Welcome to the English version of my French blog. This is the right place to have some fun while learning about Atari ST demos ! Click the 3 round icons right above to learn more about demos, the author of this blog and find the full listing of the demos mentioned here. An alphabetical menu is also available on the upper right corner of this screen by the way. Enjoy and feel free to comment of course !
It is hard to give you a definition of that effect called keftales, nor can I tell you about its origin indeed. All I know is that it is another pretty old effect such as shadebobs, vectorballs or dots and so on. They look like geometric shapes, often related to squares or circles, that endlessly change colors therefore creating a mesmerizing effect.
Technically speaking I don’t think that coding keftales is difficult, the real challenge tho is creating a fast and smooth effect. No piece of cake !
For instance in the Dreams demo by Animal Mine you can find keftales but they are terribly slow… Luckily enough the rest of the demo is pretty nice. You can also find several kinds of keftales in the Mathematica demo by Aura and even tho they are quite slow too they show enough variety to let us forgive the lack of speed :
Let’s speak the truth here : yes by nature keftales tend to repeat fast enough, besides their mesmerizing shapes can me you feel dizzy fast as well🙂. This is why I think they should not be displayed too long or even seen too often in demos.
However coders can play with shapes, patterns or colors so that we can still be amazed by new kinds of keftales such as the very nice ones that can be found in the Systematic Error and Cozmic Jam demos by Imagina :
Our latest example comes from the Scene Before demo by Stax in which you can witness fast keftales with great colors and quite an original point of view. Besides it goes fast enough so that you won’t even have time to feel bored with that effect.
Keftales sure look nice with their candy like colors, crazy shapes and all of this changing color endlessly but I don’t miss them to be honest. They became out of fashion long time agoand were they to be featured in new demos then coders would need to find another way to display them. Let’s hope someone has a great idea tho, it could be nice seeing them back under another way.
Let’s move on with some videos, this one taken from the Mathematica demo :
Followed by the Systematic Error demo :
Ending with the best of one in the Scene Before demo :
1992-93 were great years for the Atari ST reaching a climax of demos both technical and very stylish. As it happens, some of them have already been highlighted in another coup de coeur, such as the Flip’O démo or Synergy’s megademo. It cannot be a coincidence !🙂 Ironically this time also rang the bell of the end of an era with many bands leaving for other platforms or better horizons….
Anyway Froggies Over The Fence was the last demo produced by 3 French democrews : St Connexion, Legacy and Overlanders. They worked together on their swansong and as a result they gave us a huge demo spread over 3 floppies (you know what a floppy is at last ?🙂 featuring 4 totally different and independent parts. Even today this demo remains a true milestone in Atari ST demos !
The first part features a huge pack of demos effects of all kinds : 3D objects, distorters, dots, plasma, zooms, rotozooms, bobs, scrollers and also a sequence with pictures changing shape, maybe my fave part as it implied graphics from a dozen different people. To put it in a nutshell this part is incredibly rich and very stylish at the same time ! It is about 10 minutes long and fully enjoyable from the beginning to the end !
The second part is a short and classic demo in which you will find a lot of fashionable effects of that time, yet thanks to nice pictures, great design and a perfect choice of colors (don’t laugh, it can ruin a very nice demo !) it is also a very pleasant show.
But don’t think it is over yet as now comes a story told thru 3D sequences, something unseen in the early 90s. Quite impressive ! This could have been the introduction of a commercial game with any doubt !
The third part is a huge music collection, maybe a hundred (or hundreds ?) chiptunes composed by one of my favourite ST musicians, Jess of democrew Overlanders ! I don’t think I am wrong when I write that actually ALL tunes composed by him on Atari ST are gathered here ! Oh and by the way there is a nice Tetris game to keep you entertained while you listen to music.
The fourth and last part is a picture gallery but not your everyday gallery ! It features pictures created on more powerful computers, in other words PCs, that are displayed with thousands of colors instead of the 16 colors limitation bound to the Atari ST. Please note that the video doesn’t look as good as the original because of a nasty flickering effect that doesn’t show on the Atari ST. Anyway it is a wonderful show supported by a soundtrack of high quality ! All in all this is the perfect ending to an already amazing demonstration !
A donut cannot really be seen as an effect as it is mostly a shape, more precisely it is an object in 3D that looks like a donut (yup, you know the sugar thing). Then up to coders to decide what coding method they are going to use to display our donut : it can be filled with plain colors, mapping or gouraud, environment mapping and so on. By the way this object is officially referred to under the name of torus but it may sound a bit too serious in this article.
Anyway time to meet your first non-eatable donut🙂
As far as I know we had to wait until 1997-98 before we could see the first donut in an Atari ST demo. Obviously I am talking about the above screenshot taken from the Reanimation demo by Syntax. Since I couldn’t find any video I am mostly relying on my memories and here they tell me that this object was moving pretty slowly and not smoothly at all, yet it was a premiere as no one had dared produce such a complex object before (while you could already find trillions of them on PC).
I guess this can explain why there are so few donut effects out there. Well some people tried to code some such as the example found in the Amok demo by Confusions. Technically speaking this effort can be considered as old as Syntax’s.
But… Yes there is a big « but » with this donut… Soon enough it was said to be nothing more than an animation, in other words a fully precalculated sequence simply replayed like a video. Indeed democrew Checkpoint made fun of it, hacking the demo and making it an ASCII effect, that is to say an effect only made of letters and numbers.🙂
Back to the real thing with the donut created by Dead Hackers Society as a guest screen to their own Summer 2001 demo. Sure it isn’t so smooth but nicely chosen colors make it a pleasant effect. Besides, even tho I am not 100%sure, I would say that this donut comes with environment mapping. The only minor side is – in my humble opinion – that this donut seems a bit flat (get back to the previous screenshots to make your own opinion).
In 2003 democrew Checkpoint pushed the donut effect into the next level with a demonstration both stylish and technical. In the Posh demo we are offered an environment mapping donut that goes rotating while the background picture morphs into another picture. Do you want some more ? Then wait a little longer and you’ll see our donut reflect in the background, showing dozens of mirrored clones. Not to forget that this awesome screen is supported by a great tune composed by musician 505.
There are a few goals to meet if you want to have a more than decent donut : first you have to be able to display enough polygons to make look consistent, secondly you need to make it move more or less smoothly (the more the better) and last but not least you have to make do with the limited palette of the Atari ST (only 16 colors at once). Harder than it reads !
Actually we were not offered any donut from 2003 to 2011… We had to be patient until a small demo called Natrium by Rave Network Overscan was released, featuring a very nice looking effect as you can see by yourself right below :
Out latest example is the donut that appears in the ending part of the Muda demo by Live! Ironically these last examples both come from small sized productions, namely 96Kb limited demos, as if suddenly it was easy to code a donut (besides needless to say that with such size restriction it cannot be an animation).
Let’s conclude with a few video excerpts, starting with the donut to be found in the Summer 2001 demo :
We cannot miss the technical feat offered with the Posh demo :
Last but not least, let’s taste the delicious donut from the Muda demo :
For once I am going to write about an effect whose name is clear enough ! Indeed what I would call by the name of chessboard seems most of the time referred to under the similar name of checker board. Never mind, all that matters is that you fancy a surface made of black and white squares. Did I forget to add that this « carpet » is always moving either from the left to the right or from the front to the background (or the other way round) ?
This is indeed a very old effect born with the very first demos on Atari ST, that is to say in the 80s ! Come to think about it I wouldn’t say that the checker board is a real effect. Oh sure it is born from programming but it is seldom alone on the screen, it is more like a background effect, here to set a « frame » in which other effects will evolve. As it is, the checker board plays that role perfectly !
This first example taken from the mythical Cuddly Demo by The Carebears shows how a nice checker board can make the difference ! Even tho it is clearly very « oldschool » looking it still looks great. Here the main attraction comes from the red vectorballs and the additional text shaken by a distorter effect.
This superb screenshot comes from the Cosmic Demo demo by The Watchmen and I have to confess that I have recently found out about this production ! And what a nice surprise this was with two very colorful checker boards with nice vectorballs ! This screen is simply awesome even tho I can clearly say that I’m being a bit biased here.🙂
The checker board that can be seen in the Ventura demo by the Overlanders – yet coming as a guest part coded by the guys of Naos – is another example with a nice logo, a scroller, a moving background that scrolls upward and objects made of dots. All in one, another very nice looking screen ! In my humble opinion even an old effect can look good as as longs as coders and graphicians work together on new and stylish ideas.
As years passed on, especially in the 90s when demos focused on design, the checker board changed skin and was used in new ways as can ben seen in the World of Wonders demo by Dune and Fantasy. Here it goes distorting frantically !
In the short but fast paced Alive demo by Zeal, the checker board becomes part of the background to the end scroller and is displayed like a rotozoom (sort of as it doesn’t zoom). It shows once again, as if needed, that it fully plays its role as an adornment.
The checker board to be found in the Humeur Vitrée demo by Hemoroids isn’t quite as peaceful as this time it does go zooming like mad ! This variation can be found in a couple of demos but it is a bit too « fast and furious » to me and I really like the good old checker board better. Anyway you will find a video excerpt at the bottom of this page that will help you fancy how it looks like.🙂
To speak the truth I prefer the variation seen in other demos such as Necrosys, still by Hemoroids. It is more a combination of a zoom and a checker board yet it is a colorful and slower way of seeing things that turns more pleasant than my previous example.
This effect has been seen so many times over the last decades that it can hardly amaze us anymore. Yet it still appears in modern demos, mixed up with other effects and often displayed on larger areas of the screen, what is commonly called overscan. We have been give several nice examples as can be seen in the Appendix demo and in the Drone demo both by Dead Hackers Society.
A checkerboard can only be fully appreciated when moving so let’s have a look at some excepts starting with a tribute to some pioneers of the 80s, namely The Carebears with the famous Cuddly Demo :
Feeling dizzy ? Then don’t watch that video of Humeur Vitree by Hemoroids !
Let’s keep rocking with the huge zooming checker board from the Drone demo by Dead Hackers Society :
A last excerpt with the checker board marking the credits sequence of the Alive demo by Zeal :
Gouraud is the name of a filling method used with objects in 3D. It is not mapping, nor bumpmapping or even environment mapping, it is simply something… different. If you want a technical explanation, then go for it here. But let me try to explain it with simple words.🙂
Gouraud shading appeared in the 90s, a few years after the first objects in 3D and naturally before all other techniques listed above. It consists in filling an object with dithered colors – or a rainbow-like palette if you prefer – hence creating some sort of depth. As the object comes closer it looks brighter and on the contrary it will look darker as it goes away. Of course these are mere words and applying such method isn’t so easy. I guess this may explain why there are so few examples of this brilliant effect :
As far as I know the 2 screenshots right below show the first appearance of this effect on Atari ST courtesy of democrew Electronic Images :
As this effect requires as many colors as possible and since the humble Atari ST can only display 16 colors at once gouraud shaded objects used to be shown alone on screen. Luckily enough if you chose the right colors the object looked good enough to catch all your attention.🙂
We had to wait for the new millennium to see a handful of brave coders dare face the challenge again for our greatest pleasure ! I cannot but mention the very nice Hallucinations demo by Reservoir Gods that managed for the very first time to mix gouraud and pictures (moreover animated ones !).
Democrew Paradox also gave a try at gouraud in 2010 with their Sventure demo but I have to admit that this is not my favourite example : first because you will only meet cubes and secondly because they all wear the same colors. Yet we can appreciate that the background features a nice picture even tho it is shown in black and white.
The same comment works with the latest appearances of gouraud that can be found in a screen from the Posh demo and in another one taken from the Suretrip 2, demo both created by Checkpoint. Undoubtedly very technical screens but I don’t like neither their colors nor their overall design…
I wish I could see new objects shaded with gouraud on condition that they look as good as these seen in Hallucinations. Without design they are just technical effects. I could simply do with the formula « object + picture » but I know that coders can still amaze us !
Let me show you some videos now starting with the beautiful show offered in the Hallucinations demo :
On with the gouraud spheres that mix together in the Posh demo :
And we end with the technical feat seen in the Suretrip II demo that shows an animation and several gouraud shaded objects. Even tho I don’t like the colors I have to recognize that on a technical point of view this is truly amazing !
As I start writing about metaballs I am perfectly aware that I may miss technical knowledge and I hope you will excuse me for any silly thing that I may write here. If you are a coder please feel free to get in touch and help me correct my mistakes.
That being said, let’s try to describe this effect : think about 2 maybe 3 cells (living cells) moving all around the screen and merging together every time they collide. Basically here is what it looks like :
You don’t often see metaballs on old and limited computers such as the Atari ST but on PC they would be like your everyday bread or so ! However when it has a chance to prove what it is worth the Atari does things the right way, provided you only display a couple of metaballs and use the right colors too. See the following screenshots to see what I mean. In the Suretrip demo by Checkpoint they just look smooth and gorgeous !
As you can see by yourself, there is a huge difference between the first example which is pretty small and almost reduced to black and white and this one (no offense meant to authors). This makes me think that creating metaballs requires high coding skills and that may be the reason why this effect is not so common in our demos. As you will keep on reading you will indeed see that there are not so many known examples of metaballs.
Ironically the awesome metaballs seen right below are coming from unreleased screens or at least screens that were released « as is », namely not linked together into a full demo. What a shame as their author, Gloky of democrew MJJ Prod is definitely a very talented coder !
With Suretrip II Defjam, the wiz coder of democrew Checkpoint, brings a lot of new things to this effect : more depth and colors, some distortion, a background picture and a screen that moves vertically ! In other words, if we liked his previous vision of metaballs we clearly love the latest one !
For a short time I wasn’t sure whether I should or not include the Madness demo by Cream in here. Yet I am 99% sure these are actually metaballs that you can see in their demo. Another sure thing is that their demonstration is awesome and this endpart even comes with a distortion effect !
We will close up on this topic coming back once again to Checkpoint who improved again their vision of metaballs in their latest demo, Thunderdome. This time we are offered 3D metaballs ! To be honest this screen shows that our small Atari ST lacks power to bring a smooth animation. As a consequence this is clearly not my favorite example yet I couldn’t ignore it.
As always it is time for some videos, starting with the great metaballs that can be seen iin the Suretrip demo :
Next we move onto Gloky‘s screen :
Stop for a while to admire the bright metaballs by Cream :
And finally we have a look at the new version of metaballs as can be found in Suretrip II :
It is pretty easy to understand what a jelly effect looks like. Take an object, most of the time a cube or a sphere and think of it as if it was made of… jelly (or jam ?). Now drop something onto it and watch it shake like mad ! I’m pretty sure you’ve got the image right now. Of course it may remind you of dragonballs yet you would be wrong as these spheres always come with stars on them ! Don’t confuse jelly with rubber cubes either since the latest are more like twisting than shaking.🙂
The funny thing and real interest of this effect lies in the physical reactions of the cube. Of course if all the jelly effects were just the same, they would soon prove boring. Fortunately this effect is often combined with others so that you can always think of a new or original way to present it :
Nowadays, the jelly effect has vanished yet I like the way you can use it and show it with other effects so that I am wondering why no coder has tried to create an innovative version of it. Is it that hard to apply jelly to other shapes than cubes and circles ? We may never know…
Whatever, now that you perfectly know what I mean, it is time to show you a couple of video excerpts first with that nicely introduced bouncing cube taken from the World of Wonders demo by New Power Generation :
Let’s conclude with the Exhaust demo by ACCS and The End who tell us the adventures of a small ball bouncing onto a grid then a jelly cube🙂 If you ask me I would say that I would have rather enjoyed full shapes instead of wireframe but it’s no big deal…