20 Years Compo Demo
This review focuses on the actual demo screens. The music and
graphic compo entries are not taken into account here, even if I
have my favourites amongst those contributions. However even the
demo screens only will make this a very long read so make sure
you sit comfortable and grab a beer to survive until the end
because here it comes, the 20 Years Compo Demo Review...
Loader and Reset Demo
This little program acts mainly as a loader, which loads the
intro and then the main menu. Secretly it also installs the
reset demo by setting resvalid ($426) to the magic value of
$31415926. In addition to that the resvector ($42A) is set to
the start of Leonard's code, which 1st two actions are setting
the SR to $2700 and setting a new SP, which is most important,
unless you want some strange things to happen. Anyway let's cut
the technical crap and continue with our review of the reset
Of course the reset screen is a fullscreen, and much to my
surprise it didn't display huge amounts of "2plane"-non-masked
"sprites" but something around 1300+ one plane dots scattered
over various planes, while playing music with a SID voice and
displaying a bit of text in another plane. Of course rasters are
used which is no big deal in a fullscreen. But the fact that a
SID voice is replayed while all that is happening in a full
overscan might blow you away. It is a brand new feature in a
fullscreen, and makes this demo technically interesting to say
the least. We bow our heads into the general direction of France
and praise the god of technical code, well done Leonard and of
course gwEm our master audio hero. Hmm, I wonder who did the
graphics in that screen :)
Damn, just when you thought you had finished the review the
screen starts to collapse and the borders aren't opened properly
anymore... What the hell Leonard? However after some seconds we
are back on track and the display is ok again...
Intro / DHS
The intro plays a very short chiptune while displaying a great
picture by our hyperactive master artist C-Rem, showing a
disintegrating face wearing a gasmask with a broken eyeglass.
Mirrored in the still intact left eyeglass of the gasmask you
can see some sort of bomb going off and some other guy with a
gasmask. After a short while the screen fades out and is
replaced by the main menu. The graphic is ace like any other C-
Rem picture and I am glad we didn't took it for this issue of
Alive, because it fits the DHS 20 year compo demo like a glove.
Main Menu / Jace
The main menu shows a little blue alien avatar that can be
controlled by the cursor keys and runs with 4 pixels per frame
to the left or right. Of course the screen is running smoothly
even if some of the front layers of the parallax scrollers are a
tad too fast for my old eyes, anyway the main menu works fine,
only a few graphical glitches appear under certain
circumstances. If you move your avatar to the most right (or
left) position in the playfield and try to run in the same
direction you might see some of the most right (or left) clouds
disappear while you try to move in this direction. Apart from
that it seems to work quite well.
The 1st impression about main menu was nice, but it looks
somehow unfinished, perhaps the tile maps could have offered a
bit more variation, perhaps it's the ability to jump which is
Anyway the menu serves it's purpose and is surely a nice piece
of code, a bit more polishing wouldn't have hurt though, but
it's still cool.
Rebirth / MJJ
The MJJ screen starts off with an awesome tune by Floopy and a
white screen, then a very dark picture is fading in showing an
evil clown with a bloody scythe and a Fuji written with blood on
his forehead, the same clown is shown in front of a clouded sky
in the background again swinging his scythe over masses of
kneeling bodies. An inscription reads "20 years of domination".
I wonder if the clown stands for MJJ dominating the Atari scene
:), I guess we will have to ask our grand pixelmaster C-Rem for
After a while the screen fades to white again and with a short
delay a blue screen appears with some 1 plane pseudo raytrace
effect. Of course it's "only" an offset effect but the result is
really stunning. A pattern is scrolling in a distorted way in
the background and gets viewed and reflected through several
bubbles in the foreground. Since Tobe uses only every other line
inside the bubbles he can easily fake a front- and backside
reflection, the result however is really stunning. The whole
effect is accompanied by some scrolling one plane patterns in
the background and a nicely arranged screen layout.
This screen really rules for the idea and implementation and of
course for bringing together newskool effect and oldskool speed,
of course this screen runs in one vertical blank, so we really
got everything a good demo needs:
- nice and original idea
- cool soundtrack
- awesome pixels
- decent frame rate
- perfect design
You can listen and watch the alternating bubble reflections for
hours or press space to exit at any time. Once you pressed space
a logo is displayed reading "powered by Tobe" then the screen
fades to black and you get back to the main menu. Well the music
could have been faded out but otherwise there is nothing to
complain. Well done MJJ!
From the island Reunion a nice little plasma screen was supplied
for the DHS compo. It features code by Jace, a logo by C-Rem and
a stunning tune by Marcer. The demo itself is nicely designed
and shows alternating plasmas with a nice and tasteful oldskool
feeling. In addition to that a scroller tells you about the
credits and some other stuff. Sure a plasma is no killer FX
anymore in 2005 but I have to admit I really like the screen,
especially for the nice transitions and the overall design.
This contribution is mainly a very cool module from Marcer
accompanied by a scroller and some graphics by Evil. There is
really not much to tell about that screen. It starts with a big
"Marcer" logo then a static blue vortex appears with a movie
like scroller on top. I guess the code was done in a hurry and
there is nothing special about it but the tune really roxx even
if there is some white noise present in some of the samples.
You can access the hidden screen by moving your little avatar
between the Marcer and the NoExtra door on the left side of the
playfield. You should see small blue dome in the background
containing a sketched city or something. Just stop in front of
that dome and press space.
The hidden screen starts of with a nice dragon-baby picture by
Timbral and a very nice tune. The hidden screen is actually a
jukebox containing some old tunes by a guy called Donald Fakk
from S.O.T.E. (Scum of the Earth) who also wrote the famous
S.O.T.E. Tracker which combined big potential with a non user-
friendly interface. The funny thing about that is that Donald
worked later as a usability designer :) Anyway it seems the
songs and perhaps also the replay sources he promised to Evil
and Grazey in June 2002 on the DHS BBS found their way into this
The screen is nothing special it just contains a menu, a
rotating starfield tunnel and a small one plane scroller. The
main content is surely the music here and there's a lot of it.
The jukebox contains 15 tunes in total, which feature SID voices
and digidrums, which is not bad for 1992. Of course Grazey had
to rework the S.O.T.E. player which was not very OS friendly to
say the least, since it was optimised for speed like many other
players from that era.
The 1st of three Noextra screens is mainly a modplayer with some
sample oscilloscopes and a one plane scroller in the bottom
border. The tune is not bad but its spoiled by the heavy static
which is also seems to be louder than the actual sample replay
itself. Well the screen would be ok as a simple oldskool hello
if the sample replay wouldn't be that bad or if there would be
more happening on screen, this way it's not really a top notch
production but hey, everybody needs to start sometime :)
The Stax part of the demo starts of with a stunning stax logo
with very nicely designed letters and some electric sparkling
around it. However I guess Lotek Style will go berserk when he
reads the words "please wait a moment" below the logo,
especially after releasing his earth shattering article about
deadly sins in demo design in Alive 11.
After a while a screen appears with some partial overscan in the
top and bottom border while the main part of the screen stays
normal. The top contains a purple scroller, the bottom a
distorter with some fake parallaxed background. The non overscan
portion of the screen contains lots of rotating 3d dots and some
sprites which resemble the word "Atari ST" also from time to
time one plane flash inscription appears reading "20th
anniversary Megademo" in changing colours.
When you press space a nice little vector screen with a rotating
Atari ST case drawn with wireframe graphics appears in medium
resolution. Even if the vectors seem to be one bitplane only it
seems there is an invisible dithered background graphic hidden
beneath it which creates raster bar like effects on the
wireframe vectors. Beside the vectors you can read "The Atari
ST" on top of the screen and "20 years young!!!" which is
partially displayed in the lower border.
MarSTial Arts /
Martial Arts is perhaps the screen with the best design and an
perfect sync between music and effects. It's a bit sad that the
80 KB limit lead to a lot of graphic that couldn't be used due
to the size limitation; on the other hand it prevented the
screen from taking years to be finished :).
The demo begins with a DHS logo made of three (bonsai?) trees
and some strange noises, perhaps birds and water? Then a
shuriken shaped blurred line vector is shambling over the
screen. The music gets an eastern touch and you see a shuriken
in a wodden plank and a swinging logo reading "MarSTial Arts".
The screen is faded out smoothly and we get some scrolling one
plane background with yin yang and other symbols on it and some
disting credits accompanied by funny pictures of Timbral, Crazy
Q, Evil and Gizmo. Even the fading is well planned it gives the
impression ob becoming transparent, nice colour palette
Then some text is displayed word by word in perfect sync with
some ear disturbing plings :) anyway Nolan Bushnell himself is
scrolling in, telling a short history of Atari, accompanied by
the plings of a vector pong in the background... Too bad that
the "ball" is not synced to the plings in the music.
Suddenly the pong game begins to spin in 3D while still playing.
Afterwards a Sinusblob is displayed. The next FX is called
"Parallax in a Box" and shows some distorted "vertical raster"
like bars. Then a twisted sinus bar is shown until the screen
fades to black again and the end scroller appears.
In the end scroller DHS promises to make another version of the
screen containing all graphics and ideas that had been planned
but had to be left out due to memory issues.
Spot Light on the 520ST /
Arf, what the hell? A flickering spotlight on a flickering ST
graphic? Well this screen is surely not more than a small hello
and I really doubt it will win any of the top positions. It
looks like Simon Sunnyboy was a bit busy with other things,
anyway the effect is quite old those flickering sprites have
been used a lot in console games on the PC Engine and MegaDrive
to either make weapons appear much bigger than they are or to
add some kind of transparency effect. Here it is used to
simulate a non bumped bumpmap :)
The whole thing has surely been done in a few hours and is coded
in GFA Basic. Well not much to tell otherwise, the great Marcer
tune is perhaps a reason to revisit this screen.
Zorro 2 presents an, hmmm.... Amiga Crackto? At least it looks
like that. This screen exactly feels like one, especially the
crystal clear mod adds a lot to that impression. It might well
be a screen composed with the DCK but this one has at least two
different code-paths. On the STE it replays a module and shows
left-right scrolling starts, while you get a chiptune and
rotating stars on a plain ST. Both versions contain a Byte
bender scroller and the bottom border is broken... There isn't
much to see apart from that.
The 2nd demo screen by NoExtra features some intro screens and a
fair amount of design, even though it is nothing special I have
to admit I like that screen, for its overall composition it's
like an oldskool dentro with a tad of design. But I ask myself
why should someone announce his prod as being STEem and SainT
compatible? Isn't it the emulator's job to be compatible with
the all prods that can be executed on the emulated system?
Anyway the dentro starts with some ancient but still nice tune
and a compatibility announcement, which is faded out and
replaced by a NoExtra logo which is soon accompanied by a one
plane filled vector rectangle and a one plane 8 pixel high bit-
Afterwards follows the main screen. Again lower overscan is
used, another byte bender some small 1 plane sprites and a
plasma. Not much else to say...
The 3rd NoExtra Screen starts off with a nicely drawn DHS compo
logo which starts swinging up and down after a while. Then the
main screen is displayed this time using top and bottom overscan
to display two nicely painted logos. The middle of the screen is
filled with a plasma and another one plane byte bender scroller.
After a while the whole screen starts swinging up and down.
No burner but far better than many other screens which have been
released in 2005, and I'd say those NoExtra guys have potential.
The graphics of Mister.A are quite well done and all screens
have some style which makes them look quite nice. I am not sure
if new school fanatics will share my opinion but grew up with
screens like that and I really like them.
As a minor flaw this screen doesn't restore the palette
correctly when you exit it standalone.
The Creators screen starts off with some technical "flaws" right
from the beginning. It's only a minor flaw but it's noticeable
and it could have been avoided. Let me try to explain what I am
talking about. Right after starting the screen and before the
palette is faded out it does some frequency changes that seem to
open the border for at least one vbl. Perhaps it's some testing for
the shifter type, perhaps something else, but these measures should
normally be performed completely invisible to the viewer.
(D-Bug told me later that this is only performed to restore the
screen, because it sometimes get's fucked up by the loader.)
Afterwards the colours are faded to black and a small slideshow
displaying some text and an 8 bit Atari logo with lots of
rasters are shown. I wonder why they used this logo instead of
the one from the ST era.
Anyway a bit later the main screen is started and the 2nd flaw
appears. It's basically the same thing, the borders are opened
while you can still see the graphic on screen before it should
appear there, giving an ugly flash also during later colour
The screen consists of a seemingly one plane byte bender with
variable scrollspeeds, later it turns out the scroller uses in
fact three planes, even if everybody will assume it's a two bitplane
Scroller. What's really nice about that scroller is the fact that
it is using a proportional font, with varying letter widths.
In addition to that a partial overscan is used and some line wise
palette animated "graphics" are "scrolling" in the background, due
due to some perspective arrangement of the coloured stripes you get
a fake 3d impression.
The background colours and patterns change from time to time and
vary a lot in quality and design.
When the screen exits you get those overscan pixel garbage on
screen again, again proper fading would have solved that
problem, which is a pity since it's so easy to do.
Overall it's a nice screen but the badly timed colour fades drag
it down a bit. Also the demo feels a bit unfinished with only
that 3 plane byte bending scroller you should have lots of CPU
left even if it is capable to run at different scrollspeeds and
uses several source buffers as it seems. Of course we have at
least a partial overscan which is a plus for the screen and it
contains several machine handles, for example it runs on a
Falcon as well. That's pretty nice. Could have been a top screen
with a bit more focus on basic craftsmanship, also the 3D effect
which is mentioned in the scroller would have lifted the screen.
It would be nice to see a completely finished version of it even
if the deadline and voting is long over. However I guess that
won't happen since Nerve's Falcon just died :( and he was
responsible for delivering the 3D part...
Twenty Years Atari ST
The Paradox screen starts with a medium resolution graphics
which uses some colour flicker technique to display at least 8
colours per scanline. If I count right there are four colour
switches per vertical blank, above a logo or its mirror image.
The whole thing is accompanied by a cheering crowd sample, which
might not be everybody's taste.
Afterwards an awesome chiptune starts and Ra presents us a full
overscan with scrollers and a small volume meter. When I 1st saw
the huge font by ZWF at D.A.S., I never thought it would look
that great. However the combination with the small one plane
scrollers in the background and the nicely chosen colours make
the whole screen a real eye candy.
Along with overscan, sync-scrolling the screen features digi-
drums and the possibility which wasn't used to display 16
colours in front of the 1 plane background. A pity ZWF didn't
use enough colours on the font. Well so much for the
communication between coders and graphic artists :)
If there is light there is always shadow as well and one
downside of the screen is that it sometimes refuses to work at
all. In a few cases you get a black screen with some garbage
noise when starting it, besides it sometimes doesn't open some
borders for a single frame. But this occurs only once after ages
of perfect scrolling and it's hardly noticeable.
Overall surely one of the top screens of the compo for me.
What can I say about this screen? It contains some nice graphics
and tells a nice and in some parts also funny story but it will
surely bore the coders amongst us. There are no technical FX to
be seen and the whole "demo" resembles more a slideshow than a
demo. The best thing about it besides some of the graphics is
surely the music by Dma-Sc.
Even if the text display in wide parts of the demo is much to
slow for my taste, the demo is nicely designed and it has its
charm. What I completely dislike is the fact that it doesn't
manage to restore the original resolution and desktop colours on
exit. Things like that shouldn't happen anymore after 20 years
of time to investigate a machine...
What I really liked were the ideas about the memories of our little
grey machine, especially the "blocky and jerky" memories bit made me
Gizmo / DHS
As it seems Gizmo tried to do too much on the small ST. The
rendered frames look awesome but the frame rate reminds more of
a slideshow than of a demo. In addition to that the screen
sometimes displays an ugly rendering bug which draws the wrong
scanlines here and there. Some precalculation of the images
would have helped to speed up the whole thing, and it could have
rescued the screen even though I know newskoolers like it
realtime. But it would have been possible to render the next
object while the 1st one is still shown with two animation
buffers. anyway the screen leaves us with a nice zak, a slow 1px
per vbl scroller in two bitplanes and mixed feelings...
DAMO / RG
Wow, what a renderer... This screen is amazing, I love the
design. You have to watch it to see what I mean. To my knowledge
it's pretty innovative on the ST, I can't recall to have seen
something similar yet. Well done Damo, a pity you were too late
for the deadline, I guess it would have ranked quite high
Intro 22 / The Bits
Well the usual TBC stuff accompanied with nicer music this time.
The zak still sucks but at least its no longer random generated.
It seems TBC is improving in tiny steps. Perhaps we will see
some really cool screens in 20 years or so :)
Cyclone for Alive, 2005-12-26