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!

Demo Factory 2018 (C64)

Okay, so between writing the first draft of Saturday’s post rambling about the development of Demo Factory and actually pushing it out to the world I found myself pondering ways to rework it and… well, sort of accidentally wrote a complete, upgraded version! Demo Factory 2018 has been through a few iterations since that first build, but the final code was finished in the early hours of this morning. The music this time is from the game Ninja Rabbits and was composed by Sean Connolly, whilst the general layout of the screen was based on the original 1976 release with some tweaks to add new features. After that, everything else was pretty much built from scratch.

In some respects at least this version works in the same way as the original Demo Factory, relying on the C64’s hardware-based sprite to background priority register for the disks – that’s why one of the character multicolours is black in both versions, those parts of the graphics can never have a higher priority than the sprites so the moving floppies are actually passing in front of those parts of the background – but the sprite-based part of the scroller has to work differently, with the left hand character being a sprite that’s being masked in software so it can pass behind the black part of the pipe regardless of the letter’s current colour.

Although there’s one highlighted effect running in the box labelled “VFX” there are also two starfield-like routines, the animating “SFX” cone and a couple of other, smaller elements which are mostly being refreshed every frame – the moving arrows are shifted every second frame because they don’t look as pretty moving faster and things like flashing lights change only when needed – and that lot are all handled with either character redefinition or simply changing the screen or colour RAM. The only hardware sprites in use are the eight floppies which are either on or sitting by the lower conveyor, the last three characters of the scroller as it falls from the upper belt and one expanded sprite which displays the character that’s just about to appear for the scroll.

I did consider saving Demo Factory 2018 for the CSDb intro competition if it happens this year – the highest byte of memory used is $3FFF since the upper and lower borders are open and the ghostbyte needed to be zeroed so the code is small enough and it does technically feature a logo – but it feels more appropriate to put it out now alongside my fevered ramblings about the original. The source code has been cleaned up and can be squinted at courtesy of GitHub for those who might be so inclined.