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[Pablo Toledo Cota]
Pablo Toledo Cota
(1971 – 2007, softography)

Javier Sánchez Fransesch
It was around the end of 1986, or perhaps the beginning of 1987, in Seville, when I received a phonecall from a guy called Pablo. He got my phone number from an acquaintance of us, as we all shared our interest in games for the C-64.
We immediately arranged a meeting for exchanging games. Between the long loads and copies of games, we talked about our interest in getting infinite lives (I was pretty bad as a player, so I liked hacking games) and about programming. Due to the very limited BASIC implemented in the C-64, you had to learn machine code if you wanted to make something interesting.
In this way, little by little, he progressively gained interest in the programming world. I must say this was no merit of mine, because it can be said that Pablo was one of that people who is born to be a programmer. Sooner or later, he was bound to computers.
He was a very intelligent person -his IQ was very high indeed- with a very swift learning skill. I can still remember the day in which I explained Pablo how to map using blocks, and after a while, he had already engaged his friend Johnny for being his graphist and making a game. And so was he. Passionate, dedicated and easily excitable.
Rather soon he finished his first game demo, and went to Madrid to sell it. Though he couldn't, he made himself a name for future contracts, either as game ports programmer or musician. In contrast to other contemporary game musicians, Pablo had an education in music. I can remember him playing melodies on his piano, as well as improptu pieces. The only thing he was no good at were graphics -what a bad taste for choosing colors!. Fortunately he was helped in that aim by his friend Johnny.
Initially he was given the job of porting Topo Soft's "Chicago's 30" to the C-64. Though he easily admitted the final shortcomings of the game, it was his first game and he was just 16 years old. The final game scene was remarkable -though a bit too spicy- as well as the melodies he compose. He was paid 500.000 pesetas for that port.
Soon he was ordered to port Dinamic's "Turbo Girl". This was another game he was not very satisfied with, but it was however a good training for him. He was increasingly becoming more self-confident, and he was already capable of overcoming every programming problem he found.
Nevertheless, being hired for these game ports was an outstanding feat for a person with such modest programming experience - though it is well-known the lack of Spanish C-64 programmers at that time. He did it the best he could, and though the results were still mediocre, it was increasingly evident he was a young genius.
He finally prove it in the next game he made: the conversion of Electronic Arts's "Budokan". He was no longer that beginner. After his two first conversions, Pablo didn't stand still but kept disassembling others' games and learning the techniques used in them. All he learned was evident in Budokan. Besides, he was short-sighted by EA's quality control department. I remember well the headaches he got after those "could you change that pixel", "that sprite is blinking", etc. But that made the final product very welcomed, and the reviews were excellent.
When the 8-bits world became doomed in Spain -indeed it was already dead in Europe- the distributors got nasty. He was given the job of porting Dinamic's "Hammer Boy" and he thought of it as a way to make some money. Since it was another conversion, he lacked any power of decision on the plot or the development. Finally, he wasn't paid for his work.
There were other unfinished projects (one game about Mortadelo y Filemón among them) and he composed the music of Silent Shadow and Game Over II.
His problem with Dinamic was around 1991. Back in 1988 I was already becoming interested in the Commodore Amiga and PC platforms. As soon as I had my own Amiga-500, I showed Pablo all the potential the machine had. He was delighted, but he was very focused on 8-bits, and was beginning to earn money with his C-64 ports.
After the Hammer Boy affair, he finally understood that the 8-bits age was ending. Then he asked me to show him all the information I had for programming over the Amiga, and so I did. It is needless to say that he learned everything swiftly and started programming a game for the Amiga. It was for a promotion of the soft drink 7 Up, and I cannot remember if it was ever published.
After that, he made a stop in his game production, as he registered in the Computer Science Faculty in Seville, with me and Johnny, and his student life began.
There we knew Álvaro Mateos, an Spectrum programmer ("Rocky", "West Bank", "Capitán Sevilla"), and we shared extremely boring classes about Physics, Calculus, ...
We all four left the degree before finishing.
The Amiga times finished, and he threw himself into the PC. He made, for instance, a program for a high school, including an innovative technique for optical formulary reading.
He also started the project of his life, a game called Unknown Destination, that he could never finish. The title was somewhat premonitory.
In that game he was introducing all the new 3D techniques that saw the light of day. Each time that he saw a game with some novel technique, he investigated it and applied it to Unkonwn Destination. Doing that, he never became outdated in the game industry.
Thanks to his contacts in Madrid, he knew that professionals were needed for a new PC game. It was a very ambitious project. Something very different to what games had ever been in Spain. And there he went, and he got hired.
It was Pyro Studios's "Commandos".
There's not much I can say that is not already knew about that game - it really was a landmark in the (few) Spanish game developments.
A nice anecdote I remember is the day I had a meeting with Pablo in Seville to see the game. He told me, really excited, every detail he had put in the game -some of them against his boss' willing- as the smoke of the soldiers' cigarettes.
He had many discussions with his boss, as he was very individualistic, he didn't stand authority, and this is something very difficult to deal with in a workplace. Besides, he was a person who was used -due to his brilliant mind- to be right, and that made of him a very stubborn person. Anyway, I must say I can't remember having any quarrel with him during all our life.
When he had already made his mind to not continue in Pyro Studios, he used the Commandos hype to leap forward to Britain, being hired by Acclaim for converting Re-Volt to Nintendo 64. From that development, he said that he wouldn't feel as an 8-bit programmer any longer, due to the programming environment he had, and the way he should work -and this is not precisely a praise for the Nintendo staff.
The hasty life in London and the permanent problems with his bosses finished with his comeback to Seville.
He decided to catch some breath, and so he got involved in a long-term European project in which he worked at home. Meanwhile, he made some experiments on game development in Java, though he didn't succeed (I think he just finished one or two games).
He told me before his death that he was planning to be a civil servant through competitive examinations. I felt very saddened for hearing him talking like that. Being such a talented person, really experienced and intelligent - it was almost an insult seeing him as a computer operator.
He never was. Sadly, he died on July 15th, 2007... The decease of a good person, a friend, and a computer genius.

Fernando García Cabello
I will always feel indebted to Pablo. I can still remember the day when I received that call from him, asking me if I wanted to go with him to Madrid so as to work with them at Pyro. Pablo always bet for me, and even he took me at his home while I was searching for a flat in Madrid. So was Pablo. In the end, I didn't match neither with the team, nor with the city, but I brought a lot of experiences and remembrances with me. All of them were inconsciously linked to Pablo, and they marked the beginning of my professional life.

Pablo was one of that people that, even if you haven't seen them for a while, always bring lovely remembrances and feelings to you. He was a very restless, versatile, and often misunderstood person. But above all things, he was a programmer. A GREAT PROGRAMMER. Undoubtedly, the best one I've ever known. Pablo belonged to the elite of the programmers of a golden age. Different times. Times in which you must knew the machine very profoundly; times for experimenting and learning; times in which programming was an art. And Pablo was a real ARTIST of programming, he was very passionate about it, he enjoyed so much, wasting uncountable hours, observing and learning, and always making new technological wonders. I still remember the day in which I explained to him the most basic principles of 3D programming. I made a very simple program for him - I called it base3d - with a wired cube spinning on its 3 axis in an aleatory way. In two weeks he had developed a DOOM-type game demo. Unbelievable! He had the most incredible ability for concentrating and excelling himself I've ever known. He really liked amazing everyone, watching our open mouths, proving us that he was THE BEST. He really was and is.

Regarding his human side, I must say that he was a very faithful friend, and above everything a very happy person - indeed he was always smiling or laughing. I can't remember having any serious quarrel or discussion with him, although he was one with a strong character. He never lost a party, and after having two drinks he could be a fabulous satyr. Sometimes he gave us a complex, as he never thought a night was over: he was restless! I could tell uncountable night anecdotes. For instance, I can remember a night in Madrid, in which he ended up running around a car, chasing an old companion at Pyro - I think she was called Cristina. I can still watch them running around that car for a long time. "Come hereee!", said Pablo. And Cristina running like crazy while Pablo was chasing her with a sparkling look. "I will catch you, surrender!..." He was a real genius in every aspect of his life.

I believe we forgot a little about him in the last times, being busy as we were with our own lives, worries and circumstances. Us being somewhat insconscious of the fact that he needed us much more than he seemed to. I'm very sorry "maki" - I never knew how to return all you did for me.

Acknowledgements: Javier Sánchez Fransesch and Fernando García Cabello for the write-up, Juan Pablo López-Grao for the translation.

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