Another treat for you Atari Jaguar homebrew fans, in fact, for you Lynx homebrew fans as well! Bastian Schick (aka 42Bastian) is a master of both, perhaps the only one we know which makes him a bit special. We sent Adrian along to find out a lot more about the man himself and his work. Why not check out his Lynx work right here.
How did you get the opportunity to enter the video game industry?
Actually I did never really “enter” it. I got a slight view of it when Lars Baumstark and I did the BJL kit for the Jaguar.
Can you remember the first ever video game you worked on?
I am more a tools-guy. So the first game was T-Tris.
What initially inspired you to make games for the Lynx and can you tell our readers a little more about some of titles?
At first we only wanted to hack the Lynx and get our own software running on it. Lars added a real keyboard and I wrote a small OS for the Lynx. We did show this around at an Atari Fair in Düsseldorf or CeBIT and came in contact with a guy who wanted to make a driving license learning game. Since the coders he had engaged did not get something out for 6 months he asked Lars (HW) and me (SW) if we could produce it.
While working on this, a cousin told me, she would buy a Lynx, if there would be Tetris for it, so I started this.
S.I.M.I.S also started a bit weird as I first wrote a Space Invaders for fun, but then Lars thought we might sell it, so I asked Matthias Domin if he would provide also a game or two and wrote myself Isolation to get a nice bundle of games. At this time (1997/1998) no one would have paid 30 Euros for Invaders alone. It is horrible, what some guys try to sell these days …
Out of all the games you have worked on, which one are you most proud of and why?
Actually, there is none I am “most proud of”. All three “games” were cool projects.
The driving license program meant a lot of hacking and brain tweaking to get all the questions, pictures and signs into 512K. T-Tris was fun as it was the first Lynx card ever with save game feature. And the ComLynx code really gave me some sleepless nights.
And S.I.M.I.S, well I am happy Duranik gave me the font from Native and I could port it and it looks sooo cool 🙂
The Atari Lynx was probably the most powerful handheld console during the early 90s. What are your own views on this often underappreciated console?
I never worked on any other 8-bit console, but looking back, the Lynx was one of the easiest to program.
Why do you think the Atari Lynx never really took off and what would you have done differently if you helped promote the console?
Atari’s marketing was simply bad. Nintendo did sell the Game Boy nearly everywhere (in Germany). From game stores over supermarkets to DIYer markets. I also think, the Lynx was too much ahead of its time.
You are probably the first ever homebrew creator for both the Lynx and the Jaguar. How does it feel now that you were quite a pioneer in now a very passionate community?
Is it like this? I never looked at it like this. But I am a little proud about this. So I got my 15min of fame I guess. At least, I guess, we were the first to hack a closed system. There was a homebrew movement on the VCS around 1993. I did trade a copy of T-Tris for a Ed Federmeyer’s EdTris for the VCS.
How did you get hold of the required (and at the time) rare dev kits to produce your own games for the Lynx and Jaguar?
When Lars and I started, we did not have a dev kit at all. Atari made a mistake in the encryption of Gauntlet and so we could get our own code running. Lars made a SRAM card, so we could easily try out things. Though I later got an Howard Board (Lynx dev kit), it never worked as parts where missing. But we also got the documentation which helped to understand the Lynx and improve our tools (for example the sprite packer).
We also had no Atari dev kit for the Jaguar. We had the documentation, though, which helped to write the Assembler. BJL wasn’t the first as there existed J-Server. But BJL was much cheaper, as it only meant an additional EPROM, a switch and a few cables.
T-Tris is one of the games you are most known for. How did you get the inspiration to create this game and you a huge Tetris fan?
As noted above, my cousin inspired me. Of course I was (and still am) a Tetris fan. But I did this for fun and only for me. But Lars insisted that we might sell it so I had to “polish” the first version by adding title, save game and sound.
Can you briefly run through how easy (or difficult) it is to create a game from scratch on the Atari Jaguar and Lynx?
It is not really difficult to write for the Lynx nowadays. You can do it in 6502 or in C. In cc65 or BLL there are examples you can start off. The crucial part is to remember that you have a limited system and not megabytes of memory.
The Jaguar is a multi-CPU system and thus factors more complicated. Let alone, there is no “video memory”. In order to get maximum performance on the Jaguar you have to forget the 68k and write only GPU code. But since the GPU cannot run in external memory you have to swap-in and out code to the internal RAM. Doable, but tricky.
Are you currently working on any future games and when do you hope to get them released?
I long ago started a Zoop! clone for the Lynx and lately uploaded a snap-shot on AtariAge.com (named Zap). If I will finish it someday? I am not sure. At the moment I try to connect an Xilinx Zynq (FPGA, Cortex-A9) to the Lynx and use it as an external numbercrunsher. If this works and could be placed on a normal Lynx card, it would allow new types of games 😉
If money and time were no object, do you have an idea for original Jag or Lynx game you would love to see released?
I would love to see a re-release of the Lynx pimped up with a modern TFT-LCD, better batteries and WLAN.
If you could share a few drinks with a video game character, who would you choose and why?
I am not a gamer. So, I do not know any. But I would love to have a cup of tea with Jeff Minter and listen to his story.