Watching Quel Homme (C64)

Time to tick another demo off my “to do” list… Quel Homme by Agile was released in the same competition as Super Swap Sweden’s Contribution and, if memory serves, was amongst the first things I received when first starting out as a mail trader in Cosine… although we’re talking over three decades ago so I’m not entirely willing to trust my memory on this one!

The demo opens with a classic and quite compact Agile crack intro that sports a large logo and double height scrolling message but sadly has no music, but the first actual part has a decent tune from Johannes Bjerregaard and three scrollers, all using a different large character set and under user control with two looking for the joysticks and the third checking for Z and X being pressed. There’s another large and user-influenced message in the second part at the top of the screen, with a bitmapped logo below but the point of note is the rather good tune by Sanke 3003 (who is still active in Pretzel Logic as SMC) which plays sampled drums along with the SID whilst everything else is happening.

There’s a short, silent interlude with a bizarre picture of a bathtub that has assorted limbs and a cat poking out at various angles bouncing up and down via FLD and then the show finishes with another scrolling message, this time zooming a double font character set up to eight times its regular size – one pixel becomes a character – and splitting one of multicolours. This scroller can once again be controlled by a joystick, with left and right changing the speed whilst up and down move the scroll area vertically with another FLD which displays colour splits so the bars appear to exist behind the message.

One of the texts in Quel Homme calls it “lousy” and it didn’t make the top three at the Rebels and Agile party it was released during – only those positions are known thanks to a file called Agile’s Results from Super Swap Sweden, so we don’t know how Quel Homme fared after that – but it’s pretty solid as 1988 releases go; there’s a focus on moving large letters around, splitting colours and showing a significant amount of scrolltext because that was normal at the time and the chosen music is solid too, particularly Sanke’s piece.

Watching Contribution (C64)

Over thirty years ago, Contribution by Super Swap Sweden was released and competed in the Rebels and Agile copy party’s demo competition, taking the first place and beating entries from other C64 luminaries including Science 451 and Agile in the process. That probably shouldn’t come as a surprise since the group behind Contribution would soon go on to merge with Thundercats to form Horizon, but this particular release before that merger had a fairly specific impact on me personally which I’ll get to in a couple of paragraphs.

Including the humming intro at the start there are six parts with each showcasing a couple of nifty routines; there’s some “3D” raster bars with a bi-directional, colour split ROL scroller (the latter was the inspiration for my own routine in Koalatro over twenty eight years later), another ROL scroller with some vertical motion – making for some odd but interesting diagonal text whilst being surprisingly hard to explain – running over a thirty two point, bitmap-based plotter, a DYCP scroller which has multiple speed and wave presets, a picture mover using 56 sprites per image together with an eight sprite scroller which both seem to be ignoring the borders and to round things off there’s a pre-calculated logo animation and another sideborder scroller.

I don’t remember having seen a DYCP scroller before this demo so that was doubtless fascinating to me at the time, but what I found to be the most impressive part of the show was seeing the series of ESCOS-style, 56 sprite pictures swinging around the screen and into three of the four borders with the scroller taking up the remaining one. I barely understood what was happening in a regular ESCOS routine or indeed the enhanced ones in things like the NWCUG demos so seeing pictures whizzing around freely like that was sheer magic!

Contribution has a special place in my heart; it was the first Super Swap Sweden demo I ever saw – one of the earliest demos I mail traded with a contact in fact, and it arrived with one of the other entries from the same competition which is on my “to do” list – but that doesn’t change how impressive it was and, in some senses still is. It might seem relatively simple now even if the comparison were to be limited to the developers’ later output, but it still holds together very well and, along with the other Super Swap Sweden demos, is certainly worth watching.

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.