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 !
Ah let’s talk about the menu ! Even tho nowadays it has become utterly obsolete, there was a time when it was the central and main part of a demo. But we need to roll back in time, back to the 80s and early 90s, when most releases were megademos, namely productions made of several screens that were independent and not linked to each other neither code-wise nor design-wise. Some screens were even coded by other crews invited to contribute. As a consequence coders had to think up a screen (what we would call a « hub ») from which you could choose your destination. That was when the first menu appeared. This is indeed a « graphic interface » that allows to select the screen to be loaded.🙂
Of course each demo crew could make up they own menu : from a mere text box with a cursor to select a choice to a colorful and moving screen and so on… Demo crews challenged each other to give us the best looking menu !
The example shown above is what you could expect to find in a typical menu, namely a character that you could control, making him move from one door to another. Here is for instance the menu that welcomes you in the Dark Side of the Spoon demo by Unlimited Matricks.
Here indeed the menu is displayed in overscan and if not enough, let’s add that it comes with sampled sound making it an impressive feat for the humble Atari ST ! Design-wise… Hmm it’s another matter that I will rather no comment on.🙂
Even tho it is still a very classic kind of menu I like the Nostalgic’O demo main part by Oxygene a lot more ! Here you will make a robot-like character move all around a sort of base. Nothing special but the graphics and colors are really polished !
Let’s end with the classic menus with maybe the best looking of them all. Taken from the Just Buggin’ demo by ACF it is rich with colors and graphics and could easily make you think you are actually playing a video game ! Unfortunately the demo screens themselves are quite average and won’t be remembered…
Yet all menus do not show like these ones or viewers would soon enough feel bored to death. As a matter of fact in the Ooh crikey wot a scorcher demo by The Lost Boys you are handling a space ship flying over a fractal landscape (in other words « in 3D »), in search of the various screens. A straight to the point menu can be used tho.🙂
In the Anomaly demo by Mjj Prod you will be offered a true playground in which you will make a ball roll in the tradition of good old games like Marble Madness.🙂 It’s two in one : first a megademo and then a game !
In the self titled Synergy‘s demo it’s a stunning mapped cube that you will spin to choose a specific screen. It’s big, colorful, technical and awesome ! You can find this demo in one of my coups de coeur by the way.
Our last example comes from a major demo as far as menus are concerned. I am of course referring to the huge Phaleon Gigademo launched by NeXT. This mega-production gathered more than a dozen demo crews and offers FOUR, yes four, different menus from a simple but nice looking text box until menus that look like well-known games such as Shadow of the Beast and Dungeon Master.
In the middle of the 90s, demos evolved and started linking screens to each other, adding transitions, hence making demos a lot smoother and (in my humble opinion) more consistent as a whole. As a consequence a menu was not needed any more and so it just faded away…
Time to close the door on a glorious past with some videos starting with Dark Side of the Spoon :
Then with the gorgeous menu in Just Buggin :
We keep rolling with Anomaly :
And we end with the trip offered by Ooh Crikey Wot A Scorcher :
Democrew Dead Hackers Society has been around for more than two decades already and even tho their lineup has changed constantly, we can say that a single man has always been there, standing faithfully. His nickname is Evil, a very talented coder who is also responsible for the mighty website dedicated to the Atari, the HQ of Atari lovers : DHS !
Time to pay a worth tribute to a band that never ceased pushing the limits further on so many Atari computers from the ST to the Falcon not to forget the Atari STe ! Given the many demos this band has already delivered I guess you may already be familiar with the name that is mentioned quite often in other articles from this blog.
Since I had to pick up a peculiar demo for this coup de coeur, I decided to choose Moving Into Darkness, released in 2003. This is undoubtedly one of my all time favorite demo from that band even tho it’s a matter of taste as you may read a few lines below.🙂
What I like in the first place about this demo is the dark atmosphere that surrounds it. It is slow paced, gothic inspired and sometimes reminds me of the artwork of artist Giger, tpo put it in a nutshell : I love it all ! By the way this band created another demo with even darker atmosphere called Drone that I also like a lot even tho I can reckon everyone won’t share my odd tastes.🙂
I also love the music composed by highly talented musician 505 from the first bleeping notes. All along the show you will also be able to enjoy the many pictures painted by C-Rem. Last but not least this dream team is completed by Gizmo and Evil a duet of very talented coders !
Let’s get straight to the point : I think this demo is perfect from the beginning till the end. This production was also very important in the history of Atari demos as it features a lot of effects based upon environment mapping. Not only it is a premiere but also a fully mastered exercise ! One screen even bumpmapping resulting in a superb effect (see middle picture right below) !
One of my favorite moment is undoubtedly that sort of rotating golden pillar, even tho from what Evil told me it would actually be nothing more than some sort of a tunnel ! All I know is that it is simply amazing !
The whole show lasts a bit more than 6 minutes divided into 2 of similar quality that is to say top notch ! Your eyes and ears will be pleasantly fed and you will never get bored. A pure black jewel, dark and intense !
Time for the freak show with a video showing the demo from the very start :
And another one that only starts from the second part :
Spline is not really the name of an effect but more of a shape. A bit like the donut, this effect can indeed be displayed in different ways : it can be made of dots, bobs, cubes, lines and so on. As for its shape, it’s nothing but a curve calculated from a mathematical formula and I hope you will forgive me for this easy shortcut.🙂 But have a look at it by yourself right below :
In my humble opinion the real difficulty doesn’t come from creating a spline as you « only » need to apply a mathematical formula. Yet a basic spline won’t be enough to keep viewers entertained. Coders and graphicians have to come up with good ideas in order to put this effect on stage as good as possible.
The screenshot above comes from the Ecstasy demo by ICE and even if the presentation is basic, the spline is pretty complex and made of thousands of dots. You need to see it move to appreciate its true beauty !
One thing is sure with demo crew Dune : style is never forgotten ! The spline shown right above and taken from the Paradise demo features a mirror effect, motion blur and last but not least an awesome looking logo. Perfect !
More kudos go to Dune for this other example of a spline moving frantically while trapped into a rotating square. Once again the flawlessness of that screen taken from the Faith makes it a very pleasant effect.
Demo crew Dead Hackers Society gave us their vision of splines in the Appendix demo with a curve made of an awful lot of dots AND a vertically moving background. Maybe not the best looking result yet quite impressive.
Seemingly both demo crews Dune and Sector One love splines as several of their demos feature that effect. Yet I won’t say I dislike the idea since they always come with new visions and original design. Their latest demo called Antiques won’t go against that statement. For most of it, that demo only uses shades of grey and it brings the whole thing a very unique style that I truly love !
As I hopefully showed you, this effect, born maybe two decades ago, can wear many forms, according either to the coders skills or to ideas of graphicians. Thanks to these many « faces » this effect can still appear in modern demos and look gorgeous. To speak the truth I cannot wait until we meet another kind of spline in the forthcoming demos !🙂
Then with the Antiques demo I just told you about :
And for our last excerpt we stay with Dune, in collaboration with Sector One, who offer us two very original variations of a spline ! The first one is somehow seen as if it was displayed in 3D (or better said with depth) and it looks stunning !
The second spline may actually not be a real spline (well it depends on the curve and if it follows the mathematical formula mentioned at the beginning of this article) yet I LOVE it as it is a lovely ending sequence to the UFO, I want to believe demo. Sorry if I am out of topic here but I will bear my responsibilities.🙂
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 :