Since years ATARIMANIA is a well known source for all Atari 8 Bit fans. Now since some time, it extend it’s collections to also cover the ST computers. Not long ago, there was a relaunch of the site. So it was a good opportunity to have some words with one of the main responsible for the ST part of the site: Marakatti.
LR: Please introduce yourself.
Marakatti: My name is Marko, I live in southern part of Finland (the promised land of C64, Amiga and Windows) with my wife, 2 kids, 2 dogs and lots of Atari-machines and software. I’ve been active ST user since 1990 and own Atari machines from 2600 to Jaguar and from 400 to Falcon030. In the earlier days I was a gfx-man of Alien Nation and Depression crews. I also used to collect computers and videogames from 1997 to 2005 or something and have total of 135 machines and around 1500 original software titles for different systems.
LR: What is your function in Atarimania ?
Marakatti: My main job is to build the ST / TT / Falcon030 database (games, utils, demos), make Pasti-images from the originals we get or own, do a lot of scanning (disks, box, magazines, and whatever are related to ST software) and the most important part, to add the stuff our contributors send for us.
As every member of Atarimania I also participate to design, bug hunting and suggesting new features for the website and the special program we use to update the Atarimania. I try to work at least 1-2 hours every day for the site so you could say that there’s every day something new to see. I think 11 hours a day is my current record
LR: How did you start participating in Atarimania?
Marakatti: In April 2008 things were very silent at the Guardians of the PaST. Team had lost the coder, founders needed to take a break for their hard work and the database engine wasn’t working 100%. It was a bit of uncertainty what comes next and when. So I was looking for a another project to keep the flame burning while the Guardians was on hold.
I noticed a site called Atarimania which was listed on RetroGamer magazine. It looked cool and I saw that the ST database wasn’t yet published. So I sent mail to the team, told a bit about myself and asked if I can help building the ST section. I got accepted to enter Atarimania. Later I worked for the both sites but as things got more and more silent on the Guardians side so I chose to concentrate my energy for Atarimania which is now my main Atari-project.
LR: What are the highlights of the relaunch of Atarimania? When did the relaunch was planed, and how long did it took?
Marakatti: It was amazing how fast our coder did the whole site from scratch concerning he has a fulltime job. I think the first concepts were done in late January. The new design really took off in May or so and we already had a new version running in early September. We’re still fixing bugs, cleaning the site and adjusting some minor things. This is pretty much done and we can concentrate to build the ST database again which still needs very much work to be equal to other areas of Atarimania.
About highlights I think the best thing is “My Atarimania”. It’s a totally new concept in Atari world where you can keep easy list of your Atari software online no matter where you are. It has already been very popular feature amongst the game collectors.
Generally speaking the whole site is now much faster and easier to navigate thanks to the fact that it’s fully recoded with Webdev instead of PHP. This also allows easier and more flexible expansion for future features.
We tried to make it more user friendly experience for our visitors and also have the latest web technology under the hood for the future.
LR: How many people are involved in Atarimania and how are they organized?
Marakatti: At the moment we have 10 active members from France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Finland.
Six members are working on 8bit Atari-machines and four for ST / TT / Falcon030. It’s a funny coincidence that most of the ST team are from Scandinavia.
LR: Are there dependencies between the different systems, or are systems like the VCS and ST independent in Atarimania?
Marakatti: The ST section is most independent from the others. With an exception of our coder, we don’t do maintenance work for 8bit systems. Atarimania has originally been built around 8-bit machines so it’s natural that the founders work for console and 8-bit computers.
In fact 8 and 16+bit machines don’t share that much similarities apart from Atari name and the case design of XE. So both require special kind of expertise and most importantly years of experience. I have to admit I don’t even have enough knowledge to use 8-bit Atari computers properly apart from loading some games or watching the absolutely fantastic demos this “babyamiga” has to offer. These guys are best for the job so ST section can concentrate doing our own thing. Having said that I will ofcourse be here to help if things like scanning or taking screenshots is needed.
LR: Why is there an own forum with topics like “programming”, why not reuse “Atari-Forum” or “Atari Age” or whatever?
Marakatti: I think our forum main purpose is to allow interaction between visitors and Atarimania. The other areas like utils and demos are also expanding so it’s natural to have our own little forum for that. It is true that Atari-Forum and Atari Age are the most active places for community. We don’t try to compete against them.
LR: What number of games do you expect to be listed in AM in the end?
Marakatti: For single ST/TT/Falcon titles we try to reach the magical 5000 games limit. I still think there might be some PD or personal archives to be explored. But it will take a lot of time to go this far as we now need to concentrate to fill up the gaps in the current database.
For the total number when you count different releases like budget-versions and country specific releases + the utils and demos for that, no one can’t even imagine the total number! I think we are going to see well over 10000 entries in couple of years.
LR: Is there a chance, that the Atarimania project will die (the ST part) as Guardians of the PaST died?
Marakatti: First of all I think it’s too early to say if the Guardians have died or not. It had a habit of having big breaks, and then suddenly something moves a bit again. As I spent hundreds of hours working for that project I still have a soft spot for the site in my heart and would be sad to see it vanished completely.
I’m sure that Atarimania will survive as long as we have a coder to supports us and there’s nothing dramatically in our families lives. We spent our childhood with different Atari systems, we love to play with our machines now when we are adults and we want to preserve the good old days for the future generations when we’re gone. Three very important things that keeps us together.
LR: The strange thing on GotpST was, that it was only interested in “Commercial” games, what’s the opinion on PD and Shareware games on AM?
Marakatti: It was this way because Guardians goal is to preserve everything including complete game boxes. It was something that most people didn’t realize.
In Atarimania our ultimate goal is to save every software title released no matter under what license, where or who published them. As far as the commercial stuff goes we prefer to use Pasti-images for protected games to have as fresh copy as possible, that’s why we decided not to use any cracks. We have nothing against crackers though, without them the ST history wouldn’t be complete and no one could enjoy as large software base as we can today.
But the thing is that there are already mighty CD or DVD compilations available from DBug, our newest member Marcer and from many other people in the past. But no one hasn’t succeeded making the ultimate Atari ST / TT / Falcon030 software archive yet with as unmodified software as possible. So PD, demo and shareware stuff is most welcome, it would be a real loss to miss such classics like, let’s say Llamatron.
LR: I saw on a C64 Forum, that they have videos of each level of a game, do you think that will come as a future feature in AM as well?
Marakatti: Very tempting idea. It would be possible with the games that have trainers or by hiring Xerus to play everything for us
Couple of ST videos are already uploaded with much more to come. Time will tell if we manage to go this far. I have to admit I really enjoy watching the Amiga speed runs from YouTube and would love to see such thing on Atarimania someday.
LR: What are the next steps in the project?
Marakatti: Main priority on ST is now to take screenshots for the current entries and to make as much Pasti dumps available as possible. In total we have well over 1000 boxed originals waiting to be pastified and/or scanned + the new contributions we get every week.
We will also do our best to find lots of previews, reviews, work in progress etc. documents to be added as well as videos and otherwise unreleased material not found from other Atari websites.
I’m also a huge fan of Falcon030 so thanks to the already very good Falcon emulation on Hatari we are finally able to build decent Falcon database as well. I think we also start soon working on Jaguar section when we have figured out how to get decent screenshots.
LR: What are your dream features of Atarimania?
Marakatti: In the future when the database is ready I would like to see Guardians style things in Atarimania like the expanded background information of games, ability to play ST-game music files, wider selection of screenshots etc..
It would be great to be able to play ST games directly from the website like on VCS section. Also the idea of having rotating 3D software boxes sounds very cool to me.
But my ultimate dream is that I would like to see the members of Guardians of the PaST, Atari Legend, Atarimania and other ST sites to work together for one big project that would challenge the big sites like Hall of Light on Amiga or World of Spectrum instead of trying to do things on our own. ST scene is just too small for that.
Just look at the VCS and 8bit databases. They are real flagships of Atarimania. It just shows what is possible when you have motivation and dedication to give your best shot and get people to support the project. We have the technology and motivation so it can be done on ST as well. So far the support has been great but there’s always space for more stuff and people.
LR: What are your favorite ST games?
Marakatti: I’m a big fan of racing games on any platform, so almost anything from that genre goes. I think the best ones on ST are games from Magnetic Fields (Lotus and Super Cars series), Vroom, Microprose GP, Toyota Celica GT Rally and Stunt Car Racer. From other than racing games I enjoy very much playing Kick Off and all the classics like Gauntlet II, Ikari Warriors, Xenon, Arkanoid II, Fighter Bomber, Llamatron and Obsession just to name a few. I bet there are still dozens of great games I’ve never even played. That’s what makes ST gaming so fascinating
LR: Many thanks for this great interview, and our best wishes for the future of the project
1. Atarimania website