Our Scene Is In Danger

Written by Adok

Many people have cried out that the scene might die very soon or at least in an overseeable time period. Even though I do not see any reason for hysteria yet, there are several things indeed that could endanger the scene. And more, most of these problems are created by the sceners themselves.

- LACK OF ACTIVITY. This is probably the most important point. How can there be a scene without activity? Without new releases? Take a look at the already large bunch of people claiming to be sceners but do nothing apart chatting on IRC and downloading demos! Channels like #coders and even more #coders.ger are already crowded with people with this attitude. But this attitude can be changed. Just keep in your mind that if nobody makes new releases, there will be no new releases to watch. Keep that in your mind and recall that every time you feel to get lazy. Or, better, change your attitude and get active or continue being active.

IRC is nice, beautiful, entertaining, a good way to communicate with other sceners. Watching demos is nice, cool, in fact one of the most important things in a demo scene, since if nobody is interesting in watching demos, there is no reason to produce them. But if you only enjoy, only take, and do not produce, do not give, you are not contributing to the demoscene as much as possible. If everyone had this attitude, the scene would already be dead, or would never have even existed.

Another point is that most (high-quality) scene productions are released at the major parties only, such as Assembly, Wired, The Party, The Gathering, Scenest or Mekka & Symposium. If every two months one of these six parties took place, it would be okay, as there are so many releases at each of these parties that it is enough to watch for two months. But: Save The Party and Mekka & Symposium, all these parties are held in the summer! So there is often a lack of releases in the period between September and December, especially since school/university then has just started and most people are busy with other things. That also applies to the period between February and June (save the releases from Mekka & Symposium in March/April), while we are by contrast flooded with new releases in the summer months.

There are several reasons for releasing stuff at major parties, of course, simply because the prizes are usually higher there, and the productions from these parties get also better spread, as several FTP servers such as ftp://ftp.scene.org open directories for the parties. But I think you get my point: While summer is the main time of the scene (in contrast to real life, of course!), the scene might appear rather inactive in the rest of the year.

However, the lack of activity can also have another reason, which I want to list as a separate item:

- LACK OF TIME. As I have already said, most of us go to school, university, or already have a job. The school dudes are mostly busy in the first months after the start of a new school-year, which in most countries is in August or September, because then the pressure with exams is highest. The same applies to the uni students, of course. But the people with jobs are in the worst situation. Many older sceners have made their hobby to their profession and work with professional computer companies, often game companies, as developers, designers or musicians. And you can imagine that after sitting in front of a PC the whole day working on - for example - programming projects for your company, you will scarcely be motivated enough to spend some more hours doing the same thing, but for the scene. That is without even being paid, unless you win a prize at a party of course.

Actually quite a few of the best-known and most famous sceners are in such situations. Just to give examples: Nix/TBL or Gaffer, the coder behind the PTC graphic engine.

Lack of time, of course, is a thing we cannot do a lot against, and neither can we force a professional who was active in the scene until lately to continue spending time on the scene. That is why we - I speak of those of you who have not been in the scene that long - firstly have to improve our skills so that a new 'scene elite' will be established, and secondly we have to find new talented people! And that is the next point:

- LACK OF FRESH BLOOD. We cannot expect the old sceners who do not have a lot of time or interest in the scene any more to remain with the scene for ever. We need new talents! Although the situation in the PC scene is far better than in the Amiga or, even more pitiful, the C64 scene, and every month new people who we have never heard of get active in the scene, there could still be more. We really have to find fresh blood. We really ought to introduce newbies to the scene. We really must show new talents to our scene. At the moment the situation is okay, there is some fresh blood, but will it always be like this? Neither, however, should we force anybody to join the scene and thus maybe provoke something very bad, namely that more lamers thinking to be the best without actually knowing anything about the scene and without being ready to change themselves will enter it and decrease the average level of quality. Let's show the public the scene and its productions, and maybe someone will voluntarily join us, about which we ought to be glad and whom we ought to support in learning what a scener needs to know and developing his/her talents as much as possible.

- LACK OF COOPERATION. This is actually connected with lack of activity. Imagine you read about a diskmag needing some articles urgently. What would you do? I, for instance, would at least get into contact with the mag's editors and ask them what they need. Even if I cannot write articles for them because I have my own mag and have too little time to support all other mags, too, I will see what I can do, ask my contacts if they want to help this mag, publish a news item in the next Hugi issue if the problem has not been solved till then, etc.

Most people, however, would simply ignore such cries for help by other sceners because either they do not know them, or, if they are sceners they know, for various other reasons, such as lack of time, laziness, maybe a quarrel between a friend of them and the scener looking for help...

Okay, you might have some reasonable reason in a particular case, but do not act like this regularly! The scene is there for fun, and part of fun is friendship. Competition at parties, charts etc. is okay, as it is within the principle of the scene. Smaller quarrels happen from time to time, and they are okay, can even be amusing for third-party people, and many people love reading about such things in diskmags, too. Wars, however, should be avoided because that is no fun any more and often is even childish, and more, has rather negative than positive effect upon your image in the scene.

You might realize how important this what I called cooperation is for the scene when I give you an example: On the web, there has been an online magazine for the scene since January 1998; though you certainly know of which I am speaking, I will leave the name out. From its beginning on, it has had a reasonable number of accesses, which steadily has increased and is to speed past the 1000-hits-per-day mark soon. But the number of news item has been low, on an average only one new PC news item came in per day, and often not even that. Concerning the number of articles, I better say nothing. You can certainly imagine it.

And now imagine the following situation: You are chatting on IRC, are bored because nothing sensible is talked there, and log on this online mag, like you did it the day before, to read something new. But you see that there is nothing new except a short message that some unknown group has kicked one of their members. Well, what are you going to do? Certainly you will not be motivated to post a news item or even article yourself. And so you leave the magazine's site, without having done anything, without even having given the editors the slightest bit of feedback.

Certainly, most people act like you. And that is why there are so few new news item at this mag! But if you had contributed at least a little news item, and had done that more than only once, you would have contributed to improve the situation, and who knows, maybe then other people would have posted their news and articles too, and you would have got the thing going, besides advertising yourself, your group or whatever you have written about. Isn't this great?

That's the principle of how the scene should work!

- LACK OF COMMUNICATION. This point is directly connected with the last one and hence also the lack of activity. I quote from an article from the Amiga magazine Showtime which was an attempt to compare the Amiga and the (for most Amiga dudes) mysterious, unknown PC scene: "The communication [in the PC scene] seems to be a lot more worse... As I said before you can't compare it, it ain't the same. If you don't resist too much on communication it's okay as the PC demos really improved a lot during the last two or three years, but if friendship is important for you, there's no way out... (of the Amiga jungle) ;-)" And why is that? "As the PC scene is so big many people don't know each other and I had the experience that they are often also not interested to get in touch with each other [...]" Another reason the author of that article gives is that "there are no mags and neither charts coming out regulary", which of course, as you Hugi-readers know, has already changed.

You see, the article in that Amiga mag is already a bit older, but still we should reflect on the term communication. It is clear that without communication, we are no scene but just a loosely if at all connected bunch of freaks doing more or less weird things on their computers. In the past, and even today though they have lost their importance, swappers have mostly taken care of the communication between the groups. Local BBSes were a platform of communication for the local scenes, diskmags for the international scene.

Nowadays we have the Internet, which makes communication even easier! Everybody can now communicate easily without spending as much time as swapping requires. Well, what is wrong? Check out the article 'IRC Addiction Kills The Scene!' for one explanation if you have not already done it. In short words, either people become addicted to media and IRC and spend too much time on unnecessary communication and too little time on working on their productions, or they do not use the communicative capabilities of the Internet enough, while production-wise they are diligent and as active as a demoscener should be. But as I said, without communication there is no scene. Therefore every scener should be in touch with some other sceners, or at least read and write for diskmags.

The Amiga dude also complains about the fact that many people do not know each other in the PC scene because it is so big. That is clear, but it is also impossible to know everyone in a big scene. And I think a big scene with a lot of fresh talents and a lot of activity is more important than that every scener knows every other scener. That, by the way, is also possible in the PC scene, but not in the international scene but in local ones. Which certainly is a difference between the PC and the Amiga scene: Whereas the Amiga scene is small and family-like enough so that it can theoretically be possible that everyone knows everybody (which certainly is not the case but almost, at least in the inner circle of the scene), the PC scene is actually a confederation of various local scenes.

To know each other personally, e.g. through parties, is a hard-to-be-reached aim anyway. But of course it is good and important, and you get reminded that the sceners are actually human beings like anyone else, which you might forget from time to time otherwise. :) However, there are enough parties for the PC scene at the moment. So, personal, face-to-face contact is not at all a problem that would endanger the existance of the scene.

- OPERATING SYSTEMS. Now that is a major problem the PC scene has faced especially since 1995, when Windows 95 was introduced. Even in good old Imphobia #12 there have already been discussions what OS to use. Then there were still plans to develop an own OS just for the demoscene, which fortunately has never worked out because it would have excluded non-insiders from watching the scene-productions and thus have had no sense.

And what does the situation look like in 1998? Most demos still get released for DOS! However, the situation is slowly changing to the better: More and more groups are making demos under Win32 as well as Linux. Systems like PTC or iXalance provide multi-platform capabilities for demos, so that you can compile the source code under various operating systems. Anyhow, if the PC scene had staid with DOS for ever, it would soon have had a real lack of newcomers and would eventually have evolved into what the Amiga scene or the C64 scene now is. But that does not mean of course that working under DOS is a bad thing. However, we should be interested in being open-minded towards future.

(Also check out "Demos - Art of the 21st Century?" in Hugi #11 for that very topic!)

- LACK OF INNOVATION. And that is finally the most important point, in my opinion. Take a look at the recent demos: Always the same things repeat. We have 3D sequences, various effects that have been optimized or slightly changed, but in contrast to the past, there is nothing really new about these demos. Take a look at an article about the history of the scene, like they have been published in various diskmags. Take a look at the "generations of demos" tables, how the demos gradually evolved from loaders, optimized code to trackmos, then the 3D-dominated demos. Recall how long it had taken till the first VESA demo was released and what effect its release had upon the scene.

We have not had such effects for a long time. Still, we are doing some 3D, still, we are debating about things like design. Things that have been discussed in diskmags already three years ago.

Take a look at these old diskmags, at old Imphobia issues. And compare them with the diskmags of today. What has changed? Basically, nothing. On the contrary, instead of having developed, the diskmags have rather retarded. There are hardly any diskmags that could be only slightly compared with Imphobia. The discussion forums are almost empty, and if there is any discussion, it is about the same topics as several years ago.

Where is the progress?

The same applies to diskmag interfaces: Most diskmag interfaces do not show any innovations compared to the diskmags of former times, maybe except VESA support and other minute things, but also these features had existed in the past.

The scene should create something new. Something completely new. While progress could not be overlooked in the past, progress is very scarce today. We have reached a certain standard which we have kept or, as regards diskmags for instance, have not even done so. The game industry, which the demo scene has been ahead of for a long time, is far ahead of the demo scene now with its technology.

It is also connected with the point "Operating Systems", and more, with what I mentioned in the point "Lack of Time", namely that the old sceners gradually lost interest and/or time for the scene, while the new ones have not yet reached their level. Hence there is a wide gap: On the one hand there are the masters of the scene, who are gradually withdrawing the scene. But they are also the ones who know the technical basics needed to make scene productions best, and they are the ones the scene world is expecting the best and most innovative, as far as this is possible, releases from.

On the other hand there is the mass of the younger sceners. They do not have as much experience yet, but they form the majority and will have to take over the scene sooner or later. However, their level is not as high yet. While in the past it was quite easy to catch up with the standard because it was not that far developed yet, this is harder and takes much more time nowadays.

And so we have the dilemma: On the one hand, there are the people from whom we expect masterpieces and innovations, but they have too little time. And on the other hand, there are the people who will sooner or later have to create masterpieces and innovations, yet have too little experience.

What is the solution for this problem? Learning, learning, learning.

(Also read "The Scene lacks Talents!" by Magic/Nah-kolor in Hugi #12!)

All in all we can say that the scene has seven problems that might endanger its existance some time if they will not be solved. One thing, the OS problem, is currently being solved, or at least the situation is improving. Lack of communication and lack of activity is also something we can change, as well as lack of fresh blood.

However, even if the situation turns to the better we must not pause, as laziness is the cause of all those problems; and we cannot solve a problem once and declare it as solved for ever, we must change our attitude so that we will never be lazy, never contribute to creating a lack of activity in the scene again.

- adok^hugi

               ##  Have you already downloaded HUGI diskmag?
                   Have you taken part in one of HUGI compos?
                   Are you active in the demo scene or what?!

            [from the news corner of Coders F/X BBS Publication #34]