Interview with Alex Amsel (Sillytuna)

I graduated from a BBC Micro in the late 80s and delved straight into 68k coding from 6502.

It went through several iterations I guess but it was always that code base. At first I got the perspective maths wrong. Writing Dent A Wolf, Dentaku26, and the released XTreme Racing taught me a lot about coding (and how not to code!).

I think it came from a mixture of Dentaku, Japanese for calculator I believe, and Wolves, the football team I support. I like silly names - I've a game developer called Tuna since 1996!

Silltunna is Swedish for herring barrel. I was originally coding with a Swedish guy (who I lost contact with - would be interested to hear from him again). Incidentally, that also lead to my regular nick, Sillytuna. I eventually formed Silltunna with an artist, Richard Whittall, who is also running his own small game development company these days. We developed XTreme Racing with another programmer I knew from the Amiga scene, Mark Fitt, and the pair of us have run Tuna ever since.

I did get to speak to quite a few people and I think I met Rich through that, although I can't remember for certain. I'm still in touch with a couple of the Amiga programmers I met through this scene in the early 90s, both still in the game industry. I also still work with Allister Brimble, who worked on many Amiga games and demos.

Quite a lot of rewriting was involved but I think the column renderer remained basically the same. This was my first real go at truly optimising code. The techniques I learned at the time were used heavily in some of our later projects such as Road Rash on the Gameboy Colour.

It was shown to a small number of publishers who liked it. That was my first exposure to the commercial side of games and I was very naive. I know quite a few indie developers these days and they are just as naive as I was back in the early 90s. I try to help out where I can.

No, and we didn't move much past the demo stage altho we did have a lot of art and I had planned the code pretty well, even looking back on it.

I was at uni so it would need a good offer to make me leave to write the game. The offers we got weren't good enough and I was enjoying uni too much!

AGA only almost certainly.

Actually no real show stopper. As we later found out with XTreme Racing, the link play would have been troublesome.

The floor (track) code was a variation of previous code I'd been working on - that had been inspired by a rotation demo on Aminet. While some rendering code may have started out from Dentaku26, it was heavily reworked. We had endless rendering options for different views and machines. Peter McGavin (I think) also kindly allowed us to use from of his planar converters on the game. The Amiga didn't have byte per pixel mode is it was bitplane based - texture mapping was easier on a PC unfortunately.

I honestly don't. I just loved the competition and the comradeship of the programmers involved. Doom wasn't on the Amiga but it was my sole reason for having a PC!

2 of the 3 Silltunna people were involved - and still are - but it wasn't really a continuation. We did look at options on the Amiga but it was never really viable.

We've done a lot of contract work, some good, some bad, but it got very boring. So we're working on a wonderful game right now - we're in partnership with Anthony Flack to develop Cletus Clay on XBox Live Arcade. In many ways it's back to the days of XTreme Racing and just getting on with making the game we want, despite all the odds (it's one tough project!). Please visit and follow the blog. We also have some other really cool things going on that are completely different to what we've done before, more public service than traditional games, but I can't say much more about them right now.