A demo by Dead Hackers Society for the Atari STe...
I was aware that a demo was going to be released at the 2009 Alternative Party by the Dead Hackers Society (DHS) before we arrived at the event. They turned up in strength, and I had the pleasure of many a fireside(*) chat with Nerve, who had set up his STe next door to my laptop. He had a fully completed and ready to run demo on his STe, but he just about manfully restrained himself from clicking on the fateful .prg file before the competitions had been run. He was twitching quite a bit towards the end, and was visibly relieved when he was finally able to treat me to the first small screen showing of this demo.
(*) Apart from the stage-area pyrotechnics, an open roaring flame wasn’t really encouraged as a concept anywhere within the party due to it being 1. Illegal, and 2. Dangerous. My lungs do however still recoil at the recollection of the sheer amount of artificial smoke that was generated from the live-act performances!
But the wait was worth it, as DHS’s new demo, ‘Cernit Trafadir’ was presented without the bothersome “issues” that plagued last year’s competitions on the big screen. It was rated highly enough to get the third prize. The story of the demo follows in the rest of this text.
This time around, memory restrictions have been given the finger, as the demo comes in two versions, firstly a 2 MB version for oldskool hardcore, party like it’s 1991 styled sceners using floppy disks (or emulators). For less memory and storage challenged sceners like me, there is the fulsome luxury of a version needing the full 4 MB of STe RAM, but giving hard drive loading, and a deeply intimate massage with aromatic oils from a scarcely dressed but devastatingly gorgeous lady. Actually, I’m lying about the massage bit but I’ll do anything to keep your attention on this textfile, eh! A look at the folder containing the demo reveals a humongous chunk of soundtrack. The other advantage of hard disk loading allows a 25 khz version of the soundtrack, rather than the 12 khz for the floppy drive version.
I’ll get the credits out of the way now. The coding is a three-way partnership of Gizmo, Evil, and Nerve. The graphics honours are shared between Evil and Proteque, an Amiga scene veteran who got fed up with the endless talk and inaction there, so he joined forces with DHS to do some new work. Musically, 505 has been asked to contribute an excellent soundtrack, no doubt he is celebrating the easing of memory restrictions as he heard the news.
Time to go and see the demo, there is lots to do, so pay attention!
A loading logo briefly appears on screen and gives way to a moody blue rolling background. A closer look appears to reveal different layers and a semi-transparent effect going on. Over the top, some credits in a very fancy font go over. The other impression on your eyes is the fact that this is fullscreen, occupying every last centimetre of the STe’s display. There are no clunky chunky boarders, and that remains the case for around 75 percent of the rest of the demo too.
The soundtrack builds into the next section of the demo, a pair of pulsing rastered distorting ‘things’ vibrate up the screen. This effect is pure oldskool and will get Amiga copper fans falling off their chairs faintly applauding (one hopes..)
Then bang! We’re into one of the talking point screens, an evening-toned rastered skyline taking up most of the screen, apart from the distant horizon, and there’s these huge dark spinning skyscrapers getting in the way! They are spinning so freely, that the edges have all gone purple and blurry! This is one of the stand out moments of this demo for sure.
A pause and moments dark reflection, then we are into the next part. This starts deceptively quietly, an ornately bent and twisted wire frame cube, but with more solid lines than normal. It could be a 3-D effect, or it could be a very cunningly drawn sprite. This expands to fill the whole screen, in a Defjam-friendly blocky pixel chunk-o-vision mode. Then the full-screened glory is finally revealed as a whole differently coloured host of the original small version swamps the screen. You can’t see it in this screengrab, but there are some dark raster bars which squeeze in behind as well.
A ‘designy’ bit is next, almost lyrical in content, as a half-drawn standing figure stands to the left of the screen, whilst a flurry of rose flower sprites swirl on screen. Presumably this is an overt reference to the demo title which translates to ‘dark rose’ in Romanian.
There is a bit more STe hardware bashing next, as Proteque intervenes with a gorgeous high color picture, an anorexic blindfolded angel is the centrepiece of a metal-bending video mode, with something like 29,000 colours involved in its construction. I’m not sure what resolution that is, at least a fullscreen mode going over the standard issue 320 x 200 screen, I guess? Maybe Evil can get around to writing up some of the tricks and cunning code he used in this demo sometime?
We appear to return to some oldskool roots as the music changes mood into something more cosmic sounding. A starfield is met smartly by patterns of deep blue 3D bobs. This is one screen which is conspicuously not fullscreen, it is as smartly presented as the rest of the demo, but it could have been completely at home in a production two decades ago. In the mid-part, the obligatory greets are led onscreen. Always nice to get a mention of course 🙂
There follows a return to moody newschool, with a pair of spinning light-shaded blocks. My brain fails me in describing the precise technique, or mixture of techniques used. Yet another screen pleading piteously for some words of enlightenment from its creators.
Things are building towards a finale, as Gizmo gets to show off his superior 3-D object making skills. A grey-washed female nasally enjoys a black rose to the left of the screen, whilst a spinning enviro-mapped spiny thing, does its uncanny best to represent an open rose flower. Are we spotting a central theme yet?
Finally, the end is breathing hard down our tense and sweaty necks, as a series of fullscreen ripples, waves and good old tunnels lounge languidly in a semi-transparent fashion across a picture of a rose. Then, the last effect is concluded, the music fades and dies and the screen turns to darkness for the last time.
So what do we think then?
‘Cernit Trandafir’ is most definitely a sequel to last year’s hit ‘More or Less Zero’. It continues the Dead Hackers progression with abusing the Atari STe’s hardware to give a production look and feel which would resemble the Amiga ECS at its peak, rather than the majority of Atari ST demos. (Not that I’m writing off a whole twenty years worth of Atari demo heritage of course, but these two demos are making fullscreen overscan almost look routine now. I guess the coding side would not be necessarily so taken for granted though!)
I like the continued hard disk support. The UltraSatan was conspicuously seen in some numbers at the Alt Party, so more demos that support this are always appreciated. Needless to say, I am looking forward strongly to the 20th Anniversary STe demo, hopefully with a contribution from DHS there too.
It is with absolutely no sense of regret that I can say that Cernit Tranfadir is another magnificent addition to the DHS portfolio of totally cool stuff. I sort of got some inside information they are shifting platform focus for their next production, so I’m looking forward to that sometime in the future.
I have one other observation of a personal and inward looking kind to garnish the end of this text with. I have enjoyed writing for this new magazine format, I am able to supply a comprehensive set of screen grabs for the first time on a demo review, which is liberating somehow!
See you next time.
CiH, for Low-Res Magazine, November 2009.