Interview with Paradroid of Lemon.
Done by Magic of Nah-Kolor
Hugi has an audience with the coder of the Revision 2013 winning oldskool demo "Rink a Dink Redux".
Magic: Please tell us some things about yourself as introduction.
Paradroid: The people that don't call me Paradroid use my real name Barry, or Baz for short. I did think of changing my handle upon my return, but decided to keep it for fun and nostalgia reasons, which was a good thing considering the nature of my comeback release. Outside of the demo scene I'm a game programmer by day... and by night too, although I do try to avoid that as much as I can now as I'm married and have a little boy – I'd rather spend time with them than at a desk these days. When I'm not programming or entertaining the family I can usually be found in the kitchen or in the garden tending to my crop – I love growing stuff and I love eating it even more, which is a great antidote for all the hours in front of the screen, although the weather here in the north west of the UK does test me at times.
Magic: What made you start coding in the first place?
Paradroid: Hard to say as I was very young. Before I found out where babies came from I was convinced I was a robot, so always had an interest in computers as they were obviously very similar to me, lol. I remember being able to write Basic programs at junior school the day we got a BBC micro, so it must have been a little before that, but my memories are all mixed up from that time. I later got my hands on a C64 (first at my grandparents' place, who I suddenly started visiting a lot more, then my own when I was 11) and started getting my head around how to program very simple Assembler by translating cheat pokes from magazines and modifying them.
Magic: Please tell our readers, in order of chronology from past to present, which groups you have been part and when and what you did in each group.
Paradroid: Oh my, that's a bit of a scary question. I'll try to be brief, but...
My journey in the scene started out on the C64 in a little two man (boy!) group called Voltage, but I doubt anything
we did got seen outside our hometown, not that it was worth seeing. My friend (Astaroth) and I (Teknix) would rip music
from games and play it alongside our own artwork and text writers – nothing
fancy, but I was barely a teenager by then so thought we were geniuses, haha! I mainly did graphics in those days (graph paper & keyboard style) as Astaroth was a year older then me (i.e the boss) and a better coder. Things continued like that for a couple of years, but my friend was losing interest and preferred to play with his music (real instruments), while my own interests were moving towards the new Amiga.
I had to wait until I was about 15 to get my own Amiga, but even before then I'd been involved with a couple of fun productions with other kids from school and the a local computer club. It was at this point I switched my name to Paradroid after someone said that the school nickname I was now using as my handle, Chinky, was a bit racist.
So one day I was looking through Micro Mart magazine for trader contacts and saw an advert asking for amiga artists to join a group. The friends I'd done demos with were all losing interest and I was basically on my own, so I called up the number in the advert and I was soon a member of The Watchmen. That lasted about two weeks until a few of us became Teknotronix, but again within weeks we'd left and joined another group called Illusions. Things finally started to settle down but we didn't really produce anything, so with help from a couple of guys from the computer club, Centreline of ACME and Photon of Chaos & Slipstream (Chaos may have become a division of Oracle by then, my memory is a bit sketchy), I started to get into the coding again. I did a couple of intros for Illusions, but when one of the other members saw how I was progressing he talked me into forming a new group called Crack.
This was the start of some seriously fun times and I entered my first demo compo at the Share & Enjoy party, coming second to Anarchy's Phantasmagoria. It wasn't a close result by any stretch of the imagination, but I was still proud. It was around this time I became good friends with Majic Mushroom who had a lot of overseas contacts, something that eventually lead to us taking another step up the scene ladder and forming the UK division of Flash Productions. However, I then got busy with school and had less time for coding, which basically meant no more productions and we lost some key members to other groups. We didn't last long after that and when we disbanded a bunch of us joined Razor 1911. That turned out to be a shocking mess as there was some politics going on in the group and I had no idea who was running it, so after winning the real-time intro coding compo at The Main Event, the only production I did for them, I joined Digital. I learned a lot during my time in this group, but I only released a single intro due to the increasing amount of school work and my continued folly with a trackmo.
So I was coming to the end of my school years and I had to start thinking about what I'd do next. My father was expecting university, but I had other ideas. I was in contact with some sceners who were working in the games industry at the very place I was interested in, Core Design, so although I was enjoying being a member of Digital it made more sense to join up with these other guys. I became a member of the mighty Anarchy.
From here on in I put all the time I could into coding. I was mainly concentrating on game style programming, but I did finally get some time to finish and release the trackmo Deja-vu which won at the Quartz Summer Conference, with the prize money being put towards fixing Majic Mushroom's car so we could get home, lol. After the summer break I finally, mainly thanks to Dan of Anarchy, got my big break: a job at Core Design programming games.
It was here that Lemon. was formed. I don't actually remember how it happened, I've just got a vague memory of the guys coming in one day and telling me they were going to leave Anarchy and asking if I wanted in. This sounded like madness, but I think it worked out quite well for us.
We had quite an epic year in 93, but things died down after that. We had pressure at work, people were losing interest because of AGA, etc, and our interests drifted. Apparently I joined Axis, but I don't actually remember this. Majic Mushroom says it did indeed happen, plus I also recently found some floppies containing Axis gfx and mods, so I guess I was just wasted or burnt out and lost my memory. ;-) I certainly never produced anything for them as it was around this time I left Core Design for another company and quit the scene to concentrate on game development and my other hobby of anime fansubbing.
I think that just about covers it. I've probably forgotten some details and got others mixed up, but be fair it has been a quite while since these events ;-)
Magic: Please explain the process from being away from the demoscene for years, to finding the demoscene again.
Paradroid: I always kept an eye on the demo scene since quitting, but what with demos going mostly down the 3D animation route, it was too close to my day job to want to get involved. I also had my other interests away from computers, which was a good thing for my sanity.
It was late 2011/early 2012 that TDK of Melon Dezign (yes, some of us are friends, hehe) added me to a facebook group of ye olde Amiga sceners. This got my nostalgia flowing and I eventually dug up some old source code and, just for the fun of it, got them assembling on PC and running in WinUAE. It was just a bit of nostalgic fun at first, but then a few months later Dan formed another group just for the Lemon. guys and my interest in doing an actual production started to grow. It was soon after this that I saw Boogietown win the oldschool compo entry at Revision 2012 and the positive reaction an OCS demo could still receive - this was pretty much the moment I committed to a comeback, so I've got those guys to thank for that :-)
Magic: Please tell our readers a bit about the process in starting a new Amiga 500 demo after such a long time and winning the oldskool demo compo at Revision 2013.
Paradroid: I decided to do something and actually getting off my ass and doing it are two entirely different things. I soon realised I wouldn't have the time to both relearn everything I'd forgotten and still get a demo made in the time frame I wanted, so I looked into other options. It was then that I realised the next Revision would be in the same year as Lemon. and Rink a Dink's 20th anniversary – the timing was perfect! By then I already knew the original demo sources were lost (accident with custom floppy format backups, grrr), but I did still have some old test code on my old Amiga HDD and was able to use the WinUAE debugger and Action Replay to recover data and figure out a few things too. Although progress was slow, I at least had a nice solid base to aim at and build upon.
I seemed to spend most of the time I had writing tools and sorting out the base library as is the case with my job, but then I had a month off work for a summer holiday and made a lot of progress on the actual demo content. Once I came back I was pretty much overloaded with work again, but progress did continue on the odd evening or weekend, plus Magnar was also able to start making changes to the original Nuke track. I'd already done a some of timing work to the original tune, but some of the changes he made really helped to improve the flow and inspire me. Then work hit hard and there must have been a period of three or four months that I simply didn't get anything done, which only ended when my contract expired a month before the party.
At this point I was at a bit of a physical wreck due to overworking myself, but my flights and hotel for the party were booked and I knew what needed to be done. Facet managed to knock out another logo, then Prowler joined the fun too to take up the opening logo and fix the D in the Dink (oh how that has annoyed me since the first captures appeared on YouTube, lol). Work also came back to haunt me from time to time, but I was getting some good hours in each day. It was still a bit of a mad rush at the end and I was coding at the airport, on the plane and on the shuttle bus too (for about 2 minutes before I gave up and went to sleep -_-.zZ), but it was finished just in time, or as the party organisers like to call it - two hours late. There was also a brief disqualification scare relating to GEMA membership (there should be plenty of info around about demos falling into this trap), but once that mix-up got resolved it was finally time to relax and wait for the compo.
There were some great demos being shown and I was quite nervous having not done anything like this for so long, but when Redux was finally up on that big screen and I saw the reaction unfolding around me I was astounded. That might sound a bit soft coming from someone of my age, but to take so long out and then come back to such a great reaction was quite special, I briefly felt like a teenager again, lol.
As for winning the competition itself, that was just the cherry on top of what was already a very rich and calorific cake.
Magic: The P. in Rink a Pink was restored to a D for Rink a Dink by Prowler. Why didnt Facet restore it? And why did the D looks like a P in the first place? Why did you accept this in 1993?
Paradroid: I love how this has become one of the key talking points for some people, lol. I don't remember thinking it looked like a P back then, it was only when I stumbled across some misspelled titles on YouTube many years later that I became aware of the misunderstanding. When I revealed to Facet that I was making Redux one of the first things I mentioned was that the D needed to clearer in order to avoid it happening again. In the end he didn't have time to do a new RAD logo, so the day before I flew out to the party Prowler touched up the original logo, saving me from having to do it myself, phew!
Magic: What do you think of the demoscene in general today and the amigascene specifically?
Paradroid: In terms of demo production there doesn't seem to be as much going on, but when it is the overall quality is a far higher. Maybe it's an age thing. The only kids I saw at Revision seemed to be the children of other sceners rather than being sceners themselves. Do mid-teen geeks not make demos for fun anymore? Are they too busy making iphone/android apps? I hope I'm wrong. We don't have the need for the mass of traders any more and when taking that into consideration, and despite the lack of productions, the scene itself seems a lot bigger than I remember it. Maybe that's just because communication is so much easier than it was 20 years ago. Back then nearly every demo I saw was for the C64 and Amiga, but now I can see there are a lot of platforms being developed for and it's very easy to find them. The big modern PC demos don't really hold my interest, but that doesn't matter as there is plenty around to please just about anyone and their tastes, although that didn't stop some sensitive people being extremely offended and feeling the need to flame Redux for being a “lame” and “out of date” demo, which I found quite hilarious, lol.
My personal interest is of course in the OCS Amiga. It isn't getting as much attention as I'd like to see, but I've been getting a lot of questions since Redux was released so there is at least a little more interest in it now, much like how last year's Boogietown caught my own interest. If I keep at it maybe I can convince a few more people to quit their AGA/060 addiction. In an ideal world the Atari ST and other 16 bit platforms would get more action too, meaning we could start seeing some more competitive compos for that generation of hardware. It has happened for the 8bit machines, so I don't think it's too wild a dream. :-)
Magic: What's up with the future of Lemon.? Dan and Hannibal doing anything? Will you make another demo for Revision 2014? What about you and Dan joining forces on a demo? (2 coders, less work)
Paradroid: Redux will not be the last demo you see from us, that's for sure. I won't commit to dates or comment on who is doing what as it just adds pressure and we get enough of that from our jobs and families. Maybe Revision 2015 would be a safer bet, lol As for our programmers joining forces, it's a discussion that has already happened, although nothing solid has been decided – we just agreed it would make releases more likely to reach completion. I also quite like the idea of doing some small intros before taking on a bigger project - nothing technically challenging, just something to pass the time and have a bit of fun. We'll just have to wait and see. :-)
Magic: What would you like to say to our readers, your Facebook friends? Want to air some greetings or last words as well?
Paradroid: Ohhh, I dunno, I feel like anything I say would make me sound like a relic of scene past, lol. I did try to write some stuff about what I think is wrong with the scene today and why it's hard to get new people involved, but I know it's just a blinkered view based on a world that doesn't exist anymore. I think the best way for me to get my views across would be to make a demo about it. :-P
As for greetings, I put them in the hidden part of Redux, you can go see them there. ;-) I would however like to add a special mention to those of the Amiga Szene and related Facebook groups that seem to be taking up an ever increasing amount of my time. If it wasn't for these guys I doubt I would have returned to my old hobby any time soon and would be getting on with something far more constructive like decorating my house - damn you all, lol.
Links related to this article
Rink a Dink Redux at Pouet.net
Rink a Dink Redux at YouTube
Rink a Dink Redux hidden part at YouTube
Rink a Dink from 1993 inclusive hidden part at YouTube