A Fluctuent Demoscene - The Rollercoaster Sinus Curve

Written by Zippy

Greetings all, it's time to be bored by yet another article predicting the future of the demoscene. Well, actually, this article is analysing the past of the demoscene. 'History repeats itself' etc. I've changed my views a little since my article in Demonews #150, but I still think that THE most important thing for keeping the scene that we know and love alive is friendship. Don't worry, I'm not going to start saying 'we all used to be crackers'. I'm going to try to look at it from a different way.

The demoscene is as much of a niche as it can be. The reason for this is that you need coders, and a special kind of coders. You can say whatever you like, but the coder is the most important member of a demogroup. Well, that is a bit provocative, and not completely true, you need all the members, graphician, musician, and coder, to make a real demo, but.. Without the coder, it wouldn't be a demo, it could be an animation, or a standalone piece of music, or even an animation with music, but it would not be what we know as a demo. Coders are rare. And democoders even more so.

Some people don't know how to even turn on a computer, and don't want to learn either, but there is such a huge amount of people who know *something* about working a computer, but that doesn't mean there is a huge amount of people with the skill it takes to make a good demo. You need to put it into perspective compared to the 'outside world', completely unaware of the scene.

Some people don't know anything about computers, but would like to learn. Some people know how to use a computer with a nice OS and wordprocessor, and are pleased with that. Some people are considered quite skilled, and know how to change various things about their computer, or install new hardware. Some people know a lot about computers, and are able to configure most things, and perhaps build their own computers. Some people can create their own programs with simple programming languages like Pascal, and BASIC. Some people are skilled programmers, fluent in languages such as C/C++ and Assembler. Some of these are interested in making graphics-related programs, like shareware/commercial games. Some people are very skilled graphics programmers, and want to make demos.

Each of these groups of people is smaller than the last one... In other words, if you put it into perspective there are very few people who are interested in democoding, or are willing to do advanced coding, without being paid. Most people in the world are what we would call 'lame'.

There are very few people interested in it. A really big demo-party could have 5000 people, and if we really exaggarate, we could guess that 30% of them are coders, normally more like 10%... If 30% of them are democoders, that means 1500 democoders. How many people do you think fit into one of the other categories I mentioned above? Quite a lot more.

This is what makes us demosceners always slightly nervous about the demoscene we love suddenly slipping away from us. It isn't just lately that people have been talking about the scene dying. I think any demoscener has been afraid of that, some time or another. But the demoscene isn't dying, it is following the path it has followed throughout history. It is following a sinus curve..

The mysterious birth of the demoscene left it with very small amounts of 'demosceners'. A bunch of people who for some reason started getting obsessed with their silly little cracktros.

The scene grew, simply because it was an interesting way to express art, and show the world how intelligent you were, and what you could make this wonderful computer do. Be it an AppleII, an Atari, or a C64. The demoscene thrived on people trying to prove that 'their' computer system was better than the other persons.

Then came the Amiga... KABOOM! The king has arrived, all tremble in awe... The demoscene suddenly grew at a rate never seen before. We're talking powerful machinery, with hi-res graphics, with an astounding number of CPU-registers. The scene was changed for ever.

By this time we have lost a few of the pioneers to the damn Scandinavian manditory conscription into the army... Sceners get swallowed up by that, every year, many to never return.

The 80x86 computer started getting more powerful. Although I like this evolution, as I have spent 90% of my time in the demoscene in the PC demoscene, and the other 10% in the Amiga scene, I think this had quite a lot to do with thinning out the demoscene. When some people started moving from Amiga to PC the scene got 'thinned', the feeling of community, and belonging to the same scene became less.

However, technological innovation gave us the ability to create really amazing productions, as people got a greater understanding of the PC, and started mastering the powerful abilities of a 32bit computer system with a VGA card.

The Internet becomes more and more popular, and more and more people find out about the scene through it. This also causes great growth, and makes the scene far more international than it was.

Closely after this period has begun, the demoscene gets quite a bit of focus in the media. The English computer-mag PC Format started writing about the demoscene, as did the Norwegian magazine Tekno, and the American Wired. Quite a few other magazines ran the occasional feature about some big demo-party or other. A couple of TV-channels gave the biggest parties some attention.

After a while, the media loses interest, and the growth seems to slow down. Although there are quite a few people joining the demoscene every year, there hasn't been a lot of new talent. A lot of the oldskool boys become commercial professionals, abandoning the scene, and the utter newbies have trouble keeping up with the extremely high learning curve and level of skill needed to compete with the best sceners.

Then... DemoNews, with issue #150, comes to an end, after years of informing the scene. The Wired-series of parties comes to an end. The Hornet Archive shuts down after 6 years of serving the scene.

What I am trying to show here is that we are not meeting the death of the demoscene, but rather following the demoscene's natural course of history. Those of you who have read The Wheel of Time series of books, by Robert Jordan will be familiar with the expression 'the pattern of an age', well, the pattern of the demoscene, seems to be a sinus curve... I look forward to what will happen when we start curving upwards again.

 The scene is born
  | Arrival of Amiga       Internet boom/Media attention
  | |              Arrival of PC          |              End of Demonews
  | |    ..  ..  ..   |                   |     ..  ..  ..   |
  | | ..            ..|Understanding of PC|  ..            ..| End of Hornet
  | ..                ..         |        |..                ..  |
  |..                  ..        |        ..                  .. | Present day
  ..                    ..       |       ..                     .|          |
                          ..     |     ..                        ..         |
                             ..  ..  ..                            ..  ..  ..

My theory is slightly flawed due to the immense amount of brilliant demos released lately, but if we look at the curve as a measure of the average scener's mood and feelings about the scene it will be more correct.

Don't take everything I write too seriously, what I'm basically trying to say is that, although it feels like we're moving through a tough time now, we will be on our way up again soon.

"I'll get high with a little help from my friends".

Be friendly and the scene will survive to meet another high.

Peace and Utopian world domination.

- Zippy/Hugi^The Utopians

PS. OK!! Maybe this article was slightly stupid!! :)