Carlo Pirri is one of the contributors of the website Hall Of Light which references Amiga games. He's also one of the people who have the biggest... Amiga original games collection.
Hello Carlo. Can you introduce yourself?
Hello David and all Amiga enthusiasts out there! My name is Carlo Pirri - I'm 2^5 + 12 years old (sorry, poor joke for all the maths/stats geeks reading!) and live near Fremantle, Western Australia. I'm a medical psychologist and research consultant/statistician running a jointly-owned business specialising in education and research for cancer doctors and other health professionals.
I am a big Amiga fan (of course!), being a team member of both the Hall Of Light database of Amiga games and the Amiga Magazine Rack for 10-15 years now... but I have a healthy love for a lot of retro computers/magazines that I grew up with during the 1980s/90s. I also love playing sports for fun and fitness (usually Aussie Rules Football and cricket), going out to dinner/pubs and watching sport/movies with friends, and buying novelty items like t-shirts and mugs that give myself and other people a laugh in the routine of everyday life.
You're known as "Dr. Bong". Where does your pseudonym come from?
That's a legacy handle from my early university days when friends and I coded Amiga demos for our own fun, often while having long drinking and "smoking" sessions. I'll leave it to people's imagination as to what we were smoking, but suffice to say that it did seem to enhance the fun and creativity of the few demos we did actually complete! ;-)
Surprisingly, the demos did manage to make it on to a few Australian PD company lists... even though they were only circulated among a small group of Amiga friends. Unfortunately, they were lost along with the source code a long time ago now, but I still have the very amusing mods on disk somewhere.
What was your first computer?
The first computers I used were the BBC and Texas Instruments TI-99/4A (thanks to a primary school teacher far ahead of his time!), along with the VIC-20 that my best friend at school got as a present soon after we were first introduced to computers.
The first computer I owned, however, was the Commodore 64. It holds a very special place in my heart simply because I received it as a Christmas present from my family in 1983. We were far from rich and my family knew nothing about computers, except that I had been saving up all year long the little pocket money I was given each week for school to buy a secondhand VIC-20 (~AUD$150). By Christmas 1983 I had almost saved up all the money I needed, when to my utter shock and amazement a C64 family pack (AUD$499) was waiting for me underneath the tree on Christmas morning. That is one of my happiest childhood memories and it will forever be burned into my mind. The Commodore 64 was truly the common people's computer thanks to Jack Tramiel ("Computers for the masses, not the classes") and I'm not sure that my family could otherwise have afforded such a magnificent gift, which ultimately put me on the path to the Amiga.
When and how did you discover the Amiga?
Well, the first time I heard of the Amiga was when I read about the A1000 in computer magazines (probably Commodore User and Personal Computer Games) I was regularly buying in 1984/85. The first time I saw one in the flesh, though, was in 1986 at a local department store that I used to buy C64 games from. They had two A1000s on display - one running "The Juggler" demo and the other demonstrating the gob-smacking Defender of the Crown. For all my drooling, I knew in my heart that I would never be able to buy one anytime soon as the A1000 was so much more expensive than the C64 and other 8-bit computers being sold in Australia at the time. I would have to wait until 1989 to play games first-hand on an A500, courtesy of a good mate from high school. At that point I became totally hooked and simply had to have one, so I worked part-time during my university studies and bought a brandspanking new A500 for myself after Christmas in 1990.
What are your Amiga configurations? (now and in the past)
I probably have over 30 Amiga systems including CDTV and CD32. Sadly, many of them have been packed away in the last 10 years as I've moved house a few times and haven't had a dedicated games room like I did once upon a time. At the moment I have four Amiga systems set-up: A1200/68030/66MB, A500/1MB-A500/2MB and A2000/68030/10MB. To give you an indication of what I have packed away, below are the configurations I used back in the day to regularly test WHDLoad/JST HD patched games and more:
Probably 3500-4000 boxed games including CDTV/CD32 titles. Quite a few more if compilations, budget releases, duplicates, loose game disks etc. are taken into account. Again, due to a lack of space many are packed away in boxes, although I have managed to sort most games beginning with the letters A to L on to 5 large bookshelves (see photos). I have a fair number of games (~700-800) for the C64/128, VIC-20, Atari Lynx and Sony PlayStation also, but nearly all of them have come with hardware that I have bought or been given over the years.
Well, I started buying a small amount of computer games after I bought an A1200HD in early 1994. I had just started a Masters degree in clinical psychology and really needed a computer with a HD for word processing (using KindWords on a standard A500 for my undergraduate research thesis had been torture!). Luckily, my local department store had a cheap unadvertised A1200HD (~AUD$799) that had been returned to them after they'd received it brand new with a faulty HD from Commodore. Suffice to say, they couldn't ring the sale through the cash register quick enough for me! As a nice bonus, they threw in a couple of old A500 games off the store shelf also. I think that's where the first seed was planted. If not there, it was well and truly cultivated a couple of years later when WHDLoad and JST were both released and the HD installer patches released for them only really supported original commercial games (and NOT cracked versions).
At that point, my games collection grew very quickly from 100 to 1000+ games as the Amiga was all but commercially dead in Australia. It was the days before Yahoo Auctions and eBay... so people were either giving away or selling their Amiga computers and shop-bought games very cheaply in the newspaper, and Australian retailers and Amiga game distributors were clearing out Amiga games for pennies as PCs and the Sony PlayStation reigned supreme.
What are the rarest games of your Amiga collection?
Geez, that's a very tough question... there are actually quite a few to choose from. I'm sure there are many rare games that I've forgotten about, but off the top of my head and, in no particular order, I'd say:
Amiga Karate and Mickey Mouse
MicroLeague Wrestling (1990 Version)
WestPhaser (including light gun)
Amiga game boxes that are different to the standard shape and size are usually very cool! Amiga Karate has a triangular box, while the limited edition release of Vaxine comes in a round biscuit tin box.
Plan 9 from Outer Space. Most of these can be seen in photos here or by following the links.
No way and I doubt that it ever has been! For the longest time Peter Olafson (ex-Amiga World journalist in the U.S.) had the biggest Amiga games collection in the world, but he pretty much auctioned all of it on eBay in 2014/15 as he no longer needed it for the retro videogame book that he was writing. There are at least a few guys in Europe (Amicoder, Christian Sauer aka ville9, Zeg, Toaks, Cebulba) who have been buying Amiga games as long as I have, if not longer, so they probably have larger collections. I doubt that I will ever own every commercial Amiga game, but after all this time I'm still having a lot of fun discovering games that I've never seen or heard of before! 8-D. It's even more pleasurable if it's a game that isn't available on the internet and can be shared with the English Amiga Board peeps, or doesn't have box/disk scans (or even a game entry!) in HOL.
You're one of the "old" members of Hall Of Light. First, did you know why this name?
I believe the name was coined by founding member CodyJarrett. There is a quotation on the Hall Of Light (HOL) website that gives a clue about where the name comes from: "They who make researches into Antiquity, may be said to pass often through many dark lobbies and dusky places, before they come to the Aula Lucis, the great Hall of Light; they must repair to old archives, and peruse many moulded and motheaten records, and so bring light, as it were, out of darkness, to inform the present world what the former did, and make us see truth through our ancestors' eyes." [Source: James Howell in "Londinopolis: An Historical Discourse or Perlustration of the City of London", publisher unknown].
The quote is by James Howell, who was a 17th century British historical writer. Like historical writers past and present, the HOL team's mission is, first and foremost, to preserve the history of Amiga games as accurately as we can and catalogue all commercial Amiga games... so that current generations and those to come will not forget the important and exciting contribution that the Amiga has made to the relatively early beginnings of videogames as we now know it.
Can you present this website? Who were the original creators? What are the objectives? How to contribute?
The Hall Of Light is currently the largest, most complete online database of commercial Amiga games and edutainment titles on the planet. Licenceware games are considered commercial enough to be included in HOL, but shareware and PD/freeware games in the past have generally been added only to provide a more complete picture of the softography of developers/publishers who started out in those arenas before going commercial (e.g. Team 17, Paul Burkey). In the last few years, we have relaxed that a little and have added more non-commercial games - usually by request (when game info. and/or screenshots have been supplied to us), or simply at our own discretion because the quality of the games have justified their inclusion in HOL. It has to be remembered, though, that we are a non-profit project and have limited time and resources. Therefore our primary objective is still to catalogue all commercial Amiga games (both released and unreleased), and to make each game entry as complete as possible by including as many screenshots, scans of game contents, game trivia and other interesting information & material that we can for it.
The original creators of HOL were chiefly Adrian Simpson (CodyJarrett) and Pierre Astruc (RCK), with some good support from retired members of the initial team like Walker. They were responsible for the concept/design and coding of HOL. Of course, without RCK's coding skills and his generous hosting of HOL (and many other Amiga websites like the English Amiga Board forum, Amiga Magazine Rack and Amiga Lore) at his own cost... we wouldn't be talking about any of this!
As always, we welcome any and all contributions for Amiga games that people think might be interesting to include in HOL. Every contributor is credited in the HOL league table and points are awarded for any material submitted and used. For information about how to contribute to the Hall of Light and more, Amiga fans out there needn't look any further than the HOL FAQ.
How the Hall Of Light team is organised? Who do what? Did you use an internal forum? Or you work separately?
The HOL team consists of members from all major parts of the world where the Amiga enjoyed some good popularity with game publishers and computer users. The international flavour of the team is one of the HOL's greatest strengths, as knowledge about Amiga game releases in different parts of the world can be brought together for each and every game. Currently, 6 HOL team members are active (for all aspects of the game database potentially), with some great ongoing support from specialist super contributors like dlfrsilver (rare box/manual scans), ED-209 (box/manual scans + more), clenched (game maps + cheats), logix (screenshots + box/manual scans), Rob 1 (HOL contributions processing) and hipoonios (screenshots, cheats + more).
We have an internal forum on the English Amiga Board and an email list to discuss important HOL matters as a team. Generally, team members and super contributors work individually in their own free time and draw upon these resources to ask questions and discuss problems concerning HOL when they need to. There's also a dedicated HOL sub-forum on EAB that team members have been known to post to if they're not too busy working on HOL and real life is not getting in the way! ;-)
What are the future plans of Hall Of Light? What about the inclusion of more public domain games or a download section?
Our newest super contributor Hipoonios is a screenshot machine and has just begun uploading lots of screenshots for PD games. He has many more for games that currently do not appear in HOL, so you can expect to see new game entries being created in the coming months for good quality PD games that a lot of Amiga gamers out there have never ever seen before! Of course, download links will be provided for those games (in the "notes" section of game entries at this stage) on top of the ones that already exist for commercial games that have been made available by developers/publisher (e.g. International Karate ; Super Tennis Champs ; OnEscapee).
As for future plans, CodyJarrett has recently been busy converting the HOL database to make it simpler and more intuitive. For instance, where the HOL currently has separate entries for the same game (e.g. Zool OCS/ECS, AGA and CD32), the new database structure will combine them into a single game entry with multiple versions (OCS/ECS, AGA and CD32) and each version can have multiple releases (full price, budget, etc.). There's also a need to create a new, more responsive front-end.
The long-term plan for the Hall Of Light, however, is to ultimately create a super HOL and combine key parts of sister projects like the Amiga Magazine Rack (e.g. reviews, previews, developer articles, coverdisk demos, etc.) and Amiga Lore (e.g. user ratings and reviews for games, developer interviews, etc.). Exciting stuff!
What are your methods or tricks to find games that are not in the HOL database?
There are a variety of sources that can be drawn upon including eBay, old Amiga magazine reviews, old warez CDs and TOSEC, other game databases or Amiga game lists like the one that appears here on Obligement, posts in Amiga forums such as EAB and, wickedly enough, HOL contributions. Occasionally, just booting up different releases of a game (e.g. U.S. vs UK version) out of curiosity and comparing them in terms of titlescreens, gameplay, etc. uncovers a missing entry in HOL. That's how I discovered slightly different game versions of Out Run and Omar Sharif's Bridge, for example.
You are also a contributor of Amiga Magazine Rack. Could you introduce this website?
Well, the Amiga Magazine Rack (AMR) first hit the Internet in 2007 and was Codetapper's brainchild with some very good support and input from Galaxy. Originally it was conceived just to index magazine coverdisks as Mr Dig's Amiga Coverdisk webpage was not being updated anymore. Codetapper then added scans of the covers for the magazines that he owned, and from there it quickly grew into a project where indexing the whole magazine (game/serious software/hardware reviews, game cheats/adverts, special features, interviews, etc.) basically everything except computer dealer adverts - became the goal.
The big difference between AMR and many other retro magazine websites/databases (e.g. Archive.org) that often gets overlooked or dismissed is that AMR makes a point of trying to catalogue game reviews, cheats, etc., so that when you search for a particular game you are provided with search results that give a whole host of specific details like the magazine it appeared in, issue/month/year, page number, developer/publisher, reviewer name/percentage etc. all with a direct link to the scan (if present) that can be instantly accessed at a single click of the mouse button. Most others, at best, just identify all instances of the game mentioned in a magazine issue (presumably using sophisticated OCR search software) and end-users then patiently have to spend many minutes clicking through the results one-by-one until they find what they were searching for, if they actually find it at all.
Sadly enough, whilst scanning Amiga magazines has become a lot more appealing with greater access to advanced scanning technology (e.g. deluxe photocopier/scanners)... indexing the contents of pages contained in each and every issue of a magazine using Excel can still be a real downer and we've had precious few contributors for this aspect of AMR outside the team.
Nonetheless, if anyone wants to take up the gauntlet and contribute to AMR by indexing magazine contents or providing scans that we are missing, then please check out the Amiga Magazine Rack FAQ for your chance to be immortalised and entered into a draw for free sex 'n' beer (just kidding folks on that last part!).
Most of the scans in Amiga Magazine Rack are for the games. So lots of magazines are incomplete. Do you plan to add missing pages?
That's pretty much the situation, but if people look more closely at magazine issues by pressing the "pages" button, they will sometimes find that there is a lot more there than just scans of game reviews and cheats. They are inadvertedly "hidden" because no-one has indexed them yet. At the start the intention was to only worry about indexing game reviews, previews, cheats, etc., but much later it was decided that including feature articles, hardware reviews, software/hardware adverts (publishers only, not computer shops) and the like would also be a good idea. By that time, however, I think Galaxy had become inactive, I wasn't terribly active due to heavy commitments in real life and Codetapper had just started a family... and, as I said before, there has been very little interest from outside the team to do any indexing full stop.
Codetapper has some firm views on this topic, especially given the team's limited time and resources. He believes that unless pages are indexed, there's little point in spending limited time scanning all the adverts - particularly the redundant computer shop adverts (e.g. Gordon Harwood Computers 6 page spreads) - most of which will never be looked at by AMR visitors, but nonetheless would soak up a great deal of valuable time in scanning and indexing. This time would be much better spent devoted to missing material that would be of greater interest (e.g. the "diary of a game" features by game developers like Andrew Braybrook; interviews with software publishers/developers). If AMR had unlimited disk space, then more magazine scans would definitely be uploaded... but that would require people to send us scans of their magazines and, sadly enough, there haven't been too many contributors outside the team in the last few years even for that!
Do you have the authorization from original publishers to scan these magazines? Have you received complaints from magazines publishers?
No, we have no official authorisation from original publishers. We're not sure that there are really any left (quite a few went bankrupt back in the day) outside Future Publishing, who incidentally have just acquired Imagine Publishing and are now publishing Retro Gamer. In any case, we have received zero complaints from magazine publishers. In fact, we've received very little feedback indeed about AMR over the years except for the odd person saying it was great to be able to view individual pages rather than having to flick through almost a whole issue, often using an awkward interface or front-end on websites like Archive.org.
What is your opinion about the Vampire cards and the FPGA accelerators?
They are a very interesting innovation and offer greater choice to Amiga fans in the modern era. No more, no less. Any claim made by their producers or outspoken supporters, however, that they are a game-changer for the Amiga community is highly presumptuous and assumes that they have learnt from the commercial failures of previous innovations in Amiga hardware (e.g. CDTV, CD32, 68K/PPC combo accelerators) and are able to overcome obstacles that no-one else has even come close to conquering thus far. Software sells hardware, not the other way around... and decent hardware sales alone in a niche market will not guarantee that the developers will come (can anyone say BeBox?!) The time has well and truly passed for there to be any real game-changers for Amiga hardware and, frankly, more than ever the Amiga community needs to make a concerted effort to come together and be more united rather than continue the bickering and trolling about what hardware/OS pathway is "best for everyone" and further splinter the Amiga community. IMHO 2016 was a real breakout year for homebrew games and other software being realised by co-operation between developers on the Amiga. Let's have more of it in 2017 and beyond please!
What is your opinion about the Amiga NG? (all flavors)
My answer for the last question above largely applies here too. Admittedly, I think Trevor Dickinson and A-EON Technology may have some insight into the "nice hardware, shame about the software" problem that the Amiga NG platform also suffers from, particularly in regard to must-have software suites (e.g. net suite including a modern browser with up-to-date SSL, Office suite). Progress has been very slow, which is no great surprise for such an expensive niche platform... but to their credit they haven't quit trying. I will be moderately interested to see how LibreOffice runs on Amiga NG systems when the port is finally completed, but in the meantime I'm quite content to enjoy the Amiga hardware (classic 68K/PPC and Pegasos) and software that I do have.
You're Australian. What is the situation of the Amiga in Australia? Do you have anecdotes about the Amiga in Australia?
Relatively-speaking, there's a lot more interest in the Amiga on the east coast of Australia - predominantly Melbourne and Sydney, who still have active user groups (AUG, SAUG) and even host a demo party with an old skool section that includes the C64 and Amiga (Syntax Demoparty). NovaCoder, Cammy and Rebel on the east coast have also been active in game coding and Amiga ports in recent years too.
I'm on the west coast of Australia, though, and there's been very little interest since the main Amiga user group wound down its operations in 2000. The last big event I remember them hosting here was a visit from Petro Tyschtschenko, after Gateway 2000 bought the Amiga IP in 1997 following Escom's disastrous bankruptcy (and Commodore's bankruptcy before it!). Petro was very charismatic and extremely passionate about the Amiga, even when talking to the relatively small user group that we were at the time. However, as passionate and upbeat as he was about the Amiga returning on the back of Gateway's purchase, I couldn't help but think that deep down he knew that the Amiga's chance of becoming commercially viable again had passed away with Escom's demise. Nevertheless, it was a fun and memorable meeting and, to this day, I still have the Amiga "Back for the Future" CD and giant poster from the Boing Bag information packs he gave each of us.
Is there a question I didn't asked you, and that you want to answer to?
No, not really. You've asked lots of questions and I'm sure I've typed far too much for most of my answers to them! ;-)
A last message for the Amiga community?
Special greetings go out to RCK and all my comrades at arms in the HOL and AMR teams; Bert, Jeff, Ian, Philippe, Phill, Keith, Pavel, Bertrand, Achim and all the other legends (past and present) who have worked on WHDLoad and JST HD patch installers; Toni for WinUAE (I don't emulate, but I can still appreciate all the tireless hard work you put into WinUAE so others may reap great enjoyment), all the peeps at EAB (DamienD, Retroplay, Denis, ED-209, Niobyte et al.); and, finally, to you David and others like you who maintain such interesting and informative Amiga websites (keep up the wonderful work!). Thanks for reading... I'm outta here people!!! 8-D