Back to television

In November 2005 we received an interesting request. A graphical artist, who once worked for Steffen Kleinke, was engaged at a company called “WIGE” in Munich. He phoned Steffen, because his employer was looking for team, which could realize a special real-time 3D live broadcasting project. “Media Seasons” was not the only studio in Germany with the ability to do it but we had luck. “WIGE INNOVATION” was the subsidiary company with the relating area of responsibility for such projects and fortunately situated in our city.

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The project definition was to build a tool, which can be used to view a soccer scene from television with 3D models from any perspective. The most important point was that one operator is able to adjust the camera placement, ten player poses and their texture setting from a frozen image in ten minutes. That tool was used in the live shows at the “2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™” by the German television broadcaster “ZDF” and the Austrian “ORF“. At that time “WIGE DATA” and “WIGE INNOVATION” were bought by “Swiss Timing“, which is part “The Swatch Group“, and renamed to “ST SPORTSERVICE” and “ST INNOVATION”. “ZDF” and “DSF” are still using our application called “tvVAT3D”.


ZDF Arena at Sony Center, Berlin tvVAT3D tvVAT3D

But before that happened we were asked at the beginning of December 2005 if we can develop a program that brings a virtual animated ski jumper into a real “ORF” studio for the “Four Hills Tournament“. The event was taking place between December, 28th and January, 6th in 2005/06. Although we had less than one month time, only a basic understanding for ski jumping and some new technologies like tracking of a real camera or outputting the graphics using the SDI ports of a “NVIDIA Quadro FX” card to integrate we accepted and mastered the challenge. We repeated the success one year later but used another software technology that time.

Games made by Media Seasons

The first games, which we developed under the label of “Media Seasons“, were completely self-financed casual games based on bowling, Skat (a card game, which is very popular in Germany) and air hockey.

Uli Stein - Summer Games Uli Stein - Summer Games Uli Stein - Balko Uli Stein - Balko

In spring 2005 we created a summer sports game with characters by the most successful German cartoonist: Uli Stein. The game had been presented at the “Games Convention“, which is Europe’s most important computer game exhibition and fortunately situated in Leipzig, later. At the same time we had nearly finished an adventure game based on a television series named after his leading character “Balko“. Both games were made on order.

The fall of “LightBrain” was the rise of “Media Seasons”

Right after “BomberFun”, which was completely financed by “LightBrain” and its holding company “agens Consulting“, the development of a new game was started. We produced a prototype, which should help an agency to find a publisher for the game. That time the publisher would have to pay the bills. Unfortunately the agency was unable to locate such a publisher and “LightBrain” started to run out of money. They had to quit co-operation with the artists under the direction of Steffen Kleinke and reduce the amount of money they could spend on me. As a last resort they returned to “BomberFun”.
There was a chance to adapt the game for an arcade machine called “FlexArcade“. My scope of duties increased, so I did most of the programming and we got a really working system. But a few weeks later “TLC Industries” placed a lot of obligatory features we should also add. Because it was not declared before we didn’t do it and “TLC Industries” never published a “BomberFun” game pack.

BomberFun Tournament BomberFun Tournament BomberFun Tournament BomberFun Tournament

But “LightBrain” still was not capitulating… not yet. We started to enhance the game by a lot of features like multi-player game modes, GameSpy support and a better graphics engine. After that the game had been republished using the title “Bomberfun Tournament“. However the streak of bad luck continued and the product did not even reached the attention of the first one. In my opinion the largest mistake was the lack of new graphics or at least new levels.
The manager of “LightBrain” returned completely to its other company called “TOP TECHNOLOGIES CONSULTING” and the remaining employees had to follow him. I was the only survivor and should try a new way: advertising games. First I had to create a video trailer, which was a perfect task for me. But I should also make acquisitions afterwards and that was never what I wanted to do. My work for “LightBrain” ended and the company was practically not existing anymore.

Some month before a new co-operation between Steffen Kleinke and me was born: “Media Seasons“. He is Managing Director, also responsible for the art pipeline and I became Development Director. My domains are programming, being the link between art and technics and preparing products for release. The end of my engagement at “LightBrain” represented the beginning of “Media Seasons” growth.

How my professional career started

The year 2000 marked the beginning of my professional career in the games industry, because I started to earn money from the games I was developing. “Space in Motion: FutureTrade” found its way into some stores in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in May. It was not a lot of money that was flowing back to me but I was proud that my first product was professionally finished and could be bought by consumers.
Some time later a fellow student at the University gave me a tip. He said something like this: “There is a company, which is developing a ‘Diablo‘ clone, in Leipzig”. So I presented myself to that ‘company’. It was not a complete company but a graphics studio, which held an exclusive partnership with a developer in Berlin called “Silver Style Entertainment“. So the partner in Leipzig got the name “Silver Style Studio”. And they were not really developing a hack and slay game like “Diablo” but a real RPG called “Gorasul: The Legacy of the Dragon“. I introduced myself as a potential programmer because that talent was and is better then my artistic one. Because the studio was ‘only’ producing graphics and some web sites they could not hire me instantly. That situation last until spring 2001. At that time I had got two opportunities: First I could went to Austria to develop the AI of “1503 A.D.“, which was the the successor of the best-selling game in Germany, or I could stay, become self-employed and work as a freelancing graphics programmer at the project “BomberFun” for the new company “Lightbrain” from Hamburg. I decided to do the second one because 3D programming was much more interesting than AI for me and I could work from home. The manager of “Silver Style Studio” quited the partnership with “Silver Style Entertainment” and founded an own studio, which was completely responsible for the graphics in “BomberFun”. As graphics programmer we had to operate closely in conjunction and so our solidarity was increasing.
That led to a game, which we produced independently from “LightBrain”, at the end of 2001. It was called “Winterspiele 2002” and was a winter game, which had only been published in German speaking countries.
“BomberFun” reached its final state in summer 2002 and received an award from Unfortunately the game was much more played than sold.

Regional television

It was the year 1998, quite after I had started to study computer sciences I also begun to work for a regional television broadcast station as a freelancer. The name of the station is “Nordsachen TV” (translated: North Saxony TV). It was situated in Eilenburg, which is the neighbor town of my home town Delitzsch.
At that time the editor was using analog equipment even though they had already bought a digital system. It was a DraCo made by MacroSystems with a 30 GB SCSI hard disk and it was my first mission to get it known and to educate the editor afterwards. Because the computer had only got an AMIGA processor it was very slow at computing effects compared to PCs of the same time but it was very good at getting your video done a fast way if you could abstain from transitions and effects. You had to use hard cuts, which are fortunately the most professional ones. After I referred my knowledge to the employed editor I got the chance to become a supporting one. Every Monday I was cutting articles considering the specifications of our journalists.
After a while I said the business manager that I would like to make some animations. He gave me the chance and said analogously: “Try if you can create an advertising character to represent our TV channel.” I was doing so but the result did neither satisfy me nor my boss because it was my first attempt on characters. Luckily enough I got a second chance later. It was the opportunity to revise the introductory, the news and the promotional animation. I combined filmed clips with computer generated images and the results were much better than the originals.

I was slowly evolving away from the broadcast station with my second semester, in which I had not enough time anymore to work a whole day. Someday someone, whose name I only knew from advertisements, was calling me. He said that “Nordsachsen TV” was sold to a new group of business people and he is one of them. They changed the graphical design, relocated the station to Delitzsch and hired new workers. A lot of investments were made and new animations matching the new design were being required. So I came back in, drafted some of my ideas and got green light to realize them. Now I was also director, who instructed a camera man to get my visions to tape. Because of the large amount of animations I had work for some month. Here you can see one of the results: News.

My self-eduction

While I was going to school I started a few projects, which I never have finished. Here are the largest ones:

  1. “FutureTrain”: Because I liked the concept of “Railroad Tycoon” by Sid Meier I decided to develop a clone taking place in the future. But I stopped the project because I could not reach the quality to satisfy me. I realized that my knowledge was insufficient at that time.
  2. Inspired by press preview of the game “Outpost” I created a similar looking title. At that time it featured wonderful hand-made SVGA graphics motivated by screenshots of the coming “Command & Conquer: Tiberium Dawn“. In the prototype it was possible to scroll the view and to build a small town. There was also a complete animated introduction in SVGA.
    I only used “Turbo Pascal” to program it and an painting tool, which was delivered with “SoundBlaster 16 ASP” and could handle 8 Bit graphics.
  3. “EarthDefense” (“EDef”): First I created an introduction animation using “Raytrace 2.0” and programmed software to compress and play these video. I also did a lot of research and drafted much artwork but I never really started to program the game itself. With the time my capabilities raised and I wanted better videos. So I recreated the intro using “Monzoom” (formerly called “Reflections”) and with more spectacular content.
    At that time I started a new project, which was only planned to be a two-month-production but the duration increased to four years and took all time from “EarthDefense”.

Up to now I can call it the longest project I ever worked on. At the beginning I attended the eleventh grade of the german grammar school and was seventeen years old.
Initially the game should only use 320×200 VGA graphics with small pre-rendered images but later I advanced it to 640×480 SVGA full screen backgrounds. I also improved the visual appearance of the map from a two-dimensional top-down view with color variation for different height levels to a textured, illuminated and dithered rendering from a bird’s eye view (also called “2.5D”). The game also got an original soundtrack and special sound effects.
Despite all regenerations I managed to get the game finished and published to retail stores in the year 2000, when I was 21 years old. At that moment I was studying computer sciences at the University of Leipzig but I realized that my “real” education has reached the level, which made me ready for a job. And so I discontinued my studies.
The name of the product is “Space in Motion: FutureTrade” (details are coming soon). In the production time I also graduated from school and served my military service in the “Bundeswehr“.

The beginning

In my boyhood I programmed a lot of applications and games, which I have never completed. After the “C64” I got a “Commodore 128DCR” and the some time later the matching monitor. At that time my best project was an own “Indiana Jonesadventure game for the “C64”. I was twelve years old and did not realized the legal issues using such a brand but this has not become a problem because I lost interest and never finished the game. With the help of magazines I was able to combine graphics and text mode but could not show sprites at the part of the screen, where the graphics were being displayed. In addition I was too young and unexperienced for such a large project.

At Christmas 1992 my parents bestowed me my third computer: It was a “Amstrad” PC with “Intel 80386SX“-CPU running at 20 MHz and equipped with 4 MB RAM and a 80 MB hard disc. The software contained “MS-DOS 5.0″ on three and “Microsoft Windows 3.1” on seven 3,5″-floppy-discs.
At the long vacation in 1993 I developed my first game, which I had finished and wanted to sell as shareware: “Antarctic City”. It was a hybrid of interpreted “QBasic” source code containing the game logic and “Turbo Pascal 5.5″-compiled executables to load bitmap files, which I had created in “Paintbrush for Windows“. Because my first contact with the Internet should not be until five years later I had no idea how to distribute it. I gave the shareware version to some class mates but never got a response. Probably I had thought not entrepreneurial enough at that age and so I focused my mind to next projects.
The following years I switched completely from “BASIC” to “Turbo Pascal”, from VGA to SVGA graphics, from PC speaker to “Sound Blaster“-compatible sound and started to work with ray tracing applications. So I was acquiring a lot of game development knowledge but did not finished a single product. That last until the year 2000…

“Nu, pogodi!” or: First contact.

Seventeen and a half years ago Germany was divided in two parts. West Germany had democracy and a social market economy. But I lived in East Germany, which was ruled by a kind of dictatorship (even though the official name was “German Democratic Republic“) with a centrally planned economy. The computer technology in our country was at least a decade out of date and a home computer cost triple the monthly income of one of my parents. So I had no chance to get my finger on one.

On my birthday in 1989 a Russian tele game had been given to me. A friend of my farther, who was working in the former Soviet Union, brought it along. The handheld was only able to let me play one game but at that time I was very happy. In the game you had to catch the rolling eggs from four sides. When a egg pitched onto the ground you lost a life. The game characters based on a famous Russian animation series called “Nu, pogodi!“, which was also known in East Germany. That was my first contact with electronic games.
In the November of the same year the “Berlin Wall” had fallen and the inner German border was opened. A half year later the GDR still was existing but a lot had already changed. Nonetheless I met the Hare and the Wolf again being on holiday. There was a arcade gaming machine called “Poly Play” with different games. The funniest of all was a “Pac-Man” clone starring the characters from “Nu, pogodi!”.

In the summer I was attending a computer club, where I got in contact with the “Robotron KC 87“. There I programmed my first game. You only had to hit a key on right time to shoot a rocket, which had to strike a car driving from the top to the bottom of the screen again and again.
With the “German Reunification” on October 3rd, 1990 my parants were able to bestow me my first own computer at the following Christmas: A “Commodore 64“. At that time I was eleven years old.

What means “Lightrocker”?

I use the label “Lightrock Entertainment” to publish the products, for which I am solely responsible. Up to now it was only one commercial game: “Space In Motion: FutureTrade” (2000 – Germany, Austria and Switzerland).

Someday I had to register for a forum – maybe it was on – and I could the idea to to create a personal name from my label to be connected with it. That way the title “Lightrocker” was born and is being used for a lot of accounts. And I had never the problem that the name was already assigned.

You are German. So why isn’t your blog?

The language of this weblog has not been an easy decision for me. I thought about English, German or a bilingual version.
The last option I discarded soon because it would take to much of my spare time. So I could make a German blog because I am living and working in Germany and a lot of information, which will be communicated here, is related to that fact. But I am developing software for the international market and for this reason there will be many topics, which are attractive to Non-German speaking people, too.
I do not think that a lot of visitors here will come from USA or Great Britain but I could image that there are people from Eastern Europe, who have got concerns in Germany for example. Most of them would not be able to read my weblog, if it would be presented in German. So I chose the international standard language.

You can tell me if it was the right decision. And when you do I would be pleased to also know the country and city you are watching from. Thanks!