Interviews



Interview with Mason

Published in Domination #14
Performed by Jazzcat


Creator of The Archive Project – which compiles all wares released on C64, Mason has been involved with the C64 for many years. A game cracker, he has been involved with the releases of groups such as Unicess, X-Ray & Success,  X-Factor and Acrise to name a few. The interview was conducted over the internet in August 2000.


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

M)
I'm Mason from Motiv8. For Motiv8 on C64 I'm a cracker and for Motiv8 on PC I'm president.


J)
Could you tell us a bit about your C64 scene history?

M)
I started in summer 1983 - we had small trading groups locally, but in between there was some of the big guys back then. I was a member of Motiv8, Unicess, Mechanix, Archaos, Image, X-Ray & Success, X-Factor, Acrise,  Epic, Moonsoft and some more which I can't really remember anymore.

There is plenty of main events in my history to mention: When I cracked my first multi-loader, when I cracked my first cyberload game, when Crossfire (back then Exory) and me showed the world we could get tape-originals at the same speed as them, when I ran Unicess myself when it had comeback, when I saw the only game I did, which got NTSC fixed. I could mention plenty of them.



J)
What are your hobbies outside the scene and how would you describe the average day of your life?

M)
Well outside the scene I'm working as Radio DJ and as a consultant for people who want to do commercials or publish themselves through the newspress. Also I'm using some time on listening to upcoming artists to decide who is worth to airplay and helping people with laws and rules for radio and TV stations. At my full time job I work as System Administrator on the second biggest library in the country.

All this stuff takes a lot of time and then I still got a lot to do in the PC scene and the C64 Archive Project. Besides all this I'm trying to get time to do all the usual stuff people do, especially with my girl.


J)
What are your all-time favourites on the legendary C64?

M)
It's not easy to judge a whole scene from 1983 until now, but I will try my best. I try to mention a few, but I can sure mention more groups for what they did in the scene.

Cracking group: Triangle (for being the ones doing quality versions and not caring about swappers or first releases)
Triad (especially when it was Mr.Z and Janitor, but also King Fisher did a nice job)
SCG (for the newbies, SCG means Scouse Cracking Group)
Illusion (for being fast and doing quality)
F4CG (especially the old guys from Italy. Mao did some nice cracks)

Cracker: Antitrack (always doing quality work), Iceball (my partner who cared about quality just as much as me and he was doing a lot of nice level packers and iffl tools for me), Invisible Man (who was the other main cracker in the first Unicess between 1989-90), Mao (just a good cracker in all areas), Doc (took all the nasty ones) - I can mention more, but the list will be soooooooooooo long.

Game: Boulderdash, Rodland, Jammin, R-Type, Last Ninja 2

NTSC fixer: Pudwerx, Stealth/TSM

USA Import group: NEI, FBR, TSM and the groups that Pudwerx was in.

BBS: Never really been on some, only Dominique, Mount Olympus and Crossfire's BBS. So it would be hard to judge it.

Demo: Trippler, Deus Ex Machina

Demo group: Nato/Noise, Crest

Coder: Maduplec (for doing great routines without using the whole memory), Crossbow (doing simple things so they looked complex and always nicely designed)

Graphician: Tecon (has a great style)

Musician: Rob Hubbard (I still love his great Thrust tune)

Magazine: I looked at the mags, but I can't really remember the names of  them, but I like Domination and I liked doing my own magazine in Unicess called Popcorn.



J)
What is your opinion on the internet and the C64, what needs improving? I think more coverage on wares and the BBS scene of the 80s and 90s would be good.

M)
I like the internet and also for the C64 scene. I wish we had the internet in the 80s and the beginning of the 90s. The BBS part never said something to me and I have really been on them. Mostly the BBS' were what kept the US scene alive and made the people in the US important for the groups.

I like the idea of doing the old games in great versions. What I especially like is those "newer" crackers, who have to look at the old protections. Some of them were really nasty and will take a lot of time for them as it's a totally different thinking - the newer protections concentrated on people using their cartridge to crack and to reset, so the protection coders put in a lot of stuff which caused the game to crash if it got reset or the disk drive froze. In the old days when people cracked protections like Cyberload, Freeload, Wildsave and other kinds of disk games which had destroyed tracks and other nasty stuff, we couldn't get much use of the Action Replay etc. To those protections you need knowledge in the C64 ROM and not in the timer-stuff which was the most important thing in the newer protections. You can also see the difference between the crackers as the old ones love the tape games and the newer crackers like the disk games.


J)
Your handle, where do you get it from and does it have a special meaning?

M)
There isn't much special behind my handle. I was tired of my old handle as people realised the idea behind it.


J)
What is the hardest game you have worked on? and what crack by any other scene have you seen that has been the most impressive?

M)
Well through time you find some nasty games, but when you look back they were quite easy when you first found out how to do it. There's a game I really remember - RODLAND - it was easy to transfer the files from tape to disk, but getting the game to work with the level packer was quite nasty. I remember I had to stop everything I could, copy datas around to make sure they didn't get damaged while I stopped it, then I could load the file and then I had to put in a pause routine to make sure the disk drive motor stopped or the loader would hang next time it should be used.

I can mention a lot of games, but Shadow of the Beast, which Antitrack cracked for Legend was nice. Also Doc's work on Toki for Legend was a great job, I never got the cartridge and I never had a chance to look at it for real, but I looked around in the Legend version and I had a theory which could work about splitting the game level data up and put it in an extra loader, in that way the sprites could be located there and then there was room for the music. I don't know if it will ever work, but it could be fun to try.



J)
I know that Fungus/Onslaught has the original Toki on cartridge. Have you ever considered NTSC fixing?

M)
Not really, I tried to recode the Lemmings intro, so it would work on NTSC and I got far, but I never got it finished. The NTSC fixing wasn't something I really cared about, as most of them is just moving a few splits and adding/removing some raster time at different locations. There is a few good NTSC fixes still, like the ones Pudwerx did for Illusion (Creatures 2 and Greystorm).


J)
Also to mention the complete recoding of Neverending Story so it would work on NTSC. Do you see a need to do NTSC fixing these days? If so or if not, why?

M)
Well, it's ok to do the NTSC fixing still, but it should be done by the US people. It's like when there is Tour de France on the TV, everyone goes out buying the biker shorts. Remember Biker Shorts are for bikers and it looks awful when you see a person who is a little bit fat using them. It's like I could do coding, music and graphics - first of all I think it's boring and it's not what I'm best at, so I shouldn't do it. I have coded a few intros, but it's something I really don't like to do.


J)
Some of the leading cracking groups are not that active lately, such as Hitmen, Alpha Flight, and Success & TRC etc. What do you think about the organisation of a group, it's releases etc... should other groups WAKE UP or a new group be born? Or is there not enough originals?

M)
It's a tricky question, but let me start from the beginning. That a group doesn't care about first releases isn't something I would care about, I never cared about the first releases. I only did one game and it got the first release because I could fix the bugs in the game, and then it's a totally different thing as I cared for the quality and the product for the end user. Doing group organisation is a hard thing to do. I have been leading a few groups and people love my special way to do it. People should be happy doing it, people should think it was fun and we should all help like a big family - a lot of people think I'm doing it the wrong way, but if we take a look on the PC scene I have been doing this for Motiv8 PC all the time - I had people leaving the group and I wasn't angry at them - they were surprised. But as I told them I bet you ain't active in the scene in 6 months and 9 out of 10 times I was right.

A lot of groups both on C64, Amiga and PC push their members to do everything - if they can't do it they tell them they will be kicked out. Then it ends like people having to do it and when they don't think it's funny they won't be happy. The secret about being in the scene for a long time is making sure you’re having fun and you are happy about what you’re doing.


J)
I agree totally. My group is a big family and we all have fun on this machine! Tell us, what are your views on the C64 legal scene past and present?

M)
I always like the legal scene as they didn't make a difference between the cracker groups and demo groups. On the PC the demo coders don't talk to the cracking groups and it makes it like 2 scene. Also the C64 legal scene did a lot of work for the game groups - intro, music and graphics. Also if you look at the demos they made some attraction to the C64 even in the middle and late 90s as people are on copy parties and say "Woooooo, I never thought that was possible"

Sadly, a lot of people stopped coding on the C64, but I can't understand them. If they reached a limit of what they can get ideas for, they don't think its fun and there is no reason to continue. Those people should consider emulating games from MAME as they can see the original version of the games they played on the C64.


J)
Ever had any wars or disliking towards others in the scene?


M)
I never liked those wars in the scene, as most of them can be compared to stuff like you stole my toy. Most of those wars ended up in nothing than blah blah blah blah. I remember we had something against X-Factor as they didn't like me, as I always said there is no war before someone declares it and I wouldn't waste my time. X-Factor did and I took in some special people whose expert job was running wars in the C64 scene (Fate was one of them).

Also there is always some blah blah between the group I was in and Vision and some other groups here. Problem was I guess everyone said they were #1 and the other said that they were not. My personal opinion was that only X-Factor and us (I think it was Unicess or Epic) had the crackers who were the best. The other groups just got tape transferred originals from friends or did disk originals - I bet none of them could crack cyberload.

I've always been behind in the scene, so I haven't really been into those wars, except with X-Factor as I think most of them were stupid.


J)
You have been in the same groups as Crossfire many times and he has been mentioned as a recracker and been into a lot of discussions. What do you think?

M)
Crossfire and I have been friends for many years and we are still talking often. Personally I never think Crossfire recracked anything on the C64, I know there was a crack back then which had a trainer screen from Transcom but as far as I remember he got the originals on a disk from a contact. Besides that I think it was a really burnt-out subject which people have mentioned again and again, I remember Crossfire doing the note about recracks, but he did it because he was tired of all the people talking. I know Crossfire's skills as we were together a lot. Actually we were mostly at my room every weekend for cracking the games.

Also I could take in a lot of people who could have been accused for recracking and stealing trainers. I have seen a lot of games which got trainers who look a lot like mine, even the special sub routines I did with the trainers to make them possible. I have also seen some versions of McDonald Land with code which looked similar to my special number count piece of code which converted the filename to numbers.



J)
What do you think about cracking through the 80s and 90s?

M)
The cracking scene was funny, but there were so many people cheating just because they couldn't do remarkable cracks which people couldn't remember. To get a remembered cracker you need to do something special for it and you have to do it for a while.

I remember a lot of groups doing cheats on the trainers - I guess they couldn't count. I have seen plenty of games which had you want unlimited gun fire? you want unlimited missiles? And all the other weapon types in the game. There were no need for that as people could just wanna get all weapons? And wanna get unlimited weapon power? Or just one of them. I always got told I counted wrong, but it never bothered me.


J)
The magazine industry on the C64 has developed over the years, I think it has already passed its peak. What are your views on the C64 disk magazines and their purposes in the scene?

M)
The magazines did a lot to the scene as it was pointing out the bad things in the scene and the magazines will always be needed as there has to be someone who says their opinion to make the scene improve. Also the magazines let other people show their opinion and then it has got a different view and made the debate which were needed for it.


J)
Ever do any Hacking/Phreaking? Call the boards? conferences etc? The good old times eh?!

M)
I was on some conferences in the 80s - hah I still remember when we called Just Ice in the middle of the night. Let me say it like this - he didn't liked getting called at 3AM in the morning and he would hang up. I never called the boards, but I used the 0-backdoors which were on a lot of phone systems at companies (they always used 0 to get a new line, if you dialled on their direct dial-up and press 0 you could dial out). I haven't really been on BBS', but I have been on IRC since 1993 and it has been my way to talk to people.


J)
IRC is my main way now too, but the boards were fun in those days. I hope to internet will some day have the same atmosphere, at least for the C64 online projects. Now, can you tell us have you ever been to many copy parties?

M)
Never, I already was busy doing the radio DJ jobs in the 80s and when the parties were around I was often working extra. Also I never liked being the public person - other members always took care of this for me.


J)
Please feel free to send some greetings to the scene...

M)
Uhm, it could be a loooong list, but let me try to shorten it. Don't worry if you have been forgotten in the list, but you can't get a 6 side magazine just because of my greetings.

First I greet Crossfire who has always been a good friend of mine, then Iceball, Ray, Dishy, Decane, Invisible Man who were all party of the groups I have been in. Antitrack which I never talked to in the C64 scene, but talked a lot on IRC, Derbyshire Ram which I swapped with in a period from the late 80s to the middle part of the 90s and I'm still mailing with him, Steve/Zenith who I got to know on IRC, Bordeaux who helps me on The Archive Project right now. Qed from Triangle which I have known for a while (printer sniffer rules), Burglar who has been talking a lot on IRC and he has been a big help when things are going bad, Deadbeat/The Sharks which I never talked to before I saw him on IRC and all the people who help me on the project and to the rest of the people I know.


J)
Any last words for the audience?

M)
Continue your good work on the C64 and go transfer your disks as we need it for the archive. Maybe I will go do some more cracks for the C64, but lookout for the archive - you will really love it.

                              

Signed,
 
Mason/Motiv8.

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