Interview with Gremlin
Published in Domination #8
Performed by Jazzcat
Welcome dear reader to the interview section. You may have enjoyed some of the previous personalities interviewed already this edition, this one doesn't make an exception either.
Being in the scene for over a decade, he is a programmer of exceptional ability. From the roots of the Finnish elite, he has helped produce many demonstrations on C64 for the established group BEYOND FORCE.
Hello Gremlin and a warm welcome to the DOMINATION magazine. You are quite known already in the C64 scene, but some
may still be unfamiliar with you, please introduce yourself to the audience.
Okay... I'm Gremlin of Beyond Force, my real name is Olli-Pekka Auvinen, and Iím 21 years old and studying computer science in Helsinki University of Technology for the third year after passing my second year doing my military service. In case you didn't know, Helsinki is of course the capital of Finland (btw: you can check my homepage at: http://www.hut.fi/-oauvinen
You are probably best known for your work in Beyond Force, but could you please give us a history on when you first entered the scene and what groups and events have happened up until present time.
I got my C-64 more or less a decade ago in 1986 and I got interested in all these crackers and demo groups pretty soon. I followed the scene a pretty long time before I picked on doing something for myself. It was much of just swapping wares and admiring the work of various people like Finnish Gold and the rest. I really wasn't in any group back in those days. It was in the beginning of 1990 when we started a group named Cursor with a few friends (Doom, Barracuda and some others) in my home town Savonlinna. I'm not very proud of these products we did release during the early months of 1990, but we were pretty productive and started to get an idea of the capabilities of the machine. At the time me and my friends were not anymore very impressed by all multiplexers and rastersplit routines the demos were full of at the time. Instead we were very impressed by demos from Horizon, Beyond Force and Origo, just to name a few... Most of the time they included very innovative and original stuff, which seemed to lift 'em to another level from the masses.
In May 1990 we changed the name into Dream, a Danish section was formed, some people stopped the scene and some joined (like Slayer who is in Origo these days) Dream released a few demos during the summer 1990 (Destruction 1 & 2 which were sided by me and some other demos by the Danish section). In the fall, me and Slayer were offered to join a brand new group called Topaz Beerline, which hadn't really done anything yet, but the people behind the name were former members of Browbeat and some others. The main man behind the group was Coax of Topaz, who tragically died in an accident in the Spring 1991.
Our first release in Topaz Beerline was Warming Up which was coded by me and D'arc of Topaz, the demo was coded in a hurry just to establish a name for Topaz and to let people know about us. It was after this demo when Hazor of Beyond Force asked me to join them (someone could talk about recruiting). I was of course very excited to join a group whose work I had watched with amazement - all those demos like Phantasie, Charlatan, Splitter, Metamorphosis, Insanity and Poor. You really can't understand how amazing something like Charlatan seemed at the time when there was no FLI and to think what kind of mathematics were needed to calculate metamorphosis or how the hell someone could make two logos go over each other in DYPP and tech-tech with C64. Before really joining Beyond Force I finished my last demo parts released for Topaz Beerline in a demo called Heating Up.
In fall 1990 we started to code a bigger demo for Beyond Force. It was to be released in the Easter 1991 at Horizon's party which was eventually held in Huddinge, Sweden. A lot of people showed up but the party wasn't the huge C64 event it was the year before when Origo won with an amazing Eldorado in a competition which many (including me) consider "the competition" of the whole existence of the C64 scene. I mean in the Easter 1990 there were - everyone Ė in the competition. Well back to 1991 Horizon party - the demo compo turned out to be our success as we won with a demo named "Anal Intruder" (the name really has nothing to do with the routines), Flash Inc was second and Panoramic Designs was third. So the demo includes my first work for Beyond Force. After that I have released various demos with many friends from Beyond Force, there's a story behind everyone of them, but if I start to write details, this article will become way too huge. Instead Iíll give you some kind of list (demo name, where and when it was released and the result in the demo competition). Besides these demos are probably more known for all the people in the scene.
Anal Intruder - Horizon '91 - 1st in demo compo
Attack of Stubidos - Gathering '91 - 1st in demo compo
Partytrap - Light&Phenomena '92 - 2nd in demo compo
Oh no more dots - Assembly '92 - 2nd in demo compo
Attack of Stubidos 2 - Assembly '93 - 2nd in demo compo
Attack of Stupidos 3 - Assembly '94 - 1st in demo compo
Seven Years - Assembly '95 - 3rd in demo compo
Nothing but code - Assembly '96 - 2nd in demo compo
The last five demos were entirely coded by me (except the loaders and music-routines). So this gives you some kinda picture (especially if you haven't or have seen the demos) of the events that have occurred related to demos that we have released in Beyond Force.
What jobs do you do on C64? and have you had any jobs in the past that you no longer perform such as music or graphics?
My main job is of course coding and all the things related to it like creating appropriate algorithms for calculations and simplifying the math to the level it can be used with the very limited arithmetic and logical operations of C64. Besides coding I have always swapped a bit. Sometime in 1990 I was very active with about 30 contacts and sending stuff all the time, but since I have faded a bit and nowadays it is very limited because I simply don't have the time to do it (mainly because of my studies). I also have drawn logos (especially when I was in Dream if you can get hold of Destruction 1 + 2 you can see some of my graphics). Since those days I really haven't drawn that much, mainly just concentrated on coding.
What in your opinion should a demo contain to make it appeal to the public and make it's standard above average? Are trackmos the way to go, traditional 'separate part' style or maybe a mixture of both?
I think that a demo serves it's purpose always if it has a new idea. New ideas can really make up for everything else. Also if a routine is made especially fast (means made faster than anyone has ever done it) it can make a demo great. I always enjoy when someone has invented a new way of making some routine and the new way is unusually fast. Also average code linked with fab music and terrific graphics can make a great demo. When we get to the style of demos, trackmos are definitely the way to go. You can't compare old multi part demos with trackmos. There is no way to argue that. I also think that every trackmo should have some sort of style which lasts from start to finish. It makes the whole thing a lot more enjoyable. I'd like to think I have managed to make something like it in my latest demo "Nothing but code", but it can be very much different from it and better though.
Also I think you should think very carefully what you write in your demos. And to write it right. There's nothing more annoying than bad English in demos, though I have to confess that I have done some demos I would like to write texts again.
What would you say would be your personal greatest achievement on C64? Is there a routine you want to program, but haven't yet done so?
This is a really tough question. Huh.. in assembly 1994 I thought that this was it. I had coded a demo all by myself and also won the demo competition with some routines I was really satisfied with at the time. I couldn't do anything much better after it, I thought. Later I thought that one thing the demo lacked was the style of loader that is used in trackmos. That's why I think that the best demo I have made is "Nothing but code" which has routines which I'm just okay with and the whole thing just works out well.
Actually there are a few routines of mine that are my personal favourites. One is the 3D starfield. The whole main routine is in zeropage and it draws two stars in one loop and the loop is below 128 bytes long. I mean I optimised the thing so long and it seems even nowadays impossible to make it run faster. (just try! I haven't made a faster routine yet). By the way it was released in the intro of "Party Trap" and it can draw up to 170 stars/frame without music. One other really optimised routine is in the final part of "Attack of Stubidos 3" and I mean with that the filled vectors. The routine uses a lot of undocumented commands and everything, including the 3D calculations is in real time.
The third and maybe the most complicated one is the texture mapping routine in my newest demo. It uses very fast routines for one thing, but also the algorithm is very optimised. The program finds faster ways of calculating some parts of new image when possible. It is really hard to tell how it works exactly. I think it would require a very article to list everything in detail. One more thing about my latest demo. Many may wonder why it takes only a few hundred blocks of disk-space. This has nothing to do with the demo being short, it's about one thing that Iím a bit proud of. My code is not even packed, it just generates most of the code by itself, actually all the unrolled loops are generated in the beginning of a new part and almost all the tables too. So you can try to imagine how compact it would be if it was packed, let alone crunched.
Gremlin's all-time favourites.
Cracker group: none
Demo group: Finnish Gold, Horizon, Origo, Black Mail
Demo: Contest demo (released Byterapers party 1988)
Coder: Fcs/Fig, Solomon/Beyond Force, Kjer/Horizon, Clf/Origo, Tnt/Beyond Force, Bx/Origo
Musician: Rob Hubbard, Rock/Finnish Gold, Jeroen Tel, Zardax/Origo, JCH, AMJ/Byterapers
Graphician: Gotcha, Electric/Extend, Orc & Hein Design/Black Mail
Disk magazine: Mamba, The one and only "Sex'n'Crime"
Scene party: Horizon's Easter parties through 1989-91
Sexual position: Heh you got it totally wrong here, it's about person not about the position.
Food: Pizza, Hamburgers, A good beef in a restaurant
Drink: Grape lemonade, Beer, etc..
Woman: Can't pick one.. I like so many of 'em
Movie: Pulp Fiction, Train Spotting
What programmers do you respect and why?
Well, it's really a tough question to answer. But in general I think programmers respect other programmers, especially the good ones. Sometimes they respect programming a bit too much though. To some programmers there is nothing else but code in demos. That's simply because programmers know so well what is hard to code and if they don't know how something is done, it always impresses them. I myself think that demos are not just about coding, even though my latest demo "Nothing but code" features only coding. This is just simply because we don't have any active graphicians nor musicians in Beyond Force. Besides I wanted to experiment how it would work out to make a demo based only on coding.
Have you ever been in a serious disagreement with any other scener or group?
No not really. I get along with people pretty well usually but you know sometimes some people irritate you so much that you say things that shouldn't be taken too seriously.
The scene has gone into a slump compared with previous glory days. What do you think is the best hope to rejuvenate the scene, more games? more demos??
The games are not very important, though it all started with cracking them. Sure it helps if a lot of games are being released, but the issue is to keep producing top quality legal wares and to do it on a regular basis so that a group doesn't come along and then cease to exist the next day. I mean there are many groups nowadays, but there is not the feeling there used to be. One thing which should be carefully considered is the new sections of old groups - they shouldn't release just anything. They should try to keep up the name, not to terrorize the reputation. In the old days when an elite group released something, it really was cool every single time. Though I have to admit that there are great teams with great products even nowadays. Things have been worse. One thing not to be overlooked is the releasing of disk mags. I think they are very essential and they keep up the communication between many old and new freaks. Actually on the technical side, many mags are really impressive. The thing they should really start on doing is to lift the standard of their articles, which isn't by no means an easy job.
Your handle, GREMLIN, why did you choose this name? Have you had any other handles?
Actually all the credit for picking my name goes to Barracuda. He is nowadays in Extend as far as I know. He was the one who suggested the name to me and after a while of consideration I took it and have it ever since. It is also my only handle Iíve used in the scene.
Have you ever done any commercial work on C64 or other platforms, such as games or utilities? or have any future plans to do so?
I have had some plans to code a game and I coded a long time ago a two player Tetris clone with bizarre pieces, but it turned out that I was not going to make it a commercial product and it isn't finished up to this day. Anyway, I haven't had any really serious attempts to make money with my C64. It's only a nice hobby. But when talking about other platforms, I sure am going to make
money with computers. Besides I am studying computer science in a University and in a few years Iím going to be diploma engineer, so Iíll probably work pretty much with computers in the future.
What words of advise can you offer to the learning programmers out there? How should they go about things to improve their abilities?
Of course if they are really into programming, the best way to learn it the right way is to study computer science. If not in the university then in some kinda institution or something like that. Also it helps if you have good skills in mathematics. So you never know too much about mathematics.
Anything you wish to change to your demo entry at Assembly? Also the placing, a lot of people say WRATH should have been higher, whatís your opinion?
There is only one thing I would like to change in the demo and its the vertical mapping routine, which should have included a really fast doom clone and some more interesting effects. Now it is just nearly finished and shows only a small piece of it's potential. There are deadlines you know.
About the placing, Iím very happy with my second place finish. Byterapers deserve well their victory and Mr. Sex is really a great coder. Too bad he couldn't have the best effects included in the demo. Actually the comeback of Byterapers is a good example of a proper comeback of a great team, since they are still producing high quality wares. And my opinion about WRATH.. hmm.. I don't know. It may well be that the demo should have been placed higher, but I'm sure as hell not the right person to answer that, because I don't remember one single effect from the demo (and no, Iím not proud of that).
One more thing that sucks about Assembly. They haven't paid the prices yet for this year and not for the last year either. I'm a bit mad about this. Other prices for other categories have been paid but not the C64 prices. I know they aren't that big prices, but you tend to feel that C64 isn't that important to the organisers which really sucks. They always promise to pay but never seem to get it done. This is why Iím going to boycott Assembly '97 if there is going to be one and they haven't paid the prices before it. I'd like to use this opportunity to say to all fans on C64 that you shouldn't release anything on C64 at Assembly '97 unless the organisers start to show some respect to our machine. Go to some other party.
What are your goals in real life and in the scene? What do you hope to achieve?
Hmmm.. my goals.. well I don't have any. Okay, to be honest I have some goals one is of course finishing this interview. But to real life plans. My number one goal is to continue my studies and try to graduate some day and get a nice job before it. Well there are some other plans but Iíll probably keep 'em to myself. In C64 scene my biggest goal is to keep the great traditions of Beyond Force alive. I'm happy to say that Iím not the only one left though. I have no serious plans to produce something extraordinary but to have fun in the scene as well as I can.
What has BEYOND FORCE got planned on C64 in the future? could you give us any news or member status?
The biggest plan we have is now arranging a meeting, which will be held in Sam/Beyond Force's place in January 1997. This is really the first proper meeting we've had for a long, long time and many Beyonders should be present. We may even release a meeting demo or something, you never know. I'll try to give some sort of member status. It won't be complete, I won't make such stupid promises, but here goes:
Hazor, Axeman, Sam, Solomon, Tnt, Gremlin, Pioneer, Boss, Rsb, Himuli, Xentrix, Napalm, Tlb, Jake, Sage, Jogi, Ali, Dare, Max and some othersÖ Sorry can't remember all there is so many of us. I have to say that many of them are nowadays more into PCs but they still have an interest in the good old C64.
What's your opinion on the demo group Reflex and their past demos Access Denied, Radio Napalm and Mathematica?
Well, well, well.. ehm Reflex? Reflex who? Just kidding. To be honest I didn't know about them before Assembly 1996 where they released a demo, which bugged like hell in the demo compo. Too bad. One member of Reflex told that there was some very interesting stuff that wasn't shown on the big screen. At Assembly many active C64 people told me about Reflex and I had a chance to see some parts of their releases. I have to say that I was pretty impressed. This is exactly the problem when you have breaks in scene activities, you really don't know whatís in or whatís out, though it can be a benefit too when you make a demo. That way you don't tend to get ideas from other people's demos.
Here's your chance to say hellos to your friends and acquaintances, go for it...
I'll keep it short and send greetings to everyone I've swapped with, been in contact with and especially all the good friends Iíve had in the scene through to this day (this is one question which could have had an answer way too large).
Thanks for your time Gremlin, I hope you enjoy this edition of Domination. Any last words to leave a final impression on the readers?
Thanks to you too. I'm very honoured to be interviewed to a disk magazine which at least to me seemed to be of pretty high standard. And this is to all the sceners out there, try to get a hold of our old demos as well as the new ones, if you haven't seen 'em and be prepared to have a brand new product from the everlasting Beyond Force sometime in 1997 and the huge 10-years demo in 1998. Keep the faith!
Signed: Gremlin/Beyond Force.