Review: Total Disaster #Black

Written by Adok

Month of release: November'98
RAR-packed size: 2,709,095 bytes
Language(s): English, Polish
Related URL:
Main editor: misha/tatanka/defect/nothing
Co-editors: pyshtoff/ttk, hey/ttk, coolphone/dfc
Code: hey/ttk, pyshtoff/ttk, trsr/bora
Design: misha
Music: graff/ttk/dfc, core-nick/ttk, bigyo/ttk, nobbie/dfc
Text: 3d addict, adok, arrakis, blade, civax, sik, coolphone, dave, dark man, hey, java, misha [and many others.]

General Information

Total Disaster is a disk magazine that is published by the group Tatanka in cooperation with DeFeCt and Bora. The previous issues, Total Disaster #Blue (March 1998) and Total Disaster #Amber (May 1998), were mainly in Polish language; check out the Total Disaster History in Hugi #11 for some more info on them. This brand-new issue from the 2nd of November is the English debut of Total Disaster.

Total Disaster has been a member of The E-Mag Network since the network was founded.

Interface, Design

The interface works under DOS, needs Vesa and uses IMS v0.6 and PMODE/W. I managed to start it without any problem. At first the title screen appears. It's a picture by Misha which won the dot'98 party in Finland, showing the earth, space and a women's face. A simple effect is displayed on the earth, and a music that reminds of X-Files plays in the background. The "#black" Logo appears in the bottom right part of the screen, and then the screen is cleared and you get into the main menu. Here the screen is divided vertically into three parts (as if that was something special for a diskmag, huh? :), the first of which showing a logo, the second being the space where the main menu and the texts are displayed, and the third showing title, author, and current page in the current article plus the buttons "Help", "MSX", "Menu", "BACK", "ANIM", and "EXIT". In the bottom right screen corner there is a nice small window showing an animation. If you click on it, you will get to the credits article. And, yes, you control the mag with either keyboard or mouse.

Okay, so far, so common. What is special about the TD interface? First, it has a multi-colour font with a non-fixed width. However, it's very small and even blurred. That makes reading very hard and tiring. Please, TD staff, make the font at least 1.5 times as big in the next issue! Second, and the best thing, there is a good hyper text system with links, embedded graphics and even graphical links: you click on a picture and get linked to another article. The graphics are, in contrast to other mags that support this option, even often used. There is almost no article without illustration. That really improves the atmosphere a lot. However, it also increases the size of the archive dramatically. The mag fills two disk in packed state! Unpacked, it takes 11 mbyte on the harddisk. But nowadays one can afford this.

The illustrations come from various artists. A good thing is that in the interviews with graphicians, scaled versions of the artists' most famous pictures are included. That creates a great feeling!

Four tunes are included in the mag, which you can select from the "MSX" menu. They all come from members of the groups which form the TD staff.

When exiting the magazine, another picture by Misha is displayed. It shows an alien and the slogan "back to black".

All in all the interface is great. Just the font is too small, so that after some time you really get tired. Because of the non-fixed width of the font, the tables do not look nice. But that is just a minor problem.

By the way, Total Disaster #Black contains a hidden part. In the music-menu, click on the picture, and you can select a secret chip-tune. The credits for discovering this hidden parts go to Psychic Symphony!


Now let's come to the part that really matters in a diskmag. This issue contains 850 kbyte of articles in total. There are articles in Polish language and articles in English language. The Polish-English-ratio depends on the section. In the Scene section, there are slightly more English articles than Polish ones, whereas in some other sections, the Polish articles form a clear majority. I am going to list only the English articles here.

                        Support us!
                        Tatanka info
                        Love test                        INTERNET
                        T.E.N info (faq)                 THE E-MAG NETWORK
                        GFX Zone
                        Interview with Adok
                        Interview with Danny
                        Interview with Made
                        Interview with members of Pulse
                        Interview with Skal              THE E-MAG NETWORK
                        Interview with Shodan            THE E-MAG NETWORK
                        Interview with Peachy
                        Interview with Unreal            GFX ZONE
                        Interview with Haplo             GFX ZONE
                        Interview with MRK               GFX ZONE
                        Interview with Deckard           GFX ZONE
                        TD competitions
                        Drawing eye
                        Advise for 3D beginners          GFX ZONE
                        Art                              GFX ZONE
                        Easy tracing?                    GFX ZONE
                        No art                           GFX ZONE
                        #pixel log                       GFX ZONE
                        Paper Scene
                        Newton vs Vdiv                   THE E-MAG NETWORK
                        Radix Sort                       THE E-MAG NETWORK
                        ...Sorting...                    THE E-MAG NETWORK
                        Gravity '98 - party report
                        Gravity '98 - results            INTERNET
                        Quast '98   - results            INTERNET
                        Yalp '98    - party report       THE E-MAG NETWORK
                        Takeover (partial) report        THE E-MAG NETWORK
                        Spain scene report
                        Everybody doesn't have $5000!    THE E-MAG NETWORK
                        Arf!Studios                      THE E-MAG NETWORK
                        Demos - Art of the 21st century? THE E-MAG NETWORK
                        Future technology                THE E-MAG NETWORK
                        How to make the best demo?       THE E-MAG NETWORK
                        The death of          THE E-MAG NETWORK
                        Hornet official announcement     INTERNET
                        Internet under DOS               THE E-MAG NETWORK
                        Linux RulEzzz!                   THE E-MAG NETWORK
                        Linux - reactions                THE E-MAG NETWORK
                        Utopians                         INTERNET
        Hyde Park
                        The Frog                         THE E-MAG NETWORK
                        Purple Skies                     THE E-MAG NETWORK
                        The Preacher                     THE E-MAG NETWORK
                        Jokes                            THE E-MAG NETWORK
                        Win98 source                     INTERNET
                        You tell me...

You see, there are 57 English articles in total. 21 of them were written directly for TD, the others come from The E-Mag Network, GFX Zone or some other source.

Let's talk about the original articles. The English editorial is very brief. It mainly says that this is the 4th issue, how many votes came and that support is needed. The usual thing for a diskmag, followed by several other usual things: credits, greetings, another cry for support and an infofile about Tatanka, the group behind this mag. The scene section then starts with two articles about the sources of many texts in this mag, namely [TEN], The E-Mag Network, and the well known WWW site for the graphic part of the scene, GFX Zone. Then the news come, which were taken from the votesheets and are mainly focussed on Polish groups; the same applies to the messages. In total, 71 vote sheets were gathered in a period of 2 months. That is indeed a lot for this short time. As most of them, namely 56 sheets, come from Poland we mainly find Polish sceners and productions on the charts. In the diskmag section, for example, the first three places are Polish mags, followed by Imphobia and Hugi. Besides, there are charts for coders, demos, graphicians, groups, intros, and musicians. In each section the 10 best places are listed. However, in the BONUS directory of TD (I'll talk about it later) you can find a text file containing the full charts with everything being mentioned that was voted for.

The mag starts getting really interested with the interviews. The questions were really well chosen, and the answers are long and fascinating most of the time. And the illustrations improve the atmosphere even more. Great job!

"TD competitions" informs, as the name says, about the compos Total Disaster is regularly holding. There is a 100k music compo, a 100x100 pixel gfx compo, a 256b intro compo and a 4k intro compo. "Become famous! Win TotalDisaster Competition!" Yes, and it's a nice way to gather the technical stuff for your mag. :)

Now there are some articles about graphics. Graphics seems to be indeed the emphasis of this TD issue, as most interviews are graphic-related, too. Well, okay, that comes from the fact that GFX Zone supplied many articles. On the other hand, Misha is a graphician too. And the article "Drawing eye" comes from him. However, the article does not deal with an eye that draws, as the title says, but how to draw an eye using the airbrush tool in a common graphics program. Misha explains it by providing five steps of his picture of an eye and describing what he has done.

The other graphic-related English article that was not taken from GFX Zone is called "Paper Scene" and deals exactly with what its title says. This is my favourite article in this TD issue. Nazgul explains how the habit of replacing the covers of C64's 5.25" disks by self-drawn ones developed to a whole scene focusing on paper art and posters. Several scans of some pieces of this kind of art are included in the article, which gives you a vivid imagination about this fascinating scene.

The Gravity '98 party report comes from Corenick and is a translation from Polish. Corenick itself writes "another boring report", but I don't think so. It can be very interesting, especially for the non-Polish people who don't know this party. Did you know that, according to the report, you had to submit your votes using voting-disk, and theoretically you could cheat and submit as many voting-disks as you wanted, which one coder in fact did? He "filled six (!) votefiles and there was only his own production, the rest places he left blank". Moreover, although there were 300 visitors, only "120 votes" were "used for results", which caused Corenick to suspect the counting program of being buggy. But all in all he thinks that "GRV#3 was well organised" and the presented PC demos were, as he said, very good in general.

"Spain scene report" and "Inspiration" are two articles by Dave. The first one lists the 30 best Spanish groups and some homepages, accompanied with general talk about the Spanish scene. The latter deals with inspiration, "the key of the productivity in the demoscener". Here Dave rambles about how and where to get inspired and concludes with the words: "Life is short. Time is limited. SO, start your productions! :)" Nice articles.

Well, and the rest are articles which you have already seen in GFX Zone, DefCoN, CFX News, Armor of Gods, Pain or your beloved Hugi. I have talked about most of them in the reviews of the respective mags, so read these reviews for more info on them. Or browse to GFX Zone at (new URL!).

But that was not all! The BONUS directory contains the adverts (64k), some C and PAS example source codes for the coding articles, which are in Polish language, the full charts results, a sample plasma effect and the preliminary votesheet for The Charts.

Overall Impression

I must admit that this is the first magazine which I really enjoyed for quite a while. I was mostly impressed by the good quality of many articles and the way they are presented in the mag. However, there are some negative points, too: namely the way too small font that making reading hard and the fact that more than half of the English articles were not originally written for TD. Hence, I have already known most of them. But it's okay to use many articles from [TEN] and other sources if you have the permission in your first (English) issue. Armor of Gods did that, too. And as the original articles are good, too, I am rather optimistic that the quality can be kept. Long life to this mag.

- adok^hugi