Watching Onedimensional (Atari 8-bit)

Running over last weekend was the latest edition of the Atari-centric Silly Venture party which has spent nearly two decades bringing fans of all things Atari together to party, chat and do demo-ish things; there were some great releases over the various Atari platforms as always, but I found myself drawn to one particularly old school demo which took part in the 16K Atari 8-bit competition. It’s called Onedimensional, was coded by Shadow of Noice and is basically a 1980s-style raster intro which features a four colour logo parked at the top of the screen, a double font scrolling message trundling past at the bottom and industrial quantities of raster bars dancing like nobody is watching between them.

This really couldn’t be described as pushing the Atari 8-bit’s boundaries and Shadow himself commented that it’s a “compo filler” in the scroller, but regular readers will know I love me some raster bars so a new production that does lots of variations on that particular theme is always going to catch my eye. The graphics are reasonable and do what they’re there for – Rocky’s logo is well drawn but part of me wants a teensy bit more colour – whilst the music was composed by Tobikomi (who appears to be a newcomer to the POKEY by the look of it) and is quirky but fun, suiting the on-screen action well especially since all of the effect and logo colour changes have been synchronised to it.

To be honest, I resisted the urge to do something along similar lines to this for about a decade – even when I finally gave in there were excuses like using 256 colours in MD201701 to hide behind rather than just going hell for leather with a no-nonsense, WSYNC-powered colour splitter – because the potential backlash from hardened Atarians to something like that is, quite frankly, terrifying! But Shadow made of sterner stuff than me and ran with it, doing every solid job overall especially when considering the small memory footprint he was working within.

Watching Starion Intro Remake (C64)

Since it’s the weekend of X’2018, I wanted to take a quick look at something from a previous instalment of that now venerable demo party; Starion Intro Remake by Booze Design is, in a plot twist that should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody, a reworking of a Starion intro. The original, which most people seem to remember from Starion’s scrolltext editor – a remarkably useful tool back in ye olde days when we used the painfully clunky approach of typing our scrollers onto the power-up screen before transferring them into memory with a monkitor – was released in the 1980s and features a nicely drawn green logo which swings back and forth whilst being expertly spread out over some raster bars by an FLD routine – it looks suspiciously like this:

Zooming forwards about thirteen years to 2001 and one of the entries into the wild competition at X that year was a remix of the very same intro, this time from HCL of Booze. His version takes the original logo and Laxity’s wonderful music but starts completely from scratch with the code; the FLD has been replaced with something much finer – instead of stretching the character lines apart it can now work on every pixel line – and everything can move through the side borders including the scrolling message and a solitary sprite which now bounces happily around the screen over the logo and raster bars.

The original is for my money at least a classic, not as well known or thought of as the most iconic intros from Triad or Fairlight but still a well executed piece of code with great audio and visuals, so seeing that revamped into the borders and going completely mad with the main effect was fantastic, especially since it begins by copying the movement of Starion’s original before starting to make the strips of logo finer with each pass. It came second in the competition to Padua’s Trilight – another intro remake, this time revamping both of the aforementioned Triad and Fairlight intros and evolving those changes as part of an ongoing narrative – but, whilst that’s a funny demo and has some very solid coding, the Starion Intro Remake has always been the one I go back to from that competition for the logo movement and Laxity’s music.

Here’s a terrible thought though; this remake is now seventeen years old so the distance between its release at X’2001 and now is actually bigger than the gap between it and the original code that it was based on… and if that has you feeling a little old, said original intro turned thirty this year!

Watching Futurevision #1 (C64)

Somewhere in East Germany… a James Bond-alike spy has broken into a presumably sensitive location and found information that must be ferried back to HQ safely, with the first step being a scramble down the side of a four storey building to where his tricked out sports car is waiting, pausing only to blast a couple of alerted guards along the way. After that it’s a manic dash to the coast where the car dives into the water and in classic 007 fashion turns into a submersible, ramming a diver as it escapes.

Developers Future Projects had already released several demos with a similar, animation based style, but Futurevision #1 is by far the most involved; it tries to present itself as in the style of a movie from the moment the screen turns black after a forgotten greeting is issued – going back in to update the list and then crunch the demo for a second time would have taken hours rather than seconds – with the opening text fading in and out. Then there’s the flurry of spy-based action and a “to be continued” message that, sadly, was never followed up upon because, sadly, Futurevision #2 didn’t happen.

This isn’t doing anything radical on the code front and there are a couple of rough edges here and there – when the second picture is swapped in there’s some temporary glarging up of the music for example – but there does appear to be a well written scripting engine under the hood which controls the action, so the data basically tells objects where and when to spawn, change states or move. That’s an assumption on my part of course and it could just be a series of bespoke routines handling each individual state but I can’t help thinking that, whilst that would be okay for the previous, smaller Future Projects animation demos, it’d be fairly bonkers for something on this larger scale.

And I’ve got to say that whilst the graphics are pretty good throughout – the little soldiers have a surprising amount of character despite not having many frames of animation – it’s the music playing behind the action which really steals the show for me; this tune was composed by Ramiro “Extermer” Vaca – he went on to collaborate on the soundtrack for Turrican with Stefan Hartwig and Chris Huelsbeck – and slots together nicely with the on-screen action in the same way that Bond themes composed by pop artists usually tend to work in context. And the music doesn’t stop at the story’s cliffhanger, playing on continuous loop in the background for anybody wanting to read the scrolling message.