Recollection 01 ch12 Recollecting
by The Punisher
My first real group was Xentrix, which I was in for a number of months (I was in another group before that but it was very basic group called The Culprits) anyway the Xentrix crew members were Dawsy, Rimtrix, Hawk. Hawk did coding and was good at it, Dawsy was graphics and swapper, Rimtrix did a few things, coding, graphics and cracking and I was just a cracker.
Then one day I got a phone call from Antichrist and Goblin in a conference call asking me to join Genesis*Project, at that time I was well aware of who they were and the status they held in the C64 scene. After a quick chat with my head spinning in disbelief I agreed to leave Xentrix and join Genesis*Project. Soon after that I got all their cool tools, intro makers, modem etc I have never seen so much group stuff before and also the chance to chat to other members of G*P when they had a conference call. They normally phoned me up maybe 30 minutes before it took place to see if I was free and did I want to join in, 30 mins later etc I got a call from them and they added me to the room to chat with the other guys. To be honest I felt a bit out of place, they mostly talked in foreign language and I only spoke English. So I didn't understand really what was going on or I could give much input. But, it was cool to be able to do that, all hook up etc. Due to the language barrier I never really got to get to friendly with all the G*P members except for Goblin and Antichrist, I'm still very friendly with Goblin and chat to him a few times a week on MSN or email... hes one nice guy. I'm also still in contact with some of the old Xentrix members (Dawsy and Rimtrix).
Anyway, in the old days we didn't have the internet to voice chat or swap games, we had bulletin boards. So we had to use other methods to call these boards for free, which were AT&T, MCI calling cards and PBX's. So, the modems were slow and Goblin sent me a 1200 baud modem one day so we could swap stuff and upload to the boards. For those who don't know what a MCI or At&t card is - its a calling card that lets you call anywhere at the card holder's expense. PBX's were also supplied, which as far as I remember stand for Public Business Exchange. These were a toll-free number with a pin-code, after entering all of this you could call out to anywhere in the world and you wouldn't get billed, the company who owns the PBX number gets the bill. From time to time when the AT&T card ran out I phoned Goblin who supplied me with a new card number, I'm not sure were he got them from, I only knew the people as 'card hackers'. What we had to do was phone an AT&T operator and give the number we wished to phone and then the card number, a few times I was almost caught as the card number was invalid or something, I was shitting myself when that happened.
There was this one number we had, it was weird, when you rang it, it didn't ring, it was just like empty space. No noise, then the other person did the same thing, when they connected they just said hello anyone there and they kept saying that until the other person or persons arrived and they got to chat, but mostly we hooked up the modems to download... (ED: this is a loop line, used by telephone companies for fault diagnosis, a great place to meet people at certain times without disclosing personal numbers in order to communicate!) I used mainly my 1581... I would put my cracks on the 1581 disk and hook up with Goblin mostly and he downloaded throughout the night... amazing how things change.... It only takes a second to do now what had taken hours to do in those days... I remember there was cool zipping tools that copied the whole disk contents as an image and then split it up into smaller parts. It was used for copying disk only games etc that might have hidden information on the disk that file copying wouldn't copy. Then we used the modem to swap them and of course when you got the disk at the other end you used the same program to put it all back to together again.
How was Genetix formed: Well I knew DMC for a number of years before Genetix was formed. I had been in Xentrix as a cracker and I had just left Genesis*Project, so I was just working on my own as a cracker. DMC knew I was able to get my hands on every C64 tape or disk game and was able to crack and train them and I knew he was able to code as well. So one day when DMC called up to my house I decided that he should code some intros and as he didn't work he also had the time to swap our cracks by mail only. So I decided to set up our own group calling it 'Genetix' pronounced 'Genetics' (people still pronounce it wrong to this day). Each night I came home from work with the latest games for free and DMC would call up to my house about 6pm. I had two C64s hooked up side by side, one for DMC and the other for myself. Each night I started to crack and train the games I had got that day, I play tested each game with each trainer on, one at a time, to make sure they all worked. Once I had done that I passed the disk over to DMC with the info written down on a page for him, example: start address of game, what location to change for what trainer and the code to add to the game for level skip or high score routine. He then added the trainer and the intro and packed it etc and left the crunching bit for when he got home. So while he was doing the trainer/intro/packing etc I was free to start on the next game.
It was a great set-up. We got a good few games done each night, as we worked as a team, only to stop for DMC to have a smoke and for both of us to have a cup of tea (I have a video tape somewhere of DMC and I in my house cracking some stuff). The night wrapped up about 10pm when DMC had to leave, but I carried on with what I was working on at the time so it was ready for DMC to take home with him the next night to post of to his contacts. I know for a fact that we did some really good releases together and I'm sure that over 90% of our cracks were first releases as I got them the day they were released, but unfortunately without any modem etc we made no real progress or impact at that time. Only Derbyshire Ram saw that Genetix was up there with the big groups in the early 90's (when I was in Genesis*Project any game I did was uploaded to the boards with the modem that G*P supplied to me and it was then 100% proven first release, but after I left G*P I sent the modem to another G*P member so I no longer had anyway of uploading to the boards to show our releases etc).
This set-up continued for about another year at least before DMC decided he wanted to crack a few things as he had been watching me for a long time and was interested in it. So at this stage DMC wanted to help so I got him to level pack any multilevel games etc and as before I just handed the game cracked and trainer over to him, he just added the trainer menu and levelpacker routine. So after a short time DMC started to crack a few tape games and I trained them for him, showing him in more depth what I was doing and what I was looking for in the game to get infinite lives, invincibility and levelskip etc. A few months passed and he was doing it all himself. Great I thought, means we can both work in my house each night and nearly double what we were doing before... Genetix continued releasing stuff and more and more people began to know us and we were spreading a lot more as DMC was cracking too, but after a while DMC wanted us to move in a different direction and to co-op etc (not that co-ops are bad, far from it, it makes you stronger, bigger etc, but I was happy with my wee group here in Belfast, I didn't want to be in a big group again - 'this would lead me to leave Genetix on the C64 to pursue other projects' which was shortly after DMC decided he wanted Genetix to co-op.
As I was a cracker I liked to study peoples protections, each game or company usually had their standard layout, some had a nice protection but weak in other areas, so I looked at them all and decided to try and cover all the loop holes that the companies seemed to miss out on. It was nice, half the loader was encrypted, cartridge protection for freezers and a cool disk layout that you couldn't file copy or disk copy, of course it could be cracked, but it was messy to do. I sent it to a number of software companies and got good responses... I spoke to Ocean software a number of times, Paul Hughes in fact who tested it for me and he liked it so he sent it down to be master copied, after a few days he got back to me saying that the master copier couldn't copy it to be mass produced. haha... I didn't pursue it as I was happy working in my computer shop, but I did put it on Thalamus' Noddy the Aardvark (look at the main title screen in the credits section, it thanks Genetix :) ) but thalamus thought there was no point in using the protection as by that time the C64 was dying :o( so it was never used in the end.
As some of you know I worked in the games section for many, many years and had access to games, I got friendly with a girl who worked in Centresoft who supplied most shops with their games, she was the one who sent me a copy of Armalyte (a Gold Version) only 4 copies ever existed and as far as I've been informed I own the only copy, as the others were returned to Thalamus to claim their prize. I've been in contact with Dan Philips (the programmer Armalyte) the last few weeks and he hadn't even seen the Gold version, so I emailed him some photos and hopefully he said he might be doing a tribute version for the PC in 4 years time as the game will be 20 years old by then. WOW. How time flies...
Programmers: Dave Clarke, Jonathan Smyth, Ashley Hogg and myself were mates for years back in the mid 80's and still are (expect Ashley as I never hear from him now), in fact even though Jon has moved house and so have I, we still only live about three streets away from each other now. So in the 80's, Dave and Jon lived a five minute walk from my house, Dave lived across the street from me and Jon lived the row behind my house. I remember Dave and Jon calling over to my house from day to day showing me what code he had done or with Jon what graphics he was working on... Jon and I did an few demos together as I was mad form C64 music and loved to rip it, so Jon would draw up some graphics for me and I through a basic scroller and music rip into it.... I remember calling over to Dave's house at the weekends and Dave had spent all day working on a piece of code to do some scroll routine etc for his game and his brother would come in and turn the electricity off at the main power box which meant Dave lost his code and in some cases all of it as he didn't save it that much until he got it right. But this wasn't a one off thing, his brother did it a few times a week, so you can guess they didn't get on to well. Dave didn't use his C64 to program on, he did at the start but changed to the Atari ST using it to code on and then ported the code to the C64 through cables...
A bit about Northern Ireland's software company 'Choice Software'... 'Choice software' was a small company, but believe it or not, they did nearly all the Ocean conversions on the Spectrum, Amstrad and they also did stuff on the Atari ST and Amiga... example - Amstrad's 'Rambo', Spectrum's 'New Zealand Story' and 'Platoon', Amiga's 'New Zealand Story' etc... So anyway, my mate Dave Clarke had just started working for Choice Software which was about 5 miles from were we both lived and his first project was the C64 version of 'New Zealand Story' but as Dave was new to the gaming/programming scene and the game was an important title for Ocean he was taken off it and it was handed back to Ocean's in-house team. So anyway, I was invited down a few times to meet the team and to see what goes on in the software house, but this one time I brought down a demo I had done, scrolling text, sprites moving about, loads of music, but the demo was nothing special. By pressing different keys on the it played different tunes, like Commando, Monty on the run etc, but Colin Gordon, the lead-programmer and owner of the company (he wrote New Zealand Story on the Amiga) walked into Dave's room when my demo was running, he looked at the demo and listened as I skipped through some of the tunes... but while 'Monty on the run' written by the famous Rob Hubbard was playing he said to me 'is that your demo, I guess you can program then?', I replied 'yep I did it, I program a wee bit'... then he said 'I like your music and his company didn't have a musician and would I be interested as he liked what he heard'... HAHA... I think everyone alive and who owns a C64 wished they wrote 'Monty on the run'-main tune anyway. I replied 'no, I didn't compose any of the tunes, I just wrote the demo and ripped the music out of games and put them into my demo....' so just for a second, a split second, I was Rob Hubbard (I WISH)... Anyway it was cool being inside a software house, seeing how it all worked and what projects they were working on, I remember playing a game on the Atari ST in there offices called MIDI Maze (I think it was called that). We all had a computer each in each room and it was like a 3D Pac-man and you hunted down the other players in the maze, it was the first multi-player game I'd ever seen, very cool in those days.
Have you ever notice how amazingly close to the arcade the Amiga graphics of New Zealand Story were? Well that's simple, Colin Gordon (lead-programmer and owner of Choice Software) just took the board etc from the arcade machine and ported the graphics over to the Amiga, no need to draw anything and it looked the same… sweet idea... When Choice Software closed down Colin Gordon moved to England to work for Ocean software, I think he closed it down, as the owner of Ocean at the time (can't remember his name) offered him a good deal to work for them instead.
So, Dave turned to freelance programming for Codemasters and in the end moved to England and worked in-house for Codemasters... I remember Dave Clarke coming over to my house a few Christmas' ago when he still worked for Codemasters and he had a video of a TV program about the Darling-brothers and Codemasters. Dave Clarke appeared in the video and it was shown on some English TV show, not sure what one. Dave worked for Codemasters for a number of years doing Megadrive and Snes stuff before leaving to work for either RAGE or RARE... I can never remember which one it is... Ashley Hogg who worked at Codemasters with Dave didn't want to appear in the Codemasters TV program, the last I heard Ashley still works for Codemasters.
Back In Time 2003: This next bit is my post that I did last year after attending the Back In Time 2003 event... I'd like to thank Chris Abbott, Rob Hubbard, Ben Daglish, Dave Whittaker, Fred Gray and Martin Galway, Richard Joseph for completing my C64 music era at last.... And not forgetting the bonus of meeting Simon Nicol and Gary Liddon - Remember me Gary, I was the guy in the blue shirt taking a photo of you at the same time you took a photo of me at the evening event... I've been on the C64 scene for many, many years and have always loved the SID music listening to it almost everyday when possible. So going to the show and meeting my idols was a dream come true at last... 'MayheM' were you the guy I met early on Friday night, I was the guy in the white shirt with my girlfriend (from Belfast), I came down to your table and asked if you were going to the Back in Time show? Anyway about 20 minutes later Fred Gray and his Daughter came in to the bar and sat down beside me, I turned to my girl and said 'Shit, I think that's Fred Gray!'... So I got chatting to Fred and his daughter and he's so, so nice, really down to earth and easy to talk to, I have him in loads of photos, then the next evening I was getting a photo taken of me and Ben Daglish and he asked if he could join in the photo with me and Ben. WOW! How cool was that! His daughter ALEX told me she was a bit freaked out that people knew her father. LOL! She was 6 years old when her father was composing on the c64 and didn't know then and even now what he was doing LOL! .... As for Martin Galway - who's from Belfast just like me, he is another great guy, what a laugh we had with him.... Dawsy, Stevie and me talked to Martin for well over an hour at the evening event and the story he told us about hearing 'Thing on a Spring' for the first time and the faces he pulled while explaining it had me in fits of laughter.
All in all, the whole weekend was amazing for me, and all the bands played together so well. Can't wait till the DVD is released.... (Chris Abbot... why not get some of the photos taken by the guys that attended the show and add them to a photo part of the DVD... just an idea!).
Well that's it from me I guess...
Just like to say again, thanks Chris for putting together a great show and bring all those C64 musicians together in one place! I think God himself would have struggled to achieve this.... Who else could have made it possible for me to meet Martin, Rob, Fred, Ben, Dave, Richard, Simon, Gary and PPOT... to chat with them and get my photo taken with them.
Only you Chris... Thanks.
writing for Recollection in early 2004