Andy Finkel Remembers the VIC-20 - from an interview conducted by Rick Melick on November 12, 1996
REVIEW: Alan Hewson covered this game in one of his excellent "Many faces of " articles where he rightly gave credit where credit is due. Perhaps some may have been surprised to see a Vic 20 game win a silver medal, but one play of the Vic version of Omega Race and you very quickly realize why it won. To put it simply, this game is absolutely brilliant. The graphics, sound and most importantly, the playability arguably make this the best game to appear on the Vic 20. Omega Race is a shoot-em-up, not a racing game as the name may suggest. You are in a rectangular arena where you have to eliminate a number of enemy drones and mines before moving on to the next level. Your ship (which looks like the ship from Asteroids) can thrust about the arena, rebounding off the walls. There is a lot of inertia, so you must be careful and keep your ship under control. If you are not quick to destroy all the enemy drones, one of the drones begins to rocket around the arena, firing its missiles everywhere. There are loads of options in the game. You can play with keys, joystick or paddle. You can change the amount of ships you start with. And you can change the background colours and the colours of the ships. Overall, this is a game that really shows what the Vic 20 is capable of. My Score - 10/10. -Tonks(RT#70, 6/2003)
>Describe you position at Commodore and your role in the VIC-20?
I joined Commodore in 1980 or so, as part of the VIC-20 launch team ... so I actually worked at Commodore US in the marketing department. I was one of the two programmers on the team. In the beginning I was one of the people responsible for writing the demos, fixing up the Japanese cartridge software so we could sell them in the US, for testing the hardware and software from Engineering, for working on the manuals, for providing tech support for the TV commercials, talking to developers, and so on.
>Describe the corporate climate at and your work environment at Commodore?
In the early days, we were all packed into a single open room at Commodore US headquarters. In the next row was customer support, so it was pretty noisy. Commodore had just moved its HQ from the west coast to the east coast, so things were somewhat disorganized.
Commodore was at that time, an organization where, within pretty broad departmental limits, you could define your own job. Which is one of the reasons I ended up doing so many different kinds of things ... Mike wanted his group to handle all aspects of the VIC-20. We were a 'commando group' within Commodore US.
After the VIC-20, I switched to the Commodore-64 launch team, where I did much the same kind of thing. Then, when Commodore decided to get into the game software business in a serious way, I helped form the game group, where we did some games for the C64.
>How did your work on the Commodore VIC-20 help you with your career today?
I got familiar with a lot of different parts of the production and engineering processes.
>What are you doing these days?
I'm doing Amiga operating system work at the moment.
>Does the VIC-20 hold a special place for you, or was it no more/less significant than the machine on your desk right now?
Well, on my desk is an Amiga, which is as significant to me as the VIC-20 ... I was involved with the creation of both machines. But your point is valid; either machine means more to me than my PC or Unix box, for instance.
>The VIC-20 Programmer's Reference Guide was an excellent publication. How long did it take to compose, and what were some of the unique challenges in writing it?
It took a couple of months to write. There's a general rule in low level programming for a computer... the longer you do it, the more you learn about that computer. When we wrote the PRG, not much more than the chip specs were known (by anyone) about the VIC-20. So it was sort of a combined learning experience/writing experience. I would have liked to have had the opportunity to rewrite the book a year later, after a lot more VIC-20 tricks had been discovered.
>What do you think of the VIC-20 emulators and the effort to preserve the history of the VIC-20 for future generations of computer enthusiasts?
I like the concept. A lot of the old games are still a lot of fun to play, and not everyone kept their VIC-20 around like I did.
>What were some of the challenges to programming GORF? Did programmers often work in teams at Commodore?
We worked in teams of 1 or 2 :-) Commodore always liked to run lean, so team size was kept small. Gorf was fairly straightforward; I worked on it after Omega Race, so reused a lot of the code and concepts.
> Did Commodore have any other contracts to license titles from Bally Midway for games that never made production?
Sure; some of the later Bally games didn't hold up to our standards of play, so we passed on them. For instance, there was one called Domino Man that was basically an exercise in frustration. You tried to set up a line of dominoes, and things wandered through trying to knock them over. Not much fun, so we didn't take that one.
> What is the story behind Wizard of War, and why was it not released for the VIC-20?
I don't remember there being all that much of a story; it was kind of late, and Commodore was involved in the C64 full time by then, so it just fell by the wayside.
> Who programmed Omega Race?
I did. Eric Cotton was my junior programmer assistant on the project. There's a secret key sequence to get the hidden credits. It's been awhile, but I think it was...
While the title sequences are displaying, hold down the Control, Shift, and Commodore keys, and press the RETURN key. The game makes a sound, and you'll get a couple extra pages of title screen.
It was a fun game to do. At 8K of binary (max) I could remember the entire source, so making changes was easy.
> I also liked VIC Biorhythms... Were there any other software titles you created? What about prototypes?
Its been awhile, so I've probably forgotten a lot of them, but ...
Well, on the VIC-20, I did some other tape programs, like the Loan-Mortgage calculator, and Car Wars. Aside from Omega Race, I did the VIC-20 Music Composer, Sargon II Chess, and worked on Gorf.
I also ported misc. tools from the PET, like VICMON
On the C64 I did Lazarian, Dragon's Den, an unreleased game (Guardians of Time)