Message from the past


Oki, I've had more than enough of this crap by now. Too many people asked me to repeat this more than I ever wanted to. So why not put it in an article and hope that people will read it before they start asking again?

So what's that question? Dead simple: Why do all oldskool sceners think the pc-scene is crap? The answer is a little bit more tricky. To fully understand what I am about to say, please allow me to take you back on a stroll down memory lane.

Back in the 80's, when most of you were having fun with He-Man or maybe even Barbie, people started coding demos on their computers. There were just a handful of platforms that had an active demoscene, most important ones being C64, Amiga and Atari ST. Within such a scene, everyone would have exactly the same machine, and thus the same hardware limitations. It was easy to compare demos, graphics and music. All you had to do is look and listen, and then choose what you liked most. No-one had a headstart because they had better hardware to use for producing the demo or, even worse, to hardcode the demo for.

That brings me to the next point. Demos in these scenes are "hardcoded", which means that they're fully optimized for one single configuration. And because basically everyone had this same configuration, so this wasn't a problem whatsoever. Coders were forced to program in assembly language - any other language simply wasn't fast enough to do decent effects.

Musicians had a hard time too. They had to cope with half-decent chiptune composers or very basic tracking utilities, and a lot of (especially soundchip-) musicians therefore chose to code their own composer.

Making graphics was not that easy either, although the drawing programs on average were a lot better than their musical counterparts. All respected graphicians of those days had to edit every single pixel by hand, which meant a lot of work. But once you mastered the basics... You get the idea.

Now compare all this with the current pc scene. I really can't tell when a pc demo is good because there is no way to compare. A few days ago, I downloaded a bunch of 64ktros. Two of them looked nice to me, the other one was just a bit less decent. Then a friend of mine dropped by and told me that the lesser one was coded for 486s while the other ones needed at least a P200. Needless to say that made me change my opinion... But the problem remains: how on earth am I supposed to judge demos that use such different hardware?

The pc-demoscene doesn't make any hardcoded demos anymore, and afaik, never did so anyway. Where's the point in coding a demo in C++ or Pascal? Come on people, demos are about making the most out of the available hardware, and you'll never achieve that by coding a demo in C. Okey, considering the size and complexity of today's demos, it's probably wise to use some high-level language to make things more manageable. But excuse me for laughing when I hear people talk about their "highly optimized 3d engine coded in C". It's ridiculous and hasn't got much to do with the true demo spirit. Oh, and by the way, why are people with sub-20mhz machines making effects the pc scene usually needs at least a Pentium for?

Music in pc demos was one of the things I used to respect most. But when musicians started using samples of more than say 100k, I kinda lost this respect. Sure you can make a good tune in a megabyte... But can you do it in 50k too? Without a hellish load of loops? Without your precalculated melodyline? If you can say yes to all three questions, respect out. If you can't, then you're probably still doing good music, but lack the feeling for the demoscene the way I see it.

Using MP3s in demos was the hammer. A friend copied me the "State of Mind" demo, which apparently has placed second in a big competition recently, so you probably know it better than I do. And you probably also know that it contains a MP3 track by a commercial band too. Now let me tell you, ripping was about the worst crime you could commit in any given demoscene ten years ago. And what happens today? People rip complete tracks from commercial CDs. And not only do they get away with it, no, they also win competitions with it! What's wrong with you people? What's next? Why not grab your videodigitizer, record some MTV adverts and release it as a demo under your groups' name? "I just made the coolest demo ever. It's called "The Matrix", takes about a gigabyte of space and won't run unless you got some videodecoding system available..." Not my cup of tea, maybe it's yours? I hope not.

Scene graphics are a big laugh today. The so-called "top graphicians" in the pc scene seem to be very fond of 24bit. Their favourite tool is Photoshop. And why? Probably because it's so damn easy to knock up a great picture this way. All you need is a scanner, some basic knowledge of Photoshop and some smart thinking, and there you go: great looking picture. It is perfectly possible to make a completely copied image without anyone ever noticing it, providing you're smart enough not to use too obviously copied motifs. Using multiple source images also helps a great deal. Someone is probably going to say that I'm making all this up, but please take my word as a professional graphic designer. It has happened before, even I did this at one point in my career when I needed money badly, and it will happen again. I feel sorry for the "true" 24bit artists, I won't be able to fully appreciate their work. Blame it on the lamers... Or prove that you're up to the real thing by handpixelling stuff in lowcolor modes.

Anyone still here? If you managed to take this much criticism, then it's probably time for some more positive words now. I really like the fact that there are still people taking the thing we started over a decade ago further. I for one would have never guessed that there would ever be a second or even third generation of demosceners, so respect out to all who are scening today. But please, please, please try to keep up at least some of the old spirit. Demos will always be changing, but the pc scene is growing more and more towards a state where one would rather call it a "clip scene" than a true demoscene, and that's a bad thing imho. Scening is about two things, and no more than that: fun and breaking barriers. So if you manage to have a lot of fun while trying to break the barriers of what is supposed to be possible on your machine, you've got it all.

Keep it real, oldskool until you die!