Home/Community/AmigaOS 4/Interviews/Ben Hermans Last.update: 2007-01-14

Interview of Ben Hermans


Ben Hermans, of Hyperion Entertainment, says us a little more about AmigaOS 4.0...

Boing Attitude : Hi Ben, let me start off by thanking you to take time to answer to our questions. Could you introduce us Hyperion Entertainment ? Where are your offices ? How many employees ? ...

Ben Hermans: Hyperion is incorporated under Belgian law and its administrative seat is located in Louvain, Belgium but most coders are Germans. The core-team consists of 4 full-time developers with a variable number of part timers (usually around 5).

Boing Attitude : Today, every amigafan knows you as "Mister Hyperion" ;) but what were your previous jobs ?

Ben Hermans: My occupation as managing partner of Hyperion is only part-time, I’m in fact a legal consultant (conseiller juridique) and have a law degree and three additional degrees in international relations and international and European law.

Boing Attitude : How long and why does Hyperion Entertainment create apps for Amiga ?

Ben Hermans: Hyperion has done work for the Amiga from the first day which means April of 1999.

Boing Attitude : Amiga communauty knows you generally for your games. For you, what is the best game you have ever produced for Amiga ?

Ben Hermans: That’s a difficult question because every game we did so far (3 Amiga games, 1 Mac and 2 Linux games) is intended for a different audience. Fans of Fantasy should find Heretic 2 very entertaining whilst anime/manga fans will like Shogo. Freespace is one of the best space combat sims ever made.
There’s something for everybody!

Boing Attitude : Let's talk about AmigaOS 4.0 :) How did you do to convince Amiga Inc to let you manage AmigaOS 4.0 development ? Was it difficult ?

Ben Hermans: The negotiations were very time-consuming, yes but we are very pleased with the end-result which will allow us to ensure the future of the AmigaOS indefinitely. The fact that I have a law degree certainly helped because I drafted the contract myself, all 17 pages of it.

Boing Attitude : An agreement was signed between Amiga Inc, Eyetech and you at WOASE 2001. What is the aim of such an agreement ? Why was it not signed before ?

Ben Hermans: The fact of the matter was that Hyperion became involved with the OS development and that we needed some legal security so that in the event bad things happened (bankruptcy of Amiga, new owner who doesn’t like the classic Amiga OS etc.), we would be protected and could continue.
Call it professional deformation but you will not find it surprising that a lawyer insists on a very comprehensive contract to make sure that his investment does not go down the drain.

Boing Attitude : It seems that AmigaOS 4.0 development has only started in November... Why so much wasted time ? Could you explain us what happens (or not) between February and November 2001 ?

Ben Hermans: This perception is not entirely correct. A lot of work was done by third parties like Olaf Barthel, the P96 team, Hyperion etc. before that date. It is true that no work was done on the kernel Exec SG before that date.
The fact of the matter is that the period 2000-2002 was the worst period in the history of the IT sector which has a very adverse impact on the financial situation of many companies, even some of the biggest IT companies got into problems or went bankrupt. Obviously also Amiga had a very hard time and could not allocate sufficient funding for the classic Amiga OS development.
As a result Haage & Partner was not willing to take the very big risk of developing OS 4.0 without sufficient funding from Amiga.

Hyperion decided that this was the last chance for the AmigaOS and we took a very big gamble with OS 4.0 to develop it now and not wait for the funding from Amiga.

Boing Attitude : Development team has 25 members. Could you please give us some names ? Are there Amiga Inc employees ? These 25 guys, are they working only on AmigaOS 4.0 ?

Ben Hermans: Most of the OS 3.5 and 3.9 developers are there plus of course the people from Hyperion and some outsiders who are very well known for their Amiga development work. I won’t give you any names because I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings by mentioning one person and forgetting another. I guess I should post the list of developers in the next progress report. With the exception of the people from Hyperion, most of these people don’t work on AmigaOS full time. This is simply not possible anymore financially. Most are IT professionals or IT students who work or study during the day.
There are no developers from Amiga Inc involved and that’s okay because they should be focussing on Amiga DE.

Boing Attitude : Is such a team easy to manage ? How are the communication and coordination between all these people ?

Ben Hermans: It is a lot of work. Especially because you need to nail down exactly what everybody does and contracts need to be drafted with everyone. We have several mailinglists where developers from all over the world can discuss their work, ask questions or suggest solutions.

Boing Attitude : Could you give more details about Dave Haynie's office ?

Ben Hermans: Dave has agreed to act as a technical consultant. His knowledge of the Amiga and the PPC is very valuable to us. Plus he has some good ideas about OS design which we will take on board down the line.

Boing Attitude : I've read carefully your last development update : I was really impressed by the list of AmigaOS 4.0 functionnalities. Is Amiga back for the future ?

Ben Hermans: One word: consolidation! Amiga OS 4.O is only intended to migrate the 68K users to PPC and lay the foundation for future versions of the Amiga OS. We are not yet in a position to attract users back to the platform from Windows etc. but people currently running emulators or people who gave up on their Amiga (too slow) are our prime targets.

Having said that, OS 4.0 is the most ambitious OS update since 2.x to 3.0. A complete rewrite of the kernel with new features, a new CPU, a lot of work on Intuition etc.

With new versions of the OS, we will start introducing more functionality so that nobody will need to go for their Windows machine anymore for anything.

Boing Attitude : USB is now a de facto standard : ADSL modem, printers, ... What could you say about USB in AmigaOS 4.0 ?

Ben Hermans: In OS 4.0 there will only be limited support for USB: keyboard and mouse is what we are aiming for so that we move one step closer to chipset independence. People forget that having a USB stack is one thing but then you need drivers that use the USB stack for printers, modems etc.
We will need to work with hardware/software vendors to make this a reality. Our time is limited.

Boing Attitude : AmigaOS 4.0 will work on PPC based systems : does it means that we can use AmigaOS 4.0 with G3, G4 or G5 processors ? PowerMac ? Could you give us a list of supported devices ?

Ben Hermans: Any 32 bit compatible CPU can run OS 4.0 which includes the Book E specification G5’s. We will support AmigaOne, Cyberstorm PPC, Blizzard PPC (99% sure). Elbox already expressed intrest in a version for Shark PPC. And we have applied to become a developer for the Pegasos so that should also be supported. Mac’s won’t be supported because it is very doubtful we will get the required documentation.

Boing Attitude : Eyetech is very quiet about AmigaOne? Have you any relationship with them ? Do you have AmigaOne prototypes ?

Ben Hermans: You would need to ask Eyetech. I cannot comment in their place. OS 4.0 is being developed with a hardware abstraction layer so that it can run on any suitable hardware.

Boing Attitude : As you have produced many games on Amiga, will the system be shipped with one of it ?

Ben Hermans: We will encourage vendors to do bundles with special OS 4 aware games of Hyperion. But you will be able to buy OS 4.0 without the games.

Boing Attitude : How is developed the AmigaOS 4.0 (from 0 to 100 %) ?

Ben Hermans: This is very difficult to say because some components are more advanced than others. Some like the TCP/IP stack or the FFS are already finished since months. Others are almost finished like the JIT emulator or the recovery and salvage tools.

Boing Attitude : When will we see an AmigaOS 4.0 demo ?

Ben Hermans: Hard to say because it again depends on the kernel. We can demo separate components of the OS but without the kernel we can’t show a full system of course.

Boing Attitude : Could you give us a release date for AmigaOS 4.0 ? February ? March ? April ? Later ?

Ben Hermans: A developer release is planned for February with the end-user version following some weeks afterwards.

Boing Attitude : How many euros ;) to buy an AmigaOS 4.0 ?

Ben Hermans: That’s not decided yet. We suspect it will be slightly more expensive (smaller market) than the original OS 3.5 price. It certainly will be a hell of a lot cheaper than Windows XP or Mac OS X.

Boing Attitude : You speak about several releases of the system : How many releases do you forecast ? When ?

Ben Hermans: As I said, we plan to continue overseeing the OS development for the immediate future. If all goes well, 2002 should see at least another OS update, maybe not of the magnitude of OS 4.0.

Boing Attitude : Are there any company who produce content especially for AmigaOS 4.0 ?

Ben Hermans: Amiga and Hyperion are talking with all the remaining developers to adapt their programs for OS 4.0. The feedback is quite positive. Remember also that Hyperion has a track-record licensing games for PC software makers so we certainly don’t rule out that some well-known packages from the PC or Mac world will make an appearance on the Amiga in the course of 2002.

Boing Attitude : How can developers and users help you ?

Ben Hermans: Users can help us by sticking around until OS 4.0 is released and meanwhile support the remaining Amiga developers by buying their products. Developers can help us by already preparing their code to compile with GGC and to remove 68K ASM code in favor of C. This will allow them to quickly move the code to PPC.

Boing Attitude : What is your degree of confidence with Amiga future (from 0 to 100) ?

Ben Hermans: Depends how you define "future". Yes, I know, I’m a lawyer, I never answer questions without asking a question in return. I’d say 75%.

Boing Attitude : As I know that you speak french, I let you conclude our interview...

Ben Hermans: Si vous êtes toujours là, c’est parce que vous êtes des vrais Amigaïstes comme nous chez Hyperion. Hyperion a toujours tenu ses promesses envers la communauté Amiga même dans des conditions très difficiles. Cette fois ci il n’y aura pas de différence. Faites-nous confiance, on est des pro et on va le faire ! Entre temps, si vous avez encore un peu de fric, pourquoi pas acheter nos jeux ? Je vous assure que chaque euro que nous gagnons est investi dans des projets Amiga. Encore un peu de patience !

Boing Attitude : Thanks a lot.