Interview with X-Man

by Wishbone (August 1999)

    DISCLAIMER: the mistakes are the exclusive property of their authors ;-)

    Hello X-Man! Please introduce yourself for our readers.

    My real name is Karl Maritaud.
    My birthdate is September, 10th of 1975 (so I'm about 24 right now).
    And I live in Limoges: a small/medium town in France.

    In what group(s) are you in? and who are the members?

    I created the Sunset-Design group with my friend Robinson.
    We are currently 2 members, as in the beginning; but we've been up to 4 members once we planned to make a game (which has been aborted as many of our projects).

    I'm also a member of Procreation (a mainly Polish group). Members are: Rem, Luk, Payda, Orome, Scape.

    Have you got an homepage? an e-mail for your fans? :)

    The Sunset-Design home-page is (I've got to update it).
    My e-mail address is (I luv to receive e-mails! Even flames if you want! :))

    What's your current situation?

    I'm student in computer graphics (the technical side, not the artistic side). I'm currently finishing my "stage de DEA" (I dunno how to translate it but it's sort of practical training course at the end of the fifth year of studies), and then I'll start a Ph.D Thesis, still in computer graphics.

    How do you enjoy the life? Are you a "Carpe Diem" guy or are you anxious about the future?

    It really depends on the moments. Sometimes I don't care about anything, and sometimes, I'm realising that I should hurry if I don't wanna get into troubles (because I have obligations... for my studies, for example).

    Do you like interviews? :)

    If you mean "being interviewed". Then yes. It makes me think that I am "someone". :)
    Anyway, I'm not gonna boast everywhere for having been interviewed, but it's kinda satisfactory that the loads of hours I've passed in front of a screen did serve to something.
    On the other hand, if you mean "reading interviews". Then, I also like them. It's always interesting to read about people whom you like the work.

    How did you come up with your handle/alias?

    Hehehehe... A stupid origin! :) I don't know if I should tell it... Well anyway, there's no reason to be ashamed about it. Let's go... In the first years I discovered the web at school, as almost every boy in school I started to surf on porn pictures sites. I wasn't surfing more (nor less) than the average but, unlike the others, I wasn't hiding. So my classmates nicknamed me X-Man. Then I discovered IRC. So I naturally used this nickname, since I didn't have any other then. And, after about a year of IRCing, I became more and more interested in the demo-scene and everybody who knew me on the IRC/demoscene as X-Man, so I couldn't change any more.

    :) Do you still collect porn pics or do you put into practice your knowledges? :)

    You... You ****ing tabloid reporter! :))
    I won't tell you anything more. :P

    lol. Well, what was your first computer, and what computer do you use now?

    I started with an Amstrad CPC-6128 in 1989 (if I remember well) which I sold one year later.
    Then I bought an Atari 520 STe. At this time there was a big war between ST owners ans Amiga owners. Most of my friends got an Atari, so did I.
    I still have it because it's impossible to sell it with it's dead mouse/joystick ports. :((
    And then I bought my first PC (a 386sx16), then a 486dx2-66. And now, I have a PentiumII-233, big HDD, 64MB RAM, 17" screen, and a GUS pnp (GUS suxx!)

    Why do you say "GUS suxx!" ?

    Because it's limited in memory while modules are getting bigger and bigger. Because it's not sound-blaster compatible (except with a TSR which gives a very poor sound quality) so I can't get a good sound with older DOS games and emulators. And because only demomakers use(d) it.

    You are a graphician and a coder. Which category do you prefer? why?

    In fact I love/hate both. :)
    It's a weird feeling. I love starting a picture, then I hate doing the antialiasing and the "style" stuff. But since it's the only way to get a nice picture, I do it. And then, I LOVE the moment when I say "OK, it's finished".
    For coding, it's different. I love coding, and I love to find bugs and fix'em. But I hate when I can't find where the bug comes from! :)
    But I'm more a "programmer" than a "coder", which means I'm not able to make the fancy and impressive effects you can find in most new demos. At least not in real-time.

    How did you become a graphician?

    When I was a kid, I liked to draw. So, when I got my first computer I naturally tried (and liked) paint programs. I started with the OCP Art Studio on Amstrad. I discovered the "joys" of drawing with a joystick and with very limited colors. :)
    Then, on Atari, I discovered Degas Elite. It's the only paint program I like on ST.
    On PC, I started with DP2e (which didn't do all I wanted it to do... you know what happened then, don't you? ;)).

    Yeah, I know :) How and when did you become involved in the scene?

    I discovered demos a long time ago on Atari. But I've been involved in the demoscene for only a few years.
    What brought me to be really interested in the scene is when I grabbed 2 pictures on FTP: Made's Eye and Ra's Eagle. This was the first time I saw really GREAT pictures. It was then that I discovered what people could do with a paint program and I decided to try to do as well (I don't think I've succeeded, but I'm getting closer :)).
    So, while IRCing, I found the channel #demofr where there were French people talking about demos (and nothing :)). And this was when I really entered the scene.

    Your pics are great too.
    What does the scene mean to you, and which aspects do you like/dislike about it?

    In my opinion, the demoscene is (should be) a great gathering of people who are interested in computer arts. They would share their knowledge and friendly compete to show what they are able to do.
    Most of what I'd like the demoscene to be IS in the current demoscene. But it's plagued by people not interested by the scene who come to demo-parties (I hate when people call them "coding-parties" because it's irrespectful for musicians and graphicians). These people are gamers (and lamers). They should organize game-parties if they want but they have nothing to do in a demo-party.
    Do you know the difference between The Party and Wired?... 4000 gamers!

    Yeah, it's a pain I think. So, which software do you use for drawing? (who said "silly question"? :)

    That's not a silly question. :) Of course half of the answer is obvious: I use GrafX2 for 8-bit drawing. And for true-color pictures, I use Photoshop5. I don't use anything else... Except sometimes PSP5 but it's not for drawing.

    Where do you get the inspiration from?

    It depends. Sometimes, I see a photograph in a magazine, and I think: "Wow! It's great! Let's draw it!".
    Sometimes, I have an idea and I look for models that could help me to draw it.
    And sometimes, I just start drawing from a model and idea come up while I'm drawing. That's the case for "Evil Nun" (1st place at the Arf!Party 8-bits compo). I started to draw the nun's face, then I've had the idea to put the fly I drew in an earlier pic and put a fly-swatter in the nun's hand which give a much funnier mood to the picture.

      But I'ld like to speak about a problem. Most pics in compos are copies from models. I won't criticise copies since I almost always copy, but the problem is that people at parties mostly vote for the subject and not for the realisation. So they vote for the photographer or painter who made the original image and not for the pixeller who drew it on computer. Just because you can't really see the technique when you are far from the big screen.

    How long does it take to draw a good picture for you?

    The fastest I can do is 20 hours for a 320x240 8-bit picture.
    I did it once for "Elbow", but I don't consider it finished. I really lacks work on colors. But I had to finish it in a hurry before the deadline.

    It usually takes me about 30 hours for a low-res pic and 50 hours for a hi-res one. That's fuckin' long and most of this time is spent in antialiasing. For true-color pictures, it's a bit faster (because there's no need for antialiasing) => 30-40 hours for a high-res pic.

    What are the most important aspects of making a great image?

    - Antialiasing! :) There are people who antialias by smoothing. It's just horrible! Some others don't antialias at all. It suxx!
    That's probably one of the reasons people tend to prefer true-color now. They don't have to antialias.
    - Contrast. For me a good picture is one where there is black and white. If there are not these 2 "colors" somewhere in the pic, then this pic could have been better.
    - I also love white specularity plots. But somehow, this goes with contrast.
    - Color mixing. A pic with large areas of colors from the same gradient suck. Even more when this gradient only changes luminosity. Look at Cyclone's pics. His work on colors is great!
    - And finally, the undescriptable oldskool-pixel-demoscene-touch like in Made's old pics, or Ra's, or Cyclone's, or...

    Which of your own images do you consider as the best one and which was the most difficult to draw?

    My favourite is probably "Mr.Bean" (although I'm not really a fan of him).
    It was the first time I found my current technique.

    Then I like all the following pictures I drew (including the true-color "Pixels are a kind of magic"). Except "Elbow" which is unfinished to me (but I don't hate it. It's just not one of my favourite).

    What do you find the most difficult to draw?

    Nothing is difficult. But there are things faster to draw than others.
    I think everybody with patience and at least one eye and one hand could draw good pictures. It's easy to draw on computers. You can modify a pixel as many times as you want until it looks like what you want it to look.
    So among the things that are very long to draw are: hair, wrinkles (old people's skin)... Any texture that has to look like something existing in fact. Especially those which need antialiasing in 8-bit.

    Which phase of your drawing do you enjoy most?

    The beginning. When the picture starts to look like what you want it to be at the end. And of course the end: when you've finally come accross this boring antialiasing and texturing stuff.

    Please describe in steps how do you create an image. Do you start by making a sketch on paper, or is everything done on the computer?

    I start directly on computer. I first draw the main shapes of the picture; either using the line tool, or directly with single pixel or a medium round paintbrush.
    It depends on my mood, on the picture, on... I don't know...
    When I don't use a medium paintbrush, I fill the main areas with their main color. Then starts the shading, texturing, boring, fucking stuff. Else, this stuff begins just after the shapes are drawn since I draw them directly with their main color.

    Do you use any special techniques? Please describe which drawing tools and techniques do you use mostly?

    I use almost no special fx. At least not for the final result.
    But for the rough sketch in the beginning, I can use: smooth, shade, smear+transparency ("hidden" effect in GrafX2 that works like Smudge). I've always 2 fingers of my left hand on the keys that switch to the next color.

    Here is the sequence:
    Rough sketch. Smudge! Smooth! Smudge! Line! Smudge! Colorize! :)
    What's cool with true color, is that you can start a picture with a few ugly strokes and then smudge them to give them form. Then you can make cleaner shapes with small lines around their border.
    At the end (the end of a part of the picture, not necessarily the end of the picture), I colorize to make it look more like a true-color picture. You have more that 16.7 million colors, so why not using most of them? But don't make "space pigs" pictures (cf. FT2)! :)

    I love "space pigs" textures! (kidding :)
    Are you against truecolor gfx?

    Even though I drew a pic with the message "true-color suxx" (Mr. Bean), I like true-color. It was just provocation and protestation against gfx compos mixing 8-bit and 24-bit pictures. Now that parties start to separate them into 2 distinct oldskool and true-color compos, there's no problem. True-color is very different from 8-bit and I love both. Good graphicians continue to make great pictures (Look at Made, Lazur, Fame, Visualize...) And lamers continue to draw shit (look at... hehehehehe... no names ;))

    No names? are you sure? :)

    Yup. They don't deserve to be named. After all, being a lamer is maybe a desease. I don't want to make fun of handicapped. ;)

    What do you think about 3D/Raytracing?

    I'd love to be able to make great 3D pictures (like 3D-Addict, or Krafton...)
    But I can't. :( Maybe I'd just need advices... I've never really tried in fact.

    I like 3DA's pics too (I don't say that 'coz he's my boss :)
    ....and what about redrawing, scanning?

    I do redraw. It's easier than making a 100% no copy picture. And it has much more chances to be a nice picture at the end. BTW, I don't consider me as an artist, and I don't feel like I could make great 100% no-copy pictures.
    About scanning... Rules are simple in gfx compos: Scans are NOT allowed. It's the rule. So scanning is cheating. And I don't like scans in demos. It's like the 40 hours I'd spend on the pic to draw the same thing (but cleaner :)) would serve to nothing.

    ...and ascii/ansi, rip?

    Ascii,Ansi: maybe I'm wrong, but for me these are just bitmap pictures passed through a gfx2txt converter. Anyway, I'm sure most people do that.
    Rip? Are you serious? It's lame. The only ripping I can understand is sample ripping because not everyone can afford the sound hardware needed for creating your own samples.

    Have you ever considered a carrier as a professional graphician?

    I'm afraid I'm not enough an "artist". And I'm a dickhead in front of a 3D modeller. :(

    You are the author, with Robinson, of the famous GraFX2. Why did you create this tool?

    *** Warning: bits of comparative advertizing, which can ***
    *** be illegal in your country, can be found here! ;))) ***
    *** But there's no difference between Pepsi and Coke :) ***

    As everyone a few years ago, we used the only good enough 8-bit paint program there was on PC: Deluxe Paint 2 enhanced. Which sucked in front of what Deluxe Paint was on Amiga.

    Robinson and I (and 2 other friends) wanted to make an adventure game ("Monkey Island" or "Simon the Sorcerer" -like). But we wanted to make it in mode X 360x240 (don't ask why), with backgrounds of 360x190 and a panel at the bottom of the screen (to show inventory and other stuff).
    Of Course, DP2e didn't support anything else than 320x200. And the version I got had a few bugs I couldn't stand any more. So we decided to make our own paint program which would allow me to draw 360x190 pics in 360x240 mode (ONLY!). And so GrafX1 was born in 1 summer (in Turbo Pascal!).

    Then we discovered the Watcom C and it's protected mode memory wonders. On one hand we had a nice program which was limited by memory, and on the hand we had a great compiler which would allow us to use all the memory.
    So the next summer we started GrafX2 (our very first program in Watcom C). What we wanted was a program which would allow to view and draw the same pics that we could find on Amiga (with the good aspect ratio). We were frustrated to watch to 320x512 pics in 800x600!
    At each each new video mode we discovered (by hacking the CRTC registers) we were boiling to release it in a party. OUR FIRST PARTY! (that's when we really entered the scene). So we attended to Wired'96. It was so great to see good scene graphicians being interested in what we made for them, for us, for anybody who would find a use of it.
    I think Mr.H and Vogue (FT2 creators) must have felt what we felt when they released FT2 for the first time.

    Give us some talk about the features of GraFX2.

    - 60 video modes including many Amiga modes.
    - Almost everything that can be useful in a 8-bit paint program, and more.
    - All the standard up-to-8-bit (+ IFF's HAM) file formats (GIF, PCX, BMP, IFF/LBM...).
    - No animals (except flies) were hurt during the making of GrafX2.
    - Multicolor palette edition.
    - It's user-friendly (once you know the main keyboard-shortcuts)!
    - At least, it's X-Man-friendly. :)
    - It rulez! ;)

    "Poor guy" won the 4Ko compo at Wired'97. A lived experience? or a kind of way to remember the past before your discovery of the scene? :)
    More seriously, was it an hard challenge to you? Do you consider 4ko compo useful?

    When I started it, I just made it for fun. Since I'm not able to make great effects, I had to bet on FUN. I wonder what the maker of MC4K thought when he saw it. :) The public had to choose between 100% perfect code and 10% code + 90% fun. Fortunately for me, they chose fun because every other 4K intros are 100% code.

    It wasn't really a hard challenge. I love to optimise code. Making a 4K intro is a game. What was boring was to enter all the coordinates of the "pictures" in the data. In this intro, there are 600 bytes of code and all the rest is data. Imagine I entered more than 3400 numbers with my fingers. Doh! I even prefer antialiasing! :)

    You're released 2 mods for the Arf! Party. Is a future composer born?
    You're an eclectic guy :)

    In fact I made these 2 mods a few years before. I make Chiki Chika 5 years ago on my Atari!
    I'm gonna release a few of my old mods in next parties. Then I'll make some new ones. Anyway, I'm not a musician. :)

    I'm eclectic but if only I could have _real_ talent in at least one of the 3 main categories of computer artists (gfx, muzik, code)... :/ I'm better than medium, but far from very good.

    What do you think about charts full of old sceners? I mean, these guys are now a part of the scene, eveybody respect them and some are now inactive.
    So, as the scene changes, don't you think it's time to make charts more in connection with the present scene?

    Charts suck. People vote for friends or for people they remember the name.
    Some coders only know Pixel and Marvel from FC (which sucks imho because FC was the best group for music and code, not really for graphics). I've even found people who don't know Made !!!!!!!!!! How do you want to make charts with these guys? It's like for me. I know very few coders... Some from Pulse, some from TBL, and some French ones. I'm sure there are very talented coders that I don't know.
    Seriously, I could only vote for graphicians in a chart. These are the only guys I know.

    Anyway, some oldskool guys who've left the scene are still unequaled. I'm thinking about Ra. So, it's maybe a good thing that he is still in some charts. But I think that many of the oldskool musicians are nowadays completely overestimated.

    What do you think about the "are-you-productive-enough-to consider-yourself-a-scener" polemic?
    And what about you? :)

    I think that being a scener is being interested in the scene. Of course I think it's better to release something, but once a year would be enough. Just to say "Hey! Look! I can do something".
    For, me, I don't attend to every party, but when I go to a party I WANT TO enter at least one compo.
    For LTP3, I'll enter 4 compos!!! (as for Arf!Party). I love compos! A party without compos would be sad.
    I don't care if I win or not (except if I'm proud of what I present and I finish behind a shitty production :)). Looking at a compo with participating is much more exciting.
    My problem is that I almost always compete alone. I'd like to make a demo some day.

    ...and what about the "I'm-an-elite" attitude?

    Of course it suxx. Anybody who's interested in demos has his place in a party.

    Who are your favourite artists outside the scene?

    I don't know much. :/
    I like photo-realism, like Sorayama, Vallejo, etc... But I'd never draw a pic from their paintings because most of the oldskool scene graphicians copied them, and now, it has become very boring to look at such pictures.

    Here's the boring questions :)

    I'll answer among the ones I know. I know many in gfx, but not in other categories.

    Ok. So, what are your favourite:
    - graphicians?

    Made, Lazur, Fame, Cyclone, Ra, Nero, Visualize, Das, Haplo... (And I'm not even sure about the order because they have very different styles)

    - musicians?

    I like Sybaris/Ultrabeat, Keith303/RadicalRhythms, and some classics: Scorpik, Mellow-D, Skaven, Purple Motion, Probe,... There are many tunes I love and I don't even know their author...

    - coders?

    I don't know them enough.

    - groups?

    Let's say Pulse, Bomb, TBL... but there must be others...

    - demos/intros?

    "State of Mind" from Bomb is my favourite demo. I also like Blasphemy's recent demos. They all look the same but they are clean. TBL's intros are also very similar to each other but they rule. And "Paper" of course (though the music suxx, but ).

    - diskmags?

    I haven't read a diskmag for ages. I want ONE BIG diskmag, not lots of small ones.

    - slideshows?

    They are useless! I've already got all the pics in a slideshow before it is released. And I prefer watching them directly instead of running a slideshow that occasionnaly doesn't run under Windows and which doesn't allow me to zoom into the picture.

    - demoparties?

    I'll speak only about the ones I attended:

    - excellent memories:
    I loved the 3 last Wired.
    I loved LTP2, and LTP3 is gonna rock (I hope).
    I loved Arf!Party.

    - nice ones:
    Volcanic party 3

    - bad ones:
    Volcanic party 4: too much commercial. Gfx compos viewed with ACDSee! Argh!!!
    The Party 8: just a bunch of gamers and very expensive
    Saturne V: cancelled because of power cuts

    - and others stuffs (food, drug, girl,... :)?

    Pizzas, French fries, Burgers, Gratin Dauphinois (made by my mother), rice+tuna+sweet pepper salads, icecreams, chocolate cakes, strawberry tarts,...

    Winners don't use drugs. I don't drink (even no coffee), I don't smoke, I don't like not to be in control of my acts.

    Clear eyes, pretty face, sexy. :)

    What do you think about Gfx Zone? (watch out for the censure! :)

    Hehe. It's (really) one of the best and most complete sites about gfx.

    What are your projects for the nearest future?

    Go home and eat (it's 19:00)!
    Attend to LTP3.
    Make a Multi-player Tetris game.
    Release a new version of GrafX2 (who said "nearest furture"? :)).

    Today, it was the last eclipse of this century. Do you see it? very impressive I think.

    In Limoges, it was not a total eclipse (90%). The sky was cloudy. I didn't have special sunglasses. It was just as if there was no eclipse at all, except that there were fuckers on every TV channel yelling in the dark.

    Btw, do you believe in the predictions which announce the Apocalypse?

    Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit!
    I don't believe in everything I haven't seen by myself or science hasn't demonstrated.
    I don't believe in God neither, and religions suck.

    It's time to close this interview, would you like to say hello to anyone?

    The problem with greetings is that you take the risk to forget someone. :)
    Hello to Robinson, Sacrilege, Made, GDC, JCA, Danube, Anhk, Lluvia, Skal, Rez, Mephisto, Underking, all my old #demofr and #pixel pals in the time I could do IRC... {put your name here if you think I like you and if you like me} :)

    Any final words?

    Thank you for interviewing me. I hope that it will interest as least one person. :)
    Ban gamers. Respect oldskool. Use GrafX2. Don't use Windows 2000 because it won't support VESA. Love me tender, love me true.

    So, Thanks for the "entrevue" ;) and Cya!

    If you go at LTP3, c ya there.

    (All graphs and more available on the Sunset-Design's homepage)

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