Protovision will be launching their latest release title, Space Moguls, for the Commodore 64 on the evening of December 7 (Central European Time).
Developed by Carl-Henrik Skarstedt, in collaboration with Ole-Marius Pettersen and Stein Pedersen (who provided the music and sound effect), Space Moguls is a modern day tribute to the cult classic M.U.L.E, which itself is celebrating its 35 year anniversary.
VITNO previewed Space Moguls back in October and we enjoyed our time with the game very much as it provided an absorbing experience that would be quite compelling to those who enjoy resource management type games. Since then the game has undergone a series of refinements that improve the gaming experience. There is now a richer music experience, the AI logic has been overhauled to provide a stronger challenge and the ability to speed up AI activities during the development phase, that go some way to further strengthen the game offering.
We were able to catch up with Carl-Henrik a week out before the launch of Space Moguls to gather some deep insights about the game.
VITNO: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Carl-Henrik, can we start off with getting a better understanding on your relevant history, experience and qualifications when it comes to coding on old 8-bit personal computers?
Thanks for talking to me! I started out with a C64 when I was 11, started making demos when I was 12 after not quite being able to turn my first attempt at a game into a playable thing. A couple of years later I got an Amiga and stumbled into groups like the Movement, Rebels and the Silents. Then I kind of stumbled into a job at Funcom because of my demo scene work and at this point I’ve been making games professionally for 25 years (well, a month from now but who’s counting?). Most of the games have been character platforming and fighting games including Pac-Man, Parappa, Pikachu, Scottie Pippen, Puss-in-boots, Po, Fat Princess, Pocahontas etc. I am currently working at Yacht Club Games finishing up King Knight’s story and Showdown for next year! In addition to me Stein Pedersen and Ole-Marius Pettersen have been providing music. I used to work with Stein at Funcom on Pocahontas and NBA Hangtime back in the day so it’s been fun to kind of work together again!
VITNO: Space Moguls is not a typical type of game you see often on the C64, what motivated to not only decide that you were going to work on a C64 project but one that pays homage to the classic M.U.L.E.?
Since I had the chance to make something that didn’t need to make a certain amount of profit or fit a particular slot in a publisher’s shelf I decided to focus on something I could learn from. I didn’t really get strategy games so that felt like a good area and I figured M.U.L.E. was one of the oldest strategy games and I wouldn’t have much trouble creating something like that. I have learned that it is certainly not a trivial thing to create!
VITNO: If we recall correctly, you’ve have been working on the Space Moguls project for approximately 2 years now. Has the design scope changed much since you initially put it together initially?
It is almost exactly like my initial scope. I went in with the assumption that if I create a game similar to M.U.L.E. I can then easily change the game into something a bit more different, even if not necessarily better. Space Moguls is definitely its own thing but when I tried to go too far in any direction the game got worse, so rather than forcing something for the sake of being different I decided to make the best game I could with the direction I started with. I think focusing on making the game more fun paid off a lot more than making it different and now I’m better prepared in case I start on another strategy game in the future!
VITNO:We noted that Christian Schiller from the World of M.U.L.E. has been involved to provided some insights on how Space Moguls could be refined during the later stages of development. How did this come about and what advice has he been able to provide?
Christian/World of M.U.L.E. was supportive from the moment I announced the game and when I needed help testing the game we started talking and it worked out great! While I got a lot of bugs to fix we also discussed a lot of the mechanics and made the game better than it would have been with me just guessing what works and what doesn’t. There are other people who helped test and provided valuable suggestions and improvements but a lot of it came from working with Christian.
VITNO: Following you on Twitter, you’ve often mentioned the battle you have undertake to save as many bytes as possible to ensure that the game fits within the size restriction on the platform. I would think that this has honed your C64 programming skills to no end?
I kept running out of memory while fixing bugs and it is really frustrating when you test a fix that the game breaks because now you’re out of memory and I need to fix the memory problem before I can check if the bug is fixed, so it is really rewarding when I figure out how to restructure the game to fit. In the final days the available bytes rapidly went down from 384 to 51 and at that rate I’d have to cut features to fix bugs but it turned out fine. If I learned anything it was that it doesn’t matter how much you cheat to reach the goal as long as you reach it and no one saw you do it…
When your day job is managing 4 or 8 gigabytes of RAM it can get humbling to fit anything in to 64 kilobytes!
VITNO: If there was just one feature within Space Moguls that you would want everyone to recognise, what would that be?
I think all the features kind of speak for themselves but seeing how they all fit together and make up this whole game is what I’d hope people see. With a strategy game I think it takes a bit of effort to see the whole picture and that is something I didn’t bother with when trying to play strategy games in the past. With this game I’m obviously really familiar with the flow but it still took me a while to see all the parts working together. (and not only because it wasn’t finished while I was working on it). In addition I’ve not considered myself much of an artist in the past, so seeing people being positive about the art I made for the game is exciting!
VITNO: And what is this we hear about your quickly mocking up a mini-game while applying the finishing touches to Space Moguls? I would have thought you might have not want to touch the computer after 2 years of working on Space Moguls?
When you’ve spent most of weekends and evenings after work for three months fixing bugs and completing the game it is hard to switch off, so after chatting with Stein Pedersen a bit I came up with a simple game I could prototype on a Commodore 64 in about a week. So far I’m on track! Hoping to show something very soon..
VITNO: What do you think of the packaging that Protovision has put together on Space Moguls?
When it was time to start working on the box I couldn’t come up with any direction for Lobo, so we decided he should just make something. I really like the colors and the setting for the picture, it is something that might happen on a planet but not really part of the game. It reminds me a lot of box art from the 80s when you couldn’t really tell what the game was by looking at the box. When I saw the box I also had two more characters to add to the game so I took Lobo’s art and added those characters to the game as Bluejay and Hoedi. I had a great time working with Lobo and Protovision on the manual and the box.
VITNO: So what’s next? Are we going to have another crack at a C64 game?
I’ll do something with the quick prototype I’m doing right now, not sure where it will go. After that I’ll pick up Shovel Knight 64 again, it will need some tools so I have more windows programming to get through for that. After that I think I’ll listen to any feedback and suggestions from players about Space Moguls and decide what to do. I think those things will keep me busy for a little while!
VITNO: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Carl-Henrik. We can’t wait for the release of Space Moguls.
Space Moguls is a refreshing release for the current Commodore 64 gaming scene. Its intellectual depth of game play will certainly provide endless hours of stimulating ‘board game’ style play, accompanied by bright graphics, thematic soundtracks and high quality production values.
A video review of Space Moguls is available below.
Space Moguls will be available from Protovision in a physical collectors edition which will contain a box full of goodies and gimmicks, along with a game manual and media. Space Moguls will be available in a disk, a cartridge or disk & cartridge version.