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Reviews By Booze
by HCL/Booze Design & Jailbird/Booze Design

DEMO REVIEW: "INSOMNIA" BY 64EVER

"Insomnia" was first shown at X2001, where it got 2nd place after "Soiled Legacy". I wasn't there to watch it (which is a shame itself) but according to the makers of the demo, it wasn't yet in a releasable state. From time to time I have been really annoyed at 64ever for not releasing their demo, even though I have committed the same crime myself once. If you read the note of this demo, you may share some of their thoughts after X2001 and the great disappointment it must have been for them. I can almost forgive them, because I know the feelings from own experience (Oh, the C64-scene is such a sensitive place to be... ;)). However, the fact that the demo was shown at a party and then the actual release was heavily delayed, is normally considered to be a sign of bad scene behaviour.

The whole tragedy at the party encourages my own principal; never ever have a deadline for a demo. Just think of it, if you have worked with some stuff for let's say two years. Why then show a half-finished crappy-looking version of it to the public, instead of waiting another 6 months and release the finished demo right away? And for Heaven's sake, the scene won't die before your demo gets released.

Over to the topic. This demo has an extremely fresh design, which in my opinion only can be compared with "Soiled Legacy" and "Deus ex Machina" in present time. There are many other very well designed demos out there, like "Altered States" and of course "Dutch Breeze" and so on, but this demo falls into a new category where the code and the graphics somehow melts together in a graceful symbiosis. In this new way of making demos, the coder is helpless alone. Unless you have the capability of coding very well, as well as doing very good design (and those are very few), I think you have to work very closely together as coder(s) and designer(s). This very much applies to the music as well, for that matter, which is just as well fitting as everything else.

This is really one demo, one piece of art which lasts from the beginning to the very end. Everything is custom made, the music is custom made for the code, the graphics made for the music, and the code made for the music, and around and around. Somewhere in the note I read that Raven (the main coder) hates black empty screens, and when I think of it I can only remember one black screen which stays for about 2 seconds, that's it. The intro sequence, where this girl gets sucked up by the emulator :), is followed up by a number of parts having the same girl in one or another way as design element. Simply great! The tempo is quite moderate, not too high, but perhaps a bit slow sometimes.

Since there is no such thing as a perfect demo, I have to complain about a few things here as well. The first thing I'd like to mention is the music. As mentioned before it's custom made and sort of reflects what happens in the demo. This is not only positive because the music doesn't have that much body as Vip's tunes has had before. The sound is rather fat with low base and so on, but the lead sound is too yelly and there is hardly any melody at all in it. Sounds a bit like those techno-tunes we've heard all too much. I like the music he made for "Royal Arte" much better, however techno-tunes seem to be preffered in demos like this one.

The graphics is generally well designed. Vip complains about his absent ability to paint backgrounds, and I'm attempted to agree with that but modifying the contents of it: he is mostly using very few colors. That makes big contrasts in-between the pixels, and less nice to watch. The first effect, the small rot-zoomer lens, is perhaps the worst example since it's in 4-color mode (because of the effect). Just check out the palette: black, dark blue, cyan (!) and white. Impressing. ;) Also there is no difference in brightness of the foreground objects and the background. On other places, white, cyan and dark grey are commonly used for very unsmooth shading. Hmm... But over all it's a great work done here, just imagine designing all those pictures, and then paint them as well. You could put some more effort on the details, but you would probably need to spend the 100 hours I usually need for one fullscreen bitmap, on ten pictures.

Considering the code, a huge work has obviously been done here. Over all it shows off some great skills so if you find the following text negative, it's mostly about details however enough important to be mentioned. The better code, the more complainments, rite? Raven, the main coder, seems to be badly lost into the rot-zoomers. Nothing wrong with that except that he doesn't seem to bother that his routines run at about 3-4 frame rate. This applies to the big rot-zoomer and the tunnel, smooth enough for some people but not for me... And I probably wouldn't complain about this if he didn't mention in the note that his rot-zoomer is faster than others. It's not really interesting it it's faster or slower than anything else if it runs at such a low speed. Further there are two vector parts which very much remind of each other. I would appreciate to put them together in one part with different object since they are so alike. Let it be that the balls are blue and white, even though it's not nice to me.

None of the parts are technically very hard to do, perhaps except for the sideborder sprite multiplexers which are always a big mess. :) There isn't any part that makes you wonder how the f**k it is made, but that's also quite rare these days. Most effects have been made before in comparable speed or amount of plots or whatever. In some parts it's more the performance that is considered, like the rot-zoomer and tunnel already mentioned. You don't get impressed by the performance here either. It's hard to make such routines faster though, so let's just say it's normal speed as we have seen it before. It's all simply well done and looks good so perhaps I should be more impressed than I tell here, but I am a coder myself, you know... a real Diva! ;)

OK, and further I wonder what all this shit about emulators is all about. The intro sequence is still good looking, but the message that emulators suck is somewhat weak. It's getting even weaker considering that this demo is one of the harder ones I have experienced when it comes to running on real hardware. The first thing that happens, when I run the demo on my good old C-128, is that I get told that I'm "...attempting to run this demo on an emulator..." Very annoying. The driver test fails (so does the demo of course), which perhaps is myself to blame since I've only got a 1541-"compatible", which on the other hand has proved to work fine on 99% of all the wares out there. When I downloaded the files (from The Demo Dungeon) there was also a tutorial of how to transfer the demo to disks, using zip-packs. Of course it didn't change my situation but it certainly shows that I'm not the only one who has had problems to get it work on the *real thing*.

No matter if you like emulators, but especially if you dislike them, you should make the demo easily runnable on the real C-64. This time it's really like the dog bites himself in his tail. You can read in the note how anxious the demo is about the right hardware, and that the demo probably won't run correctly on emulators. I get the feeling that Raven has really had quite some problems himself to make this run on the real hardware, could it be the truth? The aim to detect emulator use has clearly made the demo less usable on real hardware, while I've had no problem whatsover watching it on emu. Suck! Wether or not I should blame myself for not having an original 1541 is still an open question. My suggestion: don't bother too much about emulator or other things, just make it work. That's exactly what Raven also writes in the note, but I get the feeling that it was just a wish of his.

Finally, despite some minor compatibility bugs, this is the best demo to be released for a long time. It looks new and fresh, and in case you haven't seen it yet you should do that right away. I really hope to see more demos like this one, it's a good mix of what often is called "oldschool" and "newschool" on the C64. Also it has the ability to impress even those who don't know shit about the C64, as well as deep freaks like myself. Let me just steal the last words: Thumbs up! :)

Epilogue: The v1.1 with a fixed loader is out now, but still not working. Raven has a somewhat childlish way of approaching this issue. He claims that the code was not wrong, it's the diskdrives that are bad. That's about as stupid as complaining about the malfunctional blitter on the C64 (there isn't one). It's YOU who have to deal with the hardware, not the other way around! I checked the loader and I certainly found a bunch of more or less incompatible code there like illegal ops and storing data to the system memory areas, as well as lame texts bidding me not to look into the code. Grow up, we're not in the 80's! To end this whole story, I found what was the problem in the loader and fixed it. (Some illegal ops this time. To all out there: DON'T USE ILLEGAL OPS IN THE DISKDRIVE!!!) Finally I could run it and the only new I found was some sprite-bugs in the upper border and so on. Gosh, I almost thought I would have to complete this review without having seen the show on the real C64 (!). Scary!!!

HCL/BOOZE DESIGN

OUT OF ORDERIA 2002 GRAPHICS COMPO
(www.murphys-world.de/cbm/partyevents_ooo2002/ooo2002.zip)

Errm. This was one of the weakest graphics-compo I've seen so far.

"Bodenkammer" by Scorpe (10.):

Probably a funpic, or else I'm deeply shocked by this childlish picture. No, I'll never realise people spending valuable time for producing real crap instead of doing something sensible. And anyway it's a re-release, as it's slightly modified version that competed on a party before.

"Buu ist cool" by CB (9.):

Same here, although some shadings were present, which talks about a bit higher pixelling knowledge.

"Joygirls" by MAC (4. - shared):

"The following picture contains nude comic-figures!!! If you are easily offended by that, simply leave the room, close your eyes or fuck off!!!" - says the intro screen.

I'm pretty sure I'd never feel offended by nude comic-figures. Arrogance, floppy talent and child porn (wether it is manga cartoon or anything else) tough, deserves castration and high hanging. Gosh I wonder how these brainfucks get into the scene. Neither I'll realise how this picture finished on a 4th place.

"Herr Rossi findet sein Glueck" by Bugjam (2.):

Party funpic, consequently cartoon styled. Strange antialiasing but pretty good colouring, -sadly- without any shadings. My overall impression is flat all in all as I'm really not into such motives.

"Maennerbildung" by Murphy (7.):

Ehm, this picture is as original as Lou Bega's mambo jumbo. The joke we're dealing on this picture is based on those pathetic male-chauvinist giggles. Basically you can see a dictionary of "Women to German" and inversely. Yep, I've had a huge laugh. *sigh*

This is my dream" by Dejuhra (4. - shared):

One of the better pieces on this compo. And of course another toony movie presenting a dancing girl with Eastern motives around her. The shading is quite good on the main character, but the background is to forget.

"Murphy's new toy" by Murphy (3.):

Citroen AX? This picture would suit well in "Test Drive" rather than a compo. Still, it's well pixelled, nice shadings are done, especially on the car's front. I miss the antialiasing here and there, and the pic lacks of dithering, so it looks too "plastic".

"War is hell" by Exile (4. - shared):

Spaceships, planets, blonde chick, tears. All that in a toony way, without a bit of antialiasing and strange colouring. Not bad, but I've seen better stuff from Exile before.

"Wir Kiffen" by Dejuhra (8.):

Copy and paste here my review for "Bodenkammer".

"Big Thing" by Exin (1.):

With respecting the effort that was put into this picture I'd say it's a well deserved first place. It's a fullscreen hi-res piccy with interlaced parts on it. The joke which is based on a misunderstanding between the two characters actually made me smyle, the motive is however too strange for my taste. Well done, a plus for experimenting with a non usual graphicsmode.

TUM 2002 GRAPHICS COMPO
(ftp.padua.org/pub/c64/parties/2002/tum_c64.zip)

"Back to the Tree" by Leon:

I was very surprised to see a non-Vallejo, non-scrolling, interlaced picture from one of the most active pixellers of the year 2002. This laced multicolour picture shows a woman, a tree and a moon that's having a reflection on a watery surface. Obviously, Leon gets better every time he grabs a joystick to pixel, but his most visible mistakes are still the lights, the non-realistic colouring that was intended to be realistic, and the weak composition - which were much more hidden on his scrolling pictures. The tree looks way too two-dimensional and I bet no woman has a neck like this one, neither the leaf looks so "separated" naturally. The logo is nice but seems unnecessary to me, as it's a compo picture I believe. The anathomy of the face is all in all well done, personally I'd avoid long transitions solved with alligned dithering and the usage of red between orange and brown is neither too fine when colouring normal skin, this way it looks like "burned" (so just a pinch of red please, it will look better for sure!). Anyhow, this is a very fine picture, thumbs up for Leon!

"Spacesail" by Dwangi:

What we can see is a ship in front of mountains and two saturn-like planets on the upper side of the screen. Just as on Leon's picture, the 3d-effect pixelling isn't implemented to perfect. Especially the planets look like they're just some feets away from the ship (I doubt, but if they're intended to look that way, I'm sorry!). The waves look static somehow, and have a different lightning than the other characters on the composition. The flickering is not reduced to minimum, it lacks both antialiasing and smoother transitions, however it isn't fatal, I've seen much worse flickerings in my life. Not my kind of motif but at least it is original. Way to go, Dwangi.

"Pic" by Joe:

Too much of my sadness, I'm just too straight-minded to realise the meaning of this picture. A spiral built up from cubes, and another spiral coming out from its center. However, I'm shocked by the technical side of the picture. Simply unbelievable how one can pixel such transparent-effects. The colouring is typical Joeish - briefly: very dirty but well arranged. Well, I'll probably never appreciate the avantgarde-like stuff on C64, but somehow I'm still amazed by this piece.

FYANICA #9 (2003) GRAPHICS COMPO
(singularcrew.hu/news/download/fya9-c64.zip)

"Kiss This" by Leon:

And just when I thought Leon finally headed in the right way after TUM 2002, and decided to keep away from handing over demos, featuring NC&D (Naked Chicks & Dragons) for the graphics compos, here he goes wild again with a horizontally scrolling 800x200 multicolour full of fantasy motives. I'd save my "wow!" this time, as I am quite fulfilled with pictures that are made only to amaze people that know shit about C64 pixelling. The artistic value is on a ridiculously low level, not to mention the composition that consists of five separated pictures connected with coulourfades (kinda like Rayden's joke from last year's Mekka). The colouring (errm, green - mid. grey - purple or green - mid. grey - lgt. grey - lgt. red - lgt. blue - purple transitions) is a mess, even if it seems that it was intended to be revolutionary. Valsary's influence is obvious, but there is still a lot to learn from that Polish artist. And let me credit the coder Soci/Singular, as he made a fab scrolling routine, I wonder when will people realise that these stuff belong to the demo-compo?

"Bullet 80%" by Poison:

Even though unfinished, this picture is much more attractive than the compo-winner. I believe its Poison's self protray where being frightened by a bullet in a "Matrix"-kind of way. A quite funny multicolour piece, but a pity it's not lead to end. Clearly shows the high pixelling-skills of Poison.

JAILBIRD/BOOZE DESIGN

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