RVG Interviews Mikael Tillander.

Here we have another exclusive interview for you all, Mikael Tillander, part of Wide Pixel Games is the creator of two of the best Homebrew C64 titles recently released, Knight’n’Grail & PAINS ‘N’ ACHES both published through Psytronik Software, Mikael is working on a couple of new Homebrew titles so read on to learn more about those and the man himself.

The Interview

Zapiy

Thank you for agreeing to our interview, please take a moment to  tell us a little about you?

Mikael

Thanks for asking! I’m Mikael, I live in Linköping, Sweden with two kids and a wife. I Love playing pinball and doing all sorts of retro stuff. My favourite game of all time is Gun Smoke (arcade) which is the only PCB I’ve got. I’ve started developing a tribute game to it several times without finishing any of them. It’s kind of holy grail, it needs to be perfect.

Zapiy

What was the first game you created?

Mikael

The first (complete) game I did was in 1986, a shmup for the C64 called “Diamond Denese”. Hewson didn’t want it. My first rejection. 🙂

Zapiy

Did you release Diamond Denese and if not would you consider it?

Mikael

Those disks are long lost, unfortunately.

Greyfox

What do you for a living now?

Mikael

I’m working as a developer for an industrial camera producer. Mainly JAVA coding.

Greyfox

Can you tell us what prompted you to make games for old systems?

Knight'n'GrailMikael

I’ve always loved doing pixel art, although I mostly suck at it. And during a parental leave period I started fiddling with the C64 again, after more than 20 years after that Hewson rejection. I wanted to see if I could apply what I’d learnt doing my day job and that test turned out to be Knight’n’Grail.

Greyfox

Knight’n’Grail being your first comeback game is some achievement, where did the inspiration for this title come from?

Mikael

Castlevania: sotn is always an inspiration, I guess. I made a mock-up and posted it to pixeljoint, and it rolled on from there.

PAINS 'N' ACHESZapiy

PAINS ‘N’ ACHES is an amazing game, so a few questions for you: What limitations did you find when creating the game?

Mikael

Memory and processing power are always an issue. The game has the possibility to scroll with 8 pixels per frame so  there’s not much time space left for loads of enemies on-screen at the same time. And at the end of the project I ran out of memory as well. Would have loved to have more stuff in there, but when every single byte starts to count it’s time to call it done and ship it.

Zapiy

Did you have timelines built-in to the management of these games?

Mikael

No time lines, we worked on PAINS ‘N’ ACHES, on and off for a time span of 7 years. Some years nothing was made to the game at all, though.

TrekMD

Do you actually meet each other at events? (team members)

Mikael

None of us goes to any events or fairs, I think. I used to work with Hans, but Håkon I’ve never met in person. He’s a pinball player, just like me, so we’re bound to run into each other sometime.

Zapiy

Can you tell us more about your new C64 game Geo Six please? Genre, Story and its influence?

Mikael

It’s kind of like Knight’n’Grail when it comes to exploration. But the main character is this thing called Sparky, that can be downloaded into different hosts. You start in the body of a broken host, crawling your way without legs to a transfer station, where you transfer your mind to a new host. There are different puzzles to solve that requires you to use the right kind of host. Technically, the two most notable changes is that the game has vertically scrolling areas as well and huge enemies and other sprite objects. Been wanting to do this game since my childhood, don’t remember the influences really but I guess that really bad movie Hardware (1990) was one. 😊

TrekMD

Your Megadrive game looks fantastic, can you tell about where the idea came from?

Mikael

Thanks. I got a Mega Drive, out of the blue, as a Christmas (2017) gift from my wife. Played a few games on it and almost immediately got the urge to do something for it. Surfed the web and found SGDK, a C lib for doing MD/genesis development. Turns out it was working way over expectations. The MD is a blast processing machine, for sure! And doing it in C is way faster, development time wise, than doing it in assembler. Which is a welcome relief compared to the C64 game (Geo Six) that I’m also working on in parallel.

I was looking for an idea for the game when I remembered Hagane on the SNES and decided on a hack and slash platformer sort of game. I also wanted the game to be less ambitious than Pains’n’Aches and especially Geo Six. I wanted the game to have a playable demo by the 26th of May. A boxed game on a real cart, running on the real hardware at the fair Retrospelsmässan.se. Turns out I probably won’t make the fair, the cover art isn’t ready (commissioned it from a very talented artist) yet so I can’t print the covers for the boxes and have everything ready by then. The game itself has more done to it than first anticipated, though, which is good. So I’m now aiming to have the game complete by September. There’s a retro game fair in Malmö then. Influences to the game are Hagane, Osman, Guyver, all art by Keita Amemiya and some art by Roger Dean. And we’ve decided on a name for the game now as well, Tänzer. It’s German for dancer. And seeing Osman is an inspiration for the game, it’s more than fitting…

Zapiy

Do you doing all the development individually?

Mikael

Yes. For Tänzer it’s me and a new musician, Johan Agurén. Hans Axelsson did all of the music for KnG and PnA and Håkon Repstad was involved in the art/gfx for those games. I do all of the coding and most of the pixel art. You could say I just do the fun stuff. 🙂

Greyfox

As your working on retro games (C64/Megadrive), one would assume this is a good way if seeing how different games are to create for each system. Could you tell us a little about your thoughts on this?

Mikael

I’ve only done it for the C64 and for the MD, thus far. Doing it for the MD is almost like doing a retro styled game for a modern PC. Except that you don’t have to do ugly bloom effects or pretentious impact effects. Doing it for the C64 is like constantly banging your head against a wall. For me at least. 🙂

Zapiy

Whats next?

Mikael

Finish of Geo Six. Unless I decide to do another MD game…

Zapiy

Will there be a physical release of the Tänzer?

Mikael

Yes. I feel that is part of all of this fun. Nice cover with awesome cover art, screen shots on the back with a blurb and a nice sticker on the cart. Just recently asked twitter about the type of the cover and I think we landed in doing a EUR style one with the JAP style on the back as well as a US style with the BRAZilian on the back of that one. So, you get to choose which one.

Greyfox

Are you surprised with the resurgence in retro gaming?

Mikael

No. Old games are all about getting a quick-fix of gaming.

Zapiy

Any thoughts for doing games on other systems? CPC464, Dreamcast or Spectrum.

Mikael

Actually did some tinkering with the Vectrex some time ago. Forgot about that, might try it someday for real. The Dreamcast is too much like a modern PC. 🙂

Zapiy

Do you have any games that are just sitting on your drives unfinished that you may release one day?

Mikael

Not finished, no. But I’ve probably got around 100 games with more than two stages done to them. Yeah, most of my games are stage based. :)No plans to finish any of them, either.

Zapiy

How did your hook up with the fantastic Psytronik come about?

Mikael

Kenz contacted me after I released a demo of KnG and asked if I wanted it boxed and released. And it was around that time that Håkon asked if he could do the cover art for it as well. And he then also made the background and enemies for one of the “worlds” in the game.

Finally

A huge thanks to Mikael for taking the time to chat to us and we wish him the best of luck on future projects.

Discussion Here

Wide Pixel Games or follow Mikael on Twitter

Retro head and key holder of RVG.

zapiy

Retro head and key holder of RVG.