Thanks to Magix we can now present you an interview with the scene coder Nightlord.
This will be my first interview. Thanks for agreeing to do this.
No problem :-) It’s my pleasure.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Nightlord?
My name is Bilgem and I do a lot of weird things. I am a software engineer by day, a demo coder, musician, grfx artist, and author by night.
How did you get introduced to the world of computers? What was your first personal computer?
The first computer-like machine I saw was an Atari 2600. I was blown away by the concept of a little box being able to generate a TV broadcast, which you can control. Later I saw a C64 and got blown away by that too. Eventually I saved enough money to buy a C64 for myself.
When did you decide to be a coder, and why?
About two weeks after I got my C64 I learned enough BASIC from the user manual (the commands PRINT, GET, IF, FOR NEXT, GOTO) to write my first text adventure game. It came somewhat naturally, I don’t remember explicitly deciding to be a coder. But if you ask me why I “continue” to be a coder today, my answer is that I like the process of understanding a problem and coming up with an elegant solution to it.
How did you get involved with the demoscene and why the C-64 scene?
I heard about the scene from the Commodore Magazine in Turkey. I searched for sceners in Ankara for a while and finally found them in around 94. Today the C-64 scene is arguably the most mature scene where the toughest competition lives. That’s why I continue to be a part of it. I am also a big fan of the Amiga scene (even though I don’t release anything there) and I like the PC scene too (I do release some stuff there).
Can you tell us a little bit about Snapshot? How long did it take to make it, what aspects of it challenged you the most?
The short answer is it took “FOREVER” to make Snapshot. For a long time it seemed like it would never end. But overall I estimate that it took somewhere between 5000 to 10000 hours. With a 6 person team that worked full time on this, it would take about a year and a half. since we didn’t work full time on it (we all have jobs and bills to pay) it took closer to 4 years.
We had some really difficult effects (many world firsts and world records among them) which presented a ton of problems to solve. Almost all of the effects went through an endless number of iterations internally, until we got them to the level of not just world firsts/records but also to levels where they won’t be easily beaten by someone else (which has gone well so far – 1.5 years since the demo). Some notable ones include, 50 Hz Big Filled Vectors (which was a 20 year old dream in the demoscene – Glance makes your dreams come true :-) ), 50 hz full screen raycaster, the TBL tunnel, and many more.
And doing a smooth and flowing type of linking to all these memory intensive effects required a lot of additional work from the coders as well as direction and content by the graphics designers.
The soundtrack presented some challenges too. The “Gun Slinger” in Side A ended up using every last byte of memory we could spare for the music. Hydrogen essentially had to compose a few last measures of music constantly checking whether he stayed within bounds.
Overall I am extremely proud of Snapshot. I think it is clearly (technically) one of the best demos ever made on C64. Non technical aspects like graphics and music is more subjective so it is not as easy to claim greatness on those fronts, but I personally love the demo audio-visually as well. I think it is very unique and non-trendy. The graphics completely defy the trends of our time, and the soundtrack is very bold as well.
Should we wait for another demo from Glance?
Of course. We exist to blow your minds :-)
Music is a big part of your life, what do you do on that front these days?
My involvement with music was mostly frozen for a period of 9 years after college other than composing a few SIDs during those years. I had a prog rock band back in the 90′s. Then work and life caught up. In fall 2010 I got back into making music in the sense of recording songs and performing live in Seattle.
Currently I am a guitarist/composer who merges rock, classical and electronica. It’s like Slash and Beethoven were roommates and Delerium occasionally hung out with them. I am currently producing my first EP coming out sometime in the Spring 2012. I play two or three shows locally every month.
I also play in a cover band called Sehr-i Seattle that covers Turkish folk/pop/rock songs.
I also like your detailed music reviews, when did you start doing that?
I started doing that back in 2007. Drey’s “demodojo first” that was released in Nightshift 07 blew my mind and I just felt the urge to gather my thoughts and feelings about the piece and put it on (virtual) paper. Then I observed that the more I do this, the more the authors seem to get some feeling of satisfaction (that feeling of “somebody actually listened to what I made very very carefully”). Nowadays I do that on my blog songdynamics.wordpress.com.
What videogames do you play/enjoy most.
Well I don’t play video games. It’s ironic that someone who actually worked on games is not a big gamer himself. Oh well I am what I am :-) One key point for me is that I usually feel really bad about the time I would spend on playing video games. I see a lot of people complain about not having time to have hobbies and then they go and play video games for two hours every night. By not playing games is how I make time for coding and music.
Does Nightlord sleep?
In past I did most of my hobbies at night with little sleep. It doesn’t work that way anymore. I need to get my 8 hrs of sleep now and no I am NOT getting old :-)
Let’s talk a bit about your professional career. How did you start working at Microsoft.
Nothing interesting there :-) Sometime in 2005-2006, they called me based on my resume, we went through the typical interview processes, and I ended up in the Windows Graphics team working on DirectX family of APIs.
I guess there may be confidential stuff you can’t talk about but, what projects did you work on during your time at Microsoft.
I worked on Direct2D during Win7 and have been working on Direct2D Effects on Win8. Since we have already anounced the Direct2D Effects to the world in the Build conference, I can talk about its existence :-)
Do you have any co-workers that are also Commodore Sceners?
Not among my immediate co-workers, but recently Amiga/C64 scener Louie/TBL/Fairlight moved here.
When is Windows 8 coming out? Any secrets you can give away? (evil grin)
I could tell you but then I would have to kill you. Wait that line doesn’t scale during an interview :-)
What impressed you the most in the technology landscape in recent years?
By far Kinect. I remember watching the E3 keynote where it was announced and we didn’t know about it (it was so extremely confidential that other teams in MS didn’t know about it). I literally jumped up from my chair going “Hoooooly f*****king s***t”. Kinda like my reaction to TowerPower/CML back in 94 :-)
Where do you think the tech space is going?
I don’t know. I don’t like making predictions in tech space :-) But one overall trend that no one can deny is the emergence of natural user interfaces (like touch, voice and kinect).
Whatever happened with your C=++ Compiler for C64?
The compiler itself was completed long ago, but no documentation and no runtime libraries exist for it. So I never released it to the public. It currently lives in the SVN server at my home. Hopefully one day I will sit down and write some useful runtime libraries and some documentation. But it is just a very low priority.
I know you are a big Le Guin and Tolkien fan (we all are). What do you think about Patrick Rothfuss. I can’t wait for “The Doors of Stone”. Do you think he can be one of the big names in the SF&F space?
I didn’t know about Patrick Rothfuss until you asked me this question. So unfortunately I can’t really answer this question. I will check him out. Speaking of becoming a big name in SF&F, the author I am most impressed with these days is actually George R. R. Martin. I read all 5 books of the A Song of Fire and Ice within a few months. I am completely blown away with his skill to pull off such a complicated plot with ten or so point-of-view characters in each book. I am also enjoying the way the HBO series is executed and his involvement with it.
Thanks for taking part in this interview. Best of luck in your personal, professional and scene life.
Thanks for interviewing me. Good luck with your new site.
Thanks a lot again to Nightlord and Magix :-)