ACE on the Autobahn
ACE visits a bunch of cool code cruisers in West Germany
Thalion lines-up in Gütersloh's town centre at the 1989 Gütersloh christmas market. The photo features an almost 100% complete Thalion employee roster, plus some British guys who worked at Grandslam - this was because Grandslam had just secured the rights to UK distribution of Thalion games ("Chambers of Shaolin" was the first product of Grandslam's new deal with European programming house Thalion [TGM issue 24, November 1989]).
From left to right: Duncan "Arthur Daley" Lowthian from Grandslam, Holger Flöttmann (23, co-founder of Thalion and managing director at the time), Karsten Köper (designer of "Amberstar" and "Ambermoon"), Richard Karsmakers (22), Manuela Scholz (24, receptionist/ secretary babe), Niclas "Nic of TCB" Thisell (who programmed "Enchanted Land"), Marc "Eclipse" Rosocha (who programmed "Chambers of Shaolin", "Wings of Death" and "Wings of Death II"), Erik "ES of TEX" Simon (25, co-founder of Thalion, graphics wizard and designer of, among many other things, "Dragonflight"), Gunther Schmitz (graphics artist, "Chambers of Shaolin" and some of "Wings of Death"), a largely obscured Michael Bittner (who programmed "Warp", "Leavin' Teramis" and "Trex Warrior"), Jochen Hippel (18, who did all the sound programming, of course, but also did Amiga conversions), Stephen Hall (boss of Grandslam), Monika Krawinkel (24, graphics for a lot of games, including Rainbow Arts' "Bad Cat" before she joined Thalion, and also "Amberstar"), Christian Jungen (who programmed the seminal "No Second Prize"), Matthias Sykosch (the PC versions of most early Thalion games were done by him), Mario Knezovic (who did Commodore 64 versions of the old games) and Thomas Detert (who did Commodore 64 versions of the Jochen Hippel music - he's the one with the punk hairdo). The only person who is not in this picture but who I am pretty sure worked at Thalion at that time was Michael "Mickey" Grohe, who did graphics for "Enchanted Land" and quite a bit of "Leavin' Teramis".
|What do you get when
a group of young ex-hackers decide to produce their own
games? A software company with the expertise and
potential to write a major blockbusting game...
Thalion was set up in 1988, its origins are firmly rooted in the underground sub-culture of the games hacking and cracking circuit - its oldest member is aged only 25. Thalion's co-founder, Erik Simon explained to ACE: "Most of our programmers came from the hacking circuit, these ex-crackers are technically superb - but they find it more interesting to code rather than crack".
The company is based in Gütersloh, a picturesque - and perhaps slightly clichéd - German town approximately two hours drive from Düsseldorf airport. Everything you'd expect in a German town is here: The square complete with German brass band, market stalls selling warm wine and spicy sausages, and of course the obligatory tavern with portable kegs and beer served in a glass full of strawberries. It's little wonder that the Thalion team not only work together but also socialise in a local bar come programming think-tank, only a few minutes walk from their offices.
All Thalion games are developed on an ST using a combination of GenST, Omicron and K-Seka assemblers - Ataris own Neochrome paint package is used to draw all the graphics. Thalion is currently in the process of developing its own set of utilities because, "we are not completely satisfied with any of these programs - you find all kind of funny errors and bugs".
|Getting its name from
Tolkien's fantasy novel Silmarillion (and as most of the
Thalion team are role-playing nutters), it was perhaps
fitting that Thalion choose to kick-off with a fantasy
role-playing game. Dragonflight is an epic adventure
which puts even the likes of Ultima and Dungeon Master to
shame. Also on the release schedule is Chambers of
Shaolin - a martial arts game featuring training sessions
which are crucial to your in-game performance (available
now on ST (the ST version has maybe the best sound
quality heard on any ST game to date thanks to crisp
sound samples without any background noise), Amiga with a
PC version due later this year), Seven Gates of Jambala -
platform'n'ladders uplifted by some neat end of level
guardians (available now on ST, Amiga and C64), Warp - a
multidirectional shoot'em-up (out soon on ST and Amiga),
Leavin' Teramis - vertically-scrolling Crackdown-type
shoot'em-up (out soon on ST, Amiga with a C64 version to
follow shortly after), and No Second Prize - possibly
Thalion's most exciting release thanks to its
revolutionary fast solid 3D graphics. The guys have
finished the routines and are now etching out a game
design, and it should be out on ST, Amiga and PC in late
"The now defunct ACE magazine even featured a screenshot of this wonderful game in February 1990, it looked very different then, a sort of 3D 'space race' type game where you zipped about at will on the planets surface." (Maggie Diskmag)
Thalion is made of an enthusiastic, likable and very technically competent group of dedicated games developers, ACE is sure you'll be hearing more of them over the coming year...
Advanced Computer Entertainment (ACE) Nr. 29/ Februar 1990