Codetapper's Amiga Site

An interview with Subzero of Skid Row

Subzero was the main original supplier for the cracking group Vision Factory, and more famously known to the Amiga underground scene as one third of the trio known as SSR (Subzero, Selim and Rudi). SSR were famous for supplying games for the famous Amiga cracking group Skid Row from Germany in the early 1990s.

Vision Factory

Vision FactoryI don't recall the name Subzero being mentioned as a supplier on Vision Factory cracks. Did you use a different handle back then?

During the early BBS days, I supplied incognito because I was active in developing and producing Amiga games for my sister's company. I am guessing without my originals, there would not have been a Vision Factory!

Were there times that multiple new games were released the same day, and you had to get them all cracked?

Yes I remember there were days where we got more than 2 or 3 originals, like in the earlier days in Vision Factory. We started from Cologne (by car to Holland) with 3 games in our package, 1 we just uploaded and released, and 2 which were unreleased, and got released at our party in Venlo. The games were Kick Off and Microprose Soccer. I do remember because I still own those originals pahaha! Ahwell time flies by?! At that time most of the freaks still did post swapping, because modems were expensive and all.

Can you please elaborate a little on what happened with Vision Factory?

Well Vision Factory was closed, because the original founder Marco Polo (who did most cracks) left the scene, and at that time, only FFC was cracking. He learned a lot from Marco Polo but was far away from his abilities...

Anyhow, we tried with a couple of co-op releases with The Company (as they had a paycracker called Ralph) and their leader was also a local dude. But that didn't work out well, they missed too many originals coming from me and a lot more. Also Marco Polo wanted to have Vision Factory closed, so we closed, and I started something new - Skid Row!

Skid Row

Who were the original members in Skid Row when you formed?

That was me together with The Hellion and Metallica (still a good local friend!), and we had FFC and Eurosoft at the beginning cracking for us, as well as the very talented dude from Denmark, Blackhawk, who also did a lot of quality work.

What does FFC actually stand for? Some scene members have told me it's Full Fat Chicken, others Fuckin' Fast Cracks. Are either of those correct?

Full fat chicken we called him when we met, because he was fat, and mostly like a girly (chicken even lol), but FFC stands for Full Force Cracking.

Did you all live closeby?

We were all locals except for FFC. Myself, Metallica, Marco Polo, Brainwalker etc - all lived just a few kilometers away.

Where did all the original suppliers obtain their games from? From what I've heard, it sounds like many groups used the same place.

They all got 'em from LeisureSoft, and another distributor in the UK called GEM. We (SSR) Germans also got 'em from LeisureSoft (and others). The Germans were often faster, or more accurately, got it 1 day earlier because my girlfriend (at that time) worked at LeisureSoft, and also my sister had a software company and store. Therefore, it was mostly just a couple of calls, like checking out if something is new, if yes, calling Rudi/Selim to pick it up from the distributor, and from the distributor he directly delivered the originals to FFC.

Ilyad cracktroWhen you have the original disk in your possession, it's a huge advantage over only having a disk image due to the fact that some games had tricky protections that could not be written back to disk. What happened in cases where FFC was unavailable (or had too many tough games to crack at the same time) and the remote crackers would not be able to write a working version of the game back to floppy disk?

If there was more than one game released per day, we warped the other one to our other crackers. If there were tricky protections, we had Eurosoft; he wrote a warper for them in no time!

A rumour was spread that Eurosoft had some special floppy drive which spun at a slower rate than normal Amiga disk drives, and this allowed him to write back longtrack protected games without any problem. Any idea if that was true?

Haha, total bollocks, can only be a rumour!

What kind of job did FFC have that would allow time to crack the games, tack on an intro and upload it before other groups? (I can only imagine that unemployed people would be able to do such a task, unless Skid Row had crackers on standby all around the world in different timezones etc!)

Well he didn't have a job at that time as far as I can remember. Also he didn't have much to do with intros. The intro texts were mainly edited by myself while he was cracking the game, or even while Rudi was on the highway to him. I wrote the intro texts and sent him the intro. That way he didn't have to care about such things, only cracking, putting the intro in front, and uploading; that was mainly his job. We also had a cracker in the USA (he only did the US originals except for a few, which were heavily protected!) Also one cracker in Denmark, and two in Germany.

R-Type 2 cracktroHow did you organise who would be available at all times to crack a new title? Did any of the crackers have their own dedicated phone line just for you suppliers to send the games to?

They did not have their own dedicated phoneline, but they had a phone, and that was enough back then. If they were busy, I called the next person, or posted a message on one of the US BBSes...

Once the games were cracked, were they all sold off to try and recoup some of the costs or did you keep them for a while in case the crack needed a fix?

Once they were cracked they got sold due to the store!

There's an old interview with 2tuff/Crystal that explains how he sourced games and transferred them to the supplier. I'm not sure how accurate that is, but if you believe 2tuff, "Skid Row were easily destroyed". Do you have anything to say about that particular interview?

Well, there is not much to say about him, he got beaten by us many many times, a few times he was faster, but he always acted like a little ADHS child on the BBSes.

Back then, I never saw him as a competitor.

Robocod cracktroFrom a New Zealand perspective, it appeared that all the new games came out first in the UK. Therefore it seems that supplying originals for UK games from Germany would be a nigh on impossible job most of the time when speed is of the essence. But based on the number of cracks of UK software that says "supplied by SSR", how on earth you guys manage it?

Well, distributors released their games the same day in Europe or at least mostly in the UK and Germany, so while 2tuff was riding his BMX bike and had to warp the games to the cracker, Rudi had already arrived at FFC's place having delivered him the originals. While FFC was already looking at the protection, the others were still uploading to their crackers. The other advantage I had was that my girl was working at LeisureSoft Germany, so she told me one day earlier what was coming out and so on. She made it possible for us to be that fast!

When there were multiple games released the same day, did Selim/Rudi deliver the whole lot to FFC and he'd quickly work out which were the easier to crack titles? And presumably he'd send those easier to crack titles off via modem to the other crackers while he worked on the ones that were more difficult to crack without possessing the original disk?

Well FFC was like a machine, for example, while Eurosoft cracked and worked at the harder protections, FFC concentrated on the others. Many times when a title was important (let's say a Psygnosis game being more important to deprotect than any other as it was a major release) we also knew which rival group may have had the originals as well. That was our advantage, due to my girlfriend! ;)

Lethal Xcess cracktroThe other thing was, we didn't need a BMX bike to grab the games from distributor, lol!

Back to FFC, he also did many heavy protected games back then, if he needed help, he called Eurosoft by phone, and they sorted things out together, and if there were really heavily protected games, Eurosoft got the whole warp to check in and work at.

Having original suppliers in Germany, the UK, and the USA, how did you co-ordinate who would source each game to prevent duplicate purchases of the games?

We just called each other, since we in Germany never paid for any original I supplied, we of course chose the German original instead of the UK one if they came out the same day.

If there was a really massive release (something like Lemmings, SWIV, Turrican 2 etc) would you concentrate on getting the big name game out the door and leave all the other games to the other crackers?

Ork cracktroMajor games got priority, and if a major title had heavier protection, Eurosoft took care of it. For the rest, FFC or our others crackers.

Did you guys read the same computer magazines as everyone else did to find out the big games that were coming out or simply bought new games as they were released?

I always got all the mags due to the companies I was working for, my girlfriend also got lots of stuff, and information (no wonder eh!?). Then there were many shows we visited. That way I also gained new connections and stuff.

Did you guys try and obtain every single game, or only concentrated on the big games?

We got everything that was new, and I also gave originals to friends in Alpha Flight, TRSI, and others, mainly German ONLY games.

When you ended up buying crap like Tiertex games or budget titles etc, did your sister's shop have problems selling off these titles?

What wasn't sold by the store after a while got sent back to the distributor! :)

Ten Gai cracktroWas your girlfriend at Leisuresoft interested in the whole original supplying/cracking scene or was it just a job for her and she didn't really care what you guys were doing? Was there ever any chance she would have gotten in trouble from knowing you guys or did she keep clean by only telling you about the games and you simply bought them?

Yes it was very risky for her, and she didn't know many of us at the beginning, but she told me who else tried to get originals from them! Not even Rudi or Selim knew it was my girlfriend! Imagine them picking up originals from my girlfriend, and didn't know she was mine lol...

Since we were all living in other cities, after a while (I think it was about 8 months) Rudi/Selim were informed about her, who she really was and all. Other than that she didn't care much for the scene, she didn't even really understand why we did all that lol.

I've heard of some games released by cracking groups sometimes a week or two before being available to purchase in the shops. Was your girlfriend able to "borrow" a copy of these titles so you could release the games before the shops even had them for sale?

Einmal Kanzler Sein cracktroYes indeed! She got some titles earlier (so called press releases, finals with a special serial number in, which was removed before releasing of course!). And I also got some from a known German magazine. While they were testing the new games coming up, I sometimes got a copy! ;)

They were also getting the games from the company I worked for, for testing and reviewing and stuff. So it was like one hand washing the other ya know.

Did you maintain any kind of master release-list text file detailing every single Skid Row release during that period, or a list of all the games you supplied? 

Nahw, I wish I had!

Lemmings

The French original supplier Foxy wrote an interesting post about the Skid Row release of Lemmings. According to his post, the group Sprint was going to make their appearance on the scene by releasing the game Lemmings as a world first. The original had been sourced, an intro was ready, but none of the crackers were answering his calls. He was convinced by other Sprint members to trust FFC to crack the game for Sprint, despite 2 other games also being released via Skid Row. The Skid Row leader Metallica caught wind of this, money changed hands and in some kind of double cross, FFC cracked the game and released it as a Skid Row crack yet again! What do you recall about this?

Lemmings preview cracktroWell Metallica never paid FFC, that's for sure, and I knew both personally and have met them often. The thing was, that French frog wanted money for the game as he got it earlier. He tried to fool us before, so we said, alright, we'll pay you and FFC, while FFC said he will send bucks to the frog dude - which never happened, and that pissed him off of course, lol... (The frog dude trusted FFC more than Metallica or myself ya know).

There are many rumours around where people claim that Skid Row was a money based group, or made money by selling stuff, cards and what not. 

That's not all true! Of course our card hackers sold their cards (what else are you going to do when you have thousands of AT&T cards lol). And if they made some members a few bucks, then they ended up re-investing in things such as getting a modem to other members, or visiting important people.

Keeping an eye on the competition

Did most of the original game suppliers in the underground scene know where their rivals were obtaining their games from? Did you know what 2tuff was up to, where Fairlight and Paradox got their games from etc?

Well I sure knew every step from 2tuff, that's for sure, as he meet our suppliers in UK many times. I was also informed who had picked up stuff from LeisureSoft Germany due to my girlfriend. I do not know much about the French guys, where they got their stuff, but I remember we also got a lot of Ubisoft stuff out first. The US boys were also fast, god knows how they managed all those major releases!

And I'm also unsure if people knew where we (especially SSR) got our stuff from. They may have known the distributors, but these were not the only places we got originals from ;)

Life after Skid Row

Carl Lewis Cracktro by Crack IncCan you tell me what happened in 1992 to make you leave Skid Row? According to some sources, you formed Crack Inc, is that correct?

Indeed, I founded Crack Inc together with my local intro-coding friend, Brainwalker. Crack Inc did not have many releases - about 30 in all. It was planned to be my last journey on the Amiga, with quality stuff and releases.

Then there was also Dynamix, founded by SSR, but also didn't last long... But we got good (and nice) people as members such as AmoK, Paso, Mok and SS, which was a great experience, but short!

Then after a while, I was asked by Zelnik, Action Man, N.O.M.A.D. and some others who came from Crystal to start something completely new together with them all. We created Ministry, starting out really well with some quality releases (which was no wonder, as we had the best crackers - N.O.M.A.D., Mok, Eurosoft etc). We also had enough originals for everyone to begin with, but somehow the new Amiga stuff became less and less, people lost interest, and others got PCs.

At that time I was a total Amiga lover, and absolutely hated PC, learning a new system and all, and I noticed it was coming to an end on the Amiga, so I left for good, and started shitty real life, wife, family, own company meanwhile (nothing computer related!)

No Second Prize Cracktro from MinistryAnd I tell ya, it wasn't easy for someone like me, saying goodbye to the scene from one day to the next. Well I didn't really say that, I just didn't call the BBSes anymore.

But after a few days, all was fine, life had been sorted and things like that. And meanwhile, I am more or less enjoying life, as I worked my arse off for long enough lol!

Wrapping Up...

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

I would like to sent some greetings to...

Metallica, FFC, Eurosoft, Onyx, Nomad, Mok, Phil D., Blackhawk, Galahad, Strider, Zelnik, ActionMan, TheWhiteKnight, Micro, Marco Polo, Rudi and Selim, Relayer (and the rest of our old US sysops), Brainwalker, Amok, SCSI, Paso, Shut Berlin, Ramses, all Vanish'ed Boys, all at TRSi (especially Irata+Hardy), all from HQC, all at IBB, Tristar Guys, my friends in Bamiga Sector one, all at Factor 5, and to all I have forgotten. Special thanks to you Codetapper, for having this interview with me, which brings back a lot of memories... cheers!

Thank you for your time, it's been fascinating to hear about what went on behind the scenes!

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Comments

  • Gravatar for a Fan

    @Lamiga, shut up if you dont know any of both, i for myself can say that i know Subzero, and the other thing i can say who has Released "almost every" Game first. that was sure not Crystal, now you may see who the Childish one of them is!. 2tuff is known for his stupidity and childish behaviours. enough said.

    a Fan 26/09/2016 9:31pm (5 months ago)

  • Gravatar for Lamiga

    Seems Subzero is just a bragging lamer. I don't know this dude, but it's obvious who of the two, Subzero and 2tuff, is the childish one.

    Lamiga 25/09/2016 9:12am (5 months ago)

  • Gravatar for Sapien82

    Who wrote the music that came with the crack team screen , before the game launch ? Hardcore aside its probably the reason I love techno , anyone know who produced the music ?

    Sapien82 19/02/2016 11:18am (13 months ago)

  • Gravatar for Subzero

    the problem is, you are not worth more than one sentence... besides this, everything has been told back in the days about you... so iam not in the mood to do it all again in 2015... since iam busy with other stuff... releasing games makes more fun , than reading you nonsense... once more, have a nice day, and keep on dreaming... > Twice the Fun - Double the Trouble! ;) cheers mongo

    Subzero 14/10/2015 6:49pm (17 months ago)

  • Gravatar for 2tuff

    I just viewed Subzero's poor and non-informative reply to my factual comment. Anyone today who's not damaged by the linguistic minimalism agenda and thus who can write more than one sentence at a time will always end up being attacked in a non productive manner.

    2tuff 14/10/2015 4:03am (17 months ago)

  • Gravatar for Subzero

    i see you still being the same fool like back in the days haha... ahwell have a nice one dude. you are still very childish, how comes ? adhs?...

    Subzero 13/10/2015 4:53pm (17 months ago)

  • Gravatar for 2tuff

    This guy is a liar. First of all I supplied almost every Crystal release there was going back as far as Jimmy White's Snooker and further. Crystal was first to the post on almost every release. In the end Skid Row and others decided to change the rules and remove fairness by double releasing after Crystal had already won the race. What does it tell you when I had to travel to a distributor then send images to our cracker(s) and still beat all the others to the release? Anyone who was around at the time knows who released first.

    Why did Skid-Row and others often try to bribe me away from Crystal? I had loyalty to my group and unlike their suppliers I didn't ask for money and I certainly wasn't second rate like the rest who did. Even today these people cannot stop their games.

    Now I might remind people that Skid Row members were forever ringing my phoneline playing pranks early in the mornings and sending threats. I might also remind you that NOMAD and others were not the best crackers and instead people like IBM, Phil Douglas and Ringo Starr amongst others were the true greats. Most of Skid Row's releases didn't even work and on top of that they took up more disks than the original. Crystal releases were always the most reliable.

    Now if Leisuresoft or any German distributor were any good then why did I and Centresoft always dominate? Reminds me of how the German side of Commodore manipulated their sales figures and couldn't admit that Commodore UK was the dominate force. Notice how all these people knew of myself and ask yourself why! Crystal - Accept No Imitations. We are the World's #1.

    2tuff 28/08/2015 5:12am (18 months ago)

  • Gravatar for Subzero

    http://www.portoscuso.com/codef/intro/21/ << Working Fine using Chrome!.
    .
    XMAS Greetings to all SkidRowdies Worldwide, and
    to all Friends of the Family and honorable Rival Groups!.
    .
    We wishing you some great Days, and a Happy New Year...

    Subzero 05/12/2014 10:41pm (2 years ago)

  • Gravatar for Subzero

    WXMAS Greetings to all SkidRowdies Worldwide, and to
    to all Friends of the Family and honorable Rival Groups!.
    .
    We wishing you some great Days, and a Happy New Year...
    .
    http://www.portoscuso.com/codef/intro/21/

    Subzero 05/12/2014 9:14pm (2 years ago)

  • Gravatar for skid row

    REMEMBER SUPREME, SHUT BERLIN, TARKUS TEAM, PARANOIS, QUICKSILVER, SKID ROW


    WIR SIND ZURÃœCK AM 15.11.2014 In Hannover "Fuck the Salafisten"

    FUCK Sachsen-Anhalt VS Preußen

    skid row 05/11/2014 4:28pm (2 years ago)

  • Gravatar for Xavier Madison

    Sup dude, Xavier Madison giving a shout out.

    Xavier Madison 15/10/2014 7:37am (2 years ago)

  • Gravatar for Subzero

    NOMAD, MOK, <-Never for SKID ROW cracked.
    Posted by sun68

    nobody claims they cracked for skidrow. you may read more carefuly the above! ;). they did for mns,dnx,crc.

    Subzero 11/05/2014 9:44am (3 years ago)

  • Gravatar for sun68

    NOMAD, MOK, <-Never for SKID ROW cracked. (außer MOK später)

    Busters in US are fast, never be in.

    THE PRUSSIA (PREUßEN)

    sun68 10/05/2014 10:24am (3 years ago)

  • Gravatar for Subzero

    @Loki, they came from UK, had no cracker, but got fast originals, thats why we've done some co-op releases with them. after awhile they joined!. as FAR AS I CAN remember...

    Subzero 01/05/2014 5:06am (3 years ago)

  • Gravatar for Loki

    Hey Sub0, what was that Skid Row & Valhalla thing all about? (Where did they come from or how did you know them etc.). Sounds to me you guys had everything you needed by yourself. Why Valhalla and why did they disappear after only a few releases ... ;)

    Loki 28/04/2014 2:43pm (3 years ago)

  • Gravatar for bluntman3000

    Thank you for the interview! Nostalgia <3

    bluntman3000 01/04/2014 8:18am (3 years ago)

  • Gravatar for Subzero

    AmoK .... how could i ever forget about you nor that fon call we've had, especially the one about the oldschool music, great to see you being alive!, time for a fon-call... ;)

    Subzero 28/03/2014 7:36pm (3 years ago)

  • Gravatar for Subzero

    Eric, BS1 was way before SkidRow was, and yes, you were fast!. in VF you were faster with them usa and uk stuff, but this has been changed later(see SR).

    Subzero 28/03/2014 7:29pm (3 years ago)

  • Gravatar for SKID ROW

    NEVER DIE

    SKID ROW 27/03/2014 9:07pm (3 years ago)

  • Gravatar for AmoK

    Haha.. so you still remember me? It just brought a smile in my face reading my Name here.. Remember us sitting on the fone listening to all the Oldschool HipHop? ;) Shoutouts from good old Berlin! -Stefan

    AmoK 22/03/2014 8:49pm (3 years ago)

  • Gravatar for sun68

    Swapping is all.

    Ohne Uns, die wir Eure Spiele Cracks verteilt haben. [Translation: Without us, who would have distributed your game cracks.]

    sun68 22/03/2014 6:18pm (3 years ago)

  • Gravatar for MicDair/Complex

    Good old days, nice to see gfx made by our guys

    MicDair/Complex 19/03/2014 4:13pm (3 years ago)

  • Gravatar for Nutti

    Interesting read. Brings back memories from the good old Amiga scene. Loved the crack intros and demos of early 90's. It was wonderful. Wish you could have talked more about how the cracks were actually done. Was it just removing a piece of code or replacing with other commands? Was it really hard or quite easy actually? I know the Amiga hardware and assembler well but never attempted to crack anything myself. More interested on the demo stuff and programs. The BBS scene was crazy back in the days. The competition for 0-day releases and calling international. Wowz. Did not have a modem myself but a buddy had a BBS back then and saw what it was like. Amiga was greatest !

    Nutti 18/03/2014 4:58pm (3 years ago)

  • Gravatar for BamSec1 (Ermida from BS1)

    LOL, I had a BIG laugh here!
    ALL our originals came from the UK and the US of A, none from Germany ... and we were also fast.

    About the "tricky protections that could not be written back to disk" (or track 83 errors), we simply removed them.

    And out of the context, all crunchers I've seen (without any exception) were based on Lord Blitter's Byte-Killer.

    BamSec1 (Ermida from BS1) 17/03/2014 2:06am (3 years ago)

  • Gravatar for Subzero

    Zodiac, this was later , as we got suppliers in UK / France / USA, but at the very beginning, vf got <nearly> everything from me (beyoners too), and ofcourse, this was more meant to be sarcastic, they would be ofcourse, with or without me...

    Subzero 15/03/2014 3:52pm (3 years ago)

  • Gravatar for DOCPatient Zer0

    Und wieder einmal liegt das Glück der Männer in den Händen der Frauen ^^ Thank you for this Interview.

    DOCPatient Zer0 09/03/2014 8:08am (3 years ago)

  • Gravatar for zodiac

    I disagree with the comment that there wouldn't be a VF without Subzero. Marco Polo used to get many originals along with Slaine in the UK.

    zodiac 08/03/2014 4:06am (3 years ago)

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