Archive for February, 2011

LowRes #4

February 4, 2011
Cover picture for issue 4.

The issue 4 cover by Greyfox

Earplug #4

February 4, 2011

For this issue we recommend 505’s album Cirrus for you to enjoy while reading it.

505’s Cirrus

Issue 4 Editorial

February 4, 2011

Phew, issue 4 has been released. Collectors edition. Last issue evah!!!!oneoneone

Nah just kidding. It’s probably not the last issue but it’s most likely the last for a long time. When we started this mag it was with the sincere desire for frequent quality releases regardless of the quantity. Even if it were just 5 articles, we would release. Unfortunately, like most things in life it’s much easier said than done. First of all, real life forces us to change priorities in an unpredictable manner thus pushing back projects like this. Secondly I guess people didn’t really care about Low Res enough to participate, with some notable exceptions of course, and lastly, there isn’t really that much going on for us to report.

So is the ST reaching its final days as a thing that we give a damn about or as a greek amiga user told me, does the ST scene live in the twilight? I’d like to think no. There is a constant development of MiNT, a steady flow of demos, 3 parties planned for 2011 and two hardware projects, the ACP Firebee and the Supervidel actively supported.  Oh and a new Chossneck is planned and at least three Low Res authors will support it, because we might not write for our own mag but we do love a good diskmag anyday!.

In the meantime, on this issue we unveil our new logo that was made by Greyfox who the team would like to thank. Also our cover for this issue was also made by Greyfox.

So enjoy this issue and stay Atari.

Issue 4 news

February 4, 2011
  1. Freemint 1.17.0 and XaAES 0.999 have been released after a lot of work. There is also an ongoing project for a multilingual XaAES and finally a freemint wiki. They are very active at the MiNT front!
  2. There’s  a new version of MyAES released by OL. Looks very good!
  3. Mikro is collecting interest about a new Noise party. It might be that we’ll get along with Sommarhack, Sillyventure, Outline four Atari Demo parties this year (that include 16/32).
  4. The Atari forum is back online after some hosting problems.
  5. Nature have fixed some problems in the Svethlana, ethernet device.
  6. Saulot has ported Grafx2 2.2 to MiNT. Pixel artists go and take a look.
  7. m0n0 has ported netsurf to MiNT. Internet users go and take a look.
  8. Paradize have released a new game. Read all about it in this issue.
  9. Saulot has also started an Atari coding wiki. Anyone with the necessary knowledge don’t hesitate to participate.

Links:

  1. Freemint wiki
  2. http://myaes.lutece.net/
  3. http://noise.atari.sk
  4. http://www.atari-forum.com/
  5. http://nature.atari.org/
  6. Grafx2 Atari port
  7. Netsurf Atari port
  8. http://paradize.atari.org/
  9. Bus error wiki

Capture videos of your Atari in action.

February 4, 2011

As you might or might not know I have this hobby of capturing falcon and ST stuff and uploading them to youtube with mixed results as far as quality goes. For that reason I have bought an Easycap DC60 USB 2.0 capture device from somewhere in China, in all likelyhood a clone of the original device now called EzCap.

The device I bought feature the STK1160 chipset which doesn’t allow capture of PAL 60. And though this isn’t much of a problem for capturing from an ST(E) since most software works on 50Hz ,this isn’t always the case for the falcon or for newer demos. Otherwise the DC60 allows capturing from either composite video or s-video and in stereo in resolutions up to 720×576 and in 25 or 30 fps(PAL/NTSC). It also comes bundled with video editing software and drivers.

The first problem I witnessed with the device was installing appropriate drivers for it since it does have problems with windows 7. I believe that now they have been included in the windows update service but I am not quite sure. After a few hours of fighting with it I started capturing using the debut capture software which is a pretty cool program that works very well with the Easycap. Unfortunately I noticed that there was frame drop when recording and having deinterlacing on, probably something to do with my 3.06GHz Hyperthreading processor and IDE hard drive. So I went to the best in my view pieces of software for this kind of work. DScaler and Virtual dub.

Dscaler is a free software solution for viewing video from a capture source that has some excellent and fast deinterlacing algorithms. Unfortunately you can only record the interlaced video and since hard drive space is a commodity I don’t want to waste, I am using the Hufyuv codec.

Virtual Dub is used for post processing and mainly for 3 things.  Removing of unwanted video segments and cropping, deinterlacing and compressing video and audio.

So the process is somewhat like this:

1. Record the video in full size from dscaler using the YUV format since it’s faster.

2. Load the video in Virtual Dub and select the following. Full processing mode in the video and audio menus so as to compress the video and audio parts of the video to mp4 and mp3 respectively (of course you can use your favourite codecs).

3. Go to the filters option in the video menu and select the method to deinterlace. After that you’ll see the cropping button being selectable. Pressing it will allow you to crop the video image.

4. Save as avi.

Now, I’ve found the deinterlace methods already in Vdub to be somewhat lacking for our purposes, perhaps because the atari outputs such a strange signal. However since Vdub is such a nice program, you can find various loadable filters. As such I’ve found the Smart Deinterlace filter that provides very good results. There are various options but I found that the combination of:

-Frame only differencing

– Edge directed interpolate

– Compare color channels

– Motion threshold 15

Deinterlace settings

Deinterlace settings for the smart deinterlacer.

to be more than adequate. After that you can upload the final video on youtube or wherever else you want. The above method can be used with any other capture device as well.

Links:

1. Dscaler: http://deinterlace.sourceforge.net/

2. VirtualDub: http://www.virtualdub.org/

3. Smart deinterlace filter: http://neuron2.net/smart/smart.html

YouTube on the Falcon!

February 4, 2011

A fairly simple guide to playing YouTube movie content on your Atari Falcon 030.

Well here’s another potential revolution in human affairs coming up from behind, threatening to hit you smartly on the back of the head, laugh at your prostrate unconscious form and steal your shoes. Yes, you will rue the day that you wore those smart brown loafers in these cold mean streets!

YouTube on the Falcon“, that’s a big statement making some bold claims in the teeth of doubt right there pal. So how’s it done then? You skeptically ask.

First the gentle letting down process starts. This paragraph will tell you how it is not done. There are no clever networking gizmo’s to connect in a high speed fashion to the intertubes without fuss or faff, no stunning new browser concepts allowing Flash video playback in its latest versions, and definitely no superhuman coding feats to bring a super-optimised Flash player to the Falcon in the first place.

So we’re talking about movie conversion again, are we not?

Well yes, but here’s where the building up hope again part of the article starts off. It is a fairly simple process involving a tool-chain with just three components. I’m sure you’ve already worked this one out for yourselves, but just in case you haven’t, it’s nice to share.

This handy screenshot of a typical open YouTube page shows our starting point. The subject matter is short and personally appealing. I think you’ll like it as well, featuring a better than average mid-eighties commercial for my favourite lost home computer before the Falcon 030 came along.

The original movie on YouTube.

The direct link is here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yp6wc6YJpn4

Step 1. Getting the Youtube content down from its gilded cage..

As we all know, Youtube does not feature any direct download access by itself. Fortunately there are a number of methods to get around this. There are download websites such as www.kissyoutube.com or www.downloadhelper.net where you can copy and paste the Youtube URL to download the video stream as an .FLV file.

Alternatively, you can use something like the ‘UnPlug’ Firefox extension. For Mac fans, there is a backdoor method in Safari. When the YouTube browser window is opened, find and double click on the video replay file in the activity window. This file is typically several megabytes and still growing. This then opens a new blank browser window and the download manager appears and shows a file called something like ‘videoreplay’ downloading to the desktop. Once there, it just remains for you to rename it with a filename of your choice with an .flv extension.

For Mac fans, you will still have to transfer the collected Flash video files to a Windows system for steps 2. and 3. unfortunately. Unless you have one of those dual booting Macs that gives house-room to a Windows option of course.

Step 2. Preparing for Step 3.

Right now, we have an .FLV file. This can play back nicely on current versions of the Videolan VLC player, and if that is all you want to do, then you can stop reading right here. For the rest of you who wish to see this content playing back decently on an Atari TOS system, read on.

The problem with .FLV files is that they are definitely not supported by Aniplayer for one thing. Another issue is that the other software at the end of the tool-chain, VirtualDub, is not .FLV friendly by itself. There are plugin’s available to help VirtualDub load these in, but this involves a whole world of extra libraries and poking around in old support sites and obscure parts of Microsoft itself. Yes I tried that, and gave up! This is not recommended for the headache factor alone. Also VirtualDub is quite an old program itself and I’m not sure how well installing ancient libraries would sit with a more modern Windows machine?

So clearly we need an intermediate step, the The crucial ‘bit in the middle’. As it happens I found an application that does the job nicely. In this case I’m using the Pazera FLV to AVI converter. It is a free download and it works.

The current version of the FLV to AVI/MPEG converter is 1.2. It is a Windows pc application. It offers to convert to .avi or .mpg from .flv. Both of these file types are read in by VirtualDub. I seemed to get on better with converting to MPEG. The user interface is intuitive and easy to follow and all of the options are visible and usable upfront. You can play around with the various video and audio settings, a degree of customization from here is possible, but most of the time you should leave them on their default auto settings. I’d personally wait until you’ve got to VirtualDub before making any big changes to your movie.

You may want to customize the video resolution if you encounter an odd screen format, say a very widescreen movie trailer or similar. The audio settings should be left as they are. You will need to change them back afterwards as Pazera tends to ‘remember’ the amended settings, even after quitting.

(Update:- Generally I find it best to set up and stick with the horizontal resolution best suited to your Falcy’s abilities. From there, the vertical resolution, regardless of how widescreen it is, should tuck in nicely under the horizontal rez that you asked for in the first place.

So to use a specific example from when I’ve been playing, a 640 x 480 VGA-sized movie slims down to something like 240 x 180 pixels, but I’ve encountered at least one movie trailer which went down to 240 x 80 to keep the aspect ratio looking decent. Other examples have been less extreme, say 240 x 120 pixels or similar.

As well as avoiding fugliness, it also means you should be pushing a bit less video data through Aniplayer when playing back the end result, which is helpful with a slower machine.)

The end result should be an .avi or .mpg file which is ready for the third and final stage. The site URL for the Pazera converters is here: www.pazera-software.com

Step 3. Final conversion to an Aniplayer friendly format.

This third and final step is simple, for me to write down at least. Go to Beetle’s tuition article from the last issue of Low Res Mag and proceed from there to get to an Aniplayer friendly .avi movie file. If you are taking a close interest in this article, you probably already have VirtualDub set up and are comfortable with how to use this application. If you need a reminder, here’s the link for you.

https://lowresmag.wordpress.com/2010/05/15/how-to-encode-video-for-playback-on-falcon/

And just to show that there was a satisfactory end result, here’s a screengrab of the converted movie playing in Aniplayer.

Youtube movie on the Aranym desktop!

So now you can add YouTube content to your soon to be vast libraries of Atari-friendly media material. Happy days!

CiH for Low Res Mag, Dec 2010.

ATARI EMULATION

February 4, 2011

 

Emulation of most, if not all Atari machines has now progressed to being something which is holding it’s own rather well. From the early, slightly stuttering, days of PacifiST back in the mid to late nineties to what is around today, with the likes of Steem and Hatari being the major forces for emulation of STe (in the case of Steem) and a partially emulated Falcon in the case of Hatari (though Hatari also emulates the ST and STe to just about 100%) / this makes both programs a force to be reckoned with.

Emulation of the ST is now not something to look down upon, unlike in earlier years. Even the kings of the Falcon demo scene, Dead Hackers Society, have been spotted using Hatari under emulation on the Mac to develop new stuff for the scene; this was considered by sceners such as themselves to be lame not so many years ago.

Those of us who travel to coding parties in Europe have always felt constrained by the inability to transport ageing hardware. Therefore, we have tended to be reduced to travelling with laptops amongst other gear required for coding parties, most notably a sleeping bag, pillow, enough underwear and socks so that ppl don’t start complaining about bad smells along with some nightwear also.

It is difficult to justify travelling with a laptop as your own means of computer hardware; particularly when having access to a car for transport means that you could, if you wish, bring older hardware with you. I personally have tried to do this certainly for visiting Outline parties in the past but whether this continues I have no clue.

Version 1.3.1, the latest release of Hatari that was released to the public at the time of writing this article, now features some rather intriguing emulation of the Falcon. Whilst I am of the belief that DSP emulation is still at the early stage,it is interesting to see what actually does run under Falcon emulation using Hatari.

For instance, whilst the classic Avena demo, Dementia, does in fact run, it does go out of synch and eventually crashes. This is in no way any fault of the demo or Avena; it runs perfectly well on a stock Falcon. I personally haven’t tested it with the CT60 though will at some point now I have one (yes, I have to fit it as well but there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon that it will happen 😉 )

Through personal observation, possibly more so at the Alternative Party over the last couple of years, whilst it has been good to see the old hardware still being used for development work, I have noticed a general switch to laptop based crossdevelopment, along with emulation to ensure that what is developed works properly, before porting it to the target hardware. I think this is how a lot of the software houses used to operate back in the eighties with the Sinclair Spectrum and Amstrad computers, back in the day, using the now ancient Apple IIe machines for development, before porting the resulting code to the target home computer.

To the present day for a few moments and we have just arrived at Outline 2010. It is interesting, looking around, that while we still have a few stalwarts who insist (and indeed prefer) to bring the real kit with them, but they are few and far between compared to those of us using laptops, whether we have arrived by car or not.

I honestly don’t think that we need to worry about emulation. In a way, it makes us more creative, for example, being able to take a laptop to work & code on it during your own time, whether that be at lunch or while your workproject is compiling, like it is believed how Mr Pink/RG has been known to work at times. Whilst he was the first coder I noticed working in that way, I have noticed others, such as Evl and Baggio, working in what looks like a very similar way.

As this article was in the process of being written, the new version (v1.4) of Hatari was released. From early tests I have carried out just this afternoon, timing in demos seems to be quite a bit better than before. The slower CPU option seems to put paid to the compatibility though; turn that off and things should be OK. That option was already selected on my setup but may not be as standard; it might be something peculiar to my machine’s setup here.

Xzentrix 2010 Party report

February 4, 2011

Friday 2010-09-03

Another edition of the nice and cozy Xzentrix party was due this year. At the same time, the DAS in Dresden took place. But due to travel
considerations, I had decided early to attend Xzentrix although the party date was amidst my move into a new flat with my girlfriend aswell.

On Friday I left work a bit early to catch a train to Munich. As always the party is held in Seeshaupt in Bavaria, Germany. The trip was not really eventful except that I missed the train in Tutzing and was forced to wait about an hour at the station for a ride of 10 minutes to Seeshaupt.

Anyway I arrived around 20:30 at the party place to discover that this years`s edition was not as croweded as before. Maybe it would change on Saturday. I unpacked my lot. This year I packed my Atari STE with SatanDisk and a 7″ Mini LCD-TV.

505 had recommened me this particular TV. I didn`t pay too much, about 80EUR for the thingy and it works well as a party monitor. On the STE here it runs with Composite video but the Falcon worked well at home with the VGA input as well. It`s perfect to take a long by train. 🙂

I soon started chatting with all the other party people when CPC-Mike arrived. He unpacked quite a lot of gear including an STE aswell, a CPC Plus, a CPC6128, a Sega Saturn and hidden in a box, an Atari Jaguar too. I also had discovered that someone brought a Sam Coupe, a machine which I didn`t really expect to see because of it`s rareness.

We went to eat some pizza from the near pizza joint and the quality was pretty good. The pizza was large, even in the “small” category, fresh out of the oven and quite tasty.

CPC-Mike had problems with his UltraSatan so we simply tried my card. It worked and booted ok. CPC-Mike was quite please to find out his UltraSatan was actually working so we agreed to install his own card later during the party.

Thorn / TSCC arrived as well with an Amiga 1200 for playing another edition of the Bavarian KickOff Tournament. He also brought a slightly intersting 1990 vintage PC with a 80286 processor. “It`s the first PC of the family Butschke and I`ll try to sell it here.” was his comment.

CPC-Mike and me started digging into some old games. Playing “Sonic Boom” on the CPC Plus we wondered about games between different platforms. I booted the same title in the ST version. It disappointed ourselves as the display for 2 players turned out to be another lame “one player after another” mode instead of a good “2 players on screen” blast.

Shortly before midnight, Beetle arrived from a long trip and started to unpack. He showed me his CTPCI with Radeon graphics and discussed some of its features.

The CPC users gathered to try out the new game “Orion Prime” which turned out to be a point`n`click adventure. Games of that sort are generally not my taste but it’s great to see the effort live.

We soon ended up with a Swiss man to discuss Forth, RISC cpus and handheld calculators. Albeit being a very interesting discussion the day took a toll and I was starting to get really tired.

Beetle had brought an additional airbed for me (Thanks!) and we soon geared up for sleep. “It might collapse as it is not 100% tight anymore.” So being warned I simply jumped into my wormbag and decided to nap as long as possible. Even the regular party noise was getting lower in comparison to other party events.

Saturday 2010-09-04

The air bed started to collapse as promised so around 6:30 I decided to get up as one of the first party people. I took a quick cold water shave and started writing on this little report then.

Now more people seemed to be awake. I took a little walk to get up and at my return breakfast was ready. We had coofee, pretzels and rolls – and all incldued in the ratehr small party fee or 10€.

We played a bit on CPC-Mike`s Atari Jaguar and I discovered that Raiden is actually a quite good game. However he didn`t have all games with him so my first glimpse at Jaguar gaming was limited to Raiden and Wolfenstein 3D. Sadly the Jaguar had to be connected via RF to my TV and it run without sound. I don’t know why but we didn’t investigate any further.

Some sort of hardware modding had to be part of Xzentrix as every year. Last year I bought a couple of 7800 pads but those have problems with the IKBD (keyboard controlling mcu) on the Atari ST. The keys stop working and behave irratic as soon as a 7800 controller is plugged in. With a bit of rewiring and cutting traces the pad can be made compatible. And Beetle did the mod for one of my pads right here on the Xzentrix. As a special feature, he wired the now functionless second button to work as the up button. So now with this modded pad, NES style jumping and shooting is possible. I`m looking forward to try this pad with “The Great Giana
Sisters” someday.

Late in the afternoon, the Bavarian Kick Off Championship took place. As I’m personally not really a fan of Kick Off, I played some other games on my STE instead aswell as chatting with CPC-Mike and getting his UltraSatan to run properly. We installed ICD Pro like Jookie described and say what, it worked 🙂

Around 1:30am I went to my wormbag to catch a decent sleep.

Sunday 2010-09-05

After the usual morning routine, Thorn and me discussed the next LowRes release. (When you are reading this article, something has happened in that regard! 🙂 )

Around 11:00am Thorn offered me a ride to Memmingen and we left the party. We discussed LowRes and other stuffs and finally Thorn dropped me off in Memmingen so I could head for home by train.
All in all I really enjoyed attending Xzentrix again. This event has a certain something with its focus on old computers in general and not being limited to demos and coding. In many respects it is the perfect sort of party to attend.

Simon Sunnyboy / Paradize  <marndt@asmsoftware.de>
for LowRes magazine   https://lowresmag.wordpress.com/

Sundown 2010 Party Report.

February 4, 2011

Weeee go mad in Devon, yet again..

18.32..

We’re at Sundown, it’s the 3rd September 2010, and we’re not a bit late. In fact, we were about six days early, at least for the ‘Devon’ part of the experience. For some reason lost in the mists of last February, it was decided that the female contingent should come along in some sort of ‘holiday’ capacity or outrage as well. The Felicing one has a usefully placed relative in the northern outpost of Devon known as ‘Ilfracombe’, so we were able to spend the previous days before the party there. In some conditions of considerable comfort and enhanced viewing pleasure, I might add. Here, I’ll share some photographic evidence with you.

Felice's Aunt's place at Ilfracombe. This is the actual view from the garden!

An anguished pause follows to reflect on many days of driving, walking, driving, stumbling, drooling and stalking, all over the twisty turny up along and down along pathways and byways of Devon. All in glorious unbroken (unborked?) sunshine and blue sky-o-vision. This has been totally untypical of the damp sad summer so far. We had many adventures, all with a happy ending, perhaps worthy of a separate article on its own, but this might end up sounding something suspiciously like the “what I did on my holidays” report that we did at school on the first day back there.

“We went to the seaside and saw the sea, the sand, some seagulls, and got some icecream and candyfloss and got sick all over daddy who was very cross….”

So I won’t.

So I will say nowt about the exciting game of fuel gauge roulette that I played on the way down here to this very party place, between Ilfracombe and Barnstaple, due to a breezy overconfidence in the amount of fossilized dinosaur juice left in my fuel tank. (We got there, otherwise my start time for the realtime part of this report would be a lot lot later and the tone of it a lot less euphoric!) I won’t mention the road trip for a visit to the Eden Project last Wednesday, a major undertaking on roads seemingly designed and built by a drunk unicorn on LSD. I guess Devon and Cornwall didn’t get many Roman beating up tribespeople and highway design consultants in to sort the ‘getting from A to B in a straight line’ aspect out?

But we had a good time, saw and did a lot of stuff, but all good things have to come to an end and the Sundown Party takes over. A quick afternoon trip attempting to maintain a folllowing convoy speed at warp factor Felice gets us to our new temporary centre of operations at the Hansard House Hotel, what you mean *hotel*!? with no dossing down in the hall, hardcore, you know the score style?

The female contingent had something to do with that, needing comfortable places to sleep and all. So they have been left there, the losers. We still have the heartbreaking decision at some point late at night to come back to soft pillows, quiet rooms, hot showers and a cooked breakfast the following morning. The hotel is up a bit of a hill, which is a theme that I’ve been tediously familiar with for the previous days. I’ll no doubt have some more to say on that topic after we’ve been back tonight.

18.59.

The party is, variously, semi-dark, still fairly  quiet with around twenty to thirty guests arrived and in arriving states. Some Commodore 64 SID tunes play through the big sound system, whilst the big screen displays some functional ‘welcome to the party’ information. Ooh look, we early arrivers have been name-checked. That’s nice.

In a welcome break from recent parties, I’m typing this on a real Atari spongy keyboard as we managed to avoid the STE turned paperweight conundrum unfondly remembered from earlier this year’s Outline party. Felice fortunately remembered to bring his super Sony flatscreen this time. An initial period of doubt and concern was thrown up when my battered old scart lead refused to put a picture into it. Fortunately an appeal for help reached the ears of Heavy Stylus, who is going to provide some ‘tunage with his funky shit’ later this evening. A much better lead, made by Techy Alison of Atari Forum fame actually did the business, so I’m typing this realtime on my pimped up STE with UltraSatan. So a big thanks has to go to Felice and Heavy Stylus respectively.

My STe with UltraSatan, running with Felice's Sony screen, next to Felice's laptop.

Okay, now we’re in a euphoric and slightly tingly excited state, I’ll sign off for now and take a look around for a while.

19.37.

We’ve been Gasman spotting. He’s hoping to get something done in time for the competitions with a java flavour, but he only has it going beep thus far. Rumour has it, that the thing he’s working on isn’t even feeling up to “hello world” just yet? On a more positive note, he’s brought along the latest port to his ZX Spectrum video player, namely the entire first Star Wars movie (The sublime Episode IV, a new hope and not the atrocity with Jar Jar Binks in it!) This uses up CF-Card space at an extravagant 10 megabytes per minute, so a total movie length of around 1 gigabyte was advised. It’s showing right now! I managed to get in a counter-showing of Tobe’s STE chunky 80×50 video player, which is a fair bit more economical, and looks pretty decent from a middling distance.

Things to say:- “Is that really the Popular Demo on the ST?”

Things NOT to say:- “Where’s the good old colour attribute clash gone?!”

Other names to check include Ne7, mOd, and the nice people from Neurotypical, complete with a vintage BBC Master micro.

The real party is outside and taking a cigarette break…

21.14.

Gasman’s Speccy Starwars showing is in the Death Star garbage compactor right now. Hundreds of colour attribute clashes are getting slowly pulverised deep in the bowels of ultimate evilness! In other news the status of the notoriously paranoid chinese restaurant of old Budleigh Salterton is in some doubt. One version of events proclaims that they are
completely out of business. Another version says that they open as and when they choose to.

An incoming text warns of a double female presence nearby. Felice wanders off to answer the summons.

22.05.

The double female presence has been and expressed delight at the party so far, but has taken umbrage at the early closure (compared with any other UK population centre) of most of the hot food outlets and buggered off back to the hotel. A quick peek in the window of paranoid Chinese restaurant confirms that the wall decorations of enhanced libellousness which we enjoyed reading and taking pictures of last year have all been removed. We’re still trying to work out whether this was due to to legal or psychiatric advice?

22.52.

We’ve thrown a little bit of a showreel for Heavy Stylus and a couple of unnamed (so far) people who expressed an interest in the ST from a time long ago and were latterly interested in some of the things it was doing now. So I hit them with a couple of the Dead Hackers later releases for the STE, and the ultimate show-stopper for 2010, the TalkTalk 2 demo. Jaws were heard to hit floors in a suitably loud fashion. That is, loud enough to hear, but not loud enough to obscure the soundtrack. A few of the super high colour targa pictures got in there and I convinced Heavy Stylus of the goodness of viewing some of these for himself.

Heavy Stylus is due to play at 23.00, so we’ll get down to the big beats around then.

23.49.

We’ve been quiet for the last hour, but Heavy Stylus hasn’t.

To fit the following, we’ve been playing various games, both Pipemania and Obsession semi-successfully. The drink we’ve taken including certain things of a nightcap nature working to loosen the reflexes, but not fatally so. I’ve spotted the Neurotypical BBC Master box ‘doing’ something which may well be demo competition related?!

The overall atmosphere is quieter than I remember from last year, or more focused. The majority of screens appear to be doing something creatively orientated. There is less of the overt booziness of the first night from the last time. I’m feeling more tired than I ought to, maybe that is the ‘holiday’ part of the week catching up. I think more people have opted for off-site accommodation and may have gone away to locate that. On the other hand, Gasman is being hardcore and pretend sleeping in the hall!

00.28 of the Saturday.

The last saved version of this text file came to 6800 bytes exactly, spooky?

This will be my last despatch before I’ve had a chance to insert some sleep in the following space.

Here….

Some not at all realtime hiking notes:-

A world away, a world up a hill and up again. The Hansard House hotel is located a few minutes convenient walk away from the party, that is, going *to* the party. The struggle back up the slope feels longer, with an extra steep bit just before you get there. Maybe the secret is to get properly drunk beforehand. so you don’t feel the pain from your legs and feet, not until it is too late anyway.

After that, I slept in a civilized bed, had a long hot shower, and ate a civilized breakfast, cooked for me by someone else. We then had a civilized planning session with the female party members in the hotel lounge, decorated in a style, c.1910 Edwardian country house. This being particularly important to prevent a fresh outbreak of catering outage stuff-ups which made last night so memorable.

10.03 of the Saturday.

We and a small number of the recently awake are back at the party place. The conditions resemble half-past hangover. A few people are up and about, some of them to sample the Budleigh seaside misty coast? The weather is grey and overcast, which is the first less than perfect weather that we’ve experienced all week. Still we’re at the party so as long as it doesn’t rain indoors, me and the bouncy STE keyboard will cope just perfectly.

10.46.

Reviewing, reading and “enhancing” this text gets this nicely up to now.

12.10.

I’ve been out to sample the delights of the Budleigh Salterton street and beach scene, which resembles what other places were like around 1960 or thereabouts.

Jurassic coast with a grey and misty face on it.

The beach was a vivid picture of grey mistiness, a strong sea breeze and crashing surf on the foot-catching shingle beach. It was also very quiet, apart from the (very) odd hardcore swimmer and kayaker, the latter getting very close to the shoreline to potentially recreate an old-fashioned shipwreck of the sort that used to be very popular back in the day when such events were the main source of exotic ‘free gifts’ for the poor people on this coastline!

Fortunately, the strength in his paddling arms was more than up to the challenge posed by the surf, so he got away safely into open water.

12.21.

Nativ of Atari Forum lurkingess has introduced himself to us. He’s brought a Falcon 030 to enter some Flextracker music into the competition. Maybe when a memory upgrade permits, he’ll move onto some Ace Tracker stuff, which would be worth waiting for.

12.26.

Back on topic, the local store for local people is due to close in four minutes, so I got in there earlier. I won’t say that Budleigh Salterton is an elderly colony, but the shop windows are all bifocal! The local store features such wonderment as junk-food and a massive queue waiting for a lovely slow-moving silver haired old gentleman to pay the cashier before he dies. Anyway, I’ve now got food waiting and some lovely chilled orange juice to fit in with the chilled out party mood swing.

13.23.

Lunch has been despatched with the usual unseemly haste, I’ve spent a little time viewing demos in company with Nativ. One possibly interesting or useful factoid that we discovered was that Felice’s Sony Bravia LCD screen can provide “free” motion blur on some parts of the ancient Techno Drugs demo, no doubt due to the longer persistence of the image compared with CRT screens. I personally think that this adds nicely to the demo.

The exterior of the party hall, aka Budleigh Salterton Town Hall.

There is some scheduled party happenings starting in an hour with the quiz of Meaty, where it has been promised that a contestant WILL die!

15.43.

The weather broke down for a short time after the last log entry as we encountered drops of random rain for a short while. This came and went a short time later, so almost a perfect week there, almost.

I spent a bit of time viewing several demos running from Nativ’s floppy only Falcon. He’s been having a similar trouble getting a hard disk reliable enough to work with his Falcon as I am with my problem child CT60. This stretched his ingenuity in the right directions, for as well as viewing obvious candidates such as Sonoluminescenz and the Dream Dimension demos, we also got to see Checkpoint’s ‘Morphonic’ demo, generally thought of as a strictly ST-only production floppy, booting on Nativ’s Falcon.

There were around forty minutes devoted to the party highlight otherwise known as Meaty’s quiz. Much random picture taking and video footage of this was taken by the assembled party masses, but most of it was safely outside of the bland blanket zone known as ‘family viewing’. I’m sure a photo of some *theoretically* grown men hitting each other with rubber mallets will find a home around here.

Close but not quite, here we have the quiz participants re-enacting how family board games might have been played in the Fritzl dungeon?

(* Theoretical, not actual!)

17.00.

Mellow summer enchanted afternoon. The quiet bit before the competitions start, which is at 19.00, according to the flexible time table.

Chatted a while with Heavy Stylus who was showing some preview routines of the ‘rOx’ game sequel. Progress is slow, mainly due to the usual time lack issues, although the main game engine is near completion. This will then require finessing and finishing, which is generally the other fifty percent of the hassle, ah well, maybe next year’s Outline then?

Things to do sometime in the next hour, another look at the beach now its sunny, and a trip to the chippy for supper from there.

18.34.

Combined trip back to beach and chippy got reduced to trip to chippy as I met mOd and a food gathering party on the way. This outlet happens to be the *only* fast food place in town, apart from an Indian restaurant and of course the sadly madly defunct chinese takeaway which became so famous on our last visit to Sundown, namely for being able to combine a profound mental collapse with a first class retail operation selling hot food.

This singular lack is reflected in the queue at the chippy which goes right around the shop and out of the door again. Still, good things come to those prepared to stick around and memorise details of the assorted sea fish species poster on the wall there, as we rush back home clutching our purchases.

Demoparty fish and chips, eaten in a strange blue light in a far corner of the party hall, tastes delicious!

The first wave of competitions are getting nearer.

19.20.

And still getting nearer….

Felice is on a mission to food purchasing land so he’s not missing much. This party is being officially rickrolled with Rick Astley on the big screen! I found out that there was some alcoholic fruity substance mixed up by the Germans promoting TUM 2010. We all enjoyed a glass of it earlier but there was still some left, so I’ve been over there and refilled my glass. Felice has now returned from his food purchasing mission and added a can of coke to my stock of drinkables. This has proven very amenable to having whisky added to it, so I am ever so slowly getting in a party mood (hic!)

19.47.

This message is showing on the main screen, the original caps lock is included for no extra charge.

“DON’T TALK TO ANDY PLEASE HE’S A NICE GUY BUT EVERY TIME YOU TALK TO HIM THE COMPETITIONS RUN LATER!”

20.10.

From the mouth of rc55 himself, he says that everything is now ready for a 20.15 start. Does this mean that all the entries for all the compos are shown at once on the big screen?! This would be both confusing and memorable. Especially the bit afterwards where rc55 is dragged off the stage and sectioned.

20.17.

Oldschool music starts, memory_ZX by Nativ goes off first with a six channel Flexitracker modfile made on the Falcon. It is a mellow ambient piece.

Other entries are following, generally showing off ‘chipsound’ as defined by XM tracker but with a nice entry from Ne7 playing something with more oldschool tones.

Females have arrived for part 2 of the party. They have been smuggled in through the kitchen as the main door is shut.

20.55.

Synth music about to kick off, the oldschool compo was ended on a rather nice oldschool Amiga modfile. There is still some of the German fruity boozy brew left, which is handy as the coke has run out, but the whisky hasn’t. I’m not ready for neat scotch just yet.

A plethora of SID tunes play, what is the adjective term for these, a cacophony of SID ziks perhaps?

To follow;

Something different with two ZX Spectrum 48k’s joined together, so six channels are made from the beeper sound. It sounds crazy but workable somehow.

21.28.

Streaming music to start shortly.

Something featuring ‘Coleco talking teacher and bits of string.’

“PUSH THE BUTTON, let it awaken, in the middle of the night; NIGHTBACON!”

Thanks to mOd, who indeed indicated earlier he was on standby with supplies of this magical food if people were feeling the need for it later on!

NuColour by Nativ, Atari STe, Casio CZ1000, Akai S3000XL, Korg XSD, another one in a relaxed ambient style.

21.56.

Intermission, erm, breakdown….

22.03.

Back again. “The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, he said, but still, they came.” – Repeat phrase until panicky and desperate tone creeps into voice as dissatisfied party audience start making gestures of intent and sharpened objects in the direction of the compo organisers pit.

“Time for a retroparty…”

Newschool streaming music, as so often the case, the competition without an end in sight. My ears are satisfied, but my eyes are starving from a complete delay in getting the screen candy they need!

Newschool streaming music compo, the best boredom filter to get rid of the uninitiated from demo parties since 1997!

Well that last sentence might be a bit harsh, but it seems to be the case that out of all the non-demo competitions, this goes on a lot longer than the rest by a big margin, even at the smaller parties.

END!!!! At last, some graphics competitions in 10-15 mins.

22.52.

ASCII compo, sad bunny by Torment to start with.

We’ve also had to repatriate a sad Nicky back to the hotel due to something which disagreed with her that she ate or more probably drank? Still she’s in a comfortable state now. Just had some more out of party moments and out of body experiences getting back up that damn hill again.

Ascii compo was a mixture of ascii logos and ansi BBS style chunky stuffs.

Oldschool pixels are coming up soon(ish).

23.06.

All timings are approximate and guesswork.

We are now lubricating with a combination of fresh orange and Whyte and Mackay whisky.

Unfinished face by Spiny of Torment.

Nice C64 picture, ‘The Tower of Pearl’. but ‘Silently floating into Darkess‘ is even better. Hokay, that is enough oldschool, so newschool graphics are to follow.

23.16.

A joke entry to start with but things settle down with a couple of good entries. Then it is suddenly all over.

“Ten sweet minutes” to the main event…. (Ha ha!)

23.37.

From the screen of a BBC Master system.

BE BORN AS RUIRI

>MISTAKE

TRY TO RUN SUNDOWN DEMO PARTY FOR 6 YEARS

>MISTAKE

RICKROLL WHOLE PARTY

>SYNTAX ERROR

(cursor blinks at about here…)

23.49.

Oldschool demo compo to start. At this point I switch off to pay total attention to the demo compos, so back later.

00.13.

Sunday and oldschool has ended. The following things were shown.

Small amiga intro which was mainly a lot of infotext.

Spiny’s music disk for the ST called ‘May Crash’ and it actually did.

"May Crash" on the big screen - before it crashed.

‘Pimp my Spectrum’ actually redone on a raw Spectrum!

BBC demo with some oldschool effects including chequerboard.

I’ll elaborate later. Newschool intros are to follow.

01.19.

What time is love?

It’s all over, all over the place and all over your face. Bed beckons and morning recollections will have to follow later on.

10.21.

Sunday bloody Sunday!

Morning, and we’ve left the hotel of comfortable beds and cooked breakfasting and arrived back at the very quiescent party place. A furiously vibrating Ne7 can be found in the kitchen area attempting to dine off a chicken tikka masala, kitchen microwave being so powerful, it is capable of providing any food placed within it with a glowing radioactive half-life.

There was a wee small hours beach party apparently, with a driftwood bonfire and night bacon cooked on it. I’ll have to hope for pictorial proof as I didn’t quite make it, hotel access being dependent on other members of the party, plus other boringly sensible considerations such as being in a fit state to drive home today. Oh, it has rained overnight, quite a lot of it through the open window of our hotel bedroom, necessitating a discreet mopping up operation with the spare towels.

I’m trying to think back to the competitions, and my brain is coming up with a state of ‘blehhh!’ I don’t think the PeeCee stuffs were that memorable, apart from a sublime 1 kilobyte sunrise. There was one entry which definitely should have been filed under “why bother?” and no, it was not the Belgian Beer Squadron entry. There was a little bit of an
intro from Gasman working in Javascript as well.

Out of the two highest ranking oldschool entries, ‘Pimp my Actual Spectrum’ seems to show the most accomplished effects, but the BBC entry works well showing things that have not been attempted before on that platform in a Mode 7 teletext style in places. So hard to decide which one is best really?

~~ Unravelling towards the end ~~~

Variously known as “Oh dear, is that it?” and “The bit of the realtime that CiH hates writing as it means the end of the party is near.”

It’s a shame that this is the last Sundown and probably the last chance to visit sleepy seaside Budleigh Salterton. The party itself picked up nicely from last year with just about all the people that made it special the last time returning here. There were one or two new faces I had the pleasure of seeing for the first time, with Heavy Stylus donating a vital
video lead to let me type this on my STe. Also it was cool to meet Nativ from the Atari Forum who had the sole Falcon 030 presence, with several classic demos and some neat tunes playing there.

Of course we reaquainted with many various people such as ne7, rc55, Meaty, MegMeg, Stavros, Gasman and many others.

As for the future direction of UK based demo parties, hopefully this is not the end. A forum to discuss this was tentatively placed in the timetable last night, but got quietly removed when the competitions started to run seriously late. One school of thought is developing the ‘Breakpoint replacement party’ idea first mooted last Easter, but in a modified form and not as the replacement Easter party. If this comes off, then a location at Nottingham was being considered. This would be seriously convenient for this writer, only being an hour away and all.

Ruairi (rc55) - After the party?

Alternatively, rc55 (Ruairi) is taking a break and may well come back with something different of his own to replace Sundown, as he figures that six editions of the same party are enough. Personally I’m pleased that we managed to catch these last two editions after a slow start when we half-planned but never got around to doing anything.

The other major difference this year, was with bringing the female elements in our lives over, and organising a more general holiday around the week before the party itself. This worked without *too* many broken bones and torn limbs (Ouch!)

Anyway, I’m sure we’ll meet again, not sure how, not quite sure when..

CiH – Sept 2010 for Low Res Mag.

Alt Party 2010 Party Report.

February 4, 2011

Space, the final front-ear etc..

Time’s not the problem, it’s money!

Or how to stop hopelessly hemorrhaging my precious and limited supplies of the greeny bluey browny pocket-candy.. Please send any suggestions on a stamped and addressed brick to the Vantaa Airport R-Kioski shoppe..

Why the discontent CiH? Will there be an explanation, oh surely, yes there will!

It’s 17.30, the 22nd October, and another Alt Party opens its doors. There are lots of live performances promised tonight, and apart from the sound of something 8-bit being tortured slowly over an open fire further down the hall, the general ambiance is right now, can we describe it thus, as restful….

Yea I think we can..

Anyway, the story so far.

The journey started off uneventfully enough, a sane o’clock start from the residence of the Felice translating into an uninterrupted journey and timely arrival at Gatwick airport with sufficient spare time to be able to set light to it and run away whilst claiming that someone else did the deed. The compulsory airport-based faff-around period was nicely filled with eating and browsing. I managed to browse both my extensive brunchtime selection and half of Felice’s thick meaty yummy leftover Spanish omelette into my stomach, so there are no complaints about the food from me. A single malt purchase of something amber-coloured and lovely for the afterparty from the World of Whisky premises nicely dealt with my remaining UKP and pence.

The first indication that the day was not going to go 100 percent to plan, comes when an airport employed vocal genius with a gift for making another completely different place name sound like ‘Helsinki’, disturbed our reverie about twenty minutes before the official gate opening time on the Gatwick announcing machine. Duly misinformed, we hied eagerly in the direction of our supposed departure gate, only to find a bunch of people wearing Mediterranean touristy facial expressions and clothing, completely contrasting with our Nordic climatic mode of being. After a little while, the pfennig dropped that we were not at all in the correct location. So cue some slightly panicked dashing back to the main terminal building, to get our re-orientation to the correct gate, and hopefully not miss the damn flight.

Anyway, we found the correct place, fortuitously, halfway back, joining the rear of the Helsinki bound throng. Squeezyjet was variously, busy, on time for departure, and I learned a whole new en-route skillset of being able to doze sitting bolt upright in an aisle seat that did not allow you to do much of anything else. Still, a painless flight, before the monetary pain taking place, once we landed,

Felice had a sensible idea to purchase tourist travel passes before we left the airport and took the airport bus to the city centre. For non-users of Helsinki, these are travel cards that are purchased pre-paid for a specified number of days and locations. In our case, we opted for a dual-zone (Helsinki and the outlying suburb where the airport is) for 36 euros. Felice duly received his and paid for it, I did the same and bundled what appeared to be the travel card enclosed in the instruction booklet. Upon closer examination after we had left the airport and were waiting at the bus stop, this turned out to be just the instruction booklet with no travel card.

Unfortunately, the option of going back to the Kioski branch to point out their error was not available, it being the most inaccessible branch of the whole R-Kioski chain in Finland, nicely screened by several layers of customs and security checks on the airside part of the airport!

So I won’t be able to get back there to register a complaint until the day we go back.

An R-Kioski store, elsewhere in Helsinki..

Subsequent inquiries with another R-Kioski branch at the central station, and the customer service office also located there didn’t really help. Which leaves a last chance to get the missing money back on the day of the return flight, or else putting up the very expensive instruction booklet up for auction on Ebay, with the sad story I’ve just described as a prominent part of the item description.

For accommodation, one of our usual options is travelling abroad exotically and expensively, so there is no stay at chez Wiztom this year. He’s taken Baggio with him. There are no other Dead Hackers, as they are on scene vacation and have no new demo this year. In fact there are very few non-Finnish faces at this early party state. (Well there’s another UK scener, Dotwaffle, a Sundown face, with a promise of Ne7 later on.) The live sound  stage has had mournful Gregorian chants and sad violins checking their vibes before some kind of performance later, so we’re feeling a bit more diminished in mood than usual right now.

Anyway, so come back to accommodation, this year,  not having Wiztom around and with no other suitable options, Felice has booked us into the very convenient and comfortable, but not exactly inexpensive Holiday Inn, nearby to the party place. This has the nice benefit of being able to ditch potential sleeping bag nightmares from our 2010 campaign travails. Also we are hoping to vastly cut down on the pointless unfocused random travelling around town in expensive taxis as well. The second financial error took place at the nicely appointed hotel reception desk, where we found out that we weren’t eligible for the special Alt Party discounted rate, so we’re paying £80-odd euro’s extra than expected for the accommodation as well.

So yeah, nearly 120 EUR down before the party even starts on the first evening, without really trying at all, like falling off a bridge, a tall bridge, falling through icy clouds, tensed up and waiting for that sudden jarring terminal impact. And just for the record, I’m not blaming anyone apart from our mutual misplaced optimism for the latter issue.

Mind you, Dotwaffle ran up a 47 eur(!) taxi bill from the airport to the very same hotel where we are. So it’s not just us that are suffering a “Not so easy to come, easy to go” financial glitch.

Well it’s 18.30 now, that’s a lot off my not inconsiderable chest in one go!

20.30.

We just won one back! We finally bloody won one, yeah!

Shortly after the last batch of text glopped from fingers to keyboard, a text message shouting “FREE FOOD IN THE VIP AREA!” arrived from the direction of Felice. No known measuring instruments were able to properly record the me-shaped blur that followed on from receiving the text, apart from a split second reappearance on state of the art recording equipment near the entrance, when I slowed to turn towards the entrance before resuming warp speed.

I’m still not sure how this happened, but Felice was in the company of heavyweight sceners Sir Garbagetruck and Nosfe. One of the party organisers bade them all come inside the VIP area for a share of the expensively appointed nosh due to spare places being available. Felice passed the good news on from there to me. A momentary issue at the security checkpoint was resolved when Truck waved an organisers pass at them, and I was thusly joining the Alternative Party 2010 Space Dinner. A menu is included below for reasons of reflection and accurate party reporting, not to mention gloating purposes with some suitable foodie comments from me reviewing the different parts of the menu.

Menu  Cosmos

Apertif – Valiformosa Cava Brut.

(Sparkling Spanish Champagne, yum!)

Starter – Gazpacho shot
Salmon ceviche bread
Serrano ham and manchego cheese
Balsamico marinaded mushrooms and olives
Potato Tortilla
Roasted Bell Pepper
Green rucola salad and vinaigrette
Garlic Bread

(The starter was the most substantial part of the meal, it was very easy to fill your plate from the selection there. At first I thought we had been invited in to partake of some of the leftovers, and that this was the one and only course. It only occurred to me that this was not the full meal once the main course was served.)

Main  – Roasted chicken breast with chorizo beanpan and polenta.

(The overall texture was very pureed, apart from the chicken, so much of the meal was a bit like a thick soup. I guess this is the current odd fashion in haute cuisine, but there was nothing wrong with the taste or combination thereof.)

Dessert – Dark chocolate mousse cake with coffee or tea.

(My favourite bit of the whole meal, it was a close thing though, chocolate cake was om-nomtastic! I had left enough room for a second edition of this one.)

A selection of liqueurs, Cognac, (Felice forgot to get his, I got it and had it for him! What a thoughtful guy he is!) amaretto and creame liqueur were also on offer.

Also a selection of red and white wines served during the meal.

So it appears the bottom of that metaphorical long long fall, from the tall bridge mentioned a few paragraphs ago, is lined with delicious food and plenty of drink, to cushion a soft landing after all.

So yes, I’m in a very happy place right now. For the first time since arriving here. At last, Major brownie points fly out to Felice for being in the right place at the right time, and remembering to invite me to the party.

A table-eye view of the VIP banquet which ruled!

We’ve caught up on the following since our well-fed and lubricated return to the main hall. Nerve arriving with an STE, but without his still undelivered Firebee development board. Pity, we were looking forward to having a close-up guided tour of that. Marycloud, the lovely fragrant Marycloud who was pleased to see us. She has a pregnant cat in her household and was on her way back home. Which is pretty much a semi-permanent condition there as I recall.

Oh, and the opening ceremony included the Gregorian chanters and violins combined together with some spacey trancey visuals on the main screen  These sounded a lot less mournful when combined together.

This year’s theme is ‘Space, the forgotten frontier‘. The arts and competitions are all space-age themed, and asking the question, “Why aren’t there massive rotating double-torus space stations in low Earth orbit by the year 2001?” and “Whatever happened to huge menacing big-box computers that threatened to cut off all your life-support half-way to Saturn?” On the other hand, I’m glad they aren’t asking about the unsurprising lack of popularity of food in pill form. Otherwise the VIP dinner we enjoyed earlier would have sucked mightily and been over a lot quicker if they had rigidly stuck to that part of the romantic retro-futuristic script!

Interlude(s) from Felice …..

(“What happened ? – Lainie Diamond, Dream A Little Dream”) – (“I dunno ?” – CiH, Alt Party 2010..)

The meal opportunity was all fair and above board, for a change. Basically I was in the middle of a conversation with Truck & Nosfe, during that Suvi (Beeta – head organiser) approached us and invited all 3 of us to the dinner as there were some free spaces left. I mentioned to Truck about CiH so was able to send the text which sent him towards us at warp speed, towards the VIP dinner area. What can I say about the dinner except – Yum ! 🙂 It was a seriously lovely meal with great wines too. Turns out Nosfe also appreciates good red wine and he was doing that with this one.

Viznut is sitting close to us, he is coding what looks like an entry for the demo compo on the C64. (Erm, Vic 20 actually – Ed.)

Felice over and out for now … may be back soon …..

21,58 – CiH back, mmmkay?

Did I mention chocolate mousse cake earlier? Nom nom nom! OMM NOM NOMM! (I guess I did.)

The party hall has a selection of retro arcade machines as in previous years. This year’s star turn is the original and best Williams Defender. I had a stab at ritual lame score humiliation along with everyone else having a go. It seems to play more sedately than I remember, but on the other hand, there are definitely way too many buttons and I am easier to confuse than back in the olden days.

01.29 – Saturday, and we’ve been a long time away.

After the food related excitement reported earlier, a few new developments have occurred over the last few hours, the live acts have played their stuff, Aavikko provided a Jarresque experience but with some unique twists specific to that artist.

There have been some people awaited who have now turned up, Pahartik, the short fella from Tampere arrived and unfurled himself on a table next to us, apparently unchanged from last year, as if he had been kept in storage from then until now? We also have Sundown attendees and UK sceners Ne7 and Glittermouse who hoved in on a late flight tonight, and they are setting up an exhibit in the arts display area, as fast as they can, speed being limited only by a late arrival and nocturnal bleariness.

Oh I forgot to mention, in accordance with the ‘space’ theme for this year, there is a amateur rocket society exhibiting, with some examples of pointy things that they have launched into the Finnish wild blue yonder. Evil me stops to consider what kinds of warhead and targetting systems you can fit to those babies! Also where they can be pointed. For some reason, an R-Kioski shoppe at Vantaa airport keeps drifting back into my mind (Evil grin!)

Finnish rocket-men show off their wares.

I seem to recall from an earlier conversation that a daytime meeting with Martin of the Q-Funk might be in the offing for tomorrow, erm, later today. It is on record and signed on a legally binding written contract that no wardrobe shifting to other countries is required this year. (See my Alt 2008 report for the full and gory details, whenever that one escapes to a publication somewhere!)

I’ve also been away from this text for another reason. Apart from the above happenings and arrivals, I’ve managed to kick out a completed article for whatever publication is interested, based on the different methods and experiences of sleeping, or not, at demo parties down the ages.

Put that together with this report, and the 90% finished Sundown party report, and I’d better get something on the TalkTalk 2 demo written, then we’re well on the way to sorting some submissions for the next issue of Low Res mag. I seem to remember a suggestion that they try to get an issue out in August, but that only remained a suggestion. Never mind, if I keep things going, then I can act all virtuous and productive the next time a release date is mentioned!

So summing up the first 24 hours of this latest visit. Mixed fortunes it is then, sucky to start with, but with a drastic change of luck later on which goes a long way to cancelling out the sucky part. Plus some nice people turned up who were expected, but seemed to take a while to get here, but they’re here now. Let’s see what the new day brings.

15.52 – A lot lot lot lot later that same day..

There have been not too many new adventures, and the ones that we had were filed under the category of pleasant and easily managed.

The blackout curtains in our hotel room were certainly effective at keeping light away, perhaps too much so, as a 10.30hrs alarm call was disbelieved by our still sleepy brains as the middle of darkness was still going on. Perhaps having Pahartik come back to our hotel room for an hour’s pleasant chat, reflection on the previous day and sharing out of peppermint liqueur didn’t help with the time confusion issue. It was around 04.00 when he returned to the party and we finally hit our comfortable sacks of rest.

Still we’re better off than Ne7, who chose to party-sleep for a bare hour underneath a collapsing art installation. When we found him again this afternoon, he was shaking and drooling. Glittermouse appears to be in much better shape, so probably did something sensible about her sleeping arrangements. I’ve also taken a tour of her art installation, including her trying to trace around something I wrote on being projected onto a screen, in spite of me wobbling, swaying and moving generally with a less than millimetric precision.

We managed to meet with the Q-Funk and his ladyfriend, the same one from last year, which is progress of a considerable sort. We repaired to a Thai restaurant in the nearby Ruoholahti centre and enjoyed a session of lunchtime spicy noodles and such. A slow trip back to the bar around the corner from the party place followed, with more caffeinated refreshments to wrap up. Right now, I’m sitting here and we’re in the period before any competitions properly kick off. Felice having gone back to the hotel to collect his gear and procure some alcohol flavoured liquids for the afterparty tomorrow evening. Finnish Alko booze places tend not to want to be open on Sundays, so a degree of forward planning is necessary.

17.00.

A few random wanderings, and wonderings have grazed in the realtime graphics competition, somewhat flexibly removed from its original timescale. I guess this will set a pattern for the rest, with a start time for the main demo compo at 22.30 being optimistic to say the least.

Also there is a version of episode IV of Star Wars, Star Wars Uncut, which is a version of said famous late 20th century cultural event made up of the short clippings of hundreds of amateur versions of variable quality, but all somehow gelling together to still be able to tell the story. Yes, there is a web link, and an incentive for me to check it out properly when I’m back home.

I also take back my remarks about the Williams arcade cabinet Defender being gentle compared with how I remembered it. It isn’t super speedy for sure, but the difficulty level sure ramps up a lot after the first level. Very few people even manage to get to level 3 before it is all over in a cloud of glittery neon stardust and swarming mutants picking at the carcass of your disembowelled starfighter.

The biggest beast among classic arcade machines, Williams Defender!

I managed it, once, late last night, whilst the expensive muscle relaxants I’d consumed from the VIP dinner were still taking effect.

18.38.

Back.

I forgot to mention something else which happened from yesterday. The hotel is close to the main power station for Helsinki and we heard a continual low growling roar when we emerged into the world yesterday. At first we thought this was a jet flying very low and slowly, but a huge cloud of steam suffusing the air around the power station revealed the real reason for this racket.

We’re still not sure if this was part of their normal operations, or they were venting off steam as something had gone wrong. Still, the Alt party hasn’t been consumed in a massive boiler explosion, so I guess that one went well enough?

The reason for recalling this event, was because Nosfe was in the same locality, and decided to record the event with his mobycam, which then became the wildcompo entry ‘Power Noise'(!)

There have been a series of smaller competitions, nothing really outstanding just yet, and a talk on the origins and evolution of the demoscene from Marq of Fit who has written a thesis about it. He kindly interspersed the talking bits with a few choice demo showings to vary the presentation.

19.21.

Obscure music competition, an idea which was revived from the 2000 Alt Party, where I had an entry. This time, I don’t think the platforms were that obscure, Amiga 500 Protracker and MSX soundchip?

C’mon, that’s just oldschool music and chip music. We made horrible noises on real random crap back in the day. I was using a prototype softsynth for the Atari Falcon, which had a sort of working control panel, random things which you could easily mess up with to require a swift exit and restart, and no means of keeping any patches or sequences that you made on the day, unless you recorded the sound output directly out as you created it. So with that and some comedy samples from Jody Smith, a one-time Maggie contributor and super cool media person clearly destined for greater things, I stitched together a totally obscure track from it. Other people managed to be even more obscure with some completely ‘analogue’ creations for the competition.

So in my view here’s a clue, if you can recognise the computer it’s made on without too much of a memory fart taking place, it’s not really obscure music.

21.27.

We’ve just watched the talk from special guest Casey Pugh, It was he who was behind the Star Wars Uncut production. The great idea is to get hundreds of dedicated Star Wars fans to remake fifteen second segments of the whole movie, the resulting stitch-up being put together to create a wildly varying mish-mash of styles to make a coherent whole.

22.06.

A chat with Glittermouse and her interactive art exhibit took place in the time since the last log entry, also a quick competition using the Nokia QT moby toolkit to make a couple of odd little demos. There are beginner demos to come at 22.30, so we’re just half an hour off the official timetable. The beginner demos are supposed to lower the bar to make life easy for newbies otherwise put off by the harsh elitism and free “constructive” advice given by parts of the mainstream demo scene. I’ve got hopes for this, hopes that the entry bar hasn’t been lowered to Dildo Fatwa levels of achievement mostly!

Artwall in the exhibition area.

INSERT TOKEN TO ACTIVATE FREE COFFEE – FREE COFFEE ACTIVATED, CIH, YOU ARE CLEARED FOR CAFFEINE INTAKE…..

23.16.

Beginner demos had a long and varied selection, some of which might qualify for a celebration of Dildo Fatwa-ness, others might only be told apart from the main competition by being a little bit too oldschool in places or a little rough around the edges. More detailed impressions to follow of a morning when I can get to a keyboard which isn’t shrouded in dark shadows throwing my wobbly touch typing into sharp relief, he said, getting that last bit down almost flawlessly…

The main competitions are to start after a short setting up period, so time to go back to where I was sitting shortly, I have a horrible feeling that they may struggle if there are many oldschool entries, as the projector for the main screen provided proved to be very resistant to taking a video input from an MSX.

00.37 – Sunday

We’ve managed to finish the main competitions in a reasonable time.

There was very little that could be called ‘oldschool’ this year, although Viznut was back to form with his latest Vic 20 piece of 3.5k unexpanded chesswhackery, This provided the typical PWP storytelling element where a lonely chess piece attains self consciousness, works out what E = MC squared is and leads a mad dash to freedom from the restrictive world of the chessboard. I think it might use another more considered ‘cold light of day’ viewing to get all of the story elements down properly.

The organisers sidestepped the whole vexatious ‘trying to connect old hardware to a sulking projector issue’ by running it under emulation. Not that they didn’t have a few problems with screen modes on the way with some of the other entries. There was only one dynamic entry which ticked all the boxes for ambient and noisy, therefore challenging to tired audiences late-viewing entries and trying to keep awake. Thankfully there were far fewer of these in general this time. Farbrausch managed to keep to the ‘space’ theme and returned somewhat to form after the yawn-a-thon they released at Outline earlier this year. There were a couple of promising 4ktros, and a few other nice enough demos, one of which demonstrated various time-worn demo effect classics in several different and often non-scene languages.

I might get around to writing a bit more in the morning, but this seems a good point to stop writing about the competition. In other news, delayed from earlier this evening, Nerve appears to have misplaced his Mac laptop at a venue he went to a lot later the previous evening. Fortunately his non-portable and therefore less able to be placed in drunken peril Atari STe is still here at the party. Which is the really important thing, as we all know.

02.22. – I love symmetrical things!

I’ve spent a fair bit of the time away from this mobile outpost of the CiH writing machine. Time has been spent with Nerve, Setok and a guy who knows Wiztom quite well who put in an Atari 8-bit entry to the beginners demo compo. Also Topy and ze Germansch, Topy taking me on a tour of his EE-PC 700 and talking of things musical and coding. Nerve is definitely awaiting his Firebee most keenly, Hopefully he will be reunited with his laptop soon?

And how are you at this late juncture, CiH? Well I’m fine, considering the lateness of the hour. I’ve mostly stayed off the booze wagon, apart from some bison grass vodka and apple juice that turned up in the camp of ze Germanschzes, so yeah, pretty good thanks. At some point, the words, ‘hotel’, ‘room’, and ‘bed’ will start to feature in conversations, but not just yet?

Ah, Felice just mentioned the subject, hopefully just enough time for one more attempt at Defender. Current high score around level 3, or the 16,000 mark, but not enough to get on the high score table yet.

02.41.

We might be going back soon. Felice is powering off, and it is generally very calm around the main hall.

Still stuck on level 3 of Defender, even with the help of some apple juice flavoured special space juice. To be honest, I wasn’t really in control of that last game, just scrambling for bare survival. Anyway. See you later in the morning.

11.37.

Returned..

News? Not too much at this point, some relaxing background music, a lot of small people with their parents as this is the ‘family day’. There will be an afterparty sauna later on. In hypochondria news, the mild cold that I brought out with me is still uncertain as to which way it will go. We’re feeling slightly worse for wear about the back of the nasal passages this morning, so just a question of waiting it out.

There was a minor glitch on our return to the Holiday Inn earlier this morning, as the key-card room passes had decided to expire two days before our booking did. Issue was soon sorted out at reception though.

15.04.

Now for the closing and prize giving ceremony. Viznut was the expected and confirmed winner of the main demo competition, even beating off the epic Farbrausch production. The ‘Babel’ production managed to beat them into third place as well.

Topy (second left) with Outline shirt at the prize giving ceremony.

Afterparty details have been confirmed, so time to pack up and pick up on this in a non realtime sense later.

A non-realtime part, somewhat later on..

As with previous editions of Alt, the end descends rapidly on the party once the prize ceremony is over like a big black shadowy cloak of dodgy metaphor. Anticipating this, we have repatriated our laptops back to the hotel and collected our afterparty sauna attending gear. Well in my case it took two attempts once I remembered to pick up the whisky which had stubbornly stuck itself to the hotel bedroom the first time round.

This year, the afterparty is located fairly close to the old cable factory, about a ten minute walk away, even less when going back to our hotel, which was very handy later on. In the meantime, whilst carrying out a final check around our desk area, we end up ‘winning’ another free prize. This one being an extra Alt Party 2010 official t-shirt, which someone had purchased and left under the table. An enquiry with the info desk reveals confused faces and a negative report of loss, so I claim the missing shirt for myself.

At the time of writing, I’m hoping to locate some images of this year’s shirts. These depict the party logo, plus a picture of a planet and astrological information about that planet. Of course there are different planets, according to the size and gender of the wearer. Female shirts are Venus, naturally, I’ve got the largest one possible, Jupiter, and the spare under-desk foundling, is the next size down, the hilariously named ‘Uranus’. Which fitted nicely enough, thanks for asking.

The weather, after being relatively benign, especially compared with last year’s attempted drowning by cloud, has decided to turn damp. Rainwear has been retrieved, which was helpful later on. A smallish group of us are collected by Sir Garbagetruck and walked to the afterparty sauna location, which turns out to be a couple of blocks down from the Ruoholahti centre.

We arrive at an office block, this has a sauna on the top (9th) floor. After considering the best way for heavy duty and heavyweight sceners to make use of the limited lift, we are shuttled upstairs to a smart corporate locale. This strongly reminds me of the business class sauna that we enjoyed at the second Alt Party in 2000. There is a medium sized electric sauna which can seat ten or so people in one go, no wood-burner this time around. However, this time the organisation and catering easily overcomes any element of missing rustic authenticity.

There are generous amounts of beer, with more arriving all the time, Felice and I add our supplies to the mix. There is also, very welcome at this time, an ample sufficiency of food, as someone has carried out a subway visit and cleared out their remaining stocks of vari-flavoured sandwiches, not to mention the mountain of wonderfully exotically Finnish-branded junk food that also came along. Much of which had not been consumed by the end of the party.

More people arrive as time goes on. Mr Setok himself turns up with a welcome donation of cider. He’s only around for a short time, as he has got to get himself ready for the first round of his ‘Travelling Salesman’ fifty-day trip. This is a northern and nordic round trip, meeting and evangelizing with nothing more than a Landrover Defender. There is a link http://travellingsalesman.mobi/ which tells a lot more about this story, as we’re concentrating on telling the Alt Party 2010 history in this article.

By the time the sauna is in action and people are heading there in various states of undress, Nerve has reappeared with some good news. His missing laptop has been found and recovered, so the smiling Norwegian is properly happy and not having to put a brave face on a shitluck situation. We find out some other things in conversation (from the Sunday morning before we went to bed actually, I just remembered it now), Certain demo-ish activities are still going on with higher end Atari’s being targeted. These are properly awaiting the arrival of a brand new piece of kit mentioned earlier in this article so these can be included along with the more familiar CT-series. We will just have to keep on being patient.

Other memorable sauna guests include Nosfe, who was helpful with the whisky consumption, Topy and Ze other Germans, and an English guy whose name I don’t remember, who was connected with the party but had been living and working out in Helsinki for some time. He compared his situation out there favourably with the likely conditions to work in the UK. Pahartik had also come down with us to make sure he did not miss out on the sauna this time. There were a selection of assorted females who may have been girlfriends of people who also came into the sauna with us, which was nice.

There was one American (Brooklyn) girl in Finland called Alli who had also rocked up, and was holding a conversation with about half the people in the lounge area about her adventures since she got here. Other bodies were entering and leaving the sauna, and a few brave nicotine-enthralled souls even ventured onto the open, rain-lashed top balcony.

Sauna quote – “The only thing that the Finns are afraid of, is the alcohol running out at the sauna.”

"This season, I have been mostly drinking Balvenie!"

Certainly there was plenty of drink to lubricate the occasion, Felice had purchased a 2 litre cardboard container of wine. Much of this, and probably some white wine which also sneaked into the party had stuck to him. By the time the official after-party was winding towards a conclusion, and preliminary plans laid for an after-after-party, Felice was barely able to string two words together, and was also generating considerable sideways motion when he stood up.

Eventually, barely formed words and phrases tumbled out that he was interested in going on with the after-after-party hardcore. This final event was in the hands of Sir GarbageTruck. Confidence in any further adventure dropped away sharply with Truck’s suggestion that “You can get on the cross-town tram without paying, no-one’s looking at this time of night.” I declined to go on with the rest of the merry band, and as Felice was already in a semi-liquid state and could not be easily poured as it was, let alone a few hours later, I declined for him too. We walked back to the Holiday Inn, head down into the wild and driving rain.

We got back without mishap, Felice then proved that he had definitely had enough that evening by promptly falling asleep where he had crashed down on his bed. Which seemed to be a satisfactory point to close the narrative for Sunday.

Monday started very slowly.

Today we have to leave our hotel, the moment of reckoning being around 12.00hrs, which we are determined to wait until the last possible moment. Our departure from Finnish soil is not until some time later in the evening, so we have rather a lot of time to kill as it is.

Some people, after their exertions from the previous night, aren’t in any great hurry to leave anyway (hem!) A slow round of cleaning up, packing and final checking follows. We leave it until shortly before the room reverts back to the Holiday Inn’s control before finally dragging our bags out into the lobby. Pleasant receptionist takes payment for room, I manage to perfectly control any monetary anguish related spasms, at least until we’re out of the hotel and out of sight.

One final service which the Holiday Inn renders for us, is the provision of a left luggage area where we can leave our bags for a few hours and take an unencumbered wander into Helsinki centre.

So we do.

The Helsinki for people waiting to go home edition. As lunchtime was leaning hard on our list of things to do, one pre-planned event came to pass, namely that we met Martin Eric R. once more. He was at work, but on a generous or flexible lunch hour. We took ourselves off to an eating place made famous in previous Alt Party reports. This was the Indian restaurant combined with an opticians premises. Only the Indian restaurant part of it seems to have grown and enveloped the opticians, winning that small battle for retail dominance. The proprietor is a very happy man, and so he should be.

A boozy night really needs a curry at the end of it, and this was the case here, even if a night’s sleep had got in between the drinking and the eating. The food was excellent, and provided very quickly, living up to the ‘express’ part of their name, the Indian Express. A leisurely coffee at a smart coffee house a little further on concludes our gathering. Q-Funk returns to his workplace and we are left to kill the remaining hours until we have to leave.

A long interval for some retail therapy for people with no money follows. Exploring the central department store Stockmanns and a few other surrounding premises nicely mops up the time. I blanch at the prices being charged in the Apple store there, and conclude that customs and excise coming home won’t have any issues with duty-dodging electronic goods purchased from this part of the world!

The afternoon wears out, and just as we are at the tipping point of finding activities just for the sake of displacing unwanted time, we head back to the Holiday Inn to reunite with bags and to commence the long journey home.

The number 615 is waiting and manages to leave with us on board in a timely fashion. The journey back to the airport is straightforward. However we are a little bit early and have the sheer enjoyment of a timeless end at Vantaa airport.

Time passes in that fingernail-dragging manner which it likes to do. Eventually the checkout desk is opened, and clever online bookers like ourselves go into the smaller queue for the quick version and a bag drop, handily missing the big queue which only appears to have one check-in desk person attending it. There is a small issue at security as Felice forgot to unpack a batch of screwdrivers from his big pack before coming to Alt. Amazingly this was not picked up by the otherwise super-strict Gatwick security, but they were found and removed by their Vantaa counterparts.

The screwdrivers in question exceeded a permissible maximum length and were judged reasonable stabbing prospects by the security man. Therefore they weren’t allowed to go on in the hand luggage. Offered a choice of binning them, or getting then added to the main baggage, Felice wisely chose to bin them. He remembered the mighty struggle to get the case closed and zipped in the first place, therefore the possibility that it might decompress with explosive force if carelessly opened by the airport staff!

Once we were finally through, there was the final remaining niggle from the start of the trip, namely the expensively provided instruction booklet for the travel card with no ticket which you will recall being told earlier in this account. We approached the Kioski in question and carefully explained the sad story. To their credit, they listened and offered either a replacement card (no good now) or a refund for the 36 EUR which was gladly accepted! So a thumbs up at the end to the R-Kioski chain for first class customer service.

A final meal of weird Mexican burger (does putting nachos inside it constitute nothing more than a posh latino crisp sandwich?) and troll around the diverse and mostly closed attractions of Helsinki airport shopping, and we were on the way,

Home..

Gatwick, ho-hum. No hassles getting out and back on the road to Felice’s place in Cambridge. As our eventual arrival was at 01.30 adjusted for UK time, and I had cunningly booked an extra day off, I stopped overnight and made my leisurely way home the next morning.

And that was the end of that one.

Conclusions..

Just a small number of things to wind up this report about the 2010 Alternative party.

This was the first Alt Party without the direct involvement of Setok. He was in an executive producing position but not directly involved in day-to-day running as he is occupied elsewhere.

Personally, I experienced some variable fortunes, not so good to start, but with other things going better, and even the not so good stuff put right in the end. One fun new experience included the VIP meal on the opening night.

There were several familiar faces, we spotted Nerve, Pahartik, a number of UK sceners who we got to know better at the Sundown Party, such as Glittermouse, Ne7 and Dotwaffle, we came across Martin of Q-Funk in an out of party sense. Also other familiar figures such as Nosfe and Sir GarbageTruck were prominent too.

But some people were missing too. There was no Dead Hackers presence. They did not have a demo to bring this time, which is fair enough. We also saw nothing of Baggio and Wiztom, who are engaged on global adventures, and they are normally an established presence. Wiztom may even get around to finishing and releasing something one of these years?

The competitions were of a good standard and were running efficiently with little delay. This is even taking into account some awkward projector interactions with competition hardware. There was a fairly low oldschool presence, confirming a sadly downward trend, although Viznut managed to win the main demo competition.

The live acts were good, no better or worse than other recent parties. There was a lot less smoke machine, which was a definite improvement. The special guest Casey Pugh was enjoyable but a little bit more lightweight than some we’ve had in previous years. Front 242 in 2008 and Sophie Wilson/Jeri Ellsworth the following year were hard to beat.

The Ruoholahti Holiday Inn hotel was a new experience for us. It was not a cheap option and we missed out on the Alt party website booking discount. On the other hand, it ticked both boxes for comfortable and convenient. We also managed to cut down on the excess travelling which has been a feature of recent parties. The loss and refund of the 5 day travel ticket worked to my benefit in the end, as I only paid for the travelling I actually did.

So yes, we enjoyed the 2010 edition of the Alternative Party. We will just have to think carefully how to go about things for next year.

CiH for Low Res Mag, Oct/Nov 2010.

Outline 2010 Invitro by Checkpoint.

February 4, 2011

Picture by Havoc / Linout

 

One of our favourite pre-party traditions has been kept up in advance of the Outline 2010 edition [1] . Namely the more or less kick-arse party invitation expressed in demo coded form. We’ve had some memorable entries from people as diverse as Ephidrena, Lineout, Limp Ninja, tSCc, a nice ‘060 based one from Dead Hackers Society, and even an Atari VCS invite produced last year by Trilobit. Now it is the turn of top-notch code-botherers, Checkpoint, to take the pole position for this year [2] [3].

So with an air of barely suppressed excitement, I click to run the intro. The comments are already promising a brain-blaster. But I calm down by recalling that I’m about to watch an invitro, where any awesome factor is ultimately constrained by crow-barring in a load of party info text at the end. Will this be the case today?

We skip off to a stylish start, a singing muso-text kicks off. Apart from the pain and other stuff, we are left in no doubt we will have “100 percent reason to remember the name!”

We go all wobbly and oldschool, as if we’re at the start of a Lost Boys demo, with the opening growl of a Mad Max tune. In other words, a dark screen with a classic onrushing star-field, glimpsed in parts.

This is just to keep the senses occupied whilst the title is being built. This starts slowly with a series of flat single bitplane blobs a-merging. The iconic title screen slowly materializes out from this.

Nice effects

 

The title picture is nicely done, arresting, leaving you in no doubt which party this is shouting for. The regal Outline logo takes the centre of the screen, and it looks like one of our favourite party organisers is facing a mirror image of himself!

We do have some proper music by now, and this is nicely spiked up at regular intervals by the vocal intervention of another of our favourite party organisers, who also leaves us in no doubt about the identity of the party we are being asked to visit.

The informative remit bubbles up at this point with sparse and to the point infoscreen. This is done in the form of text scrolling from left and right.

There are some more effects, as Defjam shows off some more metablobs. These are multilayered, an effect in itself rather than helping to reveal something else.

More effects

 

The credits are next. We find out the following had something to do with the demo.

Defjam – Code (of course!)
Havoc – Graphics, good with faces as always.
Excellence in Art – Music, a rather nice tune actually.
Okkie for the sampled voice.

The brainblaster is fast approaching, with a batch of group greetings. It’s not just basic text, but text wrapped and blurred in a feedback melt-o-vision style effect, with some kind of light sourcing going on as well. This is where the intro is getting its brain-blasting reputation from. It isn’t the prettiest effect, opting for a moody grey colour scheme, but it sure gets the job done.

The greetings

Before we get too excited, we are finally reminded that this is an invitro after all, as the last part in the form of a crisp smart text reader, with the Outline logo in the background, appears. You read the party facts, as if you did not remember them from last year, and something similar for the year before.

The invitation

 

So is it a brain-blaster? Well maybe. It has a nice atmosphere, there are a couple of stunning bits in there, but at heart it is ultimately still an invitro. An appetite-whetter looking forward to some cool new Atari stuff at Outline 2010.


Links:

 

  1. Outline party
  2. Outline invitro at pouet
  3. Outline invitro video

Movie porting for Aniplayer supplemental.

February 4, 2011

Additional notes on Beetle’s Tutorial for Aniplayer video encoding.

Ho there eagerly awaiting Low Res fans, it’s time for some more article reading related fun with some educational tips thrown in. In my token nod to the latter part of our mission, here’s some of my observations made after I followed Beetle’s excellent tutorial from last issue. As you may recall he was sharing his hard-won secrets about converting movie files to allow them to play without stuttering or stopping on Didier Mequignon’s Aniplayer program.

Beetle’s tutorial was written mostly for the benefit of those of us using very high-end Falcons, with some fairly specific tips about getting the best trade-off between the original movie and an end-product which would still have a reasonable quality and play back comfortably on the CT60 family.

Now I didn’t follow the exactly specified steps with his suggested example movie file. Instead for my first attempt, I broke from the tutorial in two important respects.

Firstly, the choice of film, as I decided to make the first attempt from one of my own ill-advised ‘home movies’. In this case it was the compilation of my bits recorded from the Sundown 2010 demo party. A report for which is elsewhere in this issue.

Secondly, I decided to try converting for a different level of Atari hardware.   At the end of his article, Beetle threw in some useful suggestions about converting a movie file to play on a standard unexpanded Falcon. I opted for something in between the CT60 and the bog standard machine, namely the Centurbo 2 (CT2) accelerated Falcon.

The CT2 series, just to remind you, adds a 50 Mhz 68030 CPU, up to 64 MB Fast RAM, with DSP  clocked from 32 to 50 Mhz and bus speed boosted from 16 to 25 Mhz offering an option for enhanced truecolor resolution. So it has sheer processor grunt somewhat better than the baseline machine but still quite low compared to the CT60 and it also has enhanced data bus speed. I opted for an in-between size to go with the in-between hardware, converting my original 640 x 480 resolution source file to something more suitable for my choice of target hardware.

Here are some notes about the movie file which was created from following Beetle’s tutorial. Much of this information  being taken from Aniplayer itself of course 🙂

On-Screen Size 240 x 180 pixels (actually 240 x 176)
Played at 16 frames per second, frame skip enabled on Aniplayer
Key frame interval = 0
Number of frames – 9575
File size – 98825858 KB
Length of movie playback – 6 minutes, 23 seconds
Audio 16 bit mono at 16390 Hz with APCM compression

The movie played back pretty faithfully in the recommended non-GEM windowed mode with no noticeable time lag and only the occasional hint of slowdown on the audio. The windowed mode was a slightly different story with an increased playback time at 9 minutes and 58 seconds. This is quite a difference from 6 minutes 23 seconds. I didn’t really notice any major video slowdown but the audio slowed noticeably when onscreen traffic was busy and started to distort very slightly.

The intensity of CPU usage varied when running the sample movie in windowed mode. This went from 25 percent as a base, settling around the middle between 66 and 83 percent, but sometimes going up to 91 or 100 percent. And before you ask, of course the DSP was enabled! So it is possible to run this type of file windowed on a CT2 machine but still better to play back in non-GEM mode.

In non-GEM mode, the 240 x 176 resolution offered a reasonable quality playback, a little bit compromised with some degradation of video quality, but not fatally so. In fact I think that added to the overall charm when combined with what is properly a retro platform. The onscreen viewing window for non-GEM display was a reasonable size, with subtitling still legible. This confirms to me that the 240 x 180 size is an acceptable compromise for CT2 and similar specified Falcons.

Other observations and points of interest.

The size of the movie file is hefty. In this case it works out at around 12-15 megabytes per minute of onscreen footage. There is no reduction over the file size of the source material in spite of the big screen resolution drop. This suggests that a less fierce compression method is being used to give Aniplayer a fighting change of depacking it with limited CPU power. (Limited when compared with a modern machine of course.) Can someone who knows what they are talking about confirm this?

Never mind, one thing that has got abundant and cheap these days is bulk storage.

The created movie file tended to crash fatally on the Windows version of the Videolan VLC player. This really killed that program, freezing or locking up completely and needing to delve into the program manager to unblock the application. This made me very nervous in case I’d somehow missed something important from the tutorial and I’d just created a ruined and useless file. The Mac version of VLC was alright with it though, and more importantly, Aniplayer was completely happy with it!

* Further note. This issue went away once I upgraded my older version of VLC player.

I decided to go that extra unnecessary step and see how this movie managed on a 16 mhz Falcon. Beetle recommended a video mode of 160 x 80 with audio set at 16390 Hz when porting movies for the baseline machine. Well I would charitably say that a valiant attempt was made by Aniplayer. The soundtrack and video playback could be described as ‘languorous’ or on opiates, but we got there in the end, at about 10 minutes and 24 seconds. But it didn’t drop anything, played back completely and still performed a lot better than an unconverted movie would have on a CT60.

* Further note – I’m finding out new things all the time here. I converted an ultra widescreen movie trailer for Deathly Hallows to a somewhat letterboxed 240 x 80 pixel format, audio as before, and this played back just fine with no slowdown on a 16 mhz Falcon. Which is as far as you can push that one, I guess?

Hey, now we’re here and going wildly out of context, let’s see how it did on Aranym. My version of Aranym is for a Power PC Mac. That is without the super turbo native processor mode to fudge the speed issue. This offers a semi-realistic 68040 environment to play with.

I say semi-realistic as it demanded between 50 and 66 percent of the CPU. You can tell this is still a work in progress as sound quality via the emulated DSP was severely compromised. It was both slower with a fair bit of distortion and forced high pitch as if force fed helium. So I don’t fancy that one again, thanks very much.

*Further further observations, made some time later*

Thus suitably equipped, I tried my movie porting magic on a number of other short films close to my heart. I’m gratified to say that results there were generally fine but with one or two caveats.

1. When I converted the ‘Outline 2009 from above’ movie, I seemed to get reasonable video playback but very slow sound. This may have been down to me playing around with the sound settings, so I’m inclined to blame that one on user inattention.

2. A couple of movies suffered from noticeable artifacting or black speckles on screen after dropping down to a lower resolution. These were taken from a low quality source though, so this just might be a case of choosing your subject matter carefully, or going through with it anyway and to hell with the consequences.

Final words.

I hope this article adds some extra value to the already excellent work done by Beetle for the previous issue of Low Res Mag. The tutorial proved to be easy to adapt according to taste and hardware levels. I’m certainly going to go through my collection to see what else can be ported. Not to mention I might get around to doing some specifically for CT60 as well soon 🙂

CiH for Low Res Mag, Nov/Dec 2010.

Silly Venture 2k10 Invitro

February 4, 2011

“A return to the magic world of pacman!”

Almost without warning last autumn, a long term Atari scene veteran from parts east, namely Grey of the Mystic Bytes pronounces that there should be another edition of the Sillyventure party in Gdansk, Poland.

The original event at Easter 2000 left a prolonged warm afterglow of affectionate memory. Quite apart from the party itself, there was the extremely evocative road-trip which took place and the post-party hospitality which was greatly enjoyed. We really felt that our stay was over far too quickly.

Unfortunately for now the announcement comes at the wrong time, a little too late for some of us. I’ve already blown my party-going budget for 2010 with three events, two of which required extra payments for hotel accommodation. Additionally, Felice is embarking on a post-Xmas round of travelling, namely a revisit to his honeymoon scene of the crime from 2007 in California, so his options for this one are limited to none as well.

Still, let us tunnel out from this paragraph of regret, as there were a couple of nice little invitro’s released. One for the Atari 800/XL series, and this one for the ST series.

This invitro needs nothing more than a plain ST to run it. It is a fairly short production in the manner of most invitro’s, but manages to pack a fair bit in.

A gorgeous handpainted sixteen colour title screen from Piesiu starts proceedings. This is really a nice piece of work from that rarest of species, the Atari graphist. Best use of the limited colours has been made to depict an evening seaside scene. You can see it here.

The title picture

This is not his only appearance in this intro, I’ll be sure to tell and show you the rest at the appropriate times. Anyway, his presence really adds value to this production.

Time for some code, with a kind of semi-transparent cross-fade or overlaying effect with a smartly recoloured digitized picture fading in and out. This effect is re-used, with variations elsewhere.

Cross fading thing in red..

Piesiu gets a further picture with shades of orange and red heavily emphasized, ‘Firehand’. The screengab below conveys more than mere words can.

"Firehand"

More smart retouched work follows soon after another repetition of the cross-fade mentioned earlier. Here this is, just to make sure the viewer is aware of the exact nature of this beast. Klocek is the member who was responsible for the ‘photo-art’ elements of this intro.

A party with a retro theme?

The third stroke of neat work in Piesiu’s mini-gallery is up next. This is ‘Classics’, and correctly points to a retro-party, but misleadingly to a gaming theme. Still, I hope we see much more of this relatively new artist in future productions.

"Classic", but I don't see any classic demos here?

Here is another iteration of the cross-fade overlaying effect I struggled to describe earlier. This one displays on a bigger screen area and features more smart converted photo based work.

Not sure what it is, but it sure looks pretty!

A boost to the coding side of things next, what appears to be graffiti textures scrolling up a concrete wall, and in a sort of 3d-ish manner as well. Taken in conjunction with the tune, which sounds to my ears, a little bit POKEY-ish in places, this intro feels like how the Polish Atari scene might like to do an Atari 8-bit demo on the ST.

"My graffiti is scrolling off up the wall?!"

Winding down to the end, and the makers of this invitro belatedly realise that the ‘invite’ remit of the intro still remains largely unfulfilled. The majority of invitro’s at this point default to a text displayer of varying degrees of dullness, with the entire party information which you’ve generally already read about. Here, they solve the problem with another effect in the top half, a folding torus thing, with some text announcing a date and website URL in the bottom half. Job nicely done!

"My torus is feeling a tad unwell but is putting a brave face on it."

All too soon, its over, with a final screen usefully displaying some creator credits. Namely the concept by Grey, music by Yerzmyey, graphics by Piesiu, with the code by Klocek.

The music is a tingly buzzy lively work from Yerzmyey. There were some concerns about this being a re-used Speccy 128 tune, but I think it fitted the intro perfectly well.

Anyway, a fine invitro for a party which I didn’t get to, but looked like they had a blast, and some nice productions were released.

CiH for Low Res Mag, December 2010.

Appendix

February 4, 2011

By DHS for the Atari STe

This demo was described as a compofiller for the Sommarhack 2010 party. It was the last in a distinguished line of Atari STe demos going back to the release of ‘More or Less Zero’ at the 2008 Alternative party. This demo was intended to announce the end of a higher activity period for the Dead Hackers, who were taking a well-deserved break for the rest of 2010.

In some respects, this demo might be seen as a sweeping-up of so far unused routines, or else trying out one or two things which weren’t quite ready. However, I would consider that there is enough here to make it a worthwhile standalone production, even with its buggy party release flaws intact.

At the very beginning, the music starts. This tune is from 505, who’s appearance in most contemporary Atari demos is almost as ubiquitous as Mad Max was, back in the olden days.

The first effect to get things going as it were, consists of some kind of blobby bloody plasma background. There is a mad whorl of dots in front of it. There are many dots forming what looks like an amazingly complex knot.

Dots and dots!

We have to know who was responsible for this, so there are creator credits drawn in a bold blue font, that turns into a swift and decisive melt-o-vision swirl to banish themselves offscreen.

Proteque is halfway through transforming?

The next part is intriguing. This feels a bit like a not-quite realised beta version of something? It looks like the top part or crown of a globe with a 3d fractal thick vector line landscape rotating with it. Looking at the relatively slow framerate, this one is definitely realtime and pushing the STe hard. It seems to sit outside of the mood of the rest of the demo, which is a super smooth oldschool effects fest.

On top of the world ma!

A return to normal service follows, with a 4 pixel RGB plasma, in a very full screen, three is just a bit of side border left.

Plasma fun

At first glimpse, this next screen looks a lot like a screen from the Sommarhack invitro. It has a piece of ‘design’ graphic to the right and what appeared to be a plasma effect midscreen. When running for a bit longer, the the ‘plasma’ is revealed to be a rotated and zoomed bitmap. So a nice variation on an old Sanity favourite.

Rotate and zoom has its eye on you!

The not completely debugged grand finale is a screen which would have pride of place in a demo from 1990 or therabouts. In the background is a Lost Boys-tastic chessboard scroller. This is fullscreen, very fullscreen. There is a little bit of glitching from time to time, which they may fix, one day. In the foreground, no, right in your face is a huge goldbrick font scrolltext screaming across the screen from right to left.

The chunkiest scroller since god was a carebear?

When the text ends, then that is more or less it.

Creator credits are, Code by Gizmo and Evil, Music by 505, and graphical input from Proteque, who is proving his worth more, day by day.

Overall, this is another nice intro, a worthy Dead Hackers production, even if it felt a little truncated and over too quickly. I hope a version 1.1 does see the day to tidy up the loose ends, but I won’t be too upset, or surprised if it does not.

CiH, for Low Res Mag, December 2010.

Coast II Coast

February 4, 2011
 ____                _     ___ ___    ____                _
/ ___|___   __ _ ___| |_  |_ _|_ _|  / ___|___   __ _ ___| |_
| |   / _ \ / _` / __| __|  | | | |  | |   / _ \ / _` / __| __|
| |__| (_) | (_| \__ \ |_   | | | |  | |__| (_) | (_| \__ \ |_
\____\___/ \__,_|___/\__| |___|___|  \____\___/ \__,_|___/\__|

–= by Sector One =–

This two handed effort by Zerkman and Dma-Sc was one of the pleasant surprises from the Sillyventure party.

This production is a 4ktro which manages to pack in quite a bit into its limited size. It can run on any ST, but needs at least 2 MB to be able to run.

A long time loading and decrunching is indicated by a progress bar at the beginning. This is not really an issue, as you will see. A tune starts up. A decent soundchip tune. You have to keep reminding yourself that this is “only” a 4k demo. A thought which will come back several times during the course of watching it.

The intro abruptly springs into life with a fractal background, topped with a smoothly rippling dot plasma in the colours of a Polish flag. The other major achievement here is a complete border-kill. That’s right, it’s in fullscreen mode. A major achievement to get this working on different members of the ST family, let alone with only 4k to play with.

Intro with Polish flag

The second part reminds me of a lot of screens that were made in the early nineties when fast fractal drawing was popular. For some reason, Sector One are channelling the Black Monolith Team in a Delta Force demo with this screen. The top and bottom borders are killed here. The screengrab below shows the fractals in mid-change. Fractals shown in this way are very oldschool, some might think a little bit too old, but I daresay there was a lot of work put into a super-optimised fractal engine to fit in the 4ktro, so major kudos and respect to the coders flies from this keyboard.

Fractals caught in mid-swap

We drop back to a repetition of the first part, with one important change. The rippling dots have changed from Polish to French colours. This adds up to an impressive intro, as we keep telling ourselves, this is only a 4k demo.

Outro with French flag

In conclusion, a pocket-sized marvel that could fit into a mouse’s pocket quite easily

CiH, for Low Res Mag, December 2010.

Sventure by Paradox

February 4, 2011

Sometimes known as ‘Pozdrawiena do Gdanska’

The Sillyventure 2010 party produced a number of pleasant surprises. This little intro from Paradox was among them.

‘Sventure’ is a fairly small but nicely executed work. A functional but smart title screen appears, and a pleasant melodic Maxymiser hybrid soundtrack from 505 starts.

The title screen

We are taken through a series of creator credits quickly, without fuss to let the demo get on with stuff quickly. The full version from the info file goes something like this.

Soundtrack:                                   505
Replay and maxYMum support:     gwEm
Graphics:                                       Dan
Graphics support:                          Zweckform
Font:                                              Dan (based on Cosmic Jam demo)
R/G TrueColour Algorithm:           RA (who also coded the converter)
Code:                                             The Paranoid

This next part has a screen capture which is not completely effective in capturing what happened next. A giant star appears, and an Exocet styled rabbit draws in over the top of it. The completely green capture does not show that the rabbit is interlaced (flickering slightly) and displaying a better colour range than just the shades of green you get here.

It's a Wabbit!

From there, we’re onto the main effect of the demo. This has echoes of part of a screen in the 20 Years Atari STE Megademo known as ‘Cubes, Ribbons and 3D Flybys’. We are talking specifically of the Gouraud cubes processing through the screen with a backdrop of Exocet’s bunny.

Attack of the cubes

There are two more variations on this effect to take you to the end of the demo. A nice little ‘extra’ is that the screen sometimes bounces around with a particularly strong drumbeat.

Dutch colours at a Polish party!

The last part has a timeless message which we’re strongly inclined to agree with.

Yes indeed!

Then it is all over rather too quickly. This feels a bit like a partyfiller, but a decent quality one. As a lifesign from Paradox, it is encouraging and we hope to see something more substantial in the future. (Subject to nappy-soiling ‘real life pressures’ on a certain group member perhaps!)

Some might say that there was a certain amount of recycling going on, making this a very ‘ecological’ demo. However, it is giving a second look at a nice effect we enjoyed a lot the first time around in the STe 20th Anniversary demo so I’ve no objection to seeing the goraud cubes again.

CiH, for Low Res Mag, December 2010.

Visualize by Checkpoint

February 4, 2011

A Tale of Twelve Screengrabs.

Checkpoint released a very untypical (for them) production at the recent Sillyventure 2010 party in Gdansk. Rather than opt for the usual approach of Defjam coding the kitchen sink to death and throwing it all into a mega-epic mega-sized megademo, he’s gone for a tightly synched and tightly designed production based around a smallish number of core effects subordinated to the overall style.

He’s also gone for a less colourful grungier style, possibly an Atari take on the controversial ‘marmite-style’ love or hate noise demo often seen on the Peecee. To be fair, there was a favourable effect to noise ratio in here, but there were other visual issues raised in the eyes of some people who cried “Please make the red flashing screen stop!” On the audio front, 505 provides a suitably dirty soundchip track. The demo as a whole only requires a 1 MB bog-standard STFM to run with.

I’ve decided on a slightly different approach to reviewing this one, to avoid a dull and derivative run-through. (“Never stopped you before CiH, why be different now?” – SHUT UP! Damn traitorous voices in my head!)

As the subtitle suggests, I’m going to look at some screengrabs, taken at different points in the demo, with a commentary on each of those.

First bite..

Crazy scroller, runs on bare metal and 68000 code!

We are first exposed to probably the craziest, maddest, twisting and turning sineous scrolltext. With shady blurring, and zooming from the background to the point of popping out of the front of your screen in three dimensions! The static screengrab simply cannot convey how slickly this one flows.

Second chomp..

Solid cube tries to upstage the rest of the screen.

A coarse and chunky background does some shifting around and transforming of its own before the cube joins in. This capture was at the moment when the cube was caught looking its best.

Third taste..

It's a lock, symbolic of something..

A series of single plane images, taken in conjunction with the flashing screen, you felt like yelling “Aciiiied!” like it was 1989 all over again.

Fourth lick..

Contrary to what this image is suggesting, this demo is NOT pants!

Another one in the series described above. I’m not sure of the theme in this case, maybe Defjam felt he needed some safety pants at this point of coding the demo?

Fifth feast..

Plasma raster plasma thing!

It’s a plasma, or rasters, or ermm dammit, I dunno! I’d vote for plasma rasters. This screengrab, like many others, fails to convey the sheer mobility of this effect.

Sixth Swallow..

Seriously, how was this one done?

I found myself staring at the margins of this effect rather than the middle somewhat overmuch. I was screwing my eyes up trying to believe what I was seeing. Is Defjam channelling a Dildo Fatwa screen, but more effectively. Is that really some kind of ascii noise jam he’s just pulled off? It fades, it blurs, it uses parts of the Atari ST character set?!

Seventh gobble..

If you see anything like this coming for you in real life, run!

Okay, I think these are rasters, with noise. It looks like he’s still doing perverted things with the Atari ST character set to get an untuned telly static noise from it? Could you make something like a Peecee textmode demo from the humble ST?

Eighth eating..

An explanation, is needed!

Ah, that explains the ‘why’ part at least. I hope Defjam feels like spilling the beans on the ‘how’ sometime?

Ninth nibble..

Consider yourself greeted!

A welcome return to the wild scroller seen in the first part. These are the greets.This screengrab is a perfect capture of the effect in mid-flight. If you look closely, there appears to be stippling of the lettering of the sort which you might see in a more avant-garde ZX Spectrum production.

Tenth chewing..

Don't go towards the light... Too late!

It’s a coarsely drawn texture tunnel, with light beams forming the ribs or structure of the tunnel. What you don’t get to see unless you run the demo is a camera position that is completely mobile in three dimensions. It is very smooth too.

Eleventh ingestion..

Tunnel wall unity starting to break apart.

At the point where the tunnel structure is starting to change to light-blobs. At this point of the demo it is still indecisive and changing back and forth. “Light-blobs? No, tunnel!”

Twelfth and final course..

A scattering of light to finish with..

A selection of light-blobs after the final transformation from tunnel-based love and mayhem.

And did I mention that this demo loops, so you can leave it on as a shop window displayer. It also comes in a file format which is handy for hard disk fans like myself. Defjam has threatened to make a boot-loading version because he is a fan of that technique and has unlimited access to the pristine condition double-sided floppy disk magic tree. Also that the creator credits are very sparse, just Defjam and 505 were involved in making this one. I don’t think they needed any more people, any graphicians would have felt very sidelined.

Anyway, I’m off for now, still scratching my brain at how Defjam did the textmode part.

I’ve been CiH, it’s been a blast, or a blasphemy, or something else beginning with a ‘B’, goodnight!

CiH, for Low Res Mag, December 2010.

TalkTalk 2 by Excellence in Art

February 4, 2011

The Church of Excellence in Art

In a generally quiescent 2010 even with some notable highlights, this demo stood head and shoulders over the rest. Per Almered, aka XIA, the one-man band known as Excellence in Art unexpectedly returned to the Atariscene last year with a cool rebirth production titled “Just then I thought I was out / They pull me back in”. Since then, heavy hints were dropped that something more spectacular was due to follow at the 2010 Sommerhack party. This demo is the offspring of a year’s coding and general effort.

Out of all the demos I’ve reviewed for this issue of Low Res, this one has given me the most agonized speculation of how to achieve a textfile that does not fall over into a dank puddle of lame dullness. The problem is that the normal ‘run-through’ style of review, which is fine with more overtly technical demos, completely misses the point for a production where the story plays the main role in keeping the demo in the air. In other words, we end up doing a worse job of retelling the tale with monochrome text, that XIA told so much more fluently onscreen in the first place with his music,  pixel-bashing and demo coding skills.

It took a little while to find a way in to review this in an alternative style, but I think I have a method now. We have the magic power of screengrabs on hand, I am motivated to fit the following suggestion with a bunch of suitable screenshots to this article and run from there.

“Every great demo should have all of these elements in it!”

“Please wait..”

1. A beginning – A swirly thing captured in the middle of a loading screen. This demo runs on an STe, it kicks the sacred “two floppy rule” into lower Earth orbit by a considerable margin. Still, some of us are pleased to have a demo which properly uses hard disk storage. In my case running this demo helped me look in the right place to ‘unlock’ a small part of my UltraSatan bulk storage system that had been giving me a few minor ‘issues’, so my eternal thanks goes out to XIA for that one.

XIA has got his demo coding feet on..

2. Some legwork – Feet stomp across the screen in the intro part. Legwork can also come to symbolize the uncounted hours of drawing, composing, coding, testing, linking together, not to mention the facepalm related damage to the front of the head when something doesn’t work as intended, yet again.

Church of the pixelled mind?

3. A properly religious sense of devotion – There is a medical reason why a priest preaches from a pulpit down to the congregation below. The congregation has to look up and it’s something in that action that affects the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain, heightening feelings of religious devotion or some such thing. Anyway, this screenshot provides a useful hint that the correct posture to watch this demo is on your knees looking up to the screen!

"Please stick these simple instructions in your ear.."

4. User-friendliness – Since the debacle with ST Format, where the reviewer failed to get away from the menu screen of a megademo they were reviewing, it has been prudent for demo coders to include some easy to follow simple instructions at the appropriate point.

Pointing the magic finger in the special place!

5. Simple to follow instructions – (Continuing from the previous paragraph.) It’s a shame that ST Format aren’t still going, as their reviewer could benefit greatly from acting on this screengrab!

"Bees, bees, bees, on my knees, knees, knees!

6. Realising that we only have the one planet – In these ecologically dangerous times, we can all do our bit to help matters. Here, you see that XIA is providing a healthy stimulus to the endangered bee population. Good work there!

"Code your funky rhythm!"

7. A ‘code-aroke’ moment – The Senior Dads (God bless their souls and quickly compost their corpses!) started this tradition of code-aroke, or displaying code onscreen as part of the effect, back at the first Alternative Party in their ‘Monomental’ demo in 1998. XIA is paying tribute to this great tradition here.

XIA touches his fan-base!

8. Acknowledgment of and praise for minorities – There is a belated recognition among the more politically correct demo coders that certain minority communities have had a raw deal from the demoscene in the past. Here, XIA is attempting to singlehandedly apologise for the excesses of the Amiga Gayscene!

Pointing the magic finger in the special place part II.

9. Slowly dawning realisation – Sometimes, really big new ideas need time to settle in. The epic running time of TalkTalk 2 allows for this, fortunately.

Maybe he's right?

10. Wise words from the author – I guess we don’t need to add anything more to this caption. Job nicely done, XIA!

Who's this chap?

11. Light.. Do you know who it is yet? He seems like a cool guy.

Oh dear, it becomes clearer!

12. And Darkness.. The same guy got up out of the wrong side of his life. People are complicated and multifaceted things, capable of great goodness and evil, often together. It is a rare demo indeed which touches on this.

A twisty bar interlude type thing.

13. A drop of the swirling stuff – When thought-provoking stuff is whirling at your brain, the wise demo coder takes the pressure off with some eye-pleasing swirly bars.

Raster bars, we are forewarned.

14. Comedy raster bars – Any demo can carry a message with serious and meaningful impact. The best of these remember to insert a lemon slice of humour into the gravitas cocktail. In this case XIA has chosen soluble sugar raster bars for his extra special ingredient.

Realtime lines awarded by Kalms.

15. A little help from your friends – Although you may be able to accomplish a lot as a one man band, any help from your scene buddies is always very useful. Kalms and Evil being two people who spring to mind right away.

XIA's balls are shiny and well-polished.

16. Balls of steel – A demo with ideas as the main engine, over the effects needs someone with balls of steel to carry it off. Thing is, I’m sure that most people stop at two?! XIA has some awkward biological questions to answer!

That's your lot for this one!

17. A clean safe ending – A great demo will glide effortlessly to an appropriate conclusion.

—————————————-

This demo was generally well received. There are flaws, such as the issue of needing the whole 4 megabytes of STe to run in. The demo appears to be entirely loaded into memory before kicking off. I’ve no issues with sizeable data files on the hard disk but ask if it is possible for a more optimised disk loader which does its thing ‘on the fly’ for those people who might not have the full fat amount of memory in future?

I would ask really nicely to see if XIA could borrow a Falcon 030 so we can have a truecolour version next time as well?

Also some people have considered the preachy bits to be, well, too preachy. I don’t have any problems with this at all. ‘Message’ demos aren’t that common, and XIA carries this one off with just the right sort of lighter touch interleaved throughout.

This skill at communication through the art of pixels was combined with a surer feel for the coding side. There were some moments of excellence such as the fake reset ending the introduction, and the whole was very well synched together. In a quieter year, but still a year maintaining high standards, this production is the stand-out of the year, and I would consider it to be the Atari demo of the year.

I am hoping that Excellence in Art have future plans for 2011 and beyond, and look forward greatly to the next time.

CiH, for Low Res Mag, December 2010.

Always in the sleeping room at parties?

February 4, 2011

It’s an inescapable fact of life, something that occupies your waking hours, in spite of your doomed attempts to sidestep, sidestraddle and otherwise confound the issue. We’re talking about the hot, or not so hot, more bleary, red-eyed and incoherent topic of sleeping at demo parties. This little article takes a closer look, with some fondly remembered accounts of  various means of avoiding, getting or enhancing this over the past sixteen years of personally hard-won party* battle scars, even harder won beerguts and ogling things on a bigscreen that made you go “Oooh!”

1. Sleepless fortitude, or trying to run and hide from it.

“Also, back then, sleeping (properly) was really not part of the party experience ;)” – Nerve, quoted from Pouet.

Back when I was younger, and the demo scene and demo parties were in their infancy, many people tried to brazen away many of their more tedious bodily requirements. Being a hardcore scener demanded a macho approach to many things, coke drinking, pizza consumption, dissing rivals for alleged lameness in executing almost identical demo effects and so on. Likewise, someone who managed to stay awake for the whole three days of a typical coding party attracted a large degree of horrified awe. At least one person per party managed this, to be dragged off as a dribbling wreck shortly after the party finished no doubt. For some inexplicable reason, the final denouement was never recorded in any party reports or realtime texts.

Apart from the deliberate attempts to macho away the onrushing trainwreck of total collapse by different people, there have been several other occasions experienced by this writer of extended periods of enforced consciousness resulting from shitty-lucked ‘issues’ or good old fashioned cockney cock-ups relating to sleeping arrangements.

Symposium 96, the party forever doomed to be name-checked by me in these kind of round robin articles, had ample experience of sleep lackedness. Apart from the generally poor sleeping area, more of which will be discussed later in the article, there were long periods of total sleep-lack, particularly with the arduous journey there and back. For that first time, for reasons of cheapness and poverty, we opted for an overnight coach journey to Hamburg that was rejected by the Spanish Inquisition as “too inhumane, Torquemada knows, we like to make them suffer, but not by THAT MUCH! What were you thinking you crazy dude?!”

I personally discovered a number of things on the way there. 1. The Eurolines coaches dwarf seats are barely adequate for shorter journeys, let alone 24 hours at a stretch. 2. The autobahn has enough vibration and bumpiness to stop you sleeping. This may be a good thing though if you are the driver. This recalls an old joke, “I’d like to die peacefully sleeping like my dear old dad, and not terrified and screaming like his passengers.” 3. Eating is a very good substitute for sleeping at that stage, where do you think the concept of midnight feasts came from? 4. Felice had a blummin’ loud voice at that time of night! I think he was very tired along with the rest of us and didn’t quite realise it at that point. On the way back, where no sleep at all was possible, not even a pathetic attempt at such. 5. So I discovered that I could hallucinate sounds and started to have waking dreams of Commodore 64 SID tunes. So it was hardly surprising when I finally got home, I crashed out straight away and it was around fifteen hours before I first came to, and promptly went back to sleep again.

The other stand-out episodes where I simply tried to stay awake regardless of the cost are both related to different editions of the Alternative Party. The first 1998-bound episode at Turku resulted from my assessment of the limited and loud sleeping area as being too much hassle to organise, so I opted to keep going. The legenday analogue realtime as-written-on-paper-handtowels faithfully recorded a desperate and slowly losing struggle to stay awake. As I recall, I eventually managed a whole hour(!) that first night, of something which wasn’t really sleep, on a too small couch in a brightly lit computer room. There were other issues with air beds which will be discussed at the right time.

The record for staying awake by me, is close on 48 consecutive hours. This was the 2005 Alt Party Inc edition, where we gained a head start the night before the party. An early flight meant an 02.00hrs pick up by Felice, so we didn’t bother with mere trifles such as going to bed. This approach worked, but was not pretty to watch. The original plan was to sort of catch up with some sleep at the party as soon as reasonably possible. Unfortunately, no-one tipped off the baggage handlers at our connecting airport that we badly needed our sleeping equipment on the same flight as us, so it wasn’t. The whole dilemma was neatly summed up at the time on a realtime text with the following comment. “Saturday? It ‘aint stopped being Thursday yet!” At that point, we’ll draw a line under that one!

2. The good old fashioned kip where you drop approach.

I’ve never done this one myself, but we have reliable sightings, both at Symposium 96, where a very young Defjam coded up to the blissful moment when sleep overtook him on the spot as he left it too late to go to bed, and he ended up using his desktop and assorted hardware as a pillow. Something similar happened to Tat of Avena, but that may have been more of a deliberate decision on his part due to the poor quality sleeping area on offer?

Unknown person at 2 Alt Party (Slengpung.)

As described previously, when fatigue comes a-calling, I’ve staggered around like a wounded stag for half an hour with enough barely remaining decision making power to choose a place to drop. I must say I’ve never kept going that relentlessly until I… ZzzzZZ!

3. There’s a flaw in this floor.

Some people have the happy(?) knack of turning up just in their day clothes and using nothing else perhaps apart from a thin strip of a foam rubbing sleeping mat, and they can sleep on this extremely limited arrangement. I have managed to sleep on a floor on a couple of occasions, once through choice at a smaller UK based gathering, the other due to small but vital and missing airbed components at the first Alt party. I have to conclude that yes, it is possible to sleep on the floor, but the process isn’t that enjoyable and the end result not what you could call deep and satisfying.

4. An automotive place of restful repose?

My coldest party was m&s 2002. went to bed totally drunk at 11pm (in my car) and woke up exactly 12hrs later – and it was still dark – i was not sure if i had only a SHORT nap and was like wtf?! because it was so fuckin freezin cold – finally i found out that my windshield and stuff got snowed in. fallingbostel. april. great :)” Pro, quoted from Pouet. And I’m glad it’s not just me who felt the full force of Mekka Symposuim 2002! (Ed)

Some people bring their own modes of transport which can be made to double up as sleeping accommodation with a little effort. This is fine if you are driving over in a camper van. A number of these might well attend with some better prepared demosceners at more rural parties. Camper vans come in a wide variety of sizes up to a rockstar touring trailer home.  Generally they come with a reasonable simulation of home luxuries such as beds, a kitchen, bathroom facilities etc.

This idea is not so clever if the vehicle is a normal car-sized car. These are not optimised for sleeping in and are notoriously tent-like with their insulation and heat retention properties, ie. not at all. It can be said that sleeping in a car is good interim training for sleeping rough as a homeless person.

5. The magic missing ingredient?

“People with problems sleeping at parties clearly are too sober.” (Punqtured, quoted from Pouet.)

I’m writing this article so far whilst oblivious to an essential truth. This will be remedied right now.

The beer-powered sleeping bag does its work! (Slengpung.)

Quite a lot of people will be helped in their quest for deep and dreamless sleep in the majorly grotty conditions described above with the help of lots of alcohol! It cannot be overstated just how much sleeping at demo parties is done with the help of multiple glass and metal containers of booze. Unfortunately, for more sober people trying to reach the state of blessed unconsciousness with some difficulty, alcohol can also result in the wrong kind of hyper wakefulness for some animated idiots shouting around them!

6. Air-bedded and embedded?

This method has been the mainstay of most of the parties I’ve been to. A good airbed combined with a decent sleeping bag can take care of most sleeping issues, as long as you don’t get one of those defective beds that slowly deflates until you awake on a cold hard floor an hour after you blissfully fell unconscious. Which has happened on a couple of occasions. These are keenly remembered for precisely the scenario I just described!

Other pratfalls, which I learned to avoid early on, include over-inflating so you are effectively sleeping on a pressurised rubber rock. To get a comfortable airbed experience, you should leave some ‘give’ in it. Also that packing in proper sheets and pillows add to the usability no end. We have to thank Havoc from many years ago for that latter tip.

You do have to factor in pumping up the airbed before you get too tired to think straight. It made sense for me to organise my sleeping accommodation almost as soon as I have arrived and unpacked at a party. This saves a job later on and gives an illusion of achievement at an early stage. Plus you’ve created a handy bolthole to deal with any daytime nap attacks should they occur, or just want to get away from the endless party racket for a quiet hour or so. I find it is an excellent idea to keep your airbed inflated for the duration of the party and kept in the designated sleeping area, so you can return to it at any point whenever the heck you feel like it.

So unless you are able to take up one of the more luxurious options discussed further on in the article, an airbed and sleeping  bag is a sensible, tried and trusted system to ensure a decent quality of sleep at demo parties. Where you may have problems still may well be problems with the sleeping space itself and the general ambience and noise levels, more of which we will discuss next.

7. Pardon me, but is the sound of my lying down in peace and quiet INTERRUPTING YOUR LOUD ONSTAGE ANTICS?!

This section describes the vexatious topic of sleeping areas which aren’t quite.

Many parties have a rich history of offering sleeping areas, which turn out to be somewhat tokenistic in nature. Generally this is a small room or random space on the floor, heavily oversubscribed and sort of hopefully distant from the main hubbub, but not really as things turn out. In this light, I take a few minutes to fondly recall the following.

1, Symposium 96, oh that one again, the sleeping room could have been fit for purpose, even with a degree of overcrowding, apart from the paraffin stove users, the casual theft and lung-cloying icy coldness mixed in with paraffin fumes.

2. Early editions of Alt Party, an unappealing toss-up between a noisy stage and stage facing area, and the slightly less noisy corridor area with stumbly-footed drunks. I fondly recall the coffin-style protective sleeping area I created from barricades of chairs at the old venue in Gloria. Didn’t stop the drunken eejit noises getting in though.

3. Error in Line had a variable track record, the junk room at the first edition was excellent due to ready provided foam mattresses, the second edition had a rather small room, the third edition a usefully sized and distant gymnasium building.

4. Mekka Symposium 2002 deserves a special write up all to itself… It was that bad, yes really.

5. Sundown 2009, didn’t really have a proper sleeping area as such. You just picked a spot where you could lie. I was sleeping backstage. Fortunately the overall noise level dropped right off at a reasonable time so I didn’t have any issues apart from the normal sleeping rough after drinking sensations.

6. On the other hand, I’ll commend the excellent provision at the 2000 Sillyventure party, which was in a school spacious enough to move the sleeping area right away from the main action. Also later ALT Parties have learned the lesson with a basement sleeping area that offers a reasonable respite as well. My favourite improvised sleeping area was the ‘borrowed’ lecture theatre at the 2000 Alt party which kept the noise out with the help of some wickedly thick ex-nuclear bunker soundtight doors. There were also handy airbed alternatives in the form of the padded lecture hall seating as well.

Some other more recent parties have been able to offer a better alternative to sleeping rough, due to the specific nature of their chosen venue. But I’ll get around to those now.

8. Camping up….

“For me TG94 (The Gathering) was the coldest (and generally most shitty) party . Not being allowed to sleep inside the hall (because of some electricity problems) so they managed to get a tent which they put up outside for people to sleep in. I ended up just rolling out the sleeping bag on a snowy plain.” – Mel, quoted from Pouet.

This refers to a couple of new scenarios. Some people at certain Dutch rural demo parties have taken the option of using the campsite location to set up their own canvas and cloth home away from home in the handily provided field. This is fine for naturally hardy people who like camping and care not for the vagaries of typical European weather. It is probably idyllic for those rare occasions when blissfully nice weather can be guaranteed. Otherwise for most other people, this idea sort of sucks and I wouldn’t do it voluntarily. Oh how I inwardly chuckled when Cal had to return to his dark and cold tent in a midnight thunderstorm blasted field earlier this year.

The graffiti paint is another insulating layer, like double glazing, for sure!

However, I do unfondly recall a previous Outline party where a teepee-shaped surprise was sprung on us without prior warning. But that was not the suckiest camping experience at a demo party, not by a long way.

Which brings me nicely to the second scenario. This is when a very large and important easter demo party in 2002 makes a really determined effort to provide sleeping accommodation which tries to tick all the habitability boxes including space and warmth. However this was let down badly by the execution of the thing.

The Mekka Symposium 2002 party provided a large marquee tent with hot air heating blowing in constantly, no doubt arranged at huge expense. But if I were the organisers, I hope they asked for their money back as due to a design issue with the properties of hot air rising, none of the heating actually reached the floor area where the sleepers lay. Combine this with a constant stream of coming and going, an imperfectly sealed tent and doors left open by unblinking idiots, the ground level area of the tent enjoyed the same low ambient temperature that could be found immediately outdoors.

And this picture perfectly shows just how effective the MS 2002 sleeping tent wasn't! (Slengpung.)

Now that SUCKED properly! Taking refuge in the warm main hall exposed you to an even more frenetic noise level than usual. The 2002 party was probably the party where I felt the worst during and after-effects of any party.

9. Dorm blimey, you’re gonna need the room with hardcore snoring!

We’re just about up to the present state of the art for the Outline series of parties. They opted to use campsites which have their own hostel or dormitory style sleeping arrangements in the main building. Generally these have been up to the task of providing a restful night and as good as you can get for most demo parties. A proper mattress even on a basic bed taken in conjunction with your own choice of sleeping bag is still better than an airbed. It is even possible to get dormitories according to sleeping habits at very recent parties. The ‘no snoring’ rooms are probably populated with delusional people who don’t realise they have a problem with nocturnal noises until it is too late, leaving us heavy snorers in (relative) peace!

No further comment needed here really..

For sheer entertainment value, and just to show that things can go wrong even here, there was the fateful year at an Outline party where the campsite had managed to procure beds with a structure seemingly made of matchwood and freshly mown grass. So they tended to violently collapse when slept on by pizza eating sceners, or indeed anyone of normal weight who couldn’t flutter onto the bed in the featherweight and carelessly rotational manner of a sycamore seed.

But otherwise this is the best option available, unless you go one step further, which I’ll talk about next.

10. Okay I give in, and I’m made of money, or desperately hoping the bank won’t notice that I’m not!

Finally, it is possible to opt out of the whole urban camping farrago and do the sensible, if expensive thing, and book into a hotel. For those people with money-shaped burn holes in their pockets, a selection of hotel and other paid for accommodation at a range of different prices is available. We have actually gone down this road on two recent occasions.

The Sundown 2010 party necessitated a hotel booking, due to the female contingent who would have naturally and sensibly objected to sleeping any other way. Oh did I mention that everything written about up to now is almost exclusively a male pursuit? Apart from scener girls and ladies, which there are quite a few of by now, but demo party sleeping is not something to be undertaken lightly by unprepared non-scener ‘civilians’ of a female nature. Or even, at all, if you wish to keep the relationship intact. We sort of wrapped a more general holiday around the Sundown party weekend, so booking into a seaside hotel in the seaside town we were partying at was not an unsensible idea and fitted in totally with what we were doing anyway. And it had breakfast too, a nice cooked traditional english style heart attack on a plate.

The Hansard House Hotel at Budleigh Salterton. Our sleeping room away from Sundown 2010. Quite a nice little hotel too.

People of a Swedish Atarian disposition have opted for something ritzy and upmarket when they came to Helsinki town for various recent Alt parties. They chose to stay at a nearby Holiday Inn, around five minutes walk away, and avoiding all of the issues described above at a cost. Due to a lot of people who might have provided off-party accommodation  not being available this time around, we’re trying that one this year ourselves. I will say that it scores very highly on the comfort levels, providing a fluffy haven of warm softness to provide welcome relief from the party buzz. I guess it might well feature again in a return visit to a future Alt party. In fact this may be the future in varying forms as increasing maturity overcomes youthful resilience to discomfort. However I’m still struggling to get past the feeling that I’m indulging in an expense account lifestyle when I don’t actually have an expense account and I will have to run and hide when the credit card bill comes in!

CiH – 22/23.10.10 for Low Res Mag, written in-party at Alt Party 2010. Some additions during 11.10 period.

Memory mapped I/O made easy with ANSI C

February 4, 2011

The newcomer to ANSI C might wonder how to access I/O registers easily on his platform of choice without having to resort to assembly language. Whether one should avoid using C for coding games or demos on retro platforms is not to be discussed here.

First we have to define memory mapped I/O. In essence this means that any hardware register on any custom chip or device can be accessed with the same instructions used to access RAM. Converted to C, this means you can use a simple pointer and indirect addressing.

For those who move from assembly language to C, if your system has no special IN or OUT instructions for hardware, your platform uses memory mapped I/O. The 6502/6510, 68000 and ARM CPUs all qualify for this, the Z80 notably does not but C compilers for the Z80 will provide special means to access their I/O hardware instead.

I will break down the “how” into a few pieces of C code for your pleasure:

volatile uint8_t * const HWREG = (uint8_t *)0xE000;

This declares a basic pointer to some hardware register at memory location $E000. One should declare it volatile because hardware I/O locations may change inside  a different context (interrupt and/or hardware event in our case).

The pointer address itself (essentially the hardware register you want to point to) should be const between register name and the type definition so that noone may modify the pointer and make the pointer address itself readonly but not necessarily the contents of the register.

Adding const before the declaration will declare a read/only register which you can’t modify but just read later on in your algorithm.

const volatile uint8_t * const HWREG_RO = (uint8_t *)0xE00E;

To alter the contents of the declared hardware register, you use the pointer. Note that the register declaration may not be readonly.

*HWREG = 0x5a; /* set I/O for demo purpose */
/* access to alter the pointer is forbidden! Uncomment to try! */
/* HWREG = (uint8_t *) 0xaaaa; */

You can read the register simply by dereferencing the pointer:

uint8_t HWREG_Read()
{
  return(*HWREG); /* read I/O */
}

It is also possible to map a whole struct to a pointer and fix the pointer to some I/O location. In effect you can reference whole register sets with one properly named struct. Envision something like this on Amiga:

blitter-> BLTCPTH = &mydata;

The concept can also be extended to access several I/O chips which basically use the same I/O register layout. Simply have pointers to more than one structure. Something like this:

Chip[0].REG_A = 0xB0;

On naming the pointer, you should try to use the names as defined by the hardware documentation so the potential reader can directly see which register will be accessed. Adding a _PTR to the name might be helpful to remind that the register has to be accessed with pointer commands * and &.

As a final advice, you should check the compiler output to verify  correct code generation. Sometimes there are ways of optimizing.

E.q. on a Motorola 68000 the read access should be translated to

move.b $E000,D0

instead of

lea $E000,A5
move.b (A5),D0

Activating proper compiler flags will help a lot here. Don’t be shy and experiment. It is possible to generate well working code using this approach. It is actually in heavy worldwide use in various sorts of Embedded Systems like car subsystems and networking equipment.

Simon Sunnyboy /Paradize for LowRes Magazine, January 2011

Top 10 Atari ST indie games.

February 4, 2011

By ChrisTOS

The Atari ST had it’s large share of shareware, freeware and PD games. They were generally found in the PD pages of Atari ST magazines and were collectively known as public domain. Nowadays we call those indie games (from independent) and I prefer that term since it’s broader than all the other terms combined and pretty much explains them. One term to bind them…

So before I start the list, let’s set some ground rules. First of all the list didn’t come from any collective effort. It’s not even comprehensive since only a small fraction of the Indie  games available have been played by the authors of lowres.  Also the games included are the ones that appeal more to the author, which sadly means that you will not find any RPG’s.

So let’s start the countdown.

10. Sinister Developments Centipede. Centipede is a well known game from the arcades that made it to the ST thanks to the efforts of Sinister Developments. There is not much to say about the game other than that it’s nicely drawn, super smooth and with nice sound effects. Unfortunately there is a small logic flaw in the game that might spoil the fun but I had to know it was there to spot it. Still Sinister have given us some great arcade conversions and they are worth a place in the list. Even if it is the last.

9. Holocaust. Holocaust is a 2d vertical scrolling shoot’ em up game.  It features many levels, smooth scrolling, good looking graphics, nice music or samples as well as animations  and a little of voice narrative -with the use of a speech.tos the st speech trademark- to promote the story. Did I mention everything runs in 1 VBL?  The enemy waves don’t shoot at you, which is a good thing, but issues such as the high level of difficulty and the total lack of information such as  shield, score etc award it only the 9th place.  Still the game outshines most commercial efforts and is very polished for an indie game.

8.  Entombed. A Rick Dangerous clone. You are an Egyptian trapped in an Egyptian tomb and you need to escape. So pick up your bow and arrows and keys, avoid the pikes and the fires and the waters, solve the insiduous puzzles enjoy the beautiful graphics and the simplistic sound effects and whatever you do don’t forget to have someone call you after a few hours of gameplay to get you back to reality. There are five tombs, one worse than the one before.

7.  Frantick. In 1993 Atari released it’s ill fated Atari jaguar console. The best game for it was Tempest 2000 but the ST version of Tempest is better left in the bad memories of those who bought it. So why this introduction? Is Frantick a Tempest clone? No, not quite but I bet it was inspired from that. You see the gameplay is similar… only in 2d. The enemy waves come to you from up and down and are strikingly similar to those in Tempest. There are power ups, bombs and bonus stages, great samples and the music fits the frantick gameplay. Though it doesn’t induce Jeff Minter’s epileptical seizures, Dave Munsie comes close with one of the best arcade shooters on the ST. With 4 game modes and 50 waves there’s a lot of gameplay time.

6.  Grandad 2 – In search of Sandwitches. Grandad 2 is a beautiful graphic adventure. You are an old person who lost his sandwiches and is trying to find them. The humour is excellent, the main character is the stereotype of the grumpy smelly old man, the puzzles are interesting and the graphics are beautiful.. but using the joystick to control an adventure game kind of feels wrong. There is very little sound in the game but the game is one of  the best written adventures made for the ST. The game was well worth the shareware fee Mr Ian Scott demanded.

We are almost ready to move to the top 5.  Now things get difficult 😀

5. Crapman. Pacman has been one of the most remade games in the history of videogaming. It’s never been done so well in the Atari 16/32 platform at least. Crapman was part of the Synergy mega demo and it inherits all the achievements of the demoscene. Smooth 8-directional  scrolling, constant framerate and great level design make this excellent dot eating game.

4. Cybernetix: What happens when Defender meets Asteroids? A very smooth game (but with some drops in the framerate when a lot of sprites appear), beautiful graphics and lovely sound effects. Quite a few types of enemies, a lot of sectors to clear and a more than reasonable 5 quid asked by Mr Paul Andrews and Mr Rodney Smith.  The game is fast paced and of excellent quality. Plus you don’t lose your power ups when you lose a life. How cool is that?

3. Superfly: All games by Reservoir Gods deserve a place in the top 10, but this one is probably the most addictive one of them all. Simplistic graphics, beautiful music, great looking sprites and more modes to play in this one button avoid em up then you can count, make for an amazing gaming experience. Go save Kylie from Dr Evil, from water to air to space and open all the secrets.

2. Starball, a pinball game where you have to shoot monsters and ships using the ball.  It’s a game that combines the usual gameplay of a pinball game with forcefields, space stations and minigames. If you ever wanted to know how it is to play space invaders and arkanoid with pinball rackets then this is the game for you. Starball will run on all ataris and will make use of the extra hardware. Beautiful graphics and sounds, fast action and lots of hours will be spent on it. Only complaint is the ball physics. It feels like Newton’s first, second and third laws don’t work the same way in starball’s universe.

1. Llamatron: Once upon a time there was in the arcades a game called Robotron. Jeff Minter prefers Llamas so you get to go on a shooting rampage with your friendly neighborhood llama. So pick up the powerups and beasties, kill everything else, finish all the levels and get your epilepsy medicines. The game can be played with one or two joysticks just like the original Robotron. Llamatron was probably the most succesful shareware game ever released for the ST. Jeff Minter has said he received thousands of letters, and while not all the people payed the shareware fee a significant portion did. 5 pounds well spent.

Llamatron

A random level from llamatron

So, this is our list. What’s yours? Please send us your comments and your favourite indie ST games.

Kolmik (Deluxe Edition) review.

February 4, 2011

Kolmik is the new Atari ST game from Paradize and as you would have guessed it’s another puzzle game which this time has the player create columns and lines of same colour tiles (depending on game mode).

Presentation: The presentation of the game is quite good actually with a lovely Paradize logo displayed and a nice mod being played at the beginning, while the game logo is one of the nicest I’ve seen. The game options screen is very informative and it includes the game type selection, the game rules while the setup screen allows you to select between music and sound effects on/off and the difficulty level.

Kolmik Options screen

The Kolmik options screen

Graphics: The game graphics are very reminiscent of the graphics used in the Paradize previous offering Znax with the usual for the group predominance of purrple. They work very well and are easy on the eye and after all this is a puzzle game. The colours do fit very well.

Sound: This is really the strongest part of the game with some lovely tunes from DMA-Sc. There are separate tunes for each game mode, for almost every screen and game mode and though music is in the ear of the beholder I like all of them very much. The sound effects are minimalistic but they do complement the game very well.

Classic Kolmik screen

The classic Kolmik screen.

Gameplay: There are two game modes, classic kolmik and square frenzy. In the classic mode you get 3 rows of 12 tiles each and you need to drag them left or right so as to make columns of the same colour. You have a limited amount of moves and for each column completed you get an extra move. In the square frenzy mode you have a square of 8×8 tiles and you need to complete one row or column of the same colour. Again you have a limited number of moves which get renewed once you complete a row or column. The game is controlled with the mouse and three methods are used, a drag and drop method where you drag and drop a line left or right, the use of arrows left or right of the tile area and the keypad. Square frenzy only supports drag and drop. I personally prefer using the arrows but the drag and drop method isn’t that bad. It’s not that good either.

My biggest complaint though is that it’s not really addictive. While you get used to the controls I find little point in the game. I can’t really point my finger at one thing I find dull in Kolmik, perhaps it’s its slow nature or the fact that I’ve matched colours on tiles so many other times before but it really didn’t do it for me. I am sure though that others will love it and disagree with me right here in the comment section.

Grades:

Graphics: 3.5/5

Sound: 4.5/5

Gameplay: 2.5/5