Interviews



Interview with Graham

Published in Vandalism News #33
Performed by Jazzcat

This time we have the great honour to bring you an interview with one of the very best coders the C64 ever was touched by, GRAHAM of Oxyron.


J)
Hello John, for those who might not know you until now (what I surely doubt), could you please give us a short introduction of your person.

G)
My real name is John Selck, currently I’m 25 years old but this will change the next few days. I'm the main c64 coder of Oxyron.


J)
Graham, could you please tell us how you got into the c64 scene, when did it all begin?

G)
Like almost everyone out there I saw a lot of c64 games (Fort Apocalypse, Frantic Freddy ...) at a friends place on his c64 with Datasette(tm). At the same time I went to school in the northernmost city of Germany, Flensburg. In the shops which sold computers you could always use some of them and this became one of the major places for computer nerds to meet. I always saw some older guys typing in some small BASIC programs on c64 and c128. Especially on c128 this was very interesting since the better basic allowed people to draw some nice shapes. Of course this caught my attention, I started to learn about basic programming before I even had a computer myself. And then of course I was asking my parents about buying me a c128. Finally, on x-mas 1986 my parents gave me a c128 + Datasette which was used like hell from that moment on. Of course I started to play games like hell, but I still was trying to do some programming. Later I noticed that tapes were rather shit and I bought myself a 1571, soon followed by a Final Cartridge III. This finally gave me the ability to easily hack into other people’s code and learn how they did stuff. Of course I started my own local group but since I was the only member who actually could do more than just playing and copying games it was doomed to stay local forever. I started to contact some groups, and after sending an intro I had coded some guys called "Megatron" let me in. That group was a cracking group, and I was mostly doing intro stuff for them. One day they invited my to go to the Silicon ltd party and I agreed. On that party I noticed a votesheet of a mag called "Monthly News" with Yazoo’s address printed on. To my surprise Yazoo was living just 2 km from me so right after the party I visited him. Short after that Yazoo offered me to join "Gloom" what I did. Some months after the core members of Gloom decided that the group should be abandoned and a new group should be formed. The result of that was that Gloom renamed into Oxyron, while only the best members were taken into Oxyron. And while the entire group was renaming I renamed myself to "Graham". This was in December 1991.



J)
When speaking about the old times of OXYRON the amazing COMA LIGHT series comes in mind. Demos where released by your Group nearly weekly :-D. Can you tell us more about that times and the Demos being created at that time?

G)
Together with Oxyron also a new demo series was started: "Coma Light". Actually we never planned this to be a series but somehow it was so easy not to invent a new name all the times... In December 1991 we release "Obscure Dreams", the last Gloom demo ever. Two weeks after that Oxyron had it's first demo coded by TTS: "Coma Light". TTS was coding like a maniac so when Oxyron went to The Party 91 (it's still Dec.91) he already had 90% of the next demo finished. But he forgot the disks with his parts so he coded a completely new demo on the party which was named "Burn It" (the worst Oxyron demo ever). I think it must have place #11 on the demo compo or something. (If someone knows the TP1 results, please mail me.) Then came the first year of Oxyron (1992) which was quite hardcore. TTS had his most active time, as you stated there were times where we released MEGA demos every 2 weeks. But at the same time this also meant that demos were 80% TTS productions, a few parts were contributed by Axis and even less by me. The first Oxyron demo which I consider being "ok" is Coma Light 4 (4th place on the Light/Phenomena Easter Party 1992, with HARD competition against Legoland 2). The first demo which included some code which Oxyron can be proud of is Coma Light 5. But the greatest Oxyron demo of 92 is of course Coma Light 8 which won The Party 92 demo compo, even though Antichrist (yes, that G*P dude) made his prophecy after the demos were shown: "Well, yeah, your demo was nice but nobody will vote for you as you don't have a NAME in the scene." Of course a number of demos followed in 1993 but the demo I remember most of the CL series is of course number 12. Axis and TTS had coded a lot of stuff in 4x4 FLI, and I suddenly came up with this very simple idea how to do 4x4 without losing 60% of the rastertime. You can consider CL12 the first true 4x4 demo. After CL12 the activity of TTS and Axis on c64 dropped near zero. Now it was my turn to show that Oxyron is a top coding group. I released "The Masque" which I only got bad reactions for (although the code is ok) and later I released "Parts" where I was too lazy to make a trackmo of it. "Parts" was another milestone, it introduced this very cool method to scale graphics on c64 VERY fast. For the very first time there were full screen zooming/scaling graphics on c64 in full frame rate. I bet every coder remembers this moment, it's absolutely AWESOME. On The Party 95 I released Dawnfall, a demo dedicated to great code in a single file. Due to the fact that all effects only take very little memory I was able to have a very special design on the demo which allowed me to repeat effects very fast, without any depacking or loading times. Jeff's music also added a very different atmosphere, the result is a demo which is different to all others. For the next two years I was working on several effects which nearly all made it into One-Der, another single file demo. It's still unbelievable to even myself that it was possible to do THAT demo. It's far more content than Dawnfall (3 music instead of one, a lot more graphics, a lot more effects, BETTER effects) yet it's one file. This one is my absolute code masterpiece.



J)
Back in the early 90ies there were quite some nice scene-parties, like Light-Phenomena, Brutal, TCC where OXYRON was present, what was it for a feeling for a new group like OXYRON, to compete with old legends like e.g. Horizon, Light, Origo, Censor or Camelot?

G)
Of course, when we started Oxyron we didn't compete with i.e. Origo or Light. They were such a lot better than us that we back then. But this changed while we released one demo after the other. With every demo we learned a lot of new stuff and at least coding wise we were one of the better groups in the end of 1992. In 1993 we continued this with less activity and the whole process ended in 1994 with Coma Light 12. That demo was a milestone for the group, we got reactions like "the best demo I’ve ever seen" etc. After that TTS and Axis got interested in Amiga programming and only me was left to code c64 demos.


J)
After the COMA LIGHT Demos TTS and AXIS more and more went over to AMIGA and quit the C64 and you and Fuben were the only coders left. Anyway that was the time when you started doing some very nice one-filed Demos like the fantastic DAWNFALL or ONEDER. Why did you want to stay on C64 and what were the ideas behind doing one filers?

G)
The reason why I stayed on c64 is that I never lost interest. I also coded stuff on Amiga and PC, but the c64 is a very special computer, coding on it can be a lot of fun. On PC you want to code something and you know from the very beginning that it will work out, no matter what you do. On c64 you often have a hard time to make something possible. The moment when you can say to yourself "yeah, I made it" is a very special moment on c64. And the idea behind one filers: It's more limited than Trackmo or Megademo coding. It's like c64 demos in general: I do it because it's fun and it's fun because I have limitations which need to be bend to the extreme.



J)
Some time after, the first Co-Op Demo with Crest was released, the beginning of a new era. What was the reason for you to do Demos together with Crest, how did it come to this? Why did you not join Crest?

G)
Doing demos together with Crest was necessary for me since I needed a good graphician and musician for the demos I code. What would Deus Ex Machina be without Deekay kicking my ass doing some design? Not half the demo it is now... Of course it would also make sense to join Crest, but Oxyron has still the advantage that most members live rather close to each other and we still meet from time to time.


J)
You did some Demo parts on AMIGA. Did you ever thought about leaving the C64 in order to follow the other "original" members to AMIGA or was it never a question?

G)
The Amiga allowed me to do stuff I never would be able to do on c64. It was not there for me to replace the c64. Same applies to the PC.

Under the Oxyron+Crest label some very nice demos have been done. The last big smash-hit was DEUS EX MACHINA. A very stunning Demo indeed, but it took some time to finally finish it, right? A lot of persons were involved in doing DEM which is quite seldom these days. Tell us something about how it all started to the point when it finally was released at Mekka last year (which it won btw.)

Deus Ex Machina started like the previous demos by me started: With a bunch of parts I had coded. This time I was not heading for a single file demo and I started to write a new track loader for it. Of course Deekay was the graphician which I won to make the graphics, and Jeff was the one who was supposed to make all music. I originally planned it to be an Oxyron demo, but somehow Deekay managed to make at a nearly-Crest demo. Anyway, we already had spent a lot of time on the demo when we went to The Party 99 with an unfinished production. The most essential thing missing was the music. Jeff had promised to bring his final music to the party but he didn't do it and we couldn't finish the demo there. I'm not sure if it would've been possible to finish it anyway, but this was the reason #1. Then, after the party we spent nearly two months on relaxing when we finally started to work on the demo again (MS2000 was coming near) and even Crossbow contributed some of his work. Again we went to a party with the demo unfinished, so I was working all the time to get that demo running. It was very hard since I almost didn't sleep and I also had a damn cold (I even infected MWS with it). The last problem I remember is, that it wouldn't run on the compo machine. But luckily I found the problem very fast and fixed it. After the demo was finished I left the party (not waiting for the demo compo) because I was really sick.



J)
Talking about winning MS2000. What do you think about scene parties nowadays? Is there still a kind of spirit like it was back in the past or is it not fair to compare the past with the present, what is your opinion? What do you think about Parties getting more and more PC-LAN-Parties ?

G)
The MS is definitely THE party these days. All other bigger parties are mostly LAN events or PC only. I noticed that the 3 biggest scene parties (The Party, Assembly, and Gathering) are almost dead for the demo scene. Luckily the MS staff has a hard policy against gamers which will save us at least THIS event. I fear that from this year on I will only attend the MS and the X-parties. These are the only parties which I really liked. The Party 2000 was way better than 1999 (which was a disaster) but I don't believe this will save it.


J)
What do you think about the reviews of Deus Ex Machina in several mags. There were many differences in what the persons believed to see. What is your opinion?

G)
Many reviewers just didn't know what they were seeing. I remember that a guy almost got me wrong at EVERY effect. Another guy wondered why I did the interference part because "it's easy to do". Did this guy ever ask himself why nobody did it before me? Maybe because it IS NOT easy to do?



J)
I know that you still got some aces in your hands, are you going to finish the Demo which was planned to be released at the very nice X2000 party in order to release it at Mekka2001? Or are you working on a new Demo-project for the Demo-Competition there?

G)
The demo will hopefully be released on MS2001. Luckily it's not a "primary" demo so it's not that critical and time consuming. Btw, it's a very special demo, only few people will be able to see it.


J)
As you are one of those who know how the scene has been like in the past, What do you think about the Demo scene nowadays, are there still some nice Demos being released or do you think that the quality lacks?

G)
Nowadays demos are a lot more sophisticated. Today you spend a lot of more work into a demo than in the early days. This means that you're not able to release as much demos anymore. Back then you only needed an effect, a logo and a music, voila: a part was finished. No linking problems and also design was easy since all happened in a part, you didn't need to care about how you connect the parts. Today a large amount of work goes into linking and fade effects. I would dare to say that Deus Ex Machina is about 50% fade routines. Same of course also applies to other demos, Arcanum/Xenon and +h2k/Plush also are great demos that have surely taken a lot of time.



J)
Are you a friend of the C64 hype that appeared when the (PC) C64-emulators started working properly or do you think that all those newbie’s spoil the good old c64 ? What is your opinion about emulation in general? Do you have more pros or cons?

G)
I don't think they spoil the c64. If there was no c64 emulation then the c64 would be forgotten by many people. I for myself prefer using a real c64, emulation is only a tool for me to have a fast look at something. I never watch demos or play games on emulators. (Except for arcade stuff, but that's not c64 anyway...)


J)
You are on the IRC very often. Do you like it there or do you think that it is more or less wasted time because of the fact that there are many "newbie’s" or "wannabees"? Tell us please.

G)
IRC is quite good for the c64 to stay in contact. Today most people don't have the time to have continuous mail contact to other sceners, and IRC is the easy solution to this.



J)
What do you think about cracker groups who are doing new versions of oldie-games, groups like REMEMBER or NOSTALGIA? Do you like it having brushed up and bug-fixed version of that games or don't you care about it?

G)
Uh, hard question. This depends very much. If I just want to look at some old games I prefer the ancient versions. But if I really want to play a game, a trainer or high score saver might be essential. This is really something which depends.


J)
As we know ourselves for a very long time now I know that you are currently working on a nice routine in order to emulate pal properly on pc emulators. Can you please tell us more details? When will your code be implemented in CCS or vice?

G)
I believe that everybody noticed that an emulator looks a lot worse than an original C64, even if you have a perfect palette. A lot of emu coders tried to "improve" the picture by making it blurry, but this does not work out. The PAL decoding does a lot stuff to the colours which is a lot more than just blurring a picture. This is what I did: I coded a PAL decoder emulator which renders a true colour picture out of the original 16 colour pic. This way you get nearly exactly the effects you see on a PAL monitor or TV. It's just great. I hope that at least CCS64 and Vice will include this filter as it really gives A LOT of c64 feeling back to the emus. Btw, also other emulators for computers which had a PAL display could use this filter, for example Atari 800XL emulators...

As there are many persons out there who have an Amiga, could you please tell them some words about the two tools you did for transferring disc and tape images from/to C64/Amiga. I am talking about TTU and DTU.

Some years ago I had the problem that there was no really good connection between Amiga and C64. There were quite many transfer programs but they were either slow or bad (or slow AND bad). I began to write my own tool: "Disk Transfer Utility". It was written to perfectly suit my needs transferring thousands of disks but still having a decent error detection. A D64 file is read from 1541 in 28 seconds. After that I noticed the TAP format which interested me because I have a number of original tapes from the old times where I didn't have a floppy. I tried all these WAV to TAP tools but noticed that they only gave non working or bad quality TAP files. So I started to write TTU which creates high quality TAP files. Of course for Amiga since AmigaOS allows easy real time coding even though it's a multitasking OS.


J)
Are there any other projects you are working on at the moment? Do we await some more stunning Demos which came out of your and Deekay's minds?

G)
Perhaps, but except for the very special demo mentioned earlier there's nothing in work yet.


J)
What are your plans for the future, if you have any? Do you want to stay on the C64 as long as it lasts or do you have plans of stopping your activity? (I cannot think of you not having a C128 around)

G)
I have no plans at all. If I have the idea to do something on c64, I'll do it. Same applies to Amiga or PC.


J)
Tell us about the other OXYRON members like TTS, Axis, Dante or PRI, what are they doing nowadays? What about the AMIGA-Section, is it still alive and finally will there ever be a "real" OXYRON-PC-Section?

G)
TTS works as game programmer for independent arts. He also codes PC demo stuff, his latest work was "Nature Suxx/F.A.N." which competed at MS2000. There he showed some nice real time raytracing. Axis and Dante also work as game programmers, but for a different company: Software 2000. They currently code the 3D engine of "Bundesliga Manager X". The last demo work from them was an Amiga demo called "Dreizehn" (Dreizehn means 13, this refers to a follow up to CL12) where I also contributed a part. I have met PRI on IRC some days ago, but I cannot recall what he's doing these days. I'm sorry. About the Amiga/PC sections: The Amiga section is mostly an Axis/Dante thing, but they are quite lazy these days. On PC the only one who actually gets stuff finished is TTS. I don't think that Oxyron will head for much demos on PC.


J)
Finally we reach the end of this interview, this leads to the point where there is some space for greetings and some closing words. I hope you enjoyed this interview.

G)
I wanna greet TTS, Axis, Dante, Asmodis, Slator, Slide, Deekay, Fanta, Cupid, Krill, Crossbow, BizKid, Slammer, Chaos, Fiver2, Bull, KB, Submissive and all sceners who actually get a demo done.

Graham.

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