Boulder Dash was an extremely popular game released in the early 1980's on a variety of systems. It's popularity extended from college students at military friendly universities like Kaplan University to kids still in elementary school, along with plenty of adults. Many different official versions were released over the years, but also many unofficial clones, modifications and editors were created as well. Since First Star Software owned the rights to the game (and still does even today), sometimes programmers ran into copyright issues and many of them used aliases or simply stayed anonymous.

This is the Interviews page on which various people who have something to do with Boulder Dash or its clones tell about themselves. In fact it is part of the Fan Stuff page but to avoid that it would become too big I've started a new page for it. In the menu you can find the interviews by the names of the interviewed people.

Lord Diego

Interviewed by Firefox

Lord Diego was a well-known person in the Boulder Dash scene when the game was better known by many people. He collected levels by players and distributed them and he has done some other things as well. This interview dates from 2001.

In which year did you play Boulder Dash for the first time? What was your age in this year?

I played Boulder Dash the first time in 1987. It was No One's 'Final Boulder 1' with 30 games on one disc. I was 25 years old.

Why are you fascinated from Boulder Dash?

It was love at first sight, when I played Boulder Dash for the first time. Comparing Boulder Dash to all these Shooting-up or Beating-up games, it was something very different. It makes very much fun to run around, collecting and thinking about getting through the levels. My wife and me were very fascinated about this new concept. We spent every free minute with the C64 and Rockford. I guess the longest session we once played Boulder Dash was about twenty (!) hours.

Lord Diego, you are one of the Boulder Dash 'Legends' and you created very many Boulder Dash games. What was the motivation for you to create so many games?

I guess a Boulder Dash legend, the godfathers of Boulder Dash were No One and Peter Liepa. Sometimes I had the feeling that these two guys were the same person. I was motivated to be in everyone's 'mouth', when everbody told about a new game from me. And the work with the Boulder Dash club POSOCOPI, of course. And it was really fun for me to create new games for Boulder Dash freaks.

Which Boulder Dash game or clone do you prefer?

There was no game I preferred to play. I loved them all and played them all many many times.

What else can you tell us from your famous time or from other Boulder Dash legends you used to know or you still know today?

Well, with Boulder Dash I learned to program. I often worked with the Construction Kit and hated all its crashes after creating two or three caves. I studied the program and after two weeks I finally discovered the bug. I also was the creator of the new walls that grow up and down.

I recreated the Construction Kit and called it the 'Effect Kit'. With this program I was able to create various effects, for example when a stone falls down it converts into butter- or fireflies. Or when a diamond falls down it counts no more. The effect I liked most was the conversion into fireflies after having caged an amoeba. Hehe, it was great to run away when 200 flies are trying to catch you.

To No One: I've never seen him. In the eighties we all had much trouble with the police, governments and software-houses. And No One had to be very careful, because he was a programmer in a software-house, I guess. He once met the leader of our Boulder Dash club POSOCOPI and he didn't tell him his real name.

To Prof. Knibble: I knew him personally and learned many things from him. He was our 'club programmer'. He created the Golden Games editions and also many game editors. He created many charsets, too. I guess, most of our charsets had been made by him.

To P.E.T.E.: I know him as well. I called him 'Killer P.E.T.E.', because his games were built in a way that you could already see the 'game over' sign on your face when you entered a cave.

Do you still have contact with other Boulder Dash freaks?

No, unfortunately I don't. The last contact was 5 or 6 years ago with Prof. Knibble.

Which other C64 games do you like most?

The Bard's Tale I-III, Maniac Mansion, Zak McKracken, Giana Sisters (I have a Construction Kit version and some games made by Prof. Knibble).

What were the most fascinating things or programs for you to play or work with on the C64?

Most likely the games, of course. But also programming was very easy with the C64.

Do you still work with the C64?

No I don't. I use the C64 only to play Boulder Dash. That's the only reason why I still have a C64 and a C128.

Which actual games do you prefer (2001)?

Silent Hill, all releases from Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy, also EA sports simulations. NBA, NHL, Football and all PSX.

Peter Liepa

Interviewed by Arno Weber

Peter Liepa in 1986 Peter Liepa in 2002
Peter Liepa (from Canada) is the inventor of the original Boulder Dash. He wrote Boulder Dash for the Atari 400/800 together with Chris Gray in 1983. Although Peter wasn't familiar with the Commodore 64 scene, First Star Software published a C64 conversion one year later. This game was not very different from the Atari 400/800 version, only the graphics and sounds were slightly different.

This interview is from October/November 2005 and it was held by Arno Weber. Here it follows:

Peter, in the Atari/C64 scene you are known as the creator of Boulder Dash, one of the best games ever. But besides this fact we know very little about your personal background. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Ok, this is probably going to sound like ancient history to most of your readers. As a kid I aspired to be an animator or special effects designer on the one side, and a particle physicist on the other. In high school we had a special program that allowed us to intern at the National Research Council of Canada for a week. I applied to work in a physics lab, where I was put to work at a drill press making an experimental apparatus. I was hopeless at it, but couldn't keep my hands of my supervisor's shiny new Wang Calculator. And when we were taken on a tour of the computer center, I asked to spend the rest of the week there. They had an interactive terminal, which in those days was an something like a Teletype or an IBM Selectric hooked up to some central mainframe. It ran a sort of interactive PL/1, and I quickly learned to program it. After that week, my only exposure to the concept of programming for the rest of high school was through books. In those days, the concept of personal computers was unimaginable [and even the big military friendly universities didn't have a great deal of computer technology].

I started off in physics in university, but very quickly found it both too practical and too fuzzy. And the particle physics courses seemed like years in the future, so I switched to math. My summer jobs were in computer programming. And I took a couple of theoretical computer courses and played on the university APL terminals, wasting reams of paper on things like Conway's Game of Life.

After graduating in math, I drifted around studying subjects like human memory and perception and wrote an unpublished manuscript that seems to have inspired a stream of research on how memory works. After a master's degree in Control Theory, I spent a few years in software consulting. This was just as mini-computers were becoming available to businesses and information was stored on 8 inch floppies.

How did you get the idea and the inspiration to create Boulder Dash?

In my late twenties I had a friend who was deeply into electronic toys, including a large screen TV and an Atari 400. After several evenings playing games, I had a "I can do this" flash, and bought an Atari 800 to start writing games. But rather than just starting to write a game, I thought it would be prudent to contact a local game publisher to see what sort of game might be in demand.

The publisher put me in touch with Chris Gray, who had submitted a game in Basic, but didn't at the time have the skills to convert it into machine language. So this seemed like a good project to get my feet wet, and I sat down and got started. The game was similar to an arcade game called The Pit, but after examining it more I didn't think the game had any 'legs' – too much of it was predetermined. But I started playing with basic elements of dirt, rocks, and jewels and within a couple of days had built the basic "physics engine" of what was to become Boulder Dash. I realized that using a random number generator you could generate random caves, and that by controlling the density of rocks and jewels you could get some interesting game play. The game play was not only interesting from a puzzle standpoint, but it also appealed to various emotional drives – not only obvious psychotic ones like greed (collecting jewels), destructiveness (dislodging rocks and killing fireflies) – but more neurotic ones like cleaning all the dirt out of a cave. And I think the game had a sense of humor – if you find somebody inadvertently crushing themselves under a dislodged boulder funny.

What exactly was your contribution within the development of the first Boulder Dash game (Atari 800)?

Chris and I lived quite far apart, so that our meetings were infrequent and involved a long drive. It turned out quite quickly that our design goals and methods were fairly incompatible. I was developing a game quite different from his original, and did so just about completely on my own. I designed all of the elements, physics, caves, the game play, the graphics, the music, and the title. Chris helped out with a few odds and ends – he suggested, for example, how to make the graphics for the game title by composing big letters out of the Atari character graphics. To be fair, Chris probably had lots of ideas, but they didn't really fit with my concept of where the game should go. And this was probably difficult for Chris because a project that he originally started was quickly evolving to a state where it was difficult for him to contribute. In the end, there was a lot of debate as to how exactly Chris should be credited and what his share of royalties should be.

Where did the name "Boulder Dash" come from? Who invented this name?

The working title of the game for a long time was "Cavern Raider", and several lame variants like "Cavern Crystals". Eventually I came up with the name "Boulder Dash", which is a takeoff on the word "balderdash". Coincidentally, a board game named "Balderdash" was also published in 1986.

How long did it take to finish the BD game?

About 6 months. Mind you, this was about 2 hours per day of "real work", but the rest of the day tended to involve activities that supported the work, even if it was procrastination. In other words, I probably spent more time procrastinating and preparing myself than I actually did working.

I want to give some credit here to some friends I had at that time that were running a software consulting company. They kindly gave me some office space where I could work on BD. It's not so much that I needed a desk as much as I needed a work-like environment that cut out non-work distractions and also supplied some social interaction. Videogame development in those days was a fairly solitary activity, but I doubt that I would have been able to do this work if I had been doing it locked away in a room entirely by myself. But my friends eventually broke up their company. So I began working at home, but as a result my only work-related contacts were by long distance phone calls and I soon became bored and lonely and started seeking other ways of making a living.

Even though BD was finished in about six months, it probably took another six months to find a publisher and work out a publication agreement. By this time I was full time employed at a company that developed word processing software.

By the way, I've always thought that the length of time that an artist (be it a novelist, songwriter, poet, or game designer) spends with a creation must vary with the soundness of the creation. What I mean is that for me to work on this game (with only a vague confidence that it might be published) for this long meant that it was sufficiently fun and interesting for me not to get bored and distracted by something else. The same must be true for songwriters and stage actors who have to perform the same material every day for a long time. Hope that makes sense.

Is the character of Rockford your creation too? How did you come to this idea? By the way - what kind of animal/human is Rockford actually? An ant or something?

Originally, in the early physics engine stage, Rockford was just static shape like a cross or something. When you moved the shape, it dug through the earth and absorbed jewels. In fact, the graphics were very simple, and elements were all single characters in a 24x40 character display. There was no scrolling in the early versions of the game. I think at some point Chris suggested that the digging shape should be a "man" and we came up with a simple human shape. When I showed an early version of the game to a potential publisher, they pointed out the "the man" was way too small, and need to be a more recognizable character. But I couldn't make "the man" more prominent without making everything larger as well. So this is where the hard work began of converting the game from one that ran on a 24x40 character display to one that scrolled over a much larger region. The caves still had 40 elements across, but each element was now made up of 4 characters arranged in 2x2 pattern. So each cave was now 80 characters across, and scrolling was introduced.

Now that I had something like 16 x 16 pixels instead of the original 8 x 8 for each element, I could add a lot more detail, including making "the man" more recognizable. I built a character editor to work out the pixels and the animation. It was at this point that the Rockford character took shape. Rockford was not supposed to be any particular kind of human or animal, he just evolved in the pixel editor. I suppose in my mind he was kind of a furry smurf. I was much more interested in animating him, and I think that the way he blinks his eyes and taps his feet when you are not controlling him added a lot of depth to the character.

Boulder Dash has 3 official sequels: BD II (Rockford's Revenge), BD III and the Construction Kit. Did you code these games too?

I designed all of the new elements in BD II. But because of the terms of the publishing agreement, I believe that First Star decided it was financially advantageous for them to develop further sequels without me. So I had very little to do, if anything, with BD III, although I might have helped designing some caves. And I remember working on the Construction Kit because the programmer they had hired had left a number of serious bugs that needed to be fixed.

After coding BD, did you also play the game sometimes? Was it easy for you to complete your own creation?

While coding BD, I played it incessantly, not only for quality control, but for inspiration and calibration. I consider myself an average game player, so the five levels were more or less adjusted to what I found easy and hard.

Have you created any programs/games other than BD (on any system)? Perhaps BD is your only game ever. If so, why did you stop?

I stopped working on videogames because I couldn't stand the platforms that came after Atari. I know you are a C64 fan, but I found it unappealing, and the IBM PC was much worse. The Amiga had a reputation as a wonderful graphics platform, but I don't know that game development on the Amiga was financially that viable. There are other reasons that I stopped. One is that the game industry had booms and busts, another was that game creation in those days was fairly solitary. So I just happened to move on to other things, namely 3D workstation computer graphics. I think that PC graphics finally caught up in the mid-90's to what I thought would be a decent gaming platform, but by then I had been out of the games world for a long time.

I did create a Windows game called Brain Jam. But that was more of a project motivated by wanting to learn C++ and Windows programming. It's available on my website.

Have you played any other computer games at the time you've created BD? What games did you prefer?

I played a number of Atari games. The favorites that come to mind are Crossfire, Choplifter, Oil's Well, and Castles of Dr. Creep.

If you could turn the time, would you want to rewrite any parts of your BD game, and why?

I don't think there's much I'd change. The caves could have been bigger than they were, but that’s about it.

Now let's talk about the recent BD clones, both the commercial and the freeware ones. Have you played some of them? What do you think of the way others are "developing" that what is initially your creation (e.g. by adding new elements and more detailed graphics)?

I've played the clones only very occasionally, to see what people are doing. I think the last one I looked at was Treasure Pleasure. Quite honestly, several of the clones (even some of the legitimate commercial ones) don't seem to get the game play right. On the other hand, others are excellent.

By and large, the opportunities for more realistic, more detailed, and more expressive graphics are there in modern systems and should be exploited. But the "heart" of the game still has to be there, and that is a matter of whether the programmers and designers are skillful enough and "get it". So there's no reason that a modern clone or derivative can't be 100 times better than the original. On the other hand, all the money, programmers, hardware in the world aren't necessarily going to make it so.

What is your best memory of the days when you were programmer?

It's probably the time of my life when what I was doing most fulfilled both my technical and artistic sides.

And what is your worst memory of those days?

There were a lot of problems working out how to divide credits and royalties with Chris. Eventually lawyers were involved.

As you know, many people are still fascinated from your creation, although we're living in the 21'st century! What do you think of all the BD fangames, tools and websites that were created by the BD community during the last couple of years?

I've looked at some of the fan sites, and I think it's great to have that sort of thing. And as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Sometimes the desire of fans to create versions of the game conflicts with First Star's copyright, which is too bad. I haven't really played many of the freak games, largely because I haven't come across very many of them, and I am generally leery of downloading software unless I absolutely trust the authors. I've managed to track down some arrangements of the Boulder Dash theme music which I thought were very skillful.

I'm delighted that Boulder Dash is still amusing people in 2005, although it has very little connection to anything I do these days. But right now I'm at a geometric design conference in Phoenix, and the other day I was approached by a German student who wanted to have his picture taken with me because of Boulder Dash. So it's still an icebreaker of sorts. Most of these people are old enough to have played BD on a C64, but I wonder what the next generation is playing it on, and whether they will continue to associate me with it.

Do you still have contact with other Atari freaks, who were active in the 80's?

No. All the contacts I had were long distance, and I would only meet them when traveling. I've lost touch with all of them.

What are you doing nowadays (2005)?

I work in software development at a company named Alias which produces 3D software for design and entertainment. The two main products are Maya and StudioTools, both of which are pervasive in the fields of cinematic special effects, video production, and automotive and industrial design. We (as a company) won an Academy Award a couple of years ago for our contribution to the special effects industry.

My main hobbies seem to be (in no particular order) gardening, skiing and mathematics. You could argue that mathematics is related to my work, but that's mainly because at work I tend to seek out projects with interesting math.

And finally, do you also play computer games from time to time?

I don't really play any computer games (unless you think of Planarity and Sudoku as computer games). I think the main reason is that for years I've had RSI problems (popularly known as carpal tunnel), and have avoided activities that might exacerbate the condition. But I've learned to better manage the RSI, so the second reason is that most contemporary games haven't interested me that much. The third reason is that I don't actively seek out games, so that even if there were interesting games I wouldn't know about them. The last games I remember actually playing for more than a few minutes were Cyberia and Fury3, both of which are from the last century.

Peter, I wish you all the best. Thanks to you again for creating the Best Game Ever and of course for doing this interview. 

Marek Roth

Interviewed by Firefox

Marek Roth is the son of Rolf Roth and the brother of Olaf and Sarah Roth. This well-known Boulderdash family from Germany used to play the game at many times when they were at home. Especially Marek has contributed many things that are concerned with Boulder Dash. Think of games and tools, but he also had much contact with others and has done many things behind the scenes. The following interview was held in 2001.

In which year did you play Boulder Dash for the first time? What was your age in this year?

I was eleven when I played Boulder Dash for the first time. Boulder Dash III had just been released. I started with Boulder Dash II and III. It was around 1986.

Why are you fascinated from Boulder Dash?

There are only a few elements in Boulder Dash, but the game is so variable that some people still have new ideas for new levels. This is the reason why it still means much fun today to play Boulder Dash sometimes.

Which Boulder Dash game or clone do you prefer?

I still play all the different C64 versions and of course my selfmade PC version. I programmed my own PC version in the way I liked it most. Of course there are still elements in some of the C64 games that I didn't create in 'The New Dash Dimension'. That's because they were not very important for Boulder Dash. I didn't wanted them to be included in my own game. The main priority was the comptability with the 'original' Boulder Dash and I guess the result is very good. There are some Boulder Dash clones which have been done very horribly, for example the Gameboy and the Amiga version. In one version the butterflies explode too high when they touch an amoeba and in another version they explode too low. Or you can collect diamonds while they are falling down. That's not what I call Boulder Dash. Furthermore I don't like it when the charsets are changed in a way that it is difficult to recognize the elements. I like to play Boulder Dash with its original charset.

Marek, you are the author of one of the best Boulder Dash editors ever made (Deluxe Kit 1.3 and 1.31). What was the motivation for you to program these kits?

Marek Roth
First of all I studied Assembler and the C64 with it's hardware in general. I always had Boulder Dash ready to try things out. It's well known that the original Construction Kit was bad work and other freaks before me tried to fix this. The crashing reason in the game was found in the level build-up routine, which filled the screen randomly with titan walls. Nobody before me was able to locate this error. This is why this nice effect is not used in No One Packer 5.3. Since I had found the mistake I was able to use this routine again in my own version. Furthermore I made the cave choice better, so that you can go forward or backward when choosing the start level. And I included the sound of the magic-wall as well.

Then No One changed the movement sound and most of the people agreed with this change. But now there are some people who don't like this change and for that reason I included the original sound in my version 1.31.

My real first program was 'Marek's de Luxe Construction Kit'. It was created after the first Boulder Dash series. Prof. Knibble programmed some new elements and Posocopi designed the caves. The announced level editor has never been released.

Prof. Knibble turned to the game Giana Sisters and programmed a level editor for this game. Since this time I've never heard from him again. I never had contact with him, anyhow. All of his work has been spread by the German Boulder Dash club called 'Posocopi Waldkirch'. I always greeted Prof. Knibble in my own games, because I used his work to make my own level-editor. Then I decided to program an own level editor, with which you can create everything that was used in the first Boulder Dash games and which is more comfortable to use than the original one. I guess I did good work. My own editor contains many special functions such as filling functions and undo functions. There might occur some problems with the level packer. I recommend CCS64 v2.0 (an emulator) with Dophindos installed to prevent problems. The original CBM DOS of the 1541 is full with errors. With Dolphindos all the problems can be eliminated. The end of my C64 programming was 'Crazy Dream 7'. To make a new level editor for the C64 I had no more memory available, so I decided not to create a new one. If somebody likes to know how to make one on the PC: I used to place all my work in the 'Boulder Dash Inside FAQ'.

Well, afterwards I didn't hear anyting new from the club Posocopi, but there was Alex Zop who founded a new Boulder Dash club. With his club he helped me to spread my new editor all around the world. But nowadays this club doesn't exist anymore, either. By the way, there's a test of my editor available in the magazine called '64'er'. This magazine was only available when you were subscribed to it and I didn't see an original until now. If somebody likes to have this test signed be me, he would be the first one.

Which other C64 games do you like most?

I played a lot of C64 games. But many times the Amiga versions were much better, except of Boulder Dash. This game is not well-animated on the Amiga. The graphics for 'The new Das Dimension' did I make with the Amiga, because this game was planned to be released on this system. But since the PC system has become so sucessful I decided to program a DOS version.

What were the most fascinating things or programs for you to play or work with on the C64?

I used the C64 for text documents. And I also liked the scene demos very much. On the Amiga there were very many demos, as well, but on PC systems they are very rare.

Do you still work with the C64?

No I don't, but I still have my 130 Boulder Dash disks.

Which actual games do you prefer (2001)?

I like the Lucas Arts adventures. I also play 3D action games like Doom, Quake, Duke Nukem 3D or Unreal. First Star Software should take a look at ID Software. The freaks are really very pleased with Doom. The game can be expanded with free extras. And if that's not enough, ID Software has released the sourcecode under GPL. So the game can be configurated with the newest hardware. Unfortunately, Boulder Dash freaks can only dream of what has been released at I also like the Crash Bandicoot games, but they they only exist for Playstation.

Ron van Schaik

Interviewed by Firefox
Ron van Schaik

Ron van Schaik comes from the Netherlands and is the author of the well-known Schaik Dash and Forkidzdash series (see the Boulder Dash page) and the chiefman of the HCC Commodore Gebruikersgroep. He is very fond of Boulder Dash and Emerald Mine and he used to play it together with his friend Rien for hours. Ron owns dozens of Commodore models and variations, 1400 C64 games (in 2006), hundreds of magazines and books and much more... a room can be filled with them!

Ron van Schaik

When he came across a Commodore 64 on a flea market, he remembered what fun he had had with this computer and he stumbled upon the HCC Commodore Gebruikersgroep, brought its website and magazine to life again and organised more club days with themes such as SID music, Retro Games, etc. Nowadays the club is internationally well-known and sometimes there even come people who have to do with the Commodore computers to the Netherlands to present their creations on the club days! Boulder Dash has got a high priority on the club days and in the magazine ('Het Info Bulletin').

Ron van Schaik with Jeri Ellsworth

This interview was held in 2001 by Firefox. I got his permission to publish his interview on this page. For the original version, have a look at the interview with Ron van Schaik on Firefox' website.

Here it follows:

In which year did you play Boulder Dash for the first time? What was your age in this year?

I bought a C128D in the year 1986. I was 25 years old then.

Why are you fascinated from Boulder Dash?

Boulder Dash is my favourite game because it combines a few things: tactics, insight and it is a game of skill.

Which Boulder Dash game or clone do you prefer?

I love it when there's only one way to play the cave and it has been built in a way that it uses the original charset. I also like to play Emerald Mine on the Amiga.

Which other C64 games do you like most?

There are a lot of them: Winter Games, Into the Eagle's Nest, Mr. Do, Krakout, Ace of Aces, Beach Head, Dino Eggs, Super Cycle, Rock 'n' Bolt, Leaderboard, The Goonies, Superfruit, Rolling Ronnie, River Chase, Quasimodo, Law of the West, Summer Games, Worldgames, Traffic and there are more...........

What were the most fascinating things or programs for you to play or work with on the c64??

I remember that a friend and me played a whole weekend The Goonies. We wanted to play till the end of the game!!! Also that we created Boulderdash caves for each other with the Construction Kit.

Do you still work with the C64?

Yes, although I work in the computer world with a lot of Unix servers for a great worldwide company, my C64 is
still working a few times a week. I still find it the finest computer to play with!!! I also have a fast Pentium
with 3D but when I have the choice I play on my C64!!!

Which actual games do you prefer (2001)?

I play Boulder Dash most of the time and otherwise I play Beach Head or Ace of Aces. I find it a pleasure to search
on flea markets for original games and diskettes for the C64. Also, it's nice when you find books, cartridges or other original stuff. For example I have almost 700 original games at this moment.

If you know more about a certain game or if you have a new game, new levels, music or whatever, please send it to me and I will put it on this website! You can find my e-mailaddress in the menu to the left.