Boller: Contests support the development of new games

Boller (on the right) wearing the official t-shirt of his game. On the left, the musician Mark "POISON" Pesout.
Jim Slide, the first game of Ingo "1NG" Boller written in assembler, won this year´s ABBUC 2015 software competition. Ingo kindly accepted to share with Atariteca details about his project as well as his impressions regarding the current Atari scene.

ATARITECA: Tell us a little about yourself.

INGO BOLLER: I live in northern Germany near Lübeck with my wife and two kids. I work as a software architect for a middle-sized company in the manufacturing systems engineering sector.

Why the nick "1NG"? 

My name is Ingo and I am Ingenieur (Engineer). And also was free available.

How did your relationship with Atari computers start?

It started right with the first availability of the Atari 800 in Germany. I bought one for 2500 DM (~2650€ today) and used it without a floppy or cassette drive for 6 months. There were no books about Atari available at that time. So I used books about IBM computers. Later books written in English were available in the town 35 kilometers away from home. My brother and I did a lot of games in BASIC without graphics first. In 1985 I did the biggest BASIC program: U91 Das Boot. Again with not much graphics, but sound. We played that on the old 800 with 4 people a lot.

Please, tell me a little more about U91 Das Boot. What was it about?

It is a mainly text based strategic game for 1 to 4 players in German language. It was made after the film “Das Boot” aired in Germany. The players need to cooperate to help each other. Your boat can drive from home into the sea to look for tankers.

A major game aspect is also to test the limits and not to die various deaths by to low oxygen or hitting the ground. You can start by setting the engine, open the airlock and put some men on deck to look for enemies or you can dive to periscope depth and set your way from there. If you see an enemy, you can fire torpedoes (if you have loaded them) with slightly various angles. If one of the boats is in trouble and tries to steal itself away at slow speed, then the other boats can attack the destroyer. When your turn begins, you should hear if a fighter airplane attack is on the way. There is no sign except the sound. The sound gets louder every move you do and the plane will attack after your three moves. A small introduction is included to the program. Look at the title screen: The program is now 30 years old.

What are your thoughts on the Atari 8-bit scene in Germany?

In the past, there were only a typical copy scene, but mostly in the bigger cities. I never met other programmers that time. Today the scene in Germany is cool. Thanks to the internet and WhatsApp we can communicate about new stuff or ways to solve problems. I also participate on every meeting of the RENO, the northern regional group of the ABBUC, every second month with about 12 to 20 people.

How did you come with the idea for Jim Slide?

I was looking for game ideas from the NOMAM meeting with the famous Tenliner contest. Usually I draw about 10 to 20 screens of ideas and reduce them to 3. Then I spend one day on every idea and keep only the most promising. While doing that, I wanted to steer a player (a ball) around with a joystick, but I made a mistake in the (very short) program. So the player didn’t stop and I thought “Heureka!, that is cool!”.

After that, I did a kind of game like Jim Slide called “SlideTen” as a Tenliner, with only 10 lines of code, but 5 complete levels in screen size. It was a lot of work getting it into only 10 lines and needed some extra programs to achieve that. But that is the fun of the Tenliner competition: You can do lot things in a lot of ways.

The idea was cool and I thought about doing that again, but this time in assembler with music and better graphics etc. And I thought of making a game with more feeling. So I came up with a hero and a story. He was first named by 8BitJunkie (Dimo’s Quest) as Sliding Jimmy. That is his name. This became Jim Slide, but friends still say Sliding Jimmy...

Where did you get the inspiration from to get in this project?

Like I said above, from SlideTen; and then I thought about other things that would be fun, like bumpers, keys and locks, weak walls... And I wanted a game with no limited lives, time or something. The concept of collecting crowns was added some time later. The skip feature and restart were added too.

Please, give me a short explanation of the main features of the game.

Jim Slide uses character based graphics, screen with 6 channel, sound packed in (actual) 48 levels. Jim is a 5 colored animated player in 6 by 14 pixels. While doing levels all designers explored different types of levels and features. You need to play (the level called) Possibly, there will be an Atari ST version written in C and assembler.

When the game will be finally released, will it be possible to play it in emulators? Will it be available for free? If not, how much will it cost and how will it be presented (cardbox, cart)?

There will be special editions for collectors available. First will be a boxed version with poster and printed story and a nice disk. There will be a very limited special edition with blue disks. Next year will be a cartridge-based edition available. The box in 17x23x4 cm (BxHxT) is € 49. It is possible to get the box now and the module only later. The preorder has already started.

What are your next plans after Jim Slide?

After Jim Slide limited edition in a box, there may be a Jim Slide for Atari ST. Besides that, nothing is planned. I work on a project, but I don’t know if that works well on the Atari. I tends to be too big for the 8Bit Atari.

Do you still own an Atari 8-bit computer? 

I own my old 800 and the 810. I have another 800 with incognito and a 130xe with VBXE and dual pokey.

Which are your all-time favorite Atari 8-bit games? Why?

Mule for the 4 player fun; Star Raiders for the space shooting fun; Rally Speedway, SAGA Pirates Adventure for learning english and a lot more.

What about “modern classics” like His Dark Majesty, Space Harrier...?

I like a lot of them! Space Harrier is a milestone in technical aspect, but I have not that much fun playing it. I like the fun games a lot like multiplayer Heli Cops, Bomberman games, Rubacka vo kopec, Mashed Turtles and others. All well designed games. For single player games, I also like some new games like Dimo’s Quest, Ridiculous Reality and The Hunt. Even a lot Tenliners make fun. Of course, with only ten lines of code you cannot compete to the big titles, but fun doesn’t need perfect graphics and sound. For example, 2047 is a great game in only 10 lines.

What are your impressions of the current Atari 8-bit scene?

There is a lot of people who are spending quiet some time with the Atari and are doing a lot for the Atari scene in different ways. And there are good programmers as well. And I like, that starting programming on the Atari in Basic is still easy. Programming in assembler got easier with Mads, WUDSN and Altirra. Competitions like Tenliner and ABBUC Software Contest support furthermore the development of new programs and games.

Any recommendations for those that like you want to embark themselves on the task of resurrecting/creating games for Atari 8-bit computers?

If you have an idea, try to start simple. It gets complex by itself. I recommend making prototypes to see how they work. You need help! Try to get as many help as possible. You need graphics, sound and other technical stuff.

Any final thoughts you would like to add...

The development of a game can take a lot of time, but it is fun. Ignore the few trolls in forums and all others appreciate your work! Jim Slide is not very pretty on the first look, but if you play some levels you will see, that it is fun and challenging.

For Jim Slide I wish, that the sum of all played hours together will be higher than the time spent to build it by all the people who made Jim Slide possible: POISON, Bunsen, Super Mario, Jan Atari, Ghaland, 8BitJunkie, Yellow Man, Fandal, JAC, José Pereira and other atarians. Thank you all for spending so much time with help on code, sound, graphics, levels and testing!



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Atariteca: Boller: Contests support the development of new games
Boller: Contests support the development of new games
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