Or, What DBug of NeXT has been up to recently!
Now take those funny little 8-bit computers that they used to churn out
by the barrelful, back then. You just got a chunk of circuit board,
stuck a washing-machine controller chip on it (now, no Amiga A1200
jokes please!) Bluetacked a television signal modulator in there, and
crudely soldered on a calculator keyboard as your main means of
interrogating the electronic chaos within.
Back then, a new one of these seemed to turn up every week, and one
such was a beast called 'Oric'!
The Oric could have been mistaken for a ZX Spectrum, apart from a few
differences, such as a 1mhz 6502 for a main CPU, slightly better
graphics, *identical* sound to a stock STFM, and a natty calculator
style keyboard which came across as a little less cheap than the
Sinclair effort. Later on, came the radically tidied up, and rather
neat Oric Atmos, but it was too late, the Speccy and C64 laid waste to
all before them, and they surveyed a landscape, in the mid-eighties,
that was nervously awaiting the 16-bit age.
That is not to say that the Oric didn't have its fans. One such, was
DBug of NeXT (or Defence-Force) who started his whole computing career
on the Atmos, and retains a sneaking affection for this beastie, as
well as his Atari.
Now one thing that was apparent, was the Oric seemed to be catered for
pretty well in most areas, even in it's undead afterlife phase. But
there was one kind of software, which was lacking. The Oric didn't (as
far as we know) have any demos for it! Of course, where you get a
dedicated demo coder such as DBug, then fortunately, this situation
doesn't last forever!
His first effort, the prosaically named 'Oric Demo 1', was put
together for the Volcanic 4 Party. It was intended to run on the Atmos,
and the PC-based 'Euphoric' emulator. For the purposes of this review,
it also rather handily worked with the somewhat closer to home 'AToric'
TOS Oric emulator as well! AToric will run on most Atari machines, with
higher powered machines more likely to run the emulation environment at
full speed. A CT2 turns out to be ideal for the task..
Setting up demands a little bit of thinking. I put all the different
files in a folder of its own. I was able to run individual screens, but
not the demo as a whole. Following the simple instructions didn't help.
Until I put the demo files into the main directory with the emulator,
then we were in business with this Oric demo reviewing lark!
A spoof 'Windows 95' screen appears, is this the long-dreaded Oric
edition of this all too common computing bugbear? But no, a speculative
dab at the spacebar produces gunshots, and bloodsplats on the screen!
(The gunshots some of the few sounds in the demo) Screen goes away, and
cuts to a sineous up and down scrolling 'DBug' logo.
Another dose of spacebar brings up a spoof Nike logo, a quick taster
for the next proper effect, which is a screenful of rasters, which
blink in and out of view, briefly.
Coming up next, one of the major screens of the demo, which is a Mega
Scroller, a very chunky looking oldskool scroller, strides confidently
across the screen. This runs its course, and you go on to the 'Polygon
Mania' screen, which has the stippled component parts of a pyramid
float around onscreen, in a floaty dotted ballet sort of thing.
Polygon - Doggone!
'Boring Greets' follow, which are a series of texts on screen. These
are actually quick and to the point, so manage to avoid the 'boring'
label. More of a significant pause, before the rapidly onrushing final
parts of the demo, rather than 'boring'.
A revisit to the raster screen, but this effect has been magnificently
expanded into a more contemporary Oric styled Plasma screen, which
seems to work well within the limitations of the standard Oric graphics
modes. A final tap of the spacebar produces the finale, a violently
bouncing 'Oric' logo to an ST-perfect YM version of the music from
'Thrust', or a million and one 1988 vintage Swedish demos!
This demo works fine, amazingly well in the AToric emulator. It seems
that DBug is practically the only person so far, who has been motivated
to complete demoware for the Oric, although he suggests there may be a
couple of others out there?
A Brief note on the STNICCC 2000 Intro..
DBug returned to things Oric, more recently, with his second major
release for the Atmos, and compatible emulators, at the STNICCC 10th
anniversary party last December.
This showed considerable advances, both in coding technique and
presentation, over the earlier demo. The effects were based around a
more advanced version of the plasma screen, a series of cool pseudo
'texture tunnels', and culminating in a couple of zoom and rotate
screens, one of which with a graphic much larger than the default
resolution! The colouring seemed to be more subtle, and with more
shades than the standard, often rather garish Oric screen modes.
Here, Dbug seemed to be pushing the metal a lot harder than before, as
this proved to be where AToric gave a less than perfect end result. The
effects worked, and still at a good speed, but the colours came up
totally wrong! This was apparently down to a less than perfect
emulation of the whole screen display system, according to DBug. The
author of AToric just been content to put in the standard screen modes,
which would be fine for classic games, but not so responsive to the
Oric overscan that he was using.
Even at this stage, there was a sort of cure, as forcing AToric to run
in ST mono, produced an end result that was a lot more viewable, a grey
shaded demo. But you would really need a real Atmos, or the rather more
developed 'Euphoric', to see it properly, as DBug intended.
Even from the grey prison walls of AToric, you can still see why this
demo won the first prize for the intro competition at STNICCC 2000. (No
disrespect to tSCc, by the way!)
It would be nice to see more from DBug, on the Oric, and also,
resurgent, on the Atari, as he has reaquired an ST, and is looking for
a good cross-assembler to work from, so we may yet see more coding
excellence from DBug, on a platform more familiar to the rest of you
CiH - Alive! Mag, Jan '01