Interview with Michael Speck of LGames

If there are two individuals in the Linux game scene today that they brought a lot and very good Free games to all Linux users, these should be Michael Speck of LGames and Bill Kendrick of NewBreedSoftware. Their games have been played not only by Linux users, but by users on all major platforms via the portability of the SDL game library. Today, we interview Michael Speck, regarding his games, his opinions about the Linux game market, about Linux’s performance as a multimedia platform, his future plans and much more.1. Tell us how you got involved with computer programming. Do you only enjoy game programming, or programming in general? What do you do in “real life”?

Michael Speck: I am at the age of 22 and in real life I study mathematics at the university of Stuttgart, Germany. I also work there in the High Performance Computing Center as an assistent to parallel programming issues.
I got seriously involved with programming when was about fifteen.In school we were about getting lessons in computer sience and I was seeking an opportunity to evolve some special skills back in these days. As my older brother was already programming I thought: Why not learn coding? and so I sat down and worked my way through the TP 7.0 Compendium in my holidays. After that I had the rough basics and as I extremely enjoyed computer games I wanted to do some on my own. The person who made this possible was my brother Thomas who implemented some assembler routines to draw graphics fast. This was essential as I didn’t
know about graphics at this time.
From there on I development different games from DOS to Windows to Linux and never thought about applications. Games give the most fun to a user and that is my ambition behind programming: to have and bring fun.

2. You are mostly using SDL for your games. Tell us, are there some features that you would like to see implemented in a future SDL and related SDL libraries?

Michael Speck: I would like to see a merge of related libraries like SDL_mixer and SDL_image into SDL itself as the routines they provide are very important and still compatible with the basic idea of SDL as DirectMedia Layer. Apart from that I consider SDL to be complete.

3. What is your opinion on the DirectX, Allegro & ClanLib APIs? What made you stick to SDL? Have you tried OpenGL in conjuction to SDL?

Michael Speck: What makes SDL a clear winner is the high portability and easy installation, no one wants to be stuck with dependancies. I never used Allegro or ClanLib for developing but I once had to install ClanLib for a game. This was an annoying and erroneous process and as using a program begins with its installation this is a big minus to ClanLib. It’s not a very comfortable thought that users might turn away before giving your game a try because installation is too difficult.
Long before thinking about portability I have chosen SDL due to another fact: It’s similiar to the fine interface of DirectX which I used in Windows before.
I once coded a little OpenGL demo for Windows to learn about it’s abilities but as I didn’t have hardware 3D support for Linux for a long time I skipped the idea of 3D games to reach the maximum number of users possible.

4. What is your favorite game of all time, and which one of your games is your favorite?

Michael Speck: I don’t have a special all time favorite but one game that impressed me very much was Turrican back in the days of Commodore 64. After that Doom, Command&Conquer and Fallout2 really struck me.
Concerning my games, LBreakout2 has meant an aweful lot of work and I had some very hard and very good times coding it. So the load of efforts and emotions which this game represents make it my favorite one.

5. What other games are you planning to design and write? Will you seek a profession in game programming in the near future?

Michael Speck: A new project which is a cooperation with other developers is currently in the designing phase and aims to extend LGeneral into a networked table-top like game. It has no name yet.

I propably will also take care of ‘Operation Citadel‘ to save this abandoned game from distinction and to port it to SDL.
I think I will seek a profession in programming, if possible in game programming, after I finished my studies which will take about four to five years. Until then I will run LGames as a hobby of mine.

6. What do you think about the Linux performance on multimedia in general?

Michael Speck: Well, it’s easy to watch AVIs, MPEGs and listen to MP3s so the perspective of consuming is covered well. But although I tried all major addresses for Linux software I wasn’t able to find a convincing tool for audio editing. Either they had outrageous dependancies or were to limited in there abilities so I used a shareware tool in Windows to produce the LBreakout2 sounds for example. On the other hand the GIMP is an excellent free tool to modify and draw pictures so ‘creating multimedia’ is a topic that still needs a lot of work.

7. Have you tried other OSes besides Windows and Linux? Which Linux distro are you using?

Michael Speck: Windows and Linux are the only ones. My first Linux distribution was SuSE 6.0 but as its updates became too expensive I switched to Mandrake 8.x.

8. Do you believe that there is still future for the professional/heavy 3D games market under Linux, after the dismiss of Loki Software? What changes to the Linux infrastructure can help in the success of the particular market?

Michael Speck: If games are developed platform-independant from the start which allows to sell it for different platforms in one package with one price then there will definitely be a market under Linux. As long as games are developed on a single platform and ports are skipped with the excuse of higher prices such a market is in question so the decision is up to the industry.
One thing that Linux needs in general is a unified directory structure as alternatives are nice to have as long as they are placed correctly. Concerning the 3D game market installation of 3d hardware support must become very easy, best integrated into the distro’s installation so that any Linux user becomes a potential 3D game user.

9. Personally, I love simple, arcade/platform/puzzle/adventure games, like the ones used to be found at the coin-ops, Amiga and Atari. I like games that I don’t have to read a manual to learn to play. What is your take on today’s “complex” 3D games that take years to complete developing them? Do you enjoy these as much?

Michael Speck: I stopped playing games that need serveral days to be played through. It’s simply no longer my kind of game I prefer the little action and arcade games that can be played in between so concerning myself these large 3D games are a big waste of money.

10. In the same frame of mind of “Vi vs Emacs” and “BSD Vs Linux” which one is better and why, in your opinion? Pacman or Tetris? 🙂

Michael Speck: Tetris! Pacman is lovely but I think Tetris is a more interesting challenge because one has to imagine how to rotate and place the next block before one can actually do it.


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