine where I learned programming, and I had great fun making demos and playing games. It was the ultimate hobbyist machine. It was incredibly easy to get started with programming because of the built-in Basic, and it was even easier to program in machine code (assembly) than it is to program in certain high-level languages on modern machines.
When can we expect to see some new C64 output from you? :)
The realistic answer is never. If I ever become rich beyond imagination, it would be fun to waste a lot of money by starting a C64 software house and try to hire some very good (ex-)sceners. The C64 deserves ports of great games like Civilization, Grand Theft Auto, Mafia, Call of Duty, Katamari Damacy, etc. Whenever I retire from work and when I have accomplished everything I currently want to do, I would like to start coding small C64 games again. I'm sure the C64 scene will still be around.
Do you have a message for your old contacts and/or anyone reading this?
I send out my regards to all my old contacts, and I am sorry that my swapping career ended so abruptly. I never got back to many of you. Good luck to you all in real life, and don't forget to have fun!
back to the list of available interviews