Interviews



Interview with Manfred Trenz

Published in Domination #14
Performed by Jazzcat



During my gaming years on C64, I was captivated by game titles like Turrican, Turrican 2, Katakis and Giana Sisters. Never would I dream to have the opportunity to chat with the coder of these titles. Fortunately the internet has helped and lying before you is an interview with one of the more famous game developers from C64.

Conducted over the internet in June 2000, please welcome Manfred Trenz!



J)
Welcome to the Domination magazine! Please introduce yourself to the readers.

M)
Howdy folks and friends! I saw the light at the end of the tunnel in November 1965 in my hometown Saarbrucken in West Germany. I managed to get to 34 years old without getting old and boring as many people of my age did. In other words, I'm still crazy as I was in the ol' good C64 time!


J)
Lovely to see! You are quite famous on the C64 for the games you made. When did you first take interest in the C64? What were the games you finished and also never finished? I remember a lot of titles from you, such as the old demos Mega Move 1 & 2... Try giving us your C64 history...

M)
This whole thing started in 1984, when a friend of mine showed me his VIC20. We then spent the whole day by drawing funny piccies with the standard font set. Only a short time after, I got a C64 with tape drive. I was really proud to let my first sprites fly around (Remember the famous balloons in the docu?). Later on I programmed a one screen big helishooter game in basic. This was awfully sloooow, so I decided to learn some assembler. Now this heli game was a miniature of "Fort Apocalypse" (never released). I also started to pixel some graphics and later on I met another C64 freak, and we did some cool mini-proggies.

The idea to "Megamove II" came from an arcade game called "Starforce". It had this nice parallax starfield in the back. We asked ourselves how to realize this on the C64 and we did it! Later on, this demo became a small vertical shoot'em up where you steered a small ship across the techtech and destroy parts of it (never released)...

In 1986 there was a graphics competition in a magazine called 64'er. I sent some of my pix to them and I got rank #3.  A small company called "Rainbow Arts" saw these pics and got in contact with me. They asked me to do some graphics for their games. I then worked for them as a freelancer for some time.

In 1987 they asked me to be a part of the company as a graphics artist and I agreed. At this time they did not know that I also was a coder! The first project was "Giana Sisters". I did the graphics and also the level design and build-up.

The idea to Katakis came while playing the arcade R-Type, Nemesis and Darius. I asked my boss, if I could make a cool shooter with this and these features. He agreed and the stone began to roll...

I brought Andreas Escher into the company and we both worked on the game. We never thought that it would be a huge success like this! (If anybody knows Darius, he will probably recognize the elements in the status bar and the method how the weapons get powered up). And by the way, the name Katakis came from the telephone book and is Greek.

The similarity to R-Type gave another company called "Activision" a big head-ache, their official game R-Type was not as good as our "clone". To prevent bad and ugly court stuff with them, we came to an agreement to the C64 version of R-Type. Because of immense time pressure we had to do this in 6.5 weeks and we DID it.

I wanted to do a new game, but it should not be a shooter again. And an arcade game gave me the inspiration. This arcade called "Oscar" had a heavily armoured hero jumping around, transforming himself into a spikey wheel and throwing lots of weapons. At this time, nothing with this style was available for C64 and so Turrican was born!
Again, the name was taken from the telephone book (Italian, Turricano). Everything in this game I did by myself...

After the huge success, it was a matter of course to do a sequel. For this project, I worked together with Andreas again.

Now the best time of the C64 was definitely over and nobody wanted to do a game for it anymore. Everybody concentrated on Amiga and 8-bit consoles. So did I. My next titles were "Super Turrican" on NES. But to do a last C64 game, I coded "Enforcer" parallel to the development of Super Turrican. This was some kind of nightshift job. After this I left the C64 scene.



J)
I remember the fantastic reviews Turrican 2 got when it was released, people were astonished at the fact you stretched the C64's memory capacity nearly to its limit and in a quality way. Was this game your favourite achievement on the C64?

M)
Turrican 2 and Enforcer were my favourite achievements on C64, because many things were pushed to their limits.


J)
In my collection I have the level editors for Turrican and Katakis. Did you always make these or just for certain games?

M)
It depends on the requirements a game has. It must be possible to create, edit and change all components of a game in a comfortable and fast way. Therefore each game had its own editors and many small tools.


J)
You worked together with Andreas Escher. Do you still work with him and are you in contact with any other oldies from the C64?

M)
Currently we do not work together on any project, but we are in contact and who knows what the future brings. And yes, I also have contact with other "oldies".


J)
Anything you ever wanted to do in a game or demo but never managed it or could not due to technical restrictions?

M)
I hated to play Turrican without in-game music. But there was no possibility to put it in.



J)
What was your most favourite on the C64?

M)
To be honest, there are no real faves. I like anything which:
- Looks extreme superb/interesting
- Is graphically state of the art
- Is technically on highest level
- Sounds good!

This includes games and demos.


J)
What impressed you most on the C64 and for what reasons?

M)
I'm always impressed, when the entire border is open, sprites are flying wild across the screen and there is no flickerings. To handle these timing problems is very impressive for me. Demos of a newer date are also a reason to be impressed. Things are made, which even I thought were not possible.


J)
In your opinion, what is the most important contributing factor in a demo?

M)
To fascinate the audience at ANY time on the screen. There must be no big pause or dead point. And the audio must fit in time to the visuals. A good example from 1993 are the PC-Demos (C64 users, excuse!) Second Reality and Unreal.


J)
Was the 64 just a step in your life or was it a major inspiration?

M)
It sure was a major inspiration and a big change for my life.



J)
Do you still own a C64 and all of your old disks???

M)
What do you think?...................................
.........delay on purpose..................... ... .
Yes, I still own my first C64 and it is still alive and fully functional. This includes all my disks. To be sure, nothing gets lost, I backed up almost everything on PC CD-Rom.


J)
What are your current activities these days? What systems are you working on?


M)
I'm still writing games but not only that. To write serious applications to do some 3D-Realtime visualizations for example is also a growing part. Systems I currently work with are PC and Gameboy Colour.


J)
Ever had any disagreements with anyone through computer related activities?

M)
Not really. The one and only big disagreement happened last year while developing Turrican 3D. The guys which did the 3D-stuff wanted to make big money and did not really care about the quality of the product. A typical syndrome in these days. End of the song: T3D got stopped and will never be released. Note to anybody out there:
Don't ask for details!



J)
What is your favourite:

Food: Anything my wife is cooking (Not the Rock!)
Drink: Coffee
Movie: Hmm.... Starship Troopers, they definitely need a Turrican!
Music: For programming - independant-industrialtechnohardcorestuff.
Other: Anything except soul and blues.


J)
Any tips for the C64 programmers out there?

M)
It is very hard to give a hint for creative programming. I just did it this way: There was a problem or something had to be done. Then I had an idea how this problem probably could be solved. I coded some test proggies just to see if this is the right way. Mostly it was (i.e.; Big sprite routines for Katakis).


J)
Please feel free to send any greetings to anyone you know...

M)
Greetings go to anybody out there who knows me. Thanks again to all you people who like my games!


J)
Thanks Manfred! I will load them now and then and take a nostalgic trip to defend well and conquer evil, with my Turrican suit to protect me? Any last words?



M)
Don't give away your old machine. You know which one!? After many, many years you will be impressed with what you did on it.


Signed,

Manfred Trenz.
June 2000!




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