Official Hugi Review of The Official Eurochart
A Chartbreaking Prophet of Hugi
For more than ten years The Official Eurochart has been released for the Amiga platform. Started in 1989 by the famous Dr. Awesome of the Norwegian-based demogroup Crusaders, it quickly emerged to the number one demoscene chart on that platform. Regarded as a "Root of Inspiration" and a stimulus of competition, these EuroCharts were highly respected among the demomaking community, worldwide, not just in Europe. But every issue of The Official Eurochart released thus far has also contained a magpart, called EuroNews. It was primarily aimed to provide fresh information on who's doing what whilst it was left to the countless diskmags that existed on the Amiga in the past to publish long reports and discussions on scene philosophy.
In the current days, the Amiga scene isn't that big any more, most people left it for the PC scene, got to busy with their professional lives or became inactive for another reason. Now The Official Eurochart, which is currently releases as a co-production of the Danish groups Depth and Iris, is also the most active and one of the most popular diskmags in that small scene. Lately they've celebrated their 40th-issue anniversary.
Now a convert to the PC demo community is trying to establish a new Official Eurochart for the PC scene. It is Boo of Talent. He's a graphician and musician in one person, plus the organizer of his group, which has been active on both Amiga and PC for a long time. Recently they won the demo compo at DejaVu 2000 (so did they at last year's DejaVu, by the way). Exactly like the original creators of The Official Eurochart he originates from Norway and is now living and working in the United Kingdom. With Eurochart PC he wants to finally establish a similarly respectable, permanent charts resource. It is supposed to stimulate groups to try to make good releases, in order to achieve a high place in the EuroCharts, which is to show how popular they really are among the demomaker and demowatcher communities.
In contrast to the Amiga version of The Official Eurochart, the PC edition was planned right from the beginning to be released only as an online magazine, so that everybody has easy and fast access to it. It wasn't intended to make the mag overloaded with contents and illustrations like diskmags, so even for the people who access the Internet by phone, it would be possible to read everything online without having to pay a lot to the telecom. However, older issues will probably be available to download in an archive section in zipped state for offline browsing.
Since April everybody has had the opportunity to view a preview issue at eurochart.org, to get familiar with the concept and the layout, and to sign up in order to cast their votes. The first real issue was promised to be released in June. Like it is with almost all mags at the beginning, the preparations turned out to take a little longer than expected. But on the 20th of July, everything was ready, the subscribers to the Eurochart newsletter got an automatical mail reporting them the release, and with a mouseclick you could read the mag.
Entrance screen and intro
First a screen with a black background appears, on which there is a nice little illustration showing an apparently female cyborg. This is a modern replacement of the ordinary title picture found on diskmag. Beneath two links invite you either to run the intro, or go directly to the mag. You're also advised to use a resolution of 1024x768 pixels and ModPlug or you won't get to hear the background music made by Chromag. What isn't included but might also be worth mentioning is that your browser needs to support frames, but whose browser doesn't?
The intro was made by Facet of Lemon. and is Flash-based, so without an appropriate player you won't get to see anything. What you will see with a player is not anything ground-breaking: a thin stripe on the top of the screen in which cubes rotate and a white font on a blue-ish background announces what the new Eurochart will bring the PC scene. Quite a nice add-on, still.
As said the site uses frames, but that's only due to the little scrolly that is always displayed on the very top of the browser window, so that it doesn't have to restart when you switch the article. The scrolly tells the story of a computer freak named Ken who one day discovered a cybernoid that looked like a girl.
The actual action takes place in the lower frame. Basically there are two different layouts: one for the EuroNews part and another for everything else. Let's start with "everything else", as this will prolly be the first you'll get to see, since the Editorial belongs to it: in the top left of any text there is the Official Eurochart logo, at the right you can select the sections, and below, after a horizontal ruler, the text is displayed continously. The paragraph alignment is set to "justify", and the font used is standard or bold Verdana. The colour set, however, varies from section to section. There are also quite a few illustrations ("cliparts") embedded in the texts, which were painstakenly arranged by Optic of Talent. These two factors introduce a bit of variety into the outlook of the mag. You scroll vertically, as you're accustomed to from everyday web-surfing.
In the EuroNews this is different: you scroll horizontally. While this is common practice in diskmags, it's very strange for websites. But it works fine, at least in the major Windows-based browsers. Simply use the cursor keys or drag the horizontal scrollbar at the bottom of your screen. The text is structured in columns, of which three to four are displayed at the same time if you use the recommended solution. It must have been a hell of work to do that in HTML! In fact HTML has no special command to format a document in columns. You have to emulate columns using tables, and you have to start each and every new column manually by using the <td> command. Respect to Boo for doing that horribly exhaustive task!
60 sceners have cast their votes for the first issue of The Official Eurochart PC. That's quite a good number for starters and if the mag is accepted by the scene, I'm positive of the chance that the charts may soon become representative. Contrary to what's the case with Orange Juice and Polish chartsmags, there doesn't seem to be a particular country or group that dominates the list of voters, so it's well balanced.
In contrast to its most immediate competitor (if this term is applicable), Doose Charts, you can vote for what you want and not just for a couple of choices the editor gives you. Moreover, you must cast your votes again for each new issue of The Official Eurochart. For these two reasons, the EuroCharts are more likely to be up-to-date and cover new trends in the scene. The disadvantage is that that most people are not willing to re-enter their votes every two months and so there is the danger that the number of voters may drop after some time, like it was with the Hornet Charts.
The currently hosted charts categories are: Most Popular Demos, 64k Intros, 4k Intros, Newcomers, Demo Group Homepages, Overall Demo Groups, Coders, Graphicians, Musicians, Diskmags, Music Compilations, Slideshows, Demo Parties, Scene Countries, plus the Most Memorable Scene Personalities.
The standard categories that can be found in every diskmag are well filled, with the top 10 or 20 being listed. In other categories it seems that only a relatively little number of things have received votes. For example, the Scene Country charts lists 13 countries, the last having received just one point. Obviously this had been meant to be a top 20 charts. In the Music Compilation category, there appears even just one musicdisk! It's Stage 9. It received six points. That means, just two people voted in that category, each gave Stage 9 the first place and left the two other places blank. Amazing! Even Boo himself writes as a note that he has been surprised.
(The lack of votes for Music Compilations may partly be due to the fact that the early voting form didn't include this category, it had apparently been forgotten. When I informed Boo on this, a lot of people had already submitted their votes and probably didn't return to the voting site.)
With "Most Popular Newcomer", by the way, new demogroups are meant. I guess for most people this was not clear when they filled in the voting form. Maybe the category could be renamed into "Most Popular New Group" or something else that shows a scener at the first glance what it's all about.
So, there are still some little problems, but that's natural and they'll surely be sorted out after a few issues. Especially as the readers also become accustomed to the voting concept, it probably won't occur in the future that somebody votes for an Amiga production although the charts are dedicated only to the PC scene and things like that. (Not that you think these Amiga prods have appeared in the charts - on the contrary, Boo carefully deleted everything that didn't fit in. By the way, Boo writes he's counted the votes manually. Again, big respects for doing such exhaustive and time-consuming work!)
At the end of every year the points in the EuroCharts will be counted and the winners will be awarded virtual Scene Oscars, which have yet to be designed. Some early drafts can be found in this issue's EuroNews.
As an old Amiga scener Boo rather has contact to former Amiga guys than those in the PC demoscene who've never had that system, so, as he admits in his Editorial, the contents of this issue's EuroNews are centered on the old Amiga scene legends. But that's not bad at all. It may be a good way in order to wake up ex-sceners. In fact it was interesting to read the interviews with "scene professional" J.O.E, a former pixel artist in S!P and TRSI who made visual effects for movies such as Apollo 13, and the famous tracker LizardKing. It shows what you can make of the experience you get from your scene activities.
Apart from the interviews and three chapters of the aforementioned Ken Story scroller, EuroNews #1 contains three articles: a report about DejaVu 2000 in Leicester/UK, written by Optic, a statement concerning the use of commercial MP3s in demos, written by Boo, and a little diskmag review, written by me. The remaining texts are mainly columns: news & rumours, party calendar, production calendar (when groups are planning to release new stuff), adverts, links, a newsletter from Bjorn Lynne aka Dr. Awesome, a compo invitation, this time contributed by 4t Thieves of Soundstate and, finally, Golden Grains. This is the name of the corner for all nostalgic beings among us who want to be reminded of legendary scene productions even in a publication whose name contains the word "news". This issue covers a few pictures and tunes released in the days when the Amiga was still the leading homecomputer.
All in all...
A tried and tested concept, a fresh design, in short: a nice first issue of a magazine that has the possibility to develop and expand.
New issues are to be released bimonthly, that is, if the plans work out, you can expect a new issue in every month with an odd number. The voting deadline for The Official Eurochart PC #2 is September 5. Go and vote now if it's still time to do so!
Adok/Hugi - 20 Jul 2000