Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Moving away from demo making

I have been talking about this issue a lot with my friends and maybe I gave a glimpse of my decision in some online forums but this is the first time I try to explain fully my view and the reasons of this sudden change.

It's been over ten years I started making demos and there was an obsession since the beginning which became severe in the sense that it made the whole process not fun and brought the opposite results than what one might want from a hobby. But that's not the main point here and it's also something I resolved by keeping a distance from the community and trying to focus on being creative for myself and not for the scene.

It's not the sole fact though that I was demotivated because of my obsessive attitude in the scene. There was something else in the process of making demos that could naturally demotivate you from being productive. While the half piece of making demos which is coding the effects can be interesting and fun, there is another part that can be tedious and demotivating. The fact that you have to connect all effects together in a specific way just to show off what you have done in order to please the community. You would also avoid releasing these effects as they are because the scene wouldn't appreciate them if they are not in a demo.

So, the half part is about pure creativity focused on the process, the joy of coding and experimentation, but the last part is solely focused on the result, working hard not because it pleases you but for finalizing something in the way the scene would appreciate it. Someone said that the scene is like a role playing and this part of demomaking reminds me of this. You stop thinking about coding, you stop focusing on pure creativity, you work hard so that you reach the point of releasing the damn thing without any interest in the creative process anymore but only the obsession that you have to be active in the scene or the reception you will get from people who will see your demo.

Let me give you a little example. My recent experiment of coding a wolfenstein engine for Amstrad CPC (See a first preview here) was following my newer view of how I want to be creative. It wasn't made for a project (especially not a demo one). I was motivated purely by my curiosity to see if I can make a fast wolfenstein renderer and how it will look like on CPC. At one point I decided to release a preview of it on youtube (inspired by those "look, my wolf engine on C64/Atari/Spectrum/your platform" vids). I initially blocked the idea because of an unwritten law in the scene. Well, mainly the CPC scene and any retro scene where brand new effects and world firsts count. It says that one shouldn't release a preview of his effects because it might not be fun/a surprise later when it appear in his demo if people have already seen it in the preview. And then I said, what the heck, first of all I didn't made this for a demo, then why shouldn't I show my work?

And then I thought, why coding demos for a much smaller audience, working hard with the sole motivation that maybe ten people (that is on CPC) will appreciate your work, also been affected by the unwritten rules and the mentality of the scene which tells you how your demo should be and what you should do or not do? Why losing focus from the pure creativity while being mentally stuck in this role playing game called the demoscene. Why not code the same things but for a greater audience? Why not moving to coding for other projects where you can totally focus on the process itself rather than doing it for a community? Why not games and apps since they are also more interesting and complete.

Let's talk about the last sentence. What do games or apps have that demos don't? Check what happens when you finish a bunch of effects and then you decide to connect them into a demo. The code is a linear script of which effect after which transition after which effect to show. It can be a rather tedious work with only motivation to release (get rid) your leftover effects and show off to the scene. Before starting your next demo production. A vicious circle. Also, it's dispensable. Since you know that when you finish the demo you abandon this code, this part of the code is the most ugly and unorganised ever. You won't need it after all in your next productions.

One would say that also a game has some interesting tech and then the boring part. But it's not that boring in my opinion. The game logic which let's supposed it's equivalent to games as what part scripting is for demos. It's more interesting though because here it makes sense that this part is well written and organized and you do this having in mind that this is an engine that you can reuse in future projects. While the linear demo scripting is dispensable as long as you release the damn demo. Except if you make an engine for demo scripting. But most people like me write the demo script in hand each time for a new demo from scratch.

Most parts of game making seem to me like a more interesting process where you don't think too much of the final result and the reception but every day you write some code it feels like you are building something that evolves and makes sense. In a demo, even if one enjoys the demo scripting process, it doesn't feel like something that needs a strict structure, definitelly not something that makes sense, e.g. after the plasma comes the rotozoomer and then a 3d scene, you can't easilly put these things in a structure as you can think of a game with it's entities, enemies, items where each one is connected to the other. One thing, I kept wondering why didn't I moved to C++ coding soon enough and kept writting mostly C code. I realized something, that demos didn't need a strict OOP design! It's just a serial show of effects, not something that would need structure, like a game with it's entities and rules. In demos you throw away your effects in a presentation in order to please a community. In games you build something that evolves into a big machine. That's the big difference that makes me want to code something else rather than demos.

The most funny thing is that I used to be a very enthousiastic person thinking that the demoscene is the holy grail but now my view has taken the opposite direction. I hated listening to people saying "Why make demos? Demos are useless? Why loose your potential on something like that instead of coding games or apps?" and I still disagree with them because one shouldn't define what he cannot understand as useless. But it's such an irony that at least I now come to their words. Not because I don't like demos (I still do), but because there is a whole new world out there, technically more interesting, more motivating and also a bigger audience to appreciate your work, while I have been sticking for so long in a small unknown community with it's own rules and it's "release next demo to be a scene super star" role playing game.

I am still a part of this community though. I still like demos even if I lack the proper motivation to be part of the whole process. I keep looking at demos, adoring what the community does from time to time, having a different perspective though. I will be keeping a distance from demo making except if I am really motivated to work on a demo (because you never know, moods are changing), I might still visit some parties, talk to some people about demos, take some part in the scene but less frequently and never if I am doing this without pure motives. From the time I started having this shift of view and applying it in my creative moments I was happier and felt I resolved my dissatisfaction with the demoscene and my obsessive nature with releasing demos. I now want to move on.

The demoscene is a small village. A nice village indeed. There is a new world outside for me though. I need a change.

1 comment:

  1. Oh I hear you. This basically applies to any form of creative work in general... having the feeling that you have to please an audience always adds a bit of a negative effect. Slightly resembles to my own situation, when I do a piece of research or a project out of my own time an budget, as opposed to when I have to do a defense and get some funding and approval. That part of the work is somehow never terribly enjoyable. And you see the same thing in arts obviously, like the difference between commercial artists and certain creative commons artists.
    I think that generally, having to get approval from other people, is always somewhat of a distraction to the creative process.