Interview with Martin "Cruzer" Kristensen

Published in Vandalism News #65
Conducted by Carl "Grip" Svensson during early mid/late 2016

V) Please feel exceedingly welcome to Vandalism News, Cruzer. On the scene you're perhaps best known as the code wizard of Camelot. Would you care to tell us a bit about yourself - where you live, what you do for a living, what you fill your spare time with apart from the scene?

C) Wizard, that sounds a little occult, but thanks! I'm a cyberpunk situated in a suburb of Copenhagen, Denmark with the silly name of Bagsvaerd (Backsword). My IRL is pretty bland, so I'll just skip that.

V) There is a pretty solid backstory on your CSDb page, which details how you came into contact with computers and got started with C64 demo coding back in 1988. Quite a lot of people wanted a computer to play games and then found out about the scene. However, it seems you wanted to code demos from day one - to explore and push the limits of the C64 so much that you chose that platform over the Amiga. It would've seemed an odd choice to me back then. Are you a competitive person, always looking for a challenge or was that something specifically triggered by the contrast between Amiga and C64 demos?

C) Guess I might be. As a kid I was very much into the Guinness Book of Records, and I could easily see myself trying to beat some of them when I got older. I also wanted to be an inventor, and tried to build stuff like rockets and other contraptions, but unfortunately I was too clumsy to ever succeed with most of it. So when I started coding it was the perfect way to be an inventor for me, since you didn't have to build things by hand. All you had to do was typing in some instructions for a machine that was already constructed, and that seemed like something I could just about manage.

Choosing C64 over Amiga - guess it's just a sign that I had great taste early on.

V) Did you at any point regret not opting for an Amiga?

C) Not at all. The Amiga seemed to reach its full potential pretty quickly, while the C64 has been a much harder and therefore interesting nut to crack.

V) Like for most other C64 sceners, limitations and breaking out of them seems to be something you enjoy. You've spent some time size coding for the C64 and pushing the envelope with different types of optimisation in effects. At the same time, you're a great sport when it comes to writing an image viewer or music replayer and you've been a part of quite a few simple scrolly-texty type things. Is all C64 coding equally fun, even when it's not as challenging?

C) Breaking the limits is what demos are all about for me. I actually hate these other tasks. Wish people would stop asking me, or I would learn to say no.

V) When it is challenging, does the type of challenge matter? Is it the same when twiddling around with a 256 byte intro as it is when making a big trackmo?

C) In any case, the challenges I like are the kind where you wonder whether something is possible and start exploring possibilities, and get new ideas that you get excited about and would like to see come to fruition.

V) We wouldn't keep using our old machines if we didn't get enjoyment from it: exploring, finding new ways of doing things or just sinking into some meditative busywork. Still, a lot of us sceners also keep seeking a bit of fame and glory by entering competitions - even those with basically nothing left to prove. What motivates you and keeps you going?

C) The feeling that the C64 isn't fully exploited yet. E.g. when seeing a demo where some parts are really good and others are embarrassingly poorly executed. That can be really annoying and make me wanna first shout at the creators that they really could have done better if they had tried harder and secondly to show them how it could be done, which is a great way to get motivated.

In the old days it was usually friends with Amiga's who showed off demos and games with effects that they asserted the C64 couldn't do. That could spark a lot of enthusiasm in finding ways to do these impossible things like filled vector, plasma and floffy, most of which I by the way think it's now safe to say that the C64 could in fact do.

V) What's the most rewarding thing you've coded lately, and/or the latest release you're most pleased with?

C) Of course I can't go into details about unreleased stuff, but the most rewarding routine lately has probably been one where I've combined one of Graham's clever tricks with one invented by AEG and Axis. So you can argue that it really isn't my ideas, but the idea of combining them is, and I'm really pleased with the result.

Most of my stuff is probably like that – taking other people's ideas, building on them and making it look like something new. There's a lot of potential in that, since there are so many great tricks on the C64 that have been done only once or have always been done in the same way, which is a shame, since there are endless ways to combine ideas or make the same basic trick look different. Just look at how much has been done with colour cycling lately. I wish other tricks would be exploited to the same extend.

The most rewarding release has to be Pimp My Snail. Even though it uses quite an unsophisticated trackmo setup, I think I succeeded in creating the kinda flow I wanted, where one effect takes over from the other before the viewer is bored. Of course the demo is pretty short, so there's definitely room for improvement.

V) What ruins your motivation, what makes you lose interest in a project?

C) When something else seems more interesting. I've always had the problem that it was much more fun to begin on a new routine than finishing an old one. In the beginning you have a green field of hope and dreams in front of you. When you're finalising it you have to decide on one path, which means cutting off all the other possible outcomes. And who knows whether you're choosing the best one? I'm certainly never sure.

V) Camelot seems like a tightly-knit, fun-loving gang. You've got a special way of making yourselves known as well, through all things Camel related: face masks, candy, vanity plates... Do you regularly google for camel-related paraphernalia or do you simply keep your eyes open at all times?

C) It's mostly some of the other camels that aren't very active with C64 stuff who find these things and post them on our internal forum. I guess I like bringing them to parties since it distracts people from the tedious questions about whether Camelot has made a demo.

V) There's no demo party without a well-aged brussel sprouts vodka. Who came up with the idea of putting brussel sprouts in perfectly drinkable alcohol and why is it important to keep around?

C) I think it was on X'2010 that I brought a bag of brussels sprouts for some reason. Probably to have something to throw at people if a food fight was to occur. Late at night I dropped some of them in The Artist Formerly Known as Jeff's abandoned glass of vodka, and the next day the most amazing stench of concentrated raw sewage and death was reeking from it. Then I knew I had struck gold.

V) I happen to know you're a fan of the soft drink Surge. What special qualities does it have that other beverages lack?

C) It was released on the Danish market as Urge in 1997, just after I had moved out from my parents' house to a dorm room on the legendary island of Amager. So apart from the heavenly taste I guess it reminds me of a time of new adventures and sitting on the university all night drinking Urge, exploring this new thing called the internet and coding ASCII effects. The millennium was just around the corner, and the Řresund bridge was being built. It was a time of hope and dreams. Then the dotcom bubble burst and Urge was pulled from the market. That was total bummer.

But now it's back – unfortunately only in the US, which means that it's full of high fructose corn syrup which I've come to learn that my sensitive bowel can't deal with. But fortunately there's still Norwegian Urge.

V) In the autumn of 2015, you joined Arsenic and Oxyron as a coder. Any particular reason for branching out from Camelot?

C) It was a huge honour to be asked to join these legendary groups, so of course I couldn't say no. Hopefully they can teach me something about German efficiency and releasing demos more frequently. Also they made me an offer I couldn't refuse: To supply my parts with graphics and link them, thus solving two of my biggest problems.

V) You're one of the founders of FAIC. Do you think the scene is too serious today or is it just the right amount of goofing around? Do you have an inner teenager that needs to be let out from time to time?

C) The scene certainly should be about goofing around and letting the inner teenager out. I mean, we're using a computer that has been obsolete since DDR was still a country. The only sensible reason to keep doing that is because it's fun. Sometimes though, taking stuff very seriously can be the most fun, like when coding an effect and giving it all you got in pushing the limits. What I don't get is when people get all worked up about stuff like compo results or CSDb ratings. That seems to be putting a little too much importance into it.

V) There are some seriously creative, non-conformist minds on the scene. Still, it can be quite conservative at times: a demo is a demo and if it diverges from a certain mold, it's no longer really a demo. Personally, I enjoy this unwillingness to change and to create something within the unwritten rules of the scene. What would you say are the creative strengths and weaknesses of the scene community? Is the implicit creative contract too rigid or has it perhaps become too loosely defined?

C) Great observations and questions, which I don't really have strong opinions on. Whatever can give me a wow-experience I'm a fan of. But I'm not really a huge fan of demos that are trying too hard to be art. There was a wave of that by the turn of the millennium, where people were busy trying to show that they had become mature and adult by making artsy demos with messages, but I guess it was just a phase that the scene had to go through before we realised that we really hadn't matured mentally.

V) How would you say the scene of today differs from when you started out? Has it changed for the better or for the worse?

C) Just the fact that there is a C64 scene is amazing. When I started out the general feeling was "I gotta finish this in a hurry since a year from now it will look terribly dated and everyone will have moved to Amiga anyway." So there was more of an urgency to release stuff.

The great thing about nowadays is of course the internet and the modern tools. The backside is that the conversation about coding has shifted away from the core issues of hacking the C64 hardware and over to how to use tools. When noobs are beginning it seems like they think the most important thing is to learn all the assembler features, when they really should be focusing on the opcodes, VIC registers and algorithms as the first.

V) What do you hope for in the future of the scene? Do you think there's going to be a scene in ten or twenty year's time - do you see yourself still tapping away on the keys when you're an old age pensioner?

C) It's impossible to predict. But I certainly wish that I'll keep on geeking when I'm even more geriatric than now. My granddad and mentor Karl didn't get his first computer until he was 69, but that didn't stop him from nerding away with Comal 80 all day. So maybe age isn't that much of a hindrance, and the future will be bright and full of true gubbdata.

V) You've grown a manly beard. How has this affected your life?

C) Getting food stuck in it. And chicks dig it.

V) Since there is no text credit listed... who wrote the scrollers in Pimp My Snail?

C) Me.

V) Any final words? (Question inserted by Cruzer)

C) It was a huge honour for you to have me on.

V) Well played, sir :) It seems you beat me to wrapping this up. An honour indeed - thank you ever so much for your time and interest and good luck in your future endeavours, scene and otherwise!