Cracker's Map: The Netherlands
Welcome back to this ongoing series, the continuing adventure into the illegal side of the C64 scene - where those war mongering, competitive, egotistical maniacs once roamed. This segment focuses on the major scene countries and their cracking groups; how they started, what they did and why they are remembered.
There is a lot of information missing - people are too lazy or to new to the scene to understand the severity preservation!
Rather than providing you with misleading information from unreliable sources, we hope to bring you real facts in a real C64 production, ultimately to take you back to the glory days of piracy. With a patch on one eye and swashbuckler in hand, I have set off on an adventure of hardcore research, some of which has been made easier by my own experience as a member of the cracking scene.
In this segment we will push forward into my favourite part of Europe - The Netherlands (been there twice, favourite place: Eindhoven!).
Holland has many creative sources; known primarily for its artistic values it also has a rich cracking history. Disclaimer: notice missing detail? something wrong or want to leave some feedback? Send me a mail.
More than just a fairy tale
Starting in 1985 the group was originally called 1001 & The Cracking Crew, "Cracking Crew" was inspired by the break dance group Rock Steady Crew and 1001 was inspired by 1103 of JEDI. Bytebreaker from ABC Crackings lived quite close and helped them start off with fresh wares.
These guys were the first in opening all borders and displaying sprites to fill your whole TV set/Monitor, there used to be a big fight between 1001 Crew and Sodan in magazines and on Compunet over who was first, but 1001 were about 4 months earlier with their experiments and small 1 picture releases. They also released documentation and ESCOS tools shortly after...
ESCOS, cool cracks and appearing in the ZZAP!64 magazine as well as having a legendary status when arriving at the regular meets in Venlo made them a big inspiration to Dutch sceners and the wider community.
Honey, the leading profile of the group released many memorable cracks, including under the cracking cooperation with Future Projects from the end of 1987 into much of 1988.
They were also one of the first groups to import and PAL-fix games to European systems (World Games for example).
1001 Crew did their famous Card Cruncher on cartridge which was known to be one of the best compressors at that time. The cart only given to selected people (one of them was Mr. Z/Triad).1001 Crew crunched a few games released by other groups just to show that their compressor were the best.
Members of the group later on worked on several budget titles for Codemasters and Masteronic.
* 1001 Crew were the first to break the side borders! Flash Cracking Group was the first with upper/lower borders. The magician behind this was TSI. He also was the author of Cardcruncher and E.S.C.O.S. (Expanded Screen Construction Set).
* E.S.C.O.S. was developed on the MSX!
* Screen Cruncher - first packer with its code in the screen area $0400.
* Card Cruncher - one of the best compressors of that time!
* Together with Danish Gold and others, they wrote the "international standard" for cracks at the Danish Gold party in Odense, Denmark (1987). This standard is still used to this day (e.g. +4, 100% etc).
Founded by Antisoft, Bytebreaker and CSS in 1984. A"ntisoft, "B"ytebreaker, "C"SS. ABC were THE main players in the early Dutch cracking scene. Information is scarce but we do know there was more than one individual involved behind the Antisoft and Bytebreaker names.
Known also for doing ABC Turbo which almost every kid used as a turbo loader back in the eighties. The crew was rebuilt in 1987 with apparent permission from Antisoft but with none of the original members included (rebuild was by Hawk and Junior).
Where The Cheese Is Born
Members came from various respected groups such as F4CG, Triad, Hotline and Decade. The group was made extremely popular by the talents of mega swapping Calypso. Terry managed to spread their warez to the seven seas and beyond which helped them become quite well known. Seal and Calypso were their main crackers, they also had Derbyshire Ram as a member who assisted and with these talents their "mail releases" earned top positions in the Gamer's Guide magazine.
The last release from Amnesia was a crack back in 1998, however they will one day manage to finish their demo they have promised for many years at one of the parties that they still attend in Holland.
* Had a war with Entropy, X-Factor and Extacy.
* Brief cooperation with Silicon Limited.
* The Amnesia members still visit parties these days (PC) and go under the group name 'TUIG'.
* Mac2 plays in his own band these days called Steed.
* Calypso owns his own Martial Arts school since 1999 (Shaolin Kempo).
* Seal used to pick on Merlin/Motiv8 at the Venlo meetings... at one point Merlin decided no longer to show.
* The entire Amnesia crew was asked at least 3 times to join Success, but kindly refused every time.
* In the early days of the group, Seal also used the handle Riggs at the same time. Later on a friend of Calypso's joined the group and took over that name.
* Calypso was also: CDH/Gothic Design (CDH = Calypso Double Handle).
* The game Pinfaball from Manuter Productions was coded by Calypso. Names of friends were used for the credits (MANUTER = MANUela (girlfriend) + TERry).
* The preview of the game 'Direct Death' was also coded by Calypso under his girlfriend’s name.
Don't be a Cracker, get high on Dope
Bros was a fine importer from warez from the USA (their main contact for a time was Zerocat), initially they did not crack too much but then they got some original suppliers such as Smash who helped boost the crack output. Big names such as Paco, Coco, Bambam and Gene then took the crew to the top.
Bros died officially in September 1989 but later returned in May 1990 without the permission of original members. The rebuilt group contained 3030/ex-Hotline, Trantor/ex-Sphinx and TWP/ex-Nato.
* Had RCS 2100 as a subgroup for a short while.
* Smash got the originals from the same shop that supplied Newlook earlier, a shop in Oslo.
The group mainly focused on imports from the states but occasionally released their own cracks. They also had a budget label where they released magazine type games (e.g. Game On) which was called Twente (named after the Dutch football team Twente Enschede).
Died in January 1991 when Mirage, Zarhan Fastfire, Illusionist and Skater joined Censor Design (after some disagreement between Illusionist and KRS One) the remaining members built up Verdict.
* Responsible for the very famous Shock magazine that was releases originally on paper and then later on disk.
* Skater and other members of Culture later moved on to Razor 1911 on the PC.
Decibel, always one step ahead
I had a chat recently to the man himself: "Mr. Decibel was my handle when we started. Maybe because I was big and loud as a young kid. During that time I was also a semi pro basketball player. We then founded The Black Tulip with Michael Dieters and some others which later became Orion. Think we did okay and for a while we had some very good rankings and demos until my studies and sport just did not allow me the time.
When I moved to London for studies I met the Guillemot brothers who owned Ubisoft. Mainly a distribution company back then which started making games. I became their UK director for a while and worked in Paris and the castle during summer to fund my studies and bring talented programmers on board. We developed a lot of great games such as Great Court Tennis."
The group died in December 1987 with members moving into Hotline.
* Had Digital Solutions Incorporated as subgroup.
We bring you to heaven
Extacy was in war with Seal/Amnesia in 1993 with demos being released against each other, the war started because Seal accused Extacy of using too many trainers in games and that their version of Crazy Sue was 100 or so blocks longer than his.
Not to be confused other groups like the Finnish based Extasy (Rockstar, Drake etc) or the German based Extasy (with members like Motley under the handle of Pyromancer).
Last real releases were back in 1996, but a mysterious Steve Brown did two cracks under the Extacy label in 1998.
* Nastiness Inc/Entropy used a fake handle, he was editing as Nike/Extacy for their mag Extacy Land.
The Federation 4012 was founded by ACE and AVH on 20 April 1985 and was founded after the break up of "Deutsches Knacker Syndikat" (DKS). This was THE original "Federation" (and a different style compared to Federation Against OMG, Federation Against Wildcat and all those that followed later.
The name "Federation Against Copyright" was invented by MWS and AVH while waiting for the bus and the 4012 in the name was from $FAC (which of course equals 4012). In August 1985 FAC joined Flash Cracking Group. After the FCG split up. The Dutch Part of FAC renamed to Federation Against Copyright again.
After the German section left FAC the Dutch people stopped cracking and started to import games from the US. FAC was one of the best importing groups during their time and they did import almost every major release whilst they were active.
Dissolved in late 1988 after 200 or so releases!
* Had Digital Solutions Incorporated as sub-group.
After a year the coop split because the agreement had become mostly one-sided. G*P was apparently doing most the work, while Fire-Eagle were getting all the credit (since they were the ones uploading the wares to the boards). Not long after the end of the cooperation, FE split up despite Eric attempting to get some new members into the group (1990).
* The founder Eric was also a member of Hotline and Sphinx on the Amiga!
* Had the Soede brothers as members, aka Soedesoft!
* Was a sub-group of The Highest Level.
Apart from cracks, they released a few demos and their popular 'Future Writer' also. The group folded in early 1988.
Where cracking is an Art
Founded by Sledgehammer in August 1986, they stood alone as the import kings and crackers of Holland. Hotline did almost every import from the US (Side, Rico, Harrie, BamBam were the main culprits), check their release of Skate or Die for example, released in October 1987.
Cesspool and Custard (C&C) did a lot of cool cracks for the group. Cesspool was actually Alf/Black Mail and Custard was Gaap/Black Mail (both were brothers). Popeye did plenty of cracks too when was a member throughout 1987, also several hundred cracks were done by Sledgehammer too.
XXX and Bod were involved for a few years but had some disagreements with Sledgehammer on who they should trade with in the USA (they wanted to stay with INC, Sledgehammer wanted them to trade with RFO), so they left to start Talent. One day after they left they received the first release original of Xybots which was planned to be a Hotline release but became Talent's debut instead. While Bod and XXX were in Hotline, BamBam was also doing imports, for this reason you can sometimes see the same game imported twice by the same group. After Bod and XXX left most cracks were done by 3030 from Germany. While he did the cracks Side and Rico did the imports from the US.
After 1000+ releases, the group finally died on the 2nd of January 1992, before this Side together with his friend Rico wanted to hand over the leadership to KRS One. They even had about three releases lined up for him to make the transition work well. KRS One refused, mainly because he was doing full time Steinberg classes (now Nuendo). I asked him directly about any other reasons for this too: "yeah would have been fun, but they made the name... and fame... didn't feel right also.. it's like taking over your Father's business that's been doing great for many years.. ;)"
Regarding the leadership change of Hotline, things did continue with Radix having control, I had a chat with Sledgehammer about it all: "I handed over the leadership to Radix who was friends with Legend from Belgium, Cesspool and Custard were from this group. I left Radix in control while i was busy building a group on the Atari ST."
* They had an Amiga division in 1987 which lasted for less than a year, it was closed due leader and key member being busted (his address was spread in a rival group's crack intro).
* Hotline also existed on the Atari ST from 1988 to 1993. Members included Sledge, M.C.A., Lethal and Lowlife who later moved on to the Super Nintendo scene (under the name Elitendo).
* Hotline and Manowar had a cooperation that lasted for only two days, some members of Manowar broke it off and The Silver Surfer/Hotline moved sides and joined Manowar as a result of the internal disruption.
* Laurens van der Donk of Boys Without Brains fame (Flimbo's Quest) was a member for a short time!
* It was rumoured they had a huge 'pay' section, where you would pay a fee to be a member (Seal is a good example here). This is likely to be some lamer pretending to be in the group (which happened a lot, with these people placing adds in magazines for selling cracked software using the Hotline brand and more).
* The Mercenary Cracker was rumoured to be member, aka Charles Deenen, who founded Scoop and Maniacs of Noise! This is in fact not true, he was not a member, but he made a few trainers and an intro because of his close friendship to the group.
* Concerning the fake/lamer label of Hotline, they were Garbage Disposal Unit (GDU), The Magic Middle Finger (Atari) and Sushi for unplayable Asian imports on the SNES (to piss off Paradox/Pappilion).
They had a German division for a while, who were doing most of the cracks for Manowar, however the Dutch people did a few but were mostly focused on importing from the states. The imports included partnerships with the likes of ATC (A Touch of Class) and NEC (North East Crackers). Some of their titles were quite big such as Creatures +3 (import to the USA by Booze/Empire) and Ultima VI (import to Europe by The Loverboy).
Dissolved in 1991, was rebuilt in October 1992 by NOC and Muscle but then died shortly after again with no further releases.
On The Move!
Power from the stars!
Having released around 200 cracks, they were quickly recognised as a strong force. They did plenty of imports and performed PAL fixing of certain wares like for example Street Sports Soccer from Eagle Soft Inc. The main perp doing this was DSH, he did heaps of work for Orion and made some noise with his work in partnership with the legendary North American group ESI.
Despite a huge impact on the scene in both cracking and demo scenes alike, what the group is somewhat remembered for is also the many rebuilds. Originally it died in June 1989, most members just left and joined other groups. In August it was rebuilt for the first time by some original members and some new ones too. Around January 1990 some members left due to some internal trouble, it was decided that the group should continue. At this point, the guys who continued Orion left after some weeks and some new people joined in at the same time and took over. The group started to get a bad name so all ex-Orion members from the original build decided it would be a good idea to declare the group officially dead in February 1990.
Members moved on to join other groups and they made their final release in 1991.
* Had Digital Solutions Incorporated as subgroup.
* Founders of the famous Corruption magazine.
* Their copy-party in Marl, Germany together with MCG (Madonna Cracking Group) on the 7th of May 1988 was a mess, unfortunately heaps of police were tipped off and busted many people from all the platforms active at that time... read more about it Party Story released by INXS.
Members of The Riffs included like LIFE, Quasarsoft, TSM 1992, The Crazy Artists (TCA), Asterix & Obelix, Miami Vice, The Soul Brothers (TSB), Golden Circle, Delta Force, Wonderboy, Striker, Sealandsoft, Thundersoft, Living Legend, Diamonds and more.
It was mainly Quasarsoft, Life (ex-Front members), Diamonds (aka TSM1992) and Marauder/GSS who cracked/programmed stuff for The Riffs. On a legal note (yes, I know out of place but allow me to digress), I remember receiving the Marc's Movements demo by The Quarc in the post and I was blown away... the demo was one of my favourites back then.
A mixture of cracks and demos with impressive members such as JAC, Dino and many more. Their final release was in 1990.
Sacred existed for about 2 years and during that time had quite a few mail releases and even some minor first releases that were spread to the states (e.g. Eoroid, Planet Force and Vari Preview). After that the group died as several members had too less time for their jobs in the group whilst key members Splatterhead and Lord Crucifier decided to try their luck with AFL 1970.
Later on Splatterhead and LCF rebuilt the group and joining in was Mendrake, Styx and Syco. Mendrake promised a trade with Canadian import/fixers Empire. Instead, he just linked fake Empire intros to the Sacred releases (three of them). The original members of Sacred found out and cancelled the rebuild immediately. According to Mendrake, who joined up with Fairlight after the crash, the Empire intros were added by a person claiming to be a member. He was simply led to believe that Empire actually released his games, and therefore was not to blame for the incident. The drama!
Their last real release was back in 1994 and since then members moved to AFL, Acrise and Success & TRC.
* Released a paper magazine called Hackers Unit.
The Image of The Lowlands
Their last crack was in 1993 but they have been active since then (despite a big break between 1994 and 2004).
* A group by the same name existed in Austria between 1990 and 1991. Harlequin/Silicon Ltd. called them a bunch of lamers and name stealers during a Venlo meeting, from that point they were not heard of any longer...
* Brief cooperation with fellow Dutch group Amnesia.
* Harlequin was also a member of the PC section of Success.
* Because SCL wanted to focus on demos mainly Scout had to operate under other handles/groups to enjoy the cracking scene. He was for example Peppie/Silence, The Circle Jerk/Obituary, Peppie/Oase (he resurrected CBA's old group to nag him ;)) and Cancerfriend/Carcass.
Raise your hands! SLASH!
The group had a huge break from the scene but then awoke from their coma in 2002 before falling asleep again until 2008. Over 200 releases, they are definitely on the map!
* Quiss/Reflex was a member under the name Fireball.
* Poeba/Slash is the brother of Celtic/Slash!
* Had an Amiga section.
* Before Xenon, WVL was a member and still is.
* Celtic works in the Dutch music industry.
* Axe and Poeba played in several bands together. Axe as a bassist and Poeba as harmonica player.
* Poeba is a film editor for Dutch movies/documentaries and several news programs. He also plays in a band called the Pignose Willies (trash blues rock'n'roll).
* Axe continued in different bands as a bassist and also started painting.
* Vai works in the IT industry and also wrote his own IRC program.
We rulez, and you know it!
The group had some kicking programmers who would make way for some good demos, however the group quickly made a statement in becoming one of the fastest importers from the USA. Helping the group achieve an elite standard were Rico and Side, assisting with imports for the group before they joined Hotline. Sphinx consisted of a Swedish division and a Dutch division (Skater, who later was the famous editor of the Shock magazine was also a member).
The group was reborn twice but never attained its former glory. Dissolved finally in 1990.
* As with a lot of groups back then, they also had an Amiga division.
Dutch Cracking Service, FSA, Higher Computer Science, Jola, Kraak Vaak, Science Fiction Crackings, The Fashion, The Giant, The Lords, The Scientists, The Squonk Society, United Artists and Wildcats.
The group did a cooperation with fellow umbrella group Fantasy Cracking Service (FCS) in 1987 and did several strong releases on its own such as Zynaps +5H (The Giant), they also did some imports by DSH/Orion while he was shortly in the group. In 1989 it all came to a end though, mainly caused by the fact that most of the members (sometimes even whole groups at a time) left for the Amiga.
In 1994 the reformed Success team (who had moved their core from Germany to Holland) formed a cooperation with TRC forming what was to be the longest running cooperation in C64 scene history. The pinnacle of this cooperation was one of the biggest first releases in the 1990s, Lemmings from Psygnosis. During this time they had spread from Holland to incorporate sections in areas that were likely to have thriving game markets, countries like Hungary, Poland and even Australia.
Burglar: "The Ruling Company was grabbing a big, steady piece of the Dutch market at the time, and as we all already got along quite well (Action Jackson was one of my very first contacts back in the 80ies), joining up forces started to look like a win-win situation. Not only for Lemmings, but for everything. So in the bus back to .nl from The Party 3, we got together, SCS*TRC got formed. It's not so easy to form a cooperation between 2 well-respected groups. Neither wants to give up their identity, at first both groups try to absorb each other, but that only seems to work when the two are not really equal. With SCS and TRC, this was not the case, so a cooperation was the best for all of us."
The group retired from the active scene in 1997 after 600+ releases, however I debate their death this as the group continued to organise the successful X parties as well as doing some releases here and there (such as their fine first release Phalsberg back in 2009).
* Released the Vandalism News magazine for a few issues together with Success.
* Action Jackson started the TRC magazine Frontpage in 1989 full of news from the scene. Every Venlo meeting there was a new issue.
* Own the longest running FTP site together with Success. A follow on from their Texas BBS The Dungeon, in 1994 they launched The Digital Dungeon FTP at ftp://ftp.scs-trc.net/pub/c64
* Spankerz Heaven was the second 'Web BBS' to migrate to the internet (following Legend's), support it (when it is online) - https://sh.scs-trc.net
* CBA and MCD went to MGF+JOY+WWE party in Veenendaal in 1988 and at the train station his keys fell under the train, CBA quickly went under the train to get the keys, suddenly there was a signal that it was time to get the train going. MCD never saw someone so quickly move their ass!
* MCD confesses to playing Stroker once together with a girl: "when I was a youngster, 14 or 15 years old I was in love with my neighbour... I also had a little C64 game.. you must play with joystick to let the penis of a little man grow.... if you did it right the little man finally came... I played this game with my neighbour girl with the intention she maybe wanted this to do with me... Aaargggg this is a strange story...... but later we kissed for a few times.. but we never had sex."
* Had a war with House Designs because they had released TRC's unsold game Synex at a Venlo meeting after Action Jackson and CBA had left the party.
* Their fake label is Troep, which was in cooperation also with Success' fake label Garbage! They are now in cooperation with Hema (another fake Dutch group). Incidentally Troep means rubbish or mess in Dutch.
Dissolved in November 1991, Falcon and Nightshade moved on to Success.
* KRS One later renamed to Gerard Hultink.
* Had some skirmishes briefly with TRC, in particular over the translation of the Spanish game Jai Alai.
* Their first release of the game Wildfire (100%) was in fact a game made by Ghostrider/Mega Industries. All other groups thought they had the full game at the time but in fact they just released the preview only.
* Antisoft, Bytebreaker & CSS put Dutch cracking scene on the map.
* Bert was a big name as a single cracker and one of the early pioneers in the Dutch scene. He was cracking in the early part of 1984 and into 1985.
* Dutch Software Group was another old group from way back in 1984.
* X-OR Cracking Service. Founded by X-AND and X-OR, also known as XCS International, they were one of the real old units from Holland releasing locally between 1984 and 1986.
* WiseGuy Industries 2015 was founded by Mr. Mad & The Ant in 1987. Has been a sub-group of The Artworx & New Formula Crew.
* International Cracking Group, AKA ICG Crackings, were releasing in 1985 and 1986 with members such as Marco, Harry, Nico and Peter.