Symbolia - A Symbol for Amiga Sceners' Behavior

Written by Ghandy

Not long ago, guess maybe four weeks ago, I bought an Amiga 4000 from Celic of Anadune who left for PC (urgh!). With his complete equipment he also gave me a CD-Rom including all great Amiga demos he had collected the past three years. Among those demos was a big "State of the Art" like demonstration called "Symbolia" from Access, which was totally unknown to me. As this demo wasn't present in the Aminet I uploaded it there, because it can't be wrong to prove to the rest of the Amiga family what kind of things demogroups are able to do. In fact it WAS already on Aminet but as a splitted lha-file and with a kinda unserious description like "Great demo.. bla bla" How the fuck could anybody find it that way? ;-)

Spreading great demos might not be effective when it comes to an Amiga lover who wants to convert into the PC world, like in case of Celic, but maybe it can help a bit to stay some moments longer.

Only two days after Symbolia had been placed in the recent directory of the Aminet, I received some very, very friendly emails from one of the producers of it. I asked him to tell me and the dear readers more about this fabulous thing. Symbolia isn't a coding masterpiece, it's more a colourful and well done multimedia production which reminds me of older musicspots from MTV or Viva. It could have been called "State of the Art 3" or "Nine Fingers 2", but as it was done by the relatively unknown British crew Access and not by the Norwegian scenish superstars Spaceballs, everybody would have called them thieves. And they would have been right to do so...

Rastan of Ex-Access or better call him Gerard Sweeney as he's called in real life started to speak a bit about Symbolia. Luckily for me, it was hard to stop him again... hehe.

"As for the similarity to State Of The Art, that was the idea we were trying to get, only better than State Of The Art, as the anims should have been smoother, and NOT repeated. For example, if you watch SOTA real closely, you'll see that the dancers have no hands, and that the same animation is used several times (I know this is different from what I said, but it makes me sound less cheeky, heheh. I think it was nicked from a James Bond film, incidentally).

"Symbolia has (I think?!) over 1,000 frames of non-repeating animation. How do I know this? Simple. I'm [or I was] Rastan - one of the main poor shmucks that watched endless hours of MTV for sequences with dancers dancing in front of plain backgrounds.

"Some of the animations (that I remember) are - Crystal Waters spoof video (can't remember the name), Loriel hair advert Queen video, East 17 - it's alright (can't remember if this made it to the end version)

"In the end, I set up a sheet in the garage with a spotlight shining behind it, and got my sister to dance for me... She's the one that does the big highkick, and also does this sort of turn with her hand on her head. We used Vidi12 to do the digitising (we being Cobra and I). Cobra then converted them to 2 colours using DPaint, and saved them off as IFFs... I then had the dubious pleasure of loading each frame, and converting them to 'vectors' by hand, using a dodgy, kludgy bit of software Cobra had written (this is his description of the program, by the way - not mine!). This would turn each picture from (say) 5KB into 20 bytes or so. I'd then go back to Cobra's the next week with the converted frames, and more stuff to digitize. (He lived about an hour away.)

"My God, I just realised that was 3 years ago... More, in fact!

"I recall we tried to get it working on a plain A1200, but just couldn't get the Chip memory to move the graphics smoothly enough, so had to settle on it needing at least 2MB FAST. I haven't seen, or heard from any of the Access crew for over 2 years now... Last I heard, Cobra had sold his Amiga for a PC (BOO!!!), making me lose my chance of getting hold of a demo he did that made the Miggy look like it was loading a speccy game - it had the music from Trantor in it... Just in case you ever come across it. :-)"

[about Symbolia]

"It was never released for any party or anything like that - we just released it, as we were never a coding group (only really had Cobra although there WERE other coders, but they mainly did utils & intros]). The music in it wasn't the one we were going to use, it was originally this strange one with "AIM FIRE" getting used a lot. However, we just couldn't get it to play properly on the demo, as it was saved in some strange non-Protracker format. However, I think that I prefer the one we did use.

"The 'SYMBOLIA' sunrise picture was done by Renegade, and replaced one done by Gaia at the last moment. The spinning 'A' in the background was my idea that I came up with late one night / early one morning, when I really should have been studying. :-) Cobra brought it to life using Lightwave. I was at Uni while working on Symbolia. Cobra lived about an hour's drive from my house, but an hour and a half from the Uni. I used to go out to Cobra's once a week, and usually get back in between 1am and 3am!

"The demo was not supposed to be a Spaceballs beater, but more a 'this is how the dancing bit from SOTA would look in AGA'. :-)

"There were several unused sequences digitized, including a piece my mate recorded for me of him dancing in the same garage as my sister's sequence. He was playing a guitar, and at one point he did a big twirl, and pretended to smash the guitar off the floor. Unfortunately, he forgot the "pretend" bit, and whacked the thing hard. Amazingly, it didn't break. :-)"


"I do wish I could help with the article, but (like I said), there wasn't really much to tell. We released the demo, but nobody ever mentioned it to me...

"It'd be nice if you could mention the demo someplace though. Get it a bit of late recognition... I personally think it still looks great, especially as the main graphics routine had been written for well over a year BEFORE I got involved in it!

"Oh, and just tested Symbolia on my 250-040/25 PPC card. It crashes after about 30 seconds... It does work with some kind of degrader, but I can't remember which one (Cobra mentioned it 3 years ago). Maybe someone would like to do an 040/060 fix? :-)))

"Although I haven't seen the guys in years, I'd just like to thank them. It was meeting them that encouraged me to get a hard drive and 030, and start doing stuff with my Miggy, instead of just playing games. I've never looked back since, and still have my Amiga sitting permenantly by my side. It's barely recognisable nowadays, sitting in an Eyetech tower, with 64MB 250Mhz PPC card, 8gig HD, 24x CD, CDRW blah blah.

"Talking about Symbolia has got me all nostalgic now. I mean, apart from my usual ZX spectrum nostalgia.. In fact, I think I'll dig Symbolia out from CD backup, and bung it on at full whack and just sit and smile for a while. :-)"

So far, so good...

My intention in writing this article wasn't only (but also) to invite you to leech this demo from Aminet (/demo/aga/Symbolia.lha) and to have a look at a forgotten masterpiece a lot more people should have written about in other diskmags, which was not the case. My intention was to remind you about the kind of friendship that is normal for Amiga fans. It was usually in the Amiga scene several years ago and it's still among us.

There are several people who left for the PC scene and came back after a while. They missed this kind of helpful and friendly behavior between the people. And not only between sceners...

Examples? Andy of Nuance bought an Amiga 1200 after staying about two years in Sympathy-PC as a musician. "It wasn't interesting, the people didn't stick together. I missed this special kind of atmosphere", Andy, the former newsagent of ROM and ex-Essence member told me. "It's far better to compose on a PC but I simply *HAD* to buy me an Amiga again!"

Sting of ex-Abyss & ex-Alcatraz told me at Mekka/Symposium '98 that he also bought an Amiga and re-installed his good old crew Bonzai Brothers as he missed his Amiga mates so much. His close friend Mdb, a former sysop, wrote me in an email some days later that: "The PC always sucked as machine and will ever do!" Odin of Gods, now programmer of highranked PC demos, claimed last summer that he always loved the Amiga, but he can't stay anylonger as he didn't see any future for it. At The Gathering '97 he won the PC democompetition and got rank #3 at Mekka&Symposium with the same production... hehe.

But I prefer Rastan's alias Gerard Sweeney's comment to this topic...

"I'm getting the same buzz from emails from people who knew me in my Spectrum days. To me, that's something that the Speccy and the Amiga share - it has a user group that just will not let go, and still regards it as a damn fine machine (which it is, and I'll fight anyone who says otherwise, heheheh). That's something I find lacking in the PC world - you don't really get people pushing to get the best out of their machine - the programmers for the PC say 'it'll run on this, and that's all'."

So, last but not least, switch on your modem, download Symbolia from the net, become nostalgic again for some sweet moments and don't forget to smile. The scene is your world, you can decide how it looks like.

Gerard Sweeney's final words are:

"Well, I've waffled on long enough, me old china... You probably fell asleep a few paragraphs back, so I'll just sneak off now, so I don't waken you up :-))"

- Ghandy/Darkage/Faith/Gods