There is a dark and mysterious place, beyond scene news, beyond scene
rumours. You might call it, the Atari Twilight Zone. You could reasonably
pose the question, Did any of the projects that we are about to talk about
Narrator stops shining torch upward to illuminate his face in a scary
fashion, then drops that whole late night campfire chiller style, and opts
to talk to the readers in a more reasonable fashion instead...
There are a number of Atari demoscene projects that were briefly mentioned
in the scene news of bygone ages, never to be seen again. Some of the things
we're talking about never even got that far!? For the purposes of this
article, we decided to re-examine the glory years of Maggie scene news,
although there are some items which missed out on being mentioned there.
Okay, we'll start with one which probably didn't get any further than the
inner space in Tat's mighty brain! At an Atari show in the late nineties, I
remember Tat discussing the concept of a Falcon 'Beowulf' style cluster.
This consist of several Falcon's linked together, to be able to calculate
massively complex effects which would be beyond a standard individual
machine! This idea does have some appeal, sort of like a demo version of
'Midi-Maze', or a coding party super-computer!
And whatever happened to 'Falcon Powder', the weak pronunciation joke named
Falcon emulator for Wintel boxes, that was a secret in-house project between
several high-profile UK Atarians working for the software entertainment
industry? It was going to be a slowly realised sleeper project, but how
deeply sleeping is it at the moment?
And one last one before we get onto the classic Maggie scene news
announcements that never were. I remember the Reservoir Gods taking over
Inter's super-fast wolf-3D routines, as seen in 'Terrorise Your Soul'. This
was going to be developed into a game called 'Arena' by Inter, but this was
never completed by them. I can comment from having some knowledge of this.
It was never going to be completed by Mr Pink either, as there was too much
work to debug, too much else to do to turn it from a demo engine into a full
game, and the source code was not the clearest to sort out.
Okay, we go with a gem from Maggie 19, all the way back to 1996, where we
are told that the Dead Hackers Society were working on a game called
'Stargate 2000', and managing to get paid by the Swedish government! Now
perhaps Evil or someone else can answer this for the next time, was Stargate
a real project that fell by the wayside, or just a cunning scam to get a new
coat of paint and other little luxuries for the DHS bunker?!
Maggie 20 tells us of a never completed text adventure from Ripley, which
promised something different. There was a never-arriving GFA Basic demo from
Ribbon, which had some parts which equalled many assembly language screens.
Meanwhile, the legendary Black Lotus were finishing the "To the Hilt" demo
for the Falcon, now we would really love to know where that one got to!
In Maggie 23, we heard of the Polish crew, Luzak Team and their exciting
'Super Pong' game for the STe. This seemed to do a bit of a Unique
Developments 'Obsession' style stretching of the STe hardware, with 80
colours onscreen, in an overscan mode of 320 x 274 pixels!
This issue also featured quite a detailed story about the Avena virtual
synthesiser. The hot debate was whether to link it to a sequencer all on the
same machine, or MIDI link from a separate computer? Another one which seems
to have died quietly?
The hot news for Maggie 25 was the emergence of a legendary 8-bit Polish
crew, The Freezers, onto the Falcon. This winning team included the ex-
Shadows musician Cedyn. Now what happened there? Not a lot it seems.
Also in Maggie 25 was one of my personal favourite stories. This was when
the 128 bytetro plague was at its height. A 4k Megademo was proposed, which
was effectively a compilation of twenty 128 byte screens. The premier 4k
expert, Evil of DHS was dealing with this, but he apparently encountered
problems in getting the individual parts to exit cleanly. Also some other
accounts suggest that there perhaps wasn't quite enough interest from coders
to make this work?
There was one which got completely lost, but I saw some time later, at the
2003 Pre-EIL party at Deez's place in Leamington Spa. This was the totally
bizarre Reservoir Gods Valentine day themed 'Lovetro'! I'd say chances for a
release now are vanishingly small!
We got into some seriously weird emulation with Maggie 27 describing the
Mystic Bytes Amiga emulator for the Falcon! On the face of it this sounds
feasible. Both computers have a cpu family in common, and the Paula
soundchip has already been done. Sqward was thinking of emulating the
Cyberstorm graphics card used on later Amigas, rather than the classic
copper chip. Speculation warned not to expect to run too many Amiga demos,
although more cleanly written things should run, and hopes were high of
gaining access to famous Amiga apps like Deluxe Paint. For some reason, we
heard no more about this project?
And after the no-show of 'To the Hilt', the Black Lotus were back in the
picture, at least their lonely Atari member aRt was. He managed to produce a
preview which was described as both mind and monitor blowing, a 100hz screen
was needed. The overall quality of aRt's code and effects design was
described as being on the same level as Tat. What he had done was more or
less complete, and only needed some minor graphical enhancements and
suitable music before being released?
And we can't leave this issue without asking whatever happened to the new
Reservoir Gods coder, the 'Axeman'? Great things were promised, but this
was when the Gods entered their first employment choked barren period.
PeyLow speaks to Maggie 28 about the T.O.Y.S 'Project Blue' STe demo. This
had such goodies as a 12 bit video mode, a 'Descent' style 3D engine, Motion
blur, bump-mapping etc. To be fair to them, it was described as very
incomplete back then, with lots still to do. But we ask is this still
around, or was it overtaken by the successfully released 'Wait' demo for the
The Maggie 10th anniversary issue goes into great detail about the Mystic
Bytes 'Growling Studio' tracker, thanks to Grey. This was going to be the
first properly XM Fast Tracker 2 capable tracker, and even promised Multi-
machine compatibility, such as the new Milan! I guess that there was not
enough interest in that project, although Sqward did manage to complete the
XM sound engine for the Chosneck disk magazine.
The approach to scene news and rumours in Alive was more sensible and less
sensationalist. Whether that was down to a self-conscious decision to avoid
the wilder stories, or simply that these stories weren't forthcoming so much
is debatable. However, there were a few more tales, even then.
Alive 5 announces the arrival of the new Atari section of veteran Polski PC
crew 'Excreate'. To be fair, there was a fair bit of doubt expressed, even
as the announcement was made, so we didn't hold our breath.
Also, the wonderfully monikered "Biscuit", the coder of the Psygnosis game
'Menace', was going to optimise his original code. He planned to boost the
framerate, and maybe add some new graphics and music. Guess we're still
waiting for that one! (Bizarre digression time; Did the team originally
making Menace all have biscuit related pseudonyms, one guy being called
'Rich Tea' (the team leader), others being called 'Bourbon' and 'Garibaldi',
not to mention the cheeky and irrepressible charm of the new member, 'Jammie
Alive 6 managed a couple of juicy rumourlets, such as the reported STe only
demo from Dune, which was going to be called "Seeds" at that point? Maybe
that one is still out there, awaiting its moment.
To conclude with, I feel like asking whatever happened to Mind Design's,
unfinished EIL 2 demo, which was going to go up against the mighty Hmmm and
Don't Break the Oath demos?
Well that is enough for now. I hope you enjoyed this trip into the rumour
mongering wild side of the Atari demo scene. If anyone has any real
information on any of these lost or never-were projects, you know where we
are! Better still, if there is something else that we haven't mentioned,
well, I refer you back to the advice contained in the previous sentence!
CiH, for Alive Mag,March-April '05.