Group in Focus: ASD
ASD, or Andromeda Software Development, is one of the most successful demo groups of recent times; they are also the winners of the Assembly 2005 demo competition with their production "Iconoclast". We interviewed Navis in order to learn more about this Greek demo group.
When and where was ASD founded, and who were the first members?
ASD was founded in fall of 1992, as a 'cooperation' between me and Incus, a good friend of mine from the same city (Katerini), now no longer in ASD as he went on to do other things with computers.
ASD was originally called 'nuclear' software, and its purpose was to write small games/applications. The first attempt for a demo came a few months later - we still didn't know what a demo was really. While I had seen small cracktros on my C64 - which was sold a few years before, neither me nor Incus knew about the demoscene and its nonmeclature ! One has to remember that at the time we only just began to have access to the networks of the time (fidonet and pascalnet), and discovering this new world took a while.
The first attempts, in pascal, unfortunately don't exist anymore. In summer of 93, we put together some small intros for our local bbs, then progressively moved into more complicated things : Digital dreams, which I consider our first proper demo, and will be put on the internet one day (when I find it, I know it must exist somewhere). It was sometime between 92 and 93 that amoivikos, also from the same city, joined forces as a 2d graphician.
In May of 95, it was time for the first Greek demo party, The Gardening. In Patras, which is about 700km away from our place - it was a long journey indeed. Very vivid memories, we won the demo compo with 'Counterfactual', something that we failed the year after with 'Beyond', a disaster in every aspect.
In September of 96 I left for England to study, so things stayed idle until 2001 when.. the dead Greek scene was rediscovered and revived. The party of Digital nexus (summer of 2001, Athens) helped in many ways: We made our first accelerated demo - Cadence and Cascade, with ripped music though - Amusic, a very old and special scener joined forces a bit later.
People in Greece started getting interested again in demos. The next appointment was set for 2002 (React), again held in Patras. Edge of forever can be considered as the first all-around ASD accelerated demo, as Amusic composed the music, Amoivikos did all the 2d graphics and I wrote the code.
Lots of people liked the demo, so we thought of trying our luck outside Greece. And so we did, in the next 3 years - with the aim of solid performances in Assembly. In 2004 and 2005 Leviathan and Ch3 joined forces - doing music and 3d graphics respectively.
ASD now (Sept 2005) is taking it a bit easy, with the next party contribution set for next Spring.
ASD current members:
Navis - code. All code, direction (with the help of the rest of the crew, most notably amoivikos and amusic), occasionally textures and 3d modelling. A lot of hardcoding numbers and camera paths :-)
Amoivikos - 2d graphics, textures, direction ideas.
Amusic - Music, keyboards and ideas ideas ideas.
Leviathan - Music (they seem to work together on patterns and melodies) and guitar playing.
Ch3 - 3d modelling and animation.
Past members, no longer with ASD:
Incus (1992-1996) - (non graphics) Coding
Ars Nova (1995-1996) - 2d graphics
Pindaros (1995-1996) - Tracked music
Nina (2001-2003) - PR and code (nina made her own demo called blue wire)
I saw one of your BBStros, which was available from pouet. It looks like you informed yourselves well of the effects of those days and implemented them. Is my impression correct that you've always made an effort to stay in touch with the current trends / technological development of demo coding?
Yes. Of course something like that is rather difficult, but I always had an interest in graphics (since the days of C64).
I got my first computer in 84 (well, somebody else got it for me, I was only 6 then), and since then I wanted to do graphics and music (I studied music as a teenager as well, so I wanted to combine both elements). Coding in C64 was not very easy (the age also didn't help either). I did a bit of 6502 asm and 'Simon's Basic'. Big break in 90 when I got my first PC - The amazing mode $13 with 320x200 x 256 colors (unheard of!).
Keeping in touch was not that difficult with PascalNet (producers of the infamous SWAG archives) and FidoNet. There was this great bbs in Patras, you see, called Megaverse. Megaverse (home of Deus, a legendary Greek demo group) was demo oriented only, since probably 92. It was very expensive to call Megaverse direct (being 700+km away from Katerini), but it was worth it.
You wrote that in 2001 "the dead Greek scene was rediscovered and revived". How did this happen?
Well... it was a combination of many things. I would say (in random order):
The advent of Pouet
Our solid demo 'Cadence and Cascade' - Showing that we can actually do more than rotating cubes in mode $13.
Optimus and his newly founded yahoo mailing list
The demo-gr channel on grnet, which is still busy today
People getting together for a demo compo (Digital nexus).
What other groups are currently active in the Greek scene, by the way?
The lab - a group that is going through a difficult
phase, as the lead coder is making another group
NlogN - pretty inactive as demo group, but still organise the parties.
and Sense amok - which I sense are a bit inactive.
Greek parties and ASD
All parties ever held in Greece are:
Gardening 95: ASD #1 with Counterfactual
Gardening 96: ASD #4 with Beyond
Gardening 97: no ASD
then they stopped.
Digital Nexus 2001: ASD #1 with Cadence & cascade
React 2002: ASD #1 with Edge of forever and #2 with Blue wire
React 2003: no ASD
React 2004: ASD #2 with EON
PixelShow 2005: ASD #1 with antidote for the masses
All of these parties were held in Patras, apart from Digital Nexus, which was held in Athens.
How are you creating your demos? What tools do you use? Have you developed them by yourselves?
The demos are written in Visual C++ with OpenGL and Cg for shaders. I try to hardcode as much as possible - I found it to be more productive and creative. So rather than constructing camera paths in 3D Studio, I make a camera spline out of functions. This might sound bizarre (as it requires, for a big demo, to hardcode hundreds of different little things that could be 'drawn'), yet, it is something I got used to doing, so I can do it very efficiently. In any case, programming the demo is the least of my worries - finding the best idea and the combination of music and code is by far the hardest bit.
For all software engineers out there, I admit that I do NOT use UML in my projects :-).
Other tools that we use are:
3D Studio Max and Maya for modelling
Reason for sound
Paintshop Pro and Photoshop for 2d graphics
And how is the work-process structured? Is there a single person who is the driving force in the creative process or do you have a kind of brainstorming process within the group?
Difficult question. While there are times of brainstorming (one must understand that the group is physically split between England and Greece, so a meeting can only arranged on IRC), the demo is put together by ideas supplied by me, amoivikos and amusic - ofcourse, more ideas are generated as the demo and music progresses.
A big demo like planet risk or iconoclast is put together in about 4 months. But there is plenty of time before that for thinking about structure, direction and effects.
Why did Nina leave ASD? I recall getting ASD news from her for Hugi. I see at pouet that Bluewire 2 was her "byetro" - why did she leave the scene?
Nina did not exactly leave the scene. She made another demo after that, which, in my opinion, was much better than BlueWire. ("lost in the underflow (party version) by radiant")
Nina left the group for personal reasons. Of course she is still around, in parties and IRC, and we still talk now and then. Nina thought of the name 'Edge of forever', so, kudos to her for that.
How long have you been coding? When and how did it all start?
For as far as I can remember myself. I think I was putting 'code' together (hello world type of code) even when I could not spell the english alphabet. That was on C64, in a by-gone era. There have been several phases in my life when I was also interested in coding things other than graphics (like now, image processing).
At this point I must say that after I graduated from university I got myself a job in the games industry - I still do work now and then for Empire Interactive. They helped me a lot and supported me through difficult phases of my life. I learned so much thanks to them. They always cheer and say a good word about our demos - even if that means I am daydreaming about them in the office.
How much feedback do you get on your demos? And what do people write to you?
We get lots of feedback from pouet, and from people sending emails and speaking to us at parties. Also from people in family (trying to be un-biased), girlfriends etc. Everyone wants to contribute, but it is only down to a couple of people to make the final decision.
We do appreciate all the feedback, and for me, this is one of reasons why I am so interested in demos: To see the results, to see people enjoying (or not, it is all in the game) your work.
How much feedback do you get on your demos? And what do people write to you?
Well.. most of the technical questions people ask me is in party place - where they really belong. It is very difficult to explain through email.
But I think everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, so the plan to get started in the demoscene might be completely different!
A last message to our readers?
"Eat demos, sleep demos, drink coca-cola".
Navis can be contacted via email at:
Navis & Adok