Interview with Chris Dragan / Blue Logic
By Mr. Byte / Marsmellows
The interview was originally conducted in the Polish language. You can read the original Polish version in the Polish diskmag The Voice #2.
For the good beginning, it's a standard to ask to disclose some personal data: first name, last name, age, how long you have been on the scene. Zodiac mark is not required, although it's good to be seen.
My name is Chris Dragan, age 25, height 191 cm, weight 100 kg, zodiac mark Gemini, education M.S., job programmer - also on the scene (as a coder). I've been active on the scene since 1999, until recently only for Hugi (the engine and a few articles) and now for six months in Anadune.
Hmmm... you surprised me, because I was just going to ask you about those things. Forget it. So how did you get infected with the scene?
It all began with my a friend of mine at school who was the owner of an Atari ST computer. He showed me various cool PC demos. A few years later, after I had learned a few programming languages, I came up with an idea that it would be good to learn C++ - and this way the "adventure" with Hugi started.
ST? What's the name of your friend? Maybe I know him...
My friend, Modred, was (and still is) an owner of such a computer, made by the Atari company.
I don't know him, although I still have an ST... Was Panorama - your main product - made on order?
In Hugi#16 there was a section in which the needs of the magazine were enumerated. One of them was to create a new engine that would be state-of-the-art (at that time). I announced my participation without hesitation.
Did you have any experiences on this field before, or did you start from scratch?
I usually don't try to write the same programs all over again. I enjoy challenges and I like learning new stuff. Panorama was for me "logistically" something brand new, and it a good opportunity to learn C++.
How much time did it take you? Did you have any competition, any "counter-projects"?
Unfortunately there was no competition. Mags is a very narrow discipline on the scene. For such a mag, it is most difficult to get an enigne, because coders prefer writing demos or intros (the second most difficult thing to get is the articles).
I was writing the first version of Panorama for half a year. And the second version for another half a year.
Oh yeah... Have you created any demo or intro?
Together with SOL, under the name of Anadune, I made something like our first demo, for Abstrakt'02. Unfortunately it was a disaster - two and half a month is certainly not enough to make a demo from scratch.
But maybe we will come back soon with something worth seeing.
Right, I remember. Did you go to Abstrakt?
Did you return with a pneumonia or with a good health? (It was really cold on the party, below 0 Celsius.)
How would you describe your present engagement in the scene life? Do you go to parties, read magazines? I was looking for you on #polishscene, but I didn't find you. The bots don't know you.
On the scene I perform the following activities:
- I write code - the basic life function of a coder,
- I watch the productions - mostly demos and intros, I don't read mags that often,
- occasionally I write articles for Hugi - one article per issue on average,
- sometimes I go to parties - once a year on average.
I am rather not present in the scene culture on the Internet. I prefer to invest my time in folk art.
Folk art? Could you say something more about it?
I was thinking about coding.
Pretty neat a notion, all in all coding has something to do with handicraft.
Once I put a few of my modules (XM) to Hornet. Unfortunately I didn't have sufficient conditions to develop my musical skills so I focused on programming.
And how was it with Anadune? Did they come to you or did you approach them?
I met SOL accidentially via my coworker. Once SOL invited me to making a demo (right 2.5 month before the party). And so it began. Because the group is right now permanently suspended and it lacks concrete activities, I know only few crew members personally.
Right, you are taking out my questions one after another. I was going to ask about Anadune's present status. Once it was a power, today you don't hear much about it... Anyway, the next question is a little bit weird: what is the scene good for?
For a scene creator of any kind, especially for a musician, graphician or a coder, the scene is a perfect place to get an experience in the craft, and also to make a portfolio. For me, personally, the scene makes doing cool things possible. Things that the others can admire.
Of course, for everyone the scene is something else.
But do you really need the scene to achieve this? We live in an Internet era, we have access to many specialized forums, where eager people will judge, give advice, tap on the shoulder... So what is the scene for?
Unfortunately the Internet forums remain anonymous. The scene, despite that the most sceners have their nicknames, is something less anonymous. You can go to a party, meet people and show what you are capable of in the public. Nothing can replace the possibility of seeing your own production on the big screen, together with other sceners. Later, thanks to various media (e.g. the Internet), the productions are spread - everyone can see them, they are available to the public, you know where to get them, and, what's most important, they get the right auditorium. The scene is a kind of a culture and you cannot replace it with anonymous forums.
Good! It did go down to my heels. Another question related to these charms: does the scene have a future?
Ever since I have been a scener, and probably already much earlier, many sceners have asked themselves similar, existential questions. Does the scene have a future? Will it change, and if so, in what direction will the changes go? I think that such questions result from the love of the sceners to the scene, and so they are afraid of losing it.
Personally I think that as long as the craft, the computers, the electronics will be, as long as more or less organized groups of people will be founded, people will use the hardware to make art - an application the hardware wasn't originally designed for.
But for sure the scene will yet go through many changes - thanks to the new technologies and the resulting possibilities. I don't think that it willl vanish. Nothing says it will.
So what do you think about an open architecture, something like the today's PCs? Do they have a future? Or maybe it's better to code on consoles, or any other machines that don't change so fast? Does your computer still work with the latest demos?
Yes, I can still watch recent demos on my computer - it is because the people who make demos use computers with a similar peformance as mine. Every two or three years you make an upgrade to the hardware in order to be able to use new things. That's the virtue of the open architecture - it also concerns Amiga, which still has new productions, but it's not the same Amiga that it was seven years ago. Thanks to the open architecture you don't have to trash everything and the old programs and scene productions still work on the new hardware. The new hardware also gives you new opportunities. As for the consoles, it is a marginal matter, because of the low software accessibility. Anyway, personally I think that PCs are even better for games than consoles, because of the large amount of memory and thus more possibilities for games, and also for their extensibility.
You're plunging me, because I've just written an article in which I prove that the PCs of today are without sense... Forget it, it happens. The next question is in some way similar: what do you think about the link between the demo and the open source scenes. How are these two cultures related? All in all, you did make Panorama freely available, which is very rare on the demo scene as the scene keeps its secrets.
Well, really, Panorama is not open source. We, in Hugi, decided to make our engine available to others, because we know that for some people it is a major problem to get their own enigne - this way we support other productions. As for the open source software, the idea is very interesting to me. Personally I think that the people who benefit most of open source software is those who want to learn something, to see how the others do it. About adding such modules to your own software: the availability of source code is very useful, because you can easily adjust its interfaces to your own programs. Open source has many virtues, but it also has two disadvantages: first, everyone can take your code and claim it for himself, and second, the open source programs are poorly selling.
Do you have your own types on the scene? Favorite groups, productions?
Subjectively, I could name productions like "Heaven 7" or "Nature Suxx" - because of the realtime raytracing, which once used to be my hobby. I am fond of 64k intros - many of them are artistically better than some demos. From the recently seen I could name "fr-025", which is very nice. From the classical ones "Please the Cookie Thing" - definitely great music, although very low quality.
So we have similar taste, at least partially... I've seen you on the list of the ones ready to go to Poznan. Are you going to show anything? (Symphony 2003 party in Poznan in July)
With SOL we intend to prepare something concrete, but I don't want to say anything more for good luck.
But there will be something?
There will be something, unless a meteorite or a comet falls from the sky.
Great, thrill scene!
Was the attempt to find a new member through scene.pl successful? I'm asking because I am curious of the response of the scene to announcements of demands. In fact, there isn't much happening...
Unfortunately the attempt has not been successful. We are still looking for a 3D artist with a creative enthusiasm. And let me mention that there are great tools waiting for him!
Then mention! Go ahead. What tools?
I've spent some time on an editor, so that you don't have to put together a demo using tools like Notepad. As far as I have seen, some other groups also have such tools - but ours is more user-friendly and it has greater functionality!
Well, here you go. Not so long ago I've read moans that nobody on the Polish scene needs 3D graphicians. Now it's clear that they are needed. By the way, I even know a very good one in Wroclaw. You'll get the address, but off the record, with microphones turned off, like because I don't have it at hand right now.
But let's get back to Panorama for a moment. Is it going to be updated? Doesn't Adok torture you about this?
Everybody who has written a demo or mag engine knows how much work and heart you have to put into it. So far, the functionality of Panorama hasn't been fully used (although I haven't seen your design yet :-) ). [Editor's note: "The Voice", for which this interview was originally conducted, is also based on Panorama, the engine that has originally been developed for Hugi. //Adok] I have a lot of great ideas for the new Panorama - unfortunately there is not enough demand for it, and Hugi doesn't need a new engine so far. Maybe if there was a more concrete movement on the scene, like "United Diskmags", I would make myself handle such a project, maybe even with one or two other coders. I'm not going to reveal right now what I mean exactly, but it would be something very new, something more than regular mags.
"The Beast" #4 is going to be something like that and it's going to be released very soon. I've heard that the engine is going to be in 3D. Do you see anything like this?
Well, we'll see what the boys are going to show. I'm sure they've put a lot of effort into it, but I guess it's not going to be exactly what I think of.
It's going to be a dumb question, but... Does anyone still need diskmags? A part of the scene thinks no.
That's right. The demand is dropping, because most of the information is generally available on the Internet. Today some sites replace mags very successfuly. Unfortunately. In my opinion you could create a movement that would go beyond diskmags. Until now a mag has been just a collection of more or less interesting articles. You could create a diskmag plaform, for which you could make demos like plugins, so people could show off. This way you could make diskmag-demo competitions. It's one of the few real directions of future diskmag development.
I think that with time there will be less and less diskmags - right because of the Internet, dedicated news sites, forums, IRC, etc.
You have surprised me. A diskmag platform? Demos as plugins? A bold move. Unfortunately I'm afraid that nobody will participate in making such plugins...
And now an entirely untypical question: do you want to be asked about something particular?
Right now, by me. Any question you've dreamed of?
Oh, have you run out of questions?
I admit that I am slowly running out of them...
I could yet reply to many questions, as I have many thoughts on many topics. Like many people. I also have my dreams, etc. Like everybody. I think that I don't have any particular message for the Scene. Maybe except that the Scene could try to make better productions quality-wise, e.g. with quality comparable to 3D Mark.
Hmmm... 3D Mark is in a certain sense a child of the scene, since the crew that makes it in a large part comes from the scene. But someone from farbrausch, I think, said that we're never going to get ahead of Carmack... Right. Something has changed, a long time ago demos were technically ahead of games. Now the situation has turned around. Do you think it's about the money behind the commercial productions? Does writing a good demo need so much effort that the volunteers don't have any chances?
It's not about money, but about organizing a certain number of people. As you know, gathering people together is a serious challenge, but not as big as organizing them. Let's take for example games like Mafia or GTA3. There is no demo that could compete with them. The problem is not the coders or musicians, but graphicians, or rather lack of them on the scene (allow me to claim this).
So the problem is not coding a sufficiently fast engine?
Yes and no. You can write a program with a certain degree of complexity, but unfortunately the scene remains far behind the cutting edge, as it can't use the latest hardware, because nobody could watch such demos, since everybody has a GeForce2 MX.
Making demos using the latest achievements is also risky, because very often the compo machine on the party place has a lower specification than they claimed before the party.
Exactly. And that's what annoys me about PCs. You can't show off, because most of people won't see it anyway. The problem does not exist in a hardware-wisely closed environment, like on consoles.
On the other hand only few people have consoles, and yet fewer people have access to appropriate software that makes making console productions possible. And there's also a problem of distributing console demos.
But it's possible to come over all this. Consoles are getting more and more popular, appropriate development kits do exist (even for free), there is no problem with burning the CDs, Internet access is also available. I don't know why, but in my opinion it is the future - whether we want it or not.
Well, we'll see. But personally as a coder I wouldn't write for a console, because one model of a console is going to be incompatible with a new one in a few years, and everybody will forget the old one. And the good, old PC will work the same way as before, only 10x faster and it will survive many consoles.
OK, I'm not going to argument with a coder. We are slowly finishing the interview, and if there is anybody who you would like to greet - do so.
First I would like to greet all coders, because I know how much work they have to put in their demo or intro in order to watch it for a few minutes on the big screen. I also greet the Hugi crew, and the entire Polish scene!
I invite all coders using Direct3D to the website http://d3dcaps.chris.dragan.name/, where you can compare and learn about the capabilities of various graphics cards regarding their features and texture formats. The database is still being built right now, so I also count on your support!
That's it. Thank you for the few lost moments.
Thank you very much for the invitation, even though I think that there are many coders more worth an interview than me.
Last minute info: Chris and SOL left Anadune to found their own new group - Blue Logic.
Mr. Byte / Marsmellows