ICSRTU (C64)

Looking through my “schedule” I knew December was going to be a busy month, but one delightfully unexpected release which appeared a few days ago from Sean Connolly was a new C64 demo called ICSRTU-FM. The demo’s code was built around a rendition of I Can See Right Thru You by Supercharge created with Sean’s work-in-progress FM music editor and driver, which means it requires an expansion to run and for the best results that should be either an FM-YAM cartridge or the SFX Sound Expander with a YM3812 modification.

The latter device can be emulated by VICE – look for “SFX Sound Expander settings” in the Cartridge/IO sub menu and change the YM chip type whilst there – and those of us who are just “slumming it” with a stock SFX Sound Expander can still enjoy the music even if it doesn’t sound exactly as intended. My test machine is currently equipped with one and has been happily humming away to itself in the other room for over an hour now.

I did play a teensy part in this release, Sean sent me a scan of the record’s cover art which I converted to the C64. The results are rather “lo fi” because the original image is deliberately grainy and I only took the liberty of tidying some of the edges and adding a few dabs of colour here and there. The logo down the side was actually borrowed from the 1993 Cosine release Lethargy, which means it’s a quarter of a century older than anything else on screen and, on a completely unrelated note, I now feel almost painfully old.

Watching Backlog (C64)

Since I’m in an intro-y kind of mood right now I decided to have a ponder about “past glories” and loaded Backlog, a collection of intros I wrote for various people during the 1990s that were thrown together into a single file at the end of 1999. Perhaps unsurprisingly the show starts with an intro, although this one was written specifically for the job; it has a logo by WHW Design, music from 4-Mat – one of his earliest tunes as a member of the group if memory serves – and the design was based on a Cosine intro Hookie used during the 1980s.

The first actual intro in the collection was written in 1991 for Chancer when he was a member of Babygang and is one of two I coded for them. It saw a fair amount of use in part because it was designed to be compact, with everything bar the music being crammed into the first 4K of memory and there are even a few cases of this in the wild where the music was removed entirely in order to save even more space. I’m told that it also compresses rather well, although that’s more by luck than design on my part!

The Derbyshire Ram intro that comes next in the collection hails from 1992 and is pretty simple stuff with a swinging logo, scroller and some cosine-following sprites but, because I’m thoroughly disorganised and it took a little too long to code, so Barry had already left Deadline by the time everything was finished! And there’s a similar story behind the Success intro that follows as well, it was commissioned by Mistri in 1993 and I spent some time cramming the logo and larger character set into a ridiculously small amount of space only to find out that they’d just joined forces with The Ruling Company and my code would therefore remain unused.

Next is the only other Cosine intro included in this collection, which was first used for the Electronic Music System V7.03 in 1997 and subsequently linked to a couple of Cosine games around the same time. The main “design choice” was to work within a reduced area of the screen by drawing a box around everything apart from the logo and this is the primary inspiration for Refix 2017. The final intro in the collection was coded in around five hours to go in front of A Lil Bit Of, a three part demo by Carcass again put out in 1997. The music in the final release was composed by Necrophobic, but I didn’t realise there was a new tune being supplied so the intro is timed around the Replay tune included on this release. Once space has been pressed we get to the finale, another 4-Mat tune accompanying a large “end” logo that swings onto the screen.

There are a couple more intros that could have been included including the second Babygang intro mentioned earlier – there’s an extremely good chance that I actually forgot about it when compiling the collection – and one I did but, if memory serves, never quite finished for Rebel Alliance around the time I was coding Pink Elephants In Lemonade. And because of those two the idea for Backlog 2 has been stewing pretty much since the first one was released although, unless I’m forgetting something else, there’s not much to go into it after those and the more recent Cosine intro used for GR9 Strike Force

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.