The Demoscene coming to a browser near you!

The Demoscene coming to a browser near you!

Jan 30, 2013

For those of you familiar with the Demoscene words like intro, cracktro, diskmag, ASCII and ANSI art probably all mean something to you. Demos originated in the 80’s and were primarily seen on the Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga, Atari ST and as PCs graphics and sound capabilities developed they finally moved to the PC.

A Demo is generally a piece on non interactive software that is a showcase for a programmer’s ability to manipulate the sound and graphics capabilities of the hardware the demo is destined.

The concept of the demo came originally from the early days of “cracking”. Cracking was the term given to breaking the software protection on games and programs allowing them to be easily distributed. When the software was cracked it was common practice to place your own title screen on the cracked software so that you were accredited for the crack and sometimes distribution of the software. This title screen appeared before the game and therefore was termed an Intro. Intros quickly evolved from a simple screen with a name, logo or picture on to complex showcases of graphics and sound. As the intros became more sophisticated the concept of the demo emerged. The purpose of the demo was no longer simply a crack intro but a standalone demonstration of the programmers ability. As the demos evolved further demo groups formed with the task of demo creation being distributed across numerous people with individuals dedicated to one particular aspect such as music, graphics, special effects etc. Some famous demo-crews of the early days include: Future Crew,Wild Copper,  TRSi, Red Sector, Scoopex, Majic 12, Fairlight.

Assembly 2004 arenaAs more and more demo groups formed the concept of the Demo Party was born. The demo party was a gathering of demo groups that all submitted their latest and greatest work in a competition. Some famous Demo Parties include Breakpoint, Assembly, The Party, The Gathering.

Memory restrictions, hardware limitations and primitive development tools meant that the developers of demos had to be extremely talented with the majority of demos written in assembly language. The programmers of the day regularly delivered products that extended far beyond the specifications of the underlying hardware and bread software developers far more talented than that of today.

With modern day hardware the demoscene has partially lost its way with many demos simply playing video and missing the point. To keep the tradition many modern day demo competitions / parties impose limitations to bring out the talents of the entrants. An example of this limitation is the 4K intro comp where entrants must develop an intro that resides in 4k of memory. The best example of a 4K Intro and most talented piece I have seen is “elevated” by Rgba. For those of you who understand I am sure that you can appreciate just how little memory 4K is. If you are impressed by elevated then here is a link to the more technical aspects of the Intro.

Although I still love and follow the Demoscene I will always have a special weakness for old-skool demos because the capabilities presented were years ahead of their time. There’s nothing like old-skool demo effects: Vector Balls, Plasma, Scrollers,Sprites, Shaded bobs, Raster bars, 3D wireframes and the like.

HTML 5

Demos have typically been platform dependant. If a demo was written for the PC then it would only run on the PC until now.Our humble browser has come a long way over the years. Originally the internet browser delivered primitive pages that included hyperlinks to other pages but over the years we have seen our browser evolve to include images, animation and video.

Finally now with HTML 5 we now have access to some of the elements we need to develop demos. Using Javascript we now have access to a canvas and Web audio. We can now finally do some cool things within the browser but HTML 5 isn’t for the light hearted. You will need Google Chrome (best performance) and some decent hardware to get the most out of HTML 5.

Over the long Australia Day weekend during the storms I thought I’d have a play with these new found features of HTML 5 and with the assistance of the CODEF library http://codef.santo.fr/ I put together a demo that incorperates some of my favourite aspects of old-skool demos; a refelctive background, vector balls, wireframes, a sine scroller and tracker music.

Because this demo runs in any browser capable of running HTML5 it will run on a PC, a Mac and even your phone, iPad or tablet provided your browser supports HTML5.

Feel free to have a play. I have put together a Vector Ball version and a Wireframe version.

See http://www.wab.com/ for an awesome display of Old Skool demos and a trip down memory lane for those of you who know the demo scene. Full credit to the genius work put into this code and the samples.

If you want to learn more about demos then I thoroughly recommend this documentary by Moleman: http://molemanfilm.com/2012/08/informal-subtitles-of-moleman-2-demoscene/

Other Demos resources:
http://www.pouet.net/
http://www.scene.org/

 

-Glenn Challen
MicroEd Computers and Internet

Glenn Challen - MicroEd Computers

 

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