Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Recent demos from X

I just always feel like I really want to write a lot about the recent demos from various demoparties. I am not talking only about the Mekka of the C64 but also the latest PC stuff in Main, Buenzli, Function, etc. But since time is not so much, I will focus on my favorite C64 demos at X and forget the rest. I wish there were more frequent updates here about every significant party out there but it's not possible atm. It would be fun though that this blog would turn out into a more frequent review blog of recent demo releases.

The most important demoparties dedicated to the C64 seems to be X and LCP. When there are months since I have last seen an impressive and massive demo on the C64, those are the two places to expect lot's of good stuff of this kind. And when I mean lot's, I mean the first three or four places being masterpieces, followed by several okayish demos. This is what happened to this X 2010 too. It's one of those times that I am motivated to come back to the C64 (I should keep on with this motivation this time).

The first demo I have seen from X was Mekanix from Booze Design and Instinct (they have recently merged together I've heard) and when I found out it was placed only 3rd I was thrilled by the thought of what masterpieces would follow at the 2nd and 1st place. However, after I have seen all the releases I still liked Mekanix more than the rest. But my high expectations didn't killed the good feeling I got from the rest. They are all very memorable demos.

Actually, there is a different distinctive style between the three releases. Mekanix is all about great code but still features some good graphics and transitions (although not as amazing as Edge of Disgrace). 2nd place, We Are New by Fairlight has very original transitions (although at some places it's slow paced), great artwork, good ideas and few parts with good code among the average ones. It's also different than the older Fairlight demos which were more abstract and conveyed a message, more demoish I would say (personally I love both styles). The winner is a comeback by Offence, an old Hungarian C64 and Amiga group mostly known for their 1992 demo Emotional Breakdown. The style is quite surprising because it brings back the old megademo style where you have to press the long key to load the next part, but each part is done with such graphical design and unique or funny ideas that really makes that old kind of style likeable. I could compare it to Dutch Breeze or the demos from Panoramic Designs. It surprised me at first that this one got the 1st place over Mekanix and We Are New but the great feeling and ideas won over the usual trackmo style. I love both three demos and each one has it's own unique style and distinctive way to show what is a demo.

Going back to Mekanix (and I am sorry about the ranting about both three places, I wanted to make this distinction of the different styles here,. oh the screenshot above is not from Mekanix but the 1st place, Another Beginning), each of the parts is a masterpieces of code and good effect ideas. I don't know where to start from. Should I speak about the amazing per pixel rotozoomers (the best I have ever seen on the C64, how do they do it at such resolution and speed? Don't tell me, with many different char sets? Gotta think this again :), the wonderful 3d dots and strange 3d wireframe cube (I said they look like gouraud edges, but it's just planes cutting the cube, ho I even had to do this detail for my master's project for volume slicing and I forgot it's this one ;), classic booze design zooming algorithms (code recycling?), but the amazing isometric rendering of what looks like a 16*16*16 volume of metaballs!

That's the shit for me!!! This looks absolutely fabulous. I wondered how did they do that and I thought it was impossible at such speed. Then I thought it too much and found out some theoritical ways I have to try and see how they look, that would make it pretty fucking possible. But some people said it's an animation and that could bring down all the magic (gotta try my idea first on CPC, well maybe in 2015 :). Still it's an amazing and unique idea, pretty much another paradigm shift of new effects on the 8bits and not only. They even use this engine as a writer for some isometric texts and then for a second effects which is a 3d torus with isometric feeling (both run at 2-3 frames (screen refreshes I mean)), which must be some smaller blobs in a ring, maybe 16 of them, rotating around the center of the torus. That's neat stuff!

For me, this is the effect of the year for the C64. And it's not the only impressive effect in the demo. The 3rd place is a true coder's delight. Some graphics artwork are also good. The music didn't left me a very good feeling though. I mean, it's doing it's work but it didn't stay in my mind. Overall a really hot demo and now with the merge of Booze Design and Instinct I am expecting to see hotter stuff from them.

Going on with the 2nd place from Fairlight, this is a really nice to watch big demo even if you might get bored if you are expecting coder porn in every screen. I really love the transitions and the artwork in this demo. The only cool effect one can enjoy are the 3d renditions of ninja panda and little monster in the change disk part and near the end too. Those are made by fat blocks that rotate around the Y axis and without a projection. They are pretty unique and original as effects. The bouncing sphere on a graphics picture with other drawn spheres is a nice idea too even if too small and not very good looking. But still a good part. Little mention about the great parallax part in the screenshot above, joking of course. Finally, now we can see the true distinction between a UFO and a balloon and that they are completely different. Those skeptics are truly nuts!

I am showing mostly artwork in the screenshots for this demo. Because one has to see the transitions in movement to appreciate so a screenshot wouldn't suffice. And also because I truly love the artwork. The artwork from the end upscroller in the background is so good and is actually a work from Louie500, famous for his Amiga artwork with TBL. In fact, he also worked on the PC demo Only One Wish and some of the thematic parts (the stamps) in this demo reminds me of the PC graphics. I just remember Fairlight also did the demo One Little Wish on the C64 which also featured his graphics. It's great to see people from newschool scenes coming to the true oldschool. (I should mention that the other graphics are Tempest and Pantaloon (who also did code for this demo, great to see musicians/graphics switching to coding too :) and one of them drew a really great panda upon a tree, absolute great graphics, you can see it here along with credits and other stuff). I should also say, coming back to transitions, that it's not "in your face" but more slow placed yet original (some startling animations at the beginning, diagonal stripes closing screens, etc). Maybe I am forgetting stuff.

Fairlight demo would be a demo to lay back and enjoy at your own pace. If you seek for easy to consume coder porn and slick fast paced trackmo style then run Mekanix. If you want style, design, great art still in a trackmo style go Fairlight. If you really feel the need for something more traditional, Another Beginning is your thing. But this is a demo you really need to have time, lay back and stare at scrollers while enjoying lovely tunes for more than your average short demo attention span. This is Another Beginning.

You gotta press the long key. And you gotta watch parts which consists of oldschool scrollers and good ideas. Clearly, the best part for coders is the beginning with the horizontal twister saying Offence (little shadows too, prerendered of course). Then it's the end for code porn consumers :). But the feeling is so unique, the ideas great, Joystick moving swiftly while the stick animates, man which screams out loud letters, split that shows coder brain (on screenshot), beautiful simple part with man in the rain and text that Optimus likes (you know, the sad kind of stuff :), scrolling screen with background that is a delusion (with the dots, think it's distorting, simple but funny as an idea :), 3d isometric scroller that changes height (that's the only other part that code-hungry people will like), C64 logo at nap. Ok, I still prefer 2nd and 3rd from this, but this is unique that a "press space" demo really catched the feeling and won. I love it!

And we end up with the rest which are still interesting coder-wise stuff from the rest and still good enough demos. I will start with the what is in the screenshot, which is Exotic Excitement by Camelot. I was happy to see another comeback from Camelot and Cruzer. They must be working for their true megademo since ages, which might be called "Meet the Camels". A parody of course of that Crest demo everyone is waiting since forever. But it's gonna be great and I am truly waiting for it. Because this single effect on this little demo is supposed to be a leftover from their big demo, but it's still awesome! This is the biggest, smoothest, greatest and more colorful plasma I have ever seen on the C64!!! And you know how I love plasma. I "smelled" color cycling among other things (yet some formations look like real plasma), but it's not only that. You need a FLI algorithm on the C64 to have that kind of colors so close together. This means changing the colors again and again at each different scanline (here it's per two lines) which needs a lot of synchronization and several cycles wasted. This is a great routine. C64 never stops impressing me and so do Camelot!

The remaining good stuff are Frighthof by Arsenic (5th place) and Portal by Lepsi Developments & Miracles. Honorable mention to the 4th place, Cubase64 by Mahoney which is not exactly a demo but a demonstration of impressive realtime digital sound processing on the C64. This is monumental! Even after so many years we see new paradigms of coding not only on graphics but on sound too on such an old machine. If the C64 scene where one thinks everything is being done already, sceners can still show quite new impossible stuff every year that makes the old records look like a child's play, imagine what is possible in underdeveloped scenes like the CPC and not only. Wow! Simple wow..

Let's go back to the two demos. The Arsenic demo is a good coder's demo with slow paced music and gothic style (as usual), while featuring some neat 3d effects. I love the big X-rotating dithered stuff (although we have seen this a lot of times before, but here it's BIG) and the use of black 3d vectors for the bat transition (reminds me of some funny old lame Greek PC demo, guess which :). There are some more stuff into this one and I let you watch it. Portal is also a demo with a lot of nice 3d and other 2d algorithm, pretty newschool chunky stuff, even features a nice 3d city and little more stuff. Some of the graphics are ugly though. This is a pure coder demo with not so good graphical design. Still a good release from these Polish groups. There were more demos at X, even if less significant, and you can see the full results and downloads here.

I gotta close this big review and now I see why I can't write more frequent demoparty reviews in this blog. Takes much more time than I plan too. I am just too enthusiastic and spend time taking new screenshot (which I love to) and writting lot's of text :)

My only hope after X and this review is that this will motivate me personally to come back to C64 coding and plan a new demo with more interesting effects than my Livetro this time. I am looking at an older thread at CSDb where I was asking for crossdev tools. Heh. I remember having downloading some of them but I never found the time between my other projects (CPC, Gamepark or PC) to start coding. Till then, I will be watching demos and writing (not frequently) more reviews here.

p.s. You can find youtube links in some of the Pouet links of these demos in case you don't know how to run an emulator.