Cracker's Map: Italy
Welcome back to another issue of Cracker's Map. This is where I take you, our dedicated reader, on a focused journey through the major scene country cracking groups and their members. How they started, what they did and why they are remembered.
In this segment, the journey travels to the home of Cosa Nostra, Italy is on the map. It has a rich history dating back to the very beginning of the scene. I hope to give some detail on each group, in some cases directly from the people involved, as well as some interesting trivia dug up from the depths of time.
In 1983 the scene in Italy was equal to zero. There was a lot of tape-swapping in those days, cassettes full of games recorded with Turbo Tape. Around 1986 disk swapping (and selling, someone in Italy is rich now) started thanks to Pier Soft and NiWa Soft. Before looking at the groups in a little more detail, dear reader, you must consider that the vast majority of groups in Italy were recrackers, except for 2703, F4CG, ICS (in the early days of their activity) and Hokuto Force.
Disclaimer: notice missing detail? something wrong or want to leave some feedback? Send me a mail.
Founded by 2703, they are the first pioneer from Italy. 2703 was a German guy studying in Italy and having contact with 1103 and JEDI, several guys joined around him and together they released around 200 cracks spanning from 1984 to 1987. Pier Soft was a barber, selling pirated stuff in his saloon.
Of their 200 releases, only a couple had actual trainers.
2703, DNS, Max-Coy, Metrosoft, Mister Fox, Mr. 5406, Pier Soft, Roby One Kenoby.
Founded by Ex-m in 1989, they pumped out around 50 releases which include cracks such as: CJ in the USA+5, Skull and Crossbones+7, Dragon's Kingdom+8M, Darkman+28P, Double Dragon 3+6 and Back to the Future III+12. Most of the work was done by Ex-m who later left the scene causing the group to fold in 1992.
DJ, Ex-m, Hellsoft, Ken, Mc Hammer, Mustaine, Odyn, Robin Hood, The Trendy Dealer.
Founded by King in 1989 and dying in 1991 after 40+ releases. They also had cooperation with the Turkish based Chaos #1 who also had members in Austria. They also had a magazine called 'News of the Underground' (NOTU).
Some of their cracks included: Dan Dare 3+7, Sonic Boom+6H, Vendetta+25 and Forgotten Worlds 100%. Their main crackers were: El Dio, Chum and King.
Chris, Chum, El Dio, Exat, Invisible, King, Lord Sid, Playboy.
With over 1200 releases, F4CG is the most well-known crew to come out of Italy and possibly one of the longest running groups of all time on C64.
Founded by Andy, Andrea and Ricky in the mid-80s. F4CG started as a computer shop managed by some school mates selling pirated games (often going only by F4 or the Fantastic 4). Their first known crack is dated in 1986. Soon after their cracks started emerging, Ricky decided to leave the computer world in 1987 to become a lawyer. Around this time, an important moment for the group occurred when Mao and ADF from HSCG merged with F4CG. Rather than consume F4CG into HSCG, they decided to keep "F4CG" as the name because it was older and well known.
We give you one of the founders to further disclose the humble beginnings of the group.
Andy of F4CG writes: "F4CG was formed in the mid-1980s [Smasher's note: ADF interviewed by Mamba once said the group was born in 1983], consisting of four guys (from which the fantastic four name) from Ferrara, a small city in the Northern Italy.
When I joined F4CG, two of the founders had left [Smasher's note: one of them was Lezziero, while the other founder is still unknown], and there were only Mauro M. (handle = Mauro) and Riccardo N. (handle = Ricky), the real protagonists of F4CG.
Before joining F4CG, I had created HSCG (Halley Soft Cracking Group) together with Mauro S. (Mao) and Andrea del F. (ADF). Between 1986 and 1987 I decided to join F4CG, while Mao and ADF stayed in HSCG. Subsequently, thanks to a discreet fame abroad due to the speed with which we spread our cracks, we were contacted by some guys from Belgium, including Jumpie and Solar who wished to join F4CG and found the Belgian section of the group. Between 1989 and 1990 was born F4CG Belgium.
In the summer of 1990, we had the opportunity to meet us personally in Italy during the soccer world championships. Meanwhile, Mao and ADF joined F4CG bringing a strong support.
Unfortunately, a few years later Mao and ADF were involved in a road accident on return from the Alps, where they spent a weekend. At first, according to the news, both died in the circumstances. But a few years later rumours that ADF did not die in the accident, even though he reported very serious consequences. A voice that came to my ears a few years ago again but I have unfortunately not been able to test it personally."
Some of their early cracks were X-15 Alpha Mission, Street Machine, Howard The Duck, Gauntlet+ and Aliens all handled by Ricky. Ricky continued before Mao and ADF took over from 1989 to 1992.
F4CG were the only real first releasing group in Italy that had a lot of success. They invested into the Polish market when it started to boom, allowing the group to remaining quite active throughout the mid-90s with suppliers such as Maja and Hain.
They had an "official" cracking cooperation with Atlantis between November 2013 - July 2016. They also had partnered with other groups for the warez-rush such as 5211, Laxity and Avantgarde (who also shared the BBS 'Dream Park' with F4).
The group is still alive today!
- Scope was a member from Sweden (the brother of Shark/Censor Design), he was found dead in mysterious circumstances in a subway in Stockholm in March 1995. F4CG, Atlantis and Genesis Project released a beautiful tribute to him called Hello Scope in March 2015 (20 years after his death). The scroll text in the tribute, particularly that of Scope's brother, touches the heart.
- Organiser of several mini events such as the F4CG Meeting 1997, F4CG Party 89, The Ultimate Party 1991 and the cancelled Tribute 1996 (cancelled because of procedural bullshit by the nightclub that was going to be used to house the 200 people).
- From the pages of Propaganda #14 - Not everything has been jolly however. With their American additions, namely being Moloch and Mutant-X, a rather embarrassing argument started and took place in public, right in front of the public. Mutant-X more or less entered the group by himself, not asking anybody promising a lot, one of the concepts being cards. Moloch, who entered and saw to it an American releasing section was put working, could not cope with this, and from there a massive argument started. It came to a point where Mutant-X was verbally was bashing against Moloch, Hain and Maja. As Solar was notified on the event, things moved rapidly. Mutant-X was once again removed from the group. Note: Mutant-X is a lamer narc from Ohio who stole the handle of an Eagle Soft member. A lamer who talked his way into groups but actually did nothing of worth.
- Owners of one of the cool elite boards back in the day - Tunnel of Wares (which had an impressive history to boast). This BBS changed hands two times. The board was launched in November 1987 by Pathfinder and soon became one of the elite boards of New York. The board started with The Survivors but then moved onto Eagle Soft Incorporated. Towards the end of 1988 the BBS died as most ESI members moved to Amiga. Later the hardware/software was sold to Narcissus (who renamed to Slayer and then finally to Stormrider). He improved the BBS by adding Cyborg modded C*Base and JiffyDOS. It was then given to Zirco to take over (who was a good friend of Stormrider's), who relaunched it on August 1st 1993 running UCBBS 1.3, 40MB CMD HDD and Aprotek 2400 baud modem (ED: best modems on C64!).
- Member of the Federation against Onslaught formed on the X-95 party.
- Releaser of one of the best paper magazines ever to be released in the scene - Pirates!
- Their leadership has moved around other members as the group has evolved. In the early/mid-90s was the Belgium called Solar. He apparently worked in a chicken farm which often led to much jokes around him (e.g. chicken boy etc.). He led the group together with Sneaper and Jumpie. Fen1 and Newscopy in the early to mid-1990s also. Leaders of the 2013-2017 period are Smasher and Scorpie. Another prominent member to mention here should be Bitman (joining in 1991 through to 1994).
- F4CG had members worldwide. Starting from the original 4 in Italy to countries such as Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Australia, Poland and more!
Abigail, ADF, Almighty God, Andy, Antitrack, Arcadestation, Aristo, Autopsy, B.A., Baal, bART, Bitman, Brainkiller, Buddha, C.P.E.T., Calypso, Carcass, Case, Cb&b, Cerebus, CeriX, Channel-X, Chash, Chon, Cupid, Cybersurfer, Cyborg, Cyborg (2), Dash, Decoder, Depeche, Derbyshire Ram, Devil, DMC, Douglas, Draz, Druid, Famine, Fen1, Fugitive, Fungus, GOZ, Grim Reaper, Gypsy, Hain, Harlequin, Idol, Immortal, Intruder, Ivory, Jack Alien, Jack Daniels, Jatagan, Jedi, Jucke, Jumpie, Justice, Kid, King, Knight of Decay, Ksubi, Larry, Lenine, Lord Crucifier, M+M, Maestro, Maja, Manx, Mao, Mario64, Matt, Met, MFM, Moloch, Morris, Motley, Mr.Alpha, Mutant-X, Neotec, New Style, Newscopy, Nina, Ninja, NIT1, Oli, Pacific, Playboy, Psylicium, Rastan, Ray, Rebel, Renegade, Ricky, Rigor Mortis, Ronny, Rough, Satan, Scope, Scott, Scorpie, Scout, Sid, Sixx, Skid Row, Skin, Skinhead, Sliver, Smasher, Sodium, Solar, Spark, Speedy, Stack, Stad, Stainless Steel, Stasi, Storm, Stormrider, Subjik, Syndicate, The Communist, The Sneaper, The Stranger, The Wim, Therion, Topic, Tornado, Total Chaos, Trigger, Tsurugi, Twilight, Walker, Wolf, xIII, Zirco, Zyron.
Chaotic Illusions, Dream Park, Fabulous Disaster, Hit 'n' Run, Infinite Dreams, Interpark, Planet Aeris, Psychotic Reaction, Raveolution, South of Heaven, The Black Genesis, The Hidden, The Lost Paradise, Tunnel of Wares, Warez Unlimited.
Founded by Gabriel, Ximox and Komir. The name of the group is a fusion of the two names of the founders: G(abriel) A(nd) X(imox). 777 was thought to be the antithesis of devil's number 666.
In June 1990, Gabriel left the group and Dok became the main organiser. The crew dissolved around the end of 1991 after Dok and Maverick left.
Of their 40 odd releases there was a mixture of cracks, magazines (Coolface) and one-file demos.
Acid, Dok, Dutch, El Dio, Gabriel, H.speed, Jayce, Komir, Mad ][, Maverick, Nino, Peu, Riot, Skull, T.ghost, Tito, Ulysses, Verbatim, Viper, Ximox.
Founded by The Overkiller in 1988 as a swapping group with their first real release coming in 2000.
The Overkiller writes: "HF was simply a local swapping group with 4 members, we were active until Amiga coming, then was inactive until around 2000 when thx to internet I had enough knowledge of the scene to create a real scene group starting to bond contacts around and be a good talent scout to introduce new sceners. The actual good spirit of fun and friendship in the group encourage us to keep on releasing on our beloved C64. Even if we are mainly focused on retro cracking we like to space in other activities such as music, gfx and maybe demo."
The name of this crew is inspired by a Japanese cartoon called Hokuto No Ken that The Overkiller enjoyed watching as a youngster, known also in Western media as "Fist of the north star".
In October 2006, The Overkiller put the group to an inactive status with the group only having around 10 releases per year until 2009, when the group returned to full activity and since then has been levelling up each successive year (over 200 releases between 2016 and 2017 making them the most active group on C64!).
In recent times, they have really lifted their release-rate and quality with worthy jewel releases such as Rubicon+4DGHF, Iridis Alpha+6DH, Rogue+6DGM, The Last Ninja II+8DG, Katakis +6DHFI, The Last Ninja+11DM, The Legend of Sinbad+5PDH, Target Renegade+7DG+Pic and many more (often complimented by extras such as custom loader pics!
In terms of Italian cracking - these guys are the rulers from Italy in 2017!
- One of their best releases was Rubicon where Snacky himself contacted Flavioweb congratulating him for the crack.
- The Overkiller works as a nurse in a psychiatric residence (the residence is different to a hospital or sanitarium).
- Hokuto Force had cooperation releases with Alpha Flight 1970, Onslaught and Wolf.
- One of the bad seeds of the scene called the Buddha was kicked from the group, but he secretly rejoined. The Overkiller writes: "bad news was the rejoining of Buddha, he used a different handle and profile and he tricked us. The fact he claimed his false death (or better the death of his alter-handle Buddha) was a really bad move and when someone discovered his true identity and tell us we kicked him out again from HF group. We don't know him personally and we don't get his behaviour, it's pity because he is a quite good coder, but we can't stand what he did."
- In November 2012, Digital Monastery, the game developing division of Hokuto Force was born. After years of cracking activity they decided to create their own games such as Little Sara Sister 2, Frogger Arcade, Matatu, Pixel City Skater and Demons of Dex.
- The Power of the Seven Stars is very active preserving old games in a quality fashion as well as pumping out first releases. Their member, The Chaos Engineer is busy with his SCUMM mock-up project. This project is to attempt to recreate the look and feel of SCUMM based on Monkey Island 2. I am unsure where this is heading, as while it is only a mock-up, more progress has been delivered with all the animated frames of Guybrush Threepwood (character) also being converted to the good old breadbox. Follow his work on https://luigidifraia.wordpress.com
Alias Medron, ANX, Arcane, B3L4, Bago Zonde, Black, Bones, BotX, Brataccas, Buddha, BYB, Bytebreaker, Byteman, Ciccioriccio, Codetsu, Commodoro, Crayon, Cyb3rPunk, Dagon, Darksoft, Diamond Design, Domspitze, Dr. Strange, DustBin, Dya, E$G, ElfKaa, Errazking, Fabs, Fix, Flavioweb, Fredrik, Freedom, G-Fellow, Gaetano Chiummo, Gorgh, Grass, Hiryu, Ian Coog, Ice00, InuYaksa, Jesder, Kaizen, Karmic, Karmody, Kickback, Komyx, Linus, Med64, Metal Lord, Mr. Fox, Mr. Lee, Mustaine, Nafcom, NecroPolo, nooly, Oliver Orosz, PBY, pcollins, Pippo79, PowerTrace, Pugsy, q0w, Raffox, Rail Slave, Ready., Richard, Sabbi, Salvo Bee, Senbei, Sh0ckTr00per, Sidman, Slimex, Snabel, Tadpole, Technotron, Terrax, The Godless, The Chaos Engineer, The Last Ninja, The Mad Scientist, The Overkiller, Thunder.Bird, Tiger, TomoAlien, Trantor, Triton, Uctumi, Vincenzo Mainolfi, Zaphod.
It has been a long time mystery what HSCG stood for. Many guys were assuming it was Hot Software Cracking Group.
Founded by ADF, Andy and Mao in 1987 and died in 1989. HSCG was the founders' former group before joining F4CG (Andy left in 1986/1987 whereas ADF and Mao moved to F4CG in 1989).
These guys produced around 30 cracks in a short warm up leading to their much larger influence via Fantastic 4 Cracking Group.
ADF, Andy, Mao.
Founded in 1988 and died in 1992. Was in coop with Computer Freaks Association in 1990/1991.
Also had the notorious recracker Wildcat as a member. During 1990, FAW (Federation Against Wildcat) was born and guys from Gax 777 and The Force Italy released some disks (called 'Cooljobs 1' and 'Cooljobs 2') with all Wildcat's recracks (e.g. Moonshadow recracked from F4CG). The federation had about 50 members however Chum and Action Jackson supported Wildcat (due to their supply of Italian games).
Sadly, in March 1990 Mamasoft died in a car accident.
Despite having over 350 releases to their name, including legitimate first releases, it is really hard to determine which release was their own work and which one was linked to another group's effort.
- Letter by Ximox and Gabriel of The Force about Wildcat/ICS: "Yo everybody! Gabriel and Ximox of THE FORCE writing! The reason for this letter is to give ya all an important announcement to tell finally, and hopefully once and for all the REAL STORY about Wildcat/ICS. But before we start we want to inform you that we have formed the FEDERATION AGAINST WILDCAT (FAW).
What made up our minds are a couple of letters he wrote, but I'd better start from the beginning... about two years ago, you could find Wildcat playing around with his compie under the Beppesoft label. He used to sell games to lamers. What he did was simple: he took a game cracked by some freak, freezed it after the original intro and linked his in its place. Many people used to buy stuff from him and every week he had new recracks for them. This sort of thing was very popular in Italy at that time but most of the people who sold games didn't bother to recrack them. Some time passed and Wildcat was is in a new group called Digitech (nothing to do with the German Digitech) of course his recracks continued, but however, now some releases were, incredibly, not recracks. We wondered how a person who was barely able to switch his compie on could crack a game. The answer was soon found: Mamasoft, a really cool guy used to do all the work, Wildcat just wrote the scrolltext, of course not mentioning who had really cracked the game. Mamasoft, tragically died in a car accident last year. Since then a few unknown freaks have done the work for Wildcat, and of course they were never mentioned! In the meantime Wildcat found some good original suppliers and so became quite popular even though he never learned how to crack.
Later Wildcat joined ICS whose only interest was and still is to make money selling games. Wildcat already had many customers and ICS had a lot of new stuff. Even then Wildcat did not stop with his recracks and freezes. Most of the stuff he recracked was not supposed to be spread around, it was just meant for his lame customers. Unfortunately for him one of these freaks grew up and started swapping. He contacted us (we were still in GAX 777)and this way we found out that his recracks had not stopped, the games he sold had an intro with an Italian scrolltext including his addy for anyone who wanted to buy from him. When Wildcat recracked Moonshadow, originally broken by F4CG a lot of people had already noticed his lameness, also people outside Italy were fed up with his lame deeds. His recrack of Moonshadow was so evident (he forgot to remove the old intro!) that F4CG got mad at him. Wildcat replied saying that enemies had done the recracks using his intro. However a friend of ours received the recracked Moonshadow directly from him. So either Wildcat did the recrack or someone else did it using his name, but surely with his consent. We accused him of being a recracker and Wildcat replied with two letters, one addressed to us and another one to the magazine ROCK 'N ROLE. In his letters Wildcat attacked us both and the Israeli section in such terms that we could not believe our eyes when we read them. We still cannot understand how he could say such words against people that never had anything to do with him (the Israelis). Maybe he is just a poor fascist who tries to emerge from his vile existence by attacking people in radical terms. Unfortunately for him there never will be anymore place in the world for people that think in the way he does. We would have never formed a federation against him because of his recracks: the worlds is full of lamers who live on other people's work recracking and ripping. If there was a federation against each one of them, there would be thousands of different federations. What made us furious were the words he used against us and against our friends in Israel. We ask every freak who doesn't approve of Wildcat's radical idea's to join us in FAW! and help us kick him and all those like him!"
Bad Fact, Bart Man, Dante In, Fen1, Filippetto, Freddy, Hitman, Kainca, Lady X, Mamasoft, Marko, Mat, Megasoftware, Mr Fly, Myth, Pat Boon, Raster Burner, Sex Machine, The Rock, Tiger, Touchstone, Wildcat, Wizard.
Forplay, Ghost, Pandemonium, Tunnel of Wares, Ultimate Dream, Unknown Pleasures.
The Force was founded way back in 1982 by one of Australia's first sceners, Colwyn. Originally importing to Australia only, they got cracking in around 1987 and then expanded into the demo and magazine markets also. They started as a separate group to The Force Israel, as in 1982 there was no The Force Israel! (who started much later in 1986). As the OZ section became popular, the Jewish crew took note and asked the Australians to join and Colwyn said yes. This was around 1990 and it is when also The Force Italy was started (by Danny) and merged with the main branch.
El Dio, Exat, Gabriel, GI909, The Trendy Dealer, Ximox, Zagor, Zoris.
Founded by Wolf in 1986 and died in 1994.
Wolf: "We never distributed our cracks. We were two guys (me and Edo, lost all contacts with him) that had a lot of fun in crack games for personal use, often adding cheats and small intro to them." They have been uploaded to CSDb upon request from one of the admins.
Wolf has found his way back to the scene in 2016 in dramatic fashion, busting out some big titles in style such as: X-Out+6DH, B.C. Bill+3DGH and The Legend of Sinbad +5PDH.
We spoke to Wolf who was kind enough to dig into the past for us:
"All started around the mid of 1986, when my father one day arrived at my house with a fantastic gift: a 1541 floppy disk drive. He was used to travel to London two times a year for work and generally at his return he had bought a lot of C64 tapes.
So, after reading on an Italian magazine a really good article about (un)protection techniques, I decided it was time to transfer all my tapes collection to disk. That's why the “Wolf Team” was created. I was 11 years old and “Little Wolf” was the nickname that my childhood friends gave me. It was not a real “Team” in the early days but that word was making me think I was greater than I really was.
So I started to write my own tape-loader trojan, a simple routine that worked perfectly until the tape protections will not become nastier and more complex. For example I badly failed with the CyberLoad used by “The Last Ninja” and with the more recent versions of the Ocean Loader. I didn't own a good cruncher, it was the simple “TurboCruncher 2.0” by Teesside Cracking Service (TCS) that I found on a disk bought at Niwa Soft Shop. So sometimes I was used to split the crack in two parts, with the second one loaded with a turbo disk loader.
That's why for example my crack of “Rambo II - The First Blood” is dated 1988 even if I did the job around probably 1986-1987. Before 1988, I didn't found a turbo disk loader that was fitting my needs until I encountered the one used by Ocean/Imagine for their original disk release. After then, I re-visited those two-filed cracks stored on my floppies and added the turbo loader.
Edo joined the “Team” in 1988 and was mainly an helper/tester, he was not really good at coding but he gave me a lot of ideas for the intros I added to the two-filed cracks. He supplied some originals too, especially original disks like Black Tiger, Target Renegade, Dragon Ninja, Rastan and so on. What fun it was to crack those floppies!
We never distributed our cracks, as explained earlier I was doing all of this only for personal use. I added cheats only to allow me to complete some games more easily and the intros were simply a joke, a funny game. I never been in contact with the groups listened in the greetings except for PIER, NIWA and few others. The scrolling text was re-visited a couple of times, so you can find for example CENSOR group listened in my 1988 crack-intros because it was added later but I kept unaltered the date of the crack like I did instead with my early cracks when I added the turbo loader as I already told above. They were stored on my floppies uncompressed so it was easy with a disk-sectors editor find the text and change it.
Around 1992-1993 all was going to finish. Edo left the “team”, moved home in another city and slowly ceased to contact me. And is so yet today, he's not on Facebook and no one of my childhood friends I am in contact with has news. My school exams were near and the time to dedicate to the C64 was really short. Besides, the C64 was dying, only few games were still produced and the swapping/cracking scene was dying too.
So in 1994 I put my beloved machine in a box with all the floppies and unfortunately I was been so stupid to throw away a lot of my tapes, magazines, notes and other C64 related material.
The rest is recent history. I have known the Hokuto Force group on Facebook and told them about my cracks. They asked me to upload them on CSDB site for preservation reasons. So I opened after 22 years that box, I bought an XU1541 interface and started to make D64 images of my collection. Though it seems this was not enough. Something was calling me from that box and how could I refuse its call? I slowly refreshed my skills, learned new techniques thanks to internet and started to do cracks again, sometimes alone and sometimes in co-op with the Hokuto guys. Nothing more, nothing less. The C64 is again in me, the passion is born again.
* North Italy Cracking Service (NICS)
Group based in the city of Bologna (Italy). They get a mention in the map purely because of their early beginnings with their 40 releases spanning 1984/1985.
They were also a member of The Worlds Greatest Importers (one of the few umbrella groups back in the day).
* NiWa Soft
This group had a shop in Milan (to be precise it was located at Sesto San Giovanni) that people used to go to buy originals and floppies full of cracks by HTL, FLT, TRIAD and so on. O.M.Alfred ran the shop, there was also a girl called Niki (Nicoletta). Other guys in the shop didn't use a nickname.
ZeSmasher/F4CG: "NIWA was the name of a shop selling pirated games, located near Milan/Italy. They ripped the original intros and put their lame one in front of the games. So they were double lame: they were recrackers and they made profit selling pirated games (which was probably legal in Italy those years, but still they don't get my respect... )."
We will continue to research this country and add information to preserve.