Watching That’s The Way It Is (C64)

After last week’s prod at A New Dimension we jump forwards a year to 1988 and the release of Scoop’s That’s The Way It Is on the C64. This is another three-parter – the third is “hidden” and probably went unnoticed by at least some viewers back in the day – this time developed by the artists rapidly becoming known as The Maniacs Of Noise, so it won’t come as much of a surprise that the bespoke soundtrack included is nothing short of excellent. The show starts with an upscroller with large, nicely drawn characters and colour splits at the top and bottom of the screen to make them fade in and out that’s there to dish out the credits and take care of a few hellos.

The main meat of the demo comes next, with a Scoop logo built from sprites which are overlaid onto a scrolling landscape, another large scroll font this time shifting horizontally with an even nicer character set than the one used for the earlier upscroller and a slightly surreal bitmapped picture of a swimsuit-wearing young lady with sunglasses in the foreground who seems remarkably happy and oblivious to essentially being in open space and surrounded by stars and a couple of barren, crater-scarred but brightly coloured planets, one of which appears to have attracted several orbiting moons.

Finally, there’s a small raster bar part hidden away which can be accessed either by resetting the C64 or hitting F1 which is just TMC showing off a little whilst talking about how easy raster and scroll demos are, having spent a chunk of text from the previous scroller berating other developers who were producing similarly “tricky” raster-based demos for their lack of originality. It’s actually a reasonably good example of the genre as well though, with a couple of different colour tables that can be cycled via the space bar and a short but lovely, slow piece of music playing behind it that wouldn’t have been out of place in a game on the highscore table.

Although there are some very nice touches on the code front including that Scoop logo with the mountains passing through it and the hidden raster bars, this was never intended to be a raw technical demo and instead focuses on the design and presentation. In that respect That’s The Way It Is was a trailblazer, setting new standards for sound and graphics whilst influencing many of the demos which would follow in various different, sometimes subtle ways and playing a significant role in kickstarting the trend for design-based demos that has continued to this day.