Review: Beam #1
Written by Adok
Month of release: July'98
RAR-packed size: 262,119 bytes
Related URL: http://www.kaoz.org/bm/
Main editor: shine/black maiden
Co-editors: kyp/black maiden
Code: shine/black maiden
Design: shine, kyp, zippy, avenger, sad, pandur
Music: the unconsciousness/radical rhythms
Text: mod/tscc/numb, coctail/obn/numb, kyp, shine
BEAM, first announced at the Mekka & Symposium 1998 party, stands for Bare Electronical Art Magazine. This is the first issue of an e-mag covering the whole art scene, mostly ansi and ascii. A "strong" vga section is planned for further issues. According to the words of the main editor Shine, member of the famous German artgroup Black Maiden, in the editorial of BEAM #1, "this mag should be represent the different styles", which is "a possibility to show new artists, how they can improve their skills, and the old lores-sceners can have a look, how these hires-guys are working and vice versa." He thinks that "we could learn much of each other and have a positive effect for all". Furthermore, they "try to get a realistic impression of the artscene" by their "articles, comments, interviews, rumours, [...] charts and reviews of recent artpacks".
The second editor of BEAM is Kyp, who, according to the Black Maiden homepage, can be "regarded as one of the top-export to the world. The first German artist to join iCE and the winner of Wired '96." Which is the whole staff at present.
BEAM comes up with an entirely ansi-styled interface. At the beginning an introductionary ansi screen pops up, which fades to a white palette, after which the screen is cleared and the main menu appears. The control works entirely with keyboard. You select a section by the cursor and enter keys, then you either get directly to an article screen or to a submenu with another background ansi that is displayed using split screen and smooth scrolling, where you have to repeat the same procedure. In an article you can scroll line by line using the cursor keys or page by page using the pgup/pgdown keys. Unfortunately, the pgup/pgdown keys have a little bug, because you scroll by one line more than planned, which becomes annoying with the time. The first five lines of the text lister screen contain a small ansi saying beam, listing the title and the author of the current article and the current position in percent. You can exit an article by pressing esc and quit the whole mag by selecting quit from the main menu. A aaaa closing ansi appears which remains at the dos screen after quitting.
The interface was coded in Turbo Pascal, runs in real mode and because of that the multi module player by Charles Attard had to be used because the other known sound systems for Pascal aren't capable of playing xm's in real mode. It supports SBPro, SB16, SB32/AWE32/AWE64 in SB16 mode and works fine for me; if problems occur BEAM can be started with the 'nosound' command line parameter. GUS users have to wait till the second issue where a completely rewritten interface in Watcom C++ is planned to be used. Moreover, BEAM #1 won't run under Windows95 because of a conflict with emm386. Win95 users have to re-boot in MS-DOS-Mode and disable emm386, if necessary.
Apart from a few ansis, for example in the charts, and the art section, the text-design is quite simple. The text is usually displayed in light grey on a black background, only single words are stressed by being displayed in other colours, and the text format is left-bound. You can notice some little errors in the layout, e.g. in the article "flirt tips and more", where empty lines are inserted into several paragraphs; obviously this article was formatted for a different interface, maybe an older version in the development of BEAM. The actual BEAM text lister displays 20 lines per screen with up to 80 characters per line. A more complex layout wouldn't be necessary and just disturbing, though, because of the free line by line scrolling.
BEAM is divided into three sections: articles, art, and reviews. Apart from these sections there are three single texts, namely the editorial, the charts, and credits. The headlines of the articles section are: "the sense of diskmags", "art factory: vga logos (1)", "art factory: vga logos (2)", "we're knights", "flirt tips and more", "beam art-contest", "interview with prosthestis", and "interview with zippy". That is a total of eight articles. The pieces of (ansi, ascii) art are called "beam ascii", "iridium", "crime and punishment", "insitol", "schnitzel '98", and "vernetzt", i.e. six ansis and asciis. Kyp reviewed nine artpacks, namely "sense#9", "rib#8", "plf 03/98", "legion#2", "legion#3", "ecolore#5", "avenge#4", "avenge#6", "zenith#2". In total, all texts (editorial, articles, reviews, charts) take 150 kbytes of disk-space, and all art stuff 60 kbytes.
"The sense of diskmags" is a shortened English translation of an article written by Coctail/Obnoxious/NUMB dealing with the two questions "Who fulfils now the tasks, which used to be fulfilled by diskmags?" and "Which tasks do diskmags have to manage nowadays?". In its shortness the article sounds strange and clumsy at the beginning. Shine actually left only the last, conclusing words of the original article, stating that mags used to be "a kind of regular informationpool" for the sceners in the past but were "partly deprieved of their function" because of the Internet. Still it is to "hope that diskmags will exist as long as possible" because "they were and still are an essential part of the scene, they are a bit of underground-culture - they are just wonderful" although one has to "focus on technical innovation and analyze it and and its effect on the scene [...] and use your creative potential elsewhere" as "standstill is the death of the scene".
The Art Factory series by m.O.d./tscc/NUMB deal with basic techniques for vga pixelling. Originally published in an Atari diskmag called Undercover.
In "we're knights" Kyp compares the typical development of an artist with the saga of King Artus. New sceners are "pawns", who make great effort to get more experience and become a "knight". "Only the bravest knights coming from all over the country" were allowed to enter a "royal castle" like "acid, ice or even fire". But after one has "proven to be the best around, there's hardly motivation anymore to strive for more". And in Kyp's opinion, most of such guys "aren't worthy ever to join a group, since a group demands discipline and honour". Kyp has also written the article "flirt tips and more".
The article section ends with the logs of two interviews made via irc.
All the artpack reviews come from Kyp. He divided each review into the single artists, and listened each's style, where he is good at, what his problems are, what his best pic in this artpack is and rates his work on this artpack with a number between 0 (bad) and 12 (awesome). At the end of each review the group itself is rated verbally.
The charts, consisting of the sections "ansi artists", "ascii artists", "vga artists", and "groups", are very interesting: especially the rating system. Apparently every place 3 vote got 1.1, place 2 2.1 and place 3 3.1 points. In this way not only the resultating score is shown but at the same time the number of people who voted for a certain person/group (e.g. 5.3 would mean that three people voted for this name). The disadvantage: In some cases you can easily guess who has voted for whom, especially as all names are listed, even those who were voted by only one person. All in all about 30 persons have voted. Of course a vote form for the next BEAM issue is attached. Now you can vote for your three favourite websites apart from the old sections.
A premier issue of an e-magazine of a scene that, according to its editors, once had many mags that died sooner or later because of lack of support. This lack of support is obvious in this first issue of BEAM, too: the articles either come from the editors staff, consisting of only two people, or were previously published in other diskmags, though diskmags with a different set of readers. Little more support came from the side of ansi/ascii artists. Still also the art section is small, like the whole mag. BEAM made a discordant impression on me: On the one hand, the concept is probably good for the potential set of readers, and it also contains a few articles that are interesting and partly funny to read; on the other hand, you notice that BEAM is a new mag at many points: the text design is partly sloppy, and so do the code and the English of some articles. On top of that, as you might have noticed in the review of oOze #3 in the previous Hugi issue, I don't really like ansi interfaces, but that's a subjective point.
You must not forget that BEAM is a new magazine. The scene is always lazy when it comes to supporting a diskmag, especially when the mag is new and no issue has been released yet, so that they can't take a picture of its quality. So it's natural that the number of articles isn't high. But the level of the published articles is promising.
All in all BEAM is an interesting new project. For the desired set of readers the interface of BEAM will probably feel just fine. And as regards the content, it's certainly worth being supported.