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Alive 4
       Interview with Carl Forhan
Source : LynxUK

Exclusive Interview with Carl Forham of Songbird Productions about developing
for the Lynx, it's future and his thoughts about GBA. Interview took place 14th
November 2001.

LynxUK: Hi Carl, thanks for taking time out to do this interview.

Carl: No problem.

LynxUK: Developing for the Atari Lynx has been a hobby of yours for over 3
years now, how much easier do you find it programming for it, and have you
found any new hardware / sprite tricks that you're especially proud of?

Carl: Actually, I've been tinkering with the Lynx for over six years
(wow!). But only in the last three (1999 and onward) have I actually
published games.

I doubt that I've uncovered any significant new tricks on the hardware,
but I am impressed that the Lynx handles C code as well as it does. That's
definitely a feat that has only been accomplished in the Lynx hobby

It is certainly easier developing games the longer you stick iwth it. For
example, SFX and Ponx each took me over a year part-time to complete,
whereas Remnant was done start to finish in perhaps four months.

LynxUK: Continuing from the last question, which game that you've
published or about to, have you worked the hardest on and believe it's the
best game you've released?

Carl: Remnant is the most impressive game I've done in terms of graphics
and scaling and audio. The code is better organized, and the engine is
fairly flexible. Ponx is probably the most enjoyable game I've done on the
Lynx; there's something about a quick high-speed game that's a lot of fun,
even after some years have passed.

LynxUK: What's happened to 'Mechtiles' one of you're 'aquired' titles from
Beyond Games?

Carl: Songbird owns the rights and source to Mechtiles, which, like
CyberVirus, is based on the BattleWheels 3D engine. However, if you ignore
the engine, the game is only 10% complete. So it would be a ton of work to
get this game completed.

LynxUK: Is it true that Harry Dodgson (Lynx Othello fame) helped you with
part of the programming of Cybervirus, if so what part did he play in the
making of the game?

Carl: Harry has graciously offered to assist with the completion of
Ultravore, which was formerly Ultra Vortek by Beyond Games. There are lots
of practical features that need to be implemented: character damage, the
timer, opponent AI, and so on.

LynxUK: When programming for the Lynx, and you're limited to system ram,
does that mean all you're games you've published are 64K?

Carl: A good question. SFX and Ponx are each under 64KB, because at the
time all I had was the BLL support to download my tiny games to Lynx RAM.
Remnant is slightly larger, larger than 64KB but under 100KB IIRC. This
was accomplished by using the Handy emulator to test larger images, as
well as an EPROM burner to try it out on the real Lynx.

Other new games, such as Champ Rally, CyberVirus, Ultravore, etc. are
closer to 256KB.

LynxUK: Do you believe there is a future for the Lynx, regarding sales and
future titles, surely as the months go on less and less people are going
to attracted to the handheld especially now the Gameboy Advance has come

Carl: Even before the GBA, the market for the Lynx was extremely small. I
think we're already down to the core collectors as the only ones who will
buy new games... it's not like the people paying $40 on eBay for a Lynx
with 5+ games are going to turn around and plunk down $30-50 for a single
new Lynx game.

So it's always been a labor of love for me to make new games, and that's
the way it will stay. But certainly, if at some point only 10 or 15 people
are buying new games, then I guess at that point we might see development
stop altogether. Nobody should assume that new Lynx games will always be

LynxUK: What are your thoughts about the other handhelds in the graphical
power, sound, ease of programming compared to the Lynx?

Carl: The GBA is the first handheld to really surpass the Lynx in some
areas (better CPU, more colors onscreen, rotating sprites, etc.). I'm sure
the toolset is quite advanced (no pun intended) when compared to the tools
developed well over 10 years ago for the Lynx.

LynxUK: We all know there are over 60 unreleased games for the Lynx, have
you or do you have any plans to try and buy the rights of these 'lost
games' or are you going to create/publish original games i.e Distant

Carl: I'm always on the lookout for unreleased games, but the rights get
trickier and trickier to nail down over time. Big companies don't want to
be bothered with a niche collector's market, so it's easier for them to
wave you off than comply with a request to license games. So I think we'll
see more new games than licensed games at this point. The notable
exceptions, of course, will be CyberVirus and Ultravore.

LynxUK: What is your most successful game released so far on the Lynx?

Carl: Ponx is the best selling Lynx game Songbird has published. Although
Champ Rally is creeping up on it.

LynxUK: Where do you see yourself in 5 years time, in terms of

Carl: I hope I can continue to do some stuff for the Lynx and Jaguar, but
like anyone else, I also have to evaluate priorities all the time. I now
have a family and lots more personal/church responsibility than I did 5
years ago. In another 5 years, I expect I will only have less free time.
The bottom line is always the same: the more fans that buy any of the new
games (Songbird's or other releases like Sokomania or Othello), the more
incentive someone like me has to keep plugging away at new projects.

LynxUK: Lastly any sneak hints of what you announce next concerning the

Carl: Nothing that isn't already known -- CyberVirus will be my next
release (the CinciClassic version was just released; only 25 copies have
been made). After that, Ultravore is most likely next. After that is too
far away to plan, although I hope Distant Lands will also get completed
maybe in 2002.

LynxUK: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview.

Carl: My pleasure! Always fun to discuss the Lynx.

Alive 4