Where did the idea for Soulless come from?

Trev: That came from me - after playing Joe Gunn it really took me back to those teen years and made me think of the games I loved to play which where basically platform games. A couple of my faves were Impossible Mission and Draconus...... Can you tell? I fiddled about with a puzzle idea and SHAZZAM ... the game idea was born.

Georg: That's completely Trevors idea. From the looks there's a bit of Antiriad in there ;)

How did your collaboration on the game come about?

Trev: I really loved Joe Gunn and I've wanted to do another c64 game for donkies years so I spoke to Georg and bunged him a couple of mockups of an idea I had ... And like the man from Del Monte, he said YES.

Georg: I asked Trevor to help out on the Supernatural game tutorial thingy. Or he volunteered? Anyway, he made a great bunch of imagery, and that's when he asked if we could collaborate on Soulless.

Early Soulless screen mockups

How long did the game take to produce - from initial idea to final release?

Trev: Oooo now your talking - I would say about 8 months, it took that long because of other projects inbetween.

Georg: Must be nearly a year. The idea came up in the first half of 2011, real work started a bit later.

The game shares some similarities with Draconus, Impossible Mission & Shadow Of The Beast - did these directly inspire the game?

Trev: Impossible mission was the main inspiration. I always loved the search aspect of the game. the art style was defo inspired by Draconus, big bold and colourful.

Draconus (C64)

Georg: Game play wise I'd say the most obvious inspiration is Impossible Mission (searching and puzzle). I actually only know screenshots from the other two, the player character has similarities though.

Impossible Mission (C64)

The game has an interesting back-story, who came up with this?

Trev: I always loved the simple 8bit / 16bit backstories to most platformers so I kinda went along those lines ... I'm no Stephen King, am I!

Where did the idea to include the comic booklet come from?

Trev: the idea came from The Sacred Armour of Antiriad. I loved the fact the game came with a little comic backstory and thought it would be cool to include one with Soulless. I mentioned the idea to kenz and he agreed. I spent a week or so fiddling with different styles and ended up with a loose sketchy art style that I really liked.

A rough mockup of the Soulless comic
(Click to view larger version)

How did you manage to fit the complete game into just 64K?

Georg: There's actually not that much compression going on. I had a level editor created for Supernatural which allowed building a screen from several types of primitives. This type of build up lends to nice memory saving opportunities if you don't go overboard with little details. With a bit of fiddling I think a few more screens would be possible.

How long did it take to design the character of Rizek in beast form that you control in the game?

Trev: At first I had the main character as 1 sprite in size (24x21 pixels) but once I'd done a few mockups he looked a bit weedy and small so i decided to make him 2 sprites. His first incarnation looked very alien like which i liked but I ended up with the green lizard look- as soon as i had the art done it only took a few hours for Georg to get him running / jumping around, what you see in the final game is basically what was done in the first few days.

Rizek character ideas

The game features a gorgeous animated intro sequence - tell us a bit more about where the idea of this came from and how it was produced.

Trev: Well I'm a bit of a git with programmers, I try to cram in as much as I can and make them work as hard as possible. Like most of us I always loved a nice intro so really wanted to do one for Soulless. I started with the comic I'd done and cut it down to a few specific scenes then I passed the idea onto Georg making sure it was possible. As soon as i knew it was do-able I got stuck in and bunged it back to Georg. It did need a bit of fiddling to get it to fit - the horse scene for example neaded a fair bit of simplifying but what you see is 99% what I had in mind.

Georg: Trevor had the story fleshed out before hand for the comic booklet, but I think he designed most of the intro parts when the need arose.

An early design for the Soulless intro
(Click to view larger version)

The search mechanic works really well (it's much simpler to grasp than the jigsaw puzzle in Impossible Mission) - how did that come about?

Trev: I really loved the search mechanic in Impossible Mission and that was the main inspiration behind the game. I didn't want it to be overly complex so made the puzzle part pretty simple to work out. Although I do love the Impossible Mission puzzles too.

Georg: I guess there were quite a few people who did have problems with the puzzle in IM. My part was to have randomisation with all the objects, to have some replayability.

Trevor, you are well-known for working on awesome PC remakes of 8-Bit games. What made you want to return to an actual 8-Bit system to produce Soulless?

Trev: I did my first art for Tynesoft way back in the day for a winter sports game (I did a few sprites for it) and moved on to Amiga / ST doing stuff for Ocean / US Gold etc. I guess the love for 2D never dies and when I played Joe Gunn it inspired me to get back to my roots. Part of the fun is working to huge restrictions and to try and make thing look nice in a few colours. Thankfully, Georg was great to work with and the editor he created was perfect for a simple artist like me to use :)

Georg, Soulless is your first big C64 release since Joe Gunn. How does the production of Soulless compare with the production of Joe Gunn? Was Soulless more complex to create?

Georg: Joe Gunn was my first foray into C64 assembly, so much was learned during creating it. I made a few other smaller projects after that and had a lot more insight on how to tackle things. Just before Soulless came about I was actually trying to make a demake of Ovine's Rocky Memphis. I had a bit of code going, and it was an almost perfect fit for Soulless. Soulless is a lot bigger, and I'm glad I had started my specialized IDE C64Studio. It helped me with a lot of smaller stuff and I'm happily adding tools that support game development.

Joe Gunn (C64)

You bought Mikkel 'Encore' Hastrup on board to produce the audio for the game and he produced some great atmospheric soundtracks. How did this collaboration come about?

Georg: We asked around in a few forums and he was the first to answer. And boy, he sure is good! The intro music gives me shivers.

Was anything left out of the game for any reason (E.G. memory restrictions?)

Trev: Nope, everything in my original idea is in the game - 3 cheers for Georg... hip hip

Georg: Gladly not. I'd rather sacrifice a few details in the screens to get all the screens in. When we wanted to have an opulent intro / outro it was quite obvious that they wouldn't fit in. Currently I don't know if we can manage to cram all into the cartridge (but I'll try!)

Smila, please tell us a bit more about the production of the amazing Soulless cover-art.

Trev: My first thoughts for the cover art was along the lines of the Ultimate box art style. I had seen a picture of a demon ages ago and really liked the look of it and kinda based the cover on that. I tried it with an Ultimate style border but it just didn't work so I ended up going with a Thalamus style border as that seems to work well with everything, Haha!

Various stages of design for the Soulless cover artwork
(Click to view larger version)

Any tips that can help out players of Soulless?

Trev: The only tip I can think of is when you enter a new room don't just go sprinting in, take a few steps and see whats going on or you will end up stepping on a beastie.

Georg: Don't hurry. Trevor made sure that all the rooms are manageable.

Soulless puzzle idea

Any plans for a sequel to Soulless? Or are you going to let Rizek take a rest after his arduous adventure?

Trev: I do have an idea for a sequel but I'm not going to give anything away ... Not yet anyhoo!

Georg: No plans that I know of so far, but who knows Trevor's mind? ;)

Trevor, any chance of a PC remake of Soulless?

Trev: I have no plans yet but hay... you never know .. doing a remake of your own game is a very appealing idea :)

So what C64 project can we expect next from you guys?

Trev: I've already jabbed Georg with an idea for a Bubble Bobble inspired game. In fact 80% of the art is already done for it so he bloody better program it or there will be hell to pay :P

Georg: Looks like Catnipped is going to be it. However I wouldn't mind having Trevor on board for the next RGCD catridge competition *hinthintnudgenudgeknowwhatimean* ;)

Catnipped - The next C64 project from Trevor & Georg!

And finally, the Commodore 64 is 30 years old this year. What it is about the C64 that makes you want to keep supporting it and produce new software for it in 2012?

Trev: For me it's the memories it brings back... that awesome kick you got when you loaded a new game and watched the intro for the first time. The thrill you got from hearing a new sid tune, The loading screen, the gaming heroes - Hubbard, Fasoulas, Galway, Walker, Braybrook the Zzap!64 team etc. And the fact the c64 is just a fucking fantastic piece of history that I love and fully enjoy working on still.

Georg: First of all, obviously nostalgia. And then, how very managable it is for a few persons in comparison with todays systems. There's nearly everything programming and behaviour wise spread over the internet. That helps immensely.

The complete map you get to explore in Soulless
(Click to view larger version)

The Making Of Soulless - Layout by Jason 'Kenz' Mackenzie. © 2012 Psytronik Software.