Nordic Scene Review 04
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Nordic Scene Review #4: The Dry Season
Nordic Scene Review #4: The Dry Season [Puterman] The best thing about having your own diskmag is that you can push your opinions down people's throats in a much more efficient way than you can on some silly web forum or on a blog. A few C-64 related review blogs have been started recently. It might sound like a good idea, but I can't say I'm impressed. It just feels too damn simple and artificial. The real medium for reviewing C-64 productions is a diskmag, which you put on a real disk and run on your C-64. That's the way I like it anyway. I much rather read the crap in Scene World or Arachnophobia than more well formulated and insightful stuff on a blog. By tradition, C-64 releases don't need external players. If you make a tune, you attach code that plays it, and if you release a picture, you make it runnable as well. With the Sidcompos, it's another story. The tunes are released as [PR]SID files. If you want to know what they sound like on an actual C-64, you can download recordings of them. This is absolutely fine with me, but it's not like I'm going to be fooled into believing that it's a C-64 compo. Sure, you can convert the files to C-64 executables, or play them with a SID player for the C-64, but why would I want to go through all that hassle to be able to listen to a shitload of tunes that'll probably bore the hell out of me? Converting the sid files to runnable C-64 files with PSID64 in the last minutes doesn't exactly impress me either. According to CreaMD, the tunes are supposed to be played on real C-64s. That purpose would be served much better if the tunes were actually distributed in a format suitable for running on a C-64. This compo is mostly of interest to the people in the SID subscene, where the tunes are never intended to be included in C-64 productions. To me, this is just uninteresting. The deep vibrations of the machine are lost when the whole scene is migrated to emulators. As metal turns into plastic, my interest turns into disgust. Then there's this new, fantastic, IMPROVED C-64, which everyone is so excited about (well, almost everyone, read ALIH's comments in the Game Over(view) #24). I don't own a DTV myself, so at least you're not going to have to read reviews of DTV releases written by me. I don't know about Nightlord and Twoflower, but it's not like I care if we don't review these demos. Nordic Scene Review will always focus on C-64 releases, where (obviously) a release only counts as a C-64 release if it works on a C-64. Of course, if someone wants reviews of these releases in Nordic Scene Review, I'll happily accept contributions. At least with the DTV you're forced to use the actual hardware, which is something that seems to be getting more and more uncommon these days. It seems a bit weird to me to do everything not to have to use a real machine. Sure, cross-development is teh shit, but watching demos on an emulator just isn't anywhere near as nice as watching them on the real thing. I can understand if people aren't as dedicated to the C-64 anymore, getting older and all that yada-yada, but if you're not interested enough to switch on your C-64 to watch a new demo, what's the point? [Nightlord] What an unproductive time it has been this last couple of months. Had it not been for a new issue of Game Overview and the new Brutal demo, I would have called these two months a barren wasteland as dead as a stinking pile of corpses stacked up after a long battle. You think I am exaggerating? Think again... The DTV demo making is as uncomprehensible to me as many of the PC scene activities are. So I can not really add more to Putermans words on that. Sid Compo is I think a way to release stuff for musicians that are tired of their coder mates to finish that new demo for the last 7 years. So I really do not feel like blaming them. But I am becoming a demo purist lately and I can not bare to watch/listen anything other than a demo. It may be an unfair approach and I do hope to be cleansed of this in future. But matter of fact is that at this moment I have not found the energy to go download them even. Credits Text by Puterman, Twoflower and Nightlord. Code by Iopop.
Primary Star Releases
Primary Star Releases [Nightlord] First of all, I must ay I am very positively surprised by the amount and quality of the releases in this party. I have been kind of unexcited about pretty much every party other than Floppy, LCP and BP lately. Also 7dx is exciting for me since it is easy to attend and bring old friends together. But anyway, this time Primary Star sure delivered quite an entertaining bunch of releases. [Twoflower] From my point of view, the Primary Star releases were more than entertaining. I tend to view these releases as some much needed breath-spray for the Dutch scene. The return of Silicon Ltd. and the formation of Red Brand feels fresh, and it feels like a good gust of energy finally reached the rainy shores of the Netherlands. I don't mind the quality of the releases themselves, more the vibes this transmit to me. [Nightlord] Speaking of the releases, ofcourse we haven't seen the winner yet. The buzz on the internet is sure positive when it comes to a new 64ever demo. It also amazes me how they let a demo that does not work on the compo machine compete and take first place. I am baffled by the rest of the competitors not complaining. I guess everybody was so happy to see a 64ever demo. Well that is enough to excite me for waiting for its release. [Puterman] I'm not all that excited about the concept of announcing a compo machine and requiring that the entries work on it. Not everyone has the same setup at home, and you never know when your loader is going to fuck up on someone else's 1541-II. [Twoflower] Well - on the other hand - if you choose to use a throughly tested, reliable loader (yes, they exist) the scene might even start to expect Fairlight demos to work on 95% of all setups, so what the heck... [Puterman] Well, with this mag we have a forum for complaining about loaders at last. I used the same loader for years and believed that it worked everywhere, because noone told me that it didn't. But I guess it worked fine in VICE, so nobody noticed the problems. [Nightlord] But later on from the discussions on CSDb it appears that the demo might have worked on the compo machine as Shake reports. If that is the case you can ignore what I said about this. So we first have Accumulator by Silicon Ltd in our hands. It is always great to see comebacks to the scene, especially when the quality of the comeback product is higher than a certain threshold. Those products on the other hand tend to get a bit overrated. I think this goes for Accumulator as well. I think it is an interesting demo in itself. There are a few nice touches in the graphics and a very nice soundtrack. The intro sequence is nice and the final picture is nicer. I was not impressed by the coding. Nevertheless, for a one file demo, I think Accumulator manages to deliver a nicely balanced audio visual delight that makes me feel hopeful about their future products. [Puterman] I wouldn't call it interesting, but it has some nice ideas. As always, I would have appreciated if they'd dropped the 8x8 plasma. Isn't there any way to make people stop using that age-old effect? [Twoflower] Yes, the 8x8 plasma sucks. So does entering/dissolving a picture plotting it char by char. Somebody ought to condemn both of these traditions from this scene. The 3 frame animations and the greyishness in the beginning brings me back to the mid-nineties. On the other hand, the balls filled with antwar (this might be a very swedish expression) and the reddish man gives me the vibe of Fairlight.fi. And that's not too bad. Overall, I got a really nice vibe from this demo, although I cannot pinpoint why? [Nightlord] Red Brand, on the other hand, definitely excited me with the quite original set of 8x8 effects as well as the nice flow in certain places and great final tune. It is a very very mature demo for a first one. If this does not show some potential what does? I can not enough stress how much I am enjoying the soundtrack. That last tune kicks ass so much that it is I think soundwise nearly comparable to Jeff's work. At those times I am not doing anything else that makes sound, I enjoy running this demo end let the last part loop over and over again. [Puterman] I guess I have to point out that I'm not at all impressed by the music... [Twoflower] Make that two points. Blippy C-64 techno doesn't do it for me. But sure, that last tune by MRT was a nice one. [Nightlord] Also this demo probably presents pretty much the only ever 8x8 effects that I found looking good. The rotating face and the fades of logos in the intro sequence was really nice. [Puterman] Indeed, the whole point of the demo is that they've managed to make some pretty goodlooking parts, although there's not much code to back it up. [Twoflower] Well, that's a coders point of view. Why must there necessarily be code to back up a demo? [Puterman] It's not necessary, but this demo isn't a new Pretending to See the Light, so a bit of coder porn would have been a good way to spice it up. Anyway, my point was positive, not negative: they manage to make something that looks pretty cool although the code isn't cool. [Twoflower] The problem here is that the overall design isn't enough to lift the demo on its own. Some more nicelooking graphics and a slicker choice of colors would have been enough to push this demo way further. [Nightlord] Unfortunately, the VIC wizardry attempts do not live up to the success of the mindblowing entry to the demo. I mean they are nice and cleanly implemented, but I think the smilies texture is too small and kind of makes the tech-tech and y stretch effects incomprehensible, and the hypno-lines part is far from being impressive. However the last part manages to heighten the overall impact again with the music (I just can not get enough of it) and the nice design in this part. Overall I think this one should have won at least the second place (actually the first place, since the 64ever demo might not have been let to compete). Congratulations to MRT and Dazzler... And good luck finding a talented pixel graphician to complement your team. Oh yes, you know you need one... [Puterman] I think this one's pretty much on par with the Silicon Limited demo. None of them contain any code worth mentioning, but they manage to make some pretty nice parts anyway. The hypno-lines part looks very slow, which feels a bit strange. I, on the other hand, really liked the smilies part, although it's also very simple coding-wise. Anyway, this is very nice for a debut, so it'll be interesting to see what their next move will be. [Twoflower] I found the demo to be nice, overall, although it felt too crammed. This demo would definitly have benefitted from: 1) Leaving things out, such as the loaderpart and the big scroller. Perhaps you even could have made this a onefiler then? Sometimes less is really more. 2) Getting a decent graphician who, just like Nightlord pointed out, could make some nice pixelwork and tidy up the design of the parts. Sometimes more is really more. [Puterman] Red Brand also released a fast-compo entry. Like all other such releases it's pretty pointless. [Nightlord] Episode 64 starts off funny but turns into torture after a while. I am ashamed to make this confession as a demo reviewer but I could not finish the demo. So you dear readers have every right to dismiss and ignore my review but there is a point of frustration and a breakpoint of patience of a man. That point was sometime around when the death star destroys Alderon this time. I felt suffocating and I pity those souls at Primary Star if they had to watch it all during the compo. But then again, aparently they liked it well enough to vote for it to the fourth place. [Puterman] Indeed, this demo should probably be viewed mostly as an act of aggression against the audience. Both the upscroller and the converted pictures are absolutely horrible. [Nightlord] Kindergarten Boogie is a remake. I am usually puzzled about how to review a remake. It might be a certain type of challenge to recreate something on C64. But this time the end result is simply uninteresting. There might be a few positive things here and there (the dancing star and the music sync), but overall my personal taste usually makes me far from liking this kind of sprite animations versus a happy tune type of demos. On a bad day I would call this one a fake demo. [Puterman] I see no reason to write a review of this production at all, as it's not a C-64 release. I have nothing against emulators, they're great tools, but there's no excuse for not even testing your demo on a real machine before releasing it. [Nightlord] Jamaik2 is nothing but a collection of 4 ugly effects, synced to a even uglier looping music. I would like to appreciate the yearning for originality of these K2 guys here, but the end result is so unbearable that it makes me feel "OK, do not be so original". Am I too conservative at times? [Puterman] I don't think it necessarily has to do with being conservative. K2 have a tendency to implement nice ideas in horrible ways. This time I'm not even sure if the ideas are good, so this demo is pretty much a complete failure in my eyes. [Nightlord] Rise left a positive impression on me. The music by V was appealing and the hires girl picture is nice enough. The routine looks kind of bad but as I said the overall impression of this for a 4K is positive on me. I hope Bud tries his hands on bigger projects. [Puterman] I have nothing positive to say about it, except maybe that the music is okay. [Nightlord] The Wobbler by Abyss Connection is slightly more worthy than the lame demo by Bestet Fury. The ugly and slow 8x8 plasma behind the dysp scroll kind of ruins it for the Wobbler. [Puterman] I'm introducing a new rule here: any demo that contains an 8x8 plasma gets an automatic thumb down.
Black Birdie Releases
Black Birdie Releases LCP Memories by FLT+Instinct [Nightlord] This seems to be a semi-serious demo from FLT + Jackasser. Reusing the same linking routines from the Axis of Evil puts that "semi" in front of serious for me. The parts are a lot nicer than the ones in AOE though. [Twoflower] ...not to mention the implementation of the loader. To my surprise, this one actually works on my setup. This fact, and the titlepic depicting MacX is enough to make me raise my eyebrows more than a little. The spliffpart following that one is downright ugly though, much thanks to the choice of colors. Sometimes I wonder what people are thinking of, in terms of color. 50% of the visual impression of everything is about color, goddamn. Unless you are colorblind, that is. And it's not just that part. Jackasser's part is badly colored aswell, although in a more discrete way. [Nightlord] The 4x4 tunnel has the most artsy texture we have seen to this day. I liked the kaleidoscope vector. I have been meaning to code one myself for a long time now but this demo does it first.. The multi color rotator in front of a chessboard zoomer is my favorite part, even though I do not like the odd - even lines trick. But the rotation sines are carefully adjusted to minimize the staggering at the edges. The landscape part is a good coding achievement but the result looks more like a series of zoomed pictures. So my impression of this part is not so positive. I think it is the weakest link in this demo. The chess waver that follows beats Skate's with its size and speed but a bigger amplitude of waving would make it look better in my eyes. [Twoflower] To start with, using a picture of such a handsome amigacoder as Booger is cheap. When he's equipped with a nicelooking moustacho, things are bordering on outright cheating. A picture like that could make me go gay anytime, and it totally steals the focus from the landscape effect. (Was that intentional?) Furthermore, I really like Dwangi acting the black rook in the chesspart. You won't beat Puterman with a chess-set like that, I can tell you that much. [Nightlord] The textureless raycaster that follows is very fast. The end scroller is a typical fun to read Puterman scroller with lots of classical demoscene bragging and a few subtler messages. Unfortunately there is no info about who coded what in the scroller and to my surprise, I wasn't able to find a note... So if my fellow editor gives some more info on that, I would appreciate it... [Twoflower] I believe the Puterman lyrics running throughout the entire demo gives it a push in the right direction. Atleast it gives me some shelter from the storm. [Puterman] I thought people had learned by now that demo-dictator Hollowman doesn't like notes and detailed credits, so you have to ask me if you want the important info. Jackasser coded the twister and the endscroller, I coded the chesswaver and Hollowman did the rest. The text used in the loader part was written by Bob Dylan and Hollowman. The Works by Panda Designs [Nightlord] I hope you won't hate me for writing "Radiantx is radiant with activity". Some cliches just beg to be used in writing sometimes and one can not resist it... But Radiantx seems to be losing hope of getting graphical support and tries his hand at pixeling. The resulting picture is not of a specialized graphician's quality. But it is good enough to look at. The plotter looks to be recycled but improved from Blueprint for an Organic Toy. The 3D raster rotation is a tried idea, but making some sides transparent and some sides solid is a very original one. So thumbs up for that. [Puterman] Transparent? I must have completely missed that... [Nightlord] And the overall flow and inbetween texts are quite streamlined and catchy. Stylewise a step forward for Panda Design. But may I suggest taking some time with the next release and making something bigger. [Puterman] I'll have to disagree here, big demos aren't necessarily better, and ambitious projects have a tendency to look a bit ridiculous unless the contents are as ambitious as well. Radiantx needs to improve his coding and kick his graphicians into action before trying his hand at something bigger. I don't think this demo would have impressed me any more if it had contained 5 more parts of the same quality. If twice the amount of work had been spent on this demo, I would have preferred if it had been spent improving the individual parts. They're all quite static and visually unappealing. The plotter is a definite improvement over the one in Blueprint for Organic Toy, but it would have made a much better impression on me if something more had been happening, than just a bunch of white bobs moving around on a black background. [Twoflower] Puterman has a point. Overall I think this demo would have benefitted from spending some more time on polishing and details. Now I don't mean that it has to be done the Krill way, but just some average finetuning in getting the parts to fit together more closely. A bigger demo is definitly not needed. I really like RadiantX's graphical attempts. Unlike many coders out there, he's really got a feeling for graphics and i'm sure it will develop a lot during the coming releases. To sum it up, this is a nice improvement from 'Blueprint', and as long as people are constantly improving themselves, I won't whine.
Miscellaneous Demos Phoenix by Brutal [Puterman] I guess I should write something positive about Phoenix by Brutal, as it's been so severely hyped, but really, what's good about it? Some of the pictures are really nice, but that's it. And that doesn't quite cut it. I guess I'm starting to sound like Oswald now, but the only reason I can think of why people are so enthusiastic about this one is that there haven't been any cool releases lately. All in all, it's a decent production, but there's nothing special about it. I should stress the quality of the graphics, though. These days most graphics are wired, and what's not wired looks like shit. TCH's pictures have that special hand-pixelled look, and he deserves some love for doing things the right way. [Twoflower] Opposing Putermans view I find 'Phoenix' quite nice. It had been viewed as a huge hit if TCH had decided to release it in 1993, as a new installment in the Piction-series, but now it's a oldstyled demo with some additional highlights and some really nice graphics. TCH was really ahead of his time back in 1993, and I still find some of his intros he made back then as real groundbreakers in C64 intromaking. What I feel is missing from this release is some really engaged scrolltexts and some slight remaking of the parts to fit more into 2005. The choice of music also sets the mood 10 years back in time, and I think its a shame. Why? Because TCH still got it. His graphics from today shows a completely different sentiment and has much to say to both the graphicians and the scene of today. I can feel that the two totally different parts of 'Phoenix' should have been splitted up into two different releases, with the energy put down on the part with the nice UFLI images. But on the other hand - this demo is full of nice scrollers, so who am I to complain? [Nightlord] It really is a positive breeze for me to see this product. Afterall those UFLI's are quite-god-damn-seriously ass kicking I think. I agree with Puterman that it had an advantage in the reactions it got due to its timing, but then again who is to blame for that? As Twoflower says maybe some remaking for the older parts would have benefitted this product. But I guess getting them out of the unreleased and rotten pile of stuff in an unknown scene graveyard is something I am thankful for. One final word... TCH is a great talent that I really enjoy expecting products from. Hope to see more of his work... Misc. crap [Puterman] Metalvotze released two crappy releases under different names. I presume they're still in their early teens, as they still haven't managed to learn English. Or maybe they're just stupid, what do I know? Nothing worth paying attention to anyway... Cate Archer by Falcon Soft Falcon Soft checklist: - The demo has been copied to the disk with a braindead copy program that makes the read head jump around like crazy, which means it takes half an hour to load 100 blocks. - The "demo" consists of a converted animation. No further comments should be necessary. The only thing I find interesting about all this is the name "Falcon Soft". It sounds like the name of a company that might have been put out of business in the early 80s by the stiff competition from Imagine, Greve Graphics and Martech. Yes, they surely would have won every crap game compo, if such had been arranged back in the days. So, to sum it up, Falcon Soft is a disgrace and should leave us alone, instead of harassing us with their half-assed (damn, they're not even half-assed, they're probably about a millionth assed or so) "mini-demos". "Mini-demo", doesn't that sound like a pretty lame excuse for releasing crap? It does to me.
Music Collections Moozpack 3 / A-man [Twoflower] One evening, right on the night before I was supposed to get my ass back to Amsterdam, A-man suddenly decided to make a comeback. As we've seen quite a lot of comebacks lately, with varied results, there are some elements which you may expect to find in such a release. Surely a bit of nostalgia? Yes. Old graphics from the early nineties? Scrollers? Rasterbars? Yes. In this case, most of the expectations were met. 'Moozpack 3' is a kind of standard 1991 music-collection, although a bit worse in the execution - but more about that later. By starting it up, things moved me into the right direction by a pixeled Ferrari F60 and an expanded scroller using lots of z's (you knowz what I mean?). Eventhough Ferraris, black background and expanded scrollers does it for me, I pressed space. That was my biggest mistake. You remember the line "a bit worse in the execution", right? Here is where that part kicks in. Ok, A-Man have never been brill at making good music collections in any way but the musical way. I still remember my reaction, and irritation, on 'Moozpack 2', released in 1993. Choose a music, get stuck, reload. Someone ought to crack this collection. What really saves A-Man is that his music still is really nice. The vibe of the sounds really touches me in a way, and the nineties vibe of most of the bass-sounds sets me in that cozy mood. The style of music is about what you expect - a little MON mixed with equal parts eurodisco and early nineties quality sidmaking. Surely, it doesn't sound like the sid of the 21:st century, but in a way it doesn't need to. Just do me a favour, make an outfit where you don't have to reload the entire collection to switch tunes, and all is forgiven. Microloops 3 by CMP Some people seem to be keen on hiding their releases from the C-64 audience. Personally, I have never understood why. CMP seems to be one of these persons, since none of his Microloops musiccollections have reached CSDb by his own free will. This one was available from Antidote, though, so I pulled it. If you are familiar with the earlier two Microloops, this is more of the same kind. Minimalistic C-64 techno is the thing, and this collection goes even deeper into the experimental stuff than the earlier two. Not really my kind of sid, but ok. Visually, the logo in the collection doesn't really fit in. Large and green and kind of wobblish, not really matching the experimental tunes, and the 8x8 flashing blocks at the bottom of the screen. Gottagoras by Fairlight When the nights started to get darker and not a C64 release was in sight, Fairlight suddenly blessed us with 'Gottagoras', the third installment in the Gotta-series after 'Gotta' and 'Gottart'. The earlier ones were released in November of 2003 and 2004, each with about 30 tunes if I remember it correctly. This time, it's the same procedure as last year, and actually it starts to feel as if it is the same procedure as every year. Don't misunderstand me - to release a heavy musiccollection for three years in a row is an impressive and admirable feat. I have only positive things to say about Oyiseer's surprisingly nice and fresh graphics and the slavecoding by Puterman is nice as usual. What feels like 'the same procedure as last year' is Maktone's music. Let's face it - he is a high producer, a Moon or a Trident of the 21:st century. By now, he knows his way around the sid and he sure knows how to throw together a catchy tune over an afternoon, and that is a quite dangerous knowledge. It's acceptable the first year, and perhaps the second, but by now I would like to see some distilling. Making some hard liquour out of the nice wine he got too much of. What Gottagoras would have needed is not an equal amount of used and unused tunes, but 10 of the best ones with some more than just glances of the essence of Maktone. Starkvaror. Gottality. Graphics Collections Triad in Belgium [Puterman] Triad went to Belgium and picked up some BASIC games from the late 80s. I don't really know who's supposed to appreciate their linking their intro to unplayable crap. They say they did it just to show the graphics. If they'd really been interested they could have included the graphics in the collection and spared us the pain of having to try to play the games. The collection itself is the kind of lofi production that I like and some of the pictures are really nice. But it's not like this is a release that you have to check out if you feel that you might have something more interesting to do.
Diskmags [Puterman] Well, well, well, a grand total of two diskmags were released since the last issue of Nordic Scene Review, both new issues of Game Over(view). Issue 23 was delayed for a few days, which almost made some people panic. The inclusion of interviews in the last couple of issues is a nice improvement, as is the magsys, but we wrote about that in the last issue. The rest is cool as always. I guess we're going to have to start including interviews and crap too soon if you guys don't start releasing more demos. [Nightlord] Yeah I was one of those who actually did panic a bit... Anyway the interviews are the first interviews chapter in any mag ever that I enjoy reading. The critical point is the clever selection of questions. So if we end up doing the same in this mag we will need to be careful trying to achieve something like that. I hope other diskmag editors, especially those who do make interviews get the message... [Puterman] Issue 24 was also delayed, but that was compensated for by the great fake interview. Some people have complained a bit about this issue, but I think it's a pretty good one, mostly due to the inclusion of the year summary and the aforementioned "interview". Now I'll just sit down and wait for the next issue of Attitude...