Review: Lookain Fanz #3
Written by Adok
Month of release: September'98
RAR-packed size: 1,556,011 bytes
Related URL: http://www.mygale.org/~lookain/
Design: dust, frame
Music: bedrael, don cato, random voice, rez
Text: niakool, yogin
A new diskmag has found its way to our world: Lookain Fanz' first issue was released in August 1998. However, it was entirely in French. From the second issue on the mag has been released in English. It uses a Win32 interface, coded in Delphi. Furthermore, Lookain Fanz has a homepage in which an online magazine is planned to be started.
This third issue was released at the end of September 1998, less than a month after issue 2. It features a little more articles than in the previous issue, though it's still not more than 50 kbyte of text. The huge size of the mag archive (it was even larger in issue 1) comes from the extensive use of graphic and music.
In the future, the staff wants to publish the mag bilingual, namely in English and in French.
Although it is never mentioned, Niakool is de-facto maineditor of Lookain Fanz. He writes almost all of the articles. Since this very issue, Yogin has been correcting the grammatical mistakes.
The interface runs under Win32 using Direct X. There are no further explanations about system requirements, but it works ok under my Windows 95 system with Direct X 5.0.
In contrast to the second issue, due to a new sound system no setup is necessary. You can directly start the mag with lookain3.exe. After a few moments, a picture will be displayed line-wise from the top edge downwards and from the bottom edge upwards, so that it is finished when the central line has been displayed. The pic shows a t-rex in front of some mountains. Over him in the air there are some flying pterosauri. Left from this pic is the text "Lookain Fanz", right from it "ISSUE 3". After a key-press, the picture vanishes by an, at the beginning, not so smooth scrolling upwards that gradually gets smoother in the end.
Now a short and monotonous music starts playing, and you get into the mainmenu. On the top of the screen there is a "LoOKain fanZ'" title text, below it on the left a picture with a little graphic effect, on the right the menu where you can choose between "Edito", "News", "Music", "Tutorials", "Charts", "Other Stuff", and "Credits". The selection cursor is a yellow rotating star. Below all this there is a FPS (frame per second rate) indicator.
Having selected one section with the cursor keys and Enter (the mouse has no function), you usually get into the text viewer. (There are some exceptions which I will talk about later.) A new tune starts playing. The screen is divided into two parts: On the top there is the name of the current article in a large font together with a static picture, below the status bar taking a full screen line, however being very narrow as regards the height. The other part is the text window with a background picture. Again it uses a very large font (38x10 characters per screen) that looks a bit stone-ish. Below this text window there is a narrow line with the FPS indicator.
You scroll using the cursor keys to the right and to the left. After scrolling a page, the status bar slowly grows or shrinks to its new state. When you are at the end of an article and press the cursor key to the right again, you get to the next article automatically. That, of course, works the other way round, too.
That's quite practical because you can read all articles in a row without having to go back to the main menu (which you can do by ESC, by the way), huh? Well, not all articles. The charts and the credits are separate programs, and you can only view them by selecting them from the main menu. If you only use the text viewer you will miss them.
The charts viewer, accompanied by a third tune, is divided vertically into three parts: In the first part are an elephant and the title "CHARTS", in the second one there is the actual text window. The height is 4 text lines. The text gets zoomed in, displayed in its full size for a while, then it zooms out, and the next text zooms in. Left and right from the text smilies hop around. The third part of the screen contains some background graphics and the FPS indicator. This charts program is just static and repeats for an infinite time. You can only quit it by pressing ESC and do nothing more.
The credits section is the most attractive part of the mag from the graphical and musical point of view. Again, a new tune gets played. The screen is divided into two parts horizontally, the left one of which contains the title "CREDITS", below "LoOKain!" and a rhinoceros picture made by Acryl (who has got no credits for that, strangely). On the bottom of the right part there is some kind of volume indicator, above the FPS indicator, and on the top finally the action happens: Some kinds of clouds with text get zoomed in and vanish from the screen again by moving upwards and zooming. Looks very nice in my opinion. Again the only interaction is pressing the ESC key. And by pressing ESC again in the main menu, the mag quits.
So all in all the interface looks good and is stable but is slow and the font does not suit a diskmag because it's big and hard to read.
As I have mentioned, you can select several sections from the main menu. Charts and credits are just animations. The remaining sections mostly feature each one article except Tutorials, which contains two articles though they are stored as one text. So the actual articles are:
Edito News Music Tutorials - Connecting to a BBS Tutorials - Coding Other Stuff
All articles except "Other Stuff" are unsigned, i.e you don't know who the author is. You can only guess it by comparing it with Lookain #2, where the articles were signed.
In the short Editorial, we learn about some known bugs in the interface, furthermore, the editor announces that Lookain is going to become less active because of the end of the summer holidays, that the online mag is going to be updated some time, that Yogin has joined as an English grammar corrector, and at last the editor greets a bunch of people.
The news section is no real scene news section. The editor just introduce some demos, games, and other productions in very, very short words (three sentences on average), rates them, and that's all. After reading this section you know as much as before.
The Music section contains the second part of music tutorial. This time the topic is transposing scales and making coords. Basically that's a thing everybody who plays a musical instrument and especially jazz musicians have to know. But why not - articles like this one that deal with music in theory are very rare in diskmags.
The "Connecting to a BBS" tutorial explains, well, exactly what the name says: After reading in Lookain #2 what a BBS is, you learn how to connect to a BBS using Hyper Terminal, what terminal programs are best to use for BBS navigation (Terminate and Minicom), and in a short paragraph taking one page in the Lookain interface the author quickly compares FTP with BBS. Finally a few French BBS's phone numbers are listed.
The coding tutorial, to be precisely the 2nd part of it as the 1st was published in Lookain #2, starts with a few ASCII control codes (such as ASCII 9 - TAB) and functions of the Interrupt 10h. Afterwards you learn about the structure of the BIOS text mode RAM so that you can directly write to the screen in text mode without using interrupts. As the end of the article says, that all was an extract of (the book?) PC Assembler, "so for more just buy It :) Or wait the next Issue of LoOKain!...".
The "Other Stuff" section finally contains some addresses of sites created with Flash 3, which NiaKoOL loves, and then the usual cry for articles and participation. Moreover, he wants to start a music competition.
As you have already realized from the quote above, the level of English is quite poor. There are also some critical text design errors, such as words that start in one text line and end in the next one.
Well, the interface is good, looks good, also the music contributes to the atmosphere of this mag. That's the only reason why I reviewed it, because the content is very poor, both from the quantity of articles, the quality of the content, and the quality of English.
This so-called diskmag is more artish than a magazine. It would be okay as e.g. a music-disk interface, but a diskmag should actually work the other way round: The primary thing is good content; if the interface is especially awesome, that's just an advantage but nothing more.
It is sad for me to say it, but in its current state this mag cannot become a platform for the scene. First of all the font should be replaced with a smaller and better readable one, then the staff should spend less time on the interface. So far it has always changed from issue to issue. I think the interface from this third issue is okay, and except the text viewer, it can remain for a while as it is. On the other hand, the staff should spend more time on writing articles and finding writers. The mag is hardly known outside France. What about advertising a bit more?
Basically it's the same thing with about every mag: They advertise too less and care too less about finding writers. If Hugi hadn't advertised that much, it would not have been that big and well known now, either...