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

Randomly musing about NTSC

So I make a nuisance of myself on Twitter from time to time… not much because that’s not my “style” but every now and then something interesting will come up and I stick my metaphorical oar in. For example, a tweet drifted through my feed from Joseph W. which said…

It’s regrettable that the NTSC C64 demoscene never really took off. I know there are some technical reasons why, but there were still some pretty nice demos that came out of NTSC groups.

My response was that “being cordoned off from the PAL scene meant the one-upmanship that drove and indeed still drives demo dev wasn’t there” because, essentially, the coders in NTSC territories saw a small fraction of what was being churned out in industrial quantities over in PAL land and the most technically impressive pieces of code required cycle accuracy and ate all of the available processing power on each frame so wouldn’t run on American or Canadian machines. It’d be difficult to devise uses for some of the VIC-II’s “features” in a vacuum or pick through PAL code that wasn’t running correctly on their machines but, even when emulation unified things a little, the NTSC scene didn’t really seem to evolve.

I have fond memories of the NTSC demo scene in the mid to late 1990s because I was a small part of it; I spent quite a bit of time on the relevant IRC channels, joined Canadian-based Carcass for a while to contribute code and graphics to a couple of releases and, along with contributing to disk magazine Driven on a few occasions with a mixture of articles and the occasional bitmapped logo, I also entered all three of their 4Kdemo competitions and won two! But at the same time, that didn’t bode well for the NTSC scene if PAL bunnies could rock up and beat the “local talent” like that and, despite there being a couple of driving forces like Coolhand trying to keep things rolling, it still ground to a halt eventually…

In response to my tweet, Joseph W. went on to say…

I suppose it would be pointless to make a NTSC demo these days.

…but I’m not sure that’s the case any more than it could be said of other “niche markets” like demos for the C128, SuperCPU or REU-equipped machines. Making demos is primarily done for fun anyway so, if someone felt that they’d get enjoyment from focusing on doing NTSC-specific C64 releases then they should and VICE can handle pretty much anything they’ll throw at it so the rest of us get to enjoy the results. I’ve been sidetracked by demo code since the weekend myself and it’s very tempting to NTSC fix some of my prototype code and throw something together right now…