Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Outline 2010 Invitro by Checkpoint.

February 4, 2011

Picture by Havoc / Linout

 

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

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

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

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

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

Nice effects

 

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

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

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

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

More effects

 

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

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

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

The greetings

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

The invitation

 

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


Links:

 

  1. Outline party
  2. Outline invitro at pouet
  3. Outline invitro video
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Silly Venture 2k10 Invitro

February 4, 2011

“A return to the magic world of pacman!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

The title picture

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

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

Cross fading thing in red..

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

"Firehand"

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

A party with a retro theme?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CiH for Low Res Mag, December 2010.

Appendix

February 4, 2011

By DHS for the Atari STe

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

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

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

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

Dots and dots!

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

Proteque is halfway through transforming?

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

On top of the world ma!

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

Plasma fun

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

Rotate and zoom has its eye on you!

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

The chunkiest scroller since god was a carebear?

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

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

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

CiH, for Low Res Mag, December 2010.

Coast II Coast

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

–= by Sector One =–

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

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

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

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

Intro with Polish flag

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

Fractals caught in mid-swap

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

Outro with French flag

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

CiH, for Low Res Mag, December 2010.

Sventure by Paradox

February 4, 2011

Sometimes known as ‘Pozdrawiena do Gdanska’

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

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

The title screen

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

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

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

It's a Wabbit!

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

Attack of the cubes

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

Dutch colours at a Polish party!

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

Yes indeed!

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

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

CiH, for Low Res Mag, December 2010.

Visualize by Checkpoint

February 4, 2011

A Tale of Twelve Screengrabs.

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

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

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

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

First bite..

Crazy scroller, runs on bare metal and 68000 code!

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

Second chomp..

Solid cube tries to upstage the rest of the screen.

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

Third taste..

It's a lock, symbolic of something..

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

Fourth lick..

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

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

Fifth feast..

Plasma raster plasma thing!

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

Sixth Swallow..

Seriously, how was this one done?

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

Seventh gobble..

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

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

Eighth eating..

An explanation, is needed!

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

Ninth nibble..

Consider yourself greeted!

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

Tenth chewing..

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

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

Eleventh ingestion..

Tunnel wall unity starting to break apart.

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

Twelfth and final course..

A scattering of light to finish with..

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

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

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

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

CiH, for Low Res Mag, December 2010.

TalkTalk 2 by Excellence in Art

February 4, 2011

The Church of Excellence in Art

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

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

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

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

“Please wait..”

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

XIA has got his demo coding feet on..

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

Church of the pixelled mind?

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

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

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

Pointing the magic finger in the special place!

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

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

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

"Code your funky rhythm!"

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

XIA touches his fan-base!

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

Pointing the magic finger in the special place part II.

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

Maybe he's right?

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

Who's this chap?

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

Oh dear, it becomes clearer!

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

A twisty bar interlude type thing.

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

Raster bars, we are forewarned.

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

Realtime lines awarded by Kalms.

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

XIA's balls are shiny and well-polished.

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

That's your lot for this one!

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

—————————————-

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

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

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

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

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

CiH, for Low Res Mag, December 2010.

Kolmik (Deluxe Edition) review.

February 4, 2011

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

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

Kolmik Options screen

The Kolmik options screen

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

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

Classic Kolmik screen

The classic Kolmik screen.

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

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

Grades:

Graphics: 3.5/5

Sound: 4.5/5

Gameplay: 2.5/5

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

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

“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

The future of the patches

December 28, 2009

Maybe the most important breakthrough in atari gaming in the past years was the invention of the ULS by d-bug. Thanks to this technology, Atari gamer are able to play old ST classics on a Falcon direct from the hard disk.
This year d-bug announced on their webpage [1], that they will stop patching games, so I like to do this interview with GGN of d-bug to ask him some questions about what could we expect in the future.

LR: Could you please introduce yourself

GGN: George Nakos, originating and living in Greece, 32 years old (I think :P), coder (and rarely crap artist) of the groups KÜA software productions, D-Bug and Paradize. I hang around at #atariscne a lot, tormenting people with my crap humor and sometimes I even help.

LR: As a lot of our readers aren’t familiar with the Falcon, could you please explain in some words, what you do to patch a game.

GGN: Well, that’s a pretty big subject on its own and would take a couple of articles on its own to answer fully ;). I’ll keep it short, simple and non technical though: Most ST games are only meant to run from a floppy, so we have used lots of techniques (including ULS) which basically change the disk routines so that they load from hard drive instead. This is not limited to the Falcon only (indeed the first ULS version was for STs). Falcon fixing includes changing 68000 code that doesn’t work on 68030, and generally running the game, see if it works or not, fix any apparent or possible crashes, and release.

LR: What is the current status of the d-bug activities concerning Falcon patches?

GGN: Well, we aren’t exactly busting a nut fixing stuff. We mostly do it at our leisure time. A couple years ago it was almost our only Atari activity. Now we just patch something if we get bored or would like to see it running on Falcon. This years December-full-of-releases came into being just because Cyrano Jones patched 5 games in a couple of hours, and then the next day I did the same, then we added some other stuff we had lying around, et voila!

LR: What could we expect in the future?

GGN: Being lax doesn’t mean we don’t have ideas 🙂

Recently we had an idea that (we hope) will spark some new interest in ST gaming. If all goes well, we’ll announce it in January 1st!

Otherwise, there are always things we can do to improve ULS. Don’t know if there’ll ever be a v4 of it though, again it depends on our moods.

LR: On the Amiga the WHD Load system exist for years, and it looks like there is still a lot of activity, is this project comparable to your patches?

GGN: Yes, it is comparable. Cyrano Jones told me that it originated from a Showaddywaddy quote on irc which was something along the lines of: “I wish we could switch off TOS!”. At that moment a small light bulb appeared on top of CJ’s head, and soon “TOSOff” (renamed to Universal Loading System for marketing reasons :P) was created. Of course it was influenced by WHDLoad, but it shares 0% code with it. Actually, with ULSv3 we have even one-upped them by introducing save states on the games (similar to emulator save states).

LR: How could people participate in the project?

GGN: ULSv3 is open source, so people simply need to download it, read the online documentation on our website and start patching! All they need is some 68000 knowledge, a copy of the compendium and the hardware address listing really.

LR: What are your personal 3 favorite games on the ST?

GGN: Very very very very very very very tough question! Interphase is surely one of them, a brilliant mix of 3D and real time strategy. Wings of death, no comments really. Turrican 2, again no comments. And since I just put a trainer on this interview, I’m free to give you 3 more :P. Another World, Prince of Persia and Vroom!

LR: Many thanks GGN for this interview, will be interesting of what kind your January Announcement will be.

Links


1. d-bug website

Where are they now? Missing Demos.

December 28, 2009

Ok, it’s time to get a bit of ‘demoscene’ content in this publication. The focus ought to be on the Atari scene as well. It would be too easy to toss off a review of the great triumphs of the year, such as the epic Suretrip 2 demo, the keenly awaited port of ‘Starstruck’ for the CT60 Falcon, Dead Hackers unexpected and welcome Sommerhack invitro, MJJ Productions spanking the STe with ‘Another Kid Story’, or even Excellence in Art’s welcome return.

There is the little matter of some forthcoming goodies such as the 20th Anniversary STe demo and others, but we seem to have left a few things on the road through 2009. Specifically, I’d like to ask what is happening to two previewed demos which were seen earlier this year but not (as yet) released.

I’m talking about the ‘Hidden Agenda’ demo from the Gathering party in Easter and Dune and Sector One’s Numerica party demo which was first shown in March, shown off again at the Outline party, and not heard from since.

Hidden agenda was the more unfinished preview. It should not have actually been shown in the state it was shown. It had the distinction of requiring a 14MB STe, such a machine could exist, but needed some soldering first! Proteque advised that they had ‘top men’ working on it back in April, although we were warned that it would take some time.

"Our top Brains are working on finishing this!"

"Our top Brains are working on finishing this!"

To be fair, I had the good fortune to sit next to Nerve at the recent Alt Party, who was able to update me further. There had been more work done, so what was there now was substantially different from the shown version at The Gathering. There was more to do and he offered to donate the source code if it helped, but as my coding skills add up to something less than zero, it would not have been any use.

Out of this missing pair, the demo from Dune and Sector One appeared to be the most polished and almost ready to go for release. We felt it would only be a matter of weeks before it was out in the wild. It turned up again at Outline in a teasing manner. The last mention of it was relating to a coding weekend with Dune on the 22nd to 23rd August. That date came and went, ominously quietly, and nothing has been heard since.

So, can anyone tell me where these cool demos are? The nice thing about this magazine is the blog format which allows people to post comments after the article, so if anyone feels like sharing any knowledge, feel free!

And before anyone asks in a retaliatory fashion about the extremely delayed issue of Alive Mag, Sorry, ask the missing German person as I’ve no idea what’s happening there..

CiH, October 2009 for Low Res Magazine.

Whilst we are awaiting the final appearance of this issue of Low Res Mag, Chuck of Dune only goes and answers the question about UFO. It seems it will remain ‘missing in action’ for a while yet, but something else is coming up shortly in the meantime.

Chuck / Dune:

Hi,

Life happens 😉

We are working on something different now, will be available in the end of this year 😉

For the UFO i don’t know exactly when it will be finished sorry because our code time isn’t elastic…

Hopefully our Mic alarms system is working in full mode and He will kick our ass to finish this in the next month … Believe him 😉

Thanks for your text 😉 it is really a good news for us to see that some of you are looking for our prods 😉 But you will be happy in december 😉

Sodium by Rave Noise Overscan.

December 28, 2009

An intro for the ST..

The 2009 edition of the Alternative party had quite a healthy presence of Atarian life-forms there. Apart from the usual UK visiting team, we were graced by the arrival of some hackers of a deceased persuasion, but I will tell more of what they got up to in another textfile. We also saw another ST set up nearby, with a  brand new UltraSatan hanging off it in an umbilical fashion. This machine belonged to Britelite, the coder working for long time Commodore botherers, Rave Noise Overscan, or RNO for short.

It turned out that they had written a short production for it, with the intention of showing it off at the Alternative party, good for them!

It is a tightly packed proggy, hovering nervously around the 26 kilobyte mark. So you expect a quick no-frills blast into the main action. The viewer is not disappointed as a harsh buzzy soundchip tune blasts in with a stark ‘porno’ logo in a barren font distorting up and down the screen.

A battering of snare-drums announces the first halfway designed effect part, the left hand side of the screen being occupied by a grey ‘RNO’ logo, complete with staring eye. The right hand side of the screen has a pink wavy distorting pattern, upon which some information about the demo appears.

So far, so average, but the next part, where the music picks up a warbling treble voice is much better. The pink thing on the right hand side is replaced by a huge texture-mapped greenish-hued cube. This only rotates on one axis, so may not be a full cube, however, there is some suggestion of depth given by a misty fading at the more distant end of things.

The pink thing seen earlier reappears, it is taking the everyman role of an info-screen, we are updated with some credits to describe Britelite as the coder, Xia making the music, and Zeroic and Fragment creating the graphics.

But this is not the end, the moneyshot effect is waiting impatiently to do its thing. This turns out to be a absolutely awesome solid twister, probably the best of its kind seen on an ST, and even rivalling some Falcon 030 versions of that effect for sure. If there are only sixteen colours on that screen, then there is some damn effective shading or anti-aliasing going on here!

But the end is following hard on its heels, as the pink distorter returns with the dismal news that this is pretty much all they have to show you this time. A final return of the stark distorting ‘porno’ logo, seen at the start is the only thing left before the demo abruptly ends.

Well, this was a compact effort, an interesting showcase for what we can hope to see in a bigger demo. Indeed there was some talk of a bigger RNO production for the ST at a future summer, quite large Helsinki-based demo party, but let’s not get carried away just yet, eh!

As it is, a nice little intro with a couple of truly stand-out moments. May all their future productions have more of these.

CiH, for Low-Res Mag, November 2009.

Cernit Trandafir by Dead Hackers Society.

December 28, 2009

A demo by Dead Hackers Society for the Atari STe...

I was aware that a demo was going to be released at the 2009 Alternative Party by the Dead Hackers Society (DHS) before we arrived at the event. They turned up in strength, and I had the pleasure of many a fireside(*) chat with Nerve, who had set up his STe next door to my laptop. He had a fully completed and ready to run demo on his STe, but he just about manfully restrained himself from clicking on the fateful .prg file before the competitions had been run. He was twitching quite a bit towards the end, and was visibly relieved when he was finally able to treat me to the first small screen showing of this demo.

(*) Apart from the stage-area pyrotechnics, an open roaring flame wasn’t really encouraged as a concept anywhere within the party due to it being 1. Illegal, and 2. Dangerous. My lungs do however still recoil at the recollection of the sheer amount of artificial smoke that was generated from the live-act performances!

But the wait was worth it, as DHS’s new demo, ‘Cernit Trafadir’ was presented without the bothersome “issues” that plagued last year’s competitions on the big screen. It was rated highly enough to get the third prize. The story of the demo follows in the rest of this text.

This time around, memory restrictions have been given the finger, as the demo comes in two versions, firstly a 2 MB version for oldskool hardcore, party like it’s 1991 styled sceners using floppy disks (or emulators). For less memory and storage challenged sceners like me, there is the fulsome luxury of a version needing the full 4 MB of STe RAM, but giving hard drive loading, and a deeply intimate massage with aromatic oils from a scarcely dressed but devastatingly gorgeous lady. Actually, I’m lying about the massage bit but I’ll do anything to keep your attention on this textfile, eh! A look at the folder containing the demo reveals a humongous chunk of soundtrack. The other advantage of hard disk loading allows  a 25 khz version of the soundtrack, rather than the 12 khz for the floppy drive version.

I’ll get the credits out of the way now. The coding is a three-way partnership of Gizmo, Evil, and Nerve. The graphics honours are shared between Evil and Proteque, an Amiga scene veteran who got fed up with the endless talk and inaction there, so he joined forces with DHS to do some new work. Musically, 505 has been asked to contribute an excellent soundtrack, no doubt he is celebrating the easing of memory restrictions as he heard the news.

Time to go and see the demo, there is lots to do, so pay attention!

A loading logo briefly appears on screen and gives way to a moody blue rolling background. A closer look appears to reveal different layers and a semi-transparent effect going on. Over the top, some credits in a very fancy font go over. The other impression on your eyes is the fact that this is fullscreen, occupying every last centimetre of the STe’s display. There are no clunky chunky boarders, and that remains the case for around 75 percent of the rest of the demo too.

The soundtrack builds into the next section of the demo, a pair of pulsing rastered distorting ‘things’ vibrate up the screen. This effect is pure oldskool and will get Amiga copper fans falling off their chairs faintly applauding (one hopes..)

Then bang! We’re into one of the talking point screens, an evening-toned rastered skyline taking up most of the screen, apart from the distant horizon,  and there’s these huge dark spinning skyscrapers getting in the way! They are spinning so freely, that the edges have all gone purple and blurry! This is one of the stand out moments of this demo for sure.

A pause and moments dark reflection, then we are into the next part. This starts deceptively quietly, an ornately bent and twisted wire frame cube, but with more solid lines than normal. It could be a 3-D effect, or it could be a very cunningly drawn sprite. This expands to fill the whole screen, in a Defjam-friendly blocky pixel chunk-o-vision mode. Then the full-screened glory is finally revealed as a whole differently coloured host of the original small version swamps the screen. You can’t see it in this screengrab, but there are some dark raster bars which squeeze in behind as well.

A ‘designy’ bit is next, almost lyrical in content, as a half-drawn standing figure stands to the left of the screen, whilst a flurry of rose flower sprites swirl on screen. Presumably this is an overt reference to the demo title which translates to ‘dark rose’ in Romanian.

There is a bit more STe hardware bashing next, as Proteque intervenes with a gorgeous high color picture, an anorexic blindfolded angel is the centrepiece of a metal-bending video mode, with something like 29,000 colours involved in its construction. I’m not sure what resolution that is, at least a fullscreen mode going over the standard issue 320 x 200 screen, I guess? Maybe Evil can get around to writing up some of the tricks and cunning code he used in this demo sometime?

We appear to return to some oldskool roots as the music changes mood into something more cosmic sounding. A starfield is met smartly by patterns of deep blue 3D bobs. This is one screen which is conspicuously not fullscreen, it is as smartly presented as the rest of the demo, but it could have been completely at home in a production two decades ago. In the mid-part, the obligatory greets are led onscreen. Always nice to get a mention of course 🙂

There follows a return to moody newschool, with a pair of spinning light-shaded blocks. My brain fails me in describing the precise technique, or mixture of techniques used. Yet another screen pleading piteously for some words of enlightenment from its creators.

Things are building towards a finale, as Gizmo gets to show off his superior 3-D object making skills. A grey-washed female nasally enjoys a black rose to the left of the screen, whilst a spinning enviro-mapped spiny thing, does its uncanny best to represent an open rose flower. Are we spotting a central theme yet?

Finally, the end is breathing hard down our tense and sweaty necks, as a series of fullscreen ripples, waves and good old tunnels lounge languidly in a semi-transparent fashion across a picture of a rose.  Then, the last effect is concluded, the music fades and dies and the screen turns to darkness for the last time.

So what do we think then?

‘Cernit Trandafir’ is most definitely a sequel to last year’s hit ‘More or Less Zero’. It continues the Dead Hackers progression with abusing the Atari STe’s hardware to give a production look and feel which would resemble the Amiga ECS at its peak, rather than the majority of Atari ST demos. (Not that I’m writing off a whole twenty years worth of Atari demo heritage of course, but these two demos are making fullscreen overscan almost look routine now. I guess the coding side would not be necessarily so taken for granted though!)

I like the continued hard disk support. The UltraSatan was conspicuously seen in some numbers at the Alt Party, so more demos that support this are always appreciated. Needless to say, I am looking forward strongly to the 20th Anniversary STe demo, hopefully with a contribution from DHS there too.

It is with absolutely no sense of regret that I can say that Cernit Tranfadir is another magnificent addition to the DHS portfolio of totally cool stuff. I sort of got some inside information they are shifting platform focus for their next production, so I’m looking forward to that sometime in the future.

I have one other observation of a personal and inward looking kind to garnish the end of this text with. I have enjoyed writing for this new magazine format, I am able to supply a comprehensive set of screen grabs for the first time on a demo review, which is liberating somehow!

See you next time.

CiH, for Low-Res Magazine, November 2009.

Wiz2600 – an Atari 2600 emulator for the GP2X Wiz

December 28, 2009

While browsing an archive of available software for the opensource handheld console GP2X Wiz [1] [2], I stumbled upon Wiz2600 [3].

Wiz2600

Wiz2600

This is an emulator for the Atari 2600 or Atari VCS console. It enables the user to play Atari 2600 games on the GP2X Wiz handheld.

The emulator is available as opensource [4].

Installation on the GP2X Wiz is very simple. Just put the wiz2600 folder inside your game folder on the SD card or the builtin NAND Flash and leave the ini file there. Place all game rom images into the roms folder and launch the emulator.

First the user sees a configuration menu. Here various options as screen settings, audio and joystick can be  configured. Select the game rom image you want to play and start the emulation. Now the GP2X Wiz will behave like the Atari 2600 and you can play the game. pressing MENU will bring back the configuration menu.

The 2600 functions like RESET and SELECT are mapped to the fire buttons, the directional pad works as the joystick.

From what I tried sofar, the games works. I could play Space Invaders, Jr. Pacman and Mrs Pacman with Wiz2600 well. Only slight problem seems to be the sound. It sounds quite different to what I know from my original Atari 2600jr. The onscreen color scheme also looks a bit off but it does not break the fun.

With Wiz2600 you can easily enjoy Atari 2600 titles on your GP2X Wiz. A musthave for all owners of the GP2X Wiz handheld!


Links

  1. http://dl.openhandhelds.org/cgi-bin/wiz.cgi
  2. About the GP2X Wiz handheld at http://www.gp2xwiz.com/
  3. Download Wiz2600
  4. Wiz2600 homepage

JayMSA – multifeatured disk image handling for Atari ST

December 28, 2009

Even if you are not deep into emulation, sooner or later you will stumble upon disk images in .MSA or .ST format. Basically those files are similar to ZIP archives or ISO images. they do not only hold files and there directory structure, but the exact layout of tracks on the original floppy disk is preserved.

JayMSA

JayMSA

JayMSA by Jaysoft [1] is free to download and use. The utility runs on all Atari STs and compatibles and fully utilizes the GEM desktop and is multitasking friendly.

With JayMSA one cannot only read disk images and save their contents as .MSA or .ST disk images ready for use with known ST emulators, but it also can write those images back onto disk. It also allows to extract files from a disk image. This feature is particular handy for hard drive users who do not want to run software from a floppy. Basically this saves the need to fully write the disk image onto a floppy disk.

Imaging a disk is simple with JayMSA. Just put the floppy you want to image into your drive, use the “Disk” menu to select the destination drive and click “Compress”. In the next dialogue select the options you want to employ for imaging

. If you are using TOS, the CRC feature seems to be buggy. It crashed for me in the past. But if you disable it, everything will work nicely.

You can select different target formats with MSA and ST being the most reasonable. Disk images in .ST format are not packed by default so I don’t recommend using them. After selecting where you want the fresh disk image to be stored, the program asks for confirmation and begins the imaging process.

JayMSA imaging a disk

JayMSA imaging a disk

When the imaging process has finished, JayMSA will list the contents of the new disk image in its main window. This will work as long as there is a FAT filesystem on the image. Software that loads from raw tracks will most likely only display some garbage here.

In this dialogue files can be selected, viewed with a configured text viewer from within the active disk image and ofcourse, extracted on their own to disk. Handy if you want to copy a single file from an entire disk image to your hard disk. Just click “Extract” in the “File” menu.

JayMSA - extracting files from a disk image

JayMSA - extracting files from a disk image

To write a disk image back to disk, select “Open” in the “File” menu to display the contents of your file. Now go to the “Disk” menu and select “Extract” to write the disk image back to a floppy. The process is similar to imaging a disk and ofcourse, JayMSA can write the same disk images back to disk that it created, e.q. you can write .ST files to disk with this.

Pro JayMSA

  • compatible with all previous MSA disk imagers
  • handles multiple disk image formats including .ST
  • has its own MSA file format with LZH compression
  • can clean bootsectors if desired (handy for those Ghost virus infested disk boxes)
  • shows contents of a disk image and allows to extract individual files
  • nice GUI
  • as a clean application, it works on all Ataris

Contra JayMSA

  • as most other disk imagers, JayMSA cannot image floppy disks with copy protection
  • uses “clean” disk access only so may not image everything no retry upon disk errors
  • the LZH compressed image formats can only be read and written by JayMSA itself
  • CRC option seems not to be compatible with TOS
  • window font display is buggy in ST-LOW and ST-MEDIUM if no NVDI is installed

Conclusion

All in all, I like JayMSA a lot and I use it regularly to write .MSA and .ST files to disk – and for the odd disk I need to image. Definitly a valuable tool for your Atari ST!


Links:

  1. JaySoft website

Switchblade – a classic game reviewed

August 30, 2009

Switchblade [1] is a game that I always liked although it never found a way into my collection back then. This game is a classic because it adds some different concepts while staying a playable platform game. Released in 1989 the game still offers a lot of fun.

Basically Switchblade is a platform action game for Atari ST and other platforms. The player guides the hero called Hiro through a vast underground city on the search of parts for a large sword. Climbing over platforms, crates and ladders Hiro is looking for parts of the sword. Baddies try to keep him from fulfilling his task and he can fight them. In the beginning the player only has his bare hands to fight with but additional weapons can be collected in the progress of the game.

Switchblade on the Atari ST

Switchblade on the Atari ST

The game map is vast and you will soon find yourself drawing a map for your usage. Hidden rooms and passages wait for your discovery and this applies for the whole game map. Although the game does not scroll, you can only see parts of the map that you have visited sofar. If there is a ladder leading down to an unknown area, you cannot see this particular area until you climb down the ladder. However any area that has been visited before stays visible for the player.This adds a nice aspect to the game which makes it different from the ordinary platformer.

Controls are a bit laggy and greasy. The game is definitly not a jumper liker Super Mario and the player has to think about strategies to progress. Brute force will only lead to loss of energy and loss of your precious lives. Even if the controls feel stiff at the start, the game is very predictable in its movements and with only a few couple of tries, control of Hiro feels ok and manageable.

The soundtrack is by Ben Daglish and very moody. However it can get boring and repetitive. So I recommend turning it off and playing with soundeffects instead.

As the game has been developed in the 1987-1988 time frame, it has no support for STE hardware features. regardless of this, the game runs well on the STE and with a proper patch, on Falcon and TT too.

Let’s have a look at the game in comparison to its ports to other platforms beside the Atari ST. As the Commodore Amiga version is more or less identical, it is left out of the comparison. We will focus on the known 8 bit platforms instead.

Gameplay wise there  are not many differences. Controls are laggy and  greasy in the same way on the Commodore C64, Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum. So judging by playing with your joystick, it is hard to detect the platform you are playing on. On the other hand, this indicates the playability of all versions is about the same.

Enemy and trap patterns are identical and the same applies to the main game map.

Most differences can be found on the ingame graphics and the performance of the game engine.

For comparison there are screenshots taken at the same location in the game.

Switchblade on the Amstrad CPC - reference location

Switchblade on the Amstrad CPC – reference location

On the Amstrad CPC the game runs in MODE 1. Instead of a lot of big blocky colourful pixels in MODE 0, you get a pretty good resolution at the cost of less colours. It is not a show stopper as raster interrupts are used to cleverly colourize the status bars. The music is pretty the same as on the Atari ST and the player feels directly at home. Sound effects are slightly different if music is turned off.

Switchblade on the ZX Spectrum - reference location

Switchblade on the ZX Spectrum – reference location

The ZX Spectrum is pretty himself, rather monochromatic and not very colourful. At this slight expense graphics feel smooth and playable. Only at a screen flip, a slight delay is noticeable. On a+3  with AY soundchip, there is a slightly different sound track in comparison to the ST or CPC. This is quite puzzling as the soundchip is more or less the same as in the Amstrad CPC or the Atari ST.

Switchblade on the Commodore 64 - reference location

Switchblade on the Commodore 64 – reference location

Switchblade on the Commodore 64 is rather blocky and the dull choice of colours makes the C64 Version the ugliest of the reviewed game versions. The game also stops noticeably at a screen flip which makes some jumps awkward and difficult. On the other hand, the soundtrack of the C64 version is very good and an enjoyable port of the original YM soundtrack.

All in all, a  very nice and enjoyable game, even 20 years after its first release. I can recommend playing this game!


Links

  1. Switchblade at Atari Legend
  2. Homepage of Simon Phipps – coder and designer of Switchblade
  3. Game map – from World Of Spectrum

It rOx!

August 15, 2009

After the release of “r0x”, we played the game in the STOT #2/21. We all liked the game, so we asked Tomchi the coder, to give us an interview.

r0x

rOx

LowRes: Could you please introduce yourself.

tomchi: Nicolas FLANDIN, french , optician and born in 1975. I own an STE since 1989 and try to contribute with my very limited skills to the Atari scene since 2007.

LowRes: When did you got the idea, what were your inspirations?

tomchi: Heavy Stylus had the idea and the gfx, i just proposed him to code the game :)

LowRes: How long did it take to do the game?

tomchi: As for the code, we started late december and we can say that it was released in june that’s about 7 months.

LowRes: Was it hard to find a team of graphicians and musicians?

tomchi: Original gfx were ripped from deluxe galaga by Heavy Stylus and I had some unfinished chiptune, so we had everything at the beginning. Then Templeton gave us these really cool gfx after a chat with him and DMA-SC made the game main tune at Outline, so all in all we can say that it was easy and that ST sceners are really cool and motivated if you have a project that is not vapour ware ;)

LowRes: How did you communicate?

tomchi: Mostly mails and MSN.

LowRes: What tools and machines do you used to code the game?

tomchi: ATARI STE 4 Mos, PC and gfa :P

LowRes: Did you drop some ideas during the development?

tomchi: Indeed, we wanted it to be a full game with levels and so on, I wanted to code a shop ala xenon 2 where you could buy speed, lives and so on, but then that was to much for the gameplay of r0x.

LowRes: Are there some hidden parts in the game, and could you give some hints to unlock them?

tomchi: Just grind the rocks to make an insane score and rank … erm .. 3 rd IIRC ;)

LowRes: Are you happy with the feedback?

tomchi: Yes, people at outline liked it, at least more than the other games as it ranked 1st :P Some blogs also have a complete review of the game, thx ThorN for r0xing a STOT round too :) As far as a few people enjoyed playing this game, that’s cool :)

LowRes: What are your next plans?

tomchi: I made a Jagpad only version of r0x … I like to release it in two weeks.grtx

Many thanks for this interview.

Here are two of the Blogs that reviewed the game:

StickHeads review
Matty’s review

Also r0x won the title “Best game of the year (season)”, given by the STOT players

Here some comments of the STOT Players

SSB:

  • I really like the soundtrack of this game!
  • Most of the time I end up with loss of 2 lives before I get 10000 points 😕

ThorN:

  • I like the graphics, the sound is superb and the intro is really great. I look forward to test the 2 player mode.

Good game

Good game

StickHead:

  • I can see this getting very addictive! I concur, lovely game with superb graphics and music.

Xerus:

  • Also watched your video but, but … shame on me, I didn’t know we could scrape points close to the meteors – bloody hell, and you still got 1.5 million?! It would be interesting to see what you can get now… (StickHead)