Lasse Oorni (or "Cadaver" as he's more commonly known around the C64 community) appeared almost out of nowhere with the first Metal Warrior game in 1999. Since then, he's continued the story by developing a further three installments, produced a top view implementation of a first person shooter in BOFH - Servers Under Siege and written several cross development tools, including the music utility Goattracker. Oldschool Gaming caught up with him, but it was one hell of a chase!
Oldschool Gaming H'lo Lasse, welcome to Oldschool Gaming. Care to set the ball rolling by telling us a bit more about yourself?
Lasse Oorni Thanks! Well, I'm 26 now, just got my master's degree and about to start "tormenting" kids with math/physics/chemistry this fall - I wonder if that will affect oldschool coding inspiration - and I still like playing heavy metal (on guitar, bass and throat) and exploring the further optimization of C64 routines..
OSG What got you started with programming, is it the typical "learnt BASIC as a kid and went on from there" tale or did it sneak up behind you in a dark alley?
Metal Warrior (C64) - party on dude!
L.O. Yes, BASIC on C64 some 19-18 years ago, then asm experiments soon after, learning from dubious Finnish magazines like Mikrobitti, C-lehti, Printti etc.
OSG We know you've programmed for other platforms in the past so, of all the 8-bit machines to experiment with, what originally drew you to the Commodore 64?
L.O. There never was much of an alternative, C64 was the computer of choice in my neighbourhood and I soon learned it could do awesome things like filling the screen with 50-Hz action & scrolling and playing amazing & imaginative music. Then it was a matter of trying to pick up the skill necessary to do those things yourself. Of course, at some point I got sidetracked by Amiga & PC stuff, and returned to active & significant C64 coding later (1998-), but it was only even later (2000?) that I explored other 8-bits through emulation, and all my other 8-bit experiments have been shortlived, because the C64 capabilities and expectations have been etched too deep in my brain. For example, it seems I could never live with the default 2KB RAM size of the NES :)
OSG Would you agree that the hardware limitations of the 8-bit machines like the C64 can lead to programmers being more creative?
L.O. Yes, I suppose they do, at least on the technical/lowlevel optimization front. On the other hand, on "heavier" platforms you probably get to be creative with more sophisticated algorithms, like AI..
OSG Where do you get your inspiration from and what normally comes first, the story line, a base idea or some of the actual code?
L.O. I can't accurately say which comes first, there might be a very vague idea of what the game is about, but immediately after that, come the scrollroutine, musicroutine and sprite multiplexer. :) For example, I never planned MW games to have sequels, so each could have been the last, but I almost always got inspired by doing some lowlevel routine better than before..
Actual gamedesign inspiration & ideas come mostly from other games. Previously from the oldschool C64/Amiga action games but nowadays also more from 3D FPS titles and such.
OSG Any unusual stories behind your previous or current game designs that you'd like to share?
L.O. The whole process of making MW4 was an experiment in the weird and unusual. It started 2001 in secrecy, with some preplanning of story & features and lowlevel-coding. It changed platform from C64 to PC and back, got cancelled (in secrecy), and storyline completely rewritten several times. Was publically announced in 2002 when I thought the design would be stable, with the demo/preview soon after. Then followed some more story & engine design iterations with nearly a year of getting nothing done, and finally the game was actually content-created and finished in the space of 3 months (summer 2003). I think the moral of the story is, that too much planning & preproduction in a one-man project is wasteful: let the code speak for itself :)
OSG Of your own games, which is your favourite to date, which do you least like and why?
Networking at its very best - BOFH: Servers Under Siege (C64)
L.O. If speaking of proudness, then it'd be MW4, for it does some things quite not seen in other C64 action/adventure games. But if measured in playtime, it'd probably be the PC version of BOFH: Servers under Siege, which is quite fun playing on the highest difficulty (randomized every time).
Least favourite of actually finished games would have to be the original Amiga MW. It's a terrible concentration of OS- & player-hostility and inane story. Only by some heavy fixing (was finally done in 2004) I could tolerate to release it.
OSG Same question as before, but this time talking about other people's games?
L.O. Not limited to C64 scene? This may be subject to rapid changes, but current favourite is Morrowind due to insane amount of choices & scope of the gameworld. Least favourite would be a crappy multimedia game called Quest For Fame, which features a "virtual guitar pick" connectable to the parallel port and totally disgraces the art of guitar playing. :) I'm glad it doesn't work on anything newer than Windows 3.11...
OSG There's a lot of very creative programmers out there, past and present, so do you have a hero (or indeed heroes) in particular over all the formats?
L.O. Let's see... currently they'd be
- Stavros Fasoulas (for Delta if not anything else, first proved that Finns can code games)
- Manfred Trenz (for filling the screen with extreme amounts of action)
- Aleksi Eeben (for extremely optimized playroutines)
- AEG (for persistence in finally releasing Turrican 3)
OSG What did you have for lunch today, was it nice?
L.O. I had coalfish (?) files, yes they tasted good.
OSG Since we're a review site, how do you feel about reviews from ourselves or others and have there been any moments when you've stared at the page or screen in disbelief over what was said?
L.O. They're always interesting to read! I'm always my own harshest critic so nothing has really surprised me negatively, but it can bother if someone scratches only the surface of a game and then presents a review based on that.
OSG Yes, we've seen a few examples of that as well and scratched our heads... How do you feel about "modern" PC and console gaming and do you think that the current generation of kids out are missing out on the sort of games you played back in the day?
Metal Warrior 2 (C64) - rockin'!
L.O. I like many of the modern games, particularly FPS titles, but what I notice is that there is now greater emphasis on creating a controlled experience. In old games what you got out of a game was much more decided by yourself, in both good & bad. It's probably good kids don't get exposed to as masochistic experiences as before, though.
OSG Is there anything you've completed that's remained unreleased and what's the story behind them, will we get to see them in the future?
L.O. As of now, there fortunately isn't. One year ago I could have answered MW-Amiga, or Goattracker v2.0 playroutine :)
OSG We know that not everyone likes to talk about their future plans, but is there anything on the cards that's sufficiently complete that you'd like to tell us about?
L.O. Not really. I'm always doing experiments of what might work, and of course Goattracker v2.0 wasn't done purely as a service to the C64 music scene, but also with the sinister motive of me using it someday...
OSG And is there any genre of game that you haven't tried to date but would like to write?
L.O. An overhead futuristic action RPG, similar to BOFH in presentation. But I'm a bit hesitant of whether that could actually be crammed into the C64, with a bit better framerate than for example Times of Lore.
OSG Is there anything you'd like to say to the masses or at least the regular readers of Oldschool Gaming?
L.O. Well, let's say this.. it's never too late to start, or to continue oldschool (game) coding.
OSG Thanks very much for talking to us Lasse and, to finish off, was there any question we didn't think of that you would have liked to try answering (and if so, what was the answer?)
L.O. None that I could think of. Thanks again for this opportunity to spread my perverse & biased views :)
Lasse's C64 and other platform games, native and cross development tools are available for download from the Covert BitOps website, along with a collection of technical articles for more advanced C64 programmers.