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Outline 05

Bootsector Compo

The  bootsector competition was a well attended and  successful  competition
for  the  Outline '05 party.  The aim simply being to create the  best  demo
effect to fit into a standard ST disk bootsector.

This is an interesting category. I'm pretty sure it hasn't been done to this
extent  as  an entire competition,  but I seem to remember  the  Overlanders
bootsector with a 3-D polygon from a few years ago.  The tendency for people
to  create  interesting  bootsectors  goes back  into  the  golden  ages  of
oldschool,  back  when  some  other people took a less  benign  interest  in
people's  bootsectors.  For this was the golden age of the virus writer too!
Many  bootsectors were developed as a way to say "I'm clean,  but if I don't
look right or flash a warning, then you'll know I'm not!"

The  whole  bootsector field declined with the mass market for the  ST,  and
with the tendency of most of the remaining users to upgrade to a hard drive.
This became a forgotten dusty corner of the ST oldschool kingdom.

But  there  was  still this interest in size-limiting for  demos,  and  ever
smaller  productions.  When 4 kilobytes became too cavernous for some,  they
went  to  the minimalist extreme of writing 128 bytetros!  Amazingly it  was
possible  even  to code games within that restriction!  Still,  this fashion
burnt  itself  out,  and it seemed the art of making really small demos  had
gone  for good,  until a kind tall Dutchman took it on himself to revive  an
ancient genre.

Actually,  the bootsector is a tad more generous than the very cramped space
allocation  for  the 128 bytetro.  At just over 500 bytes for  a  bootsector
code,  there is a little bit more room for elaboration and some design. This
was  intentional,  according  to  Havoc.  Still,  we turn to the  half-dozen
entries received, and see how they measure up.

Scroller - Sunnyboy / Xtroll
This is about as oldskool as you could get for a bootsector.  It's as if the
last  fifteen years haven't happened,  people are talking heatedly about the
bottom-burping exploits of Spaz,  Manikin and Sammy Joe of TLB,  and many of
us are getting excited by border killing rasters.

Sunnyboy's assembler has been living in the past too, as this entry features
the biggest chunky font scroller ever seen outside an early Union demo. Blue
rasters  in  the  'legal' part of the ST screen,  and red ones in  the  side
borders fill out the rest of it.  There is also some sound, with a repeating
humming  and vibrating pattern continually playing.  The short message reads
"X-Troll for Outline '05".

7 out of 10 - It's demoscene groundhog day!

Logo - Cyclone / Xtroll
A  small  golden 'X-Troll logo twinkles in the middle of  the  screen,  erm,
that's it!

I would guess that this entry was coded quickly to make up the numbers?

5 out of 10 - A classic bootsector, but nothing more.

Keftales - Cyclone / Xtroll
Keftales is a pure mathematically based effect,  created by Cyclone.  In the
distance, a sea of moired infinitely cycling and tastefully coloured keftale
patterns do their thing.  There is even a soundtrack of sorts,  with a harsh
purring  YM  stab which comes and fades,  comes back again.  Gradually,  the
patterns get closer, step by step, until a single one fills the screen.

But  Cyclone  hasn't  finished,   as  he  manages  to  finish  off  with  an
impressively quick zooming effect, on a standard STe!

7 out of 10 - Impressive code.

Lil' lame bootsector - Simon Sunnyboy / Paradize
It does what it says on the tin. Just a quick and easy ascii 'Outline' logo,
sort  of  what Dildo Fatwa might have done,  if they had some actual  coding
ability,  and  managed to avoid pisstaking people.  There is a bit of colour
graduation on the main logo,  and some greetings below.  Not expected to win
any prices, but the thought was nice anyway.

4 out of 10 - Really meant only as a compo filler.

Ooma - P01
A real 'Wow!' entry here, as P01 comes up with a zoomer of his own. This has
no Keftales or code-generated graphics,  but instead makes room for a couple
of  16 colour bitmapped sprites,  such as the Atari bee,  and an Aardvark or
similar.  These  are tiled in a huge number,  and zoomed towards the viewer.
The  title,  in system font,  runs across the top of the reduced screen area
"Ooma | P01 | Outline 2005".

Like some of the other entries,  there is music of a sort, and this seems to
be  a  little bit further developed from the rhythmic bass growls  of  other
entries. There is actually a tune of sorts, which takes a repeating pattern,
and speeds it up gradually.

The original archive does unpack to reveal an executable version of it, plus
the .pi1 file of the graphics used!

8 out of 10 - There seems to be more here than with the other entries.

Psycho Bee - ggn / KUA
GGN  entered  this  one  from outside the party,  like  Simon  Sunnyboy.  He
intended  this  to work with 'anything with a blitter'.  Which in  practical
terms would mean an STe,  Falcon or STeem.  George has also been kind enough
to include an installer with his entry,  rather than spread it as a Pacifist
.ST  disk  image.  This  latter situation is peachy for emulator  fans,  but
requires  a lot more fiddling about and copying to disk for those of us  who
only  have original hardware ;-) This is a big hint to make  this  reviewers
life easy, for the next time that a bootsector compo is run, by the way!

This  installs,  reboot  to run,  and the message "KuA software productions:
Atari  or buST!" appears at the top of the screen.  Dominating the main mid-
section, is a big blocky Atari mouse bee. This seems to collapse and defocus
into a fine-lined mathematically patterned flickering version of itself. The
effect  is hard to describe,  but it has a clear ancestry going back to  his
early  Sierpinski fractal intro's.  It would happily keep on running forever
until you press a key to exit.

It was a quick entry,  as ggn only coded it at the last minute, so I get the
feeling that there could be better things to come one day?

6 out of 10 - Nice idea, but a bit last minute in execution.

The results were an accurate reflection of the quality and time spent on the
respective entries. P01 being a deserving winner.

P01                             218  - Ooma
CYCLONE                         189  - Keftales
SUNNYBOY/GWEM                   177  - Scroller
GGN                             131  - Psycho Bee
CYCLONE                         108  - Logo
SIMON SUNNYBOY                   69  - Lil' lame Bootsector

Will we see the bootsector category again?  Quite probably,  as it is quick,
and a little bit oldschool,  so even slightly lazy coders can join in with a
clear conscience!

CiH, for Alive Mag,April '05

Alive 10