Recollection 01 ch15 Interview - Snacky
Back in the glory days of cracking there were the same time of people operating as in the other parts of the scene. There were lamers, wannabees, average performers and skilled individuals. In this segment we have a discussion with one of the best crackers ever. This guy simply hacked and busted anything that came his way and is revered within cracking circles.
Welcome to the first edition of Recollection. Most people have heard of you or even know you, but for those who don't please introduce yourself.
Hi Dave! First, thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to give an interview. My name is Sigi but you probably know me as Snacky of Genesis * Project.
It's been more than 10 years since I left the scene. Today, in 2006, I am 32 years old and I left the C64 scene in 1992 and the PC scene in 1994. I started on the C64 in 1986 at the age of 13 as a gamer, then became a coder, swapper and ended up as a cracker who "believes more in quality than speed" as I used to say back then.
I guess if you don't know me, you should take a look at my releases for the C64 Scene. Many people know my cracks on the C64 and the PC. But I also did a couple of demos and one small game. I got famous for being the cracker of the year 1990 on C64, the guy that did the high-quality "Jewel" cracks and the one that invented Interactive Flexible File Linking better known as IFFL.
Take a look what I found on one of the web pages that has a link to the Genesis Project page: Genesis Project - Homepage of G*P, creators of the first disk mag: Sex'n'Crime, and Snacky's famous Jewel Cracks.
Snacky is quite an unusual handle. What's the story about it?
Hehe! Yes, that's true. I selected my handle after one of my first games on a floppy disk called "Supercycle". I remember playing that game on New Year's Eve in January 1987 and during that time I was searching for a cool handle. Well, the highscore list had an entry called Snack + Pack and I thought it is a cool sounding nickname if I just add a "y" to Snack -> Snacky! Sounds very dynamic, doesn't it? Honestly, that was my thought and my English back when I was 13 years old was more or less nothing. This is how my nickname SNACKY was born.
I tried changing it once in May 1989 when I was busted by the German police the first time to SCI (i.e. Snacky Cracking International) and also did one crack under this handle. When Antichrist recognized that, he asked me to change it back to Snacky as people started to ask specifically for my cracks and he believed my handle was already a "trademark" for Genesis and for our reputation of producing high quality releases.
Funny, as my friend Marc Staub whose handle at that time was Toyboy liked SCI so much that he changed his handle to SCI (Staub Cracking Incorporated) and also joined Genesis. That's the reason that you have a release from the shooting game P47 that includes both our names, Snacky and SCI. After that I never changed my handle again.
My handle also works out nowadays, even so many years later! When I join a chat on IRC with my nickname "SNACKY", people start immediately recognising me and ask questions about the golden C64 times, maybe they remember my cracks on C64 and PC.
Starting with the Internet, I saw people using my handle. Well, I believe they just took it from me maybe because they found the name pretty cool. It is however, annoying to see those lamers using my name on IRC or on some of the e-mail servers.
When and how did you start out on the C64?
I started in September 1986 when my mother bought me a Commodore 64 together with a datasette as I told her that I needed it for school. A datasette was a tape drive that used normal audio cassettes which was the most inexpensive solution to store data at that time. Remember, a floppy drive back then was around 300 Euros - the same price as the C64 during that time. To load a game or file on the datasette, it took not only the time to load the game (which was tremendously long, more than 2 minutes) you also had to forward the tape to the correct position in order not to load all the previous programs first. I maintained quite some tape counter lists to be able to find these games in good time.
I started with games like Bruce Lee, Kung Fu Master or some other smaller games. Back then there was the first computer magazines on paper that included some small games you were able to enter using DATA lines in Basic. As weird as it may seems, I bought one of those magazines and it took me the whole afternoon to enter the data into my C64. Then finally, I started the game and guess what happened? The computer crashed as I had entered some bytes incorrectly. As you can imagine, that day I was really pissed at the C64.
After a couple of endless months working with a datasette, finally I got a Floppy drive for Christmas. On December 24, I went to a friend in order to copy some games to disk. This friend was Rainer Roehr and he's the one who got me interested into the C64. But guess what happened on Christmas evening when I connected my new floppy to my computer? It was broken!!!! ARRRGGGGHHH... I remember that I did not touch my C64 until the Christmas holidays were over and I was able to get a new Floppy from the department store where we had bought it.
When I got my new floppy I was able to play all the multi-file games like Super Cycle or Winter Games (remember, it was from EPYX) or games that were longer than 202 blocks (as there was a limit of the datasette that only files up to 202 blocks can be saved to the tape). And one of the best games at that time, the flight shooting game Ace of Aces of course was larger that 202 blocks!
I got more and more games and I founded a special "cracking" crew called "Law Breaker Crew" with some friends in my home town Rednitzhembach (south of Nuernberg, Germany). Well, nobody was able to crack or code but we collected games and gave them to friends at the school.
Hacker II was one of my first games that I played all the way through. It was also one of the first games that interested me because it was hard to figure out the passwords. One of my friends, Alexander Kinzer already had some knowledge in machine language or assembler and showed me how I can take a look into the memory. From him I also got an Akustikkoppler (acoustic coupler, an early data transmitting device you connected to a phone's receiver, as shown in the 80s movie "War Games") that was capable of sending 300 bits per second over the phone. Well, depending on the surrounding noise of course. If somebody entered my room and wasn't careful when closing the door, I got errors in data transmission. Remember, that was back in 1987 and the 2400 baud modem had just been invented. You read all the mails on-line!
That summer my mother got shocked by a phone bill of more than 400 Euros because I especially liked to call BBS'es (bulleting board systems) and they were long distance calls. This ended my digital data transmitting time for a while and got me back to increasing my skills in programming.
Towards the end of 1987 I also got the basics how to program in machine code on the 6510 processor.
When and how did you enter the C64 scene?
In January 1988 I got serious and started a new group called TRC (Technology Revoke Copyright). By then I coded my first intro for TRC. In order to get newer games, I placed an advertisement in the, by then, most important software magazine in Germany: Aktueller Software Markt (ASM). This is how I got in contact with quite a few groups like The Wanderer Crew or Crap that I traded with. Also a group called ‘MAFIA' which was located in Duesseldorf, contacted me and once they saw my intro asked me to join them. I agreed and joined in February 1988. I still remember how my mailman always looked at me with suspicion and once asked me if I really belong to "The Mafia".
One month later, Blood (Pierre) from Exact asked and Mafia completely joined Exact. I coded some demos and intros for EXACT but I got more and more interested in cracking games. When I did a crack for Exact in May 1988 of the Flintstones game, Antichrist (back then known as Timelord) of Genesis * Project (GP) asked me to join. He said that he liked the intro and the crack of the game very much and that GP needs new members.
First I told him that I need some time to think about it but he already gave Blood a call and told him about my departure. Checkmate, I joined GP. Antichrist was my main contact and I started by coding a new Intro for GP which is known for being the largest GP intro ever, which consumed about 25% of the complete memory just for the Intro. That was 64 blocks on disk!! Thanks to Doc Synder, who made my intro immortal on his webpage http://www.docsnyderspage.de you can take a look on it. It's GP Intro #5 in his list. Trashcan (Thorsten Wiland) who was in CRAP was going to be one of my most important contacts during my first trading and cracking period. When he joined Shining 8 and changed his handle to Reptil, he became a member of one of the best cracking groups back then. GP wasn't that good at that time but the contact to Shining 8 provided me with the basics to improve my skills.
In November 1988 I cracked my first real "quality" release called ‘RAMBO III' with several nice trainers etc. It took me an evening to crack the game but a whole weekend to level pack and train it. After that I got more and more originals and after my first IFFL version of Forgotten Worlds people started to recognize me.
My vision was to crack games so that they work 100% as many of the games I got in my early C64 years crashed as some point in time. I hated that!!! In order to be sure that my cracks are working, I played all my games to the end. It still fills me with pride when I take a look on one of my old releases and see that this kind of quality made my "Jewel" releases famous.
During my active years, I was a member in the following groups
1986: Law Breaker Group (LBC)
1987: Technology Revoke Copyright (TRC)
1988: MAFIA / EXACT
1988 - present: Genesis * Project
1992 - today: Genesis * Project
1992 - 1994: Razor 1911
1994: Legend / Genesis
You were a member of Genesis*Project. Can you tell us about those days? What were the members like? How was the organisation handled and what was the competition G*P faced?
When I joined Genesis*Project back in 1988, it was a small group with a few releases, because we focussed mainly on trading games and releasing demos. But by the time I left the C64, GP had become one of the most remarkable groups in C64 history.
Belonging to such a group back then was pretty special. At the End of 1988 we were 14 members in GP. Quite small and everybody knew each other. Remember Boozer the Courier, or Alf and Spike the coders, Olle and Frankieghost who also were coders, or VEDA the swapper? I guess the person from GP you remember most is Timelord or Antichrist or OMG or TNT, all only one person. TNT was short for "The Nauseating Timelord" and he not only founded GP but also arranged me to join. Oliver, his real name, was not only the leader of the cracking group I'm in but also one of my best friends during my scene time.
By 1989 G*P had grown into an internationally famous elite cracking group. We had members in Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, England, Scotland, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, and in the USA.
Funny but true, I personally never felt competition. I know that there were lots of rumours around everything we did in GP but we just did what we wanted to do: release high quality demos and games. At the beginning of GP we didn't have any first releases, but we showed the scene that there was a group that could do a good job without first-releases. When we finally got fast suppliers like Goblin or The Punisher, we showed the whole scene that this makes us the true elite. Part of the "High Society of the Pirate Scene".
But all the members of GP had a central focal point that made the group work: Antichrist.
Timelord or TNT or Antichrist / GP = OMG / AMOK, is this correct?
Well, do you really believe that? Grin... Hehe... here's the story. After being busted twice in late 1988, Oliver was afraid to get busted again, so in early 1989 he officially quit the scene as Timelord and announced that he turned legal as OMG. He also announced that a "new member" called Antichrist would be the new leader of GP. While secretly acting as Antichrist, he officially worked as OMG, founded Amok and created the first scene disk magazine on C64: Sex'n Crime. At this remarkable moment he created the biggest rumour about GP that was discussed in the C64 scene for the next few years: Are Antichrist and OMG one and the same person? Officially we always denied it, but of course close friends of GP (like Jihad/Hitmen) knew the truth. The short but precise answer: Yes, and he always was.
Antichrist was the person that held GP together on the C64. His numerous calls to all the members, his effort in spreading our releases on disks, his attendance at all the important copy parties but also finally his work in Sex'n Crime made not only Genesis Project and Amok famous, but also myself.
When I met him in person for the first time at my GP copy party back in Nuernberg (south Germany), he carried a white sign with TNT written on it. He showed this to the gorilla-like doormen who was not interested in his sign and refused to let him enter the party without paying admission. Grin, that's true. The famous Antichrist / GP was refused the entry to the first GP party held in southern Germany. He still complains when we talk about this party. Hehehe...
We talked often over the phone, normally once a day, so I spend hours at the local phone booth close to my house as my mother had a telephone lock. I remember that this was not a problem in the summer time, but during winter I froze quite heavily. Imagine you spend 1-2 hours standing outside in the cold talking to Antichrist. He always called me "Meister" or "King Snacky" which of course was very motivating.
Later, in January 1990 when I visited him in Aachen to go to Radwar IV, I slept at his place and together we read the mail he got for Sex'n Crime. And guess what! There was lots of fan mail for myself included in the letters to him?!?!
He also showed me his secret area where he kept his scene address book and the most important disks in case he was busted again by the police. It was a piece of wood on the side of his cupboard he was able to remove pretty easily. I believe everybody at that time had a secret area where all the "most important information was kept. I also had a secret area where I kept my address book. That's the reason I still have it after the three visits from the police I faced during the years.
I've met Antichrist a couple of times before our most recent meeting in December 2000 in New York. He picked me up at Times Square and showed be his new home city, Brooklyn. As you might know, he married one of our former board system operators, Debbie (aka The Sorceress) and moved to America back in 1993. He still draws comics today. You can see them at http://www.gaspirtz.com or http://www.gspz.de
You organised a Copy Party in September 1988 in Nuernberg. What was it like?
The Genesis Project / Trust / Madonna Cracking Group Copy Party held in Nuernberg, was an idea I had in the summer of 1988. As I was in contact with Phil / Trust, one of the leading cracking groups on Amiga, we agreed on organizing a party together in our home area: Nuernberg.
I booked a small side room with place for roughly 100 persons in Nuernberg. The directions were horrible because I was too young to even be able to follow them personally. But finally around 150 persons showed up at the party, so the room was packed! Curiously Madonna Cracking Group, one of the organizers that wanted to be part did not show up at all so we kicked them from the organiser list.
Numerous "known" groups came, and especially on the Amiga this was seen as the biggest copy party of the year. From the C64 side, Shining 8 was one of the celebrities of my copy party. Reptil, Romrunner and Dark Force came and we had lots of fun. Funny, Dark Force at that time was their main Original supplier and called England directly. Remember back in 1988 that cost 3,22 DM per Minute (roughly 1,60 Euros today). Uploading a disk took roughly 1 hour using a 1200 baud modem. We made jokes about Dark Forces' telephone bill that there is no space left and the German Telekom (back that time it was the "German POST") has to add an extra sheet of paper to the bottom in order to cover his phone bill :) Especially for the copy party I coded a demo called "party-game" that included a small game. Unfortunately my friend SCI (or Toyboy) lost the disk so just 2 persons got the game during the Party. A week later I did an extra version of the party-game including some trainers and released it for GP officially.
During this time, Antichrist complained about my choice for colours in my demos/intros but he didn't know that I only owned a small back and white TV (it still works!) and so wasn't able to verify the colours. Fortunately, from the money I earned from the copy party I bought myself a brand new commodore colour monitor.
Genesis * Project also produced a party poster for the party. The last party poster made by Antichrist who frequently painted posters during this period of time.
Back then, what was it like to be an "elite cracker" on the C64?
I would say it was the kind of attitude that made the difference. An elite cracker is a "never-give-up" cracker. So no matter how long it took to crack a game, if it was days or weeks (yes, weeks!), an elite cracker spend day and night trying to get it done. And only a few people really invested the time. Real cracking legends like Mr. Zeropage / Triad who also played his games to the end before he released them or the legendary crackers in the guys from Eaglesoft who did crack interpreter protections like the one from Maniac Manson are excellent examples. It took me 1 week to crack an interpreter protection for Maniac Manson 2 - The Day of the Tentacle on the PC.
Back then people were so much into the scene that elite crackers were treated like big celebrities. At copy parties they were surrounded by small crowds like movie stars. It happened to me first when I attended a small copy party back in 1988 in a nearby city, but in the year 1990 I was also asked several times for autographs on disks or t-shirts or just to be on their pictures.
A special place here surely deserves a person that I truly respect for his recent work on the C64: Jack Alien of Remember. He got into the scene after I had already left the scene but we became friends when we met during one of the few copy parties I attended during the last couple of years. Jack Alien also is a true "never-give-up" cracker and he even ignores the sake of fame that I was looking for. He just really loves the C64 and brings out lots of good release for the Remember group.
The C64 cracking scene was a legendary one, especially during "golden years". What is your opinion on the cracking scene and do you think other platforms have copied the C64 scene in many ways?
Are you kidding? The C64 scene was the inventor of the "modern" pirating scene. Everything started on the C64. Intros, Demos, Cracking + Boards. Remember, also the words "lamer" or "elite" were introduced during that time. And Antichrist invented the word "graphician" in Sex'n'Crime, and that word is still being used all over the scene today. The C64 scene started in order to "swap" games. This is pretty much the same as the current scenes of PC, Playstation or X-Box.
I believe the main thing that changed is "speed". Back in the 90's speed was important for a first release, but it was a matter of hours. Nowadays first releases are a matter of seconds to be uploaded to the fast Internet sites.
But always remember the success for the C64 scene that still keeps it alive today: almost everyone was in it for the fun and the fame, not for any financial gain!
There have been some difficult games for crackers and for various reasons. Decent releases of some titles are impossible to find (Soul Crystal springs to mind, because of the translation difficulties). Out of all the games you cracked, which were the most difficult or time-consuming?
When I started cracking, I just had Speedos, a fast loader that included a machine monitor burned on an EPROM in my C64. I even had to load my dis-assembler into the memory. For this reason the monitor as available for a couple of different memory addresses like $7000, $8000 or $C000. Quite hard times for a cracker, or? When I got my Action Reply v6 cartridge, I started to work with Breakpoints and a build-in monitor. And this basically helped me crack every game with much less effort than before. Regarding your question for the most difficult crack, this is quite a good question after such a long time. Today, 14 years later I believe my first crack of TIMEX on the game TIEBREAK was the one that took me longest. It took me almost a week to decrypt all the code and find out what is happening.
Also all the tape protections were very tricky and time consuming to crack. It was a hell of a lot of work to save everything from tape to disk. And the automatic start of a game on tape was hard to be removed.
In general, as soon as the protection was found and removed, it was pretty easy to remove it the next time if it was used again. And this was the key point with the TIMEX protection. Once cracked, it was easy to remove it again.
Timex, the so called best copy protection on the C64 was fast to crack?
The TIMEX system was a copy protection on C64 that used the raster timer together with the IRQ (Interrupt) to decode the memory during operation. Remarkably, Ivo Herzeg also known as Mr. Cursor was truly one of the masters of C64 development with this masterpiece.
I cracked Timex first in Tiebreak. Using my machine monitor and a printout of the protection, it took me an awful lot of time until I truly understood the protection. Thank god it was an early Timex version (I guess it must have been v2) as the later ones where much more complex and harder to crack.
However, Timex included holes where code was not "encoded". I used these holes to enter the code and thus had an easy workaround to crack the protection. This technique allowed me to crack Timex in a matter of minutes, no matter what game was protected with it.
But I still believe the main and only fault of the TIMEX protection was that it was a "game-load" protection. Once the game was loaded, you just needed to find the important byte(s) set by Timex to make the game work. This made it vulnerable to the crackers that cracked it once. And this is something I changed when I protected Rubicon.
What did your normal day look like during the time when you where on the top of almost all cracking charts?
Come home from school, throw my school backpack into the corner at the entrance of my parents' house (where it stayed until the next morning when I left for school), went into my computer room where I stayed every day until 5pm. Then I went off to the local post-office to post all my letters as the box was emptied at 5:15pm. I went there every day the same time so when I occasionally came an hour earlier, the post office guy asked me if it is already 5pm.
The evenings I continued cracking, played some games or spend the time in the nearby phone box talking to people.
A funny story I still remember was my 16th birthday, May 22nd, 1989. I came home from school and had just received a sending with the original of Circus Attraction. I was expecting it as Antichrist had given me a call the day before. So I quickly ate lunch and spent all afternoon in my room cracking, levelpacking and training the game. Well, during this time all my sisters and other relatives sat downstairs in the living room and were drinking coffee celebrating my birthday. Just before 5 pm, I had a "Jewel" version finished and ran off to my local post office to send the disk with our release to Antichrist and some other swappers.
Cracking on the PC was easier but with much more stress! A normal crack looked like that: You got a phone call, even during the night that there will be a game. You arranged a time for the people to call you and then you downloaded the game. Yes, there was no such thing like the Internet so it was always either a direct call to the supplier or a call to a mailbox or BBS (bulletin Board System). Once I had it, I sat down and tried to crack it. People from my group called me during that time and asked at what time I expect to be finished.
How did you spend your weekends during that time?
Normally pretty much the same as my weekdays: I was sitting in front of my computer. When I had something to crack, I had to send out no later than Sunday at noon (post office emptied their box then) so the Genesis couriers got it on Monday for spreading. Thus I sometimes worked through all day and night on Saturday and even sometimes on the Sunday morning in order to get the release done.
Quite often on Saturday's I was babysitting at my sister's house. I always watched Batman the series and then either read some lines of code or called Antichrist.
I remember one release that I did just before I went on holiday. My plane left in the afternoon and I finished the release just in time to get it to the post office and leave for vacation. Really funny to think that this was my life's main purpose back then: to finish a good release in time.
IFFL was a technique that you invented. Why was it that successful and why did you develop it in the first place?
IFFL is about making a single file out of a lot files. Especially back in 1988 lots of games came out that consisted of many single files. Such a game consumed at least one side of a disk even if it did not fully use it.
Remember, disks were quite expensive at that time. 10 disks cost around 5 Euro at my local computer store, making it an expensive hobby to collect games as a student in the 6/7th grade. Therefore I thought about improving this situation by changing the games in away that they can be copied by a file-based copy program called File Duplicator 2.0, one of the most popular copy programs on the C64.
I started to develop concept in the game Hollywood Poker Pro but further developed the technique in my crack of Forgotten Worlds where I saved so much space that I was able to fit a 2-disk side game on a single disk side. That was the beginning of the famous IFFL as people first blamed me, claiming that I just removed parts of the game, then started to talk about how I did it. This was the time when Antichrist gave it a name: "Interactive Flexible File Linking" or IFFL. Not exactly what it did but a very nice name but as I didn't understand English that well during that time, I just kept using the name. This was the birth of IFFL v1.0, a plain "copy all level files behind each other and read them sequentially during game level load" kind of tool.
Many average crackers always complained that my IFFL routine (sometimes also refered to as SnackPacked) increases the time for loading the levels due to the overhead I produced. To overcome this I developed the next version of IFFL.
In my Jewel version of Space Harrier II, which combined a complete disk side into a single file I release what I called Hyper IFFL or IFFL v2.0, an IFFL routine that included an integrated fast loader. After 1990, most crackers used some type of IFFL in their cracks to combine files.
My own personal record for IFFL was set by the last crack and Jewel version I released on the C64: RA from Cyberstyle. I combined 202 single files to 3 files making it the world record and a masterpiece of work.
Jewel versions were a standard for your quality cracks. What was special about these cracks?
"The Jewel as a sign for our brilliant perfection", one of the comments that was most true about the versions I tried to do. "Jewel" versions were just cracks that we thought were the shortest, 100% working and most trained versions in the scene. We didn't want to add all this kind of information in the file name so the Jewel was invented. The Jewel had the benefit of being a single character that can be added instead of all the +8 (which meant 8 trainers in the game) or the 100% (which meant that the game was somehow fixed or corrected). For this reason only the best GP releases were worthy of the label "jewel versions". Later other groups began to use the label "jewel version" for their own quality releases as well, because the term "jewel" had become a well-known trademark in the scene.
A nice anecdote about one of my jewel cracks is Ballmania, a game from Amok and developed by a friend of mine, Oliver Malms also known as Scrap. Basically when I got the game it was one side of a disk, loading every level once you completed the previous level. When I saw the game I immediately noticed that the difference between the levels only was the graphics in the middle of the screen, but what was saved on the disk was always the complete screen. This of course was a tremendous potential for optimization. I removed the redundant graphics and level packed each level and I recognised that I've got enough free memory inside the game to store all the levels at once making it absolutely unnecessary to load from disk anymore. So finally I ended up having a game that was one file, including everything in just 167 blocks. Remember, as an original it was more than 4 times as long. When I called Scrap and told him that he gets his game back as a single file including everything else he told me that this is not possible. Once he got the game however, he was impressed by the techniques that I used in order to optimize his game.
Almost all of your Jewel cracks came with the same Intro. Why didn't you use different Intros like Goblin or the other GP crackers?
Well, I never used another Intro as I developed it on my own and it was unique for its kind. Before I developed this into, I was using my intro with 64 blocks. Remember, the one that filled almost 25% of the complete C64 memory.
So I decided to code a stylish intro that didn't consume much memory. For the scroll text I used only 5 bits for text to encode 32 characters, not all 8 bits as 256 characters are not needed in a normal scroller. I did use the standard C64 charset but modified it slightly so it was not obvious. Also I just used my most advanced raster colour calculation routines that were then without used timer bytes. Altogether I got down to less than 1000 bytes or just 4 blocks on disk. Normally I consumed memory from $0801 - $0C50. If the intro contained massive amount of scroll text this limit was exceeded but by far my intro was shorter than most of the other group's intros.
Many lame groups at that time also did repackaging, meaning they removed the cracking group's intro and just added their own intro to it. For that I developed a small protection: My intro replaced one part of the memory required for it to run. So once you pressed space, I only had to copy 4 blocks of data from the end of the program to the position of the intro and start it. This was faster when starting the game and the lamers were not able anymore to remove the intro from the release.
Most of my scroll texts were made by Antichrist as my English was really bad. So that's a reason that I sometimes interpreted Shakespeare in the scroller. But there was something that was hidden in each of my intros. At the end of the scroll text, there always was a roman numeral added before the text reset. This was the sequential order of all my cracks. For example crack number 51 was Ballmania, Heatseeker was LIX (59) and my final crack on the C64, RA LXI (61). Did you ever recognize that?
Again thanks to Doc Snyder who also converted this intro into a Crackto.
G*P used quite some slogans, the most famous is "Accept No Limits". What is the story behind it?
The first slogan I used for the Genesis*Project + Fire Eagle coop back in early 1989 was "The Empire Strikes Back". Basically this slogan was used because I was a huge fan of the Star Wars Trilogy and found that the title matched our intention. After that I changed the slogan to "Accept No Limits", to describe my Jewel versions. I first used it in the Hollywood Poker Pro version I did for GP+FE. I got this slogan straight from the Nike advertisement on TV. And I used this slogan ever since in all my cracks on C64 and PC.
What can you tell me about your Shitpacks?
In late 1989 Magic Disk 64 released more and more games and as they also were protected (yes, guess by what: an early TIMEX version!), we decided to release them. However, these games were low-budget and not very big so I invented the idea of calling them "Shitpacks". Simply a couple of games combined in a release. Normally a Shitpack included around 4-5 games packed into one file only.
I did around 5 Shitpacks which didn't always provide me with positive recognition. In one of the later Magic Disk 64 games, roughly in 1990, I found somewhere in the memory a note from the programmer that said: "Please do not release this game. Yes, this is also a note especially for you: Snacky of Genesis". Believe it or not but this note inspired me even more to continue this.
The Genesis quality kept increasing so I spoke to Antichrist and we both agreed to stop releasing the Shitpacks under the GP label but to create a new group one called Bad Taste. And yes, who does not remember the world-famous Bonecrushing Bill of Bad Taste. :)
Bonecrushing Bill of Bad Taste? :)
I think Genesis invented the first real "low budget" label in the C64 scene called Bonecrushing Bill of Bad Taste. We used this label for all the stuff we formerly released as "Shitpacks" or just as regular releases. But I will never forget Bonecrushing Bill, as I believe almost everybody in GP released a game under the name Bonecrushing Bill at one point or other. I did it several times in 1990/91, Antichrist did it as well as Goblin. So this "cracker" was really the complete crew of Genesis. Remember the Bad Taste Intro where the small guy on the left hand side always threw up on the scroller?
Logo was one of your most famous cracks. Can you please tell us the complete story behind this extraordinary crack?
Well, in the Summer of 1990, at exactly the same time when Germany won the soccer world championship, I got Digital Marketing's latest game called Logo which was said to be the best protected game until then (at least this was what MWS/Radwar said, who made the protection). Timex v3.0 and all the good pre-game protections were something I tried to ignore unless absolutely necessary.
So I just tried to freeze the game, saved the memory and found out the restarting point. However, when I restarted the game after a reset it kept crashing. Funny but true it took me just a short while to figure out that the game crashed when a specific byte in the zero page was changed. If I remember right it was $34. Well, I thought this might be a good chance to test a new tool's functionality: a Re-assembler! This tool created out of machine code, assembled source code that could be edited and assembled again.
When I reassembled the game, I just changed the location of $34 to $35 and voila, the game didn't crash anymore even when I restarted it. Funny, isn't it? I left all the protections in the game but they didn't cause any harm anymore. But I saw that the original source code of the game crashed in a few levels so I took the chance and even fixed these problems. Guess what, the programmer gave me a call and thanked me for fixing the bugged program's crashes. He also wanted to know every single step how I found out what was going wrong with his game and how I got rid of the protection. Half a year later we met in person and we had frequent contact during these days back in 1990 and 1991.
When I sent my crack of Logo to MWS he told me that this was not possible. Well, surely... I didn't remove his code nor did I remove his protection. I simply worked around it. I found the protection later when I did my Jewel release of the game and fully removed this senseless stuff.
This is taken from an interview with Thomas Koncina, the LOGO programmer available on http://home.tiscali.be/ft010915/www/Magazine/issue03.htm
Q: What do you think about cracking? Have you done that before?
TK: I don't mind crackers, I even don't mind Snacky/g*p for cracking logo. We met on Radwar V and talked a lot. He's a cool dude.
"Rubicon" - A first-release that brings back some fond memories, I remember that there was quite some turmoil and that Fairlight were quite pissed off at the time. This was one of the many important events that occurred on the C64, what is the complete story behind this game?
Rubicon - that brings back old memories. I guess that's one of the questions I have been asked most often since then. Rubicon was a game programmed by the guys of Twisted Minds (the legal label of Fairlight). As I already did quite a few protections for Digital Marketing back in 1991, they asked me to protect the best game of the year 1991: Rubicon. I started to work on Rubicon in fall 1991 and finished with the tape version early 1992.
But the story around Rubicon's protection is much more legendary as it was never cracked in the protected way: Most copy protections at that time were quite easy to crack, they just had a check for a "bad disk sector" during the game-load and they then set a byte in the memory that a "freezing module" like the Action Replay cartridge wasn't able to recover. You just had to find the "call check for disk protection" routine and remove it. Very simple but effective, which is why it is still being used nowadays, like on the games on X-Box.
My type of protection was a little different. Not only did I develop a very special "bad sector" on the disk. It was changing the speed of the rotating floppy disk and also de-justed the binary reading of the floppy header. This combination during the read operation made it impossible for any type of copy program (do you remember Burst Nibbler?) to copy the disk. A manual re-sync with just three bytes "SKY" (abbreviation for Snacky) were then verified.
I also added not only countless checks for the protection at the start and in the game; just the "Ending" of Rubicon alone, meaning the demo you saw once you finished the game, was protected by more that 20 different routines that verified each other. This makes the Ending of Rubicon one of the best protected parts of a game ever done on a computer. Changing or removing one routine would end up in a crash later one.
The beginning of Rubicon was protected by the TIMEX v3 system. But I improved the Timex v3 system slightly to close the "attack points" that I found when cracking this type of protection. I also did not fully depend on the starting alone, I also added small pieces into the code of the game.
Another funny story about the Rubicon game was the Tape protection. Just for Rubicon, I developed a turbo tape like speed loader that was capable of loading files from tape in less than half a minute. A speed I never saw anywhere else on C64. The compression / loading functionality was that special, that even the oscilloscope based mass tape copy machine of 20th Century Software, a London based game company that was publishing Rubicon, was not able to copy it with their hardware. They gave me quite a few phone calls to understand my technique to write data to the tape, so they'd be able to adjust their copy machine. I believe they finally used my "write to tape" program after some failed attempts with their tape copy machine. Keep in mind, the first tape games on the C64 you were able to copy simply by using a good stereo with a double tape drive. I did this for example with Winter Games back in 1986. :)
My tape protection was quite straightforward. I did use TIMEX v3 and included this with my 256 blocks file load. This means that I cleaned the complete memory of the C64 by loading a file that filled up everything. During the load, I modified the loader and also loaded the TIMEX system. I was pretty sure nobody would be able to crack that system. I thought about it for weeks and found no weak point to interfere.
The turmoil around Rubicon arose when Tyger of Genesis * Project released a crack of the game. When I heard that Tyger got the game, I was shocked. I called Antichrist and asked him about the game. He told me that he got a non-protected version of it that Tyger would release. I tried to convince him that I would be in trouble if he released a version. As you know, Genesis released a version of the non-protected Rubicon, which was easy to release obviously.
There has never been a release of the protected version of Rubicon. You now may understand why. I doubt that somebody ever spent the time and effort to crack it as it would have been a couple of weeks' work. If you know of a version or somebody who cracked the protected Rubicon (disk or tape), send me an e-mail as I would like to commend him for the work.
There have been all styles of cracking groups in the scene, what ones stand out in your mind as the best and why?
Old legends like Crackman, Dynamic Duo, 1001 or Yeti come first to my mind. From Yeti for example I learned how to code a scroller that includes raster lines. His intro was the first one that I studied in depth in order to learn from his coding skills.
The other crop of elite groups that formed the "High Society of the Pirate Scene" that I also very much respected: IKARI, SCG, Shining 8, Hotline, Wanderer Group, Fairlight, Beastie Boys, Eagle Soft Inc and last but not least one of the most legendary groups ever: Triad.
You also founded and lead Genesis * Project on the PC. How did this happen?
Well, I met some PC guys from Supremacy at the GP Party in April 1992, who were from Munich (M.BOB, Olga, Widdy and Weasel) and at the Oktoberfest 1992 we agreed that we want to recreate Genesis Project on the PC. Olga and I did some coding and Widdy did the graphics. M.Bob was our Software Trader but at that time he began to code. First we released several cracks and trainers so we got known. In December 1992 Razor recognized me and asked if I want to crack for them. I agreed (On PC it's normal to have more than one group you're in!). I released several games under the Razor label and got very well known in the PC scene also.
What are you currently doing in life and are you in contact with any of your old friends from the good old "breadbox"?
Guess what? I'm a consultant for Siemens. I'm planning enterprise computer systems based on Microsoft Windows or Microsoft Exchange Server. I'm writing articles for expert magazines like the Windows 2000 Magazine () and holding speeches at computer conferences like Microsoft TechEd. This means I'm constantly flying from country to country helping various large companies to implement Microsoft products. You also meet me quite often in Redmond on the Microsoft campus.
Yes, I'm still in touch with many of my old friends. Back in 2000 I visited Antichrist in New York, last week I met Widdy and M.Bob/GP together with SCI /GP in Munich and we had a great booze-time. In GP we maintain a private mailing list that includes all German GP members and also Antichrist writes to it frequently. This helps us to keep in touch.
Usually I also try to attend a C64 party like The Party in Denmark or X04 once a year to keep up the contact with all the other guys like Intruder (now also in GP) or Jack Alien / Remember.
From the PC scene I still visit Tazman / Legend and Genesis in London frequently. Amazing, this friendship also holds since more than 10 years.
What are your favourite C64 Links on the web?
Genesis * Project Homepage - http://www.genesis-project.de - This is of course my home site that provides lots of information about Genesis.
C64 Heaven - http://www.c64heaven.com - Excellent site that have almost all games thanks for the unbeatable work of Mason to collect every game ever released on the c64!
C64 Cracktros made in Flash - http://www.docsnyderspage.de
C64 Portal - http://www.c64.org - Find your old friends :)
World of Fairlight - http://www.fairlight.to - Best site for tools around C64
The C64 Scene Database - http://noname.c64.org/csdb - One of the most interesting projects to keep C64 history alive lately
C64 Hall of Fame - http://www.c64-hof.com
Please feel free to send any greetings to anyone from the scene.
That's hard. In the past the greetings was the most important part of every scroller, and wars were started when somebody was not mentioned.
The following is just a list that came to my mind: Everybody in Genesis*Project, especially Intruder, M.Bob, Widdy, Juergen, SCI, Antichrist, Frankieghost, Goblin and all the rest that spend tremendous work in GP and those that work on keeping GP alive nowadays. Mason from C64 heaven to provide me with all my old cracks. Unbelievable work he did during the past years. Thanks to Doc Snyder for converting all my intros to flashtros. Jack Alien / Remember, Deekay / Crest who keeps naming me Schnaggi, Hannes Sommer and Hermann Kaun whom I met at Radwar Copy parties and of course all the rest that I forgot after the long years I'm working now. I also want to greet to the people I lost contact but still have in good memory: Reptil or Thorsten from Shining 8, Steamhammer / Genesis, The French Mate or Hoppermania.
On PC I want to greet all the guys in Razor 1911, Genesis and Legend whom I met during the years I spend on PC. Especially I want to greet Tazman (the old man from London) and Butcher from Razor 1911.
If I forgot you, please don't blame me for that! Just send me an e-mail to Snacky@genesis-project.de to establish the contact again and I will add you next time.
Do you have some final words of wisdom for the readers from the 8-bit land of Commodore?
It's always a great feeling when people look back and say that I did good work and that they really enjoyed playing my releases. This was absolutely what it was all about! I want to thank all of you for some of the most wonderful years in my life. I really like to spend the time and effort to give you some of the best game releases during that time. If we lost contact, please send me an e-mail! I always like to get in contact with people from the C64 scene.
If you want to get more information about myself or Genesis*Project don't forget to visit our webpage on !
Thanks for your time Sigi. Keep the good memories of golden times!
Thanks, it makes me really proud to see that my work hasn't been forgotten. When I browse the web, from time to time I still find pages that make me smile and remember my old Commodore 64 time. I hope you enjoyed this interview even it is quite big, but believe me, it took more than one month to write everything down and ask the people!
Last, I want to say thank you to all the sceners out there. I hope to meet you at the next C64 party to celebrate the history of our favourite computer ever: The Commodore C64.
(This means "hang-up" when you typed it in your terminal window during a modem connection :) It was also used in the scene to say "good-bye".)