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Alive 10
Atari Twilight Zone

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
ever exist?

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!

Sleep peacefully!

CiH, for Alive Mag,March-April '05.

Alive 10