Years with the Amiga
The Shin'en team is not unknown In the demoscene. They called themselves Abyss and released plenty of demos, intro and music disks - mainly for the Amiga but later on, also for the PC. And if you own a website with the URL the-leaders-of-the-eighties.de, you surely are among the most glorious sceners there are [- or you have a thing for hyperbole ;-) /ed]. Demos like "High Anxiety ," "Drugstore ," or "Wildlife " are visible proof, as well as their tribute to Captain Future, "Startrail to Glory ," released in 1998 on PC. The last release from Abyss was the atmospheric music disk "Disissid 4 " in the year 2000.
Most of the Abyss-fame comes from their musician "Pink" who's called Manfred Linzner in real life. He has claims to being one of the best scene musicians there is. He has created monumental works with his terrific demo soundtracks and chip-tunes. He also knows how to code. In the beginning, he was only developing programs related to music - the AHX-engine. A heavily modified version is also available for the Nintendo GBA and DS, and provides those consoles with perfect sound and music quality. Since 1997, Manfred has also been interested in game programming. This started with puzzle games such as "Rise of the Rabbits 1 + 2" and the action game "A-Type." Those three titles were created on Amiga and fit neatly within 32kb, while maintaining good looks and fun gameplay.
Four guys from Munich in handheld heaven
It was only a question of time until Abyss decided to invest their collected knowledge from the demoscene into commercial game. In the beginning, they had chosen the GBC as their platform because this was most comparable with Amiga. Later they moved to the GBA where they finally had their breaktrough with the impressive Shot'em Ups "Iridion 3D " and "Iridion II ". Also the cuddly Jump'n Run game "Biene Maja - Süßes Gold " (Biene Maja - Sweet Gold) was created by "Shin'en", their new name. "Nanostray " will soon be released - which is why we wanted to talk to Bartman and Pink. But of course, we also wanted to know how it was in the demoscene, back then.
Bobic: Could you introduce yourself with a few words?
Bartman: Shin'en consists of the following persons: Bernhard Wodok (Bartman/Abyss), coder, 29 / Manfred Linzner(Pink/Abyss), coder/musician, 30 / Florian Freisleder (Wintermute/Abyss), gfx artist, 30 / Martin Sauter (Fade1/TRSI), gfx artis, 31.
Bobic: How did you get your attention towards the demoscene?
Bartman: That was somewhen around 1991/1992. Together with a friend, I found a hardware programming lesson in the "Amiga-Magazin" and I joined in. Of course I'd seen a few crack intros before, and then I tried to them on my own. When I was looking for a musician, I stumbled upon Pink and we founded the demogroup "Pyrodex". 1994, we got contacted by Abyss, because many of the Abyss members have been living around us in Munich. They planned to do something together and since the members of Abyss didn't want to join Pyrodex, we did it the other way round.
Bobic: And as "Abyss" you did plenty of demos for the Amiga. What was your best experience in that time? And of course: What was the worst?
Bartman: Of course, the best thing you can get, were the demoparties - where we also won something. I think we got most of the prizes at The Party 97/98 and at Mekka&Symposium 98. That was very cool. Of coruse we also had flops, like the Saturne Party 97, when there was no power for 10 hours and all competitions were cancelled. That was quite a disappointment after the long trip to Paris.
Bobic: You also releases some productions for MS-DOS. What was the biggest difference, compared to developing on Amiga? Was is harder or easier?
Bartman: After I sold my Amiga 4000 in 1996, I thought a Pentium-133 PC. It was pretty interesting to code a demo on the PC, because, compared to the Amiga, as there was much more graphical power and the CPU was more powerful too. That made it easier to create a 3D-engine. On the other hand, coding for MS-DOS is pretty ugly due to all the specialities and limitations. This only changed with Windows 95 and DirectX.
Bobic: What's your opinion about changes in the scene? What has changed in the years when you were part of it? What's good and what's bad about that?
Bartman: In the Amiga-times it has always been a fact, that demos were superior to games - technically and also the graphics. Unfortunately that's not the same thing with the PC demoscene anymore today. PC demos often can't follow the high-speed hardware evolution. Today, you often have to say "I saw that in some game and it looked better there". The restraint against new technologies like pixel- and vertex-shader doesn't help with that either. On the other hand, it's still surprising how many good demos get released. If you look at the winner of the big demoparties, there is a lot where you can say "that's really good" - if you make it work on your hardware.
Bobic: Which are your favourite demos? And why?
Bartman: Honestly, I don't remember a lot right now, so here's just a small selection: "Nexus 7 " by Andromeda (Amiga 1200, TP 94) - you can still watch it today and wonder about how they did it. "Arte! " by Sanity (Amiga 500, TP 93): Superb graphics, excellent music and sync. "We Cell " by Kewlers (PC, Assembly 04): It's crazy what you can do with a "simple" particle engine.
Bobic: How did your demoscene experience help you getting into the games business?
Bartman: Thanks to our demoscene experience, the technical side was easier and we managed to create some "Wow"-moments among the publishers which then again helped to sell "Iridion 3D".
Bobic: Why did you decide to create games for Nintendo's handheld consoles? Will there be console- or PC-versions of your games?
Bartman: Due to the size of our team, it's simply not possible to create large console- or PC-games. Handhelds make it possible to create cool stuff even with a small team because you don't need the same time and effort.
Bobic: Will you stick with Nintendo, are are you having a shy glimpse at the PSP?
Bartman: Of course we'll also develip DS-games in the future, but we're also heavily interested in creating games for the PSP.
Bobic: You finished Nanostray for the DS a short while ago. Why is this game better than similar shoot-'em-up stuff?
Bartman: Of course, there's the technical side. I think, Nanostray is the best you can get when it comes to graphics on the DS up to now. Then we also have a clever scoring system and the world-ranking feature, where you can publish your highscores on www.nanostray.com and compare them to scores from other players all around the world.
Bobic: Shin'en shows some tendency to produce fast shoot-'em-ups in a Japanese style. What's so fascinating about them?
Bartman: It's our opinion that most of the good and innovative games come from Japan. Our games are also some kind of a homage to our Japanese idols. For some time, there have only been a few shoot-'em-ups released and thus it's a challenge for us, but also a big chance to create a shoot-'em-up.
Bobic: For Amiga, you created the AHX sound engine, which is also available for the GBA, DS and the N-Gage. Why is this engine better than other engines?
Bartman: Well, the sound engine is redesigned and adjusted for every new platform. AHX was made for the Amiga and we used it with a slightly modified editor for the GBC (called GHX then). The GBA-engine GAX was much faster than the GBA reference engine MusyX and special features in the newly created PC-editor helped to reach a very high quality. The N-Gage engine NAX was mainly only a port of of GAX. For the DS-engine DSX we created a new PC sequencer-editor which managed to produce very compact data for the built in DS-sound-engine. The most important part is to go to the limits of the editors and compose good music. Without good music, you don't need a good engine. Thanks to our specifically adapted editors and engine, we managed to reach those goals.
Bobic: Manfred, you're responsible for program code but also for the soundtracks of your games. Which of those is more fun for you?
Pink: They're equal. The nice thing about the music is everybody can hear it and love or hate it - but nobody ever understands if you're a good programmer.
Bobic: Which of your songs is the best one?
Pink: I like my song from the credits of "Iridion 3D". It has the perfect mixture of joy (because you finished the game) and sadness (because the game is over now).
Bobic: Rumours say that when Chris Hülsbeck heard the soundtrack-cd of your GBA-game "Iridion II", he said that he's familiar with the music...
Pink: I can understand. We both where influenced and inspired by Vince DiCola, a quite unknown composer who did some moviescores in the 80s.
Bobic: Are you guys still interested in what's happening in the demoscene these days?
Bartman: I'm often having a look at www.pouet.net and watch winner-productions from current sceneparties. Also, wehave a monthly scene-meeting in Munich.
Bobic: Could you imagine to create another demo? For example for the GBA or the DS?
Bartman: Unfortunately we don't have enough time for that - the game production takes more than enough time. But still, we have some ideas here and then.
Bobic: Will the DS once be a popular platform for demos, like the GBA already is? Could the touchpad of the DS enable interactive demos?
Bartman: Well, normally demos are a non-interactive. But I think the DS could be interesting for coders because he capable of doing 3D stuff.
Bobic: Thank you for the interview!