HBL Interviews: Søren Borgquist

Here we have another wonderful interview for you, this time we interview Søren Borgquist the brains behind Tardis Remakes, with games like SQIJ 2018,  The Speccies and Dingo to name only three, in anycase read on to learn more about Søren and his games.

HBL

Thank you for agreeing to our interview, please take a moment to tell us a little about you?

Søren

I’m 52 years old, live in Copenhagen and I work in IT Support. My first encounter with games were back in the 70’s when I discovered Atari Pong. As the 70’s turned into the 80’s I spent more and more time and money in the arcades, so it’s pretty safe to say that games has always been a big part of my life.

HBL

What was the first game/demo you created?

Søren

I’ve wanted to make my own games for as long as I can remember. My first attempt was an adventure game on my first computer – a 16K Spectrum, but I ran out of space in days and I never had the insight to make a sprite routine, so making a game didn’t happen for a very long time. I should have kept at it. My first “published” thing was a demo for the 128K spectrum, called “Sir Clives Nightmare” which somehow found its way to the UK and was featured the very last issue of Your Sinclair (issue 93, page 42).

HBL

Who does the Graphics, Sounds and Coding and how do you bring all your creations together?

Søren

I do all the coding myself. For graphics I’ve been lucky enough to attract some good artists. I will usually start out with some ripped graphics – just to have something to work with, then involve an artist as I’d rather not bother an artist too early in the process in case I lose interest in the project, so once I have something that looks promising I’ll ask around. I can usually cobble sfx together myself, but for music I also have a couple of guys that are usually wiling to help out.

HBL

What was behind the decision to create games for the Speccy?

Søren

The Spectrum was my first computer and I’ve spent many happy hours with it, so it was only natural to try to make games for it once I had a little experience with making games. Making that first Spectrum game (Dingo) was very exciting and it was fun to keep at it and improve things little by little and also gave me a chance to use what I’d learned about structuring games while developing for Windows.

HBL

What do you for a living away from game/demo creation?

Søren

I work in IT Support. I had a lot of free time in my previous job, so I got a lot of development done during work hours (shh, don’t tell anyone, lol) but I got a new job about a year ago and keeps me real busy and I can’t do that anymore, so development suffers a bit, lol.

HBL

Can you tell us about the Dingo, how you came up with the idea and the design behind the game?

Søren

When I decided that I wanted to see if I could make a Spectrum game, I knew that it had to be a relatively simple game, because if I chose something too ambitious I might never be able to finish it. A couple of years earlier I’d remade Dingo (which is originally an arcade game) for Windows and it seemed like a good fit for my abilities … and seemed like a really good fit for the Spectrum too. The “special effects” in the game – and the whole presentation – was just a matter of trying a bunch of visual things and go with what looked nice and would fit.

HBL

Any thoughts about doing games on other systems? Megadrive, Dreamcast or SNES.

Søren

Well, I’ve ported “The Speccies II” to the Sega Master System, so there’s now versions for both the Spectrum, arcade hardware and the SMS, although that version hasn’t been released because it needs music and I’ve never gotten around to ask anyone to help me out with that. I would also like to make something for the Spectrum Next and more games for the Taito hardware – and I’m sure it could be fun to try and do something in ARM … but at the end of the day there are just more ideas than time.

HBL

Are you surprised with the resurgence in retro gaming?

Søren

No, not really. Old games has a certain charm that newer games usually don’t have. I love the “purity” of retro gaming and I suspect many people love that aspect of it too.

HBL

Which one of your games are you the proudest of and why?

Søren

It’s hard to choose one, so I’ll mention two. The first is Dingo and I’m proud of it because it’s my first Spectrum game and that it turned out so well that it’s still mentioned in “best homebrew” discussions years later. The other one is my second Spectrum game: The Speccies, which is a remake of a puzzle game available for many other platforms. I think it looks and plays well and I’m very happy that I was actally able to code it, lol.

HBL

Which game caused you the most headaches?

Søren

Two games stand out. The first is Rip Off. There is A LOT of SIN/COS calculations going on and at the start the game slowed down significantly when there was a lot of ships on screen at the same time. That particular problem was solved by pre-calculating most things when the games stats, so now the game do mostly table lookups and significantly fewer of the time consuming calculations and that fixed that problem.
The other game is the arcade version of SQIJ. I tested the game during development using the MAME emulator, but it turns out that MAME doesn’t emulate the hardware very well – only “good enough” to work with the original games on the hardware, so while things looked right in MAME, something would be wrong on the actual hardware. There were lots of problems and I would try to fix them, then send off a new build to my friend Adrian, who would burn the chips and test the game on the real hardware … then give feedback. This went on for a while and I ended up just sending him the whole source code as that would be a lot easier. And he fixed all the remaining problems over a weekend, so now it runs perfectly on the real hardware too. Thanks Adrian.

HBL

Vallation is amazing, tell us about the design of the game, how you came up with the idea?

Søren

It is actually a remake of a 16K C64 game. I played it and fell in love with it instantly and wanted to remake it. Originally I wanted to do it as a 16K game too, but I added another 71 screens on top of the 30 in the C64 version and I just kept adding things until it was a full 48K game. I’ve also made a 128K version that adds another 49 screens (which brings the total up to 150 screens). This version has so far only been available to people who bought the tape version (it was on the B-side) but it will be made free sometime in the near future.

HBL

This game was released phyically through Psytronik Software, how did this partnership happen?

Søren

I knew I wanted to put it out on tape and I just wrote the company that I liked the most asked – and Jason from Psytronik said yes. Very simple process.

HBL

Do you have any games that are just sitting on your drives unfinished that you may release one day?

Søren

I have lots of unfinished games – some even +80% finished, but none of these will ever get released. At one point I had so many open projects under development that I found it too stressing to even think about, so I chose to cancel all of them and start with a clean slate and only work on one project at the time.

HBL

Can you tell us what prompted you to get involved in Retro Game Development?

Søren

Just the desire to make games. I have no interest in developing AAA games, so developing retro games is pretty manageable if you don’t want it taking over your life.

HBL

What games at the time (and now) would you say are your biggest inspirations?

Søren

I love vector games and played most of them back in the day, so that’s my motivation for making as many vector games as I have. But I love many types of games, really. I was never really good at ONE game – I thought it was more fun to try lots of different ones, so I guess my inspiration comes from many places.

HBL

What is the biggest challenge you face with the limitations of the hardware, particularly as you continue to expand features title-to-title? (Memory? Graphical capability? Speed?)

Søren

There are very few limitations when you develop for modern platforms, but memory, graphics and speed are always challenges when developing on older platforms. The one thing I probably give the most thought is the speed as I don’t like sluggish games.

HBL

Do you have timelines built into the management of these games?

Søren

No, development takes the time it takes. I would never set myself a deadline – it’s a hobby and if I feel like watching TV instead of coding then I want to do that instead. I don’t do it for meney, so I don’t need deadlines.

HBL

Are you doing all the development independantly?

Søren

Yes, there is only me and I don’t answer to anyone. I’m the sole coder anyway. Usually I need an artist or a musician too, so I have to explain what I need and sometimes I’m lucky to get an artist who “gets it” and I usually see the development as a collaboration between me and them. I’m very flexible that way.

HBL

Which is the most popular game you have created?

Søren

Going by downloads from my own site it would be “The Night Before Christmas”, although I haven’t gotten much feedback on it. Other very popular games would probably be Omega Race 2009 and Dingo for the Spectrum as I’ve gotten lots of feedback on those as well as them both having resulted in good review scores and interviews in Retro Gamer Magazine.

HBL

What prompted the movement to creating an Arcade version of SQIJ?

Søren

I really want to do more games for the Taito hardware and I had (more or less) just finished the Spectrum version, so I thought it would be an easy task to port that as everything was still fresh in my mind.

Finally

A huge thanks to Søren for taking the time to chat to us.

We hoped you enjoyed this installment of Homebrew Legends Interviews.

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