by Djordje Djurdjevic
ex-member of the clickBOOM team
Me too, I was pleased to watch them working (and to watch 030 working - at that time it was like showing me a space shuttle) and was quite surprised hearing that their salary is between 150 and 350 DM (german marks - the most popular foreign currency here). Here, I have to tell you that during the crisis period (between 1992 and 1994) my parent's salary was about 10 DM (yes, ten german marks). So, you can imagine how wide my eyes and ears were open when I heard that - at that time (1995), my parent's salary was about 200 DM. They told me, a few months later, when I became a member of the team, that they had a deal with Aleksandar about the money : they'll get the "real" money after the game is published (if successful) but until then, he'll finance the project by giving them the money for food and other everyday's needs. So, twice or three times a week he gave them the money they needed. Very quickly he realized that they were speding much more than he thought they would, so he decided to give them some kind of salary instead, once a month, for their own needs. Later, the same day, I met Aleksandar Petrovic himself. He looked like a nice, normal person. We had a little chat, about the fighting game they were making (that became Capital Punishment), and then he asked me if I know something about C. He was interested to "give" me a job. I was interested too, can you imagine ! So, he asked my friend who introduced me to them all to show me what he was doing these days on his PC. He was making some kind of a management game, where the player is the director of a luxury beach hotel... Nothing special but it looked very nice and was 640x512x256. Well, could I do that ? I told him that I never worked with AGA until then but I could try (yeah, well I had two compilers at that time : Aztec C 5.0d and Maxon C/C++ 3.0). I'll explain about this later, but until that time I was mainly working with Aztec because the Maxon C I had was half english half german and so was very difficult to use for somebody who doesn't speak a word of german. So Aleksandar and I had a little deal : I'll try to do something, to make a demo of something similar I saw on the PC that day. Well, my position was not brilliant. On one hand I wanted to work with the team, because I always wanted to work on a game making. Ok, well, there was also that "money" reason and I could expect to get a memory card from the team for my work (I had an unexpanded A1200 with 80 Mb 2"5 HDD). Well, ok, there was not much choice. So the next three days I was trying to make a demo. That was not very easy since I had no documentation about OS3.0 (it was impossible to find any of them here since we didn't have Internet providers at that time, and the software comming from foreign countries was mainly the games). However, after those three days, I sent him my work and after seeing it Aleksandar told that it looked encouraging and that he wanted me to try making an Amiga version of the game. I got a memory expansion card with 4 Mb and the source code from the PC version. Well, that's how my clickBOOM work began.
Mainly, I was working at home, on my computer - the apartment they were working in was not very big. They were sending me new graphics via modem and once or twice a week I went to the "HQ" (the apartment mentioned above) to show the results. Several times I spent the whole night there, working or updating something right there. Aleksandar was telling us some interesting stories about borrowing a huge amount of money from canadian ministry of culture and education if we could make a demo of an excellent educational software. Well, we all expected money, that's for sure. I didn't want to talk much about the money with him because I didn't know him well and I was fearing that he could easily tell me that he doesn't need anymore my services. But the other members, who I made a friendship with meanwhile, were telling me about the money he was giving them as a salary and also that he said there'll be a special bonus in money if the game succeedes. And they were all "living" for that. Well, so was I, but as the game I was working on was not something as good as Capital Punishment, I knew that I should expect less money.
In september 1995. the team got a new member, Vitomir Jevremovic who was working on the PC version of Capital Punishment. In the beginning of october 1995., Aleksandar left Yugoslavia and returned to Toronto where he lives. Until then, I didn't know that he has a canadian citizenship. After that, I continued to work on the management game with the work name "Beach" but more slowly, because Aleksandar wanted the others to concentrate on Capital Punishment. So, I didn't hear from him for quite some time. Capital Punishment wasn't progressing very quickly because nobody actually knew what it should look like. Aleksandar wanted one thing, the graphic artists something else and the coder did something between those two. As far as I know, the coder, Vladimir, had the most difficult job. He was doing it all in assembler, applying every single trick he knew to make the game work. Therefore, it didn't work on all accelerator cards and because of that, several bugs remained until the last moment.
I got my account on a server at my school but only email could work (via Greece - remember, at that time Yugoslavia was still under the UN sanctions) but I could write to Aleksandar and hear from him. I tried to inform him about the progress of my work, to give him some ideas, suggestions, etc... well - everything that I considered to be my duty. He didn't pay much attention to my ideas and I didn't like it very much but I couldn't do anything against that because I wasn't a team member at that time yet. On the other hand, we were making that game together : he put the money in it, I put the knowledge - so we should have discussed about every single detail. But... I realized that the members of the team also avoided to give him any suggestions. Well.. What could I do ? He is older and more experienced than I am in the "business world", so he knows what's the best. Doesn't he ?
I got my first money from Aleksandar Petrovic for the New Year 1996. - 150 DM. Ok. I couldn't complain. He gave me a memory card (which wasn't in use in the team, by the way) and I didn't work every day. Yet, I realized that I wouldn't get more any sooner because our "Beach" project was unofficialy cancelled. But, however, Aleksandar informed me that I became an official team member.
Ok, I kept in touch with everybody in the team and I continued to report to Aleksandar about several updates I was doing for the "Beach". In april 1996. I asked him if I could get a 030 card because the memory card I had was not enough and I needed much time to compile anything. I got MTEC030 with 8 Mb RAM. But... didn't modify a single line of "Beach" code since then O:)
Aleksandar came again in Yugoslavia in June 1996. to "accelerate" the finalization of Capital Punishment and - I guess - to do some of his own business here. He brought with him some hardware but there were only 030 boards. He didn't look very enthusiastic seeing me (should I say us ?) but I thought it might be because of the trip or some of his own problems. Anyway, Capital Punishment was almost over, and I didn't do a single thing about it. So, I proposed him my idea about making a special installer for the game, with graphics, nice GUI, etc.. He liked the idea and so I started with that job. In several ocasions I showed him my progress, but he was not pleased with the results - seeing a requester "PLEASE INSERT VOLUME GAMES: IN ANY DRIVE" he considered it is not a good idea to let me do the installer part. He wouldn't listen when I tried to explain him that this "GAMES:" was just for test purpose, nothing more. The only thing he had in mind was that the installer mustn't fail to install the game because it is one of the worst things that could happen. And I couldn't guarantee that the installer I would write wouldn't fail in some particular case. Ok, he is the boss. So, the ugly Commodore's system installer had to be used. Again, without any docs or examples how it works.. So, my job was to look for every piece of software that uses the system installer and to find out how to write an installer for the game. During July 1996., the last backgrounds for the game have been created, the last character made, only the game code was a pain-giver. Aleksandar asked me, for the first and the last time about how to use the money. At first, Capital Punishment wasn't intended to be published by our team, clickBOOM, but to be published by some other bigger company. So, he asked me what to do : as he told us, he had an offer from Ocean, but he was thinking much about publishing the game by ourselves. Yeah, well, I couldn't help much about that because the market is something I just don't understand and my opinion was worthless. So, I said that the second solution can bring more money but is also more risky. Who said "He who dares - wins !" ? So he made a decision himself : PXL Computers should publish the game. What is PXL Computers ? Well, he didn't want to tell me, but the other members of the team explained me that PXL Computers is a company that is behind Aleksandar and that we are, actually, all working for PXL. Well, ok. Why, not - "our" company should publish our game, right ? During that same July, I found out that the other members of clickBOOM actually don't have a great opinion about Aleksandar, and, should I say, don't actually like him. I assisted to a few quarrels between Aleksandar and the Amiga coder who couldn't work for some time for some reasons. The other members also told me that they also had several fights with him. The only thing that was important to Aleksandar was finishing the game before the deadline. He didn't give a ... about anything else. If he couldn't bribe with the money, then he could threaten. And so he did. There is a law here that allows regular students to delay their military service as long as they are regular students. And Vladimir, the Amiga coder, was in that position. He left the school to be able to work on the game and was no more a regular student. Aleksandar arranged, using his contacts here, to delay his military service for some time, but was threatening Vladimir with that. Especially during the civil war here, many young men left the country just to avoid the military service. As I have been told, Aleksandar is one of them. Dragan, one of the graphic artist was not in a better position. He is from a small town in the south of Serbia and didn't want to go back because he couldn't do anything there, at home, but waste his time. And the only chance for him to stay in Belgrade was clickBOOM. And yet, he had to spend most of the money he got each month which left him on a "positive financial zero" after all. So he had to keep his mouth shut as much as possible.
In the beginning of September 1996. Aleksandar returned to Canada without Capital Punishment neither for Amiga neither for PC. The release date of Amiga version was about the end of September if I remember well, but it had to be delayed : the code still made problems. PC version was delayed because Aleksandar wanted it to have much more features than the Amiga version, such as platforms, multiscrol, etc... And he also gave us a psychical problem : he gave to one of his mates, Vojislav Samsalovic, the job of work supervisor. My job, as I said before, was to make the installer work. And so I did. I had much troubles with that, but finally I made it work. However there were other problems around. The first, but minor, problem was that, for some strange reason, Aleksandar couldn't find anyone who speaks german to translate the installer text. I proposed him to make a french text also, because I speak french and it would be easy for me. He refused it - which surprised me A LOT : isn't the french used in Canada as well as english ? Well, that was the minor problem. The major was much more delicate. The game was supposed to be shipped on floppy disks and packed with an archiver. We had a choice between LZX and LHA. Aleksandar decided that it should be the LHA with multivolume options. Ok, that's cool for me. I told him to contact the author of the LHA archiver and to register a copy for clickBOOM (I'll get to this "legal" part later). As I didn't know if we'll get the "whole" program (which does both pack and unpack and requires a key file) or just some extracting tool registered to us, I guessed that we would get that extracting tool (such as lx) so I REM-med the line (by placing ; ) in the installer script that copies the lha.key file to the L: directory where it is required by Lha 1.50r, the archiver we used here for test usage. We sent him the "final" version of Capital Punishment via internet as many previews of it before. The problem is that I was not present the evening the other members were sending it. I just told them to remind Aleksandar that "when he gets the registered copy of the archiver tool" removes or leaves the REM mark in the installer script according to what sort of executable he gets from the author of lha. Guess what : Aleksandar didn't register lha (he said he couldn't contact the author), he left this "pseudo-registered" version and left the key. The key a pirated one and is registered to "mika", and that was one of the most common lha key files here in Serbia (I'll get to this "legal" part later, as I said). I couldn't believe when I heard it. And yet it was true. And guess what : either they didn't remind him, either he forgot what they told him... Anyway, the installer script DIDN'T copy the lha.key required by that lha1.50r and Aleksandar Petrovic DIDN'T test it one last time before making master copies. But he tried one of the 5000 master copies after that. And found out that the installer actually fails. That's why he had to print a separate sticker reminding the user to copy the key himself to L: directory in order to make the installer work. The other problem the users stepped onto was the space required on HDD to insall the game. The game is about 15 Mb but this multivolume lha requires all the files from the archive to be in the same directory before unpacking (or there is a switch against that but I don't know which). So, all the disks had to be copied to the directory first. That makes some 5 Mb more. It seems that this lack of capacity caused a problem to many users.. I wonder who is that genius leaving his partition with less than 10 MB of free space in 1996. ? Anyway... that was not the reason for which many copies of Capital Punishment were sent back. The main reason was that the game was incompatible with some accelerator cards and with 040/060 CPUs. Aleksandar sent an Apollo 040 and Blizzard 060 cards here, but didn't want to wait a few more days before releasing the game. Just 3 days after getting the 040 card, Vladimir found out where the bug was (something about the CPU caches) and corrected it. So, a patch had to be made, sent to Aleksandar and placed on the official clickBOOM web page.
Funny, the game was supposed to be the best in 1996 according to the Amiga magazines. Maybe it wouldn't be rated that high if Aleksandar, according to what he said, didn't go from one magazine director to another and didn't >persuade< (who mentioned Syndicate ?) them that Capital Punishment is a better fighting game than any other on Amiga. I don't know if he paid them to give such high grades to Capital Punishment. But I remember well how proud he was when he was telling us that he spent much more for advertizing the game that we could even imagine.
Oh, well... I didn't hear from him for quite some time after Capital Punishment was released, but at the end of November, Dragan told me that Aleksandar had some plans with me about porting a great game to Amiga. I was very interested but Aleksandar told me more about it only in January 1997. That game was Myst. Yes, that nice looking, stupid adventure. I saw it once on PC and was not much stunned. However, when he told me that it's one of the best selling games on PC and MAC I changed my mind - it's a great game, then :)
Then in the beginning of February 1997. I went several times to the team HQ in Olge Alkalaj street to see the game more closely. Vojislav Samsalovic, Aleksandar's substitute (mentioned before) brought with him the PC version of Myst and we were "playing" it using a walkthrough so that I could see it entirely. Somehow, we didn't manage to do so, because the PC version graphics were poorly converted, so we couldn't find an entrance. Well, it didn't seem, however, to be much difficult to convert. Then I wrote an email to Aleksandar telling him that it didn't look difficult and that I thought it could be converted in 3 months once I get the source files which were supposed to be in C. I didn't mention the money. But he did when he answered the email in question. He told me that he was pleased I accepted to do it and that I should go every day (starting in March 1997.) to the HQ to work on it. He would pay me 400 DM per month. Well, ok. At that time, everyone in the team was payed 400 DM. But I thought that after Capital Punishment was published we could all expect more money. So I told him that. Aleksandar's answer was not as kind as the previous one. He told me that he couldn't pay me more and if I didn't want to accept these terms, I should tell him that at once so that he could search for somebody who would accept. So, I accepted it asking him if I could expect more money on some of our next projects. The answer was positive. But until then, 400 DM per month + a bonus when the game is published is the only thing he could do for me.
Ok, I had to live with that, after all, 400 DM is a lot of money for us, here. He sent me some backgrounds and some quicktime animations so that I could try to begin the work before I get anything from the authors of Myst. As there was no good Quicktime player for Amiga, I tried to convert the frames to IFF and then to some semi-raw format which could allow even a slower Amiga to run the animation smoothly. The goal was to make A1200 with 4Mb memory expansion only and a CD ROM run the game. After some tests, trying to minimize the memory requiremetns I was satisfied with the results. But however, the sound was missing and the animation file was much larger than the original QT. When I sarted to work everyday he told me that he needed a simple preview very quickly. He sent me one of the "description" files which describes the mouse zones on every location in the game telling me to make a preview in which the player could move around the first few locations. He needed it to show to the authors of Myst. Well, probably he was convincing them that the Amiga could run such a game and he needed something to prove that. As we were missing some of the equipment in our HQ, we had to transport my Amiga there.
At that time I didn't know why we were missing the equipment. When Vojislav Samsalovic was not present in the apartment, Dragan and Dusan told me what happened some time before. Aleksandar told there would be a bonus a few months after the release of Capital Punnishment. They all expected the money in February. During all that time, from october when Capital Punishment was released, they were working on Capital Punishment CD32 edition which had one more level and one more character. Finally, Vladimir, Amiga coder, after finishing his part of job (ie. the new level), decided to stop working until the bonus is payed. He took the A1200 he was working on with a monitor, hard disk and Apollo 040 accelerator card home and he didn't want to give it back. After several fights with Vojislav Samsalovic and emails exchanged with Aleksandar, he decided to quit the team. But he was not the first person to quit the team ! One other friend of mine, Ilija Melentijevic, a graphic artist, had quit the team long before that because he couldn't get on with Aleksandar. Ilija was one of the first members of the team : he, Vladimir and Dusan Gojovic. Dragan Jakovljevic came later. My friend, who introduced me to the whole team also stopped working.
Well, I was not glad to hear that but was however expecting to have better luck than the others, because Myst was one of the best selling... wasn't it ? Anyway, within three days I finished the required demo. Basically, any other location in the game should have worked the same way. I remember that I had to INSIST that I need my Amiga at home since I didn't want to leave it there. Vitomir Jevremovic, the PC coder, for example, brought his own PC to the HQ since we didn't have any there. That same PC was used to play Myst. We only had two Amiga 1200 with 030 accelerator cards which the graphic artists were using.
I asked Aleksandar to buy Storm C since I was using a pirated version of it. He sent me an email full of greetings telling me that it costs 500$ (if I remember well). I told him that we intend to make money with this game and therefore it is our duty to have the legal version of the compiler. Ok, we couldn't afford to legalize any of the software we were using to make Capital Punishment, but after publishing CP we could at least buy the compiler. Yeah, well, he agreed with me. And about a week later, with the copies of Myst developping CDs we also got Storm C 1.0 the beginner version. I don't know if it is the cheapest one, but it was older than the pirated version I had, and with less options. So I gave up and continued using my version of the compiler.
Myst developping CDs were MAC CDs. So we used Vitomir's PC to get what we needed from them. And guess what : the code was not in C but in some kind of visual language called Hypercard. Great ! It didn't help me a lot. So, my way of developping the game was to watch the PC version and to make it look the same on Amiga. I also had problems with the location description files and I asked Aleksandar if the authors of Myst could help me with that. No, they couldn't. "We'll have to deal with it ourselves" answered Aleksandar. Well, that was not true - I had to deal with it myself. I asked him several times about several things in the game. Sometimes he quoted the answer of a Cyan employee (Cyan made Myst for MAC and PC), sometimes he just told me they couldn't help. So, you want to build an airplane with limited weight capacity and nobody can tell you how many passenger seats there will be.
So, during march and april I was trying to make some kind of universal engine that could be used for every location. And each time when I thought I did it right, I realized that I had to start it almost from the beginning because there are several special locations that my engine couldn't handle. After four unsuccessful tries, I decided to make the game work with every location having its own part of code and at the end, when the game is finished, to make an optimal engine. About the end of May 1997. the code was handling more or less two islands in the game : the Main Island and the Stoneship Island.
As I didn't deal with the animations and the sound, somebody else had to do it. I told to Aleksandar that he could contact the author of one QT player for Amiga, Marcus Comstedt and that he could maybe do it. Marcus accepted and was working on it. He gave me the API and a demo version to see how it should work. It was ok.
Aleksandar came up with the idea of supporting graphic cards for the Amiga. Well, since my code was fully system friendly, he told me I had nothing to worry about. However, after some time, he told me that he tried an advanced demo on a system with CGX compatible graphic card and the demo didn't work. I couldn't understand why.
The greatest problem was however converting the tons of background pictures. First, we were doing it on Vitomir's PC, using some utility to read from MAC CDs and then Photoshop to convert those ture color pictures to 253 indexed. Then, the result was converted in Personal Paint. Why 253 colors ? Well, the Amiga mouse pointer needs some three colors (17, 18 and 19). So, we also had to remap the pictures. Finally, the finished picture was placed into MYST:GFX/... dir and ready to be used. The most amazing thing about the clickBOOM team was that I also had to do it even if graphics were not my part of the job. Then we heard that Shape Shifter, a MAC emulator for Amgia, can use a CD-ROM and read MAC CDs. So we made it work and we skipped the PC part in the procedure : the background was converted in Photoshop for MAC (with it's stupid requesters and very "intuitive" operating system, huh) and directly read on Amiga using I_don't_know_which_device to read the MAC partition. It wasn't any faster. We couldn't read directly MAC's pictures which were in PIC format because we had no datatype that could handle it well. Even ImageFX couldn't recognize the format. So a solution came up : PC's "alchemy". We had to copy all the background pictures from MAC CDs onto an Amiga partition, then rename those long filenames to fit MS-DOS format (8+3), then copy those files to a PC HDD, then to plug that HDD into a PC, tell alchemy to convert all those files to IFF pictures with 253 color entries. Then plug that HDD back to Amiga, set the pointer colors (swap them with the last three entries which were empty), plug the HDD back in the PC, remap the pictures, back in the Amiga, rename back those files and.. ufff that was it. And again, I did most of that job : I wrote two little utilities to rename the files and store the original names and to set the pointer colors. Ok, it's a piece of cake. But I had to copy all those files, I had to move the HDD from one computer to another and I couldn't do my work. That lasted about a week and a half.
Still the end of May 1997. The bonus form Capital Punishment was still some kind of a ghost from the past, and Aleksandar didn't even think about mentioning anything about it. Dusan Gojovic, one of the graphic artists, wanted to start some private business and needed some money. So he sent an email to Aleksandar asking him what was going on, when would he be able to get his part of the bonus and how much would it be.
Aleksandar replied only a week after that. He sent an email to all of the members of clickBOOM, not only to Dusan. He was explaining us the situation. Capital Punishment didn't make it as well as he expected because it couldn't be sold in England. He told that there was some kind of "internal publishing companies" magazine in England in which clickBOOM was described as a team whose products are full of bugs and that we are possibly involved in some illegal actions, and that's why Capital Punishment couldn't be sold in England. He also said that the he had to sell some parts of HIS (!!!) company PXL Computers (for the first time he told us that PXL was his own company) and that he is no longer the only one in charge : from then, there was also a canadian lawer, Mr. Spiegel (or something like that). When he started the whole thing, he took a credit from a canadian bank and he intended to pay it back with Capital Punishment. As the game didn't make success he had to find a partner. So, here came that lawyer. The lawyer himself was not interested in the company itself but wanted 20% of the profit. So, without consulting us, Aleksandar, in some way, sold our team. Dragan told me then that, according to a verbal agreement (I was not present then), if for some reason, the team had to split up, the name "clickBOOM" should remain ours (ours = the members of the team who worked here in Belgrade) because we were not signed in any game. And why weren't we signed ? Well.. we are from Serbia, which means butchers to the western people... at lest, that was what Aleksandar said. So, if you have ever wandered why there's nothing about the people who made Capital Punishment or Myst in the game itself, here you have the answer. Anyway, in that email, Aleksandar told us that we can continue working in the team if we want under the same conditions, but if we decide to quit, he would understand and would not be mad. He also dismissed the music artist, Nikola Tomic, who was "not very productive". Well, that is somehow true, but Nikola finished all he had to do. Let's say that he was useless to Aleksandar. Maybe you gave heard about Nikola Tomic - DJ.Nick. He won Amiga Format's prize (if I remember well) for his music works in november 1998.
That was the beginning of the end. A few weeks after that, middle of June 1997., Vojislav Samsalovic said that Aleksandar told him to send Dusan Gojovic to an unpayed "holiday of undetermined length" which means Aleksandar couldn't pay him and wouldn't be needing his services for some time - Dragan could do perfectly well all that remained, and Dragan could not be dismissed because he lived in that apartment (if you remember what I previously said, Dragan is from the province). Dusan was smart enough to ask to Vojislav if he could take one of the Amigas we had up there to finish some of his works. Vojislav let him take it : A1200 with a monitor and 030 accelerator board.
So, the clickBOOM team was then formed of Dragan Jakovljevic (GFX), Vitomir Jevremovic (PC coder) and me (Amiga coder). Vitomir took all his equipment home at the end of June, and continued the work from there.
At that time, my part of the job was going on as planned : about 50% of the game completed. Of course, first I planned to finish it then, not to be at it's half, but who could expect to get Hypercard instead of a C code, not to get any help from the authors of Myst and to spend as much time to convert graphics as to make the game work.
Then came the hot month of July 1997. And A4000 with CybergraphX compatible card Cybervision64/3D from Aleksandar. That was "my" computer, on which I was working then. But not at once. First, its power supply was 110 V (and in Yugoslavia we use 220 V, 50 Hz). Then, for some reason, it wouldn't work. Obviously, it was damaged during the transport - it's keyboard had some broken keys. DHL didn't do their job very well. Ok, about the middle of July, we made it work somehow. Then after several tests, I found out why the CybergrapX mode fails to run : GCX doesn't support the AllocScreenBuffer() system routine. Great ! How to make a double buffer then ?! And how to use CybergraphX library functions ? All the #pragma were written for SAS C not Storm C, and I didn't have a tool such as FD2PRAGMA to convert what I needed. Marcus helped me out sending me a #pragma for AllocateBestScreenMode() or something like that.
So, in order to make CGX mode run I made a complete mess of the game code. But it could run (even if I asked myself, sometimes, how was that possible). Then there was a problem with the pointer colors, probably due to a bug in the CGX system : the pointer's third color was XOR-ed (or something like that). Ok, I managed to hide that effect as much as possible.
Still, I had the biggest problem : the QT player subsystem. Marcus sent me his object files and includes and, at first, it worked well. Then sometimes it worked, sometimes it just freezed the system, and sometimes slowed it down as if there was a dead loop running in the background. Whose mistake was that : Marcus' or mine ? Aleksandar considered that I did something wrong so he made me send Marcus some of my source codes so that Marcus could see what's wrong.
I couldn't find out why and when the QT subsystem refused to work. I spent days and days making a hundreds of tests to see how it behaves in some particular situations. I couldn't help Marcus much either, because Enforcer wouldn't work (my 040 was EC040 without MMU) and Mungwall didn't report anything.
Somewhere In Time, between July and August 1997.(if I remember well) Aleksandar sent us an email telling us to try out the Amiga Quake port by a peruvian coder. He was very amazed with it telling to Vitomir and me how a great coder that guy is compared to us. Well, ok, I am not pretending to be the best coder ever. So his words didn't make me feel unconfortable. We have a proverb here in Serbia which tells (translated) : "how much money, that much music". If he considered that there are better coders than ourselves, why didn't he try to pay them 400 DM per month and get the same results as if they were paid 2000 DM ?
August 1997. came. Vojislav wanted Dusan to give back the Amiga he took but Dusan refused. So he came to the HQ and we all had a long talk about all the things that were going wrong in the team for some time. Well, for the first time, I was accused that day that I am responsible for all this mess we are having with Myst conversion. That day I found out what it is being accused by someone who doesn't have a clue about programming. I could understand how Vladimir felt when he was fighting with Aleksandar. That day we decided to prevent Aleksandar from fooling us all. But we didn't want to act immediately, and so we decided to wait for some time to see Aleksandar's reaction (Vojislav would certainly tell him about our little "chat").
Several days before that "caht", Aleksandar was telling me to prepare a demo of Myst with one island only that would go with the september issue of CU Amiga on a CD. As I had very little time, when I got back home, after my work, I wrote down a short message about our unfortunate team and translated it into french and english. Well, I intended to do the same thing on the final version, but with much more details and after taking enough time to compose it well. Then I made a simple tool to crypt the messages and linked them to a picture used in the game. That file is "Vault controlpanel (button)". I sent it with some other pictures to Aleksandar as well as the demo. However, the demo didn't come out on the disk. But the crypted file remained there !
September 1997. came. I noticed earlier that any private messge (not concerning the development of the game but our position in the team, for example) sent to Aleksandar was ignored. Oh, well, he could simply tell that he didn't receive any mail and nobody could call him a liar. So, I decided to mix the work and the pleasure and, 3rd september. if I remember well, in one same email, where I sent him some very important things about Myst, I told him that the completion of Myst for Amiga is close and that I thing that we should discuss a little bit about the bonus we mentioned when I began to work on Myst. I asked him if it is going to be a percentage or a fixed value and asked him to tell me how much copies of the game he expect to sell and how much money that would be for me.
And guess what : he replied to everything in that email that was about Myst, but nothing about what I asked him. So, I sent him a new email informing him that I won't play that game anymore. If he wants me to continue the work, he should give me 800 DM as salary, 1000 DM when I finish the game and a bonus ( minus 1000 DM) a few months after. If he wants me to quit the team, then he should give me 1000 DM for the code and 500 more if he wants me to explain him how it works. I left him a choice to propose something else. It was a thursday night, 4, september, about 21:30 (9:30 PM), I still remember it. My position was delicate. I didn't want to be fooled by Aleksandar on one hand, and on the other I was acting in the direction of breaking up the team finally, which would be bad for Dragan.
Well, one can imagine how hard quarrels I had with Vojislav during next days, especially the next day, friday. Then Aleksandar came up with some idea of making contracts with us. Funny, Dragan told me that, when he joined the team and asked Aleksandar about making contracts, Aleksandar told him that there's no stronger guarantee than his own word. However, I refused to sign it. It was, I think, a fair contract, but comming from him, in english, with the date about 6 months ago for me and two years ago for Dragan, and (a cherry on top) it is "governed by the laws of Province of Ontario". Could you imagine me travelling some 4000 km just to make a complaint if I considered that he was doing something against the terms in the contract ?
Anyway, the last evening of the existance of the clickBOOM team, we had an interactive chat with him via internet. He was trying to persuade me and Dragan to sign a contract. Well, obviously, he needed something to protect himself against us. I explained him that I didn't leave the team the day he ignored my question about the bonus just because of two things : first, Myst was about 70% over and could be easily finished (QT still made problems) and second, if I did that, erasing my whole work, he would be in a very bad financial position. So, money and his own position on this world were the two things that made me stay. I explained him that what I wrote in the alarming email (asking him money) was just an example of what I could do if I wanted to, and that he should take that very serious. I asked him to tell me how he intends to pay out a bonus and he constantly claimed that he doesn't know a thing about how much copies would be sold, how much money earned, etc..
You know, frankly speaking, I guess he was honest, and he really didn't know that. But after what he did with the other members of clickBOOM (who made Capital Punishment for Amiga) I decided not to trust him anything. In my opinion, when he realized that Capital Punishment was a disaster, he could openly tell us all what is the situation, tell us that he could only pay 1 DM each one of us, not as a bonus (since there was no bonus) but as some kind of reward for the job, buy us a lunch at McDonald's and tell that we could try it again with another game if we wanted to or split up the team. I don't know what was his position, but if it was as I see it now, I would do what I wrote a few lines above, if I were him. Instead of that, he kept silent, made me start Myst and get involved with all that stuff. The other part I was doubting of is the existance of Mr. Spiegel, because Mr. Spiegel could easily be Aleksandar himself thanks to what he would put 20% in his pockets without our knowledge.
Anyway, I did not accept to sign that contract, neither did Dragan. Tomorrow, when Vojislav came, he told me to prepare all my work to be sent to Aleksandar (to Canada) and that somebody else will finish Myst.
I had two choices : erase completely my whole work or do what he said. The first one was not "that" bad because I made regular backups and brought them home, but I didn't have some last backups at home. The second was intriguing. I didn't know if the guy who would continue the work would accept my scheme or create something else. I didn't even know if the text I had hidden in a picture was still there. But somehow, if the guy really continued my work and if the text was still there, then I'd have something strong against Aleksandar in my hands that could expose all the truth to the public. As I said before, I planned to put a bigger story about us with more details, in the final version of Myst. But, all that happened surprized me a lot and I didn't do it.
So, guess what is the choice I made.
The second, of course. So, before taking that HDD to somebody who would make a CD copy of it, Vojislav told me that clickBOOM doesn't need anymore my services and that he would contact me if somehow the team needed me again. That day was 25. September 1997. The clickBOOM team was split up, because Dragan himself couldn't do anything more. So, in some way, the clickBOOM team ceased to exist that day.
The same day, when I got back home, I showed the contract to my sister who is a lawyer, and she told me that as far as she knows, the contract can't be retroactive (as were those that Aleksandar sent us) and it's therefore illegal. She told me also several things. For example, if Aleksandar lost all his money, in Canada he could live quite well with the money he would get from the social assistance, and he would in addition of that, get money for renting his apartment here in Belgrade. So, probably, he didn't declare to Canadian laws that he owns an apartment here when he was immigrating to Canada.
Aleksandar allowed Dragan to stay in the apartment for some time and Dragan asked him to tell in advance, at least two weeks, when he had to leave. After a month or so, Aleksandar almost threw him out, telling him in an email that he had to leave within three days.
In February 1998. one of my friends showed me that he had a copy of Myst for Amiga. I was curious to find out if the texts I've written were still there. And they were ! Aleksandar just renamed the file into "Vault ControlPanel (buttn).pic", but didn't alter it. I guess that the guy who finished Myst is Marcus, since he wrote the QT player and Aleksandar had established a good contact with him.
So, I sent an email to Aleksandar telling him that Myst is an adventure and mystery, much bigger than the game itself. I explained him that I still expect him to pay me the 1000 DM I asked him 9 months ago for my code. He didn't answer.
I decided to wait for a while. He published Quake, and began Napalm. When I heard that some Polish guys, not older that the former members of clickBOOM, were doing Napalm I decided to reveal my little secret to prevent those "young fools" to be fooled as the "young fools" here were. So I sent a similar email to this one to Vulcan, Amiga.org, ... (mentionned in the introduction of the email which this text came with). There was no particular reaction.
So, I decided to let it go as it happened more than a year ago and my feelings about that weren't very strong anymore. But when I found his nice "speech" in the NEWT interview, talking about computer piracy, I really got pissed off, and decided to do whatever I can to make the Amiga community (and not only the Amiga comminity) who formed clickBOOM, who is Aleksandar Petrovic and what sort of illegal jobs is he involved into.
So, here is, at last, the part about the legal stuff, that I mentionned several times through this email. First, I think I should explain that computer piracy isn't actually forbidden here in my country. Therefore, in the computer magazines, one can find all sorts of adverts, mainly for PCs and Sony Playstation or Nintendo about all new software, games, etc... The price for a PC game or multimedia encyclopedies on a commercial (factory made) CD is about 5 DM, while it's about 6 DM on a writable CD-ROM. Utilities are a little bit more expensive. Playstation's disks cost about 8 DM. But you can hire a Playstation for 24 hours with 10 disks of your choice for 10 DM. Or you can pay 2 DM per hour in gaming centers to play Quake II, Starcraft or similar network games with friends. Needless to say, only the hardware has been paid the full price. It used to be the same with the Amiga 5 or 6 years before : in the computer newspapers you could find a dozen of A4 pages full of all sorts of adverts only for the Amiga. Why isn't it forbidden ? Well, all the government institutions use the same pirated software as the other users here. The army too. There are only a few companies here that have legal copies of their software. But computer software isn't the only thing pirated here. Music CDs can be found for 5 DM or less. Music CDs can be rented even if every disk has on it the warning that forbids hiring. The same is with video-cassettes. I watched several times movies in which this kind of text appeared from time to time : "THIS IS ONLY A PROMOTIONAL COPY OF ... IF YOU HIRED IT PLEASE CONTACT 99-xx-xx-NOCOPY".
Is it good or bad ? Well, I'll only treat the computer software. I think it's bad. As I am a programmer, I guess I'm one of the people who know the best how it can be difficult to write a program sometimes. But do I have pirated software on my computer ? Yes, I do. It's sad, but true : I either have pirated copies either pd/sw utilities.
I have just a few choices about that :
* spend 1/10 of my parents' salary to order an original game from UK or Germany (since there are no shops where you can buy original software here)
* not use any pirated software, which means not use my computer at all
* behave like everyone else here and use all the software I can
Well, because of financial reasons, I picked the last one, but I try not to use any software that I don't need the most.
However, the Amiga market is not endangered here because less than 500 users here still have an Amiga that can run new software. That represents less than a percent of the computer users population.
Well, now, having told you this, I can continue with my clickBOOM story. When it was all over, we (the members of clickBOOM) realized that Aleksandar had a fine tactic : invest as small amount of money as possible by paying the game markers much less than he would have to do in Canada for example, and by using illegal copies of the software he would have to pay in Canada, and, on the other hand, investing a huge amount of money in the adverts about the new game and clickBOOM itself. Ok, Capital Punishment didn't make it, but clickBOOM is now a name - built upon the work of the persons who Aleksandar cheated on and built upon the pirated software. The same software piracy that Aleksandar criticized in the NEWT interview.
What is my point here ? Aleksandar ISN'T an Amiga fan. Ok, I can't be sure of this, but all his behaviour and his acts showed it quite well. He is (as everyone else) a money fan. So why is he making games (I say "he" and not clickBOOM because clickBOOM doesn't exist for more than a year) ? Well, the reason is simple : making an Amiga game requires a lot less money investments than making a PC game for example. Also, the Amiga market has not that much competition. Have no illusions : Aleksandar will leave the Amiga as soon as he gets a chance to make a successful PC game. So, if it is true that software piracy is illegal in the western countries, maybe financial inspectors should have a little talk with Mr. Petrovic ?
So, I am asking you to make public my emails so that the Amiga community (and not only the Amiga community) gets informed about what's going on. Of course, you might say: "well, yeah, even if what you told us were true, clickBOOM is a company making software for Amiga and the end of clickBOOM would not be good for Amiga". Well, I guess that all I can say about that is that the choice is yours. You are right about that, I wouldn't like to see my Amiga "die" but I don't want either to see "clickBOOM this .. clickBOOM that .. Alexander Petrovic this... Alexander Petrovic that.." on the internet when I know what's behind all that. Once again, the choice is yours.
One last thing : how can you trust me about all this ? First, if you have a copy of Capital Punishment, you can check out who is the "lha.key" registered to. Then in the archive in which I put this text, you can find an Amiga executable. It is called "zvrcka" and will allow you to read the hidden texts on the Myst CD, Amiga version - the texts will be saved on the RAM:. That text will tell you in very short terms, more or less, the same thing I told you with all this more than 50 kb long text. So it's purpose is to prove you that I am not lying about all this.