Editorial: State of the Scene 2012
Written by Adok
Hi and welcome to a new issue of Hugi. The making of another issue is coming to an end. A lot of work has been done in the past months, all for free, all for nothing but perhaps a couple of thumb-ups at Pouet. But, continuing the tradition of the golden era of Hugi (1998-2000), I will write an editorial focusing on general-interest matters rather than the mag itself. Here we go.
If we look at the releases at major parties we can see that 3 groups dominate the PC scene: ASD, Fairlight and Farbrausch. They release often, their productions score high, and these demos are worth watching. Other groups release less frequently, although there are also notable demos from some of them.
The domination of this threesome has been a fact for several years, at least since 2008. ASD has been in the scene for a very long time. They released their first PC productions in the mid 1990s. But they did got get much acclaim until 2004 when they released Planet Risk at Assembly. It was the first ASD demo that gained true popularity in the demoscene because of its interesting plot and the good technical skills behind it, and it was not the last. 2005 followed Iconoclast, 2007 Lifeforce, 2010 Happiness is around the bend, 2011 Spin, each at Assembly and each earning very positive ratings from the community. The demos of ASD are really worth watching even for a non-technical audience because they are full of creativity and good ideas. They are a pleasure, they entertain and do not get boring even after seeing them several times.
Fairlight is a very old group and prominent among the general computer community because it is also a crackers group, but the PC demo section actually is not that old. It started after 2000 when Smash, who had formerly been a renowned music composer, became a coder. As Smash writes in his blog, he considers himself less of a traditional democoder than a computer graphics researcher who likes to implement what he has learned in the form of demos. Thus it is no surprise that Fairlight demos are usually very interesting from a technical point of view, showing novel rendering techniques not seen before and all kind of stuff that seems difficult to program. So these demos are more for a technical audience that is has enough knowledge to appreciate the skills that went into these productions.
While ASD and Fairlight are coder-centered groups in which the programmer is the main person and everything revolves around him, Farbrausch is different because their main coder Chaos developed the Werkkzeug tool which enables graphics artists to develop their own demos without entering a single code line. Still some of Farbrausch's releases are heavy on the code side. What distinguishes Farbrausch from the two other groups is the diversity of people behind the productions, we have productions directed by Fiver2 as well as such that were primarily made by ryg and kb, or even Wayfinder. So it is not a surprise that the style of Farbrausch demos varies and the dedicated watcher who does not appreciate the first Farbrausch demos he sees might after some time stumble upon a Farbrausch demo that does match his taste. With .the .product and debris. Farbrausch has made some ground breaking demos of very limited size (64k and less than 200k respectively) and thus been a great source of inspiration for size-oriented coders who take the challenge to make equally sophisticated productions in such a small space.
Beyond ASD, Farbrausch and Fairlight there are many other groups that occasionally produce something worth watching, but they do so less frequently. The groups Still, Orb, Division, Kewlers, Conspiracy, Andromeda, Excess, MFX are some of the names that come into my mind. Not to forget TBC and Loonies who do great 4k intros and RGBA with their procedural graphics.
One might wonder: What happened to the groups of the past? In the early 1990s Future Crew was considered the cream of the crop. Other famous groups of those days were Trition, Cubic Team, Electromotive Force, Surprise!Productions, Cascada, Komplex, Orange, The Black Lotus, Bomb. All of these are more or less gone, are not active any longer. In the mid 1990s Pulse emerged, as well as Matrix, the groups that later formed Sunflower. Sunflower was considered a top group around the turn of the century (see Hugi #18), yet it vanished pretty soon after a couple of outstanding releases. There were also Haujobb and Exceed. In 2002 Kewlers became very popular with their demo Variform, which somehow matched the taste of many scene enhusiasts. Kewlers are still around, they released Fermion at Assembly 2011. MFX, which is closely related to Kewlers, seems to be a bit more silent.
Beyond the scene
For quite some time there has been the fear that the level of the scene is too high for newcomers to have a realistic chance to participate and that is why so few new people get active. This may be true, but the example of Smash actually shows that it is possible to get to the top with some dedication, even if you have not been into coding since the early 1990s. It is also not true that the demoscene is a generation phenomenon, since we do have young people such as las who have joined it and have been successful at competitions. But despite all of this it is true that the best demos are always made by the same people, and that these people have been active for a long time. In this context we must not forget that computer graphics is a field of interest that goes beyond the demoscene, and that there are lots of people unrelated to this scene who create things that are quite similar to demos. If you surf the web a bit you will find programs that display some interesting animations, many of them even realtime animations, just like demos. They are not integrated in the community and probably many of them take computer graphics less seriously than all these demosceners who seem to find it an obligation to spend hours every day working on their new releases. But it shows that there is interest in the subject and all of this gives me the impression that we will continue seeing interesting realtime animations for many years to come.
I wish you a nice read. Enjoy the 37th issue of Hugi! Adok