CPC in the year 2012
Written by Optimus
So, here I am, the world has not gone and neither the CPC scene. Did you know that 2012 is the last year where you can create dates like 20/12/2012 or 2013 is the first year since 1987 where each number is different? You may ask what does this all have to do with the CPC and I'd say nothing absolutely, but let's continue with our review of the year that passed.
Batman Forever from the year before the previous year (I write this in purpose because I like how it sounds) overshadows whatever you make, but it's not impossible to do something better or something different or something half as good as that. And no, my taste didn't change after the revelation, I can still enjoy any other CPC demo from petty single screens to ambitious multipart demos. Needless to say, Batman Forever from 2011 received three Scene awards in 2012 (and the pitiful meme continues, this could be a meme like "successful troll is successful" :)). So, I think that was (because electricity is off, I am writing on my laptop, and the Internet is dead too, because electricity is off) the best 8 bit demo of course, breakthrough performance I think and public choice I suppose. I bet it's true in one hour from now.
Yet, we had another massive multipart demo in 2012. (I originally wanted to write trackmo but that means a demo with disk loading routines, and what I had in mind was the style of the Amiga demos which were actually trackmo loading routines. Repetitive repetition is repetitive!) Krusty and his Benediction friends remain the most active group for another year! They released two 4k intros and the final of their WakeUp multipart megademo (a preview version was shown but not released at Forever 2011).
The first 4k was Stop that Nyan Cat, with some classic effects from older demos, like fire effect, and another one of the few tunnel effects, a pure software one finally! Their latest one, Glory Holes, was less interesting for the coder, more like procedural graphics with circle drawing, and it has even managed to win over my own more coder oriented 4k (grrr). And then their multipart demo Wake Up comes, that shook the scene again! It's not a Batman Forever (I'd hate to compare again) but it's halfway there. It has good classic style from Amiga trackmos, transitions and surprises all over the place, several nice effects (might not be as full and as fast, but many of them are pure software effects), great music, and nice graphics. Quite more improved than the leaked preview from previous year (released now in the same package for a comparison). It's one of the very few times on the CPC that we see so massive demos! Congratulations to the whole Benediction team for bringing us such a good demos for yet another year!
Then yours truly came, with some of my best recent works, a 4k with a miraculously creative title and another demo using my so infamous Wolfenstein engine, which is not a fully blown Wolfenstein engine yet. Clouds with Virgins in the Sky is my first 4k with dreamy music like you are in the paradise, and since you are in the clouds and some people believe you will only find women in the clouds on paradise (and what would women find? It's raining men or something?), it's full of clouds, procedural cloud textures, rotozoomer clouds with glow, ceiling mapping with cloud texture, some old fonts, that's all about it. Quite a procedural experience that started as something which at the very last moment I was very ashamed about and could never believe it would evolve in something a bit better (even though routines are speed unoptimized). I am quite happy: this is my first 4k that actually has music - quite a good one from Factor6.
Then my Wolfenstrad demo, my best year so far, shows off some of the features of my engine, like animated stuff on walls (by displacing column information really), free rotation around a static point (first trick of finding distances fast, could be good for an Eye of the Beholder style game, even with smooth rotations) and then an animated sequence where it actually moves. The preview I once posted on youtube was occupying the whole 128k memory. But now I didn't have memory and so I skipped frames and columns too. That's why it's not that good. And that's why I should be finishing the realtime version that is less than 12VBLs iirc. Anyway, the demo has very impressive scrollers and effects on the walls, I was planning to do way more even, as always it didn't end up as I pleased, but it's one of my best works for a long time (though I admit, the progression is a bit boring, I prefer watching my old demos, a step beyond, even chunky chan, rather than this, but this one can be great letting it run endlessly like an impressive screensaver, it's even looping, changing to dither effect mode, even controlled by keys after the first loop, I am very proud of this). SDCC made it possible. It almost killed my memory but made it possible to script some good stuff and the endless loop and all. I don't know when I will be able to clean up my code, continue with the Wolfenstein engine itself (either free move mode or eob walking mode) for a game or something. But I had some nice idea lately for a small game that I'll have to try and it might just work. Else, the bigger game ideas would take far too long. So, there is hope something will be released soon.
And yet the good surprises don't end here. Overflow from Logon System made another comeback with a 4k this time, Yet Another Plasma. Don't let the title deceive you, it's not just a common plasma effect, there are severeal variations in style of different colored ribbons and nice transitions. It's a plasma effect like a master of hardware tricks on CPC would do! Definitely the best use of this effect on a CPC so far. Will there be more or is it time to move on some other effects? (Plasmas are fillers now, I've used them so far and so did several of the Benediction demos for example just to have one more part.)
And then Grimmy wanted to play again with Plasmaminus, which is a plasma with the same hw technique (but no colors, transmisions or music) in just 256 bytes. Nice try, but how about a bigger demo from you and not just nagging? :) Last but not least we have one more 256b intro from SSG, Run SSG Run, which demonstrates hardware scrolling in 128b. Great for size and a newcomer!
We had many newcomer surprises this year. First there was a C64 scener, TMR from Cosine with his small mode2 screen Snoozing with a nice suggestive picture, split rasters for a colored logo and a scroller. It's just a little demo for TMR to make the start up in this platform and it's a nice one for a newcomer. A more impressive surprise was Sugarlumps by Doz/CRTC, which demonstrates a triangle rasterizer in 4*4 thick pixel blocks. A lot of nice screens, with 2d rotating polygons, rising sun, twister made out of polygons, etc. Only drawback might be the too common RGB colors which might remind of a spectrum demo to some. Nevertheless, this is a quite good way to make a start.
Another new coder on CPC, Mav from Austria, tried to wake up a bit the scene in Germany with his attempts to render the mandelbrot fractal faster than even before achieved. Technically not a demo but it's nice to see some graphics coding activity in the German Side. You can find some pieces of information here. As for similar examples, I should not forget to mention the attempts on coding Game of Life algorithms from db6128, another new coder on CPC that is more frequent on cpcwiki forums.
Do the surprises end? Well, we even had a coop CPC+ demo (long time since I last saw one in this platform) by Impact and Revival. Revival'n Impact coop starts with a menu where you can choose between two different multipart demos. The first one has a lot of parts that remind of classic old CPC demos with the same boring hardware effects, even though there are one or two nice things if you let it run (and at first I thought it was a single screen and about to reset :P).
The second one has a bit more interesting screens even though nothing spectacular. We get to see again some of the capabilities of the CPC+ though. We get again the classic 16 vector balls that are the 16 hardware sprites of the CPC+ which we have seen already in Grimmy's demos (it would be more interesting next time to combine software sprites with hardware sprites if it's possible without making a mess - I just don't know the plus, I assume it's easy but who knows? - to increase the number and still have 50hz). I found interesting the use of hardware sprites as a small buffer for a software rendered rotozoomer. I was curious about that, since I know that 1 byte is 1 pixel on sprites and thus no combining left and right pixels from tables on pixel software effects. Would that speed up things a bit? Maybe. More nice screens too, witches and again witches with boobs. :) Credits coming from behind, nice use of hardware sprites. For me, this is a very big CPC+ work, several stuff in there, even though most are not something new. And is it the last demo from those CPC+ sceners?
Last thing from the demo side is probably the crazy come back of the music disks! Do I see FIVE in my list? Wow! Some of them you can't find easilly because somehow they appear in cpcwiki but you never hear about them in pushnpop site and then I see them added on cpc power. Yep, the scene is a bit separated, let it be. But if you don't want to miss anything, check pushnpop for more CPC demoscene specific stuff, CPC wiki in the forums for a bit of game developing discussion too and the demo section of CPC power for those little productions that you might miss elsewhere. Oh, also Octoate's blog keeps all the good news that I might sometimes miss. I think those four sites are the most important to have a more complete view of what happens in the scene and they helped me with collecting informations for this article.
But let's go back to the subject. Music disks! We have both Nightshift and later Tracks from the early 90's which feature several tracks by Mr.Lou. A later surprise was a bunch of tracks from Factor 6, with great graphics from Rex, the Outer World Music. And then two more collections which seem to be conversions of various older tunes, some more music tunes and this music disk is 20% cooler (nice Pony pic :) by an unknown to me guy nicked SuTeKH. It's great to see so many stuff in the non intro/demo categories, the only thing missing now is to see a bunch of graphics disks or a diskmag. Perhaps a graphics disk needs too much work and diskmags are dead anyways. But five musicdisks? In 2012? On CPC? Wow!
Much pwning has happened in the gaming department too. It's good that during the last 2-3 years I've seen enough games that I could personally play, not just "Hey look, someone made a game on CPC, impressive!" Most of the times it's like that, or maybe I find some of the games too hard to actually play and it's just a sign for me that someone is developing some good looking stuff on CPC that are good as a news subject but I can't play. And then there are some games recently that are not only playable but quite impressive in size and effort! The most spectacular this year was the R-type remake by Easter Egg, a massive release, complete game with intro (how many of these have you seen on CPC?), great music, many different modes (casual modes for those who can't... well me too?), options menu like you have never seen on CPC (sound jukebox, difficulty levels, various stuff. Again, most game menus on CPC were too cheaply done, time for higher standards!), level selector, etc. And there must be more stages than the original (I haven't gone far :)). The speed is not perfect but impressive enough for the sprites and the graphics are finally more colorful, casting away the Spectrum curse! I know, shoot em up's might be hard, but at least there is a sense of control and one might try the casual mode for a change. What a surprise! Just as good a conversion as last years Bubble Bobble remake. They even made a case!
As for shoot em up's we had an improved release of Edge Grinder, the Super Edge Grinder with new graphics from Rex, the same one stage gameplay (my hand hurts from clicking the fire button so fast) and the main addition is a final boss at the end. I'd mention that I liked the colors on the original more, Rex gave them a more "serious"(C64ish?) look with less vibrant colors in my opinion. But that's just taste. A little more interesting for playing is a release of Star Sabre Zero, what was Star Sabre in it's initial states. It was still hard (I'd like continues, both in Star Sabre and this. Not 3 lifes and then dying) but more playable than the Edge Grinder series imho.
Another surprise for me, technically mostly, is the release of a Pac Man emulator. Yes!!! The thought of CPC emulating another system is laughable normally, but there are some people (for example in Simon Owen in Sam Coupe) doing experiments just for the laugh or out of interest if it would be possible and how well would it run. Interesting for me too. So, the PacMan emulator was probably ported from Simon's own version, and it actually can take ROMs from Mame, several editions of the classic Pacman. The speed was not full on CPC but something like 70% iirc. Which was playble (with speeding sound). Wow!
Last but not least, we have the usual games from some Spanish groups, Imaginario Collectivo, Teodoro no sabe volar and Sardina Forever. In the same manner as their older titles, the first two are platform/exploration games with beautiful graphics but I always end up kinda lost, no checkpoints and after some collision with the enemy sprites I lost and that's it.
Maybe it's a matter of taste, but I didn't enjoy any of these titles because of that. I know from older examples that exploration games can be great, but they should be done in a manner that it doesn't make it tedious to finish the game or abandon it after the first tries. As for Sardina, it's worse. You are walking from left to right, trying to avoid fans, but somehow I couldn't make sense of the controls. And the game seems like a little fun joke, not a serious production so I left it there. Maybe I could play some of the Spanish platformers with save states and enough patience. For the rest (some text adventures in french that I am not able to play) you should check CPC Power in the year 2012.
Some more links
I shouldn't forget mentioning some really good links concerning development for example. SDCC, probably the best C compiler for Z80 and many other processors, what I've used to develop Wolfenstrad (among tons of z80 assembly of course :). Possibly the fastest based on some Comparisons. Oh, and Mochilote has a written some wonderful tutorials for developing games in SDCC. Really good stuff! Also, Overflow has given some explanations on the technique behind Yet Another Plasma. And I just read there is a CPC+ library from Kevin Thacker for SDCC! For those who have the machine and want to try, or see and import some plus code in their projects.
Last but not least, some guy started yet another page on CPC games, though I am not sure what does it have to offer that is not yet existing on other CPC games list sites. Oh, I see there are some screenshots now, more interesting than in the beginning. Maybe a forum would make things more alive?
What is coming?
A demo from Vanity? Some comeback from favorite oldies? New professional sceners from C64 and Speccy invading the CPC? Something at Forever or ReSeT? Well, let's see how it goes with Forever that is in March. I have decided to visit this year, booked the tickets and am ready to go! Productions? Maybe a CPC or Speccy intro if time permits. I have done enough for last year and the deadline for the CPC 30 years megademo is just before July (which will however be released in ReSeT 2014!). Needless to say that another interesting competition was announced with the same exactly deadline, the 16kb rom game competition, which is interesting for two reasons and I want to participate if possible. One, a game fitting in one 16kb ROM (but of course it can decrunch to the whole 128k ram). Two, a good opportunity for me to get away a bit from democoding and try some game development. So many years I was coding demos and several times I expressed the wish to try some game development, regardless of platform. But games are scary to start, you think of something big. However, since the size is restrictive, this allows me to try with something smaller. And I have an interesting idea that I will go on with if it works. After that, I might rest.. no more demos or games from me after June.
Oh, I just learned the unfortunate news that scene awards is no more. I liked the oldschool awards a lot and even Batman Forever won one (and two more in other categories) for the first time in the CPC history. It's sad that we miss the awards, but at least we CPCers have our own awards. Well, things are easier to make you feel a bit proud, in a scene where sometimes the positions might be less than the demos, but I was so happy to see my Wolfenstrad demo getting the technical achievement one and this motivates me enough to continue coding for the CPC.
An rpg/fps game with my engine? Ah, many ask me that! You will have to wait! Maybe that's what I should work on after June. But 3 years. Or never. What did you expect? Games are not made in 3 months. Except if they are speccy ports, bad joke haha ;P. Ovation 6? Even worse joke, hahaha! Maybe 7. Or 8 to be counting in the same league as Demoniak.
What about internet? I want internets on my CPC!!! That would be a milestone (forgot to mention someone is trying this, take it).
CPC in the year 2013
Written by Optimus
Is this the year of Procrastinopolis? I was a bit away from CPC (besides a crappy intro with the same name and secretly (almost) working on a demo part before new year's eve) but then I checked the yearly charts voting for 2013 at pushnpop.net and I was like wait, only four demos and one intro? Well yes, it was a silent year, not enough entries at the biggest CPC demoparty with compos, ReSeT. Maybe it's also because most people were working on a celebration megademo for the 30 years of CPC, to be released at ReSeT 2014. Yet again, if you think that half of the demos were masterpieces, then the quality level was at its highest, and also the typical story of 1-2 worth watching demos from the bunch of many.
It's not that I am complaining (since I only released a joke intro at that year's ReSeT), just preparing the ground for this year's article, finding a way to start writing, 'cause I was too much enjoying coding my upcoming DOS demo and also wishing to work on few other things and had hard time motivation me to start write another one. But this one will be probably small, since there are not much to write about.
Early during the past year, a technical and design masterpiece from Vanity was released at Revision. It was a demo I was expecting to see, 'cause of the rumours that it would be a Batman killer. The more I watch it, the more it grows on me, but on my first few watches I was feeling like I didn't get enough. I guess such rumours gave false expectations, because Batman Forever was a demo of an epic scale and presentation, while Still Rising was of much smaller size and didn't make a direct impact like I was expecting based on how it was advertised.
I quite like the graphical design and pacing of transitions in this demo. The professional way the graphics make their appearance, the fades of the parts, the style, reminds me of some of the great C64 demos. From the beginning where we see graphics blocks with pictures of the creators fade in and then jumping out while the demo is loading and decrunching, to the way the fullscreen main logo of the demo gradually fades in its parts, shows that there was a lot of work involved on the little details. The beginning positively reinforces you for what is to follow.
Most of the effects of the demo seem like they are improvements of similar effects in Batman Forever or other demos. Starting with an awesome zooming scroller (third one I see in any CPC demos since BF), with more lines per font than BF and raster background, then zooming plasmas in fullscreen and separated by windows, nice one.
Later on we must see probably the best fullscreen rotozoomer ever on CPC, which I guess besides software rendering, there is also hardware trick to quadruple the lines to give a 4*4 pixel block size. Interesting are the little sprite details, like a pong game playing in front of the rotozoomer. At the end we will have a revisit of the same rotozoomer, mirrored and in higher resolution. But before that, we are introduced to another twister like effect, where the graphics are like separate rotating boxes, with great colors. I really love the detail again, that it's not just a line per line effect, but it's mixed with graphics of moving space invaders. Every part has these little details to add even more, like there is still CPU left for additional stuff. The final part is my favorite effect, as I said it's the same rotozoomer, but mirrored on both X and Y to give you a more detailed resolution, 50hz fullscreen kaleidoscope rotozoomer. This is absolutely a killer effect for me, for I think it's pushed to the limits, tight software rendering rotozoomer code with line doubling and mirroring tricks, wherever CRTC can be used. I don't know the details, but at least that's what I think. It would be impossible to do this pure software rendering without intermixing with the CRTC. I might not be a CRTC coder but I am certainly convinced that a lot of work has been given to each of the parts.
There was some discussion at various places whether it was a Batman killer or not, but I believe this comparison may spoil the excitement trying to make a solid demo (which this demo is 101%) instead of comparing yourself to some other grand work. Imagine everyone on the C64 comparing their demo to Edge of Disgrace (which for some is not the best C64 demo, but depends on what kind of demos you like) and feeling overwhelmed that they will never be able to do a 17 minute answer to it. Instead of exploring alternative styles (for example the very emotional and symbolic Artphosis) and doing it your own style. I am not saying that competition shouldn't be, but it's better to enjoy a demo by watching it for what it is, rather than being misled it's gonna beat another epic demo of much bigger size. Needless to say, Still Rising is a great coderpron demo with great graphical design, while BF is focusing more on the overall impression (even if in my opinion it has also way more effects and is seemingly more impressive if you don't think low level, impressive for someone who doesn't know the CPC hardware, the audience who thinks "Wow, Mode 7 on the CPC???" no matter if it was palette changing and not more advanced CRTC).
In that aspect, No Recess takes an entirely different route with Phortem, creating something never seen before especially in that scale, without caring about fullspeed effects or CRTC tricks, but rather trying to present a new proof of concept, a grand scale mix of a demo with a graphics disk production. Not only the massive ammount of graphics for a CPC demo is a world first, but I have never seen so many unique transitions between screens in a CPC demo before. There is a solid goth/metal theme during the whole demo and some interesting effects or transitions and sometimes never seen before on the CPC. Heavy use of No Recess idea also, effect in front of background and not black screen. Even if it means much slower speed.
You don't even know where to start with this. Sometimes I need to see it more times to remember everything. There are many slow effects but with great background graphics behind. From textures twisters and blood plasma to an infinite zoomer and ball physics (precalced?). There are more that I like. There is a big picture of a demon girl and big transparent scroller revealing an angel girl (I noticed it after few runs). Attempts to make parallax scrolling of two layers even if deadly slow. My favorite transition is that of a bouncing rotating line separating between two different backgrounds. Definitelly inspired by the C64 demo Andropolis (also the animated eyes in the beginning are inspired by some C64 demos too I guess). Quite smoother than other transitions too. Love this!
I really like this demo because it tries to go out of stereotypes of what a demo is and do it its own way. Yes, I know, some effects are too slow and it bothers me too, if they were faster they would be more impressive (I don't like the part with rasterlike effects in software, really slow and ugly). But I know No Recess' intention was not to code the fastest effects possible but to present a proof of concept of a huge thematic demo, breaking the records of how many graphics you can fit and some compromises had to be taken if you want to fit effects that blend with the background too (and probably are not huge unrolled speed codes taking up all memory or something). I like the demo because I like how No Recess goes his own way. And it's more of a bliss to watch this on a real CPC monitor rather than an emulator where I am doing it just right now (Just bought a CPC to realize the extra memory is busted :P).
Let's go on with the rest of the bunch now. Not more greatness to see (it's fullfilled by the two demos above anyway). I will start with the first demo in 2013 release at Forever party, it's Ham's little contribution to the CPC compo, Mind in Motion. It consists of a picture of robots thinking, a scroller and some dots. In a later version, the dots are replaced by a chess game animation. I am glad that Ham is doing CPC stuff, though I am eager for the real hit and I believe he should make a coop with Demoscenes and Democritus for ancient greek demo justice!
Other than that, my own contribution is not greater. This is something of a last minute masturbation, when I was planning to maybe do something stupid and I made another stupid thing. It was an easier thing to do and the title was the same as the first stupid thing, Procrastinopolis. The trend lately is to reuse old code, for example this was like an old thing I did to mimic Timewaster on the C64 after I saw some Speccy guys doing the same. But the code was so simple and boring that I never finished it. Till I found it again on my HD and thought, hey what if the timewasting guy just procrastinates instead of doing all these other timewasting things? Wouldn't it be the same? Still a waste of time. As was this demo, the irony. Another trend of mine is to release more joke prods each year. But hey, I had an ok time last year with Wolfenstrad and Clouds with Virgins in the Skies, so I believe I could deliver some more this year, maybe. Maybe I can reverse the trend, but I need to stop the faping too for greater power. World championship boxers stopped it before fights. What I learn...
Jokes aside, I don't want to spend more words on my crap. Last contribution I see here on Pouet was a nice 1k with kefrenbars effect, coop by ZeroTeam, the other new guys from Speccy who also organize the CPC compos at Forever. Nice to see something from you, the effect is at least smooth and nice. Well done! Also, there is one more demo on Pouet with CPC flags, but has nothing with CPC. Just a basic demo on a 286 Amstrad PC. Just reminded me that I have to be the last minute ebay bidder for a similar (or the same?) amstrad laptop the day after tomorrow. I never had a machine with the Amstrad logo that is not CPC and will also be a good platform for a future 286 PC demo, so yeah!
Maybe I should make some mentions on the other side of the scene, the gamedev stuff. Indie gamedev on CPC becomes a little more interesting, even though not as much as the demo side yet (either gameplay or techwise). But as I am always curious to see impossible or impossibly fun stuff on the gameside of the CPC, I am curious if this side will grow better. At this point I could even mention a new site dedicated specifically to the homebrew released over the years, Homebrew.AT which is really nice and you can easilly find the indie games separated from all others if you were to search on a regular CPC games site. It's a good overview of what is released so far. And even has additional articles, for example the story of Bollaware. It's a good thing to present this side of the scene and I am still dreaming of doing some CPC gamedev besides demos. Hopefully, soon...
So, the last year there was a very interesting competition, the 16kb ROM gamedev compo. Simply, make a game that fits in one 16k ROM on CPC. I was even thinking of taking part but spent my time on my part on CPC 30 years megademo instead with deadline on the same time. Maybe next (err... this) year.
Anyway, the highlight of this compo was Relentless from Axelay who is a master of creating shooters for CPC and graphics by Rex/BENG. It's another pixel perfect scrolling shooter, it plays well for a while but found it a bit difficult even if at the end there is only one final level. Another interesting technically game was TFMs Cyberhuhn which is like a remake of the classic Moorhuhn Jagd (Was this an epic distraction for ze Germans in the past? Heh, shove this to the Angry Birds procrastinating noobs, yo!). While as a game I lost my interest after some minutes, it displays some good code with several sprites at the same time, even moving on Z axis (with switching different sizes of birds, not real zooming). Not full speed thought but it is expected. I should fire this up again on my real CPC and check it. Maybe it looks more impressive or fast on a real monitor.
Personally, my most favorite game from the compo gameplay wise, one that I spent a lot of time playing even finishing again in all difficulty levels, was Puzzlo. It's like a puzzle and maze game, moving around with a spider and eating coins to finish the level, also keys and levers to open stuff. Quite good and captiviting and also easy to play. Well done! We finally have Overkoban by Tom&Jerry, a classic Sokoban clone, with great graphics, non existing animations and nice music at the menu. I can't say I played this one much, I understand there is no need for animations, could kill the flow maybe but some music on main game would be desirable to make the experience less boring. Anyway, it's well done for it's kind and I admire the graphics.
So, this is another year with another article. I am curious if I'll be still writing this in 2020 and what great things will we see till then. To be honest, I had thoughts of abandoning this series, 'cause it became a chore, a habit. I even thought that the rupture had come (BF) and there was no point anymore, everyone knows that the CPC rules now. :) But Hugi editors were quite persuasive, so here I am. It's just one article per year after all. See you next year I guess..
p.s. Oh and my resolutions for CPC? Don't know. I have some ideas. Maybe less crap than last year. There is Forever which I won't be able to visit but might do a 4k I have in mind. And I also have an unreleased music that would fit nicely in some kind of demo with my polygon rasterizer engine. I still have that unfinished Wolfenstein engine (or am I done with it since I used it?) and some desire to start some game developing, but I won't think I will be motivated for much. And maybe I will visit ReSeT, maybe. Where the CPC 30 years megademo will be released. Will see..
Links related to this article
Latest Armstrad CPC releases on Pouet.net