XLCUS – a brief history of a C64 developer

paulkFollowing on from our recent Parallel Logic piece – I also recently got speaking with Paul Kubiszyn to find out more about XLCUS, which was a short lived company which was aiming to keep the C64 going. I only needed to find out a few bits for an article i’m writing, but again like with Phil Boyce – Paul gave an excellent account which I felt was worth sharing in its Q/A form…

1) When did XLCUS roughly start out?

It would have to have been around the time of 1994 or 1995. Without going through individual programs and games to see what the title screens say I cannot say for sure. I had a quick look and think it started sometime after Amorphous and MegaForce, but before the PD demos which appears on Commodore Format magazine.

2) What triggered you to kick off XLCUS?

square-scape1Prior to XLCUS I was developing with assistance from my brother Mark and so the original Square Scape was credited to M&P Software (Mark and Paul, see what I did there ) Amorphous and MegaForce were pretty much fully my own work, although some of the music in Amorphous (the end game sequence) could be credited to XLCUS.

When I started to write demos they were mainly under the name XLCUS; this was because I teamed up with my good friend and Acorn Archimedes programmer Jonathan Hunt. He was known at the time as Arcus and I was known as XL, so we took the names and squashed them together to form XLCUS. Later this went on to change to XL.C.US for some odd reason which I cannot remember

3) Was the move to selling your games to Commodore Format down to poor sales would you say?

Square_Scape_IIA little yes. I was also young at the time and desperate for money Commodore Format gave me the opportunity to write a game, send it in and immediately receive payment for it. I use the term immediate with a roll of my eyes as getting money from that magazine was absolute hell.

I remember pestering Karen the editor on an almost daily basis chasing payments. In regards to private sales of games, I must have sold about 100 in tops of all my releases. I still have all of the nice kind letters which people wrote accompanying their payments – There might even be one or more of yours in there. There were definitely a few from the late great Derbyshire Ram as I recall.

4) What made you decide to call it time on the C64?

This occurred during the very early days of the Internet. With no magazines, no ways of reaching C64 users, and with C64 users bailing to go the PC route, it seemed like the right time. I had also just entered the world of full time employment and found I had little inclination or time at the end of very busy days to sit down and program.

Little did I know at the time that the C64 community would actually become stronger than ever with the advent of the Internet and the likes of Twitter and Facebook. Unfortunately even with the fan support etc, it would never make the C64 a viable platform to write and sell new software for. I cannot imagine people are that willing to pay for newer C64 releases and the few that do sell have to be really very special. I still love and own my humble C64 setup (1541Mk II and 1581 drives, Action Replay MkV, SID-8580 rv2, Expert cartridge etc) and break it out from time to time to show to my children.

5) Is it correct that you collaborated with Eagleware International on some imports and also set up the Eternity disk magazine?

eternityI remember collaborating on the Eternity disk magazine for which I think I wrote the entire disk magazine interface, including the back end stuff for editors to create content. I may also have written some music. The import part though was with another company called BIB Developments.

I think I helped to import 2 games with the rights purchased from CP Verlag. The games were Super Nibbly and Super Stardust or something like that. We had 500 tapes mastered professionally by the same company as most other publishers at the time used, and sold about 10! – The games were amazing and the timing was the only thing that was wrong.

6) What did you do next?

I went through a period of writing music, although was never particularly happy with my final songs. I spent lots of time working far too hard for other people, mainly as managers. I wrote some PC software and games, some mobile apps, built lots of websites and finally started my own business.

I ran my own successful business for 7 years and in wrapped it up earlier this year to become a stay at home dad. My business made profits in all but one year, which I am pleased to say wasn’t the final one I am now a budding iOS programmer and currently working on a port of my Square Scape 2 game to the Apple iPhone and iPad.

I also still write music, although haven’t published anything in a while. I have several tunes I am very pleased with and hope to release them within the as yet untitled remake of Square Scape 2. The game will be of great interest to C64 fans as it will have that definite retro flavour mixed in the new. It will feature all of the original C64 levels, with original C64 graphics and music, in addition to a remixed version, and all new iOS levels, graphics and music. No completion date yet I am afraid

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