Interview with AND
Dmitry Andreev a.k.a. AND is the man who won both the 64k intro competitions at at Assembly 2002 and Assembly 2003 with his masterpieces Squish and Zoom 3. AND was born in Magdeburg/Germany on August 22, 1982, but he is a Russian citizen. His special interests are 3D engines programming, game engines programming, 3D programming, sound synthesis engines, 2D/3D graphics processing, design and composing. He is studying at the mathematical faculty of the Voronezh State University and working as a programmer at Burut. In the scene, he is acting both as a coder, musician, designer and 2D/3D graphician.
AND's homepage is located at and.intercon.ru.
How do you feel after having won two Assembly parties in a row?
Hehe... It is like in the Matrix, you don't know when you're dreaming and when you aren't. And how to determine what is real and what is unreal. So. I feel like I'm dreaming. I know what happened, I did it. But sometimes I can't imagine that. How? Assemby? Nope, that is impossible. Maybe that is not me, but then who is it? That guy looks like me, so... I think it's great when you do stuff just for yourself and people like it.
What was your first computer?
Oh yeah! I remember that old little Speccy. In 1990, when I have come to Syria I've seen my first console. That was a very interesting console from Japan as I know with about 300 built-in games in very low resolution and colors. Acctually I was shocked. How that set of microchips enabled those amazing things on screen. And my first really serious dream was born: I wanted to make stuff like that. The years went past. And when we (me and my parents) came to Russia in 1993 I saw one little box which changed my life - the ZX Spectrum. My parents have gave me that little machine, so, for me it was more like just a machine. My dreams started to come true.
Since when have you been programming?
That gift which my parents gave me had 2 disks with games and 3 or 4 with system programs like assemblers, monitors, basics, music and graphic studios and so on. After playing with those 2 disks for a while, I started to learn system disks. I had one little book called "BASIC for teapots". I didn't understand what those sets of lines were doing. It is ammazing, I wrote things like "CIRCLE 10, 10, 5" and a circle appeared on the screen - das ist fantastisch!!! And then I spent all my time near that little box, I didn't sleep, I didn't eat... Heh... That's how I remember those times these days. Another reason why I started to program so fast is that we were living in a village near Voronezh (it's about 60 km) with my grandparents and I was probably the only guy who had a computer there. Sometimes we went to the city where we could buy 1 or 2 disks.
How did you find out of the scene?
Those disks with games had little loaders. There were long scrollers with a lot of funny effects, a lot of additional options for games like infinity number of lives, energy, ammo and so on. All that "scrollers" were more complex and complex every time. Later, on each game disk there was a special demo section with demos and intros from a group. It's from those demos that I learned about the set of groups that composed the so-called scene. And that they create their demos for events called demoparties and so on, and so on.
What did you release before Squish?
In some years I learned a lot of things on Speccy and made some demos including code, graphics and music. In the middle of 90s people started using other platforms like Amiga and PC. I was very skilled there and wanted to have a powerful tool to make my ideas come true. So I went to PC. x86 assembler, MMX, Pascal, C/C++ and many other programming languages. I started to learn everything I'd seen. 25 hours a day. ;) And it was really great work for me. For the Chaos Construction 2000 demoparty I released a demo called '7d0 millenium'. That was 1 year of work and a very important event for me. I created my own 3D engine with software rendering on C++ with MMX assembler. I won 1st prize there. That was unbelieveable for me, that I did the demo almost all by myself and won 1st prize. In the next year I released an accelerated demo called "604" in trance style, which I still like a lot.
What was your motivation to enter Squish to the Assembly '02 intro competition? How did you feel before the party?
When I was on the ZX Scene I heard about Assembly and it was more than a party for us. We saw those great photos with thousands of people and their computers there. It was hard to believe that such a party existed. But I kept dreaming about being there. I thought I would not be a real scener until I would be there and see it by my own eyes. Before watching some interesting intros I thought that 64k intros were a stupid and boring type of art. Why do people create such things when they could do fullsize demo, or are they too lame to create demos? But one day I saw 2 intros called "fr08" and "please the cookie thing", I was very impressed and began to believe that 64k is much better than any demo. And yet I didn't understand why and how people did such things. So I began to do something similar. It was "squish". I made the experience that coding a 64k intro is far more interesting and amazing than coding a demo. Time passed and I finished the intro. And I came to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to go to Assembly and show the intro to the world demoscene. When you are working on your product for about one year you can't estimate it objectively.
How did you feel after learning that you had won the compo?
How did I feel? I still can't believe it. :) First, because I was at Assembly - the limit of my dreams. Second, because it was the first intro I've ever made. And third, because it was in Finland, in Europe. How did I feel? I don't know words to explain that, it is like a long dream. It is like when you are able to do everything you want, anything. When I went to the stage to get my 1st prize I forgot all words, both Russian and English. I looked on the screen and didn't believe that this guy was me. Oh... In two words, it was shocking and amazing. It is really hard to explain, you can just feel it...
In how far was this different with Zoom 3 in 2003? What were your expectations before and your feelings after the party?
Work on zoom3 was hard. When I started to plan the new intro, I was certain that I wanted to make something really new. Something I hadn't ever seen before. And the main idea was to make use of new technologies in today's computer graphics. Since I had won a GeForce4 on last Assembly, it was a good opportunity. I thought that I had to create a completely new engine, mainly because I didn't want the result to become something like Squish2. And I programmed almost all sub-engines from white paper. In February 2003 all engine stuff was almost finished. And I started modelling scenes and found how I could store hundred thousands of polygons and about 10 minutes of the show. But that was a pity, because the party limitation was just 5 minutes. Yet rules are rules. The intro was about 56-57k and I had a lot of free space and just two ways to solve that "problem". The first was to improve the complexity of the scene, but this would be very expensive for 3D cards. The second was to include a final scroller after 5 minutes of the show. So I chose the second way and included some additional ASCII graphics in the end of the EXE file.
At the party place I was really scared because I wanted to see the intro on a big screen like on my home PC. I did many corrections to the colors and so on. Cybermag spent a lot of time to make the track sound great on all systems. Before the 64k compo there was a 4k intro compo and I was shocked because my 4k intro looked and sounded very bad. Overlighted colors, very strange sound and so on. I started being nervous. So much work and that f***ing big screen could send it directly into the trashcan. But... After the show everything was OK. And more, organizers showed the demo from start to end, with the final part. That was great, I felt that all visitors enjoyed the demo. I didn't forget those minutes.
What is it that you do in real life? I've read on your homepage that you're both studying and working on some game projects, could you tell us more about these things?
Right. I study at Voronezh State University, mathematical faculty. I learn mechanics and mathematical-physics. It is something like physics but more complex. Most of it is really boring and I'd like to learn other things which would be more useful for my work and life.
In general our university gives us the basic, fundamental degree. Then we can do anything we need. But I still do not believe it. ;) For example those people who try to teach us C++ don't understand it themselves.
Some time ago there was a funny situation. A teacher told us: "On today's computers like Pentium-166" bla bla bla. But that was not so bad. At some faculties you learn Assembler language for VAX computers. But the tuition in more fundamental subjects are very good.
At the same time I am working for a game development company called Burut. Some time ago we released a first-person shooter game called Kreed. It is really a great piece of work. When we started making the game we didn't have anything. My old engine for the demo was the first prototype for the new game engine, which we later called XTend. We rewrote it 3 times and remade the concept of the game twice. It was a great experience for all of us. Of course demomaking is not the same as gamemaking. And some sceners said that is boring and that it is not for sceners. But for me it is very important: I do it because I like it. There are a lot of people who work just to get money and in most cases they don't like their jobs. Only if you like your job, you will excel. There are a lot of opportunities to show your talent and do it for your pleasure and money at the same time. That is great. Of course, because of this, free time is a problem for me. But the scene is very important for me as well, since it is the only place where I can open all my talent for 200% ;) I can do anything I want without any time- or other limitations. I can do it for my pleasure.
I've read on your page that you were born in Germany. How many years did you spend in Germany? Do you also speak German?
That is true. I was born in Magdeburg when my parents were living there. But they left Germany when I was 1.5 years old. Of course I don't remember it. Last year I made a trip to Germany with our company. It was the PR-trip of Kreed, we were in about 5 cities from München to Düsseldorf. And our way was through Magdeburg but we didn't have much time to see it. That trip in Germany was very impressive for me. After our return, I started learning German. I've the impression that this language is very interesting. It is very hard for me to learn languages, but German looks just like a mix of Russian and English. Learning German I learn English at the same time. And I dream of coming back to Magdeburg and learn more of it. I think I will then be able to actually speak some German. :)
You seem to have lived in several different countries in your childhood. Why is this so? Are your parents diplomats? - What countries have you already been in and what are your impressions?
That is true. My father is a military and our family has lived in some interesting places. I have changed schools, friends and places a lot. Some years I spent in Germany, some in Belarus, some in Syria. We came to Russia only in 1993 after the crash of the USSR. I was a kid and I don't remember all details so well. I just remember some people and events, and it was no more than a trip. Of course Syria was more impressive for me because I understood where I was and why I didn't understand the people around me. There were a lot of historical places like amphitheaters and antique cities. Very interesting culture and people.
Your subject of study sounds a bit like theoretical physics... Why did you choose it?
Yep. That is another story. At school physics, geometry and informatics were always my favourite subjects. And the last two years of school I spent in a specialized physical-mathematical school. Most of its graduates then went on to Voronezh State University and Voronezh Polytechnical University. People who wanted to be skilled in informatics and programming went to VSU to the faculty of Applied Mathematics and Infomatics. So I went there there. Applied Mechanics is one of the AMI cathedras. They teach us how to use new informatical technologies to solve scientific problems and how to use mechanics to solve problems in new technologies and do new technologies. For example, mechanics can be very useful in gamedev industry. Physics engines in today's games are based completely on mechanics. If you know the physical meaning of lighting and other theoretical things, you can use new shader technologies to do better rendering stuff. I think that physics in general is very useful. You can learn programming by yourself without any troubles, but learning physics and mathematics is much more difficult. And because of this, it's a great place for studying.
I've seen pictures with quite a few African students on the homepage of Voronezh State University. Since Russia doesn't have any colonies in Africa, it seems like your university is open for international students. Is the percentage of foreign students in your classes large? Where are they from, and what's it like studying with them?
As far as I know, there are a lot of students from Asia, Africa and the Middle East. VSU has some units along the city. I don't often see foreign students in the main unit. But actually, Voronezh is the city of students. There are so many universities that you can see people from many contries on the streets. I have seen a group of about 30 students from China. And sometimes I see students from the USA - they are learing Russian here.
Are there any more people at Voronezh State University who are into demo development?
Yeah... In our 30-ppl-company 10 ppl are. And as far as I know, some peoples in the other three companies are from the demo scene, too. Some have gone to Moscow.
Your success at Assembly 2002 is even more admirable because you made Squish all alone: code, gfx and music. In 2003, only the main music was made by someone else (Cybermag). Will you continue making more-or-less solo productions or do you plan to found a group to distribute the tasks among several people?
I think that a coder is not a coder if he can't do anything, code, graphics, music - all elements of a demo. In another way he is just a guy who knows how to program. Of course it is very difficult to do all by yourself and it takes a lot of time. But it is always interesting and easier to get all elements of the art together. At the same time it is easier to do stuff you need. For example, if I want to make a demo in trance style, then I want to find and connect those people. People who live by trance. If I want another style, then I will take other people. Because everybody has his own interests, hobbies and so on. In this way I think that a demo group should be optimal for a given idea of a demo by their interests. And no more than three people, because otherwise it is not a group - it is a crowd. If I know someone who is interested like me, we just get together and do stuff. What about Zoom3. I have known Cybermag for such a long time, and I've been aware that he likes trance a lot. He spent a lot of time making music, and at the same time he is a programmer. He used BUZZ tracker and I asked him to help with the new 64k intro. I needed a powerful
trance track with a duration of 5 minutes. He did a great track that I liked very much. Of course we spent a lot of time working on that track together, because I did softsynth at the same time and it was difficult to make a demo part look consistent with the accompanying music.
What are your own favourite demos, intros and other scene productions (PC and ZX Spectrum)?
I think my favourite demos on PC are Boost, Vivid Experiment, Electronics, Gateways, 2nd Reality, Moai, Overmind, State Of Mind, Fulcrum, Wonder, VIP2.
Intros are Stash, Jizz, Haven7, Peyote, fr08.
On ZX it's Ecstasy, Shit for Brain, Powerup, TV-X, Satisfaction, Jam, Happy128, Eyeache2, Insult.
And which of these has made the very most impression on you? :-)
Definetly, Boost was the most impressive demo for me ever. I think all Doomsday's demos were impressive because I they were the first I saw on PC. Later, after releasing "7d0 millenium" demo on CC, someone told me that this is Russian Boost. Maybe that's true. I still enjoy the atmosphere of Doomsday, their style has become a part of my style and my taste of demos.
Are you still active in the ZX scene? What's currently up there?
I finished my Speccy scenering in 1999 with the SevenUP demo. I did that just because I wanted to learn and make something new. I had to decide between Amiga and PC. Of course Amiga was a very popular platform but PC had an open architecture and the hardware bocame more powerful every year. Thus, PC was the more attractive platform for me. You know, the ZX scene is very huge in Russia. In the 90's it was only one cheap home computer. But people of that generation are growing up. Some work, others do something else... For new teenagers PC is their first computer and they don't know anything about the Speccy. Of course some ZX groups are still active but most parties in Russia are PC or PC/ZX. And ZX sceners looks like crazy fanatics in some situation. For example they completely avoid PC compos at parties. So, in my opinion the ZX scene today is not the same as 3 or maybe 4 years ago.
What demo parties have you visited thus far?
I have visited Paradox'99, 01, Chaos Construction'00, Assembly'02, 03, and BreakPoint'03.
Some people say demo parties in Russia are different than demo parties in any other country. Do you agree on that? Why do they think so?
Yep. I completely agree. In general the average Russian demoparty consists of two components: 1. A lot of vodka, beer, etc. 2. About 70% of people from the city in which the party is held, and 30% from other cities. Commonly, a party takes 2 days and on the first day peoples are boozing and trying to watch compos. On the second day they continue boozing or have a headache, etc... So, if you want to win any compo on an average Russian demoparty, you ought to have a lot of boozy friends - this definitely works. And you will never see any home computers at a party place like Assembly or BreakPoint. When I was at Assembly the first time I was impressed, because all people were watching compos and voting right after every compo. If you feel an atmosphere of a party, if you see that people are able to respect your art - you want to make more and more stuff. I don't know why, but I don't feel it at Russian demoparties. It is a pity.
What do you think about the demo scene in Russia? In what aspects is the Russian scene strong? And, where seems to be the center of the Russian scene? Are there some particular cities in which there's the most scene activity? As Russia is so large it would be interesting to see a map in which the locations in which sceners live are marked... What background do Russian sceners have, are most of them computer science students like it seems to be in most countries?
In the last two years, the Russian demo scene displayed a very low level of activity. That is because most talanted peoples have gone into gamedevelopment and most of them have no free time. Of course newcomers don't have so many skills to make world-level products at the moment. It is improving again, when hi-skilled sceners have gone somewhere. Hey guys! Where are you? And I hope we will see some great world-level products from well known groups and new groups. We now have some new talanted groups, but they need a time to grow. Actually I don't see any major visible centers of demo scene here. I know some guys from Voronezh, Rostov-on-Don, Moscow, St. Petersburg, from ex-USSR and many other...
There's something I'd like to tell you:
After releasing some demos and the Squish 64 intro last year, I thought about something new. In those days, I very impressed by the power of the GeForce3 video card and pixel/vertex shaders. And the only one way to realize my ideas was this one.
I had a GeForce4 Ti 4600 as a base platform for new intro and completely new rendering and scene engine. I played with a lot of shader effects and techniques. And the main idea of the intro was found - I wanted to see full-scene dynamic lighting with true shadows on very complex 3D scenes. At first it looked unreal because it took about 1-2 fps on a not-so-complex scene without texturing. After some months of tricking and optimization it became more and more real. And as a result I got an image which I wanted to see at acceptable frame rates, about 30-50 fps.
So, why am I talking about this. In my opinion, building 64k intros is something like the Formula-1 in car-building. It is a production not for the mass, it is unique stuff of top-level technology. You know, the engine of an average Formula-1 car lives about one season but in most cases just only for one race. In this context, full-size demos are just serial cars for common usage. Since you are a coder, you can increase your skills at making 64k intros. But if you take a look at Formula-1, then there are a lot of teams but only 2 or 3 of them are doing a really great job. That is why I was interested in 64k intros. And I believe demomaking ought to be the technological base for the game development industry for example. Of course, there are some problems, because not every scener has such graphic cards as GeForceFX and Radeon9700, but this will change in the future. When I released the Zoom3 intro, someone told me that this intro had appeared too early, it should have been released 2 or 3 years later. Yep, maybe that's true. But I can't wait. If I have an idea and I know how to implement it, then I'll do it.
I don't understand why we have to use GF2 if we have GF4. If you remember, when the first 3D accelerators appeared, people said: "What the ..., we are coders and we make all effects in plain code. Those accelerators kill coding creativity", and so on. Really, I am happy. Because we are living in the time when 3D hardware grows at rapid rates. Today, we can make great effects and rendering technologies which will be used in games just after some years and much more. We can amaze people right now. So... I am going to code...
AND &emp; Adok/Hugi