Dario Halle is MercurySteam’s lead programmer. He is also one of the founders of the company and one of the cleverest people we know. This upper step of human knowledge didn’t stop him to answer our mundane questions.
What was the first game you ever played?
Hum… My kid asked me that very same question a few days ago and the truth is that I don’t know! The first videogames I remember are Space Invaders and surely Asteroids. God, Asteroids. I used to play that on Argentina´s video arcades. There was also a vectorial game about Star Wars I remember being really good.
What did you like about videogames?
I don’t know (chuckles)! I just love them, I was really interested in how they were made. How do they work? How do you make one of those? HOW DOES IT WORK FROM THE INSIDE?
When did you decide to make programming your job?
Well, when I was in high school, about 14 or 15 years old, I managed to get myself a Spectrum and started programming. But programming was a mean, not an end: what I truly wanted was to make videogames.
I recall there were some code based examples on the actual Spectrum user’s guide. What I didn’t understand was how people could get from the magazines a bunch of code and just started typing it – like how are you going to write that big fat stream of code without knowing what the heck you are going to get? I just wanted to get the chance to invent it myself!
I used that Spectrum for ages, even when I was in college and it wouldn’t work anymore, I tried too hard to rewire it. It had So many mods! I even got a disk case a guy made in Buenos Aires, that was pretty interesting. It was hand-made from a cassette case. From there you could just plug it in and download all your data in a blink!
Good memories. I believe I have the motherboard of that Spectrum hanged on somewhere on a wall.
Why did you decide to move to Spain and leave Argentina?
Because I wanted to make videogames and in Argentina, there was no industry. Nothing. Nada. What we did have was Internet tho. I even joined a group of hackers once- but that’s a story for another day. (laughs)
Back to the industry, I once joined my father on a business trip to Buenos Aires, cause I wanted to meet some people that made something similar to videogames. They seemed to be interested in me, but then I found out they were making educational software. The moment I set foot on the place and saw all the people wearing suits and ties, I thought- well, no! Also, the guy who had to interview me didn’t seem like he wanted to talk to anybody. So I didn’t want to talk to him either!
A few months later, I met a guy online that worked on a publishing company that had released a few indie games. They were passionate about games and started to have a lot of success selling them. They used to go to the E3 to talk with publishers and developers to close deals and bring projects to Argentina. And there they were the people of Rebel Act* (Note: Rebel Act was the studio that created Severance: Blade of Darkness, project in which the founders of MSE met.)
So in the year 1999, my friend gave Rebel Act a CD I emailed him with a spaceship 3D game I was making. And they somehow asked me if I wanted to work for them. I said yes, but I could tell they didn’t think I was going to ACTUALLY move to Spain. On the next week, they had me there.
Enric (Founder and Creative Director of MSE) was the first person I ever worked with. Back at that time, he designed and made maps. They basically told me “you are going to make scripts for this guy’s maps”. And the rest is history.
Basically, I came here because I wanted to work on videogames and my parents were really supportive!
How was being a developer in the 2000s?
Back in the day, what we know as indie studios, didn’t exist. With Scrapland, if you didn’t have a publisher, you couldn’t develop games for consoles. Publishers were the only ones who had dev kits.
You also needed a publisher to produce the physical game and distribute your videogame globally. There were no digital distribution channels as we have now, and the Internet was still an option just for a few. Also, the Internet was like a small village in which people leave their doors fully open. An absolute disaster!
We had modems, not routers like we have now, that were directly connected to the Net. You had an IP just for you. So when you got yourself into a game server and created a match, people could easily get into your computer and delete all your files. Back in the day, security wasn’t a thing and of course- hacking was super easy. (grins)
How was Mercury’s engine back then?
It’s like the one we have now but with lesser things. It was idea-based on different engines Carlos Rodriguez (lead of tech of MSE) had worked on, like the engine of M-Alien Paranoia for example.
We met Carlos in a job interview back in Rebel Act. And after the interview, I saw some people hesitate. I just said “He is good! He is very good! If we don’t hire him we are a bunch of moroons”. And he got in! (laughs) No, seriously, he worked on Eclipse Games and was about to start a new project that got cancelled. He does a really good job. I’m glad he joined Rebel Act.
Just a few years after, when we found MSE, we had the chance to rework the engine he made. It was both a fun and frustrating process.
I remember that at some point in Scrapland’s development, we didn’t have any 3D models yet, so we took a StarWars´ speeder model he found online and put it in an Alien Paranoia’s map. Those first tests with a few speeders flying over the crazy map of AP were- curious, very curious!
That has to be in the engine files somewhere. So as the Internoid, a 4vs4 Asteroid based game we made to test the net protocols. Who said protocol testing can’t be fun?
And finally, what’s the last game you’ve ever played?
That would be an indie game called Lifeless Planet. And I’m also playing Hue! I guess I’ve just been playing indie games lately. I really enjoyed Lifeless Planet narrative tho. I’d tell you all about it but I think is better for you to play it!
We have taken action against the infinite Loath bug. We are also working on a fix it. Be reminded that Spacelord is a game that requires everyone to follow the rules. Any other action would mean an infringement of the EULA and will be severely punished. If you detect this very same or a similar behavior write us right away so we can make a move.
We want to thank from the bottom of our hearts, all the community members that helped us to track this down.