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Philipp Klaus Krause

Philipp is possibly the only salsa dancing, arrow flinging,
mountain-dwelling Colecovision programmer on the planet!
With several successful games programmed behind his belt,
we listen when he has something to say about our favorite system.

MT> Who is Philipp Klaus Krause? What do you do in the real world?
PK> I was born about two months after the release of the ColecoVision. I'm a student of mathematics and computer science at the University in Freiburg, southern Germany. I have a Baccalaureus in mathematics (comparable to a bachelor's degree in the US) and will soon have a Diplom in computer science (comparable to a master's degreee in the US).

MT> We all love the Colecovision here, but why do you love for the Colecovision?
         Most of us here grew up with the Colecovision, but you were in diapers when Coleco was on top!
PK> The ColecoVision's technical limitations (3.58 Mhz 8-bit processor, 1 KB RAM, 32 KB ROM, etc) make programming for it interesting. One one hand these limits ensure that one can complete a ColecoVision game and be quite confident to have done a good job within them. Unlike when programming for a PC one doesn't wonder if it would be a good idea to add this or that to a game forever, since at some point there's just not enough RAM / ROM / CPU power left to add more. On the other hand these limits make one think about how to implement features, about how to get the most out of the hardware.

MT> You have been programming for the Colecovision for many years now.
         When did you start tinkering with making code for the Colecovision?
PK> A long time ago, when I was still in school. I started experimenting with HITECH-C and Marcel de Koegel's library.

MT> Why did you write your own development tools for Colecovision development?
PK> I wanted to use sdcc, which I preferred to HITECH-C, since SDCC is free software and still actively developed. I wanted to be able to use tools from the Unix world like make for ColecoVision development. So I wrote tools for ColecoVision development that fit into the sdcc and Unix world.

MT> What did you accomplish?
PK> I have written libraries and tools for nearly every aspect of ColecoVision programming. The only major missing piece is sound creation. There are libraries and tools for the graphics, including sprites, compression and music. I have become maintainer of sdcc's Z80 port and was able to make it generate smaller and faster code.

MT> You created an exclusive aircraft dive performance stage for the GDG release of the first Search for the Stolen Crown Jewels.  Tell us about this exclusive level.
RD> After having completed Search for the Stolen Crown Jewels (SCJ), I had some more gameplay ideas that did fit into the SCJ world but which I couldn't really integrate into SCJ. One of them was to let the player control an aircraft with dive capability. I made this idea into the bonus level for the GDG edition of SCJ. The normal edition instead has a bonus level where the player controls an anti-aircraft gun. Both ideas got integrated into SCJ2 later.

MT> You designed your own unique levels for the Search for the Stolen Crown Jewels sequel.
         What challenges did you encounter while creating this new content?
PK> Even in SCJ, only the first two to three levels are influenced by the Fantasy arcade game. When creating SCJ2 I started with gameplay ideas, such as the two from the last question. The levels in SCJ2 differ much more in gameplay than the SCJ levels. Thus less code could be shared between the functions implementing gameplay. It wasn't easy to get all the game content into 32KB of ROM. Compressing the graphics data helped a lot.

MT> Monster Masher is a port of Ole Laursen’s unique gnome game.
         What is the relationship between Monster Masher and Boulder Dash?
PK> I do not know if or to what degree Ole Laursen was inspired by Boulder Dash when creating Monster Masher.

MT> The random level generator that you designed for Monster Masher is very unique for a Colecovision title.
         If you could be so kind, please describe the technical challenges you faced while programming the game.
PK> There were three main challenges:
        1) Making the generated levels different enough to lead to different situations during gameplay
        2) Avoiding generating levels with no possible solution
        3) Allow for some way to continue games

MT> Are there any features or options in your version of Schlange that were not present in other versions of Snakes or Nibbles?
PK> There exist lots of different implementations and variants of this game, so this is a difficult question. AFAIK the searching AI is rather unique (I have implemented it in Schlange 2 ( though before I started programming for the ColecoVision).

MT> You converted the PC game KYE to the Colecovision as CYE.
         Enlighten us about the game and meaning of the game’s names.
PK> Kye is a puzzle game with a real-time aspect, inspired by puzzle games such as Boulder Dash and Sokoban. When I presented my games at the Retrobörse in Karlsruhe last year this game was the most popular. Nearly all the time there was someone playing it on the ColecoVision I had brought. Since the initial run of 50 cartridges was a limited edition, but ColecoVision gamers really liked it and I don't want an artifical shortage keeping players from enjoying the game I've made a second run of another 20 cartridges, but with different levels this time.

I do not know why the game and the green dot representing the player were called "Kye". I changed the "K" to a "C" to state that that it's a slightly different game and for the ColecoVision. And since Cye has some two-player levels the green dot representing the second player is called "Cye", too.

MT> Tell us about your upcoming project for the Colecovision, Bankruptcy Builder.
PK> In this game you are in charge of a construction company. You assign construction teams to construction sites, trying to complete buildings as soon as possible. During different construction phases different skills are required, so sometimes you'll want to change teams during construction. After each level construction teams can be upgraded. Gameplay can get a bit complex, so you'll need the manual at first. The game will come with overlays for the ColecoVision controllers.

MT> A game entitled Colored Gravity is also in the works. What can we expect from this title?
PK> It is a space combat game. Most objects have one of three colors. Instead of gravity objects of different color attract each other, while objects of the same color repulse ech other.

MT> It seems that all you do is tinker with the Colecovision. What other hobbies battle for your freetime?
PK> Recently I didn't find much time for hobbies, ColecoVision or other. I hope this will be a bit different now that I have completed my final thesis. I'm currently learning salsa dance and doing a bit of archery. I also contribute to OpenStreetMap, mostly mapping the mountains around the place I live.

MT> When can we expect the third and final Search for the Stolen Crown Jewels game?
PK> This game is nearly complete. However I want to wait until I have completed some more games and can release them at the same time. There already is a demo at

MT> You have made available to the public the Colecovision homebrew kit?
         What does this kit offer to the aspiring Colecovision programmer?
PK> It offers a way to create cartridges. The kit contains all the components needed to make a cartridge (except for the tools such as a soldering iron and an EPROM programmer).

MT> The game Tunnels & Trolls was featured in much of Coleco’s early advertising. The game never materialized. I remember looking at the sample screenshot and daydreaming about the title over a quarter century ago. Rumor has it that you are considering making this long lost game a reality. Little is known about the original games design, so how do you plan to approach the project?
PK> I don't intend to do much guessing about what the game would have been like had it been created back then. The game's rules will be more similar to the more recent 7th edition of T&T than to the 5th edition. I intend to make this game a classic RPG, with a large world to explore. However this isn't a simple project, so it will take some time to complete. Following this interview, you can download a simple tech demo showing an early prototype of the map engine for T&T from the Good Deal Games website. There isn't any gameplay yet, just a huge map you can scroll around. You might want to stick to the roads or rivers to avoid getting lost.

MT> We love the Colecovision and we love your games - Thank You!

Have questions? E-mail Philipp
Be sure to download the Colecovision Tunnels and Trolls Tech Demo!

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