In Focus: WVL/Xenon

Interviewed by Magic of Nah-kolor

WVL of Xenon is a long-time coder on the Commodore 64.

Hi WVL! How are you? Could you please introduce yourself to our readers? Tell us a little about your demoscene past and such?

Hi, my name is WVL and I'm currently a member of the dutch demogroup Xenon. (WVL is a lousy abbreviation of my real name, but hey, I was young when I made the decision ;) Before Xenon I was in the groups DCT (a local group, you know how it works) and Slash Design (another dutch demo group)." (WVL stands for Werner Van Loo -ed)

How did you actually got involved with the demoscene? Do you remember when you started being active on it?

It started quite a while ago when me and some friends got fascinated by demos from Horizon, Crest, etc. And ofcourse we wanted to be just as cool as they were (as cool as nerds can be). I think it was around 1993 that we first tried making our own demos.

1993, that is certainly a long time ago. Can you name any difference between the oldskool c=64 time and the newschool c=64 scene? Do you like the difference?

The difference is mainly (or should mainly be) in how they are made. Oldschool demos are made by coders who make their effect, add a logo, a music and a scroller and voila, a demo. Newschool demos are more (or should be) (imho) a convergence between the code/art.

Why, in your opinion, is the c64 still so popular to create demos, graphics etc. on it?

Because it's fun and I can still understand the inside of the machine. I honestly have no ideas whatsoever how a modern pc works, I know just about enough to be able to make command-line tools to help me make and analyze stuff for my c64 parts.

Something else, what was your best moment in the scene so far? And what was your worst?"

Best moment: winning the 96K game compo at breakpoint 2006 ;) (A good thing than that I told you that the 96k game compo needed more competitors or it would be cancelled :) -ed)

Worst moment: being constantly reminded I have to finish Pinball Dreams C64. (Please finish it before your retirement please! :) -ed)

By the way, what are you doing for a living now in the real world?

I'm trying to get my PhD in Experimental Physics. (See here the reason for not finishing Pinball Dreams C64 or my new demo ;). It's quite nice work where I study biological surfaces and at the same time develop my own Atomic Force Microscope.

I was about to ask you about Pinball Dreams since you are the main person behind this project from which a preview won Breakpoint 2006! How did this project start? Who are all the people involved? When will this project be 100% finished? Please tell us all there is to know.

It all started with a bet on #c-64 about it being possible or not. I think (it's so long ago already) that it was CreaMD saying it wasn't possible and me saying it was. I can't remember what the rest of the bet was about, but I simply started thinking and coding.. I have to say that so far it has been 10x as much work as I ever imagined. Hats off for people who make games for a living.. But don't worry, I will finish it eventually (even when I'm working hard to finish my new demo first).

Nice that you are making a new demo! Can you tell us something more about this?

As I already mentioned, I'm spending a lot of time to work on my new demo.. Maybe there will be some smaller different projects soon, but I should finish the one I'm working on right now first..

Could you name something entirely new what isn't done before and could you name what routine will be much improved, which we could expect to see in a c64 demo in 2007?

Then I would spoil the fun :D I still have some ideas that I want to try and see if they are actually possible. I had a good idea last week and I'm now working on a C++ program to analyze if it's really possible to do or not. At the moment I still can't say if it will be possible though... I ran into some problems, but on the other hand coming up with new ideas to work around them..

Ok, I hope your ideas work out. Next to the commodore 64 what are you other interests?

I like to hang around in my garden lying in my hammock, and also I like rowing very much. I still go training every week with some friends, even when it's hard to make appointments.

Which party you visited you liked the most and why?

Easy. The X-parties are the best in the world ;) Simply because they are. (See a report of X - 2006 in the party section of hugi#33 -ed)

I can imagine that the X-parties are the best in the world since you are involved in the organizing :) What exactly is your involvement? How long have you already been involved and what makes these parties so popular?

I'm one of the organizers since 2000 and used to organize the compos. Last year I was the money-guy however. I think they are so special because we manage to get a lot of old farts to show up and the whole ambience around it. The location is on a farm, in the middle of nowhere. This means we can do about anything we want without bothering anyone (except the farmer ;) and also means everybody stays at the party place. As a result we have to supply the beer and food (which is included in the entrance fee). Very nice :)

An entrance fee with included consumptions is always great! :) Something else, please tell what programs you are using for making a demo on the c=64.

I use a lot of programs actually. My main working horses are the ConText text-editor and 64tass compiler (and latest WinVICE). I also have made a lot of small tools myself, depending on the needs for the specific parts. In general I have to make roughly 3-4 special tools to get each part working.

You are the main coder of Trans*form released under the group Focus. Congratiolations on the nomination for the demoscene 2006 award. Pity you guys didn't win the award though. Please tell us about this demo!"

I remember Sander/Focus (the graphicsman of this demo -ed) showing me a mockup of the demo some years ago that he was working on and last year he contacted me if I wanted to help him a little bit and I said yes. Trans*form was already finished for about 20%, but still needed a lot of work. The big problem was getting the data quickly enough from the disk and depacking it quickly enough to show it without glitches. I had to make a couple of different packers to crunch the bitmaps down to size. IIRC, there's 3 different packers used in Trans*Form, depending on the specific needs for the picture in question (could be speed or size or both :P)

Let's carry on to the end part of this interview. What does the future look like for the Commodore 64?

I don't know. There seems to be a lot of old sceners coming back with great ideas, so here's me hoping the best ;)

And what are your future plans?

I have absolutely no idea. I'll see where the winds carry me.

Ok, thank you very much for this interview! I give the keyboard to you now for some final lines! Succes on your new demo! And please finish Pinball Dreams once and for all! :)

Hey Jackasser, finish your game please ;) and don't forget to finish my pinball dreams collision editor also ;). Also Hi to everybody I know :)

Note: To see the demo Transform you can watch it on youtube. The Xenon group has a homepage. The X Party has a website. Pinball dreams commodore 64 can be found at and at csdb.

Magic & WVL