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Pele

Pele

Introduction

They wanted to do it all themselves ... The cracking, the coding and the graphics. That's why they created The Lemmings compact disks. Read all about the history of this group in this double interview with Pele and Quantum Man.

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Pele Interview

Written by Brume

June 2, 2002

1) Introduction
2) First Atari ST
3) The meeting
4) Compilations
5) Favorite tools
6) The British Alliance
7) Favorite games & demos
8) The Lemmings have gone
9) 50th issue?
10) Activity
11) Other members
12) Last words


1) Hello Quantum Man and Pele. Well, it's custom overhere to introduce yourself first (age, passion, job, ...).
Pele: I'm 28, I work in the videogames industry, and my passion is Atari!
Quantum Man: I am 27 years old. I have two jobs really, I am IT Manager for a local firm, but I am also a company director there as well. My passions are football, both supporting Manchester United and playing for my local village team. I am also very passionate about computer programming and how it should be done properly. My pet hate is Microsoft who seem to write everything in extremely slow code! For God's sake everybody go and buy Linux and end this awful world monopoly.


2) When did you enter the world of the Atari ST?
Pele: 1988 - that is when I got my Atari STFM. I mainly got it for games, but I soon discovered demos and loved them. A chance encounter in a local computer shop led me to meeting a very good contact who had a huge supply of pirated software. I started swapping disks and soon became fascinated by the cracking scene and the mysterious people behind the productions.
Quantum Man: I bought my first Atari STFM in 1987. This was the one with the single-sided disk drive! I originally just played games, but wanted to program the ST as well. I had always written computer programs from the age of about 6 when I had a Sinclair ZX80. This computer was great and had 1K of RAM! Programming started for me when I purchased a second hand copy of STOS. I soon placed an ad in the Micro Mart for programming contacts and got in touch with a great bloke called Wheee The Fibble. He was a fellow STOS programmer and a very clever young man too. From there I learned new programming techniques, but knew that if I wanted to create real good quality code I would have to teach myself 68000. The rest as they say is history.


3) When did you meet? And when did you create Lemmings?
Quantum Man: I first met Pele at the Dentrassi Coding convention in Canterbury, I think it was 1990 or 1991. This was a two days STOS convention based in a village hall. Pele and I were the only people who did not sleep during the whole event. This is really how we met, as for about 6 hours we where the only people awake! For some reason we didn't keep in touch after that, but where re-introduced by a common contact, Groo of the Lemmings. I was not really part of starting the Lemmings, but was asked to join by Groo, around the same time as Pele joined up which I think was about 1992-1993.
Pele: I actually met Quantum Man at an Atari party in Cantebury in (if I remember correctly) 1991. But we didn't retain contact from this party. I used to be a regular reader of UK computer magazine "Micro Mart". This was a magazine solely for selling computer stuff, but it also had a "Pen Pals" section. Here you could contact other people with the same computer as you and chat about stuff. It became a good place to meet contacts to swap menus and cracks. There was a (not very subtle) code that swappers into this stuff would add to their adverts. They would be along the lines of "Wanted: Atari ST contacts. Into Automation, Medway Boys etc." I wrote to dozens of these people and soon had a big network of contacts who I could swap stuff with. The turning point came in 1992 when I saw an advert in Micro Mart "looking for members to join new Atari ST menu crew". I responded, explaining that I had some knowledge of coding and assembly language (I was learning 68k at the time). I soon got a letter back from Groo of Lemmings with a few of their early menus and an offer to join the crew. I was thrilled. The menus were of a good quality - nothing outstanding, but they had a lot of potential. I started to apply my knowledge of 68K to the field of cracking and provide some exclusive releases for the group. I thought I would start simply - with some basic password protection. I had recently bought Quantum Paint, and thought this would be an ideal candidate. My method for cracking at the time was painfully naïve. I disassembled the entire executable file with Easy Rider, loaded it into Devpac and made changes to the source there, re-assembled it and tested it. When I eventually managed to crack Quantum Paint, the buzz was unbelievable. It really was a kick. At this point I was addicted, and embarked on the challenge of breaking down ever more complex protection systems. My Quantum Paint crack appeared on Lemmings Menu 7. It was the first original crack done for the group. I was so excited by the prospect that I'd even typed up all the docs - almost 100k of text. I then started to experiment with training games and cracking other stuff, and soon formed a little collection of exclusive titles. I coded a menu for the group (menu 9). It was a terrible intro, but I wanted the group to get into the philosophy of doing everything themselves, cracks, intros, graphics etc. From this point we started to hire new crackers (Potsan, Xenocide) and some really nice intro coders (Quantum Man, D-Man), new graphists (K-Klass, Twylyte). The group was forming into something special.


4) What was the main characteristic of your compilations?
Quantum Man: I think our main characteristic was we wanted to do everything ourselves. Coding, Cracking, Graphics, etc. About the only thing we never really did was create our own packer, although there where rumours that one was in development. I was fed up with seeing cheap tacky ripped intros on the front of other peoples' cracks, that very often didn't work because they were packed badly. The first compact menus I ever saw was by Automation. They had a great person called Vapour, originally called Was not Was, who would crack and code very well. Then they got bigger, and loads of lame members joined. Half the games on their menus didn't even work properly and it all turned into a race about who could create the most menu numbers. The other menus I liked where by The Medway Boys, and Pompey Pirates. When I joined the Lemmings it was under the condition that we try and produce all our own stuff. Which we duly did, and very high quality it was too.
Pele: When the group started, it wasn't particularly unique. It was compiling other peoples cracks onto disks, using some original but mostly ripped graphics and a mixture of ripped and original code. There were hundreds of crews doing similar things. I wanted Lemmings menus to be unique, worth collecting. Pompey Pirates were the role models for us, Alien was a good friend of mine, and also somewhat of a mentor - giving me plenty of excellent advice. So the main characteristics of our menus were original cracks and nice original intros. Although there were many menu crews, very few actually did their own cracks - the only other menu crew of the time we really respected were D-Bug. The unique thing about our cracks was the trainer mode - just about every game I cracked was also trained. These weren't just simple trainer modes, they usually had reams of options: infinite lives, invulnerablility, level selects even some silly stuff like "walk on water" modes. I really enjoyed getting into the game code and messing about with it. I was so obsessed by the notion of totally original content, that I went back and remade all the early Lemmings Menus with new intros coded by us, and also our own cracks (of the games that were originally on the menus if we had access to the originals). I think this was confusing for some people, but it means we do have a legacy of 49 menus with totally original content. We concentrated more on quality than speed. We were never a 0-day warez crew - hell some of the stuff we released was ancient, but we felt we could bring new stuff to it (new trainer modes, full docs etc.) We tried to provide docs for every single game we released, we hade quite a nice doc displayer coded by Nova - it even ran in overscan! And all our menu disks had a file checker program on them so you could validate the integrity of them before swapping them.


5) What were your favorite tools to create these amazing disks?
Pele: I had a tools disk with my essential tools on it (no hard drive at the time) and I shudder to think how dirty it got - it was in constant use every day! The key tools for me were Toxic MonST (a hacked version of MonST that worked even when programs took over interrupts and low memory), Easy Rider and the Ultimate Ripper Cartridge. With a combination of these, I could crack just about any game.
Quantum Man: Most my coding was done using Devpac v2 by HiSoft, and STOS. I actually owned original versions of both of these products! Any graphics I did where done in Degas Elite, even when Quantum Paint came out I still used Degas. All my intros were written in 68000, but I had loads of nice little tools that where written in STOS. Simply because it was easy to create something quickly. I wrote a graphics ripper, and a nice piece of software for preparing odd sized graphics for my intros. As far as packers went, I just used whichever was better at the time.


6) When did you join The British Alliance? How was the relationship with other crews?
Quantum Man: Don't know much about this really. Just got a menu from Pele one day which had loads of British Alliance quotes all over it. I was in contact with Hijack of Adrenalin at the time anyway, so that relationship was OK. As for the other crews, I never even spoke to any of them!
Pele: The British Alliance was a good idea in theory, but never really worked out too well in practice. The contact with the other groups was vague. Those groups I already knew I maintained strong contacts with, but it didn't really promote extra contacts with other groups. As far as I could see, there was little point in this alliance. I coded some bootsectors for TBA (as seen in many TLS menus), but I don't think anyone else did much. The main problem was that there were a lot of lamer groups in there, just churning out menus with the same array of Cynix/Replicants cracks, not offering anything fresh and new.


7) What's your favorite(s) game(s)? And which demo(s) do you prefer on Atari?
Pele: Favourite ST games: well the classics really, Dungeon Master, Populous, Vroom, Kick Off 2, Champ Manager, Wings Of Death, Maniac Mansion, Grid Runner. ST Demos: Union, Cuddly, Syntax Terror (for the games!), MindBomb, Virtual Escape, Odd Stuff.
Quantum Man: Favourite games were: Time Bandit (really old game), Dungeon Master (which I completed without any hints or cheats!), Chaos Strikes Back, Wings Of Death, Xenon and Xenon II, Elite and Elite II Frontier. I loved Gauntlet II as well. Unfortunately, most of the ST games where just re-productions churned out again and again by companies like US Gold and Ocean. Most of these were total pants and never worth the money. The games I did enjoy like Dungeon Master and Elite II Frontier I would go and buy the originals. I already had cracked and trained versions, but thought the programmers deserved the money. The worst effort I ever saw was the ST version of Shadow of the Beast. This looked and was total garbage, it should never have been released. I loved demos, and would try and collect as many as possible. I would look at them and wonder how they coded that routine, and then try it myself. The Union Demo was the one that really started things off. The Carebears were great too. I also liked the Lost Boys, but they only seemed to copy ideas from earlier Carebears demos and then say that their versions where faster and better! A shame really as they seemed to be good coders. Favourite Demos were: Union Demo, Cuddly and So Watt, Mindbomb and Ooh! Crickey Wot a Scorcher. I have just recently run the Odd Stuff Demo under STEEM and was extremely impressed with it. Demos have come a long way since I last saw one. No more game type menus and scrollers now.


8) When did Lemmings disappear? Why?
Quantum Man: I went to University to study to be a software engineer. It was a choice of a PC or a Falcon, and the PC won. I lived 1 hour's drive from the University and having a PC at home to do my course work on was a god send. I just slowly lost contact with the other members, and got more engrossed in the PC side of things. I think they finally finished because all of us got older and went to University or work, and people stopped making games for the Atari. With no games to crack, we couldn't really do any menus.
Pele: The advent of the Falcon brought about the demise of The Lemmings. We were very excited when we got these machines, and I immediately started cracking the few games that were out there. We made (to my knowledge) the only Falcon Only crack menu - containing Ishar amongst other things. But the games really dried up - Llamazap on the Falcon was our last ever crack, and I don't think we even officially released that (it wasn't on a menu anyway). We soon released that there wasn't going to be a large amount of games on the Falcon as all developers were switching to Jaguar. It was time to hang our boots up. It was sad, as we had a lot of great times and there are so many fantastic memories.


9) Pele told me a few weeks ago there were only 49 issues... no hope for an issue 50?
Quantum Man: Nice idea that! I have several bits of code lying around, but would want to add some new routines too. Plus my 68000 is a bit rusty, too many years using Visual Basic and SQL ;o) The only problem is what games would we put on it!
Pele: There were plans for a very special 50th issue. Quantum Man even coded a really nice intro - and I have quite a few unreleased cracks (god knows where these are though, in some attic somewhere probably!) I can only say, let's see what happens, but don't keep your fingers crossed.


10) Are you still active in the scene?
Pele: I still keep an eye on the Atari scene. It's nice to see people like D-Bug doing stuff.
Quantum Man: Up until very recently not at all. I now monitor the ST newsgroups, but that is about it. I recently got STEEM and all the memories just came flooding back. I have also just purchased an Atari Falcon, so you never know what you will see in the future. Although, the cracking and menu making days on the Atari are all well and truely over now.


11) Do you remain in contact with other members of TLS?
Quantum Man: I have kept in touch with Pele, on and off, since the group faded. We are now back in regular contact again, hence the arrival of all our old menus on Brume's website. I have also been in touch with Info Psycho and K-Klass recently too.
Pele: Sure. I'm still in touch with Quantum Man, K-Klass and Info Psycho. But there are many more members who have disappeared off the face of the earth. Bizarrely, I ran into Groo (the man who started Lemmings) in a bar in Tokyo at the end of last year. It really is a small world.


12) Some last words to add?
Pele: This interview has given me the chance to remember the great days of the Atari scene and how much fun we had swapping disks from the great crews like Replicants, Automation, Pompey Pirates, Medway Boys, Elite and the rest. I feel happy and proud to have been a small part of this scene - I wouldn't have missed it for the world. And big up to Brume - you do a great job with your site, really bringing the history of the scene to life!
Quantum Man: I have to say that nostalgia rules! The memories of when we used to swap disks are great. There was no internet back then, so disks used to be copied and sent through the post. The tricks we got up to for free postage where amazing. Sellotape or Prit-Stick glue over the stamps so you could wipe off the post mark and use them again. We also used to use pre-paid envelopes that we would liberate from supermarkets. They where supposed to be used for sending a complaint to the supermarket's head office, except we would just put a label over the top of the original address. A big thank you to Pele's sister for all the envelopes she used to send me :o) It is quite nice to point people at the website that Brume has created and say "I wrote that!". My work mates get fed up of me moaning about when things used to be programmed properly, but now I can show them and say "This used to run on a computer at 8MHz with only 512k RAM!" Most of the stuff on todays PCs needs at least 32MB of RAM and a 500MHz processor, and it is still slow and crap. Congratulations on the site Brume, a job very well done. You should be proud!

Thanks for all :) Please note I didn't pay Pele nor Quantum Man for answering such nice words. I appreciate them specially because they come from people I admire and respect. Cu soon on TLS #50 ;-)

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