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    Atari ST demos

    I know this is an Amiga site, but with my newly acquired Atari ST I thought I would explore the ST demoscene a bit and see what it has to offer. After all, most ST demos are unique to the platform, and unlike games do not share any code or have direct comparision to releases on the Amiga, so it is a good way to see what the ST coders, artists and musicians could get out of the system.

    After being a big fan of Amiga demo productions for years, there are a couple of noticeable differences when watching ST demos.

    The first is the amount of screen real estate. On the Amiga you have the overscan modes, allowing coders to utilise the whole of the screen for their productions. On the ST it is a little more limited and still has one of the limitations from the older 8-bit days. That of borders. As standard ST screens still have quite a thick border just like games on the C64, Spectrum, CPC etc had. This can be set to a unique colour. Overscan could be utilised to extend certain things like background graphics, but in demos where things are bouncing around the screen you instantly spot this limitation as the objects are bouncing around in a virtual box, rather than going right to the edge of the screen.

    The second is parallex scrolling, copper and blitter effects. The ST was nowhere near as capable of doing these, and some of these were not hardware supported out of the box. After watching so many Amiga demos you instantly notice the more limited palette of colours being used in most screens.

    Lastly is sound. Until the STE that ST only had 3 channel mono sound, and it's sound chip was very similar to that found in older 8-bit systems like the Spectrum and BBC. For this reason it was never as good as replaying samples, compared to the Amiga that could be playing a 4 channel stereo sample based track. This does however mean the ST had some great chip tune musicians. The tunes might be higher pitched, with a very 8-bit days style to them, but the ST's chip tune capabilities were good and it allows some great chip tunes in demo productions.

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    Virtual Escape by Equinox

    The first production I've been running is called Virtual Escape, and is from a well known ST demo group called Equinox.

    http://www.pouet.net/prod.php?which=109

    This demo focuses the most on 3D effects. Especially bouncing balls and other objects. Most of the effects either uses filled 3D vectors, or utilise the popular dot vector shapes. The most impressive being 11 balls bouncing around at the same time. There is a slight limitation to that screen though, as you notice the balls are not actually true 3D as you can't see anything through them or behind them so some tricks are being used to get 11 on screen at once.

    Some other dot vector screens add some cool motion blur effects as well as object manipulation.

    It is still a very good and impressive production. It also has a load of filled vector shapes zooming around the screen in certain scenes. The popular space ship shapes appearing quite a few times, and these are all smooth.

    The 2D artwork used in the production is of a high standard too, as are the effects used to bring screens and transitions in, as well as some quite unique text entry and exit effects.

    The music is a series of chip tunes that works well, but can get a bit annoying as the demo goes on. Still quite nice though.

    Definitely worth a look, even if you can only run it via emulation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Harrison View Post
    (...) but in demos where things are bouncing around the screen you instantly spot this limitation as the objects are bouncing around in a virtual box, rather than going right to the edge of the screen.
    That's interesting. I wasn't aware of this fact.

    The second is parallex scrolling, copper and blitter effects. The ST was nowhere near as capable of doing these, and some of these were not hardware supported out of the box. After watching so many Amiga demos you instantly notice the more limited palette of colours being used in most screens.
    The Amiga was, and still is, a great machine for such effects. I guess the Atari coders had to work real hard to accomplish similar results then. Just like the coders on the Amiga have sweated in front of their keyboards to create 3D routines similar to those on the PC.

    Lastly is sound. Until the STE that ST only had 3 channel mono sound, and it's sound chip was very similar to that found in older 8-bit systems like the Spectrum and BBC. For this reason it was never as good as replaying samples, compared to the Amiga that could be playing a 4 channel stereo sample based track. This does however mean the ST had some great chip tune musicians. The tunes might be higher pitched, with a very 8-bit days style to them, but the ST's chip tune capabilities were good and it allows some great chip tunes in demo productions.
    I've was under the impression that the ST had pretty good sound, but I can see that I'm wrong. Amiga rulez.

    For those of you who would like to see the production called Virtual Escape from Equinox, here's a link to a video recording on YouTube. Have fun!
    Last edited by Puni/Void; 28th May 2009 at 19:32. Reason: Double posting - posts have been automerged

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    It is a common thing that many people think the ST had good sound because it was used a lot my musicians in recording studios. But that was only due to the built in midi ports, so they were only ever using the ST to control external MIDI instruments and that had nothing to do with the ST's built in internal audio capabilities.

    The sound abilities of the ST are pretty much summed up by the Virtual Escape demo as it has some of the best ST chip tunes. So watch the video to hear what the ST could do.

    However the ST could also play sound samples in a similar way to the Amiga. However it didn't have a dedicated custom chip to do this like the Amiga, so this had to use CPU time to achieve it. So often in ST games you had to choose to listen to the music track or the sound effects. Not sure how many sampled sound channels game coders managed to play together in a game though. Will have to look that one up.

    In fact, until the updated STE, the ST's audio was inferior to the C64.

    The next demo I'm trying to get working on the ST is Odd Stuff by Sector One. It is a much newer demo with some more advanced ane subtle effects, as seen in later Amiga demos. Plus the audio is a bit more interesting and developed compared to earlier chip tunes. You can see a video of it here.

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    yeah, nice information Harrison I observed that Atari coders are more knowledged with 68k tricks cause they have to rely on 68k most of the time for doing their stuff. I'm also amused by the weird lingo ST people use. They call demos 'menus' and parts as 'screens'. very weird

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    I hadn't heard of demos being referred to as menus. Are you sure that isn't just for certain demo types, like music disks or magazines? Both types would be menu driven.

    If you haven't played a classic game in years, it's never too late to start!


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    Hi amiga lovers

    I only pass through this forum/topic by searching for an amiga demobase front-end (well, I come from the ST world and have the opposite though, I mean that I know ST scene and want to discover the amiga's one ^^), and as I've got the answers to previous questions, I'll tell you.

    Screens - Perhaps because of the megademo concept that was quite popular in ST scene (cuddly, dark side of the spoon...), each demo in those megademo was called screens because they're independant programs that run in fullscreen, it seems that the name stays.

    Menus - Demos refered as 'menus' are just what their name says : games' menu-disks.
    The cracking crews often use a loading screen, or a multiple game-choice menu when relevant, and those menus were some littles demo-screens, this explain why they are included in demobases.

    But, by extension and to explain better, a megademo contains multiples demos, each one is unique code that can run alone, i.e. cuddly demo propose to select individuals screens via a game-like interface (custodian's sprite), one door = one demo part = 1 screen. If you squeeze the custodian megademo selection interface (it's not possible, but imagine), you get a list of the differents part-demos (yeah, screens), this kind of list we usually call 'menus', this fact leads to call megademo interface : menu or demo-menu.

    I hope it helps to understand the logic


    place to start :
    Also, don't know if you found it, but there is an excellent existing Atari ST DemoBase based on GameBase concept and made by Dave Haley :
    DEMOBASE ST 2.83

    Another older made by Brume : http://pacidemo.planet-d.net/

    Or independant others : Equinox, Pompey Pirates, POV, ...

    Have fun discovering the ST scene
    Last edited by AvvA; 22nd November 2009 at 21:39.

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