Saturday, 25 July 2009

A lot of goodies!

A lot of 8bit goodies were released since the last time (and it's actually only oldschool stuff that I can watch on my PC recently). A good surprise was a new multipart CPC demo, Pheelone from No Recess. Another one of his releases that mix C with assembly in the slow CPC, yet it produces an impressive result of a kind of demo we rarely see on the CPC. There are some nice effects (smooth vector balls, wireframe 3d) and some slow ones yet never seen before (rotating scroller) and a big ammount of spacey graphics. The interesting thing is that most of the effects are in front of a background. The usual thing in the past was your background to be a black (blue, purple, whatever) screen that is a free area for the incoming effect. And it's interesting because I think it will be more CPU consuming to also have to update the background. It was already a pain to make an effect run smooth enough in not so small area assuming the next frame erases the previous. Especially impressive in chunky effects (rotoscroller, weird distorting thing). The music is also quite nice and this demo has the right kind of feeling that I like (no newschool noizy stuff but dreamy old/midschool design with pleasant gfx and sound). Finally a new demo on the CPC that I can enjoy.

Now the real fun was the tons of releases at LCP2009 demoparty in Sweden. The first four winners are already quite good and there are at least two or three others that are worth to watch.

First we have Andropolis by Booze Design and Instinct a quite nice small release after their last (Booze's) masterpiece Edge of Disgrace, well not exactly small because it's still a well sized demo, only compared to their bigger stuff. The presentation and flow are really nice, the graphics and sound are good and there are few specific effects that I truly enjoyed, like the smooth rotating diagonal image splitter (you have to see the demo to understand what I mean :) and an impressive polygon 3d engine (moving inside rooms with stairs and structures, although slow) at the end. And yet there are the usual zoomer/twister parts in there. The rotating chessboards were also impressive and the best I have seen so far. It's truly a good release!

Then it's time for Resource with Still Ready. A nice C64ish theme, very very well presented, some nifty logos and newschool chunky effects, good ideas. Although at first I admit I was expecting more (most of the chunky effects seemed ugly or hard to notice but that's because I was running them in an emulator and a big PC screen) but the more I watch this demo the more I appreciate it. It certainly has style. The effects even if chunky, they are quite smooth and modern. There are twisting polar effects, tunnels with moving plasma both in a strange resolution with half dots that makes it a big dark, then 4x4 color bump mapping (the best and smoothest I have seen), polar distorted 4x4 bitmap (again smooth and nicely done). The code is tight. The style is good.

Third on the list is 3deh by Oxyron. I am very happy that Oxyron are back and they have certainly their own style. Maybe it feels a bit oldschool (although with new 3d effects at speeds and quality never seen before), maybe there is not much of the newschool design several people are begging for but I prefer these kind of demos where the highlight is the single good looking and smooth running effect. When it's 3d polygons, glenz vectors, dot/bob records and such kind of stuff it becomes a very interesting watch for me. I have to admit that the interrupting screen between the real parts with the nice 3d bobs took a bit too long and I had to press Alt+W on the emulator to move further. It's not a demo for newschool design aware demofreaks. It's for people who love coder porn (although there is enough of it in the other more well designed demos of this competition). Also it's clear that the demo shows to be something like a reminiscent of the golden Oxyron era especially the Coma Light series (something reminds me that in the music, something in the parts (shadow on the plane, now a plane as a mirror :)). I enjoyed ever part, from mirror plane and big glenz to the nice smooth 3d star scroller (I love star scollers =) in the intro. Even the style of the gfx are into my liking (I love the picture on the screenshot). More Oxyron please!

The music of the 4th on the list, Artillery by Shape, is stored in my USB MP3 stick from now on. It's simple sweeeeeeeetttt!!! The same sweet it is as Archmage's graphics here (a lot of his old ones are reused here). Is it maybe something more like an art disk than a demo (ARTillery)? There are still some kind of chunky effects, especially mixed with the images in as similar way as another demo at last X that used the same Archmage's graphics with the girl at different stages. It's still a demo and at the same time a slideshow of Archmage's past works I guess. The beginning with the falling tetris pieces is also truly original especially matching the sweet beginning of the music. There is also a nice twister in this demo. I really enjoy watching it especially for the music and the gfx.

Last but not least, at the 6th place we have 12 years later by Miracles from a group I haven't even heard before (I am gonna download their best oldies and watch them out of curiosity) which has nice smooth effects but in my favorite resolution (not chunky big pixels or dithered modes but pure pixel effects) and they are smooth enough for the size I think. Maybe not something new but well done and pleasing. If it wasn't only for the ugly colors. But still as a fun of coder's stuff I can personally enjoy this one.

I wouldn't be able to close this post without mentioning a new Crest release. Crest Slide Story is not a demo but an artdisk. Although the interesting thing here is that it introduces you to yet another new video mode on the C64. They call it MUFLI which stands for Multicolor Underlined(?) FLI. I can't find right now where I read that but there were also several confusing explanations and since I am not into these image trickery and new video mode stuff I can't speak more about it. The interesting thing is that I remember some of the graphics to be 160x200 interlaced (with lot'sa flickering :) masterpieces and now they managed to convert them into 320x200 non flickering images with full 16 colors. Like the amazing image in the screenshot. I am really impressed that even in 2009 some C64 coders still discover new video modes or music tricks. I would normally think that hardware tricks have reached their limits (especially in the C64 scene) and only more newschool software rendered effects are open to innovation and optimizations but things like this constantly disprove me. It's great when the scene is so innovative and still trips into new undiscovered ground.

I'd only like to notice that the 5th and 8th places might also be interesting to some. It's Faux Visage from Panda Design and Allen mussen machina from K2. They are more on the minimalistic side of demos, not my cup of taste but some people have written positive reviews for them too so I mention them here.

It was a very interesting scenewise week. I am waiting for releases from the next parties now (Euskal, Evoke, Assembly, etc). There are also a few not extraordinary but nice PC releases that I watched in a netcafe recently, from Solskogen or some older parties and even few Speccy ones (I predict they won't be so great but let's better check before talking :P) and I promise I will write something about them soonish..

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Recent demos

I am not very demoactive these days and sometimes not even bother to watch demos. Most of the recent VIP demos failed because I am back in time with an old motherboard with an Athlon at 1.5Ghz and my Radeon 9600 (the new Radeon didn't even managed to cooperate well with this old piece of hardware). However it's not the main reason I do not watch recent demos. First of all I was kinda off, busy with other things, not wishing to bother with the demoscene (not hating it, just having no mood), then it's a dead period anyways. I think I will be off for more than 3 months (since the last time I visited Breakpoint) because I deliberately wish to shift to other activities.

Another problem is that I actually self-banned myself from Pouet (by changing my password to something quite random that I don't even remember it and then forgetting the whole incident the next day) so even if I see a good demo that I feel like writing something about it it's not possible, let alone if I ever did a new demo I wouldn't be able to upload it (although with my lack of motivation and wish for change to a different field (game developing?) I doubt that time will be any soon). Anyways the good thing with that is that it makes more sense now to write things about recent demos I liked in this blog. Thus it will be more active. Writing a stupid review lost in hundreds of reviews and silly comments on Pouet was easier but less inspiring that writing something about one or two good stuff in here.

Of course the demos that I could see in my old crap PC and I would like the most are a good bunch of oldschool 8bit or 16bit demos. The first one is an Atari STe release by MJJ Prod and while it's a small release with only two effects, both of them are good enough and are accompanied with some kind of story and atmospheric graphics. I think it has something to do with the Matrix but since it is a bit of cliche and I care about the effects anyways, I don't even remember what it is exactly. The effects are a smooth scroller mapped on a 3d surface with green dots like some old kind of computer monitor of terminal, very effective to the atmosphere. The other one is a smooth fullscreen zoomer of various images that have something to do with the story. A nice surprise for the STe. Get it here.

And then there was that screenshot on a new Pouet prod. A gameboy monochrome demo! Not only I didn't expect a new gameboy demo but feared I would be not satisfied by them recently. There were some recent jumalauta (and from another group too) stuff which are not bad yet for some reasons I forgot them, maybe because I am not as much fun of their newschool in your face style with ugly chunky effects. But 20y by Snorpung just has all the fun I need! Oldschool style with both hardware based effects (kefren bars, twisters, distorters (ok, not sure if the last two are hardware based here)) and cpu based effects (polygons, 3d dots), great music, smooth transitions, nice graphics and an end upscroller to give you the creds and greets (yes, I want this!). It's made to celebrate the 20 years since the release of the original gameboy. A very nice tribute! (Since this demo might fuck up in most emulators, it's better that you watch the video at the pouet link in the comments).

That's all for now. I have yet to see some recent modern PC demos, there are few interesting 4ks, maybe a demo or two and there are also the dihalt entries for spectrum (although I don't expect something extraordinary). There are many things I might have missed although no major release. Maybe I would see some of the modern PC demos in a netcafe a day that makes up for the mood. I just hate going to youtube for the 4ks.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Cracker --- goes good with cheese, smoked oysters and possible caviar.

I just read that line and cracked in laughter :)

Finally some random forum in the web where someone addresses the predictable "hacker not cracker" argument and most people bring it to some good jokes, actually saying who cares how they are called, the fight for the meaning of the word "hacker" is lost and all those people are idiots anyways. Yep, the majority in that message board just didn't cared and cracked some nice jokes about it.

Why can't you find other places like this on the net? Maybe they were so pissed off by seeing their favorite community site crumble to nothing that just wanted to punch in the face anyone who comes with the silly "crackers not hackers" argument? Seriously I was positively surprised that the majority there addressed the definition and ethics problem differently that in several other sites. This usually doesn't happen!

As I address it in a post at the same forum thread, once the hackers where the programmers and hardware gurus but today the term has changed and nobody can do something for that. When you create a new term "cracker" to differentiate from the programmers, most people still understand "hackers" as the good security breakers and "crackers" as the bad security breakers. The myth perpetuates and now if some stupid person breaks uninvited in a computer and does anything questionable (even a simple website defacing is not ethical in my opinion) he claims to be a hacker (the good guy) and not a cracker. But as I said, it's like saying "I am a hero, not an asshole". Who would say otherwise?

I am currently reading a classic book by Steven Levy, Hackers, heroes of the computer revolution (1984). There are the early computer programmers of the sixties, the hardware gurus who build home computers and the early game developers and software copy protection crackers presented in this book. No mention of anything resembling the modern media definition at all. But today, saying "hackers" we mostly mean the later. And that thing is that has to be demystified or else more people on the net will create senseless havoc and even think they are heroes by doing that. We have to show them that it's not ethical, it's not justified and it's not the right spirit.

I even started programming at a very late age where the meaning had already shifted. I never called myself a hacker, it's demeaning. I called myself a programmer, coder, demoscener or geek. Maybe that's because I simply don't care for the preservation of the old definition of the term because it existed several years before my time. But there are tons of great hobbyist and underground programmers just being creative in the old sense with the "hacking spirit" as described in the book. Not calling ourselves hackers doesn't change the fact that some of us will always show signs of the creative spirit, the insight, the programming enthousiasm, the cleverness in computers, science, arts or any human discipline for all ages to come. We just don't need yet another idiotic definition, some kind of honorable title to mask our true intentions and justify questionable acts. We are what we do and we do what we are.

Apparently 45.652 people get it on the internet..