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INTERVIEW
Kristof Tuts

Kristof is an Electronics Engineer in Belgium, and hobbyist programmer
of the Vectrex. He has been programming on the Vectrex for over
three years, and has four (count 'em -1,2,3,4) games nearing completion & release!

MT> It is always good and motivating to hear that someone else is trying to keep the classics alive and kicking...
That's the GDG mission! Glad you share it, too
!
KT> It is an honor for me to participate.

MT> What is your history as a game player, and as a game programmer?
KT> History as a game-player: Hmmmmm... where could I start ? Maybe at the age of 11 years in the spring of 1982, I know, I was not an early bird in video-games, but I do remember that my first experience on an arcade-machine was DONKEY-KONG and FROGGER at the bar of the local bus-station were I had to wait for the bus taking me to school..

Years went by, but I always went to that bar for playing arcades... A lot of classics arrived and left that place, From GYRUSS to SLAP_FIGHT (Does anyone remember this one?), From KUNG-FU-MASTER to DOUBLE_DRAGON, From 1942 to TIGER_HELI, From HYPER_OLYMPICS to KONAMI_GT........ Anyway, this bar was a very good learning-school from the period of 1982 until 1990, until I finished High School...

During my stay at the university, I have to be honest, it became a little bit quiet with video-games, but that all changed in the winter of 1993... When MORTAL KOMBAT came to the European Continent !! I have to confess, I was really addicted to that game, so much even that I could not live will all those portations to megadrive, SNES and even PC.. So, I decided to buy the original arcade machine of MK1 a few years later for a cheap price !!

But still, My love is also going to all that arcade-blockbusters of the 80's.... No 3D, no passwords, no cheats, just play it !!!

History as a programmer: Back in the 80's, I never had any money to buy a Game-Console or Home-Computer, Never had any C64,ATARI, Amiga, VECTREX,.. It just started when I finished University (that was also the place were I began to enjoy assembler-programming) and I wanted to do some game-programming...

But I did not know which platform to choose, till I came to the VECTREX... One of my friends had once a VECTREX and we had many hours of fun on that machine,... I also saw that the available games on the VECTREX were so less, that it was an ideal platform to port some good old classics to it.. And Yes, of course, the VECTREX is full assembler- programmable and as You might know, I really love assembler-programming !! So, when a good old friend of me made himself online on the WWW, we tried (for fun) to search for some VECTREX-related-topics.. I was really amazed about all the things I found that first night on the internet... From Binaries to source-codes of the executable... I realized at that moment that VECTREX-programming could begin!!

MT> Any humorous, or disastrous, game related stories you would like to share?
KT> Yeh, I just won from Shang-Tsung on MK1 for the first time and as soon as the end-story + the 2 nice pictures of Raiden were about to appear, Current fell out in the luna-park...Oh Plueeeeaaassse !!

MT> Although you started Vector Patrol first, it seems that Vectrexians has come closer to completion?
In what order do you see completion of the four titles in production?

KT> 1) VECTREXIANS 98% finished
        2) VECTOR PATROL 95%finished
        3) VECTRUSS (GYRUSS Clone)
        4) VECTORION (EXERION Clone)


MT> What has been your typical time donated to each project?
KT> A lot... Really, I'm a slow guy, for VECTOR-PATROL, I spent almost a year. also VECTREXIANS (that was started somewhere in may 1999) is still not 100% done. You have to know that , next to VECTREX-programming, I am very busy with my work as an employee, and as a husband !!! I would say that I can program +- 0.5 hours per day on the VECTREX and I would need +- 8 to 10 months for programming one game.. Slowwwwwww isn't it ?

MT> When can we expect your new titles to become available, especially Vector Patrol?
KT> I always hoped to bring out VECTOR-PATROL and VECTREXIANS together on 1 cartridge.. So, As soon as VECTREXIANS is completed, I HAVE to finalize VECTOR PATROL for the First Cartridge... And hereby we arrive to the worst part of me : I'm a real slow guy in programming.. I really am.. I need my time to think about the concepts, and the programming itself, and for me, a game is never finished.. (I really have to admit that I cannot understand how all those other VECTREX-programmers out there can develop so fast and efficient the one game after the other..)

MT> Which game required the most clever programming and technical prowess?
KT> VECTOR PATROL, No, VECTREXIANS,... eh... VECTREXIANS, Yeah, that was really pushing to the outer limits of VECTREX-programming..


MT> You have been programming on the Vectrex for over 3 years. Other than your current games (Vector Patrol, Vectrexians, Vectruss, and Vectorion) Have you created any other demos, simpler games, tools, tests, et cetera?
KT> The first game I started was a very simplified version of VECTOR PATROL.. However, after 4 months of programming, I was not satisfied with many concepts of my programming. So, I skipped this game for a while and started with developing VECTRUSS.. And hereby we arrive to the second worst part of me : I'm quickly tired of programming on one game (maybe due to the fact that I spent months over one game, I need sometimes some changes in live, can You imagine ?) At the moment that VECTRUSS was for 85% finished, I was tired also of this game and at those days I did some small tryouts for a BATTLEZONE-clone and an AMIDAR-clone.

But never made any demo's nor simpler games nor tools...

MT> Vectrexians is based on Galaxians, Vector Patrol is based on Moon Patrol, Vectruss is based on Gyruss, what is Vectorion based on, or is it entirely original?
KT> VECTORION will be based on the arcade called "EXERION": a space shoot em up which has a very unique behavior : The players-ship is moving with a momentum over the screen, so it's not that easy to hit or even more, to avoid the attacking enemy-waves...

MT> Which is your personal favorite, and why?
KT> Favorites of the original : STAR CASTLE.. why? it's simple but so addicting !!! Favorites of my own games : I don't want to be arrogant, but I can say that I'm really proud about VECTREXIANS.. Only on the technical point of view..


MT> From your Vectrexian demo, it is apparent that you know a few tricks about displaying extra vectors without the added flicker. Do you have a particular technique, like the scanline technique in Atari 2600 games, that reduce redraw and flicker?
KT> I spent weeks in finding the most shortest way to draw an alien (but not the smallest, on the level of code-space).. I discovered that the fastest way to draw an image is to reduce the scale-factor to its minimal, and not to use a look-up-table for the vectors, but to use a macro to draw one line... So "loop-unrolling" like Chris Salomon has called it +"List to Code Conversion" as I would call it. Again, I experimented a lot with the sequence of instructions that were fed to the VIA-chip of the VECTREX to draw 1 line.. Here and there I could find some optimalizations..

Also, as Chris Salomon already found out in my code, I used a so called "arbiter"-routine, who is called at idle-moments (like in a move-pen-d routine while waiting till T1 has timed out: instead of doing a waiting loop, the arbiter uses the time to do some game calculations, like collision-detections, position-updates,etc..)

Anyway, for those who are really interested in this topic.. I will make the source-code available in the future...

MT> Are these games going to be available individually, or as a multi-cart?
KT> For the moment, my strategy is : 2 games per cart.


Good Deal Games would like to thank John for taking time out of his busy schedule
to grace us with his wit and wisdom -- THANKS John!

Visit Kristof's Website
E-Mail: Kristof Tuts

 

 

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