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Thread: Atari ST demos

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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.

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


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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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    Interesting information there AvvA, thanks for that.

    The definition of "megademo" is similar in the amiga scene, though it usually means separate short parts shown in order with a loading part inbetween. I can't recall any with menus. There were several great ones, but the ones most remembered today is probably The Red Sector Megademo and Budbrain. Worth checking out.

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    My pleasure

    In ST demoscene all megademos weren't with game-like selection' menus, a lot were like you describe, without possibility to choose one or other demo, but displayed in order and separated by a loader.

    When I first see Cuddly demo on ST I was amazed to see a game where doors leads to demos that somehow explode the games solded at this time, the guy told me it was inspired from an amiga megademo, I don't know if its true, but well... I assume that 'war' was constant at this time, and industrial espionnage in demo-scene was effective, atari inspiring amiga inspiring atari...etc, or vice-versa more likely


    Anyway, thanks for your demos links, I tried to launch them but have issue with WinUAE... I have to search further to understand it then i'll be able to watch and listen to Amiga demos !

    By the way, I know that's not a good way to ask, but is there any link to AMIGA DEMOBASE's front-end ?
    I Found the topic here, but even with google i'm not able to put my hands on it...

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    All the versions of gamebase and demobase use the same gamebase64 frontend. You can download it by going to http://www.gamebase64.com/downloads.php.

    I tend to just run demos directly in WinUAE though as you can fairly easily work out what Amiga setup you need to use from most demo's entries in our CA demo database, and on other sites with their details about each demo. Sites like Bitfellas and Pouet.net are great for exploring the Amiga demo scene.

    BTW, it is great to get a perspective from someone exploring Amiga demos for the first time, coming from the ST. Welcome to classicamiga!

    If you need any help getting WinUAE to run (kickstart files and demo adfs) please let us know. We will be glad to help.

    It will be interesting to know what you think of the best Amiga demos compared to the ones you have experienced on the ST.

    For me, going back to the ST after so many years with the Amiga I've been quite disappointed with ST demos. The graphical capabilities fall far short of what they achieved over the years on even the Amiga A500, let alone the A1200. Some of the STE only demos have been more impressive, but still fall short of most of the best Amiga demos in my view. The biggest difference though is audio. Even with the better audio capabilities of the STE most demos still stick to chiptunes, whereas the Amiga demos were all using the 4 channel stereo capabilities with samples.

    I'm saying ST demos are all bad though. Just that due to the more limited capabilities of the ST that after watching so many Amiga productions that the ST demos seem less technically impressive. I've still been enjoying many good demos on the ST.

    One thing I've also noticed. Many of the really good Amiga demos have great stories or themes running though them as they play. I've not encountered this as much on the ST. If you can recommend any good ST demos that contain some good themes and stores that run through out their whole production that would be great.
    Last edited by Harrison; 23rd November 2009 at 13:38.

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


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