M for… Metaballs

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 :

Basic metaballs  nicely supported by a picture and taken from the Takeover  demo by Lamers. (2014)

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 1999 Suretrip demo by Checkpoint they just look smooth and gorgeous !

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These 3 pictures are here to help you figure out how cells merge together. Of course it would be way better in full motion, that is the reason why a video excerpt awaits you at the bottom of this page 🙂

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 offence 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 !

Awesome metaballs with awesome graphics ! (2007)

With Suretrip II (2009) 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 !

Three nicely staged metaballs !

For a short time I wasn’t sure whether I should or not include 1999 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 end part even comes with a distortion effect !

Looks great, moves great and even sounds great courtesy of musician Tao. I just love it !

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 (2014). 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.

I am afraid this screenshot looks a bit confused….

Before moving on with some videos, let’s add that I didn’t forget to mention Checkpoint‘s 2015 amazing Pulse demo released 2015 but the whole demo is so great that it deserved a coup de coeur ! As for demonstration, let’s start with the great metaballs that can be seen in 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 :

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