Interview with Metin Seven (M7)

Initially the members of Softeyes were friends who were members of two friendly Amiga demo scene teams in the late Eighties: TIT (The Incredible Trio) and DFI (Digital Force International). The core of our circle of friends existed of Ramon Braumuller (musician), Reinier "Rhino" van Vliet (coder), Pieter "TUG" Opdam (coder and graphic artist) and me (a starting graphic artist). Reinier and Pieter already had game development experience, being responsible for four commercial Amiga games called Iceball, Powerball, Bouncer and Ball Raider II. As creating games was a dream of mine, we decided to start working on new games together, and I came up with the name Softeyes for our development team.

That must have been in 1988 I guess. The game was a project of Reinier, with graphics by Reinier and Pieter. Ramon created its music and for the demo I only contributed game design, no graphics yet.

Definitely. We were active Amiga demo scene fanatics in the late Eighties and early Nineties and loved to show off new programming effects in our games whenever possible.

We were planning to turn Ragnov into a complete game, but after sending the demo to several international publishers their response made clear that the game didn't live up to the increasing quality demands. The concept was ok I think: Ragnov featured split-screen, parallax scrolling and was a lot of fun to play in two-player mode, where you could work together or chase each other through the game's underground maze. But we weren't experienced enough yet to deliver the necessary visual impact (flashy graphics, large sprites, etc.).

Well, we regarded receiving a response from major publishers as some sort of success. Major publishers such as Elite, Ocean and Hewson were kind enough to send us letters, explaining what the game would need to become a potential success.

Yes. The dragon's head reappeared in Venomwing and Ragnov's game concept was reincarnated in the third level of our game Hoi. In our opinion unpublished graphics could be reused in new projects. It'd be a waste to throw the graphics away, as long as they hadn't been published yet.

Well, TUG was the nickname of one of our programmers: Pieter Opdam. TUG was an abbreviation of The Undercover Genius (I guess he wasn't very bothered by modesty ;-) I guess the disks you've got are preliminary versions of Venomwing, initially known as Hawkwind. "TUG-Type" was a wink to R-Type, because Venomwing also was a horizontally scrolling shoot-'em-up.

Well, we found out that Hawkwind was the name of a rock band in those days, and we were afraid to get sued. :-)

Great. In fact they were the only Amiga publisher we worked with that actually paid us for our work. An employee of Thalamus named Paul Cooper came over to the Netherlands to arrange the signing of the contract, and after we had completed Venomwing they invited us to meet them at the Personal Computer World Show in London.

Pieter was the coder, Ramon created all music and sound effects, I did about half of the graphics (including the intro sequence) and Pieter did the other half. Reinier was busy creating his music editor The Digital Mugician and only assisted Pieter with some routines that formed an important feature of the game: lots of simultaneous objects swirling around the screen.

Yes, its playability. In my opinion and in the opinion of many others, Venomwing simply was too hard to play without becoming frustrated.

I did some in-game graphics, mainly for the first level, and I created the game over image, with the tomb-stone and the tree.

Mainly because of a dispute between Pieter and the other team members, about the (un)playability of Venomwing. After Pieter had left Softeyes he finished Borobodur and produced two more games for Thalamus: Winter Camp and Bump 'n' Burn. Then he moved to the UK and started working for Team 17, on the first version of Worms.

One afternoon in 1990, in my attic room, I was playing around with Deluxe Paint and created a little green critter. Reinier was there as well and he immediately loved the character, so we decided to turn him into our main character.

To a number of publishers, can't exactly remember which ones, but probably the major publishers from that time: Psygnosis, Rainbow Arts, Hewson, Ocean, Elite, etc.. We also sent it to Innerprise Software, formerly known as Discovery Software, well-known for Hybris and Battle Squadron.

Innerprise was enthusiastic about Hoi and wanted to publish it. At that time Hoi was about 60 percent finished, and our main man Paul Lombardi from Innerprise Software asked us to send him the latest version of the game, for internal evaluation and testing purposes. So we did. About three weeks later a friend of mine called to tell me that Hoi was available on the public Bulletin Board Systems, cracked by some guy called Gaston from Fairlight.

Actually there was not much to crack, as we didn't include a copy protection in that version yet, because it was meant for internal Innerprise use.

We were devastated. More than half a year of blood, sweat and tears spread around the world for free by some unscrupulous criminal, due to the carelessness of our very own publisher. We immediately called Paul Lombardi to ask how on earth this could happen. Lombardi was apparently astonished, told us that he would find the one who was responsible and would "sue his balls to the wall". But we didn't hear much from Lombardi after that phone call and disillusioned we decided to search for a new, more reliable publisher for what was left of Hoi. Later rumours reached us that the 60 percent version of Hoi was delivered to Fairlight through someone from the Innerprise office, but we will probably never find out what exactly happened.

Not long after the big Innerprise letdown we found a new interested publisher named Micro-Illusions, also in the U.S.. Like Innerprise, the California-based Micro-Illusions had a good reputation, having released the brilliant game The Faery Tale Adventure and the music editor Music-X, both developed by the multi-talented David Joiner. We slowly regained our confidence in a happy end for Hoi and tried to accept the premature release as a very extensive demo version to anticipate the final product.

In the autumn of 1991, Hoi was finished. We sent the final version to David Boyles from Micro-Illusions and almost couldn't wait to see the game being officially released to the Amiga world. After having received the completed Hoi, Micro-Illusions suddenly changed their company name into Hollyware Entertainment. The release date of Hoi was repeatedly postponed and we started feeling uncomfortable with this new publisher as well.

Finally, in the summer of 1992 Hoi was released worldwide. Jeremy Cooke from the UK-based company The Software Business took care of the European distribution and the many international games magazine reviews were truly rewarding.

It was a bitter disappointment to discover that Hollyware Entertainment turned out to be as unreliable as Innerprise Software, keeping us on a string with a lot of smooth talk. Hollyware's contract turned out to be full of hidden hazards and the only proceeds we have ever received for Hoi was a staggering 200 dollars. We didn't receive any payment from Jeremy Cooke's European Hoi publication as well. Being three nineteen year old guys we weren't able to start a lawsuit against two wily publishers in different countries and we had no choice but to accept that we were screwed after all.

In terms of proceeds Hoi had become a macro-illusion, but the enthusiastic reviews from all over the world formed a heart-warming consolation.

It was an initiative to let every Amiga user enjoy our biggest hit game so far by releasing an AGA remix of it as freeware. At the same time the free release decision was a publicity initiative for our development team, as well as some sort of revenge with regard to Hollyware. They would not sell any more copies of Hoi when the game would be available for free.

We preferred arcade games: adrenalin-inducing, action-based games that needed no study to be played. I liked to play an adventure every now and then, such as The Pawn, but it lacked the exciting fireworks of action games. We wanted to push the hardware to its limits.

Yes, Rainbow Arts (well-known for the Turrican series of games) wanted to publish it, but only if we could also create an MS-DOS version for the 386 DX PC models. At that time Reinier didn't have the knowledge to code a PC conversion of our Amiga game, and by the time we had found someone who could, we were already dealing with a different publisher: Rasputin.

I regret to say that it was. Another publisher who didn't pay us a dime. There were (are?) a lot of mendacious people in the games business.

Definitely. Earning money (which we didn't) is only half of the reward, the other half is formed by the world's positive response.

The intial Amiga version was. That version even featured Hoi as Moon Child's sidekick, like Tails was Sonic's sidekick. The final PC incarnation of Moon Child didn't feature Hoi anymore, so we decided to not call it Hoi II, because PC gamers didn't know Hoi anyway.

In 1991 I believe, as our next main project after Hoi (Clockwiser was an in-between project). While Reinier was finishing his Hoi coding, I already started with the first Moon Child graphics.

Yes we did find it difficult, but at the same time our motivation to continue developing games was supported by the positive reviews in major games magazines.

Yes, AGA enabled me to create graphics in 256 colors in stead of Hoi's 16 colors, and it enabled Reinier to use 24-bit gradients in the backgrounds. Moon Child features the most dynamic pixel graphics I created for our games.

The Amiga version was cancelled because the Amiga slowly started dying in 1994 (to our regret Commodore was messing things up at the top). We decided to reinitiate Moon Child's development for MS-Windows 95, which had a number of technical advantages compared to the standard Amiga models in those days.

For example we were able to increase Moon Child's resolution to 640 x 480 pixels, instead of low-res on the Amiga.

Yes, the Amiga worked with bitplanes, while the PC worked with so-called chunky graphics. This offered some coding advantages. On the graphics front I could create bigger and more detailed in-game graphics because we doubled the game's resolution.

If we would manage to successfully translate the games to a 3D environment I guess they would still have potential.

Sometimes I fire up WinUAE and go for a few hours of pleasant Amiga game nostalgia.

Nowadays I'm a freelance designer and illustrator. I create cartoons, comics and illustrations for magazines, newspapers and commercial websites. Lately my activities regarding toy design and 3D toy modeling are increasing, I love to get more involved in that. Everyone's invited for a visit to for an impression of my work.