To some of you the name of Heinz Rudolf may not sound familiar still I'm sure
your memory will be shortly freshened thanks to the following lines. Atari
shooters fans surely had a great deal of fun with their machine playing Xenon
2, Wings of Death and others. Well Heinz Rudolf was responsible for all gfx
plus some coding in the sequel to Wings of Death AKA Lethal Xcess. As a funny
story I happened to play LX before finding out about Wings of Death ! Actually
the former had my preference thanks to its furious two player option which
found me and my friends really addicted !
Some time ago announce was spread that the official Lethal Xcess homepage was
opened at http://lethalxcess.atari.org. There you can read lots of stuff about
the game development, feedback, levels maps, music... No need to spoil the
surprise, you'd better pay a respectable and nostalgic visit to the website
mentioned above. Since Heinz kindly accepted to spend some time answering my
questions, I hope this interview will get you even more nostalgic and wake up
nice memories !
STS : Hallo Heinz ! We shall start with the usual introduction : please tell
us about your current status and responsibilities in the making of LX.
Heinz: Well, where shall I start ? I am currently working as a freelancer in
the, so called "IT business". Consulting, training, web-design just to mention
some of the activities that where constantly requested from my customers.
It's nice because I never do the same thing twice, there is a lot of new tasks
every day and so the job never gets boring and last not least I am my own
boss. The last three years I have been very busy, and there was not much time
left for anything but my girlfriend and my two little children.
If you want to know who was responsible for what, just look on the credits
page of http://lethalxcess.atari.org. Mainly I did the artwork for LX with two
exceptions. The Spectrum 512 title picture and the little font from the main-
menu were done by Tanis of TCB. Besides I was responsible for some editors and
for the game design.
In the current project LX 2002 I am responsible for nearly everything, because
Claus has simply no time. But thanks to the internet, everybody could assist
me with graphics or whatever. Some guys from France joined our forces and
promised to do some graphics. You could assist too, if you still can draw with
the great NEOchrome Master (thanks to Chaos Inc. AKA Till Bubeck for improving
this great piece of software) just contact me. But you better visit the
website, because I will tell you in detail what we need and what progress is
made in the projects subdivision.
STS : now for some history lesson. We would like to know how you came to work
on LX especially when thinking that this sequel was developed by a different
team. Why did the makers of Wings of Death didn't go on with the sequel ? Were
they bored with making games ? Already busy with other activities ? We want to
Heinz: LX was no sequel to WoD when the development started. We had been
working on a jump and run, when Xenon II hit the scene. We kicked away all
jump and run stuff and started working on a shoot'em up. The sprite engine
and the sync scrolling where finished long before we visited Marc and showed
him our engine. Marc had left Thalion and founded his own company (Eclipse) at
this time and he was searching for new games to distribute. He would have done
WoD II himself, but LX was the same genre, the engine was finished and lots of
graphics had been painted. And nobody believed that we would get the
permission to use the title WoD II, so why should he begin a new game from
scratch, when another one is partially finished.
STS : I read that you belonged to an ATARI demo crew before working on LX. What
about it ? Did you release demos ? games ? Was it when you met other people
who were to work on LX as well ? Btw is there's nice stuff we can get, don't
hesitate to give us some essential url.
That's true, our demo crew was named XTroll and consisted of Sunnyboy, Nexus 6
and the Cyclone. Claus Frein (Sunnyboy) and Mirko Moenninghoff (Nexus 6) coded
lots of amazing (?) stuff on the ST. But we had been pretty isolated. Demos of
other crews passed us mainly one year late, if they came at all. Claus main
business was cracking and coding but he did it just for fun, we never spreaded
anything. For example when we cracked Warp (one of the first Thalion Games) we
called Thalion and visited them with our cracked copy.
Michael Bittner seemed impressed, because his whole game was a mainly a copy-
protection with scrolling and sound FX. If I remember right, Claus fixed a bug
in his crack too, that crashed the original somewhere in the game. Nexus 6 did
graphics, coding and sounds and he was involved in the early development of
LX, but he decided to quit on LX and enjoy the nice summer instead, I think it
had been a good decision, if you look on the money we earned with that game.
The Cyclone, that's my nickname did mainly programming and artwork. We coded
some Demos but we never released them ;-) There where some nice scrollers in
the early days, a bob-demo with lots of sprites, distorters, the Longscreen (a
scroller that is loading graphics from disk while they are scrolling on the
screen). Most of our demos where technology studies for other programs that
where coded afterwards. Claus used his fast disk-routines in the fastest copy
program on the ST called Turbobooster. It had many advanced features I can't
remember today. I did some demos on my own, (New Year Demo, Neo Show) and
spent a lot of time with sync-scrolling and overscan research, but I never
included the final routines in any demo.
There was only one Demo we released, it's called the AUDIOPAC-Demo. It had
lots of chip tunes build in and you could play Pac-Man while listening. If you
want to take a look try http://xtroll.atari.org.
STS : back to Lethal Xcess. Surely you remember lots of funny or not so funny
stories about the game development. Did you have previous experience in this
field ? And what happened to the development team afterwards ? Do you still
work in the gaming industries ?
Heinz: That's a lot of questions, let's start with the funny stories. There is
one story which is very hard to believe. When we coded LX we used a rather old
font for the intro and end-sequence. It had been partially finished in summer
1990 and wasn't used because I wasn't happy with some of the letters, well
truly I still hate the "R" and the "B" today. When we released LX in 1991 there
had been a demo-crew called "Cybernetics" which used a very similar font in
some of their demos. I can't remember that I have ever heard about that group
nor their demos until May 2002, when I accidentally hit their Website. Looking
at their logo I thought: "Wow, these guys ripped the LX font and improved it."
But when I sent an email to Jerome Hubert AKA Metal Ages it figured out, that
he created this font and logo totally independent. And to make it worse, the
Cybernetics thought that we had ripped their font for Lethal Xcess.
The Cybernetics mentioned this in the credits screen of their Relapse demo.
They sent some greetings to Thalion for ripping their graphics. That's a funny
thing too, because nobody at Thalion had been involved in LX, they only allowed
us to use the subtitle WOD II for our game, which had indeed been very nice of
Thalion. That's the only near funny story I can tell. There had been many
stories in the past, but that had been a decade ago, I am not sure I could tell
them correctly today, so I won't try.
Let's get to our "previous experience" in the field of game-design. Game
development is very hard work, today it has become a real industry. In the 90s
it had been mainly testing and modifying ideas. A good game should be fair but
not too easy. In LX we pushed it to the limit, it's a nice game for hardcore
shoot'em up professionals, but it's not nearly as hard as some old Arcade
Before LX we had only played games on different systems (Atari ST / Amiga /
Mega-Drive / PC-Engine / Neo Geo). LX was our first and last game. We earned
only 4.000 EUR with LX, and since it had been one year of very hard work, we
decided to stop wasting our time. At last it was not our decision, it had been
the decision of the German Atari / Amiga users who decided to play some boring
adventure or strategic games as well as RPG's, which used only 10% of the
capabilities their hardware offered. And it had been the decision of all those
guys who played LX without purchasing it. Today we are both IT-consultants and
still good friends, even Mirko is in the IT-business, he is some kind of
web-design-wizard and a great coder too (http://www.mouseattack.de).
STS : This leads me to ask you why you decided to open an official LX homepage
some time ago. Was it by pure nostalgia or were you kind of sick of the PC
world where tons of brainless games are released every month ?
Heinz: It's a whole lot of nostalgia and the fact that new ST(E) emulators,
like STEEM showed up on the scene which allowed lots of people to play LX on
their current machines. It took exactly one year from contacting the STEEM
guys (Hi Russ) to playing LX on STEEM. Since STEEM 2.2, it's fully supported.
I would love to see LX running on SainT, but today that's not working. Maybe
I could motivate Leonard (Hi Arnaud!) to improve his Emulator a bit.
It's true there are tons of games released every month that can be simply
called trash. But there had always been a few good games and lots of trash.
Just take a look at the software archives for the ST or Amiga and ask yourself
how many good games where released a decade ago. And while you are at it, take
a close look at the Amiga Version of the same game, and honestly ask yourself
which one is better. It had been no big deal coding a technical excellent game
for the Amiga, but it was very hard to do it on the ST. We coded 3 month for
the ST version of LX, most time had been spent on optimising sprite routines
and a sync-scrolling that works on all machines. The Amiga version had been
done in less than a week, including the "Amiga on a wire tools", which allows
us to assemble directly into the memory of a connected Amiga from the ST. In
fact there is no Amiga-Source for LX, there is only one source for both
STS : now I can't resist to ask you this question : you rumoured a sequel to
LX on your homepage. Is it some kind of crazy dream or are there actually
people interested in this project ?
I am a bit surprised to hear that question, especially from you, because you
are one of these guys who can't wait for a new version of LX :). Well, it's
definitely no dream. I get a lot of eMails from people who liked LX and would
like a sequel, even today. I'm actually thinking about a PC-Version of LX
because I decided to learn C++ and converting LX will be my motivation to learn
it really quick. It's unbelievable what you can do on a current PC, even if you
use only C. Whether you like it or not, the PC had become an unbelievable
powerful machine and thanks to DirectX you don't have to code for lots of
different hardware anymore. But maybe we will port it to the GBA first, I am
currently thinking about it. Marc converted WoD to GBA but it looks like it
will never be released because nobody knows who owns the rights today.
STS : btw, I'm now listening to that great TURRICAN soundtrack CD I bought
from a German website. Do you know if there are such CDs featuring soundtracks
from Wings of Death 1 and 2 ? Any plan to do one then ?
Some of the Soundtracks are still released on CD, you can download them from
Alexander Hollands website (Thalion Webshrine) or you can order them on CD from
the Thalion Source. I hope Jochen gets his part from the sales. But as you
mention it, I will try to contact Jochen and see what I can do for you. BTW the
CDs are called "Give it a try" (two tracks from Wings of Death) and "Jochen
Hippel remixed" (Level 4 Track from Lethal Xcess), but there is no collection
with only WoD and LX soundtracks on it. The "remixed" CD seems to be no official
stuff, maybe it's a bootleg, but you better ask Jochen for that.
Maybe we will sell an official CD from the LX site, and if that ever happens, it
would be nice if you would really buy it instead of copying it. The price will
not be very high and the profits will be shared between Jochen and the current
development team. Our (small) part will be used to speed up development of LX,
and if this happens to work, maybe Jochen will be motivated to do more after-
wards. We are currently thinking of a way to manage all of this without much
risk on the financial side. In fact I already have a good idea how to do this
and I will try to put all information on our site ASAP. But 1st Jochen has to
agree and deliver the sounds. I have already contacted him some days ago, and
he told me that the rights for the composition still belong to him. He only
sold the rights for a single version of each song, on a specific platform.
If Jochen can deliver anything we will offer it to everybody who wants it.
STS : how did you find out that the ATARI scene was not dead ? Did you browse
the net at random or did you feel the urge to know what had happened with the
machine you had spent so much time on ?
I have been always aware of the Atari scene, but I simply had no time left to
get in touch. Today the retro-wave catches most of the old coders. There are
lots of people coding still on the ZX-Spectrum as well as ST or Amiga. One day
I used Google and searched for "Lethal Xcess", I couldn't believe how many hits
I got. I scanned through all the sites and found many mistakes and false
information. I contacted some webmasters and sent in corrections. But some of
them seemed to be too busy to answer, so I decided to create the official
Lethal Xcess Website, that has been in February 2001. It had grown a lot in the
last year, and surprisingly there's always something new popping out of the web
that we never thought of.
STS : future ? Yep since we're not dead, does it make you want to contribute
once again to our friendly community ? Do you have nay contacts with active
sceners ? What about sceners you met a decade ago ?
Well that contacts have been lost, except for the X-Troll guys, which where
close friends anyway. Last month I called Marc Rosocha. If I have the time
I do some chatting with Leonard (SainT / ST-Sound-Plugin) but have never met
him so far. He seems to be the best ST Demo Coder alive and a very nice guy
too. A lot of new contacts comes from the website, there is a lot of very nice
mail and support coming from Atari sceners.
And last not least I am trying to contact people which had been involved in
Lethal Xcess. I found Richard Karsmakers that way, and he delivered me some
nice stories for Lethal Xcess. I had never seen them before. For those who
want to read them, visit the stories department of the LX website.
STS : Have you already attended parties or not ? What about attending one ?
Surely the current ATARI sceners would love to meet and talk to someone like
We had visited some local parties during the development of LX, I think they
had been organized by a guy called Dirk Hoeschen AKA Captain Headcrash. But
since we released no demos, we never achieved something like "fame" and so we
never got any invitations, as I said we had been pretty isolated ;-) Things
changed when we accidentially met Marc on a computer fair, soon afterwards we
presented a cracked Version of Warp to the Thalion guys and after that we met
a lot of the oldskool heroes like TEX, Delta Force, TCB, TLB...
STS : What's your opinion regarding the survival of ATARI systems ? Are you
interested in clones ? Would you like to see more stuff on the good old ST ?
Have you actually watched the last generation demos on ST such as Suretrip,
Sweetie, Do Things, Breath to name a few ?
Heinz: That's a lot of questions, let's start with the survival of Atari.
Honestly, I have no idea. The ST(E) will survive as long as there is such a
great community to support it. I can't tell how long that will last.
Let's get to the clones, well what clones should that be? Atari as we know it
is long gone, maybe you can create a new (Multi)-TOS based machine, I think
the guys who build the Milan series own the rights to this OS now. But the
Milan was quite expensive. Coldfire ? Why not, but there is a small problem
with spare-time projects (I can tell you :) And last not least remember :
"Atari, Power without the price". What power could beat the performance of a
low priced Athlon or Duron? (I hope nobody would hit me for that :)
I am frequently buying old Atari hardware on German eBay from time to time.
I would like to get a Falcon and maybe a TT, but they are rare and expensive.
Would I like to see more stuff on the old ST ? Yes why not, it's always a
pleasure to see some nice demos on that old hardware. With 10 or more years
and the internet as an information source it should be easy for the right guy
to code cool stuff on the ST. Today the best kept secrets are available to all
of us, on dozens of web pages. It would have been great if we would have had
that resources in the old days. Even working together in a team is easier
today, we simply knew nobody when we started with the ST.
Suretrip? Breath? You are honestly asking me to comment these demos, I think
you can give a better comment on them :) Since that newskool/oldskool debate
on DHS I have watched a lot of those newer demos. Thanks to evil for putting
the nice list together. Before that, the only recent stuff I had seen was done
by Leonard, he seems to have a lot of time :) Beside Leonards demos I really
like the "Odd Stuff" demo, which combines technical quality with nice visuals
and lots of amazing graphics. It's the direction the Amiga scene went shortly
before I left the scene.
STS : Before I forget, please tell us about stuff we could send you to help
you complete your homepage. What can we expect to find over there in a near
future ? Personally, I would love to get my hands on the gfx you made for the
game. Can we dream of that ? :)
Hmmm, we are always searching for reviews of Lethal Xcess we don't own, there
is still a lot of stuff missing e.g. the review you sent in :-). There are some
scans in low quality or missing. It would be also nice to get the original
magazines but a 150-300 DPI scan in Photoshop format would do nearly as good.
The graphics are already on the pages, just take a close look at the level
maps. The bosses will be added to the gallery if I ever get the time and the
other stuff will follow, bit by bit.
What do we need then? Graphics are always welcome, because that's the most time
consuming part for me. I would like some cool manga-style comics for the intro
and end-sequence. SH3 from the RGs promised to paint this stuff, I can't wait
to see the drafts. The missing stuff it's not defined very sharply. If you
think you can help us, just ask. That's what we've got an eMail-address for.
STS : Do you still have contacts with these famous Sceners behind Thalion
Software or Eclipse ? Other contacts with extra people like Mad Max ?
Heinz: I called Marc some weeks ago, and I chatted with Jochen last week, but
otherwise I would say no. I will try to contact Erik Simon because of some
permissions for WoD, maybe he can help me with some questions concerning the
rights. But if I remember right Alex asked him about that too, and the
situation is not very easy, because Thalion gave away the rights the last days
before the company closed it's gates forever. I would also like to contact
Till Bubeck and ask him something about NEOchrome Master. And I haven't seen
Michael Raasch, who is also a nice guy, for an eternity.
STS : it's time to get your braincells boiling with our "customized"
brainstorming exercise ! Fill in the blanks with whatever comes to you.
H : [H]ighlander a nice fantasy movie from the 80s. I liked only the 1st part.
E : [E]ric Simon that's my son, the name accidentally reminds me of ...
I : [I]nvincible Spirit, some kind of hardcore electronic music from the 80s.
N : [N]iclas Thisell a great coder which didn't only belong to TCB but did
some great games and demos for the ST.
Z : [Z]1, a very nice German car from my customer BMW.
R : [R]otator, a tank game with a rotating playfield which had never been
finished on the ST. Same thing with the [R]oman Empire which had been
a strategic game like Nectaris (PC-Engine). I painted all the graphics
but the coder Klaus-Peter Plog AKA Plogi AKA Blue Devil never finished
it. You will find them in my website soon.
U : [U]nreal Tournament, nice ego-shooter, even if I prefer Quake III Team
Arena. We had lot's of fun with some clan members of MTW, hell these
guys where good :-) (http://www.mymtw.de)
D : [D]esperado, my favourite action movie, gets 11 out of 10 ;-) otherwise
O : [O]pen Source, which should be the future of coding, if M$ and others
don't succeed in trying to change the rules (e.g. DCMA II). And
maybe a nice demo called [O]dd Stuff.
L : [L]ea Katharina, my sweet 5 years old daughter. Or more Atari related
[L]eonard one of the best coders alive and a nice guy too.
F : [F]lashback, the last demo of TCB with a very strange scrolltext. I
wonder what mushrooms Tanis had tasted when he wrote it :-)
STS : thanks for giving us some of your time. We surely appreciate it a lot !
Now do you have some sort of message you would like to spread out to our
last words. I REALLY want to thank you for bringing us what is still my
favourite ST shoot'em up (long hours spent killing the bastards and working
out my thumb :)
Heinz: That explains why you exhaust all your lifes in level 1, the thumb is
too slow, use a different trigger-finger if you want to win ;-). Ok, it's up
to me to say some final words now. Thanks for thinking that I am important
enough to do an interview with me. Thanks for all those nice eMails from the
ST community. And thanks to all the ST coders, artists and musicians and last
not least the webmasters who kept the scene alive in the last 10 years (50 Hz
or not, who cares :). Keep on with your excellent work!