Monday, May 30, 2016

Marko Latvanen

Marko Latvanen currently handles all of the Atari ST administration for the AtariMania website which must be a massive undertaking but one he is committed to finishing. AtariMania is a popular website that has catalogued and detailed almost every Atari ST game. I don't think a day passes without a visit from myself and zillions of other people, I'm sure.

Of course, AtariMania isn't just about Atari ST gaming because they also feature utilities, applications, demos and even scans for books, adverts and magazines. Not to mention support all other Atari machines, from those odd-looking consoles to the mighty Falcon computer & Jaguar CD.

Marko is a cool chap and works hard for our Atari scene so I figured it was about time he answered few questions for a feature here at AtariCrypt towers - thank you Marko! You know what to do... clickety-click and visit the AtariMania website right now!


What is your role within the world of AtariMania?

Atarimania is a huge project which tries to preserve and catalogue the golden memories of gaming but also demos and utilities over 9 different systems (Arcade coin-op, 2600, 5200, 7800, Lynx, Jaguar, Atari 800-series, Atari ST–series and Falcon030 / TT. A lot has been done but also a huge amount of work is still ahead for a small team like us. Our headquarters is in France and we have 5-7 active members for the whole Atarimania website.

My role is mainly Atarimania ST database moderator. So I’m basically doing a lot of “household” work with our custom built software. It includes building database records, correcting information based on our own research, adding screenshots, hunting down unreleased games and their creators, helping them with utilities to save precious ST productions before they break down, doing a lot of cross reference checking, game archiving and research which is the most interesting part. I like being a software archaeologist for the digital dawn of 16bit computing.

In the last 12 months I’ve been also building a database for Atari’s last beast, the Jaguar. Oh and I’ll update the Atarimania Facebook page as well. What else, surely missed something (grin emoticon). I get of course a lot of help from Stefan_L and Champions_2002 who also do the database moderation, background research and are equally as important part of Atarimania ST-section.

What does the Atari ST platform mean to you?

It was the first computer I bought with my own money after working hard the whole summer 1990. My parents really didn’t dig computers so we never had one when I was a kid. That’s why I jumped straight to the 16bit waggon. Played a lot with Philips VideoPac G7000, C64 and Amiga with my mates though. After seeing an ST in Finland’s leading computer magazine Mikrobitti I knew what I wanted. I had to wait for a few years but when I finally was old enough for the summer job, oh boy! There they were side by side at the computer shop – an Amiga 500 and Atari 520STfm. I still remember it like yesterday. My choice was clear and I never regret it (wink emoticon)

So I grew up with my ST, it offered me thousands of hours of fun with games and some jaw dropping demos, I learned English (sort of anyway!) by using an ST and it helped me to secure my job in Desktop Publishing business (thanks to Calamus and TimeWorks Publisher). For a while, I even got paid using an ST as a workhorse in mid 90’s.

I do this because I want ST and its memories to live forever. It’s also my way to say huge thanks to all those game, demo and serious software developers, graphics artists, musicians and designers who offered me so much fun over the last decades. Their work should not be forgotten. It’s also a most rewarding feeling to get unreleased stuff dug out of people's attic to save them from destruction.

I hope you are in this for the long haul?

Been into the Atari ST every day since 1990 so I’ll be there as long as most of my fingers and senses are working! And of course, as long as Franck keeps the site up and running. Retro computers just keep getting better every year!

How do you envision AtariMania 10 years from now?

In 10 years it should be a top research-quality database for the future generations of computer historians, journalists and the people who want to see and feel what Atari was about its golden years. Hopefully, it will also feature a lot more videos, music files and a capable online ST / Falcon emulator to try out the games and demos.

What Atari computers do you own?

Erm.. Well, they sort of started to pile up since 1996 when people practically gave them for free or for very little money… I think it’s better to just click here: ;-)
(like wow!!! -Steve)

What are you favourite Atari ST games?

I’ve always been a big fan of racing games from the day one so Vroom, Microprose GP, Stunt Car Racer, Crazy Cars III, Toyota Celica GT Rally, Lotus and Super Cars series were the ones I’ve played most back in the day. For the other genres, i guess I'm still playing Kick Off, Phantasie III, Obsession, Pro Tennis Tour, Fire & Ice, Elite and most part of the awesome Power Pack bundle in the retirement home if they allow computers!

Are you planning any changes to AtariMania?

As I’m only an ST moderator it is really up to Franck to decide where the future of Atarimania is heading. I think there’s so much work ahead in most of the databases itself. We should concentrate on that until the work is done.

Is the Atari ST database close to completion?

I would say something like 45-50 percent. We have most of the commercial releases in as well as the biggest demoscene productions from ST’s commercial years. We are still missing many hundreds of PD / shareware games, a huge amount of Falcon stuff and utilities.

From the artist credits part, it really is not yet in such shape it should be used for research purposes without double checking first. The problem originates mostly from the imported list Atarimania used as a basis of the database. It, unfortunately, had a lot of errors in it. Another part is caused by me as doing too many 10-11 hour Atarimania days at the start of the project wasn’t maybe wisest move after all! It’s an extremely slow task to check everything, but we’ll publish the correction progress on the Atarimania news page a bit by bit.

AtariMania's ST games are not playable on real hardware?

It’s because we try to preserve games as originally as possible. Most cracked versions had title screens or even digital music tracks removed or altered so the originality was gone. As we want to give the full credits and support to the original authors who did the hard work in the 80’s and 90’s, we don’t use cracked versions on ST section.

However, I must point out that game crackers did a very important job historically speaking if you look it nowadays. The majority of the classic games would have been lost without people spreading them back in the days, and there probably wouldn’t be commercial interest in retro gaming nowadays without crackers who kept the software alive. So they really deserve the credit for their work but we just like to do things unedited when possible.

You have so many aliases on Demozoo! Why?

Hmm. There seem to be some errors. The ones I used were mostly related to Jean-Michel Jarre’s recordings. Not sure where the Beatdrum or Squish came from… Probably from some lazy editing of my crappy MOD-files.

I guess I just couldn’t make my mind. First, we had a little user group called The Atariga Crew. We did some 40+ compact disks mostly for our own use and had little gaming parties. We also toyed a bit with STOS Basic but I soon found out I had no character of a coder. My highlight was to get a UFO sprite bouncing around the screen (grin emoticon). My cousin was a bit better but he never got much running either. So we used an util called Intro Concept to run our menu disks. I concentrated mostly on swapping and graphics.

After my cousin got bored on ST I started Alien Nation to do some graphics work. In later stages, we finally got a real coder from the UK. Under that name, we released 10 MOD disks and some 40 more compact disks, again mostly for internal use. I used some of the graphics in them I did with Canvas and Deluxe Paint ST. I also did a new set of VW Buggy themed graphics for PD racing game called Hot Wheels but the disk is unfortunately lost. After a while, our coder went to iMac and we had some plans to make a game for but it got nowhere.

In the meantime, a crew called “Depression” asked me to do some logos for them. One of them is actually painted using Amigaarghh (don’t shoot me, my STe was collecting dust at a computer shop for memory expansion) and others with 68030 powered Apple Macintosh IIfx in PhotoShop 3. Shame on me! (demozoo weblink)

What makes Marko tick?

Having two under 10-year-old daughters, a Collie dog and doing mainly working hours from 3pm to 11pm does, unfortunately, rule out most of the social hobbies.

Besides Atari things, I'm also a big Mazda Motorsports fan and follow everything Mazda-related racing action closely. They’ve an amazing racing heritage in the USA thanks to the rotary engine which was something no other car manufacturer managed to get working properly. I even travelled to the UK last year just to see and hear their vintage rotary powered racing cars. I also keep my 1995 323F’s and 1992 MX-3 in running order, expanding my 520+ title racing games collection.I try to go to as power metal gigs I can & of course have a beer or two with my friends from time to time and play retro games.

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