Archive for the ‘Low Res Issue #3’ Category

LowRes #3

May 15, 2010

Image by Samurai / Inter

Content issue #3 Mai 2010

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Editorial #3

May 15, 2010

I remember back the time in 2006 when I visited my first PC party. It was the Demozone 2006 in the Netherlands. I knew that the time of the homemade seperation of the Atariscene was at it’s end, and so I was looking forward for new impressions.

The welcome in the themself called “scene” was warm and people showed some interest in the Atari.

Many Atarians then traveled to PC parties and more and more PC sceners traveled to the outline. They even bought shirts with Atari signs.

In the demos itself you saw more and more greetings of none Atari groups and some Atari groups were also greeted in non Atari demos.

A peak in this process now happened at this year outline party.

Countless Atari signs in a Amiga demo!!!

In Monaco by Desire

A great moment to saw that live. And a great sign that respect is the key to be on good terms.


Links:

  1. In Monaco demo at pouet

Earplug #3

May 15, 2010

We ask some Atari musician about their favorite tracks, so while you read the magazine, you have something to listen to.

Thanks to gwEm.


Links

  1. Steve Nosurname
  2. Exilefaker
  3. 505

News #3

May 15, 2010

A bunch of new Jaguar games

Reboot released Superfly DX [1]. Superfly was created by the Reservoir Gods for the Atari ST and Falcon some years ago. It’s a one button game, you fly a submarine through a tunnel and you have to avoid to hit the top or the bottom of the tunnel. Pressing the button letting your submarine rise and not pressing the bottom let it sink. That’s it. The Jaguar version is a complete rewrite and it has great graphics and a lot of modes.

At the outline there was also a preview [2] of Ladybugged by Jagware. A clone of Lady bug from the VCS (wasn’t that a clone of the Coleco version?). The game is once again very professional with great graphics and  good sound, so we could look forward for the final version.

Outline Demoparty Press Release

Release Date: May 3, 2010
For immediate release

The Outline Demoparty Board monday announced the execution of a consent Cease and Desist Order by and among Digitale Kultur e.V., Köln, Nordrhein-Westfalen, a registered digital arts society, and Evoke Demoparty, Köln-Kalk, Nordrhein-Westfalen, a non-registered demoparty event.

A copy of the Order [3] is attached.

Bubble+ clone for the iPhone.
In the STOT round 12 of the actual 3rd season, we played Bubble+. It’s a Atari ST gem back from the good old days. We get a trackback from another blog to an interesting article about a mobile game called Ozone [4]. This is a Bubble+ (or Bubble Ghost as it was called originaly) for the iPhone. Great to see, that people not only remember the blockbuster, but also the great ones.

Xenon II T-Shirt
Some time ago I requested a Xennon II Megablast shirt. Now it’s available [5]. Thanks to Panayotis. I already wear it at the outline, and it’s great, and many people recognized it.

No Fragements 10 & 11 released by .tSCc.
Always proud to announce another released of a group like no other 🙂 This time, Lotek released 2 new No Fragemens CD’s:

  • Number 10 [6] is filled up with Diskmags.
  • Number 11 [7] contains the (Atari) Party archive 2007 – 2010

Kick Off v.1.0.4
Steve Camber well known for Dogfight on the Atari ST is for shure much better known for patching the Kick Off 2 binary again and again. Now the KOA v1.0.4 [8] is out. And this time with a revolutionary new mode. You could select not only if you want to use PBD (Penalty Box Dribbling), you could also choose Autofix and Trapfix.

  • AutoFix? – Select Yes to disable auto slides and auto headers by your teammates
  • PBD? – Select Yes to enable PBD mode
  • TrapFix? – Select Yes to stop traps turning into slides

Now the gameplay is less hectic and also a little bit different.

Frank F. won the Hessian Champs

Frank was the best player of the greatest tournament [9] in Hessen for years. He won the final against Volker B. 11-2. Beside the final there were a lot of suprises during the tournament and beside Cornelius, who was a bit unlucky that day, everybody got a cup or prize.

Frank got some cups

RMKO TV
The Rhein-Main Kick Offer now have their own Miro Video Channel [10]. There you could see famous and not so famous Kick Off heros playing their matches and screaming around.

WGL TV
The Wiesbaden Gaming Lab, the Rhein-Main based retro meeting for real hardware usage and real food ordering, now also has a Miro Video Channel [11]. Really worth to watch because of the funny comments.

Rhein Main Spiele Club
In the Rhein Main area there seems to be more interest in meeting each other. After the highly successful HomeCon, a website [12] called Rhein Main Spiele Club (Rhein Main Gaming Club) is now online. Let’s see if there will be some people who participate. At the last HomeCon some people from the Cologne area said, they are interested also to host a event inspired by the HomeCon. This would be great, to have such events in more metropolitan areas.


Links:

  1. Superfly DX video webpage
  2. Laddybugged video
  3. Outline kill the scene 🙂
  4. Ozone
  5. Xenon II T-Shirt
  6. No Fragements Nr.10
  7. No Fragements Nr: 11
  8. Kick Off 2 (Amiga) KOA v1.0.4
  9. Hessian Champs report
  10. RMKO TV Miro channel
  11. WGL Miro channel
  12. Rhein Main Spiele Club webpage

GEMworld. Alive and kicking. An overview on what’s new

May 15, 2010

GEM world news.

Apparently quite a few Atari users are fond of GEM and its apps. Otherwise why would there be so many new releases? LowRes will try to test that hypothesis with an overview of what’s new in the GEM and general non Game/Demo software for our favourite platform. Forgive the mistakes in the chronological order and what I may forget. I just got the idea and it’s late March already.

So, what’s new since our last release?

GemPlay 1.95

SWE released a new version of this excellent player of SNDH, mod, AM, ACE, Graumf tracker etc music files. This release [1] futures some bugfixes, FlexTracker support (minus the dsp effects) and a database. This player is mostly for the falcon but ST users can use it to play SNDH tunes.

KKCmd

Rajah Lone released a bugfix for KKCmd [2] his Total Commander clone for the ST. The fixes are primarily towards the ST and MSA disk images handling as well as the slider bar.

Zweather 1.2

This is mainly a bugfix which means that weather data can again be taken from weather.com . Zweather [3] is a small utility to display weather forecasts for any region.

AHCC v3.b8

A Home Cooked C Compiler [4] is a Pure C compatible compiler that is constantly updated by Henk Robbers. The newest feature is experimental Coldfire V4e support which means that old Pure C projects will be able to be ported natively to the FireBee once that is released. I don’t know much about C compilers and IDE’s but this one seems pretty well made.

GemDict 0.1

Gemdict [5] by JFL is a GEM client for the Dict protocol which allows the online search of word definitions. It requires MintNET, NVDI and AES 4.1.

MyMail

MyMail [6] reached version 1.94 last february. Erik Hall added support for UTF-8 encodings among other things. I still miss TLS support though. Otherwise MyMail seems  excellent.

Conholio 0.5b

This [7] is a Linux type console by PeP for MiNT systems and on its road to become a TOSWin replacement. It’s faster than TOSWin, supports fullscreen, VT102 emulation and also multiple fonts.

Qucik Extract v0.4

Quick extract [8] by ChrisTOS (that’s me) is a small program that allows users, once installed at the desktop, to quickly extract archive files to either the current folder or to a new one with the filename as folder name.

Kabooter

It’s [9]  an interesting program aimed at falcons. Are you bored at looking at those boot messages? Well now you don’t have to and you can instead look at your favourite picture. Download and enjoy. From ggn.

Mass storage solution

David Galvez has been working on a mass storage application [10] for the Ethernat. So far it supports FAT16 devices and is very slow. Hopefully since Ethernat and Netusbee share the same USB controller owners of that hardware will be benefited as well.


Links:

  1. GemPlay
  2. KKCmd
  3. ZWeather
  4. AHCC
  5. GEMDict
  6. MyMail
  7. Conholio
  8. Quick Extract file Projekt infos
  9. Kabooter
  10. David Galvez mass storage project

For New Readers – What are these things called “Atari ST’s”?

May 15, 2010

This is the third issue of Low Res and we haven’t even come up with a newbie guide to all the different things we’re talking about with gay abandon. We might know of the subtle distinctions between an STFM and a Falcon 030, but they might not be able to spot the difference from an Oric and a CT60, even if their life depended on answering questions in a tough quiz based on the articles in Low Res.

So to try to make good some of that knowledge deficit and save the endangered newbie tangled up in an unlikely hostage situation, here’s a few notes for the benefit of the one new reader who might have stumbled across Low Res by accident. They may not be familiar with the different generations of Atari hardware and the model numbers we throw around in our articles. This is a very incomplete guide and it tends to stick to the 16 bit ST family of hardware.

Most of them sort of look like this.

‘ST’ is generally accepted to stand for ‘Sixteen thirty-two.’ as in the 32 bit nature of the 68000, with the 16-bit access path.

Atari ST, STF or STFM1985-87, 8 MHZ Motorola 68000, up to 4 MB RAM, 512 colour palette, of which 16 on screen at any one time officially, software hacks to get that up to all 512 then 4096 colours. No hardware scrolling, no blitter, a YM2149 basic sound chip with 3 sound channels, plus one noise channel. Seen generally in a single case design plugged into separate monitor, integral 3.5 inch floppy disk drive, Hard drive is separate external extra ‘ASCI’ non-standard add-on. Is the most common variant around and has the most support with the majority of games and applications written for it.

Atari STE1989, 8 MHZ Motorola 68000, up to 4 MB RAM, 4096 colour palette, of which 16 on screen at any one time officially, software hacks get up to 19200 out of 32768 (12-bit mode). Hardware scrolling supported, graphic co-processor ‘blitter’ on board, DMA 8-bit stereo sound with maximum 50 KHZ digisound replay. This is in addition to the YM2149 and both can be mixed together. Form factor as for STFM. Has stereo sound output and enhanced joypad  ports on the left hand of the machine too. Identical in appearance to the STFM apart from the badge on the case. Is pretty common, does not have so many games or applications written for it. Most developers ignored most of the extra features. A few games and rather more demos were (are still) being written for it in its later life which do take full advantage of the enhanced hardware.

This is a bare description which does not go into detail, but even this cursory view shows that the ‘E’ in STE stands for ‘enhanced’.

Atari TT 1989, 32 MHZ Motorola 68030, Expandable fast-RAM, 4096 colour palette, several more screen modes than base ST including 16 colour VGA and a very high resolution mono mode. More hacks possible and being explored. Sound hardware identical to STE, no blitter. Internal expansion port and generally with a hard drive fitted. Is high-end member of ST family. Is found as separate low profile case and detachable better quality keyboard. A nice machine, rarer than the rather common ST and higher priced accordingly. Tends to be under-explored because of this.

Atari TT - A very tasty looking beast.

Mega-STE 1991, an improved STE in TT-style case, also 16 MHZ 68000. Internal expansion port included, generally comes with a hard drive. Improved operating system TOS v2.05 or 2.06. Otherwise as for STE.

Falcon 030 1993, the final official production machine from Atari. 16 MHZ Motorola 68030, up to 14 MB RAM, 65536 ‘Truecolor’ mode, also includes 256 colour VGA support from 262144 colour palette. Many hacks to increase this. Blitter included, considered to be marginal to system as a whole. Massively improved sound with 16-bit 8 channel audio supported. This has been stretched. Still retains YM2149 for backward compatibility. Notable for versatile Motorola 56001 DSP (digital signal processing) chip. Usefully has internal 2.5 inch IDE hard drive connector, comes with hard drive. Also industry standard SCSI 2 external drive port. Has internal non-standard expansion port. Should have had TT or Mega STE form factor but crammed back into ST/STE style single case (with different coloured keys to tell it apart) as Atari in a hurry and dropping the ball fast at that stage.

Falcon 030 - A wolf in an old sheep's clothing.

There are a fair number of applications of all kinds to make use of the Falcon’s unique features, but not as many as we would have liked due to the early failure of official support and most development being of a spare time nature from then on. Falcon’s were not manufactured for a long time and are quite rare and tend to attract high prices on certain auction sites.

Falcon also tends to attract a lot of hardware upgrades due to perceived omissions on Atari’s part. Ultimate boost comes in the form of CT60 or CT63 which adds a massive Motorola 68060 cpu on a daughterboard with up to 512 MB of modern RAM. Other graphics enhancements are in the pipeline for this system.

Okay, that is a very bare and basic guide which does not go into all the details, and does not cover any of the Atari clones like Medusa or Milan. You will find the majority of articles do concern the machines described above, so there is enough to go on for now. (If someone else wants to go into more detail on the many Atari consoles and their 8-bit computers, then please go ahead!)


Links:
Atari Historical Society

Interview with SCPCD and Zerosquare. JagCF getting near

May 15, 2010

As you have noticed, this is a jaguar heavy issue. Maybe because the jaguar has seen a rebirth or probably because I have one and only a cartridge and I’d like to know what I can do with it.
In that respect, every console out there has a way to load games that are distributed in binary form. With CD-ROM based consoles, in most cases it’s just a matter to burn the image in your home PC. With cartridge based consoles, there are flash cards etc that allow it to emulate a cartridge.
So far, the jaguar has had Alpine boards by Atari which are expensive and hard to find, BJL modifications that allow loading the executable in the main RAM (thus taking up space and limiting the possibilities for the game) and recently the Skunkboard. A flash card that does exactly what is needed but is unfortunately out of manufacturing with no plans to make another one. So either newcomers or people who missed the release of the Skunkboard are left with no options.
However, the hardware division of Jagware, namely SCPCD and Zerosquare are developing the JagCF. A small device that allows the possibility to have a CF card connected to your Jaguar and use it to load binaries, develop on the console and adds quite a few things to it. The development of this piece of hardware started a long time ago so we decided to talk to them about the JagCF and its current status and also give them an opportunity to address the various issues that have been raised concerning this kit.

LR: So let’s start by telling me a couple of things about you. How you got involved with the jaguar included 🙂

SCPCD: I love the jag since the day when my father came back from the Atari show with a jaguar and a lynx :p

Zerosquare: I didn’t know anything about the Jaguar until I met SCPCD in electronics engineering school a few years ago. He was very passionate about this console and I’ve always liked unusual hardware, so I thought “why not ?”

SCPCD:    some years after that, I started to be interested in programming (on a MegaSTe, a TI92+ and on PC with Delphi), and I looked for a way to program the jaguar but I hadn’t enough knowledge to modify the jaguar for bjl. And I finally entered into an engineering school where I burnt the BJL rom onto a EPROM by the robotic club of the school and started jaguar programming and modding in the same year :p

LR: Did you have any other involvement with atari computers and consoles before the jaguar?

Zerosquare: nope, I never had any Atari hardware before the Jaguar.

SCPCD:    yes, my father had a 1040 STe, a 520 STe, a MegaSTe (the one where I wrote my first Assembly program and that I used many years to assemble code for the jag) and he also had a Falcon 🙂

LR: So, SCPCD you are responsible for giving Zerosquare the Atari virus 😉

SCPCD:    😀

Zerosquare:    basically yes 🙂

SCPCD:    indeed.

Zerosquare:    I also discovered the ST and Falcon afterhand thanks to SCPCD and friends   and I think they’re cool machines 🙂

LR: The two of you met at electronics engineering school and then you decided to develop the jagcf. What brought this decision?

Zerosquare:    SCPCD. In fact it was already in development for some time. but he’ll explain it better

SCPCD:   I had made in the past some prototype project to expand the jaguar. The first one that I have made is an IDE & ST cartridge interface for the jaguar for a “TIPE” (note: a kind of a 6 month assignment in French universities) that can use the Audio input/output interface described in an STmag. The second project was the “Jaguar Evolution 2” that is based on 2 IDE interfaces, ACIA interface (like an STe), memory extension, ATX connector, FPU, and several not finished expansion boards. But this one was cancelled when I started the JagCF (because it was much more powerfull)

LR: And what are the main features of the jagcf at its present (final?) state?

Zerosquare:    features:

– Compact Flash connector
– 60 MHz custom RISC processor
– extra RAM
(but the base clock is 120 MHz ^^)
– USB connection to a PC
– PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports
– non-buggy networking of several dozens consoles
anything else I’ve forgotten, SCPCD ?

SCPCD:    hmm, I don’t think so.

Zerosquare:    so, with it you can run existing homebrews, commercial games (if the controversy about the piracy problems settle), and new JagCF specific games

The CF card PCB

LR: I see, before we talk about the piracy controversy, would you mind answering a few technical questions?

SCPCD:    yep
Zerosquare:    no problem

LR: While the connectors and the cf slot are pretty much self explanatory, the extra RAM and the RISC aren’t. So I’d like to know if the extra RAM can be seen from the 68K and the other chips of the jaguar.

SCPCD:    the jaguar can have access to all the extra RAM with a Bank Switch operation. Each ram page is 4Mbytes

LR: And what benefit will software developers see from that feature?

Zerosquare:    not running out of memory for their games 😉    The Jaguar can use 64k and 16M color graphics, but they use a lot of memory. a lot of games could have better graphics but have to be scaled down because of the lack of RAM, same things with the sound.

SCPCD:   the extra ram can be used for exemple to store data read from the CF to reduce loading time so that streaming HQ video is possible 🙂

Zerosquare:    when you think of it, the Jaguar technically outperforms the NeoGeo easily, but the later use lots of memory to compensate

LR: And what about the DSP as I’ve seen you refer to it? What does it do exactly?

Zerosquare:    the DSP is used to speed up math calculations, it can be used to calculate 3D objects, scale graphics, synthetize sound, decompress audio or video, etc

SCPCD:    and can be used to make some work to discharge the jaguar

Zerosquare:    yes, it can run in parallel with the other processors in the Jaguar, without needing bus access so it solves the problem of bus contention which is another common issue on the Jaguar.

SCPCD: but I haven’t yet finished the graphics part of the DSP, the finished part is like a boosted jaguar RISC. Also  the DSP can directly address the whole SDRAM memory at a very high speed (optimised burst etc…)

LR: I see. Then again the Falcon’s DSP has been used for graphics without actually having graphics functions (selfnote: I should stop talking about the falcon in jaguar topics 😛 )

Zerosquare:    yup, but graphics-specific functions are a plus. For example, the processor will include features for hardware-accelerated alpha-blending. It’s not something you see usually on the Jaguar because it requires too much processing power to do “by hand”

SCPCD:    The DSP is used by the jagcf firmware for FAT16 read/write, remote debugging, network, audio stream

LR: A part of the controversy surrounding the jagcf is that with those two features the jaguar stops being a jaguar. You were frequently told to make a new console. Myself coming from a computer background I can only partially understand that argument though I don’t agree with it. What are your views on that? There is also the issue that this could raise the cost.

Zerosquare:    hehe. What makes you think that we’re not planning on making a console from scratch someday ? :). More seriously, yes, it’s a valid argument but the fact is that you don’t have to use the new features. you can use it as a simple compact-flash reader if you like and the extra features doesn’t raise the cost much. a lot is implemented in a FPGA chip which would have been needed anyways. It’s basically a lot of firmware.
SCPCD:   I think that it’s like the 32X or the CT60. It’s always a jaguar with it’s limits (cartridge bandwith for example), but with more potential and like Zerosquare said, the FPGA used in the Jagcf is more powerfull than the one originally planned, but it costs less ! (higher technology ! ;))

LR: However as I understand it it did increase the development time. Anyway, if you make a new console I’ll buy it 😉

Zerosquare:    yes, it did increase the development time, but you’re not creating a new extension for the Jaguar everyday, so you tend to want to include as many bell and whistles as you can 😉

SCPCD:    the thing that increases the development time is the job, when I started the jagcf I was at school, so much much more free time 😀

LR: What’s the current status of the project, how much is done and how much is left?

Zerosquare:    the current status :  one prototype has been manufactured  so the hardware is basically done (save for the last-minute few tweak and fixes that you can’t avoid).Firmware and software development is now the priority

SCPCD:    whith possibility to make 3 others when the first one is completly checked

Zerosquare:    (I don’t know if you can estimate a percentage of how much is done, SCPCD ?)

SCPCD:    hmm difficult to say

Zerosquare:    anyways, don’t ask about a release date 🙂

LR: ha ha ha!

Zerosquare:    we did try to set milestones in the past, but our day jobs and other factors always got in the way  so to disappoint nobody, we prefer not to give false hopes 🙂
SCPCD:    🙂

LR: the other dreaded question: cost estimate? I know it’s a function of quantity but let’s say for a realistic 100 units…

Zerosquare:   do you still have your cost worksheets SCPCD ? While he’s looking for his files, we don’t plan on making any profit on it (or very low ones, at most), so the costs are purely based on the price of manufacturing

LR: yes, if you sell something you are required to make “some profit” by law

Zerosquare:    also, the JagCF will be sold by preorders, so no shortage and the price will decrease if more people are interested

LR: right, the ct60 method

SCPCD:    I should update prices because my worksheet is with chip cost of april 2009

Zerosquare:    give an estimate anyways 🙂

SCPCD:   but I think that it should be between 120 and 150 euros. The prototype cost us about 240euros

LR: that’s not a bad price 🙂

LR: Another issue with the jagcf are the piracy concerns. That people will use the jagcf to play pirated games and especially a specific game. What do you have to say about these things? How did it all start?

Zerosquare:    well the Jaguar community seems to be very sensitive to piracy questions, much more than any other console community I’ve seen before. the fact that the authors of that specific game are mentionning it regularly is probably a significant reason. Honestly, I don’t think the JagCF will have any notable effect on piracy.

SCPCD:   I think that jaguar community is based on atari fans and “collectors” that will always have original games and that the possibility to play original games onto the jagcf could permit to have more people that will play the jaguar.

Zerosquare:    Jaguar games are not protected, and the technical ways to dump them have been available for years and there are also ways to copy games (Alpines, Flash cards, or just swapping the ROMs on a standard cartridge). Now there’s also the Skunkboard, which didn’t seem to disturb people when it was released. Regardless of all of these factors, piracy is very low on the Jaguar, much lower that in other scenes. A lot of people are willing to pay for homebrews even when they’re not technically impressive just to support the authors.

SCPCD:    but the world is not a “bisounours” world, so there will be some guy who will use the jagcf in a pirate’s way, it’s life %)

Zerosquare:    besides, on other machines, the availability of dumps doesn’t prevent games from being sold, so, basically, I think it’s a non-issue, it’s possible to pirate games using the JagCF, but you can also do it without it. And if you’re going to pirate that one specific game, burning EPROMs is even cheaper

SCPCD:    yep, burning a cartridge is not difficult, burning a cd is not difficult…

LR: So I think I am covered about the jagcf. Do you have any other projects you’d like our readers to know about? Jaguar and possibly other old platforms?

SCPCD:    On Jaguar we (me and Zerosquare) have planned one or two games using the jagcf

Zerosquare:    yup :).    I also tend to do various hardware and software projects on other consoles, so don’t be surprised if you see my nickname elsewhere 🙂

LR: well, if you do anything for the ST, give me a shout 😉

SCPCD:    and I have another hardware project after the jagcf but this one will not be for the jaguar 🙂

Zerosquare:    ChrisTOS: I’ve written some effect for a ST demo, but it was never released, because some members in the group are too lazy ^^.. maybe someday 🙂

LR: he he he.   Demosceners are lazy! it’s a necessary quality to enter the demoscene 😛

SCPCD:   I think that I will take some more time on the falcon after the jagcf 🙂

Zerosquare:    and there’s a programmable cartridge project on the Bandai Wonderswan I have to finish ^^

SCPCD:   Zerosquare, maybe i will finish the jagcf before 😀

Zerosquare:    who knows 🙂

LR: Thank you very much for this interview. It was thoroughly informative and I enjoyed it. If you have anything else to say to our readers now is the time to do it. Also I’d like to invite you to the comment section after this article because I am certain our readers will have a lot of questions.

Zerosquare:    Sure.Thanks for interviewing us and long live to your mag, it’s a fresh breeze 🙂

SCPCD:   🙂

Zerosquare:   what’s the saying already ? “stay cool, stay atari” ?

So, with a timeframe that rivals that of the CT60 and the CTPCI the JagCF is reaching completion. Let’s hope that it will deliver as much as the aforementioned projects did.

Reboot! A new atari group was born. Another interview

May 15, 2010

Reboot Logo

A year or so ago, a new Atari group was created from existing sceners. Soon, that group of people became one of the most productive and controversial groups in the history of the Jaguar. In just a few months they released one complete game, the first level of another, source code and a utility that enables anyone to make their own Jaguar CDs out of homebrew binaries. On the other hand, they became a headache for webmasters of two Jaguar forums. I personally know them as good friends and that’s the best part of being an Atari scener. It’s not easy to interview your friends, the two roles might mix badly. Hopefully this interview is balanced but I’ll let you be the judge of that.

LR: I know you guys from your other groups. Why start Reboot?

Reboot: Because it was a new start for us all. We’ve never worked together on the same thing before and we wanted a unified name for us as a team. It was something new that didn’t fit in with our existing groups and allowed active members from these groups to come together without any hanger-ons.

Also, the idea was that Reboot would be a reboot for those involved – a chance to go off & do different things under different names, without any pre-conceived ideas from people or having any history to live up to or be compared with. No pressure, all fun, on our terms. That freedom was refreshing but also had downsides.

LR: However that didn’t sit well with some people, especially with those that had no previous scene affiliation where that sort of thing is normal. Why is that?

Reboot: The downsides… In computer scenes, new teams formed from existing sceners under alternate names is just par for the course. It’s a way for new stuff to come about that doesn’t fit with existing groups. But that’s not what irked some people. It was the simultaneous use of both existing & Reboot nicks in the same forum discussions that caused problems. That was a mistake, but the past is the past – we said our piece & tried to put things right & that is that. Nobody was really hurt, except for maybe their dented pride… after all, it was just talk in an Atari forum, not life or death. Some people respected what we said at the time & others have more recently agreed to let bygones be bygones which is clearly the best way forward for everyone who wants a community that is productive & friendly. Unfortunately, there’s still one or two people who’d prefer to continue the unproductive nonsense, but luckily for the community as a whole, it’s just a very small minority who are already infamous for such actions & it’s all taken with a pinch of salt. We certainly just laugh it off these days – we might have learned that hard way but we know that’s all the attention it deserves, and attention seems to be the motivation behind it. People want new Jaguar games & utilities, not arguments, pissing contests or bitter rivalries. That’s compatible with the way we do things now.

And we’re not so arrogant that we haven’t looked at things from the other perspective. When we bust into the Jaguar community some people wanted to give us a fair go; others just saw yet another cocky group of developers promising them new things for the Jaguar or another group possibly coming in and stepping on toes… the Jaguar community had already been stung by these kind of promises several times before & some didn’t expect anything different from us, which in hindsight is fair enough. We speak here of the kind of ‘groups’ who had the Cafe Press mugs ready before even creating the first line of code… well, that’s just not our style. We never deceived anyone like that or set out to profit from the Jaguar in any way. We’re sceners & that spirit will always run through our work – free downloads of everything we do, free source code where we can, openness & sharing of ideas & findings. So yes, if we ever said we’d ‘Reboot the Jaguar’ it’s in that context it should be viewed – promoting an open scene spirit rather than embarking on a closed commercial venture. If that was our thing we’d be making iPhone games instead, but it’s a million miles away from who we are & what we’re about. And we never claimed to be better than anyone or tried to impose our way of doing things on anyone either – that’s not our motivation… we’re just doing our own thing in our way & we’re happy as we are now.

Joining the Jagware collective was interesting. Being mostly a French collective, it was a little difficult at first for us to get involved in things with the language barrier (luckily, most of the Jagware guys know English better than us). To be fair it did put us under a little additional & slightly unexpected pressure initially as there were already existing issues between a few people & the ideas/plans of some Jagware members. But we can’t say we regret that decision one little bit – Jagware is the most productive team on Jaguar today, they’re doing some of the most impressive & exciting work and to a man they are very friendly and willing to share. That fits with our ideas like a hand in a glove. As we see it, Jagware will continue to be one of the most productive teams on Jaguar & we’re really pleased to be a part of that… and with each release we shall show our commitment to making Jaguar games & take another step closer to having a library of routines that will allow for the creation of pretty much any flavour of 2D game we can think of.

Going on from that point, our forthcoming releases could well be quite varied & involve specific gameplay mechanics/effects/routines, but without making things just for the sake of it. We do actually have a good internal system of how we go about things now & no one voice speaks louder than the others. We’re still very much learning all about the Jaguar, practically from scratch. It’ll take time before we are in a position to push things to a high level, but that’s not to say what we do should be subject to any kind of snobbery or looking down the nose, because it’s ‘just’ 2D or has tried & tested gameplay mechanics.

We’d like to show that making Jaguar games can be somewhat easy, fun & even sometimes fairly quick, as long as you play to your strengths as developers – both the strengths of the team and to the strengths of the hardware itself. Yes, we enjoy making & playing a certain style of games – if people want to play them or try them out all they have do do is click on a download link. If they are collectors or really like the game & want to have their own copy, we’re committed to providing a limited number of those as a service & that also allows us to make our own copies & to give some to our friends, which is win-win for us.

LR: Apart from the three of you, are there any other members?

Reboot: There have only been three of us active in anything we have released as a group so far. There are 2 other members… Dot Dot Dot and Oblivion, both of whom aren’t working on the Jaguar or in fact working on anything for Reboot right now. This could change in future if Oblivion steps up form the ST, but Dot Dot Dot is unlikely ever to grace the Jaguar with his skills. If other atarisceners want to get involved in working on jaguar, we’d be quite open to helping them make the move & support them with the hardware/software required.

We should mention there is also a support team of 3 testers: remowilliams, partycle and your good self, christos. Without remowilliams’ help providing the first skunkboard, there would not be a Reboot on Jaguar today – so a big thanks to him for that.

LR: Only the three of you took part in the internet wars as well. In hindsight what would you have done differently? If anything?

Reboot: “Internet wars” is overstating things hugely. Really, it’s just some computer geeks on forums (of course, ourselves included) some perspective is required. We’re not so high & mighty to think of ourselves as anything else, it’s a fun hobby that has its challenges & rewards, along with some pitfalls, but war is a long way from the truth. Maybe one man’s war is another man’s silly-buggering-about on a forum? But what could we have done differently? Never posted anything in an Internet forum would have been a good one. Simple as that. Just released binaries & let others get on with making of it what they would. Heads down, STFU and release stuff. But hindsight is 20/20 and there will always be stuff aimed at you when you dare to have the balls to make something for the Jaguar. It took us a few months to realise this, but it is a lesson learned & we intend to do our talking through our productions, not in petty arguments.

So yes, we came out too vocal on the Jaguar as newcomers and it wasn’t the best planned arrival into a community – that’s for sure! But in however many years time, none of the forum chatter will remain in any meaningful way, it’ll all be just that, words typed into a box once upon a time… all that will be left will be the games & tools and who will honestly care?

LR: You’ve recently released a game for sale. How well did Beebris do?

Reboot: How well it did is a subjective thing. It was much more popular than we expected (at the time of writing, there are over 60 copies of Beebris out there, with 8 of these being gifts & prizes). What we thought would be a little service to a handful of friends & people we had met turned into a mini production line. What it has done is put things into perspective. The vocal minority of nay-sayers are just that – a minority. It would seem the vast majority of Jaguar folk are true blooded gamers & collectors. I think we’re all in a much happier place than we were a few months back now we realise the kind of support we have out there. If a port of a 20 year old ST game (albeit a perfectly nice 20 year old ST game) has this kind of interest it, our follow-ups should prove even more popular or at least offer more experiences to Jaguar gamers. We received some great e-mails of support with the orders and that’s very motivating in itself.

Beebris though is a special case. It does not demonstrate the level of our games on Jaguar and especially not our intentions to go about making others. It was made all those years ago on the ST with the intention of being a great game, but as popular as it was, it was never quite what it should have been (the in-game music was only a title music for instance). The Jaguar allowed the game to be realised as it was originally intended with a simple graphical makeover and a further one with the SE release.

Then, after people either made their own copies up or requested we did for them, it was used as a means to test what kind of interest people would have in an already freely-released game… a test of how popular an official release of a game might be even if it was already freely available. We thought this was worth pursuing – the poll results suggested we might need to make 15 to 20 copies and originally we made 10 to be on the safe side. But the current numbers speak for themselves & also back-up the findings of Atari Owl’s poll on Atari Age – people love the idea of huge, technical masterpieces & look forward to them greatly, but there is also a need for other stuff in between that keeps them interested & gives them a reason to leave the Jaguar set up & not in the bottom of the wardrobe.

We should point out that the release did not target turning a profit – it was simply done to cover our costs & allow us & our friends to have a ‘real’ copy of our own game. Of course, what it has also done is prove that a ‘commercial’ Jaguar release will still attract sales of sufficient volume even when a binary already exists of the full game. Providing digital versions on a second CD as well as a CD image for the user to make their own back-up has proved very popular also – it shows a level of trust we have in the users that we equip them with everything they need to be able to play our game the way they prefer, but also everything they need to ‘pirate’ it (as it is slightly different to the original release). That has been well received.

We didn’t set out to gain fans or seek praise with Reboot. It was a personal thing, a desire to test new ground & have some fun on another Atari (even though CJ had already been there to some extent with the ex-ST-hacker-turned-game-developer group, Sinister Developments). Recent feedback following the release of Beebris SE has been the single most motivating factor in all the time we’ve been together as a group. So yes, all-in-all, it has been a really positive experience for us and we look forward to future releases in a similar fashion.

LR: Myself being a bit of a coder, I know all about feedback and how motivating that can be. And I find that you are happy with it. Would you mind doing a short overview of what you released so far and what was the response?

Reboot: Well, first up was:

Tapperesque Video:

CJ had been toying around with the Jaguar devkit for a few days, just playing around following the ‘escape’ of JetPac (it’s far too buggy to call it a release!). A playable version of Tapperesque was up and running and remowilliams kindly made a video of it. At that point there was no Reboot, just CJ , DOSBox and Virtual Jaguar. Remowilliams was running test builds on real hardware but what was working in the emulator wasn’t necessarily working on the real thing, so he kindly donated a Skunkboard to CJ. Soon after that arrived Tapperesque was running properly on the Jaguar. However, it was not really much fun to play and would need serious work to make it really enjoyable and would also have to be overhauled to prevent any © issues – this is the Jaguar after all, not a scene machine such as the ST or Dreamcast where such releases would be universally accepted. Thus it hasn’t been released yet, it was more of a “remember how this console works” kind of project. Bizarrely, the Tapperesque title screen actually evolved into…

Project One:

Our first Reboot release was Project One (level 1 demo). We worked hard on it for three months. P1 has far more to it than the released preview might show to the average gamer (see the tech page of the P1 pages on the Reboot website for some in-depth details). With time it could have become a decent game for the Jaguar and while we would like to see something come of it one day it doesn’t fit into our new self-imposed restrictions on the kind of project we will work on together. So it’s in Limbo. We’re not going to get into anything that will in any way have a detrimental effect on our personal lives again (P1 took over for a while), real life comes first, other interests may take priority, what we have left we will use in a rational, targeted way to produce things that are doable, fun and achievable in a reasonable time limit. We don’t want to work on an enthusiasm-killing DNF project ever again. But lessons learned, while learned the hard way, have helped us get to where we are now & we’re all happy about that.

Looking back, we’re actually really proud of what resulted from those three short months, it’s just a shame we didn’t get as far as actually working on the playability or real gameplay design or producting something that looked ‘Jaguar’ graphically beyond the title/menu. Realistically though, P1 was stuff bolted on stuff bolted on stuff & that is no way to go about designing a game. It would be simpler & easier to start again, using what we learned in making it & taking that knowledge to make something far better & more technically impressive. We did toy with the idea of stripping some stuff out of it for a different shoot-em-up experience, but there’s more effort and compromise involved in that than any of us are comfortable with now.

Beebris Tribute:

A quick port of an old ST game, to try to spark CJ’s interest in Jaguar again & to realise Beebris as it was originally intended.

Beebris SE:

An improved version of the previous game, with a bit more time and effort spent on it to improve presentation. It still has slightly laggy controls on the slower levels & rather twitchy movement on the super-fast ones (mainly due to its previous existence on the ST), but it is a reasonably solid & bug-free game that fills a gap in the Jaguar game library… and what most people tend to agree on is that you don’t fix something that isn’t broken – so no need for some crazy for-the-sake-of-it ‘jaguar-looking’ face painted on a classic puzzle game… what that kind of action usually results in is a worse game experience for the sake of some needless eye candy. Gameplay comes first and this was exactly what we said it was – a quick port with a little polish to brighten it up.

The next game release will be shown at Outline 2010 and a collectors edition, full download & website will follow shortly afterwards. Other than games, we have also released a couple of tools:

CD Encryption Tool – skunkboard version. GGN modified this one to be used with the skunkboard rather than the old BJL method, released with source code. This paved the way for:

ULS. The Universal Loading System is clearly our most important release to date. It gives regular users the ability to create bootable, encrypted CDs for the Jaguar CD from practically any of the homebrew games & demos out there. The Jaguar encryption process is not so much difficult as time consuming, certainly wasteful & really not everyday end-user stuff. ULS does away with all that hassle for single-load prods. It also means it is not necessary to own a development system/flash device/modified console of any kind in order to see homebrews on a Jaguar with CD drive – that should not be underestimated! You own a Jagaur & JagCD? Then download any BJL/COF/ABS, fire up ULS & minutes later you could be playing it on your machine. Version 1.1 now supports the .JAG Jaguar Server type 2 & 3 files, so that’s another whole stack of things people can easily put on CD.

Of course, that’s not all there is to it. With ULS it is VERY easy to produce a run of CDs that are all individually signed & can be tracked to an individual purchaser – you just create a series of slightly altered binaries for inclusion on the CD. It is trivial for any developer to create a tool to do this for & also record the details in a file. It would also be possible to create a version that applies slightly modified audio warning track to perform a similar function, or even a combination of both, but this isn’t strictly allowed under the terms of use, but we’re open to discussion & if a developer wants to use this technology we’re here to help.

So in effect, we made a very simple anti-piracy measure when we released ULS. To do a run of 100 discs like this by hand, not using our technique, would literally take days & days & waste another 100 CDs. Sure, it won’t stop someone copying a game, but it does allow for accountability should the developer care about that kind of thing.

As usual, GGN worked really well producing the PC tool in record time, CJ & his skunkboard did the hard work on the Jaguar side & the concept & testing was down to sh3 – again, real teamwork bringing great results. In short, this team just works. We find a 3 person team is ideal, one drags the other 2 into activity and the three of us manage to cover a lot of ground between us in what we can do; the whole really is greater than the sum of the parts & this bodes well for the future. It also helps that we all have a similar outlook on life, share a somewhat refined sense of humour & are all fans of games spanning the genres. We have our new goals & a new way of going about things & it seems to be working well for us. And that is our story so far, coming up to 10 months on the Jaguar.

LR: What are your new goals?

Reboot: The new goals are simple: Re-affirm why we started this group in the first place – to have fun & explore new ground. We won’t normally take on anything that is in any way too big to be completed within 3 or 4 months or so, but we won’t just make quick tech demos or churn out releases for the sake of doing so or jump from game to game & have them sit on the shelf part-finished for years, because we have all found that kind of thing really depressing & demotivating in the past. This is about making fun but manageable games in a decent time frame while enjoying it all the way. If people want to play them – great! If they want to even own a boxed copy that’s great, too, we’ll oblige.

We realise some people might call what we’re doing “creating mini-games” or “old school” or “retro”, simply because we prefer 2D gaming… but we’re on a platform that was designed to be a 50/60fps 2D paradise & 2D gaming is something we love and it’s what we’ll continue to do. Take a look around the 2D gaming websites that have sprung up over the last few years – there’s a lot of very interesting stuff going on in 2D & some really good in-depth articles concerning misguided 2d/3d snobbery & the perceived worth of games because of their format. All 2D games are not mini games or of less worth per se, and similarly, all 3D games are not instant classics & worthy of greater respect (as a number of the officially released Jaguar games prove). Every game should be judged on gameplay first and foremost… for instance, we don’t see the point making a classic game in 3D unless it brings more to the experience… maybe the appearance of 3D with pre-rendered sprites is possibly the way to get the best performance in such circumstances, despite the Jaguar’s memory limitations. There’s no reason why we won’t someday explore some kind of 3D gaming on Jaguar as GGN has the mathematics background to take that anywhere he likes, but for now we’re quite content doing what we’re doing & enjoying it plenty.

A lot of the 2D snobbery, generally speaking, comes about because many people just don’t realise how much work goes into even the simplest of games, irrespective of the genre/2d/3d/whatever, because they know so very little of the actual processes involved in making a game. If someone can take the time to criticise a game & still be productive themselves, great, at least they have the releases, the work-in-progress or the knowledge to back their comments up. We’re not fond of classifying games as 8-bit, 16-bit & 64-bit or minigame/ midigame/ puzzlegame/ actiongame/ epic/ etc,. Games are games. Pigeon-holing software in such an arbitrary way is easy to do but serves little purpose at the end of the day other than for yet more pissing contests or finger pointing. If a game is good people will play it whether it looks like a VCS game or a PSX game, whether it took 6 weeks to make or 6 years, whether it was coded in C or pure asm, whether it runs entirely on the 68k or has Tom & Jerry melting under the pressure. This is the way we look at games, when you detach yourself from the “But it’s 64-bit!” mindset, you allow yourself a much freer hand & the resulting software will be better for it.

Making games is not strictly easy on any console platform when compared with doing so on computers and some are more difficult than others. What is easy though is making mock-ups & quick tech demos as proof of concept on any platform (as all the unfinished projects we have seen over the years on the ST/Falcon show). Taking that forward into a proper game engine that’s fully tested and allows for a playable, fun game to be created around it, that’s a different thing altogether & a discipline all of its own. You have the basic engine, the proof of concept, or whatever, but then comes the real ‘game’ and with it all the boring stuff – the user interface, menu, the behind-the-scenes management etc., etc… all way more time-consuming & all rather tedious compared to the fun of the rest of the process but all completely necessary for all but the most basic efforts.

LR: What kind of games appeal to Reboot? What can we expect from you?

Reboot: The 3 of us have diverse interests, so we cover most of the gamimg spectrum, but finished games appeal! For us games are there to be made and then played. It’s the reason they exist. To never finish them is counter-productive and anyone who completes a project on any retro platform deserves a pat on the back and a big thumbs up from everyone.

What to expect from Reboot? Releases are what you can expect and if we’ve learned anything from working together in this group it would have to be: “the unexpected” – our ideas can turn into code far too quickly.

Getting our games to as wide an audience as possible is also key. We want anyone and everyone to be able to take a look, whether it’s on a Jaguar with dev cart, a ULS CD or via emulation on a PC. That’s why we’ll always release our games in digital form. And we have more ideas than there is time to refine & realise them, so at the very least, what you can expect is _something_. We’re approaching this with a realistic outlook & sensible, solid goals and we’ll also do our best to try to get some of our games to other Atari platforms, we’re an Atari group after all, not just a Jaguar group.

LR: You keep mentioning you are an ATARI group. So far you have been Jaguar exclusive. Do you see ST or Falcon games in the future for Reboot?

Most definitely. Right now CJ is enjoying the freedom the Jaguar gives him as a coder. GGN believes the Falcon is as unexplored as the Jaguar for us, even more so – it deserves some attention. The ST is by far a tougher environment to work in and requires more thought and effort to get good results: lower bit depth (in annoying planar modes), slower CPU, etc, etc. but we’re actively looking for concepts that can be realised on an ST or Falcon & made to shine on Jaguar.

LR: Most of our readers (and authors) have experience with the ST/Falcon but not the Jaguar. Would you outline the differences between coding the two technologies. And of course what’s it like to draw for those machines?

GGN: day/night. I’ll just mention that the dev environment is very poor compared to what is available for me on the 16/32 (Turbo Assembler/Bugaboo/STEem Engine), and debugging stuff can get a real pain (I wore out sh3 while adapting the JagCD encrypter). The Jaguar hardware is a 2D games paradise: tons of hardware sprites, blitter, chunky modes, free transparency, special fx and not forgetting zooming, rotations…

sh3: Personally I’ve had to relearn just a little of what I do. I have been quite happy working within the restrictions of 320x200x16 for as long as I can remember. At first, I stuck to what I knew best & was reluctant to attempt to use a PC for producing artwork for P1. I then attempted to use the Falcon to create the artwork with only slightly improved results. Since then I have got over that barrier, the newer work I’ve done for Reboot on the PC has been better, while still retaining the ‘pixel fun’ of previous stuff.

Cyrano Jones: Debugging is horrible, but not impossible. Virtual Jaguar, while it might not always render correctly, will give a nice error log when it crashes. I’ve used that a few times to find bugs. Also, with notepad, a simple macro, and DosBox – assembling is very easy. As I’ve said earlier, coding on the Jaguar makes the ST look hard. It does everything for you… sprites, scaling, transparency, scrolling, etc… all done via the custom chips. Having three CPUs to run in parallel is also handy for leveraging performance. Of course, you need to code tight, optimised code to exploit the GPU, but its instruction set is nice so its not that difficult. The actual coding environment at first appears harsh, especially compared to the ST with all the integrated apps, however once you set up Notepad++ and DOSBox with a few macros and batch files you are just one button away from assembling and testing. It’s not as bad as it was back in ’94 by any means. In short, what can take a few days to get done on the ST can be done on the Jaguar in a few minutes. The hardware simply ROCKS.

LR: The Jaguar has the: 68000@14MHz, the Blitter, the Object processor, the GPU and the DSP. What’s the role of each one of those processors in your mind?

Cyrano Jones: Ok, in my mind:

68000: core logic and synchronisation
Jerry: audio
TOM: grunt work
OP: The OP renders the graphics to the screen from a “script”, it can do a lot of crazy stuff (scaling, flipping, etc) without having to code up routines for it. Very nice!
Blitter: What blitters do. Moving RAM around quickly.

LR: Can you tell me a bit about the Jaguar’s display modes?

Reboot: Vid modes… the Jaguar doesn’t have any video modes, not in the traditional sense. It has a linebuffer that is generated by the object processor. Takes a while to get your head around this, but it’s really powerful. It’s better to go read the technical docs than discuss this I think.

LR: From your comments on the Jag being a 2d powerhouse I understand you aren’t really fond of 3d for the Jaguar. Why is that? The GPU should be fast enough to render fast 3d and we’ve seen some great 3d stuff (of course mostly in demos) on the less powerful Falcon. Excuse the constant reference to it but I am much more familiar with the Falcon, it’s not a comparison.

Reboot: It’s not that we are not fond of 3d or 3d on the Jaguar, we all own & play current gen consoles or PCs. We just think it makes sense to play to a machine’s strengths & that it takes a lot of effort to push its weaker areas. On our budget of $0, we’re happy to aim for fun, slick 2d games that play well & use features the Jaguar has more & more in order to make the best trade off of time/effort/results. We’re glad there are others who are willing to put in a lot more time & effort into their large-scale productions but we think we all have a role to play.

LR: Is there something else you’d like to say to our readers?

GGN: “Don’t just moan about stuff, pick up a keyboard and start coding!”

Cyrano Jones: “Judge the Jaguar for yourself. Don’t let other people tell you what it’s like. Have your own opinions!”

sh3: “Thanks to everyone who has given so much positive feedback recently, your support & kind words have been highly motivating – we’ll repay that in releases.”

LR: Alright. Thank you very much for this interview. I enjoyed it a lot.

Apparently Reboot are here to stay. They are motivated and ready to produce more stuff. I personally am far more interested in the 16/32 aspect of things and I hope I will see them soon. They went with the wrong foot in the Jaguar scene, and I understand that that was as much a cultural shock for them as it was for the community. Hopefully now that things for them are back on track they’ll be able to become more productive. Low Res has been priviledged to a sneak peek into their latest work that will be released (if all goes as planned) at Outline. So expect a review of S…uper Secret Project in the next issue.

Since Outline has passed. The super secret project was Superfly DX


Links:

  1. Reboot website

YM heaven in the net

May 15, 2010

A new ambitious project was released in the web some weeks ago called Atari Music Network (AMN). We would like to talk with Donovan Logan about the past the present and the future of it.

LR: Could you please introduce yourself?

DL: Gladly! But first, I’d like to thank you for this interview opportunity and your interest in the Atari Music Network. This is my first public interview, so I’m very honored.

My name is Donovan Logan. I lived in Toronto, Canada for nearly all 30 years of my life until recently when I immigrated to the USA to get married. Now I live in the beautiful mountain town of Asheville, NC. It’s definitely been a culture shock – especially since the Asheville Craigslist hasn’t had a single Atari listed since I arrived last year! 😉

LR: What was you first Atari and when do you get in in touch with music on the Atari?

DL: I studied piano/keyboard from the age of four straight through to University. I fell in love with the Atari in grade 7 when my school invested in an entire Atari 1040 ST MIDI studio for $4000. All had at that time was a Tandy TRS-80 and my classroom’s C64 which I brought home on weekends to compose an arpeggiated, three-channel chiptune and light-show on using Basic. The thought of owning a real, genuine Atari seemed impossible; I literally waited years to save enough money from odd-jobs to buy a smokey-yellow Atari 1040 STFM when I was 16 in 1996. Now, I own three modded Atari Falcons that read SD and CF cards and connect to a 22″ flat screen and mint condition Roland and Yamaha analog synths! It’s my dream come true! To read my full-length, extremely humorous and somewhat perverted Atari story, visit this link: [2]. You can also write your own nostalgic Atari story there too!

LR: How would you describe the AMN in a few words?

DL: The Atari Music Network (AMN) promotes and celebrates Atari MIDI and chiptune music with forums, how-to articles, news, & a growing collection of nefarious software. Although AMN focuses on Atari, it warmly welcomes Amiga, C64, ZX & NES musicians to share their music! There’s no platform rivalry here – we’re all one big, geeky, vintage family!

LR: What is the greatest feature of the AMN?

DL: In the beginning of April 2010, the Atari Music Network released AMN Live!, an incredible new feature which has completely revolutionized the site. AMN Live! is a free, professional music publishing tool designed to help chiptune and MIDI musicians promote their music to a targeted, global audience. It is the only chiptune and MIDI music sharing service that includes in-depth SEO and social bookmarking tools so search engines can easily index our musician’s profiles and albums as individual landing pages. AMN also pays out of pocket for Facebook and Google ads to drive traffic to this area of the site; therefore, if you really want your music to get noticed, you’ll want to spend some time writing a clean, professional bio as well as some informative album reviews.

LR: How could somebody could participate?

DL: All you have to do is register once to get access to both AMN Live! and the AMN forums.

LR: How long did it took to establish the site?

DL: This is a loaded question! First of all, this is the first website I’ve ever built. When I started back in June of 2009, I knew absolutely nothing about HTML or Joomla. In fact, I didn’t even know how to buy an internet domain! Since I was a new immigrant to the USA, I wasn’t allowed to work so I had a lot of spare time on my hands. Originally, I wanted to launch the site it in October, but someone hacked into my files and deleted everything. Can you believe I never backed up anything either? It was so devastating and I almost gave up. But after several nights of drinking Heineken and receiving encouragement from several Atari friends and my wife, I started all over again. The site was finally launched on midnight, Jan 1, 2010. And you wouldn’t believe what happened next! A few minutes after the launch, my hard drive crashed and I couldn’t access my site for days!

Over time, I have become quite proficient tweaking CSS, HTML, and mySQL files. The site has changed so much since January and I’ve got many unfinished projects to finish on the site. I can safely predict it will take another year to call it “complete” and “running on its own”. Unfortunately, since June 2009, I haven’t had time to even touch my Atari studio. It’s been a huge sacrifice building this site; there’s always modules to upgrade, bugs to fix, SEO enhancements to make, advertising to pay for…the list is endless. In fact, I’m running both a Joomla and PHPBB3 forum side by side and this dual platform system requires double the constant upgrading and monitoring. Right now, there’s a lot of people waiting on me to upload articles they sent back in March! I can barely keep up! Although I’ll admit, since I’m a graphic designer by trade, I spend too much time perfecting my front page graphics! ;-p

LR: Do you think that there is something most Atari musicians have in common?

DL: I don’t like to over generalize, but I can share some observations I’ve made over the years. Atari musicians come in two flavors: MIDI synth enthusiasts and Chiptuners. MIDI musicians tend to be in their 40s-50s, and are incredible Atari hardware experts. They always seem to have an answer for even the most obscure questions. Typically, these are the guys that never sold their Ataris since they bought them new, or if they did, they came back to it years later after realizing Mac and PC were no where near as stable, efficient, or fun to to sequence MIDI music on.

Chip musicians seem to span all generations and platforms. There plenty of older MIDI-chiptune crossover musicians and ex-demo gurus too. Perhaps the most exciting and promising thing I can tell you is that there are thousands of youths in their teens and 20s who are way too young to even know what Atari is – yet they are embracing and popularizing the 8-bit music genre like never before! For example, I recently encountered a few hundred of them from Indonesia though Facebook. The 8-bit scene is massive over there and I constantly get thank you emails and letters of support from them – incredible!

LR: Do you meet other Atarians in real life from time to time?

DL: Not in the Appalachian mountains! But there are still hundreds of Atarians back home in Toronto buying & selling Ataris on Craigslist all the time. One of the Atari Music Network’s goals is to create a global ‘network’ of Atarians to exist as one, large community.

LR: What are your plans for the future of the AMN?

DL: There are actually several planned stages of growth for AMN. First and foremost, I plan to produce an e-commercial for YouTube to attract and invite more chiptune and vintage MIDI synth musicians. I also have over 1GB of Atari software I need to upload which is a long boring, task – but one I’m sure all Atarians will love and appreciate. More importantly, within a couple years, I am planning on hosting international chiptune/MIDI festivals, similar to Blipfest, in the USA and perhaps globally. But right now, I’m focussed on making sure AMN is running smoothly with more content, software, and members.

LR: When I had a look at the link section, I didn’t see anything related to games and gaming, why?

DL: That link page is massive, isn’t it? My web analytics also show that it’s the most popular page on the site! It took countless weeks to build that page and I am nowhere near finished. I’m now looking for volenteers to continue adding and building it. The categories extend way beyond Atari music and so far it has potential to be the largest, most up-to-date Atari link page of all time. If anyone would like to help continue building it, please contact me at atarimusicnet@yahoo.com. I’d love to have a game section as well as sections for our C64 and Amiga friends.

LR: What are your 3 favorite Atari made tracks?

DL: I can’t say. Ask me again in one year after AMN attracts hundreds more talented Atari musicians – I want to sample thousands of new, innovative tracks before I form an opinion on what I like most. Maybe someone reading this article can blow me away with their musical talent! Hope to see you at http://www.AtariMusic.net/

LR: Thanks a lot that you found some time to do the interview Donovan, and good luck with your project.


Links:

  1. Atari Music Network
  2. Donovan’s Atari story

A new star at the shores of the Main

May 15, 2010

Not long ago the Hessian Kick Off scene organised in the RMKO [1] (Rhein Main Kick Offer) were only few in number. Because a tournament only counts international if at least 4 players participate we have to say thank you to Volker and Oliver from the KLD (Cologne, Langenfeld, Duesseldorf) team. Their participations often made it possible to have a real tournaments.

Now since there are regular retro meetings in the Rhein Main area called HomeCon, we were always able to get at least 4 players from the Rhein Main area itself. That’s a big success and we now locking forward to a brighter future of the RMKO.

Beside the constant attendance of long term RMKO’s like Thorsten B, Jan K, Frank F and Juan S we were able to recruit a new star at the HomeCon: Horst L.

LR: Could you please give a short introduction of yourself?

Horst: I am 38 years old, so I got first in touch with video games in the early eighties.
First in the Arcades, as you could sneek in easily as a child in 1982 🙂 Later I bought my first computer – a C64 – and had any Amiga except the A3000.
As my parents never bought me a pong console nor an Atari 2600, two years ago I started to collect and repair any model of the Atari 2600/7800 and by having now a collection of roughly 250 cartridges, a dream of my youth became true. Once a month I take part in a Radio Show called Dr. Pong on Radio X in Frankfurt, where we talk about recent games for current Systems like Playstation and XBOX but also about Atari 2600/7800 Homebrew titles and classic Games from the golden age of video gaming.

LR: What were your Kick Off experiences before you met the RMKO?

Horst: When we started to play Kick Off 1 on a Friday evening, we skipped the disco and played until 5 o’clock in the morning until we were some how able to control the ball and score goals (even the goalie was quite week in part one).
When Kick Off 2 was released, we ordered it in advance an got an original English version.
I probaly played it with my mate from school 3 times a week until 1993. Then I left for my studies and we just had a few games afterwards.

LR: What do you think makes Kick Off different to other football games?

Horst: The fact that the ball is not attached to your foot, allowing dribblings any time, requires certain skills with your hands in controlling the ball which current soccer games do not.
In FIFA/PES you need to see the coming action and plan the sequence of the 3-4 buttons you have to press in a row in forehand.
Kick Off requires the player to be concentrated all the time and is more comparable with Table Football (Kicker/Tischfussball) as you need a certain talent to move your hand/fingers. For FIFA/PES you train more tactics and moves, in Kick Off 2 you first have to train ball control, even though tactics are important in Kick Off as well (e.g. find the weak point of your oponent and take advantage of it).

LR: What’s your opinion on turning off know bugs of the original Kick Off?

Horst: I like it! It does not change the nature of the game really and now nobody can complain that he just lost because of a bloody auto slide 🙂

LR: How important is the competiton for you?

Horst: Well, 20 years ago I just played for fun with friends but had fun to beat them all the time.
Now playing a competition and having just started again, you lose many games but it gives fun, as you can learn new ways to score goals (I never bended the ball around the goalie before I played a game vs. Thorsten B., now I do 🙂

LR: How would you describe the German Kick Off scene you got in touch so far?

Horst: The guys I met so far were all great. There is competition going on but you allways get tips how to improve your own play and they are all cool guys bringing back the times when we had big parties going on at lake in the Odenwald (that’s were I am original from) with computer freaks from all Europe. This lake hasn’t seen such an crazy international crowd ever again.

LR: What kind of equipment do you use?

Horst: In1988 I was an apprentice at Bosch to become an electrician, so I built my own joystick board with an Arcade Stick and fire button.
Getting my hands aking from joysticks you can buy nowadays, I pulled it up from the basement, implemented a fresh stick and button and it feels great again. That is japanese arcade quality: A stick from 2010 fits in any arcade chassis from 1988, so it fits in my board… !

LR: What do you expect from the WC in October?

Horst: I really hope that I can join the tournament to see the leading guys from other countries to play as well as the German players I have not seen in action before. Hopefully they will find a mode where players of similar strength can play more games against each other to learn and improve before they hit the masters (only a master of evil darth, if you strike me down I will get even bigger… can’t remember the excact words, even I watched it 20 times…).

LR: Have you ever played Kick Off on the Atari ST and if not, what is your relationship to Atari?

Horst: Never played it on an ST. We Commodore supporters did not get in touch with the Ataris often but from time to time we compared the games on our systems and after Commodore and Atari were going down we had one common enemy: These fucking PCs with no soul, were you always had to buy new hardware to get your new game running smoothly… Even today I only play on consoles, never on a PC (except emulators of old systems). Today I love the old Atari stuff (2600, 7800) as I once loved my Amiga but never got in touch with Atari computers at all. I would say Atari is the mother of video games and I admire the guys from the first generation around Nolan Bushnell but did not care much about anything released from Atari by the Tramiels. I find it quite funny that today some people are still picking a fight on which system was the better one. If I think about Jay Miner, I know we had the same roots anyway… wasn’t it Steve Jobs working for Nolan as well?

LR: Do you like real football?

Horst: Yes, I played football when I was young and watch every game of Eintracht Frankfurt. I have a ticket for the whole season.

LR: Which 3 retro games you like most?

Horst: That depends on the system really: A2600: Pitfall, Missile Command, Hero, A7800: Centipede, Commando, Galaga, Amiga: Turrican 2, Apidya, Kick Off2!… and so on. I have my top 5 on each system up to the current systems, so it would take a day to compile a list. These games are just a glimpse.

LR: What are your plans for your Kick Off future

Horst: To play some tournaments localy and hopefully find the time to even go abroad some day.
As I only train vs. the computer from time to time, it is not so easy to improve my game play. It would be quite helpful if I can play a few tournaments with players on similar or slightly higher level, so I hope the scene will grow and we have tournaments with more and more players.

LR: thanks for this interview and good luck for the upcoming tournaments


Links:

  1. Rhein-Main Kick Offer

Outline 2010, the misadventure continues..

May 15, 2010

Usual disclaimer: Large parts of the following will be done under the influence of some sort of alcohol and will be incorrect, both factually and morally speaking. Also parts of the allegedly ‘realtime’ report may be altered later on at the discretion of the editor, who might feel that some parts are too lame to stand up to later scrutiny. This is nothing at all new. Even parts of this first paragraph have been changed as more alcohol has been piled on.

18.33hrs, Central beer consuming time.

We’re at the Eersel planet typing away furiously on my pimped out Atari STE proudly sporting its UltraSatan.. Erm not quite actually, well the STE is at large, as is the UltraSatan. There was also going to be a borrowed screen in this appealing mixture as I have nothing which isn’t whale sized and CRT based for the  ST. A spare screen donated by the Felicing one was discussed prior to the party. An offer of a nice flatscreen telly was made and enthusiastically accepted by me. So I set off to Cambridge confidently on the Wednesday evening, the night before our departure. A relaxing evening was enjoyed with the usual hospitality and the additional company of Matthew ‘Gasman’ Westcott, a notorious UK demoscene 8-bitter (ZX Spectrum) musician and coder.

We went to bed quietly confident all was in hand. The following morning revealed an apparently flawless transfer of party related goods, chattels and personal effects to Felice’s car. We set off in a happy joyful party mood in the bright and sunlit morning. However, about fifteen miles or so down the road from Felice’s lair, we remember that we forgot to load the screen into the car. So I’m actually typing this on an imitation ST (Hatari, as you asked) on my ex-Perkins Diesel scrapyard escapee Dell Laptop instead! Hah well…

So the STE is sitting forlornly in the boot of the Felice Mobile, and I don’t
think that a spare screen is going to randomly ‘happen’ into the space in front of me somehow?

That small niggle out in the open, we will press on with the tools at hand. At least it keeps the issue of desktop clutter to an acceptable minimum. Right now, the Gasman is satisfying the retro hardware pimped to new heights of awesomeness requirement, with his Spectrum 128 attached to some compact flash reader. Lots of tape images with tasty demos lurk on there, and we have had some viewings, including one or two which ought not to be really on a Speccy at all. The name ‘Mescaline‘ lurks for later recall and screengrab nicking to post in this article.

Mescaline Demo, is that really a ZX Spectrum demo?

We have arrived, unloaded and met with a number of peoples already. Grazey, Calsoft and SH3 were sitting in the late afternoon humid overcastness when we arrived. We have met with GGN, Haomaru, and a plethora of Frenchies including Chuck, who was very interested in what Gasman was showing off. Baggio, Deez, the Nature brothers and PeP provide a Swedish focus, and Wiztom lurks close by too. There was even a surprise (within the last 10 days) appearance by one-time Alive Mag editor Cyclone, who had fallen off the planet in the last year. It looks like we will inherit the final version of the Alive 15 material, so it may get some sort of retrospective release.

But we’re getting too serious. At this point, there ought to be a picture of the new ‘OL Cat‘, who was anxious to meet everyone again. There is Grolsch and pizzas and other stuff available at reasonable prices. And I’ve managed to keep drinking since we arrived.

Baggy floppy OLCat!

I’m going to write a bit about the journey shortly, which was generally smooth, apart from one or two worrying at the time but retrospectively amusing incidents on the way over. But I think it is time to stop, recall what fresh air feels like, before I keel over.

20.08

Settling in now, more people here, pizza’s ordered.

About the journey over…

This was a repeat of the successful Channel Tunnel car based concept which has been used over the last couple of years. Apart from one difference, where we had the company of the previously mentioned Matthew ‘Gasman’ Westcott in the back seat of Felice’s car, in the space where a couple of anonymous plastic bags of chocolate chip cookies would have sat before. Not that the storage space was needed. We managed to fit everything in, apart from the #forgotten# screen. (Not going to let that one drop for a little while just yet!) We may manage to rehome the Commodore C16 which has been faithfully occupying boot space in Felice’s car for the last year or more, and which managed to make the journey out here with us, yet again. Assuming that Oliver ‘Paranoid’ Heun arrives here. He is down as attending this year.

Anyway, after the bombshell disclosure about the missing screen was made, I spent the next twenty or so miles imagining infinite torments for imaginary foes, which is quite a fun way of dealing with the stress of unwanted news for a bit. After that I figured that it wasn’t really going to matter and settled down to enjoy the rest of the journey.

Approaching a rush-hour morning at the Dartford Crossing.

The weather rose to the occasion, with an early summer promise. The Channel tunnel was open for business and able to accommodate our early arrival. After a leisurely stop in the terminal building to stock up on the new issue of ‘Viz’ comic and other essential equipment, we drifted languidly onto the shuttle train and settled down for an impromptu picnic from our pre-hoarded snackfood supplies. We looked ahead at the the car in front. This contained what appeared to be an escaped cat perched on the passenger front seat headrest.

We stared harder through a sausage roll overdose induced haze. It appears there wasn’t any attitude of undue alarm from the car’s human occupants. It may be the case that the cat was a very rare example of an easily travelled feline. My prior experience of cats in cars recalls something which should be treated with as much respect and careful handling as a stick of dynamite, wrapped in a fur coat. (They did coax it back into a cat carrier before the journey’s end.)

The train moves off and tunnel blackness ensued, thirty minutes later, we re-emerge into sparkling sunlight and disembark. We pressed on into La Belle Francais, where we encountered our memorable highlight of the journey.

A TomTom called Chucky, or the ghost of Fred West in the machine, or Captain Scumlord traveller murderer.

Felice has a TomTom navigator. This has done sterling service over recent trips to demo parties in European locations. This year proved to be no exception, apart from a period at the start where it felt unsure of its role in life, and more especially where it was at. We realised there was a problem when we were on the motorway and it started bellowing instructions for non-existent left turns and demanding that we reverse direction as soon as possible. Which would have been sort of fatal on the motorway. It seemed that an evil puppet with our fiery demise wrapped around the front bumper of a French bulk products tanker as its mission had taken over the TomTom.

“You’re driving through a field, turn around! TURN AROUND!!!”

A closer examination revealed a machine thoroughly confused about its location, as the screen showed we were in a field running alongside the motorway! Several reset attempts later put it back briefly on the right track before it got confused again. At one point, a road atlas was retrieved from the floor litter in the rear seat well, in case we had to hand-navigate the trip oldschool style.

Fortunately, just as I was trying to get my head around the mind-melting concept of the Antwerp ring road, a more considered stop and reboot appeared to finally do the trick. The psycho satnav ‘found’ itself, finally decided to settle down, get a short haircut and a proper job and stop messing us around.

We’re still unsure what happened at time of writing. Whether it was Russian hackers jamming the GPS signal, or we had fallen victim to a French ‘Secam’ style not-quite-standard version of GPS which was 0.025 of a degree out, we don’t know. It is significant that the service rapidly improved once we passed into Belgium.

(Fungle Beats is on the bigscreen. This is notable as the demo which I showed the fair Nicky to introduce her to the concept of ‘demoscene’ and she smiled sweetly, and looked blankly back at me. So that was a non starter.)

The rest of the journey was muggily warm but otherwise trouble free. Even the suspension taxing road surface at Antwerp appeared to have had some sort of upgrade since last year. So we arrived shortly after 16.00hrs on a different route from the small back lane we took last year, but easily recognising the landmarks and arriving without any trouble in the last mile.

21.00 – Pizza’s have arrived, ON TIME!! So we’ll break off for a bit.

21.37 – Food needs have been satisfied and in one case (guilty glance up to camera.) greed indulged. The pizza’s are the same as for any party. Averagely so so by any objective unit of taste measurement, eaten outdoors in twilight at a demo party with a choice of wine or beer close to hand, absolutely delicious! So good I had them twice!

The hall is settling down to a quiet first night routine. I’m throwing text into this journal, Felice appears to be working on something textual as well, and Matt is also working on an item of his own which looks a bit ‘codey’ in nature. There is a demo showreel on the big screen, all is tranquil at Outline, indicating a lull of some kind.

The Gasman, quite possibly doing something useful.

And I am definitely touch typing in demi-darkness. (Original typo ‘d’ instead of ‘s’ kept in, as it is sort of correct!) Delete key is a sod to source correctly in the low light conditions though.

22.20 – Delayed opening ceremony. Also Sqward has arrived and introduced himself. He looks very different from ten years ago. (Less hair than I remember from Error in Line.)

23.23 – A nicely symmetrical timestamp!

I’ve had a successful wandering around session, firstly locating Beetle of CT63 and CTPCI testing fame. There was the little matter of a mousemat that I had preordered and he had brought to Outline. A screenshot will feature below.

I've now got one of these! They rock!

At the same time he is one of the beta testers for the  CTPCI graphics card extension for the CT60 series. Development has moved on to the point where it appears to be functional. The CTPCI, Radeon and CT63 combo boots up on a 1600 x 1200 screen mode and looks blummin’ gorgeous with the right sort of alternative desktop. I took a selection of pictures, and I’ll sort out the best one for here. It seems to be able to breeze Aniplayer and zView, which are two of the main showcase apps for an expanded Atari 060 system. I’m sure there is still a lot to do, but it looks like real progress is being made to my untutored eye. 

Beetle's CTPCI expanded screen in plain TOS.

(Actually, having the chance to pretend sleep on the matter overnight, I recall that there seems to be issues with different versions of the CTPCI Flash ROM’s only working with some of the applications and rejecting others. A natural goal is to get one which is happy with everything that you might reasonably expect to throw at an ‘060 system.)

CTPCI displaying an enhanced desktop!

At the same time, Nature Brothers have brought their SuperVidel which is being worked upon, so it will be interesting to see how that is progressing over the weekend as well. I picked up and talked to a few people on the way such as Nerve and a substantially bulked-up Havoc as well as some random other sceners such as Kusma and some of the Amiga members of Ephidrena.

00.01 – Which makes it day 2!!!

I’ve been to visit the DBug/Reboot farthermost corner in the hall. They were busily showing off a completely parallax crazy revamp of the Reservoir Gods fly-em-through ‘Superfly‘. This is intended for the games competition. There is also another Jaguar game to come from some French guys and a suggestion that ‘Superfly DX‘, as the new version is known, might make its way to the Falcon at some point

Of demo rumours, we’re not really sure. Defjam and the rest of team Dresden aren’t coming over after all, which was the best chance of a super smasher. There are whispers and suggestions of more ‘stuff’ in the pipeline from various people, but nothing so far to be released here? I’ll update as I get anything.

00.57 – The question is ‘weather’ or not the outdoors part of the party takes a turn for the wet and stormy. There have been large threatening splatters of rain and rumblings in the distance, with an intermittent lightshow in the suddenly very dark even for night time sky. The weekend weather fortunes are expected to be mixed at best, which means that there might be people forced to spend more time indoors and coding, rather than indulging in their great love for the chilled-out outdoors?

01.26 – The question asked earlier with the weather is increasingly being answered. Storm chasers can become storm armchair watchers as the wind is bringing rain and the threat of storms in our direction! The real party is rain-drenched! Small whimpering cries of dismay issue from the lips of those people who opted to sleep under temporary accommodation of the canvas kind in the adjoining field!

Meanwhile, I chant “I’ve got a bed, I’ve got a bed!”

01.45 – Felice is leaving the building, at least this part of it for the sleeping quarters. He has been enjoying the wine, or it has been enjoying him? The storm went as suddenly as it came, lighting plays in the distance but is going away so the tent inhabitants can get some rest unmolested by rain. There has been a Commodore 64 demoreel being shown on the big screen. Some seminal productions were shown, and at least one demo which looks like a C64 version of an Excellence in Art production for the STE, all fonts, scene poetry, slogans, tasteful design and minimal code.

About to put an end to any serious activity for today, so will update in the morning.

<—— Sleeping quarters preoccupy me here —–>

08.18 – Morning, no try again and… MORNING!!

We’re up and back after a sleep-light night in the ‘hardcore snoring room’. Not just any ordinary snoring room, but hardcore! Still, it’s better than being in the ‘lame’ snoring room. What is it with this endless drive to ever more finely categorise stuff? Life was much simpler in the old days, like last year.

Felice is up and about too. He claims to be fine, but looks every inch like the morning after the night before has hit hard. The bombed out expression and copious red wine stains on his person are a major giveaway here.

Quote – “It must have been just after midnight when I went to bed?” – Erm, nope, at that point the recording of time was in a particularly fluid state in the brain of Felice, like everything else in fact! (The fluid in question being red in colour and around 13.5% alcohol by volume!)

Anyways, I’ve been in the magic rejuvenating shower and feel like a young god (Ref Moondog), albeit one with a teeny tiny hint of tiredness scratching away at the back of my eyeballs and set to strike back harder later on. There is plenty of cool fresh air moving around outside so that might help. I’ve had a preliminary breakfast of slightly above body temperature coffee, some kind of edible styrofoam bar snack and a banana which was being handed around last night when I was admiring the pimped up CTPCI CT63 of Beetle. This will hold off starvation until the official brunch is ready to serve.

A Baggio contemplates his first coffee of the morning..

A small number of people are up, but only a small number so far, there might be time for another sleep attempt before the official brunch is introduced to the starving masses.

10.01 – More people but not a lot else happening right now. I’ve just taken a picture which depicts the UK election which I’m busily ignoring, and the demo party which I’m heavily enjoying. So some faked but scarily revealing headlines in ‘Private Eye’ alongside Gasman’s Speccy 128.

These sort of headlines aren't that far from the tabloid version of the truth!

It looks like there is a bit of a CT60 theme to the current demo showreel, as we’ve just had ‘Derealisation’, and are currently running ‘Silkcut’. We’ll find out if it is the CT60 port or the Amiga original when it hits the greetings part.

10.05 – Falcy version after all, question above is answered. The greets are greyscaled. That’s how you can easily tell them apart.

The big screen has now switched to an extreme oldie, 2nd Reality on da Peecee from those crazy mid-nineties days, acid swirls in the park, 486 DX’s for goalposts, young people today etc. But no sound and no iconic Purple Motion soundtrack, which is a major omission. So I’m listening to some Tao SID tunes instead.

Calsoft arrived in the building from his outdoor canvas refuge providing a wild night’s uneasy repose in the teeth of the storm so memorably enjoyed last night. His wild and hairy appearance testified to this.

Of additional interest, and widely trailed on the party website before we got here, today is ‘Queen’s day’, a public holiday in the Netherlands. People celebrate and dress up in orange, the royal house colours a lot. We were prepared and had our Outline t-shirts from a few years ago in that colour. The winner of the special prize for “Foreign person really trying way too hard to fit in” goes to SH3 for an entirely orange outfit from head to foot. The overall effect is something like an escaped Dutch convict in official chain gang clothing. (This was nothing compared with some other local dudes wearing giant inflatable crowns who turned up later on.)

Kev, the Tango cult called, it wants it's costume back!

Happy Queens day to you. And Gasman has returned.

10.52 – Bonus is in the building, with his oldschool Dutch scene vibe. This is cool.

Time to take stock for the party so far…

Good stuff:

Well we’re here, in spite of the killer satnav’s ill intentions.
Most of the other people that are supposed to come over have made it.
We’ve had lots of nice chats with those people.
Beetle’s CTPCI powered CT63 is seriously good, even at this alpha stage.
I have a new ‘060 Power’ mousemat.
I’ve seen a wicked Jaguar version of the game ‘Superfly’.
The ‘OLCat’ tradition continues.
Mmmm! Pizza!

Judgement still pending type stuff:

Some people didn’t make it, Defjam and the Dresden team, Simon Sunnyboy, the rest of the Reservoir Gods for different reasons.
Still waiting for some others, Paradox team, Lotek Style.
Not really sure if anything happening demo-wise on the Atari or not?
Weather less hospitable than usual, chilly and overcast. (But storm late last night provided some awesome visuals.) It will be interesting to see how a more indoor focused Outline party might turn out?

Okay, that will be fine for now.

11.08 – Breakfast is SERVED! OMG, CiH got to the front of the queue, so you’re all doomed to starvation related stomach pains suckers! And this is nearly an hour early, so there is going to be someone misled by the ‘official’ time of 12.00 and they will miss out as the food will be all gone.

12.51‘Random Images’, my CD-ROM project, has been handed into the ever willing Earx. At last the ‘thing’ which has been hanging around for months is gone rom my things to do list! If you haven’t already found it, leach and enjoy! (Well a few days later anyway – Post party note.)

I also found out there are some demo stuffs at last. A Dead Hackers demo compo entry for the STE, along with something from Baah of Arms Tech/Positivity.

As the latter was a rather good Archie/RISC coder who started on the ST and appears to be returning to it, we look forward to seeing this. Also there is the inevitable BITS entry. How our hearts thrill to that news!

‘Pimp my Spectrum‘ is on the big screen. I spoke to Gasman about this. We knew the demo ran on a Peecee within a Speccy emulator. There were some differences, namely allowing for the full speed of the native hardware, some changes to the screen layout from Sinclair weirdness to something relatively sensible, and also for some of the 3D stuff, the native intel instruction set was used in place of the emulated z80. So nice to get an inside view.

13.28 – The Karsmakers, former diskmag editor for ST News, oh, eons ago, has entered the building on a cheese supplying mission, but not for too long.

14.20 – The Karsmakers has left, and gwEm has arrived. There will be a live set this year, and possibly a hasty search for a new venue for next year after the managers goodwill has been killed off by said live set? But hopefully not. I’m fervently hoping that we have got a campsite manager who does not read the Dutch equivalent of the Daily Mail Heil and goes into a frenzy of manufactured outrage against our machines. What would a Dutch edition of the Daily Wail read like? Headlines such as “Immigrants are causing Dutch elm disease and clog rot!”

"Now don't go upsetting any campsite managers this year gWEm!"

We had a nice in depth chat with Grazy, Cal and the orange convict Sh3, plus Topy44. We are informed that Karsmakers has not even touched anything with an Atari TOS for several years. His last point of reference for emulators was PacifiST and Hatari took him by surprise. He does still listen to soundchip music though. An ‘app’ that plays C64 SID music through an iPhone. I guess you have to make do somehow. The real party has been outside, as the sun has made a partial recovery against a stiff cool breeze. There have been some exciting marquee erecting adventures, as some basic cloth-based protection against the more excitingly damp weather possibilities has been put up over some of the benches outside.

From the back of the jacket of the person in front of me. “From my black throne, I will lash together a machine of bones and blood, and fuelled by my hatred for you. This fear engine will burst a hole between this world and that one.”

I still prefer “Gordon is a moron” as the ultimate way to diss someone off. Guess that’s my age and those deeply buried late seventies New Wave post-punk recollections?

16.18 – Things were getting desperate in that last extract, so I rested my brain for a bit, well it’s the afternoon of the second day and we’re not yet into any of the organised activities or competitions. Apart from the graphics and music compo’s, these have all been piled into Saturday. Going to look around in a minute to see if there are any changes or new arrivals.

18.09 – As expected, we’re in the lull before the evening period. A time for quiet contemplation, reflection and lighting of barbeques for those people who are undertaking a self-cooking option. This included Cyclone who was doing a fair impersonation of a bellows operated blast furnace in getting his reluctant charcoal to light. This was successful and a number of alarmingly coloured pieces of chicken were pressed onto the grille. Baggio joined in with his horses willy sausages, and ex-editor of Alive mag had generously over specified on his own portions, so the writer of this text got to share in the food largesse. Which was very good, just before the magically amazingly on time food delivery arrived.

Team Baggio and Cyclone set up their improvised cookhouse.

Tonight’s repast was hamburger and fries, with some kind of sauce from a usual looking range. Mine was the thousand islands lookalike.

In more lame commercial sounding news, the new range of Outline 2010 T-shirts and long sleeved shirts are now available, with prices starting at 13 EUR, get yours today! Well I did.

On stage there is a happening, as Numtek is doing a deejay set against a backdrop of demos playing on the big screen.

I’ve also found the party network, which is the place which will allow you to vote a lot later on. In another lame informercial sounding piece, I found I can use my new moby handset to access this, as it has WLAN capability and a minature version of a full querty keyboard. I won’t topple all the way into the lameness chasm, apart from mentioning the manufacturer is based in a northerly location where we often go to a demo party in October!

Lotek and ThorN appear, Paradox/tSCc put in a belated appearance. Closely followed by Paranoid and RA. Goody. that sorts out the C16 issue finally then.

19.21 – The missing Germans are setting up. They appear to be founder members of the bulky CRT preservation society. Suddenly deskspace availability is getting very ‘cosy’.

19.30 – ThorN updates us on a number of issues relating to the Low Res Mag and what is happening in the near future. This has been sensibly held back a couple of weeks to allow anything from the Outline Party to filter in. Such as this report. And reviews of any demos which do show up at the party. ThorN was hoping for some kind of internet access, but we had to gently point out that there wasn’t any, apart from the little bit that will allow you to vote on the competitions later on.

19.53 – An attack of bleeps announces Stu‘s presence on the stage area, and a hefty dose of YM stuffs made and mixed in Stu’s own special way. This is a warm up to gWEm’s appearance tomorrow.

21.00 – Stu played a blinder, lots of familiar stuff live, songs playing, people dancing, as a certain Spanish scener might put it..

The newschool music compo is about to start. Streaming music, or “Screaming Lizard”, according to Skrebbel‘s accent.

Well maybe screaming lizard attempting to make a distress call and drowned out by static and 180 BPM thumping, according to the first couple of entries.

It settles down from there. A bit.

21.30 – Gasman has opted for the two pizza “greedy bastard Special” that I enjoyed yesterday on the final pizza run. A fly attempts to add itself as an extra unwanted flavouring, but it is batted away quickly. So ‘secret sauce’ with chunky unmentionables is averted, just.

21.56 – Applause tinged with relief when the newschool music compo ends? There was nothing that memorable in there, although there were a lot of entries.

Next compo is the oldschool music. More familiar faces here no doubt.

The first Atari interest is from Stu, a tune made in Musicmon and with all Stu characteristics, heavy buzzy sound and low res sampled drums for a gritty sound.

Also a song from Timbral with some STe DMA sound as well. Mainly for samples to add something extra.

Now DMA is up with another STe compatible tune. This seems to be using some different tones from the other two tunes preceding it. Softer and melodic with some heavy bassy sounds in the background.

A YM tune from ‘Bioscillator’, with very little zik and a lot of ‘Tinkercore’ which is the audio counterpart to a ‘Dutch colour scheme’ or coder colours in a demo.

gWEm is up with an executable tune next. Some more agile sound stretching to disguise the crude nature of the soundchip it was born on.

And that is the end of the oldschool music competition. I guess a graphics competition or two should be on the way soon?

23.40 – A slew of underpopulated graphics competitions are ushered in and quickly begone. Highlights were mostly within the pixelled graphics (all four entries of it.) A nice refinement is to show the various stages of progress on the picture, to prove its origin as a freshly pixelled work of art.

In between times, we were sitting in the Reboot/Dbug corner watching a selection of old fake demos, including one which namechecked Felice in a rather embarrassing fashion from 1998, whilst he was watching it! (A Reservoir Frogs faketro.) Anyway, the anticipation is mounting for the main competitions tomorrow night.

In contrast to last night, there is plenty of outside party going on in the darkness, and no funny business with the weather to threaten it. Most of everyone due here appears to have arrived and the ambience is a lot more ‘busy’ than the relaxed atmosphere from last night. Okay, it is relaxed in a busy way then!

00.05 – Nothing to report apart from a new day, which is Saturday 1.5.2010.

Oh, and the EKO System demo is on the big screen.

01.20 – This will be the last official entry before sleepytime, whatever form that takes. We’ve been watching Falcon classic demos on the big screen. GGN had taken over the organisers machine and we managed to get to the point of requesting some particular favourites. Mine was Sonoluminescenz. At the moment the perennial show favourite of Felice, the Obnoxious demo, is running. Alas, Felice has gone to bed since, he may be having uneasy dreams as the familiar music penetrates the sleeping rooms?

I’ve been pondering another minor mystery. To what extent are people coding stuff successful from hiding their work in progress from a casual or not so casual gaze. A diskmag (now online journal) writer like myself will tend to own a pair of paparazzi eyes, always on the look out for that glimpse of something that should not have been shown semi-publicly for that precious exclusive.

My favourite historical coup was being put in a room with Stax, at the first Error in Line party, where I got a whole preview of their ‘Rumplekammer‘ demo before anyone realised that they were showing their secret production to someone who should not have been there.

For the purposes of making this query relevant, I’ve considered the behaviour of those people who brought Atari goodies to Outline of some description which they were coding on. The most badly failed attempt to keep non-disclosure comes from the DBug/Reboot team who set up in the far corner, but were not at all able to keep their brand new Jaguar game secret. On the other hand, just over their shoulders are Chuck and Zerkman who are constantly working on code and never seem to need to compile and test run anything, making them very successful at keeping premature disclosure away. Deez and Baggio of Evolution have managed to set up  in a corner which is not easily accessible and Deez turned his screen ever so slightly towards the blind corner of the room. Paradox don’t seem to be worried either way.

Of course the most successful way of protecting a new production from premature viewing before its proper order in the competitions would be to remain off site and send it in remotely. So the secrecy winning prize will be shared between Evil of DHS and Solo of BITS! Now share nicely, and no fighting guys!

Sleepyroom, never got that busy, only a few people in it, some proper sleep was obtained this time.

09.00 – Saturday morning.

It looks brighter and sunnier today, not a lot else to add so far.

Oh noez! Random people are adding random lines to my report.

Where is the realtimearticlecomputer? Is this it? //Baggio (hijacking cihs computer)

Realtime? There isn’t one! – You can remove your half-eaten sandwich from this workstation as well!

I’ve reunited the half-eaten sandwich with its careless owner, Baggio.

10.16 – We’ve spent the last hour in the DBug/Reboot corner. SH3 treated us to a showing of Doom 2 levels pasted into the Jaguar version of Doom. This is not intended for release due to the usual intellectual property issues. However it can be considered as a step on the road to something else even more interesting in the future. Matt Smith (Neo) is the person responsible for this. My memory of Doom 2 goes back to the Wellingborough computer club days, where multiplayer games were attempted through connected serial cables, none of that wifi stuff! We found that the levels were too huge in Doom 2 and the network tended to freeze up at times. Usually very inconvenient times in the middle of a bit where potential player death was being converted to actual player death.

10.59 – (Singsong voice) “DULL SENTENCE OF THE WEEK!” – Hanging on for breakfast, a trip into Eersel centre is on the cards afterwards. Gasman has re-emerged, these two things are not connected.

11.12 – Breakfast hovers around.. (Please amend this incorrect assumption, breakfast does not “levitate” unsupported in thin air, it does have a trolley underneath it! – Low Res Pedantry editor.)

12.03 – Breakfast is a fond memory in  the recesses of my stomach now. Felice has finally managed to offload the Commodore C16 that has been sitting in his car boot for over a year (correction, two years – ED) onto Oliver ‘Paranoid’ Heun at last. Here’s a picture of an ecstatic Paranoid receiving his gift.

Paranoid celebrates his newly adopted hardware family member!

12.46 – Lots of appearances from ‘Lethal Xcess‘ on various screens around the hall. This is going to be the game tournament game. I guess Cyclone is the sponsor?

13.36 – A small diversion into town with SH3 and Felice.. People back at home placating souvenirs were purchased in the local supermarket. SH3 purchased a real imitation plastic ‘fussball’ from some evil retailer for 9 EUR. This trip was quicker than expected so we’re back.

15.21 – We’ve had a little bit of afternoon japery. One which fell into the “Too slow to record this” category were the organisers sitting in the orga’s enclosure and “singing” along in a cat’s chorus to the ‘Stardust Memories’ tune in the Sanity Amiga demo.

“Meowww, meowmeowmeowmeow, me-owwww, mewmeowmeowmeow!”

Of more interesting interest was a DS look-alike with a Chinese copy of stuff, including emulators for Atari ST, MAME, SNES, Megadrive, and no doubt others. It also plays a nice game of Doom, so some kind of DOS Peecee emulation may be in there too? If you get it from the right sort of places, the cost is mere buttons, or around 20 dollars as I heard it. This was being shown off around the Reboot camp.

Not really a DS clone, more of a Gamepark style knock-off.

Oh, and it rained for a bit too. (Outside of course, not in the hall as that would have been seriously odd!)

15.34 – Animation compo is about to start.

A couple of ‘party’ collections were shown, one of which a frame by frame retrospective of Breakpoint, but the latter was taken from non-video sources. IE, someone with a normal camera, a busy shutter finger, and a camera memory card that can hold the whole of Bingen within it. The resulting pile of images being stitched together to make a video.

There were a couple of good funny animations as well. This competition has also given some of us a useful wake-up call as the crowding closer to the screen is getting to the point of not being able to see much from the back of the hall, even from our seats facing the screen. So we might need to get some seating near the front sorted before the main compo’s are running.

In some kind of recursive infinite loop of analness (anality?), I’m spending some of my precious and limited time at a demo party reading through the 1992 realtime article for another demo party in the distant past, namely “The Great British International ST Party”, otherwise known as the Bradford Party, a once and never to be repeated experience. This archivists treasure was originally sponsored by ‘Runrig’ of the late ‘HP-Source’ disk mag who became rather better known under a different pseudonym slightly later on. Well they only managed two issues, and the third is still forever waiting in a recursive infinity loop of its own, so yes, late it is!

And why only the one Bradford party? I guess, youth, inexperience, sheer blind luck, then university and finally work, work, work crowding in too quickly afterwards. Well at least we’ve now got Sundown in the UK, but that is a very different sort of party from the Bradford event. I’m planning on going back to Sundown this year, we’ve sort of booked a whole week in Devon around the dates. (CiH exclusive!)

16,25 – Game compo starts!

‘Iridium’ which is a re-imagined Defender games direct from the hands of the Calsoft people. In light of the other two entries, this is the ‘weakest’ of the three. Well it is still rather good, the platform chosen might let it down in some people’s eyes, the poor, obscure and undersupported Wintel Peecee! Who uses those things these days?!

Reboot proudly presents ‘Superfly DX‘ for the Jag which finally gets its moment of bigscreen glory! GGN may be sacked shortly for his pisspoor testing performance as the demonstration keeps getting cut short just as we get used to the soothingly smooth layers of multiple parallax on the screen. As seen from the preview, the showing looks smart and high end, worthy of a cool Reboot release. I hope GGN does get down to porting it to the Falcon. (No pressure from here mate! Well not much.)

‘Ladybugged’ is another Jag game from Cerebral Vortex Software Design, aka Jaguar Connexion, the French arm of retro-console adoration. This is a conversion of the arcade game Ladybug. This has a certain resemblance to Pacman with a major gameplay revamp. It scores well on presentation and design, as you might expect from the Frenchies. I still think that Superfly will steal first place by a whisker though.

So we have seen a small but high quality selection dominated by Reboot.

End of the game compo.

16.43 – The catering tonight is represented by a Dutch version of a fish and chip van called a ‘Hapkar‘ or frijtes wagon. Ordering is done with some pseudo-monetary system involving some old-style ration coupons, like in the war and stuff. So we’re having to eat fried foods to the sound of bombing raids, possibly? The good news is the relative cheapness compared to the pizza attack prices. It remains to be seen if 6 EUR’s worth will cover even the piggiest of greedy folk’s food desires here. I’ll let you know when I get my food critic on!

The Hapkar has a long queue.

I’ve also now got a votekey, the number is lost to all time but it is too late to use it now, I got there first. A preliminary check indicated that yes, the site was moby-friendly as well.

17.25 – The currywurst, erm, Dutch frijtes van rocked! I’m going to go back for some more in a bit when the queue dies down. That’ll be all my nasty but fun food requirements sorted for this evening!

19.03 – UUUURP! I definitely will not want another pizza now. I’m all stuffed with Dutch junkfood, not for the first time this trip. There were burgers, sausages, lots of special sauce with onions and mayonnaise, and lots of fries, lots and lots of them! So the Hapkar is a success.

At the time of writing, there is the live set from gwEm and 303F to go, then the demo competitions.

19.32 – gWem set rolling in, he has some issues with the inland revenue, in song!

20.09 A storming set all round, gwEm seems to be a lot more comfortable and in command of the live performance than he was when I last saw him two years ago. I enjoyed the whole set, there was a wicked twisting of the ‘Das Boot‘ theme, and a song, above, which expressed some unhappiness with HM Government’s revenue gathering processes.

Main compos coming up next…..

22.21 – Demo competitions have been and gone.

We’re looking at a smaller field than for some previous parties. Specific people staying away this year might have had an adverse downward count for the Atari demos, two of the three entries were remote entries from off-site.

For that all important ‘how did the Atari scene do?‘ question, there were a handful of bootsector entries from Paradox, and three main competition entries. A really seen it all before and by the numbers entry from BITS, a nice little single screen intro with monkeys in it by Baah of Arms Tech. The clear winner is going to be the Dead Hackers Sommerhack invitro, which bashes the STE’s ‘open borders’ to a new level with some nice set piece screens. I spoke to Nerve immediately after the compo who indicated their next priority was a new CT60 demo. Hurrah!

So we didn’t get anything from Checkpoint as they did not attend the party. They were a strong favourite to do something amazing. I’m sure that Defjam has code in hand and it will not go to waste. We await future developments with great interest. We didn’t get anything from the Frenchies although they did a PS3 retro tribute. They did appear to be working on a bunch of Atari code, so there may well be something for later in the year.

We didn’t see anything from Paradox apart from the bootsector stuff, nor Mikro/Mystic Bytes. To be fair, his focus is probably on helping test some of the new hardware for the  CT60. What we would term ‘Reservoir Gods’, namely PHF/DBug/Reboot were doing nicely with the Jaguar, with some anticipation of later Falcon conversion.

Evolution were here, but nothing to be released. It appears their current project is intended for a CT60 equipped with Supervidel, when that gets here. This is going to be a game. (Following on from the earlier topic about coders hiding their work from the public gaze, I did get a glimpse of a Devpac screen which told me what they were doing!)

The Peecee competitions were more manageable, including a demo competition with a very famous name in it. Said famous name produced a very slow ambient entry which will fiercely divide opinions. It already did with the two people I spoke to about it. SH3 is taking the Skeletor Negator line, whilst Nerve is more positive about it.

(Did someone say Farbrausch at this point, I think they did!?)

303F were delayed but we are getting the live performance from them shortly. The afterparty has started.

00.00 – Symmetry still rocks!

The last day, it’s nearly all over, apart from 303F who still think there is a party on. I’ve been on a nostalgia tour of a previous decade, well a couple of months in 1995 to be precise.That is the Maggie Party realtime from a long lost diskmag called Skynet, from an equally long lost John ‘Vogue’ Nott. There was even something of a short realtime article from when I went to Visit Rich Davey ‘Requiem’ at his parents maison in Portishead about a month before the Maggie 5th birthday bash. That really was a long hot summer then!

We were all a lot younger back then, well I probably wasn’t.

A few people have left, Lotek and ThorN have had to go. I will be in touch with him over the next few days about uploading a copy of this report to the Low Res WordPress site. The rest of us are awaiting a prize ceremony. There is a fair number of people outside where the ‘real party’ is. Well the real party is everywhere tonight.

01.55 – Results are in, here is the retrospectively added. We’ve culled the non-Atari stuff from the rather appealing original textfile with the full results. The competitions below are just the ones where “our” people were involved in some way.

——————————————————————————-
OUTLINE 2010 – Combined Atari ST Intro/Demo
——————————————————————————-
1    Dead Hackers Sociey – “Sommarhack10 Invite”
2    Baah / Arm’s Tech – “Frankiki”
3    BITS – “BITS 52 – MULTI SCROLL WITH WAVE”

——————————————————————————-
Atari Bootsector
——————————————————————————-
1    RA/paradox – “BiNARY”
2    Baah / Arm’s Tech – “Quad”
3    RA & Paranoid / PDX – “Boot Dis!”
4    paranoid + RA/paradox – “BLUEBOOT”

——————————————————————————-
Realtime Wild Demo
——————————————————————————-
1    Gasman / Hooy-Program – “DivIDEo:
2    Timbral / YMR / DHS – “Untitled”
3    Sector One / Dune – “retrostation”
4    Desire – “In Monaco”
5    Royal Belgian Beer Squadron – “Rewired 2010 invitation”

——————————————————————————-
Newschool / Streaming Music
——————————————————————————-
1    Stu – “Earth (Original Version Stereo Mix)”
2    Response/Darklite  – “Retrocession”
3    m0d – “Shooter Boss Reloaded”
4    Spexzter/Darklite – “I’m going to be”
5    Cosmiq / Inque – “Club Epoch”
6    EatMe – “Meow”
7    The Danish Musician – “Abfarth”
8    Cosmiq / Inque – “The last breakpoint”
9    Bassie / RBi – “Allnighter’s Child”
10   Dipswitch – “12.00 Dread”
11   Quantum of Arse – “Kabouter Bond”
12   discomeats – “Dr Bob and the Casiotones”
13   A-Flash – “Step Into A Rotten Spaceship”
14   Haohmaru – “Pizza Calzone”
15   Haohmaru feat. discomeats – “F_11”

——————————————————————————-
Oldschool Tracked/Executable Music
——————————————————————————-
1    Timbral / YM Rockerz ^ DHS – “So alone… (Live ver.)”
2    Stu – “Bombabazooka”
3    DMA-Sc / Sector One – “Troubled Memories”
4    gwEm/Psycho Hacking Force – “Afterburner”
5    Response/Darklite  – “”Exanthema” (c64)”
6    Loaderror/Ephidrena – “I like this Stu concert playing right now”
7    Fby Fabio Barzagli – “Virtuosismi Italiani :)”
8    syphus – “Jazzsniffer”
9    Bioscillator – “Rotterdam Atari Acid”

——————————————————————————-
Pixel Graphics
——————————————————————————-
1    Ukko – “Mister”
2    bracket / accession  – “Mr. Marvin is here to kill you ”
3    illm / Apan Bepan – “Secret Admirer”
4    farfar/loonies – “look man, i just want some chips, see, some chips,
that’s all, just some chips. Turn that over man, it’s burning, turn
it over!”

——————————————————————————-
Game compo
——————————————————————————-
1    Reboot – “Superfly DX”
2    CVSD – “Ladybugged ”
3    Calsoft (code)/Gasman (muzak) – “xnaIridium”
4    nUn / Next Empire – “ParaCunt”

——————————————————————————-

——————————————————————————-

There are some non-surprises here, DHS won the Atari demo competition, with Baah! and Solo falling into line in second and third place respectively. Reboot had a good night winning the games competition. We are also conveying a prize winner home, as Gasman managed to win the wild competition with his ZX Spectrum video streaming system off his CF-card, when it feels like working, as it had a particularly vivid five minutes of non-cooperation at the start of the competition. The symptoms are startlingly similar to the ancient malady of ZX81 ram pack wobble,

A sleepy Felice is retiring. It is rather chilly with no trace of any barbecue fires, so I think I’ll pause this until we’re back in daylight again.

10.07 (A startlingly rapidly arriving Morning) – This is going to be a rather swift termination of the realtime section of this report, followed by a retrospective later part. The mains power has been removed so we’re running on a limited battery. Also the very table this laptop is resting on is due to go back to its rental place asap. I got to bed some time after 05.00hrs, and encountered a lot of alcohol on the way! Some of us were very silly indeed but we managed to prolong the party feeling for a few precious hours more.

In case you’re wondering, I’m in surprisingly good shape but I’m sure I’ll pay for that later on!

Okay, time to log off before this table disappears.

———– Some non-realtime recollections ———–

(A videoclip from my moby stirs into life, flickering firelight half reveals a handful of faces sitting around it, there is a soundtrack, which is the tune ‘Legend of Middle Earth’ by Jess. (Which turned out to be the non-sidvoice version, to people’s mild disappointment.) This is playing off some small portable box with the appropriate software. Wiztom is one of the figures in the dim firelight, he speaks about the rain, which is very light, but imposing more of a presence as the morning goes on “Random drops but no proper rain”. The timestamp on the clip reveals it was taken at 03.35 on the 2.5.10.)

How did we get here?

Another videoclip now, this one was taken at 03.08 that morning. Grazey is confessing to the accidental theft of a shopping trolley from a ‘lovely old dutch lady’ in the local supermarket, where “They were all lovely, it was like desperate housewives, Teri Hatcher and stuff, wearing their leg warmers, walking about like this, and I stole her trolley!” SH3 is acting in the role of drunk father confessor and urging Grazey to repent, hysterics are overcoming the rest of the party, the writer being no exception to this whatsoever.

There were other conversations stirring in the alcoholic darkness, vague memories of long-forgotten but vividly recalled cricket matches in the Welsh hills, the useful role of the Pennines in keeping Lancashire and Yorkshire apart is discussed. A few things talked of which were filed away very deeply out of harms way. There was gWEm who really wasn’t going to stick around but got sucked into the inevitable white rum black hole with the rest of us.

Did I mention that some of the competition prizes were alcoholically based? Grazey, Cal, GGN and SH3 used their mind-powers to thwart the other prize winners from picking up these precious bottles. As the game competition was well down the running order, they had the pick of the remaining prizes, which were magically and mysteriously white rum based. It appears that two bottles made their way back to the Reboot/PHF corner. These were opened and shared out, some people taking theirs with coke, hardened idiots like me drinking the stuff neat.

At some point of time with a ‘3’ in it, the party eventually staggered its way to bed, apart from gWEm and myself who were finishing off a couple of beers that SH3 had purchased and forgot about. I recall gWEm being concerned about the relative lack of Atari releases, and myself playing an optimistic devil’s advocate that things weren’t that bad really. Havoc was on night-shift duty at the bar and listening very patiently like all good bar staff do.

After which, we get back to the point where I went to join in with the remnants of the ‘party outside’, and the first mentioned video clip was recorded.

So I’m not sure when I went to bed, but I do remember Felice quietly pacing into the sleeping room at 09.30 to deliver a bedside bulletin about the disappearing table situation, which caused a rapid bed exit, showering and breakfast, intended to shock any waiting hangover into submission. This appeared to have worked.

There is not a lot more to tell, but I’ll do my best to pad it out anyway. Various people showed up, many of them bearing the scars and gravy stains from the night before. Wiztom was doing a particularly good animated corpse impersonation.

BlurryMaali! If Havoc wants the full-sized original, he can email me 😉

We repacked the car, it had been raining again and the day started to rain some more. An extended round of farewells preceded our departure around midday. The PHF mobile, an appealing but small Toyota had the extra challenge of getting gWEm to an airport. This was a car which was seriously challenging the 1998 Helsinki-Turku Saab super-stuffem contest for load compression and people carrying as it was. I guess they made it back okay, there were no news reports of death and carnage with excessive amounts of debris and broken tents on the Dutch road system?

A picture of an already broken tent.

An overcast but uneventful journey home follows, apart from one or two cloudbursts encountered, driven through and out the other side of. The Satnav behaves itself and gets us back to the Eurotunnel terminal, in time for some shopping by Felice and a quick grabbing of some French style burger fodder with frites. The boarding process consists of queue-filled endlessness, with some probing questions from the UK customs bunker before we are allowed on to the train.

We reveal we come from the Netherlands, a red warning light flashes on in the control room and the people inside show the first stirrings of interest, the occupants of our car are young(ish) male and from a country hosting planet druggie, so not at all suspicious really. We are asked where we stayed, when this turned out not to be one of the big cities, the boredom starts to return. When we were asked what we were doing, Felice exhibited some rare quick-wittedness in describing the difficult to describe to outsiders “demo party” as a “computer arts festival”. At this point, the law enforcers go limp dick and lose all interest in us, the bottom-searching room is regretfully stood down and we are waved on our way.

Useful one to remember if a potentially hostile uniformed outsider is asking what the heck you were doing that weekend, say “Computer arts festival“, not “Demo party”. Now put that in your quick response brain-bank for when you are asked those awkward questions!

More wet cross-country dashing around takes place at the UK end. Gasman is able to make the rest of his journey home that evening, so we end up dropping him off in the centre of Cambridge next to a lonely bus stop. I guess he wasn’t abducted as his blog has been updated since. Felice and I return to the residence of the Felice, where his spouse Paula had been joined by an acquaintance of mine, Nicola.

Another great post-party tradition of a promised evening meal still sitting around as a pile of uncooked ingredients and expecting me to thrash it into an edible shape is upheld. I tend to think I did a good job, even in a post-party befuddled state where lack of proper sleep was catching up and a lot of stuff got dropped on the kitchen floor on the way.

We’re not at all late to bed really, and the bulk of the following day is spent in a low-energy drowsy state until we go our separate ways back home later on. A little bit of a belated Felician birthday celebration got in there as well.

Wrapping up with some final thoughts.

Every Outline party seems to fall into a number of recognisable patterns, but each one has its own distinguishing remarks and features. This one was no exception.

Outline 2010 for me, was most successful with the “Party” part of the party. I managed to step up the socializing a gear and try to speak to more people, more often, Newer faces to me including Beetle with the Awesome CTPCI being shown off to great effect. Also more time was spent with Grazey, Cal, Kev, and George, which was capped off by that rather spontaneously occurring final morning, so maybe a bit too successful there! The usual suspects were remet of course. We rediscovered Cyclone, it was nice to see Chuck and GGN back this year, we missed the  Dresden Atarians. It was good to see Baggio and Deez back in town, with PeP and the Nature Brothers. Ze Germans turned up en masse on Friday, apologies to anyone we didn’t namecheck here.

Meeting and greeting Chuck eating!

The live acts were presented in a better than ever fashion, even allowing for the weather restricted indoors-only nature of these. There were some great sets from Stu and gWEm, with 303F to wind down nicely after the competitions and prize-giving were all done. Songs, people dancing, indeed!

On the subject of demo releases, the Atari content was a bit down, but not so much from the last year. We were really missing a killer release, Checkpoint were in the frame to do this but they did not arrive at the party. However Dead Hackers Society excelled with  a good dentro-sized production which continued the theme of stretching the STE’s boundaries. To put into a wider context and attempt to reassure people called gWEm, we have had a good last 12 months. There is more stuff ‘in the pipeline’ but none of it was ready to spurt out here. For future reference, it would be really nice if a couple of major releases could head this way next year?

Other releases were a mixed bag as usual. There was a nice animation compo, the Peecee demo’s were okay generally. One nice thing here is the manageable size of the competitions, so you don’t get fifty demos doing slight variations on the same thing. There was a nice Amiga wild demo which paid tribute to the Atari and stuck up for MC68k solidarity brother!

The games compo was of a higher quality than ever, even from a smaller entry field. The Jaguar console was very well supported. I hope we do get a Falcon conversion of Superfly DX.

On a personal level, we were better organised and prepared for the trip, apart from one major omission at start of trip! Oh, and the issue with the Satnav not being psychiatrically screened for major personality disorders before we set off either!

Gasman was good company for the trip. We appreciate the fact that he did not scream and demand to be let out of the car at any time!

Eersel appears to be a classic established venue. We hope we can come back next year. The only duff note for Outline 2010 was struck with the weather being poorer than usual, but then again, the party has been earlier this year. One external issue which we all gratefully avoided, was the dreaded volcano ash from Mount Unpronounceable Bjork lyric in Iceland!

Outline 2010, good to the squeezed out last drop!

A forgotton classic reviewed: Dugger for Atari ST

May 15, 2010

On April the 3rd in 2010 we started to play a new title in the ST Offline Tournament [1]. The game is called Dugger [2] and as I have never seen or played that one before, I decided to write a little review.

Dugger was a rather early release for the Atari ST, the title screen states 1988. A German team did all the work and the game features some classic Madmax chipmusic on the YM2149 which probably was already used in Demos as well.

After booting the game shows a rastered intro screen and then a cute animated intro screen. Press the gaudy button on your joystick to enter the game.

Dugger title screen (Atari ST)

Dugger title screen (Atari ST)

Gameplay follows  the 1982 vintage arcade game Dig-Dug closely. The player controls a little stoneage creature and leads him in the underground. Here the task is to destroy the baddies which move in seperated caves. For the difference to other games this is done using an airpump. Hold the firebutton down to pump the baddies full of air and let them blow up afterwards.

Level 1 of Dugger (Atari ST)

Level 1 of Dugger (Atari ST)

This sounds easy at first but the baddies start to chase the player through the walls and some even spit fire on you. One can try to quash them by letting rocks drop on them but it’s not easy. The last baddie left will attempt to escape to the surface so the palyer has to chase them for extra points.

My conclusion is simple, great graphics and music for 1988 standards, a proven and nice gameplay – if you like Dig-Dug, you will love Dugger too. Giving this title a try should be worth it!


Links:

  1. STOT season 3 round 14: Dugger
  2. Dugger on Atarimania

In offline competitions we need more goals instead of rules, but some rules are necessary

May 15, 2010

At the moment we have some discussions in the STOT [1] which are interesting for all kind of offline tournaments I think.

When we played Lethal Xccess, one of the technical best shooters on the Atari ST, we had the question if it’s allowed to cheat by typing a code to get autofire. This question was heavily discusses, but the question consist of two questions that have to be discussed standalone.

Is it allowed to cheat in a offline competition?
The answer could only be “No”. Cause it’s a competition, and therefor the scores has to be comparable. So one question  is answered and one is left.
No! Another question would be: “Why people like to cheat”. so we keep this question for later.

Is it allowed to use autofire?
At the beginning of the discussing I had the opinion, that autofire is only another way to cheat, but during the discussion I changed my opinion. That’s what discussions are good for.
Depending on the joystick you use, some games could really hurt your fingers or your hand, so using autofire, if the joystick offers it, is not cheating but a convenience. So this question could be answered: Yes autofire is allowed.

When I talked with Cyclone, the artist and level designer of Lethal Xcess, he said, that the autofire cheat let the game be much easier, cause this high frequency of shooting is not possible if you shoot manually. I also like to add, that the game has some autofire weapons, so that collecting a autofire extra is part of the level design.

Why people like to cheat?
To answer the question, let’s rewrite the question to: “Why people are motivated to participate in a retro offline competition?”.

Why people are motivated to participate in a retro offline competition?
From my experiences with the “Abbuc Bundesliga” (Atari 8 Bit offline competition), various Atari Age HSC’s, the STOT and some party competitions I discovered these motivations:

a) people who like to have a challenge. It’s a challenge trying to come as far as possible in the game or even do a play through.
b) people who like competition. It’s a challenge to win or even to pass by some other players
c) people liked the game that is played in the past a lot. So they are motivated to play it again, and then post one or sometimes more scores.
d) people like to enjoy some minutes playing on their ST.

The gaming industry like to categorize gamers into “hardcore gamers” and “casual gamers”. I don’t like these words, cause they were invented when I played my Atari already for 10 years or longer.
So I would like to categorize motivations a) and b) as “Challengers”, while motivation c) and d) could be called “Fans”.

Now I like to ask the following questions: “Are these enough motivations to keep an offline competition alive?

Are these enough motivations to keep a offline competition alive?
a) b) I would count myself into this category and so I say “yes”.
c) these kind of people are hard to motivate to join a competition regular, its great when they do, but as we all know, time is a valuable good, things happen in Real Life could be more important.
d) the way we did the competition so far is really not that motivating for these kind of people.
They always end at the lower places in the table, and in the end the table is what’s left of a round, so I could understand, that after a while they loose the motivation to participate.

So we need new motivations, cause a gaming competition need both groups of players Challengers and Fans.

What new motivations  could  we add?
1) Difficulty bonus
Some games offers the functionality to choose the difficulty of the game. So far, we had to look for a challenging difficulty, so in Super Cars 2 for example we chose “medium”. In  the future, we could set some bonus at the beginning. If you play difficulty “medium”, you get double score and if you play “hard” you get tripple score.

2) Medals of Honor
So far you get the Atari Gaming Activist Medal for participating 24 times (A season has 24 rounds). We also have the Atari Gaming Master medal. You get this medal for earning
192 points (If you would win all rounds you could earn 192 points a season).
Now after 3 years we only give away 3 times the Atari Gaming Master and 7 times the Atari Gaming Activist. So my suggestion will be to do some these changes:

  • Participate 10 times to earn a Atari Gaming Activist medal
  • Earn 100 points to become a Atari Gaming Master

3) Solved a level medal
Another motivation could be to set some more game specific goals at the beginning of a round. The easiest would be to say, that for each level a player solve he earns a “Solve a level in the STOT” medal.
If a game has really easy levels like for example Bubble+ the goals would be to solve 5 levels or something like that.  It’s also possible to give a ways the medal in “Gold”,”Silver”, “Bronze” depending on the chosen difficulty (easy, advanced,hard – if available of course)

What else?
I thought about new tables like A “Fans” table and a “Callengers” table, but I don’t think we really need this, same with a own table for the earned “Solved a level in the STOT” medals, cause this would look more or less the same as the existing one.

Publishing scores and medals to the rest of the world is a nice thing. If you play with a Xbox 360 or a PS3 today, you could post your successes to Facebook and maybe also somewhere else.
I like to have something like that as well. Technically it’s more or less already existing. We have a blog for the STOT. When somebody post a score together with a picture, the organizers are able to recognize that the given goals are fulfilled and they could do a new post to announce the giveaway of the medal(s). This post will be automatically posted to a Facebook page, and
there a player could share them with his friends.

My Conclusion

  • Entering cheats in offline competitions is not allowed cause the scores aren’t comparable
  • Using autofire is allowed, you only need a joystick that offers that functionality
  • We need new motivations for Callengers and Fans.
  • Difficulty is a chance for more motivation, but has to be mentioned in the post
  • Medals should be archived earlier
  • Medals for solved levels would be a nice addition
  • We don’t need more tables
  • It’s possible to post awards to Facebook

I would be glad, if all people who like playing ST Games use this article to discuss the conclusions and of course they are welcome in the STOT or any other offline competition

Christos’ views on the subject:
One thing our readers should know is that ThorN and I have  different opinions about how STOT should advance. It is with that synthesis of views that we made STOT what it is now (and we feel it’s very good too 😉 ).

There are two goals in STOT:

  • to promote Atari ST gaming
  • and more importantly to have fun with our old machines.

I am in total agreement with ThorN that we need to make STOT more fun for all types of players and that we should be more generous with our awards. A game can provide all sorts of challenges and we should take advantage of them. So expect lots more surprises :).

However I don’t think that allowing people to choose their own difficulty setting is a very good move. Though it has its merits and it will allow people to enjoy more of the game it effectively creates a premier league and a second division if you excuse the football analogy. Also we introduce a mathematic formula to count points and if that’s simple enough as it should be it creates problems. What if “Normal” isn’t twice as hard as “Easy” but only by a small margin? What if easy is too easy making the game boring? Should we then change the formula to suit each game and doesn’t that make things overly complex?

We are looking forward to your input in the comments section below. Maybe you can give us an idea we haven’t thought.. 🙂


Links:
1. STOT at atari-forum.com

Save the Earth by Defence Force

May 15, 2010

This witty and inspiring work for the STE came to us at the end of last year, courtesy of Dbug of Defence Force. People with very oldschool memories may feel the group name ‘Next‘ rising to attention right now. People with slightly shorter powers of recall may remember some of his feats of epic Oric-bothering at demo parties as diverse as STNICCC 2000, and the Alternative Party 2003, I certainly do!

After a longish Atari absence, broken by the odd Creators interlude, Dbug returns in full strength to commemorate, in his own way, the 20th Anniversary of the STE.

There is quite a major back-story contained within the info file given out with the demo. This was originally intended to be a screen for the 20th Anniversary STE Megademo. (Un)fortunately, this soon outgrew the specified 160 KB size limit, and Dbug made the decision to take it up to a full independent release which came forth (and indeed in 4th place) at the Kindergarten 2009 party.

As Dbug is sometimes as talkative as a diskmag editor given performance-enhancing drugs in his readme file, we also find out that a lot of the initial design and code was going to be very different from what we got. There was going to be some kind of time travel story where Atari became Microsoft, Apple, and a whole lot of other stuff in one. This would be due to a kindly Marty McFly type sending a cunningly pre-loaded EE-PC back to 1989 with a bunch of “racing tips” from the future. Oh, that and the bulk of this demo does not smash the STE’s limits, there is still plenty left in the old beast yet.

Another thing worthy of noting is that this demo is mostly the work of Dbug himself. The music comes from Excellence in Art, who appears to be getting around a lot of places with his stuff lately, but the code and most of the graphics are from Dbug’s own hand. He says that he hates ‘design by committee.’ With a singular work like this, he may have a point, as it really needs to flow properly from start to finish, rather than fail to convince as a series of disjointed and unrelated screens included to satisfy some petty group politics.

Well we’ve waffled around the edges long enough of actually describing what this demo does, time to take a closer look.

Starting with a quick fake static blast from your teevee screen, we kick off with a sharp and lemon-fresh parody of that horrible whiny anti-piracy advert “Would you steal a car?” that spawns itself onto the front of legally sold DVD’s. The original is actually an argument for piracy, if said pirates are considerate enough to remove those unwanted “features and benefits” from the illegitimate copy.

Random female, hardware, fine with me.

One of our favourite websites is referenced in the first part, as we are asked of the first picture “Does she count as a random girl with hardware?” The viewer is also asked if they would copy a car, to which Dbug responds in an environmentally friendly manner, “Yes, but only if it is energy efficient, not like that old one there.”

You wouldn't copy this car?

There is more in this vein, by the time we get to bag-touching appeals, then Dbug unveils a rather wicked STE-centric series of effects where he splits, wobbles and merges different sections of the movie in and out with each other. Rather hard to describe and doing something clever with STE hardware, but fortunately possible to show as a screen grab. This section is fast-paced, the music has been preselected, and this would represent the ‘modern’ part of this rather bi-polar production.

This is wicked, as in cool!

There is a little info screen with a page of links for those people inclined to follow up on the ‘message’ part of the demo.

Suddenly the music changes to some very old YM-tastic sound indeed. We are into the second main part of the demo now.

It’s cheese on toast and on your screen, with a very old and wobbly Cinemascope logo, and a revamped Defence Force logo up first.

Not seen this on Atari in a while, good to have you back.

It suddenly turns dark with the moon hanging in the night sky. We are in 1989, just another warm summer night in California.

Relaxing with hard drugs and wobbly rasters?

However, people at Sunnyvale are hard at work on their latest genius creation in grey plastic, the Atari STE!

They are quick workers as the scene rapidly switches to the assembly plant and the music takes a more ‘industrial’ beat where the STE’s are assembled, in an ‘ultra-modern factory’. There is some nice code on display with a multi-directionally moving large virtual screen and the bottom half is busy scrolling a production line of completed STE’s, from right to left. This appears to be a hardware scrolling and blitter-friendly screen.

Hurrah! We're in the ultramodern factory!

The scene evolves, we also move to the loading bay, whilst keeping the rest. We end up with about four or five different layers, or as the rabbits in Watership Down would term it, “Hrair” – meaning ‘many’, meaning they lost count after four.

This is just showing three of the layers, after that it gets fugly!

The scene changes as we leave the factory. There is a tribute to many racing games using rasters for skyline and perpective depth, a touch of Outrun as the truck speeds to the shops.

All together now, 'Da-da, dadada, dadadada!'

Okay, you’ve gone and bought one of these fancy STE’s. The scene now cuts to a close-up of the floppy disk, we hear the distinctive ‘ticking’ sound of a disk loading which plays over the tune and a wistful caption comment made “I wish I had a hard drive.” This demo does run off floppy or hard disk by the way.

Whirrr.. Tick-ticktickticktick...

The view pans out and switches to a camera looking behind the viewer at the screen. The music switches to the loader from the Union Demo and a miniature replica STE screen plays with all its oldschool rasters and scrollies in many many colours.

Impressive, yeah!

Then the camera shifts to the right, one of the most wry and funny moments of the demo where things are revealed not to be so colourful anymore.

Oh dear god no! - Moment number 1.

A close  up on the modern flat screen follows, where you are welcomed to the modern demoscene. An IRC session is in progress. This is an eerily accurate reproduction of an actual Channel Atariscne session. I wonder if Dbug can produce the original  log file it was taken from?

The IRC screen grab shown below sums it all up too well 😦

Oh dear god no! - Moment number 2.

Finally there are some functional end credits.

Dbug – Code and graphics
Excellence in Art
– Music
C-Rem
– Revamped logo

The music completes its final medley-tastic transformation to the Outrun tune.

Also there are some additional credits for the following.

Mircha – Moral support
Dad – 1040 STE
GGN – SIMMS
Gloky – New Keyboard
Jookie and Mikro – UltraSatan
Nerve – Transportation
Evl – Many small things
gwEm – MaxYMiser
Elitar – Pixel art trucks

And we even see some cheekily captioned ‘borrowed material credits’ from The Industry Trust for Intellectual Property Awareness,”

One final observation to wrap this review, I will copy and paste directly from the info file, in Dbug’s own words. I’m sure he won’t mind me using this bit.

“One last thing, the title, it of course (ok, possibly not obvious)
refers to the fact that we can still use these old machines 20 years
after they were made, a testament about the build quality of reliability.
Modern PC’s on the other hand have parts breaking all the time,
dying batteries, graphic cards got thrown out and replaced, not very
good from an ecological point of view to see all this perfectly usable
hardware just thrown in the junk hopping that some third world country
will have children desolder components in a mist of toxic fumes.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself mate, thank you.

And here is a final screengrab to remind us all of the reason why we’re here today.

Nothing more to say

And that is really the end now!


Links:

  1. Save the Earth at pouet.net
  2. Save the Earth video

20 Years Atari STE Megademo by Paradox and others

May 15, 2010

Once upon a while ago, the Atari demo scene pulled off a heartwarming display of rallying around and joyful celebration with an old style menu-driven megademo commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Atari ST.

In traditional oldschool megademo style, it pulled together a range of screens from many different groups, ranging from the inspiring to the toe-curling in quality. The end result was received very favourably and attracted surprised comments from other sceners on other machines who didn’t realise that the humble Atari ST was still so well regarded amongst its supporters.

Moving forward a few years, and another 20th anniversary for cherished old hardware is looming. Atari STE fans in the form of the demo group ‘Paradox’ decide that a revival of the 20 year megademo would be a very neat idea, and issue an invitation for all and sundry to join in.

There was a decent response. Some names from the ST 20th anniversary were missing, and would have been appreciated here. Reservoir Gods would have surely contributed something brain-blasting but are in the middle of a prolonged downtime. Defence Force started out making a screen, but this grew and grew until it became its own demo, “Save the Earth” which is reviewed elsewhere in this issue.

Still, let’s now see what we’ve got. There’s quite a bit still, so hang on..

Real hardware is recommended, some of the screens not being especially emulator friendly. There are separate hard and floppy drive versions of the demo, we click and go.

After a brief check on loading to make sure that you are running the correct hardware, we start with a festive intro screen. This consists of a Spectrum 512 picture, a digitized photo of a carnival or parade, so 512 colours on screen, with sprites over the top, and a sampled “happy birthday” song plays. This screen is removed in a chunky fashion for the next part.

The STE is Jarig!

The music changes, a big colourful bottom scroller does its thing, there is another multicoloured space-themed picture. It is bigger than a stock ST resolution, a virtual screen which rolls up and down. This is topped off by a distorting ‘megademo’ logo in midscreen. The intro and the follow-on are showcasing the possibility of combining highcolour (512 colours onscreen and up) with at least some demo effects.

Lots of colours for the intro.

The main menu is definitely something special and worthy of being the front-end of a megademo of the oldschool kind. The look and feel is of a fancy control panel on starship made in an alternative 16-bit steampunk Bitmap Brothers futuristic style. You control the crosshairs over the ‘starchart’ and press space when directly over the twinkling stars to get into the individual demoscreens. There is an awesome soundchip cover by gwEm of ‘Stardust memories’, or that tune which was on the ‘Terminal F*ck-up’ very early landmark Falcon 030 demo.

At the steampunk starship control panel!

So we go in, more or less at random, although careful readers may well note that this apparent ‘randomness’ is in the same order as Evil recording his video capture of the demo! Ah well…

Starting with the ‘Saluts’ Atari STe screen by Atari Legend & MJJ Prod. This is a very simple screen. A nicely done many-coloured picture of a large beer mug which is wobbled, with some sprites trailing around. An ‘Atari Legend’ logo sits at the base of the screen. I liked the bright and cheery pro-alcohol message!

The beer's are on these guys.

Next up is a ‘Tribute to Blitter and DMA‘ from Paradize. This is another “Hey we’re here” diskfiller. A basic GFA screen with some nice music, a couple of digitised screens, but not much action. Don’t worry, because Paradize pull a nicer screen out of the bag a bit later on.

The first attempt at a ‘proper’ screen comes with ‘Extravagance’ by No Extra. This scores strongly on the design, perhaps a bit less on using the STE’s features. We have a demo of many parts, a twinkling soundchip tune, small screens with 3-D filled vectors, some nice graphics, a rotozoomer. Some nice plasma gets in there too and some designy credits and greets. This would make a nice intro on its own, so it managed to pack a lot into 160 KB.

Twisted words and images.

The first seriously hardcore attempt to get to grips with the STE’s hardware comes with the cunningly redeployed ‘Ex-Reset Screen’ from our megademo sponsors Paradox. The grab from which the recording was taken is imperfect due to use of a funky 60 Hz screen mode. There is some major zooming and rotating stuff on top of a big scroller. A hard pounding chiptune sets the mood perfectly. It worked for me.

A partially grabbed very hardcore screen.

Paradize come back next with their more serious effort ‘Visual Unity’. This is stronger on design than hardcore stuff, but no worse off for this. A smooth virtual introduction screen debuts the demo with a light tune, The title is ‘handwritten’ in an etch-a-sketch style. The next part is a major raster attack with a 3D solid cube and an island sitting moodily in the background. There is a little interlude with some trailing patterns and a Paradize logo on the left. The music builds nicely and the next part moves into some funky wireframe greetings. A graphically pleasing set of stars moves around in a crystal ball takes place next, which is sort of the end of that part.

Cube in desert island space!

‘Mr Fourtyseven’ is BiTS contribution to this epic work. As usual there is minimal design and a huge division and conflict over the merits of this group. (Well not that much of a division, more a massive bloc of turned down thumbs.) To be fair, there does appear to be ample use of the STE’s hardware features, with smooth hardscroll, STE Palette and STE DMA sound. Whatever SoLo’s state of mind, his love of Atari did come across, so I’ll be kind on this occasion.

Another scene personality dear to my heart, GGN, gets busy with ‘Zero to Twenty: Sixty Seconds’. This has a certain lightness of touch with a mad birthday tribute picture at the start, and a mad version of the 1812 overture covered by that prolific remixer Yamaha. There is an Ascii swirling scroller which builds a scroller at the top of the screen and loads of oldschool graphics strutting around in the background. This gets in and out, not a heavyweight, but cheekily manages to win a place in the viewers affections. Nice work George!

George has spirals within spinny things!

An expected highlight looms large, with ‘Tuttugandi’ from DHS. To some extent we’re picking up themes explored in other recent DHS releases. So you will expect lots of good design, use of overscan and some great music to top this off. We are not disappointed, as the screenshot below shows. This part is complete for an intro but relatively short by DHS’s own admission, Well they had a ‘Cernit Trandafir’ to release as well and they apologise for using some leftovers from that demo.

Dead Hackers and the city..

Another major screen or mini-demo comes from the second Paradox contribution ‘Cubes, Ribbons and 3D Flybys.’ This is intended as a tribute or parody of the Peecee fashion for the effects named in the title. ‘Cubes’ is an amazing hardcore STE take with a virtual screen and several 3D gouraud shaded cubes at once. ‘Ribbons’ is a more lighthearted greetings and skywriting midsection, again with an unconfined virtual screen.

Cubes, but no ribbons or 3D flybys...

The ‘3D Flybys’ part takes further some of the work Paradox put into their 3D scaling sprites on their Outline 2008 demo ‘Again’. These are with perspective and set against a lovely background. All in all another strong part. And worthy of another screengrab.

3D Flybys without the cubes or ribbons.

‘Roxotro’ by RGCD is more of an advertisement by the makers of ‘rOx’ showing off some old graphics originally intended for their follow-up to rOx. This was supposed to be shown at Outline but appears that it may be delayed until later in the year. This had a very oldschool shades of 1990 feeling tile-based effects, but made me go “Yaay!” because of the promise of a sequel to rOx, preferably one which allows you to shoot back! Some glowing vector bobs at the end.

Could have been a game, might still be a game someday?

‘Zickdisk 2.5’ is made by Paradize & Elite. There are some cool tunes and minimal effects on a reasonably nice looking front end, which is sort of reminiscent of what Marcer did in the ST 20th Anniversary demo. Still, you can select the tunes, have a nice listen, and linger awhile. There is an end-part in a moody grey too.

Excellence in Art celebrates his return to the Atari scene and the STE in his own characteristic style. A screen called ‘$14′ has all the hallmarks of Excellence in Art style including some excellent music and synching to the minimal but smoothly done vector line effects. We are promised more to come at the Sommerhack 2010, so we’re looking out for this. Music is digisound with a mellow sound loop playing throughout.

Don't run this on emulators, we are told.

We’re on the final contribution from Paradox, the ‘Direct Color Zoomer‘. This is a full-on STE hardware attack, bottom scroller, music indicators, a zooming background picture and a single bitplane dot morpher. With digisound. So this feels fairly oldschool in some ways.

STE hardware attacked!

The Hidden screens appear to be using some forgotten early efforts from an early crew that a current Atari scene member was involved in. These are ‘do as they say on the tin’ screens. They are not advertised by twinkly stars on the main menu. You have to click around until you chance on one or other of these. Prepare for 1991 aesthetic sensibilities, sensual overload with coder colours and Mad Max chiptunes. Apart from the third one which ventures into digisound.

Hidden screen 1 – Cykelpump and Flensost (The X’Press Crew (1991))
Hidden screen 2 – Megalurk (The X’Press Crew (1991))
Hidden screen 3 – Circleblast (The X’Press Crew (1991))

Oldschool craziness part one.

And finally, yes really, the Reset screen from Paradox to conclude things. A very simple one-note screen at the end with an always relevant message. Thanks guys!

The last thing you will see...

So, was this a successful tribute to the twenty years of the STE? At least one external commentator annoying troll who specialises in personal abuse considered this as mainly a Paradox Show with some guest screens, and not really a full tribute. I would not be inclined to agree. Apart from the undoubtedly excellent Paradox screens, there were strong efforts from several of the other contributors. Apart from a couple of screens, I don’t feel there was an excessive baggage of making up the numbers minor screens, which were always an occupational hazard of any multi-crew menu style megademo, back in the olden days.

The only area where I might have wished for more perhaps, is with some of the screens featuring good effects and design, but not a lot to really tell it could only be done with the extra capabilities of the STE. This is the sort of area where the likes of Paradox and DHS pulled ahead of the rest.

Anyway, we are quietly content with what has been given to us. So when is the Falcon 030 twentieth birthday, 2012, or 2013? And what are we doing to celebrate that one?

Final thoughts. I spent long enough on this review and pulling the screenshots out of the movie footage, I’m not sure this makes sense even the third time of reading this review back, so apologies in advance for any incoherent remarks that crept in and stayed in!


Links:

  1. 20 Years Atari STE Megademo at pouet.net
  2. 20 Years Atari STE Megademo video

Sommarhack 2010 invitro by DHS

May 15, 2010

This was an invitro for the Sommarhack 2010 party in July. It was released at the Outline 2010 party. It was waving the Atari banner in a lonely fashion there, and was really the only release of significance on the Atari there. I don’t think we really want to count the BITS entry, and Baah’s short intro was too lightweight to stand up to scrutiny.

The good news is that although this is an invitro, it does weigh in with a decent amount of different screens, about a dentro’s worth, in oldschool money.

The other good news is, that it carries on with the mission to extend the possibilities of the extra hardware of the STE series. Indeed, the program file comes with some disturbingly specific caveats, 2 MB of memory or better is required. There is also a current problem with the Mega STE as it does not like the latter machine at all. (Which may be hopefully fixed soon.)

An attempt with Hatari revealed it is only partially happy with emulators as well. Emulator related dismay is most noticeable when the fullscreen effects are deployed. However, my original STE is happy with it, therefore so am I.

There are a fair number of creator credits, with code from Evil, Nerve, and Gizmo. Proteque donates a classic picture, and 505 appears to be channelling Jess of OVR in his soundalike soundchip tune.

We take the various screens as we find them, namely the effects that were shown. There are some info screens in there as well, but nothing that takes over this demo, which is nice.

The title screen comes first. We see a fancy font up top, some metallic effect text below. The latter is used for various info screens in the demo.

The very beginning part.

Followed swiftly by a fullscreen swirling vortex. Across the surface of this scary whirlpool effect, some little creator credit sprites scuttle across the screen. These are slightly transparent as you can still see the swirlyness underneath.

Who did this? Now revealed.

There is another full screen following on, with a classic oldschool bouncing dot hillocks filling the void, a greetings scroller runs up and down the screen with manic energy.

A bouncing dot-vector booby titty thing!

This next screen falls into the ‘not sure how this is done‘ category. A trail of what appear to be elaborate golden 3D shaded or mapped objects display themselves lazily in a spiral pattern around the screen, or they could be very well done sprites? They morph and change shape as they go around. Still it looks rather good.

Morph-o-blobs strike fast!

This upcoming part is definitely and uncompromisingly 3D though. A brown landscape against a blue sky (with a suggestion of cloud?) with a series of monolithic structures in flat shades, with at least one spinning cube in there. Sort of like trying to do a CT60 on an STE budget. It just about hangs in there, well done guys.

A brown man, in a blue world..

The static picture, a moment of art to cool the brain. A bleak blue filling the whole screen study by Proteque, almost like a watercolour, not the usual computer art at all. Very very good.

A blue man, in a bleak world..

Another favourite bit of mine comes up now, an exquisitely drawn DHS logo on the right, with a swirling plasma in a series of warm and well chosen colours. There is no cheap ‘colourshock’ in kindergarten colours here. This is a design perfect screen. I guess the STE enhanced palette was used here.

Design, or what!

The best does appear to have been saved to last. The end part was a fullscreen killer, and a suitable high note to end on. All borders are removed, cast away to a dark place never to return. We see a huge rippling distorting logo, tastefully coloured ginormous raster bars and an info scroller about the party heading  languidly up the page. This was an authentic trouser-exploding moment even for the harshest critic of DHS.

So fullscreen, it seems to bulge out the screen and come after you!

This was another superior DHS contribution to the Atari demo scene. Certainly without this, the Outline 2010 demo competitions would have been in a very poor state indeed.

I still like to think that we haven’t seen the STE demo to end all other STE demos, but this is a solid contribution to an impressive portfolio on that machine,

The next ‘thing’ from DHS? Apparently a CT60 demo, we hope so!


Links:

  1. Sommarhack 2010 invitro at pouet.net

The Snowman 2009 by Checkpoint

May 15, 2010

The beginning

Merry Christmas 2009, tickle those synapses into life and take yourself back to a time which had more than the average Atari demo gift bundle for that season. Apart from the 20 years Atari STE megademo, and the ‘sort of outgrew the original screen for the above’ ‘Save the Earth’ demo from Defence Force, we got this gorgeous little reworking  of The Snowman slideshow demo (1987).  It is a nicely wrapped little package nestling on top of the big presents under the tree. The one with the very shiny paper, tied up with a golden bow, silently pleading with you to open it first.

So you do…

Checkpoint have set about a major reworking of the iconic 1987 original demo ‘The Snowman’ from Modnoc. That consisted of a few pictures in a slideshow captured from the 1982 cartoon, and the soundtrack from the original ‘Walking in the Air’ tune. For those of you unenlightened beings who haven’t come across the original book by Raymond Briggs, or the 1982 animated movie, then a really obvious and limp-wristed search with your preferred search engine should fill those gaps in nicely.

A happy child

From such a bare and unpromising premise, this little slideshow was extremely well received and highly regarded for a long time. There have been PeeCee and more lately, Atari 8-bit reworkings of the original, so the time may have been ripe for a retrospective perhaps? So Checkpoint declared an interest and got stuck in to make a thoroughly nicely revamped update for this classic.

Unlike the bulk of 2009, which was an STE release orgy, The Snowman 2009 does run on just about anything, from a plain and very vanilla 1040 STFM upwards. You can run it on a Falcon if you desire.

Familiar faces such as Defjam and lsl for coding honours, along with 505 for the music are prominent. (Yes there is a nice original loader tune.) We also get a contribution from C-Rem for the font graphics in the lower scrolltext.

The snowman grows

To kick off then, there is a brief loading screen with a nice tune by 505 which might make you want to stay a bit longer. You can resist for only so long, and the ‘press space’ tempts you in eventually.

The slideshow element of the original is essentially intact. It is based on the ‘short’ version of the original movie, which does mean the essential elements are intact. The difference lies in the flat screenshots being brought to life with a progression of animated scenes. These are usually slow and blurry and perfectly in keeping with the original work.

The screens are slightly coarsely pixelled but this works to the viewers advantage where blurring is used. The languid dream-like quality of the original work has been enhanced by this remake.

The ‘Walking in the Air’ sampling is taken from the movie of course. This does not appear to end and like the demo, loops indefinitely.

He's so cute

You may end up running through the demo several times in order to read the scrolltext at the bottom anyway. This contains a lot of thoughts and reflections from the creators, especially about the high number and quality of releases for the ST and especially the STE during 2009.

This Xmas treat was just right for the season, it will be got out and played again and again, like the original movie.


Links:

  1. Snowman 2009 at pouet
  2. Snowman original from 87 at pouet

Another Kid Story – MJJ Productions

May 15, 2010

Released at the VIP Party 2009.

Design and code by Tobe.
Code by HerrV.
Graphics by C-Rem.
Music by TomChi.

This was one of the more surprising and influential ‘small’ demos made last year for the Atari STE. It is a tribute demo to the ‘Kid’s Story‘ episode of the Animatrix series, a body of work to which I confess having no familiarity with whatsoever. So I’m taking the demo at its face value. Yes I know I’m an anime-avoiding dinosaur, so you’ll just have to put up with it. Or write your own better informed review taken from that wider perspective perhaps?

The demo is short and sweet, starting with a functional intro screen styled white font on a black screen. This leads to a moody blue-themed still screen to further introduce the demo.

The title screen.

I could go the Herman Samso route and give some very brief descriptions to wrap this article up, or else I could try to write a bit more. Which is it to be?

We meet our protagonist by zooming close in to a picture of a lonely hacker, hunched over a computer screen in a dark room. I guess this is the ‘Kid’ of the demo and the movie.

Zooming in, part one.

We move even closer to the action, about two inches away from a green cursor spewing words of concern and questioning. In conventional demo describing terms, this is a reinterpretation of a classic scrolltext, flowing incredibly smoothly and a complete subversion of an oldschool warhorse effect. There are key-clicks mixed in with the main soundtrack at this point. I guess these are sampled and using the ‘STE’ part of generating sound?

Tap-tappity-tap-tap scrolltext!

There are only a handful of core effects deployed and the pixel zoomer, seen introducing the hacker is redeployed by closing up into an intense eyeball view.

Another green scroller, not a harsh computer font, but more of a smoothly flowing sineous series of green dots tells you to “Believe in your dreams.”

More green textual madness!

The zoomer returns to give you a faceful, then the final ‘real’ effect is shown. A texture mapped spiral vortex or flat tunnel effect.

Spinny stuff, tunnel or seashell?

“Escape from their truth”. “The choice is yours.” More good advice is given, so our hero decides to end the demo by zooming to the light at the end of the tunnel. And it is really the end.

Zooming in, part two, don't go towards the light!

This demo is small and perfectly formed. A brief poem or haiku to set against the messy sprawl of bigger works, a compelling guitar solo to set against a whole Ring Cycle performance, you get the idea?

I ought to credit the efforts of C-Rem for providing perfectly moody and scene-setting graphics for this demo. And to TomChi for providing a soundtrack which was musically all his own style and again fitting in perfectly with the darker mood of the demo.

The advice is given not to bother with emulators, but I found this was perfectly fine running under Hatari. Of course it made the UltraSatan trip to my real STE as soon as possible.

If you haven’t already tried this one, then enjoy, but I don’t think that will be many people left out there now?


Links:

  1. Another Kid Story at pouet

Random Images – A spamfomercial!

May 15, 2010

The title picture.

Ok, I’m going to use these hallowed pages, (Hallowing concept (C) Richard Karsmakers 1989-ish,) for some self-promotion of ‘product’.

At least the product in question is new, intended to be Atari related and meant to be enjoyed on any TOS-based computer close to hand.

Whirly shiny bubbles.

Quite simply, if everything has gone to plan for Outline 2010, then the ‘Random Images’ CD-ROM image file [1] will be available for downloading. In nerdy numbers, that means around 500 MB of stuff to play with, including 675 painstakingly converted Targa pictures. Also there are 399 animated GIF’s in the image too. Finally there is a smallish selection of handy tools to view these goodies too.

When I say ‘CD-ROM’, this was the most convenient method of gathering up the collection. It would be easy enough to transfer this to one of the new generation of SD-card based storage devices. Did I say UltraSatan, oops, guess I did!

As to the point of the whole exercise, you might be aware that the STE can fake a lot more colours onscreen than the official and rather measly sixteen that Atari were content with. How about 19200 colours onscreen from 32768 available? Well Photochrome can do it, and here are the pictures to show this to the world! Even the veteran STFM can manage 4096 colours onscreen, which is still pretty damn respectable.

Felice and Earx are coke addicts!

The animated GIF’s are sorted by size category. To be honest if you get anything much bigger than ‘titchy’, then you will start to need more powerful hardware than a base model ST. A Falcon can reach across some of the gap. An accelerated Falcon or emulated super-clone even more so. Again take the time to check these out.

There’s more to say within the collection itself. Each individual image has been catalogued and listed, and there are some nice documentation files to read as well.

So don’t delay, grab today!


Links:

  1. Download CiH’s random images CD

“Realtime” – Movie player by MJJ Productions

May 15, 2010

This fascinating scrap of an intro is based on a chunky pixel STE-based video player being developed by Tobe of MJJ Productions. We have been treated to some amusing previews of the player, with movie clips grabbed from one of the most cultish of cult movies of all-time, The Big Lebowski. Well there is *one* movie clip in particular that Tobe keeps on returning to, namely the bowling alley scene where we find out that “Nobody fucks with the Jesus!”

This player has gone through several version upgrades and now has the capability of streaming a movie file directly from disk. Therefore upper memory limits on hardware do not feature anymore. There have been some requests made for this chunky video goodness to be made available to anyone who might want to do their own low-tech STE versions of popular movies. One day, we might get our wishes answered. I think it needs something at the other end, IE, a PeeCee to compress and convert the movie first though.

At a slightly earlier stage of development, a production using this system was  released at the Alchimie 2009 demo party. This demo, or more accurately, a fake demo movie-show is called (ironically) ‘Realtime‘.

For its ‘inspiration’, sections of a couple of famous Falcon demos, and one more obscure CT60 intro are taken. The demos and authors are credited in the info file, so there would no hard feelings at all. It was apparently good enough to fool a lot of people for a time, when it was first shown at the Alchimie party last year.

The effects are taken from the following Falcon and CT6xx demos.

For a suitable opener, we get the famous flying bumblebee from the Underscore demo by Escape.

Original and demo versions of the bumblebee.

Next up are a couple of brightly coloured objects including the famous Spiny Phong shaded ball from the Entracte demo. A nice drop of mid-nineties goodness here.

Same again, original screenshot on the left, demo on the right.

Finally to round things off, there is a flyby of some 3D objects from the Deeztort intro by Evolution. As I recall this was one of the goodies handed out with the Chosneck diskmag.

Deeztort flyby, you know the drill by now!

The material has been chosen well, the idea of ‘object show against a dark background’ is probably the best way to use a limited resolution and number of colours. If you are using this system for playing back more conventional movies, then choose your material very carefully to avoid possible disappointment with the end result.

The demo is set off nicely by some moody and cool music from 505, which complements the show nicely. It is replayed via the STE’s DMA sound which is the other cool feature of the video player.

This little demo ends abruptly. That sort of suggests “in-party production, ran out of time, sorry!” One comment in a forum near you suggested that with a little bit more thought, this could have been a good serious demo, rather than just a quick fun experiment.

I certainly hope that this video system is seen again in a bigger production. Not necessarily a whole demo made this way, but certainly it can be used in places where careful use and pre-selection of material would enhance or cut neatly between more traditionally coded effects perhaps?

—————————————————————————————————–

Link:

1.  Realtime at Pouet

Twitter, the realtime article replacement

May 15, 2010

I use a lot of so called web 2.0 social networks like Facebook. But so far I did not understand the necessity of Twitter. Now that changed. I use twitter as a realtime article replacement.

During the pre organization of the Hessian Kick Off Champs I thought about how can we save the feelings right after the end of a match best. First I got in mind, that on a demoparty we would build up a realtime article. So in my case I would have build up a Atari 1040STE and a SC1224 monitor, and load something like 1st Word, so that everybody could write his feelings down.

This is not a bad idea at all, and it’s real retro spirit. But we don’t have such a perfect setup at each tournament, so I was looking for a setup that is available everywhere.

Realtime tweets

No finally I found a usage for Twitter! If you compare Twitter and a realtime article, they have much in common from the technical and usability point of view:

  • Short messages
  • A date
  • You must enter the name in front of a post, to let more than one person use the twitter channel.

But most imoartant, both ways share the some goal: Share the thoughts of a moment to the public.

If there would be no interest in sharing the thoughts to the public, an IRC Channel would be the better solution.

So when the tournament started, I build up a laptop, setup a Kick Off fixture, a Bundesliga live page to keep track of the real world happenings and a Twitter client. I invited everybody to use it and then we start the tournament. Here are the results:

Hessian Champs 2010 realtime tweets

Finale !! 9:01 AM Apr 10th (Frank)

Das 3-3 gegen Pushi war geil. das 3 Tor kurz vor Schluss war verdient. Der anschließende Lob von Pushi war nicht schlecht aber nicht drin. 8:43 AM Apr 10th (Thorsten)

Das 2-1 gegen Jan war nicht schön aber nötig. Jan ist eine Harte Nuss heute für mich. Erstmal nen Äppler, und dann gegen Pushi 8:17 AM Apr10th (Thorsten)

Der BvB kommt jetzt. 6:34 AM Apr 10th (Carsten)

Beim Spiel gegen Horst ging es um nichts mehr, daher war die Luft etwas raus, hauptsache 2-0 gewonnen 6:18 AM Apr 10th via web (Thorsten)

Nach dem 3-2 gegen Frank viel mir nichts mehr ein, sehr Schade. Der eine Dreher der nicht drinnen war, hat das Spiel entschieden 4:45 AM Apr 10th (Thorsten)

Hessisan Kick Off Champs near to begin. We are already 7 People, 1-2 more to come. 3:00 AM Apr 10th (Thorsten)

What lessons did I learned? Well some.

  • It’s necessary to put the name in front of the tweet.
  • Even that I started with english, at a tournament where only german players participate, it’s no question, of course we tweet in german
  • Even that I told myself before to tweet after each game, I missed some 🙂
  • The othere players were shy in the beginning but then some of them trying out the new medium.

It would be nice, if other Kick Off players from all over the world could also tweet. I found out, that Twitter itself does not support this feature, but there are plenty of other services around.

Realtime tweets 2.0

I created a Kick Off 2 twitter group at the Tweetworks service. Now next tournament other Kick Off 2 friends who joined these group could also twitter his thoughts on the results (that the real players have to twitter of course).

This will looks like:

Next game was better 🙂 scored the 2-1 with the end of half 1 and in half two finaly everything works. 9-2 in the end.
ThorNpw 14 minutes ago in Kick Off 2

Yust started the training for the Austrian Champs. First game: 4-2 against the computer. I have to get used to Yes|Yes|Yes.
ThorNpw 33 minutes ago in Kick Off 2

The advantage is to have the author in the tweet. During a Tournament, when more than one person uses a twitter account, of course they still have to put their name in front, but if there are different players, each could use their own twitter account. Of course the tournament laptop need maybe a bigger screen to show all their clients, but we will see.

Times changes. It’s not important to do always thee same stuff, but to reach the same goal. So get all the stuff that’s necessary for a realtime system with you is not necessary any more, cause with a twitter client and mobile phones that have browsers, everybody could use twitter as a realtime article replacement.

Upgrading the Firmware on the GP2X Wiz

May 15, 2010

For the GP2X Wiz there are the first games available which ship on ND cards. Those are SD Cards with builtin DRM technology. In order to run the software on those ND cards, the Wiz needs a new Firmware which will add support for them. The Firmware version 1.2.1 [1] provides this at the time of this writing.

Upgrading the Firmware is comparatively easy but in order not to make any mistakes, a certain amount of care should be taken.

Important note: If you don’t have a 1.1.0 Firmware on your Wiz, install this before you install the 1.2.1 version. I did not not and ended up with my builtin NAND memory being empty and not accessible anymore.

Installation steps:

  1. Make a backup of the contenst of your builtin NAND memory first (the upgrade overwrites the NAND)
  2. Format a fresh SD Card (best is to use this little tool [2])
  3. Unpack the  Firmware ZIP onto the SD Card (ensure there is nothign else on the card)
  4. Hold the R-Button of the Wiz boot the Wiz with the SD Card inside the slot
  5. The Wiz should now show “Firmware Upgrade…” and start to get working.
  6. Keep the Wiz running for ca. 15 minutes laufen lassen, a red progress bar will be visible.
  7. If all went well, the Wiz will tell you that the upgarde is finished and you may reboot.
  8. Try if the Firmware is working and if the version number is correct (Settings -> Information in the Wiz Menu)

Happy Wizzing!

Links:

  1. International Firmware Version 1.2.1 for GP2X Wiz
  2. SD Card format utility

How to encode video for playback on Falcon

May 15, 2010

For some years available there is that nice software called “Aniplayer”. Its capable of replaying audio and video files of several formats. Those video files you have on your PC’s and laptops are, however, most likely not playable on the Falcon, even if powered up with a whopping 100 MHz ct63 upgrade.

Either the file is replayed without picture or audio, or Aniplayer rejects the file with some ‘codec xyz not supported’ message. Its also possible that it gets replayed in speed of a snail on Valium…

But somehow it had to be possible, i was sure.

So i tried various tools, encoders and codecs and came to a solution that finally enables to replay fullscreen video with enjoyable audio quality.

So, what is my goal? What its not?

I want the best possible video playback i can reach with a Falcon 060. I am not really looking for the most efficient compression (although i try not to make unnessecary large files).

Some basic conclusions right here in front:

  • Aniplayer can do Xvid in 320×200 but only manages to depack 15 frames per second
  • Aniplayer can decode mp2/mp3 audio but video stutters horribly then
  • mpeg2 needed a hardware decoder on Pentium 1 class PC, remember?
  • Radius Cinepak codec depacks with a lot less CPU work, no problem at 320×240, 30 fps
  • for audio stream wave or Microsoft ADPCM works good
  • use native Falcon clocks to avoid high cpu load and clicks/cracks

Needed Tools:

  • PC with Windows XP/Vista/7
  • XviD [1] and DivX [3] installed (some files need one or other)
  • VirtualDub [2]
  • optionally some tools to convert your wanted source (DVD or MP4/MKV/whatever) into AVI

That last point i use ‘SUPER’ [4] for, which is a frontend to various commandline de/encoder and tools. Here on my machine it works (most of the time) but crashes sometimes, too. Your mileage may vary.

Here we go!

First thing is of course getting a source video you want to encode. For this howto, we should take something easy available. Try it with this file on your setup, and after the result works for you, too, proceed with the video of your choice.

Connect to internet and download the fr-025 video [5]

Save it in a folder of your choice, i suggest making a new one that ends with /source. Also create a folder that holds the encoded Falcon videos.

Launch VirtualDub and choose File -> Open File. Point to your source folder, choose the popular demo.

Now choose Video -> Filter . Click Add and select resize. The config dialopgue of the added filter appears, check Pixels: Absolute and Aspect Ratio: disabled. Now enter destination size: 320×152 for this very widescreen video. The cinepak codec is fine with multiples of 8, so you should check that, too. If you enter a size not a multiple of 8, VirtualDub will choose the next matching size for you. We do not crop or letterbox anything here, so close the dialogue.

Some videos look a bit too dark on my Falcon, so in that case i also add filter Brightness/Contrast and and slighty brighten up the video by around 5%.

Now select File->File information. You see, our fr-025 video is 640×320, 60 fps. The size we already scale, but 60 fps is too much for the Falcon. Close the infobox, choose Video->Frame Rate. Here check Frame Rate conversion and enter 30 fps. If your source Video is 50fps, convert it to 25fps – logically 25 and 30 fps video don’t need any framerate conversion. A mistake here, like converting a 25 fps video to 30 fps or similar will result in subtle but annoying stutter of video playback.

Now go to Video-> compression and choose the cinepak by Radius. The quality slider has no effect on the cinepak codec, so check use target rate of and enter 350 kilobytes/second. Feel free to experiment with your quality/size tradeoff.

Now we move on to the audio stream. Select Audio->Interleave and enter Interleave audio every 1 frame. Also, enter 500 ms in the Audio skew correction field. Not that i knew why, but this is the key to get 100% synced Audio. If your video’s audio does not sync, play around here to make it match.

Next check Audio->Full processing mode and then open Audio->Conversion. We don’t want to have the CPU need to resample the audio during playback so we check Custom and enter one of the native Falcon frequencies.

Those are 49170, 32780, 24585, 19668, 16390, 12292, 9834, 8195 Hz. A very good quality you get with 32780. This is the sample rate, and the highest frequency you can replay with that rate is half of the sample rate. So 32780 is good for audio up to 16kHz and good enough. If you’re keen on filesize, save 30% by entering 19668 without a too big impact on quality. Select 16 Bit precision and check High quality . Using Stereo is okay, but of course takes twice the size. Decide what you need. For the howto we use 32780 stereo.

If you need to keep filesize down, compress audio with ADPCM. Its by no means a lossless compression and, especially in more quiet parts, compression is audible. When converting an STe demo with YM chiptune you’ll hardly notice, though.

The bandwitdh usage below is before compression, anyway. This leads to the next point, choose Audio->compression. Here you select the audio compression Microsoft ADPCM, then click the “32,780Khz, 4bit, stereo” option. I’d have liked to choose the IMA ADPCM instead, but that one adds annoying clicking to the Falcon audio. Feel free to try it. You see, we now use ‘only 33kByte/s for audio, not the 129 kByte/s without compression.

Sometimes the source audio is too loud. Your mediaplayer on the PC won’t have a problem with that, it softclips during playback. The ADPCM encoder doesn’t do that, so, to avoid problems here, you may open the Audio->Volume window, check the Adjust volume of audio channels checkbox and lower the volume to 90%. This is safe for me and i use it by default.

Okay, this is what we needed to do to start encoding! The process with your own source video will most likely need some trial and error, to find matching aspect ratio for example. Here the job control comes in handy: Select File-> Queue batch operation->Save as AVI… and choose the destination filename and folder for example D:/videos/Falcon converted/fr-025.avi . Nothing happens, but the Options we entered are now stored along with this job. Press F4 or open File->Job control and you find the prepared jobs. You can enter many jobs and let them encode overnight, and you can select a job and press Reload button, which enters all the options of that particular job into VirtualDub. So, you can save some jobs as a kind of template, reload it, and then only select File->Open video file to choose a different source, all other setting stay as in the job you reloaded.

But this is for your later work. Now we want to encode: Choose File->Save as AVI and point to your destination folder, choose your filename. Now have a coffee with your GF or similar. If you abort the encode, you can test the partly saved AVI on your Falcon, good for testing.

The resulting file you can transfer to your Falcon and open it with Aniplayer. Check ‘No GEM’ to get fullscreen, truecolor display.

Using a FAT32 formated CF card on the Falcon’s IDE bus, i can flawlessly replay a 2 GB large movie (That was the largest i ever made, unrestricted video bitrate, 32.780 kHz wave Audio uncompressed)

If you want to try out how good the results are before you install the software and go through the howto, you can download some videos of Atari ST/STe/Falcon Demos, that do not run on a Falcon060 usually [6]

Cheers!

I’m pretty sure you have also ideas on how to improve video quality more, mpeg1 video might be a way between cinepak and xvid – but i had no success there yet.

And by the way, now that you know where to tweak in VirtualDub: if you reduce destination resolution to 160×80  (unrestricted video bitrate) and choose 16390 Hz Audio, the resulting video  will replay on a stock 16MHz Falcon030, too.


Links:

  1. xvid
  2. virtualdub
  3. divx
  4. Super
  5. fr – 025 video
  6. sample videos

The Lunatic is in the NES?

May 15, 2010

What if Pink Floyd wrote music for the NES?

This topic isn’t strictly Atari, but on the other hand it does nicely fit in under the ‘Low Res’ part of our remit, so what’s going on here? It seems that some mad soundchip botherer has only gone and done the big one. He’s made Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ album into a NES soundtrack!

It was that great natural philosopher of our age, Homer Simpson, who once said that “Everyone knows rock attained perfection in 1974. It’s a scientific fact. “ He may have been listening to this 1973 released album, widely feted as one of the all-time best, to come to that rather startling conclusion.

The whole topic of ‘best of’, especially in music is an area where everyone’s mileage varies. I accept that, there will be no enforced missionary missives from me as to who is best. My views are as subjective as the rest of you. That said, Dark Side of the Moon (DSOM) would be smugly sitting in a safe spot in the memory of my hopefully remaining hypothetical ‘Desert Island iPod’ as one of the best of all time.

In a vain attempt to forcefeed some Atari perspective into an otherwise non-specific article, I did use parts of DSOM in direct-to-disk recording experiments in my very early Falcon 030 owning days. These were the days when there really wasn’t anything else around to use as a showreel at the local computer club, so WinRec and a decently loud stereo output with ‘Eclipse‘, the rousing endpart blaring out did the job back then.

DSOM is possibly my most perfect formative exposure to serious musical appreciation, after Jean Michel Jarre’s ‘Equinoxe’. Like that album, DSOM is best appreciated as a complete work. It seems that for this reworking, the author has appreciated this fully, avoiding chopping the perfect whole up into individual tracks, and presented two MP3’s as side 1 and side 2, to listen to as you would have listened to the original vinyl.

To cut to whodunnit, a warped or inspired individual called Brad Smith presented a re-imagining of the whole album. This is a courageous decision on his part. It would be easy enough to take some easy to do instrumental only parts, like ‘On the run’ and be happy with the end result, but he goes through the whole damn lot.

I listened to this as intently as I would have listened to the original album. Brad used ‘Famitracker’ to create the work and everything was done within the limits of the standard NES soundchip. There was no extra hardware used.

It is fair to say that although the whole entity is awesome, some parts do come across slightly better than others. The opening part of side one,  ‘Speak to Me’ felt like the intro to ‘Money’ and did not immediately trigger any recall of the album. Other parts such as ‘Breathe’ managed to keep the essence of the original rather well.

By the time we get to ‘On the run’, we have hit the pace. This part was nicely carried off. The original was instrumental and synth and effect heavy so perhaps there was no surprise there.  ‘Time‘ was a definite re-interpretion tailored to the soundchip’s strengths and limitations, especially the opening part. I liked it.

The rest of side one manages to carry the essentials of the tune well. There are some worthy attempts to get some real ‘soul’ in the sound.

The opener to side two, ‘Money’ reminded me of Sonic the Hedgehog at first, but settled down nicely. (It was the almost identical sounding ‘ker-ching’ when tokens are picked up!) ‘Us And Them’ was a lovely track and really captured the essence of the album.

The mid-section is held up by ‘Any Colour You Like’, with the Floydian sonic swirls decently interpreted. The last two tracks hold up the high standard, although on both ‘Brain Damage’ and ‘Eclipse’, they really needed the vocals, especially on the latter track as the lyrics are a major feature. Apart from that, as I said, still a major piece of awesome to take the project on in the first place.

It had after-effects too. Listening to this version of DSOM stirred the dusty forgotten corners of the ‘iPod in my brain’. I’ve been remembering odd parts of the original in unguarded quiet moments. At some point I’m going to have to dig out my original and listen to it properly to compare it with this version.

But I’m going to be busy, it’s only two weeks to Outline and hardly anything has been done yet! Must get on!

For those of you inclined to investigate further. This and a bunch of other Brad-created work can be found on [1]

There are downloadable MP3’s for this, and links to YouTube versions as well. Enjoy!


Links:

  1. Brad Smith site and “dark side of the moon” upload

(German) Zeitzeugnis Realtime Artikel – Inter Meeting 1994

May 15, 2010

Hello guys, this is a realtime article we did at a Inter meeting at Lucky’s place. Iit should give the readers, a short insight what they have missed in the nineties 🙂 The meeting took place at the 22th and 23th of Mai 1994, so exact 16 years ago.

Sonntag 22. Mai 1994

15:42

Ankunft bei Luckys Bude. Nachdem wir erst einmal eine Stunde gebraucht haben um unsere Böcke aufzubauen, haben wir uns erst einmal die ganzen Demos angetan (34 Megabyte, es lebe die 105SyQuest).

17:12

PC-ler im Anmarsch. Nach Cycedelic Knockout, Weltschmerz (Scheiß  Zeitabfrage) und Autowaschen verboten angeschaut haben, wollte er die Demos mitnehmen. Leider, leider, leider hat er aber nur ein PC. Tja so ist das Leben (des Brian).

18:44

Pizza Time.     Mjamph, jam, jam, jam, Grumpf, schlörf, Gromfph, jam ,jam,

Mjamph, rulps, Grompf, …………….

21:46

Hallo Leute, Samurai auf den Tasten, ich will euch mal ein Gefühl von mir erklären. Ein Gefühl von ungeahnter, abgründiger, verabscheuender Wut. Es ist einfach herrlich. Da sitz man nun, hat ein paar Stunden lang an einem Bild rumgepaintet, sich wirklich mühe gegeben,….. und dann, ja dannnn, ist der Saft, dieser unheimlich tolle Saft des Lebens für dein Compi, Brutal und ohne Vorahnung aus der Wand gerissen.

SCHEEEEEEEIIIIIßßßßßEEEEEEEEE

(Lucky hier. Sorry, war echt keine Absicht!!! Aber warum ist es bei dir so beschissen dunkel, dass man die Steckdose nicht sieht???)

23:24

Oh Mann, die Drei Dosen Red Bull waren mal wieder dringend nötig. Wenn es ganz schlimm wird haben wir ja noch Flying Horse. Das Zeug soll 4x mehr Taurin als RedBull haben.

23:35

Die neue Version unseres Hellplasmas ist fast Fertig. Texte können nun eingestanzt werden und werden auch richtig ausgeblendet.

Montag 23. Mai 1994

0:48

YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAH, unsere Hellplasma Routine ist endgültig fertig geworden. Es müssen jetzt nur noch die Greetings eingegeben werden.

2:59

Hunger!!! Shit, über Pfingsten sind alle Geschäfte geschlossen. Naja, zum Glück hat Lucky ja noch 3 Scheiben Lääberkääze. Bislle fettisch wars scho aber mapfe geht hald vor.

Ach ja unseres Hellplasma läuft übrigens auch Perfekt mit unserer Harddisk-Recording Routine zusammen.

3:31

Müdigkeit?!?!?!?!?      NNNEEEEEEIIIIINNNNNN       wofür gibt es den Flying Horse. Wenn einer von euch gedacht hat das Red Bull dich Wach macht, Hahahahaha   Flyighorse ist der totale überflieger. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeehaaaaa.

3:51

Fängt grade an zu Regnen. Nur der Regen wäre ja nett schlimm, aber die Blitze?

Nein mein kleiner Falke Du brauchst keine Angst zuhaben das Du Stirbst, Nein brauchst Du WIRKLICH nicht zuhaben. (Schwitz, Schwitz).

3:58

Hat da jemand Schlafen gesagt?

4:26

Nachdem Lucky mir freundlicherweise mein Logo gekillt hat, bin ich nun mit der zweiten Version fertig geworden. Wartet auf den Line-Vector Part in unserer Demo. Nicht nur das das Logo, wie ich finde, ganz gut geworden ist, sondern die Objekte selber sind tierisch Fett.

4:30

Es hat wieder aufgehört zu Regnen.

4:44

Pater Michaels Falcon ist soeben ins Nirivana entschwunden.

Aaaaaaaaaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah

4:46

Luckys preemptives Demo Betriebssystem ist fast fertig. Wieso fast? Nun, die Harddisk-Recording Routine läuft nun zwar im VBL aber die anderen Teile wollen nicht.

4:50

Fehler entdeckt.

4:55

Zum X-ten mal hören wir uns die VERY CD von den Pet Shop Boys an.

Noch ein Schluck Flying Horse und schon geht’s mir widder guuuud. HoHoHoHo

5:46

Die zweite “Flying Horse” Dose wurde soeben von LUCKY geköpft! Die eiskalte Flüssigkeit rinnt ihm die Kehle hinunter und versucht ihn am Leben zu erhalten.

5:49

Zweiter Schluck – mal sehen wie lange es wirkt! :-}

6:04

Samurai is back. Mann, wir haben noch nicht einmal bemerkt wie die Sonne auf ging. Oh shit mir fällt gerade auf das mein Falcon schon seit 4 Stunden läuft ohne etwas zu tun. Ciao bis nachher.

6:33

Samurai ist im Reich der Träume.

6:34

Pater Michael bereitet sich auch vor ein wenig zu relaxen.

6:45

(Lucky) GESCHAFFT!!!!! Meine Multitasking-HD-Replay-Routine läuft! ENDLICH können wir HD-Musik im Hintergrund von Demos laufen lassen!!!!

8.32

(Lucky) Snief. Der Player läuft doch noch nicht so 100%. Wieder viel Arbeit. Die Zeitscheiben müssen einfach noch zu groß sein und beim Laden von anderen Programmen stört er auch noch!

So eine SCHEISSE!                 😦

Michael will jetzt auch noch einen Konverter von Stereo- in Mono-Samples schreiben. Nur damit er nicht Musicom 2 laden muß!!!! Das ist doch WAHHHHNSINNN!!! Aber bitte, wenn er meint…

8.36

Michael schreibt immer noch an seinem Konverter. (Neu aufnehmen ist doch schneller!)

8.37

Das dauert!

8.38

Michael ist immer noch nicht fertig. Und ich habe derweil nichts zu tun. Und was macht man da als gestresster, arbeitssüchtiger Coder? Falsch! Nicht einen neuen Effekt! Nicht so lange man nicht weiß, ob der aktuelle läuft! Aber man kann sich ja im Texte schreiben üben. (Fingertraining…)

8.52

Ich glaub’ jetzt schreib’ ich den Konverter selber…

9:11

Ohhhhh, Dröhnung. Samurai back. Bin grade aufgestanden. Ich habe zwar nicht lange Geschlafen aber dafür tief. Ich sehe jetzt grade dem Lucky seine Multitasking-Routine mit unserem Wolfenstein3D und Hellplasma laufen. Jetzt müssen wir noch mit dem Typ vom Tonstudio reden das er uns ein Tecnotrack auflegt, und dann geht’s los.

9:27

Lucky hat gewonnen. Pater Michael Sampled seine Platte doch noch voll bis zum umfallen. Nix Converter, hehehehe.

9:36

Delirium. Lucky hat grade die letzte Flying Horse auf EX gekippt.

9:39

Lucky dreht durch. Jetzt will er schon unser Demo als Prozess im Hintergrund von TOS/GEM laufen lassen.

9:42

Nachdem unser Multi-Demo-System läuft wollten wir das natürlich Norman Kowalewski nicht vorenthalten. Die Telefonauskunft in den Staaten sind alle viel Freundlicher als hier in Germany. Das hat sich aber geändert als wir ihr gesagt haben wen und vor allem wo wir ihn suchen.

Hehehehe. Norman war ehrlich gesagt nicht sonderlich begeistert als wir ihn um ca. 1 Uhr Morgens aus dem Bett geschmissen haben. Aber als er schon Wach war hat er uns auch ANGEDEUTET, nichts gesagt, das der neue Atari wohl ende dieses Jahres auf dem Markt erscheinen wird. Und das Geile daran ist das die Kiste mit JaguarChips, nein nicht CioChips, arbeitet und knapp unter der Leistung einer SGI Indy mit 120Mhz liegen wird zu einem Preis von ca. $2499. Die Architektur beruht auf den ABAQ von Atari. So, jetzt aber noch ein öffentlicher Aufruf an alle. Die Telecom hat sich über unseren Anruf nach Kalifornien gefreut. Wir sind auf ca. 75 DM gekommen. Also wer will darf und sollte uns zumindest mal 5 DM zukommen lassen. Briefmarken reichen uns vollkommen. Danke.

10:27

No Carrier

10:34

Pater Michaels Headake Effekt ist so gut wie fertig.

10:37

Mist ich bekommen Tierischen Hunger. Aber in diesem Kaff gibt es ja keinen McDoof oder Würger King.

11:14

Geil, MTos & MinT sind gar nicht so schlecht wie ich immer dachte. Unsere Demo läuft auch in einem GEM Fester das man frei positionieren kann und das alles im Mint Kernel. Wir müssten zwar den VSync() Aufruf patchen, aber es läuft.

11:23

Der PMMU Speicherschutz läuft endlich!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

11:41

Einen neuen Fehler entdeckt und beseitigt. Wir müssen uns mal mit Eric Smith unterhalten.

12:10

Yeah, enddlich gibbes was zu Mampfe. Wir fahren jetzt nämlich zu McMurder.

13:13

Meine Fresse nach dem uns der Notarzt die Mägen leer gepumpt hat geht’s mir wieder gut. Gott sei Dank lebe ich noch.

13:29

Jo, wir ziehen uns grade die ganzen alten Videos von der 680XX Convention und der Fried Bits 2 rein. Boa Eh, sind das alles Geile Demos. (WARUM, hallo Agent T).

14:50

Der Wind_Update() wird nun von Mint richtig ausgeführt. Die Demo mach schon ein echt tollen Eindruck. Filled-Vectors mit 3Vbl’s in einem GEM Fenster muss man erst einmal machen.

14:53

Bei 3 Tasks geht er in 4Vbls.

16:05

Unsere Deltapack-Routine macht Riesen fortschritte. Lucky und Pater Michael streiten sich welche Methode besser zum Packen ist.

16:11

Lucky ist auf’m Klo.

16:30

Keiner sagt was.

16:31

Immer noch nichts.

16:32

16:33

Nein, nein.

16:34

Immer noch schweigen.

16:35

16:36

16:37

Pater Michael Summt vor sich her.

16:38

Schweigen.

16:39

Pater Singt!!!

16:40

Er ist soeben ganzzzzzzz aus versehen aus dem Fenster gefallen.

17:40

wir sind einfach zu erschöpft um noch irgendetwas zu tun. Halt doch, Schlafen können wir noch hervorragend.

18:33

Lucky on the keys: Ich bin am Ende. Tödlich aber äußerst produktiv dieses Wochenende. Tja, was Norman jetzt von uns denkt?

Ich bin ja jetzt schon gespannt, was als Antwort zu unserer Mail an Eric herauskommt. Ob er unser neues gepachte Mint Kernel-Version, die endlich auch Demotauglich ist, übernehmen wird? Währe doch der totale Wahnsinn! Wo wir doch vorhin noch “Autowaschen Verboten” bis zum Morphing zum Laufen bekommen haben. (Photon: Wieso hast du da den Blitter so exzessiv benutzt? Der hat den Timer A durcheinander gebracht und den braucht Mint doch unbedingt für sein Multitasking!!!)

Tipp an alle Multi TOS Freaks: “Warum” und “Omega Grotesque” vertragen sich überhaupt nicht unter Mint (Auch nicht mit Inters’ PepperMint-Kernel)! Schade…

Signing off…

…Pater Michael

…Lucky of ST

…Samurai

IMPORTANT: THE INDEPENDENT RULES!

EXTREMELY IMPORTANT: THE INDEPENDENT SILL RULES!

THE MOST IMPORTANT: THE INDEPENDENT WILL RULE FOREVER!!!!!!

…The CrapTalkers…