My colleague Laszlo Nemet is a senior backend developer at Sponge Hammer. His job title doesn’t give away the vast amount of coding knowledge and experience he has been gathering over the staggering 34 years since he started game development, beginning with coding.
In the first part of the interview he spoke about his first experience with coding, how difficult was back in the late ’80s to learn coding. In this episode he talks about his first game and more about his struggles.
When did you make your first game?
My first game was published in June 1989, and it’s called Hopeless Game.
I wrote the code, I drew everything, and pretty much everything else that you see in the game was created by me as well. No, sorry, the music was scraped together from other games. The colours are super weird because I didn’t have access to a colour monitor, so I did everything on a monochrome display. It’s clearly not a graphic designer’s handiwork when the result is unreadable white text on a green background.
How long did it take to create the game?
It took around three months. I wrote the level editor, the point system, the effects and everything else. The goal of the game is to collect 30 pieces of a car’s picture, and for each level, you get one piece. At the end of the game, the 30 puzzle pieces come together (I used particle effects) as a whole. That was the beginning.
So making a video game in 1988’s Hungary. Where did you get help to do that?
Nowhere. I did pretty much everything on my own. I just kept trying until eventually something worked.
How did you get the hardware?
That wasn’t easy. You couldn’t bring in hardware from abroad like you can now. All you could do was walk into Centrum [a big Hungarian department store] or another supermarket and buy it if they had it in stock.
What did you do with the game once you had finished it?
I only knew one person who was part of the Enterprise club. They had a community in Budapest, where they had meetings and gatherings. Unfortunately, we never managed to join any of their sessions. So, I travelled to the capital, met a person, and gave him the game, and asked him to pass it around the community. All there was in terms of marketing was that the game contained my name and address!
What happened after that? Did you become famous?
No, nothing happened (laughs). I didn’t know how many people played the game or how far it had travelled. There was no feedback whatsoever. But remember, it was ‘89, and Hungary had just got out of the Soviet pressure, the country began to open towards the West, and it was a transition period for most of us.
I had a mutual friend who got demos on C64 Plus/4 and I really liked them, so I started to move towards the demo scene. I had a few ideas; I wanted to make Blockout, a Tetris-type game, on Enterprise 128. I started to create the game, I coded the basics, and the blocks were already falling to the bottom of the screen then stopped it and started a new project. I never returned to Blockout. Instead, I started to make Lemmings on Enterprise, but after a while I abandoned that too. I also worked on a drawing programme and got halfway into development, but again I paused work on the project and never finished it. Because it was so complex, I learned a lot though. My dilemma was that I wanted to make 3D demos, but for that I needed to write a programme to multiply and divide. I kept doing such projects until ‘92 when I bought an Amiga 500.
Did that mean you abandoned the Enterprise world entirely?
Yes – I still got everything on discs, but I never finished those projects.
I partnered up with a friend from high school and we jumped on to the Amiga with my high school friend and coded on a completely new architecture on Motorola 6800 processor . Unfortunately, I didn’t get far with it. I only learned the basics and never really created anything on the Amiga; it just turned out to be a dead-end street for me. At that time, the 286 and 386 were already out and Amiga couldn’t compete with them, so after a while, I sold mine and bought a 486.
This was the second part of the interview I had with Laszlo, and there’s more to come. In the next episode, he will talk about his first game, about accessible hardware at that time and a few of his projects he abandoned due to difficulties back in the early ’90s.
What’s your experience with coding in the 80s and 90s or if you born after 2000, how did you get into coding?