(1971 – 2007, softography)
Javier Sï¿½nchez Fransesch
It was around the end of 1986, or perhaps the beginning of 1987, in Seville, when I received a phonecall from a guy called Pablo. He got my phone number from an acquaintance of us, as we all shared our interest in games for the C-64.
We immediately arranged a meeting for exchanging games. Between the long loads and copies of games, we talked about our interest in getting infinite lives (I was pretty bad as a player, so I liked hacking games) and about programming. Due to the very limited BASIC implemented in the C-64, you had to learn machine code if you wanted to make something interesting.
In this way, little by little, he progressively gained interest in the programming world. I must say this was no merit of mine, because it can be said that Pablo was one of that people who is born to be a programmer. Sooner or later, he was bound to computers.
He was a very intelligent person -his IQ was very high indeed- with a very swift learning skill. I can still remember the day in which I explained Pablo how to map using blocks, and after a while, he had already engaged his friend Johnny for being his graphist and making a game. And so was he. Passionate, dedicated and easily excitable.
Rather soon he finished his first game demo, and went to Madrid to sell it. Though he couldn’t, he made himself a name for future contracts, either as game ports programmer or musician. In contrast to other contemporary game musicians, Pablo had an education in music. I can remember him playing melodies on his piano, as well as improptu pieces. The only thing he was no good at were graphics -what a bad taste for choosing colors!. Fortunately he was helped in that aim by his friend Johnny.
Initially he was given the job of porting Topo Soft’s “Chicago’s 30” to the C-64. Though he easily admitted the final shortcomings of the game, it was his first game and he was just 16 years old. The final game scene was remarkable -though a bit too spicy- as well as the melodies he compose. He was paid 500.000 pesetas for that port.
Soon he was ordered to port Dinamic’s “Turbo Girl”. This was another game he was not very satisfied with, but it was however a good training for him. He was increasingly becoming more self-confident, and he was already capable of overcoming every programming problem he found.
Nevertheless, being hired for these game ports was an outstanding feat for a person with such modest programming experience – though it is well-known the lack of Spanish C-64 programmers at that time. He did it the best he could, and though the results were still mediocre, it was increasingly evident he was a young genius.
He finally prove it in the next game he made: the conversion of Electronic Arts’s “Budokan”. He was no longer that beginner. After his two first conversions, Pablo didn’t stand still but kept disassembling others’ games and learning the techniques used in them. All he learned was evident in Budokan. Besides, he was short-sighted by EA’s quality control department. I remember well the headaches he got after those “could you change that pixel”, “that sprite is blinking”, etc. But that made the final product very welcomed, and the reviews were excellent.
When the 8-bits world became doomed in Spain -indeed it was already dead in Europe- the distributors got nasty. He was given the job of porting Dinamic’s “Hammer Boy” and he thought of it as a way to make some money. Since it was another conversion, he lacked any power of decision on the plot or the development. Finally, he wasn’t paid for his work.
There were other unfinished projects (one game about Mortadelo y Filemï¿½n among them) and he composed the music of Silent Shadow and Game Over II.
His problem with Dinamic was around 1991. Back in 1988 I was already becoming interested in the Commodore Amiga and PC platforms. As soon as I had my own Amiga-500, I showed Pablo all the potential the machine had. He was delighted, but he was very focused on 8-bits, and was beginning to earn money with his C-64 ports.
After the Hammer Boy affair, he finally understood that the 8-bits age was ending. Then he asked me to show him all the information I had for programming over the Amiga, and so I did. It is needless to say that he learned everything swiftly and started programming a game for the Amiga. It was for a promotion of the soft drink 7 Up, and I cannot remember if it was ever published.
After that, he made a stop in his game production, as he registered in the Computer Science Faculty in Seville, with me and Johnny, and his student life began.
There we knew ï¿½lvaro Mateos, an Spectrum programmer (“Rocky”, “West Bank”, “Capitï¿½n Sevilla”), and we shared extremely boring classes about Physics, Calculus, …
We all four left the degree before finishing.
The Amiga times finished, and he threw himself into the PC. He made, for instance, a program for a high school, including an innovative technique for optical formulary reading.
He also started the project of his life, a game called Unknown Destination, that he could never finish. The title was somewhat premonitory.
In that game he was introducing all the new 3D techniques that saw the light of day. Each time that he saw a game with some novel technique, he investigated it and applied it to Unkonwn Destination. Doing that, he never became outdated in the game industry.
Thanks to his contacts in Madrid, he knew that professionals were needed for a new PC game. It was a very ambitious project. Something very different to what games had ever been in Spain. And there he went, and he got hired.
It was Pyro Studios’s “Commandos”.
There’s not much I can say that is not already knew about that game – it really was a landmark in the (few) Spanish game developments.
A nice anecdote I remember is the day I had a meeting with Pablo in Seville to see the game. He told me, really excited, every detail he had put in the game -some of them against his boss’ willing- as the smoke of the soldiers’ cigarettes.
He had many discussions with his boss, as he was very individualistic, he didn’t stand authority, and this is something very difficult to deal with in a workplace. Besides, he was a person who was used -due to his brilliant mind- to be right, and that made of him a very stubborn person. Anyway, I must say I can’t remember having any quarrel with him during all our life.
When he had already made his mind to not continue in Pyro Studios, he used the Commandos hype to leap forward to Britain, being hired by Acclaim for converting Re-Volt to Nintendo 64. From that development, he said that he wouldn’t feel as an 8-bit programmer any longer, due to the programming environment he had, and the way he should work -and this is not precisely a praise for the Nintendo staff.
The hasty life in London and the permanent problems with his bosses finished with his comeback to Seville.
He decided to catch some breath, and so he got involved in a long-term European project in which he worked at home. Meanwhile, he made some experiments on game development in Java, though he didn’t succeed (I think he just finished one or two games).
He told me before his death that he was planning to be a civil servant through competitive examinations. I felt very saddened for hearing him talking like that. Being such a talented person, really experienced and intelligent – it was almost an insult seeing him as a computer operator.
He never was. Sadly, he died on July 15th, 2007… The decease of a good person, a friend, and a computer genius.
Fernando Garcï¿½a Cabello
I will always feel indebted to Pablo. I can still remember the day when I received that call from him, asking me if I wanted to go with him to Madrid so as to work with them at Pyro. Pablo always bet for me, and even he took me at his home while I was searching for a flat in Madrid. So was Pablo. In the end, I didn’t match neither with the team, nor with the city, but I brought a lot of experiences and remembrances with me. All of them were inconsciously linked to Pablo, and they marked the beginning of my professional life.
Pablo was one of that people that, even if you haven’t seen them for a while, always bring lovely remembrances and feelings to you. He was a very restless, versatile, and often misunderstood person. But above all things, he was a programmer. A GREAT PROGRAMMER. Undoubtedly, the best one I’ve ever known. Pablo belonged to the elite of the programmers of a golden age. Different times. Times in which you must knew the machine very profoundly; times for experimenting and learning; times in which programming was an art. And Pablo was a real ARTIST of programming, he was very passionate about it, he enjoyed so much, wasting uncountable hours, observing and learning, and always making new technological wonders. I still remember the day in which I explained to him the most basic principles of 3D programming. I made a very simple program for him – I called it base3d – with a wired cube spinning on its 3 axis in an aleatory way. In two weeks he had developed a DOOM-type game demo. Unbelievable! He had the most incredible ability for concentrating and excelling himself I’ve ever known. He really liked amazing everyone, watching our open mouths, proving us that he was THE BEST. He really was and is.
Regarding his human side, I must say that he was a very faithful friend, and above everything a very happy person – indeed he was always smiling or laughing. I can’t remember having any serious quarrel or discussion with him, although he was one with a strong character. He never lost a party, and after having two drinks he could be a fabulous satyr. Sometimes he gave us a complex, as he never thought a night was over: he was restless! I could tell uncountable night anecdotes. For instance, I can remember a night in Madrid, in which he ended up running around a car, chasing an old companion at Pyro – I think she was called Cristina. I can still watch them running around that car for a long time. “Come hereee!”, said Pablo. And Cristina running like crazy while Pablo was chasing her with a sparkling look. “I will catch you, surrender!…” He was a real genius in every aspect of his life.
I believe we forgot a little about him in the last times, being busy as we were with our own lives, worries and circumstances. Us being somewhat insconscious of the fact that he needed us much more than he seemed to. I’m very sorry “maki” – I never knew how to return all you did for me.
Acknowledgements: Javier Sï¿½nchez Fransesch and Fernando Garcï¿½a Cabello for the write-up, Juan Pablo Lï¿½pez-Grao for the translation.
Javier Sï¿½nchez Fransesch
Serï¿½a sobre finales del aï¿½o 1986, o quizï¿½s ya habï¿½a entrado 1987, en la ciudad de Sevilla. Un dï¿½a me llamï¿½ un chaval que decï¿½a llamarse Pablo. Un conocido comï¿½n le habï¿½a dado mi nï¿½mero, pues ambos compartï¿½amos la aficiï¿½n por los juegos del C-64.
De inmediato quedamos para intercambiar, y entre las largas cargas de juegos y copias charlï¿½bamos sobre mi aficiï¿½n por buscar vidas infinitas (era mal jugador, y me gustaba trucarlos), y sobre programar. Debido al Basic tan recortado que traï¿½a el C-64, si querï¿½as hacer cualquier cosa seria tenï¿½as que meterte en el cï¿½digo mï¿½quina. Asï¿½, poco a poco, se fue picando con el mundo de la programaciï¿½n. He de decir que tampoco fue un mï¿½rito mï¿½o, porque se puede decir que Pablo era una de esas personas que han nacido para programar. Tarde o temprano, acabarï¿½a delante de un ordenador.
Era una persona muy inteligente, con un CI muy alto, que absorbï¿½a todo el conocimiento que le llegaba rï¿½pidamente. Un dï¿½a recuerdo que le explicaba a Pablo quï¿½ era mapear por bloques, y poco tiempo despuï¿½s ya habï¿½a liado a su amigo Johnny, para que fuera su grafista e hicieran un juego. Asï¿½ era ï¿½l. Apasionado, trabajador y con una gran ilusiï¿½n.
No tardï¿½ en tener una demo de un juego, con la que marchï¿½ a Madrid para venderlo. No logrï¿½ hacerlo, pero sï¿½ consiguiï¿½ que le tuvieran en cuenta para ser contratado para programar conversiones, y para componer mï¿½sicas. A diferencia de muchos mï¿½sicos de ordenador de la ï¿½poca, Pablo tenï¿½a estudios de mï¿½sica. Le recuerdo en su casa tocando las melodï¿½as al piano, realizando improvisaciones, … El ï¿½nico apartado en el que flaqueaba era en el de los grï¿½ficos (ï¿½quï¿½ mal gusto tenï¿½a eligiendo colores!), pero ahï¿½ contaba con la ya mencionada contribuciï¿½n de su amigo Johnny.
Consiguiï¿½ que le encargaran la versiï¿½n de C-64 del Chicago’s 30 de Topo Soft. ï¿½l mismo reconocï¿½a las carencias que tuvo el juego al final, pero era su primer juego y contaba con sï¿½lo 16 aï¿½os. Hay que destacar la escena que tenï¿½a cuando terminabas el juego (un poco subida de tono), y las melodï¿½as que compuso. Le pagaron 500.000 pesetas por aquella conversiï¿½n.
Al poco, se encargï¿½ de hacer la versiï¿½n del Turbo Girl de Dinamic.
Otro juego del que no acabï¿½ muy satisfecho, pero que le sirviï¿½ para coger mï¿½s soltura y confianza: conseguï¿½a salir airoso de todos los problemas de programaciï¿½n que le iban apareciendo.
Y es que ya era una proeza que sin tener a penas experiencia de programaciï¿½n (sï¿½lo la demo de un pequeï¿½o juego) le contrataran para estas conversiones (tambiï¿½n es manifiesta la poca cantera de programadores del C-64 en aquella ï¿½poca). Lo hizo lo mejor que pudo, y pese a que resultaron un par de juegos mediocres, ya empezaba a despuntar el genio que era.
Lo demostrï¿½ en el siguiente juego que hizo: la versiï¿½n del Budokan de Electronic Arts. Ya no era el programador principiante. Tras las dos conversiones que hizo, Pablo no parï¿½ y siguiï¿½ destripando juegos de otros, y aprendiendo de sus tï¿½cnicas. Todo lo volcï¿½ en el Budokan.
Ademï¿½s, tenï¿½a detrï¿½s a los del control de calidad de EA. Recuerdo los dolores de cabeza que le producï¿½an con “cambia ese pï¿½xel”, “quita ese parpadeo en el sprite”, etc. Pero eso hizo que el juego resultante fuera muy bien acogido, y estï¿½ considerado como sobresaliente.
El mundo de los juegos de 8-bits llegaba a su fin en Espaï¿½a (en Europa ya hacï¿½a tiempo que habï¿½a ocurrido), y comenzaban los malos rollos de las distribuidoras. Le llegï¿½ la oferta de hacer el Hammer Boy de Dinamic, se lo tomï¿½ como un proyecto alimenticio. Era otra conversiï¿½n, por lo que no tenï¿½a poder sobre argumento, desarrollo, etc. Al final, ni siquiera llegï¿½ a cobrar por hacerlo.
Hubo algunos otros proyectos que no cuajaron (un Mortadelo y Filemï¿½n entre ellos) y compuso la mï¿½sica para el Silent Shadow y el Game Over II.
Sus problemas con Dinamic ocurrï¿½an hacia 1991. Por el aï¿½o 1988 yo ya estaba iniciï¿½ndome en el Commodore Amiga y el PC. En cuanto tuve mi propio Amiga-500, le mostrï¿½ a Pablo el potencial que tenï¿½a. Le encantï¿½, pero ï¿½l estaba muy metido en los 8-bits, y empezaba a ganar dinero con sus conversiones del C-64.
Tras el fiasco Hammer Boy, y una vez que comprendiï¿½ que la ï¿½poca de los 8-bits habï¿½a llegado a su fin, me pidiï¿½ que le mostrara toda la informaciï¿½n para programar que poseï¿½a del Amiga, y eso hice. Sobra decir que al poco tiempo ya habï¿½a absorbido todo, y estaba haciendo un juego en Amiga. Se trataba de una promociï¿½n de 7 Up, que no recuerdo si llegï¿½ a salir.
Se produjo un parï¿½ntesis en su labor de programador de juegos, pues se matriculï¿½ en la Facultad de Informï¿½tica de Sevilla, junto conmigo y Johhny, y comenzï¿½ su etapa estudiantil.
Allï¿½ conocimos a ï¿½lvaro Mateos, programador del Spectrum (Rocky, West Bank, Capitï¿½n Sevilla), y compartimos aburridï¿½simas clases de Fï¿½sica, Cï¿½lculo, …
Ninguno de los cuatro llegamos a acabar la carrera.
Los tiempos del Amiga llegaron a su fin, y se volcï¿½ en el PC. Estuvo haciendo, entre otros, un programa para un instituto, con reconocimiento ï¿½ptico de formularios (algo novedoso en aquella ï¿½poca).
Tambiï¿½n, comenzï¿½ el proyecto de su vida. Un juego llamado Unknown Destination, que jamï¿½s llegï¿½ a terminar. Quizï¿½s el tï¿½tulo era premonitorio.
En ese juego estuvo aï¿½os implementando las nuevas tecnologï¿½as en 3D que iban apareciendo. Cada vez que salï¿½a un juego con algo novedoso, lo investigaba y aplicaba en el Unknown Destination. De esta forma no se oxidaba en el mundillo de los videojuegos.
Gracias a sus contactos en Madrid, se enterï¿½ que hacï¿½a falta gente para un nuevo juego para PC. Se trataba de un proyecto ambicioso. Algo muy diferente de cï¿½mo habï¿½an sido los videojuegos en Espaï¿½a hasta entonces. Allï¿½ marchï¿½, y consiguiï¿½ que le contrataran.
Se trataba del Commandos de Pyro Studios.
Poco puedo decir que no se conozca de dicho juego, que marcï¿½ un antes y un despuï¿½s en los (escasos) desarrollos en Espaï¿½a.
Como anï¿½cdota contarï¿½ que quedï¿½ un dï¿½a que estaba por Sevilla con Pablo, y estuvimos viendo el juego, y me contaba, emocionado, los detallitos que le habï¿½a metido (aï¿½n en contra de la opiniï¿½n de su jefe) tales como el humo de los cigarros de los soldados.
Tuvo muchos choques con su jefe, pues ï¿½l era una persona individualista, que no aceptaba la autoridad, y eso en un ambiente de trabajo es complicado de llevar. Ademï¿½s, era una persona que estaba acostumbrada, dada su brillantez, a llevar la razï¿½n, lo que le hacï¿½a muy cabezota. De todas formas, en todos los aï¿½os que le conocï¿½, no recuerdo haber tenido una bronca con ï¿½l.
Cuando vio claro que no seguirï¿½a en Pyros Studios y aprovechando el tirï¿½n del Commandos, pudo dar el salto a Inglaterra, a Acclaim, donde se encargï¿½ de la versiï¿½n del Re-Volt de Nintendo 64. De ese desarrollo me comentï¿½ que le hizo sentirse otra vez como un programador de 8-bits, por el entorno de programaciï¿½n que tenï¿½a, y el modo que habï¿½a que hacerlo (no dice nada a favor de la gente de Nintendo).
La vida atropellada que llevï¿½ en Londres, y los constantes problemas con los jefes le hicieron volverse a Sevilla.
Intentï¿½ darse una tregua, y consiguiï¿½ meterse en un proyecto europeo a largo plazo, que llevï¿½ trabajando en su propia casa. A la vez, intentï¿½ una incursiï¿½n en los juegos en Java para mï¿½viles, que no cuajï¿½ (creo que sï¿½lo hizo uno o dos).
Los ï¿½ltimos planes que me comentï¿½ antes de su muerte pasaban por hacer una oposiciï¿½n. Recuerdo que me entristeciï¿½ oï¿½rle hablar asï¿½, pues con todo el talento, experiencia como programador e inteligencia, era un insulto que acabara como funcionario (de operador de ordenadores).
Tal destino no llegï¿½ pues, por desgracia, falleciï¿½ el 15 de julio de 2007… Desapareciï¿½ una buena persona, un amigo, y un genio de los ordenadores.
Fernando Garcï¿½a Cabello
Siempre tendrï¿½ una deuda pendiente con Pablo. Y es que todavï¿½a recuerdo aquella llamada suya, diciï¿½ndome si querï¿½a irme a Madrid a trabajar con ellos a Pyro. Pablo siempre apostï¿½ por mï¿½, e incluso me acogiï¿½ en su casa algunos meses mientras encontraba piso en Madrid. Asï¿½ era Pablo. Al final, tampoco cuajï¿½ en el equipo, ni en la ciudad, pero me llevï¿½ a casa un montï¿½n de experiencias y de recuerdos, siempre inconscientemente asociados a Pablo, que marcaron definitivamente el comienzo de mi carrera profesional.
Pablo era de esas personas que aunque te lleves mucho tiempo sin verla, siempre te trae recuerdos y sentimientos entraï¿½ables. Era una persona inquieta, polifacï¿½tica, y en algunos casos incomprendida. Pero sobre todo era un programador. Un GRAN PROGRAMADOR. Sin duda, el mejor que he conocido. Pablo perteneciï¿½ a la elite de programadores de una gran ï¿½poca dorada. Otros tiempos. Tiempos en que tenï¿½as que conocer la mï¿½quina a fondo, tiempos de experimentaciï¿½n y autoenseï¿½anza, tiempos donde la programaciï¿½n era todo un arte. Y Pablo era un verdadero ARTISTA del cï¿½digo, le apasionaba y sobre todo disfrutaba y se divertï¿½a, echando horas y horas, aprendiendo, absorbiendo y creando nuevas maravillas tecnolï¿½gicas. Todavï¿½a recuerdo cuando le transmitï¿½ los principios mas bï¿½sicos de la programaciï¿½n en 3D. Hice para ï¿½l un simple programa – base3d lo llamï¿½ – con un cubito de alambre girando aleatoriamente sobre los 3 ejes. A las dos semanas habï¿½a programado una demo de un juego tipo DOOM. ï¿½Increble!. Y es que Pablo poseï¿½a la capacidad de absorciï¿½n y superaciï¿½n mas asombrosa que he conocido. Realmente le encantaba sorprender a propios y extraï¿½os, dejarnos a todos con la boca abierta y demostrarnos a todos que era EL MEJOR. Realmente lo fue y lo es.
Sobre el Pablo mas humano, decir que era un tï¿½o muy fiel a sus amigos y sobre todo muy alegre — de hecho, siempre estaba riendo o sonriendo –. No recuerdo haber tenido ninguna pelea o discusiï¿½n seria con ï¿½l, aunque tenï¿½a una marcada personalidad. No se perdï¿½a ni una juerga y con dos copas podï¿½a ser un gran sï¿½tiro. A veces nos daba un poco de miedo, ya que nunca daba la noche por terminada: ï¿½Era incansable!. Podrï¿½a contar interminables anï¿½dotas nocturnas. Sin ir mas lejos, recuerdo una noche en Madrid, que terminï¿½ por perseguir alrededor de una coche a una antigua compaï¿½era de Pyro (Cristina si no recuerdo mal). Los dos dando vueltas y vueltas. “ï¿½Ven aquï¿½iiii!”, decï¿½a Pablo. Cristina corriendo como una loca y Pablo detrï¿½s con cara de elemento. “ï¿½Que te cojooo, no te escapeees!…”. En fin, genio y figura en todos los aspectos de su vida.
Creo que en los ï¿½ltimos tiempos lo tuvimos un poco al margen, ocupados todos con nuestras propias vidas, preocupaciones y circunstancias, inconscientes de que quizï¿½s nos necesitaba mï¿½s de lo que ï¿½l nos hacï¿½a sentir. Lo siento “maki”, nunca supe corresponder lo que hiciste por mi.
Agradecimientos: A Javier Sï¿½nchez Fransesch y Fernando Garcï¿½a Cabello por el artï¿½culo.