[Is 4k the new 64k?...................]
today's episode of "classic questions of the demoscene"...

Watching 4k intros at Revision 2017 made most people say that 4k is the new 64k.
Well, that's hard to prove, but at least we've seen one revision 8k that was a nearly 1:1 remake of an old 64k ("rise" by mindforce and park).

So maybe 4k is half the new 64k.

Jokes apart, let's see how modern 4ks and 64ks compare.

4ks and 64ks share some limitations. Both have to use generated music, both rarely use stored textures. They are both not using precalculated video, even if some groups, starting from Complex, did this in the past.
64ks can use some stored samples, but just one or two may fit the 65536 bytes limit - so using them doesn't give a clear advantage to 64ks anyway.
Finally, the use of shaders everywhere made 64ks and 4ks even more similar than before.

Believe me, I always wanted to do this

Still, 64ks have elements that are not present in 4ks (for now).
For example, Conspiracy's intro from Revision 2016 had some evocative black silhouettes recalling human figures. "Gubernyia" from Macau Exports had some of these too, far in the background. 64ks can have a longer and better "story" inside. Just think of "eidolon" by Poo-brain or of (the unfortunately a bit cheesy) "h-immersion" by Ctrl-Alt-Test. Some 64ks can use gm.dls with a bit of trickery. In general, 64ks can have some additional content inside that makes them more complex and various.

But despite of this, having 60 additional whopping kilobytes often acts like a psychologically inverse mechanism that makes coders waste them.
Take "Off" by Mercury. No matter if they say "we have this new shining engine", "we have the bestest synth in the world", "we have a lot of dust on the camera" ("and hexagonal lens flares too") - their 64k seems a lot more like a 4k (at the point that somebody called it "a screensaver"). The same, unfortunately, goes for the latest intro from Conspiracy.

So, does a modern 4k intro look like an older 64k one?

Let me examine some very good candidates.
For example, "absolute territory" by prismbeings reminded me a lot of old intros like "Fresnel 2" by Kolor or "Transgression 3" by mfx. But if you watch them carefully, you see that "absolute territory" looks more like *one* single scene of Fresnel 2, leaving apart the visual quality of the two productions.

Fresnel 2 vs. Absolute territory

Let's take the one I consider the "state of the art" 4k in 2017, "horizon machine" by Eos and Alcatraz, and compare it to the winner 64k of Revision 2012, "gaia machina". Even if you can visually see the gap in those 5 years (the first "machine" is way better for rendering quality), content-wise, or looking at the camera paths and cuts, or even for the quality of the content and objects in the latter one, "gaia machina" still stands higher than the 2017 4k.
The same thing happens if you compare it to more recent winners of Revision: there is almost no competition there.

It seems clear that a middle placed 64k intro like "Off" or "Vessel" can be compared (and maybe lose) to a top-notch 4k like "horizon machine" or "Joia" by Collapse. But 64k clearly win if we take a better designed, packed and polished intro like "eidolon" or "guberniya".

Guess which one is the 4k and which one the 64k

Now we can ask the final questions.

Has the gap between 4k and 64k reduced?
Maybe. Maybe now 64ks and 4ks have the same shaders, the same synths, the same effects, and they are so close that you can't distinguish a mediocre 64k from a brilliant 4k (but still you can distinguish "Chaos Theory 4k" from "Chaos Theory", I suppose).

Is 4k the new 64k?
Not really. Maybe modern 4ks surpassed the average 64k, but still 4ks are runner-ups compared to a jaw-dropping 64k of 2017 or previous years. And probably they will always be.

P.S.: oh well, I didn't notice but 10 years have passed from this post here.
Seems like I "already" have the task to write the second chapter of 4k history (2007-2017).
Stay tuned for more.

posted by friol at 4/21/2017 01:03:00 AM - under: , , - comments? here (2)

[interview #4: This must be a *Conspiracy*...................]
From the suburbs of Hungary to the top of the Demoscene...

Revision 2016 was the definitive proof that 64k intros have still something to say.

Conspiracy is one of those demogroups that made 64ks the main reason of their existence.
In fact, they are in activity back from 2003, and released mostly 64k intros, a pair of 4ks and a couple of demos (one of them could have been a 64k too).

I asked for an interview to Gargaj, musician/coder/demoscene-myth of Conspiracy, shortly after their return from Revision, where Conspiracy placed 2nd right after Mercury (see the results here), and he extended the questions to the rest of the group.

Warning: if you are among the 3 demo freaks that have been on the moon recently and haven't seen "Darkness lay your eyes upon me" (DLYEUM from here after), stop reading this and go watch the intro (this interview contains spoilers and tool screenshots that would ruin the experience).
Then come here again (if you remember the address).

1) Almost 13 years have passed since "project genesis". That intro amazed for the incredible amount of content and for the general cleanness of the scenes. What has changed between the tool used to build "project genesis" (a.d.d.i.c.t. 0.9) and the tool used to create DLYEUM? In which way is the tool used to build DLYEUM "better" than the first one?

A lot has changed, and a lot hasn't.
For one, we learned to code and not just mess around. The tools became pretty sophisticated compared to the first iteration. They are faster, stable, easier to work with and can do a lot more. We overcame several limitations that seemed impossible back then, and not just because of the increase in processing power or the advent of shaders. The tools we used until 2006 had no notion of pixel or vertex shaders, they used fixed pipeline GPU acceleration. Our current generation tool has ditched CPU based texture generation for a GPU based one, and has a proper material system for utilizing the GPU.

The dark city buildings as they appear in the tool used for DLYEUM

Other than these two changes, the rest is basically the same as originally: the mesh generation, animation and especially the timeline concept has stood the test of time.

One thing that had the largest impact was the reduction in the turnaround time when creating visuals, and the evolution of our tool was partly driven by this. The fact that we can go back to a scene and modify a texture or a model and immediately see the result in all its post-processed glory helps immensely in achieving the quality that we'd like to put on the screen. In short: the concepts are the same but more refined, and built into a tool that is "production ready".

2) Same question for the synth used in both intros.

For the first two intros ("project genesis" and "a place called universe") we used a rudimentary tracker+sample generator combo that we knew wouldn't last, but it did the job at the time.
Since "Beyond" we've been using the same modular framework for audio, which allows us to do incremental upgrades without losing any of the familiarity or having to worry about the actual audio engine. It also allows us to deprecate modules that we no longer want to use.
In this particular intro we've tried a few techniques that we felt were needed to match the subtlety of the imagery, and the relatively small (initial) scope of the intro allowed us to experiment without the responsibility of having something that is a permanent solution.

3) Is there a "story" behind DLYEUM?

There is, albeit a loose one.
The initial concept was to create something dark and looming as a sequel (or spinoff) to our other intro called "One of these days the sky's gonna break", but there was no story or storyboard, just a bunch of scenes that we thought would fit together. The narrative created by the final intro is open to interpretation, and that was kinda our goal too: let the viewer fill in the holes, and make up a story of their own if they want to, which we've been happy to see that people have been doing.

4) The silhouettes in DLYEUM are great and original. Are those 3D models? Can you tell a bit more on the tech used to build them?

There were plans to create the human figures in 3D using primitives, but ultimately we imported small vector images and processed them a bit further in the tool to add more detail.

At the end, the simplest ideas are the best ones. Zoom in to spoil the magic

5) Did you have to do some size-fighting to stay under 65535 bytes for DLYEUM or you managed to include everything you wanted in the intro?

We ran out of time before we ran out of space, but just barely. We had 53 bytes left when the deadline came - we have never been so close before. The final version is going to be a challenge to do, because with the lack of time and sleep came the loss of quality in some scenes, which we want to remedy with a proper release. We have no definite timeframe for when that's gonna happen, but we hope to have it released by next week [4th to 8th of april 2016 for who's reading].

6) Did the result of the party (you came 2nd by 2 points, 1890 to 1888) disappoint you, or you think Mercury deserves the 1st place? Has "fermi paradox" something "more" than DLYEUM in your opinion? Be honest.

At this point the results don't matter, this is how it was meant to be.
The Mercury guys are very good friends, and having seen how much work they put into their release, we're happy either way. The two point difference just shows that the audience couldn't decide between the two intros either, and neither could we - like we said at the prize ceremony, "I guess we're even now".

I expected an answer a little bit more on the line of "Who is the best now YOU MADAFAKAZZ?"

We're happy with the way our intro turned out, we're very happy that the competition was tough again, and most importantly that 64k is back with a vengeance.
We still think it's the perfect demo platform.

7) I asked the same question to IQ some years ago for 4k intros: where are 64k intros headed from here to 10 years in the future? In my opinion, with 4k intros the scene hit something like an "hard edge", so someone had to "invent" 8k intros to go ahead. 64k seem still capable of impressing the audience.

If 4k (and especially recent 8k) intros are any indication, 64k still has a lot left to offer, although we don't think this is fundamentally about size limits.

We're not using any special technology in our intro, it's simply about how you present your content with the help of proper composition, framing, and coloring. This is what usually makes an impression in demos too, and if you do it in 64k, it's an added bonus.

I can't stop shivering when I look at that house. Even in that demotool.

4k seemed to hit a "hard edge" mostly because everyone and their mother started using distance fields/raymarching, which resulted in very similar-looking intros and a lot of people got bored of that.

We have already passed the point in the evolution of the demoscene where putting random flashy imagery one after the other doesn't cut it anymore, or let's say it doesn't really stand out. A few people commented on Pouet that finally they are starting to see inspiration being pulled from outside the demoscene, and that's where we can still improve, or at least it's one direction. The old demoscene conventions and "bring back the only demo art" have their place and we must know where our roots are, but from time to time it's worthwhile to take a look around in the world of film and other artistic media as well.

We definitely don't mean to stop trying to push the limits, but they have to be pushed both technically and artistically.

P.S.: for the maniacal guys out there or for those who want to spy the secret technology behind Conspiracy's intros, I've put two additional *BONUS* *EXCLUSIVE* *SCREENSHOTS* of their demotool here and here. Rip... errr... enjoy!!!

posted by friol at 4/02/2016 10:39:00 PM - under: , , - comments? here (1)

[Demo .GIFs..........................]
Quick pills for modern sceners

Modern sceners don't have time.

They are quickly grown-up sons of the 80s, that now work for the same banks they hacked or for the same game companies which users they called "gamers".

Moderns sceners don't have time for a 10-12 minutes long demo.

How can we cope with this in modern life? Hey, we've found the solution. And, surprisingly, the solution is not to impose a 15-second production limit in demoparties. The solution is called: demo .GIFs (yes, it's the first name we came up with, I know).

Want to watch "2nd reality" again (for the 279585th time) but don't have time for that black-screen infinite introduction? Skip directly to the "Star Wars" part:

You always thought that "paper" starts too slowly? No problem:

And that's it.
The demo .GIFs almost say it all. Everybody knows that the "oooooh-moment" in "paper" is that scene. No need to watch the full thing.

Maybe you always wanted to know what's so subliminal in "Stash". It's presto-chango (whatever that means):

The GIF's natural looping nature lets us admire parts of well known demos that slip away too fast, instead:

And it loops nicely, too.
The only limit is your need to scroll this web page. Phew.

It's although nice to see how a 3 second long GIF summarizes perfectly "State of Mind", the breakthrough demo of 1998:

Yes, life really is consume-die. Maybe 'work' and 'buy' too.

Missed that end-of-the-century Haujobb intro? This one sums it up nicely:

Want more "oooooh-moments"?

And you're all set, as they would say in America.
We all love toruses, after all.

Enough said.
In 1990 you downloaded the full thing with 56k modems.
In the 2000s you watched the demo on Youtube.
In the 2010s you finally have the demo .GIFs, what else.

'Bjoooooooo ooo ooooo oer'.
Please post more demo .GIFs in the comments.

posted by friol at 2/24/2016 07:54:00 PM - under: , , , - comments? here (0)

[A short story about bbstros..........................]
Aka: 'things that ran fine on a 386sx'

Bulletin Board Systems: something everybody already forgot.

Something nobody will remember in 50 years, except for Wikipedia.

Manga-style ad for some old Italian BBS
To your nephews you'll tell: 'Yes, we used those, like photographic film or books'. BBSes were the grannys of the Internets, most of the time used in a serial-way, accepting just one user at time.
And sometimes, the sysop (yeah, maybe Wikipedia will keep memory of him too) came out of nowhere, breaking your intimate and private feeling of leeching files or, badly, some early porn pics, and greeted you or talked to you when the last thing you wanted was to talk.

So next time you logged in, you were like a thief with your paranoid eyes spinning around, fearing the sysop would appear from nowhere, again.

But demoscene, which is everywhere there is shortage of space, bytes, screen resolution or bandwidth, soon started to sponsor BBSes, basically for the selfish need to advertise its productions, or just to spread, well, you know, good old 'stuff' (legal and illegal). Laws were really slow to realize what was happening, so there was a short timelapse where 'hackers' lived in an happy limbo of anarchy.

So, 'bbstros' were born. What are those? Well, take a demo. Make it 3 or 4 kilobytes long. Add music. Add some text talking about telephone numbers, forums and warez and one or two demoscenic effects. There you are. This kind of productions sneaked easily into the 'big' zipfiles containing warez legal software, just like a sort of benign virus.

You can fit ASCII art there, 4k are spacious
Even well known groups of the demoscene made bbstros.

Maybe the most well known BBS ad is 'Starport 2' by the Future Crew. Yeah, that mythical group that made the original Second Reality (not the C64 remake).

I remember reading the (printed) source code of STARPORT.COM in my uncle's bathroom. You could find many coding tricks there, not only size related ones, and I couldn't agree more upon the quote by Psi 'Making a small intro is not hard. Making a small intro with a nice feel is very hard'. Because you know, Starport 2 was made in 1993, and was 1993 bytes long. Yeah, things like that counted in 1993.

bbstros showed off cryptic and mysterious acronyms like 'V32bis', 'DGI',' GSN' or talked about forgotten places like 'The Asylum', 'The Lounge', 'Blastersound', 'Digital Nightmare', 'The One', 'Virtual Light', 'Equalizer' and so on. And exotic international prefixes you would be afraid (or not so) to call. But at the end you would make that call, attracted by that '3 Gigabytes' of downloadable software or by the luxurious 'free email'.

A.C.E. BBS ad from Karl/Nooon
There is another couple of mythical intros made for the (as much as mythical) french A.C.E. BBS. Both are productions of Karl/Nooon.

One (ACE2.COM) is 2.221 bytes and shows a 3d voxel rotating 'ACE' logo. The second falls in the 'things that ran fine on a 386sx' category (I should write a post just on that concept, someday). It's only 2.465 bytes long, and has a nice big scrolling font and a background rotozoomer with the then famous 'Intel Outside' motto.

If you wanted 'the latest warez' for (no less than) HP48, you had to call 'The One', back in 1994. 'The One' had a nice ad, made by Eclipse, that is very Amiga-ish in its colours, effects and in the font. Pointless to say, this ran fine on a 386 too.

Italy had BBSes as well.
Many were demo-related (it's 1995, remember). Something of them still exists, if you look closer. Somewhere on this page you can find old vestiges of that time appearing as modern-day .png files. If launching again those reliquiae makes your DosBox sound strange and metallic, you should be aware that many DOS BBS intros exploited the old 'Adlib' (or OPL2, integrated into the SoundBlasters) chip/soundcard, because an Adlib player routine is much more simple and small than a full digital replayer. Some BBS intros have ASCII graphics also, because that's tiny (and colorful).

Amiga style on PC
Oh well, that was just the tip of the iceberg for bbstros.

There were sub-scenes of BBS intros on Amiga, C64 and Atari too. Still, someone in a moment of nostalgia makes a bbstro for Windows.

That makes no sense, you may say. But what is this if not an expression of something measured in kilobytes, reduced to 32 colours, four channels and with BBS telephone numbers that start with "+", called demoscene?

Edit: apparently, BBS-fever infected Pouet too:

posted by friol at 2/08/2015 08:07:00 PM - under: , , , - comments? here (0)

the tunnel - demoscene blog - (c) friol 2k10