THE FRENCH SCENE
Note of myself :) This article was meant to be published in one of the last
Atari papermagazine but I never heard from them again after I sent this file...
So I thought that you may enjoy it, at least it will not have been written for
Hello dear readers ! Let me tell you who I am before we start our travel
into the depths of the French Scene. My nickname is ST survivor and I am
currently the main co-editor of Atari diskmag aLiVe! My story started about 10
years ago when I received my Atari Ste as a Christmas present... Let's now
trace back what has happened in France over the same time.
Another thing needs be said before all : I don't want to ignore the birth
and first limit-breaking productions, alas I ran into the scene in 1994 and
prefer writing about what I know and have lived through instead of collecting
data on an era I never was familiar with.
1. A Glorious Past
No need to waste time on my iddle years. Let's go directly to year 1994
when I joined NLC, back then makers of the Ste Tekno Drugs democlip and also
responsible for French diskmag ToXic Mag. The first coding party I attended was
the Place To Be Again in Mont de Marsan in the South of France, some 900 kms
far from home and in many ways this party was dropping a curtain on the Scene
as we had known until then...
The ST had been high in the charts in the early 90s especially demowise.
Like other countries, FRANCE had its big names you couldn't but know : Oxygene,
Diamond Design, Overlanders, Holocaust, Dune, Hemoroids, Equinox, ACCS, Legacy,
St Connexion, MJJ Prod, Sector One for the best known ! These crews were not
only technically impressive but also brought what is still called the "French
touch" to demos with neat pictures and colourful effects, not to forget great
transitions between screens. All these crews were quite big : some of them had
more than 10 members and you could read their names in the credits, meaning
they all had their hands put into the demo !
Demos from this time were really awesome and I suggest to get your hands on
them if you're a newcomer ! Here goes my top 3 :
1 - Froggies Over The Fence (3DD) by Overlanders, Legacy and ST Connexion.
The last and - most impressive ? - sign of life from some famous French
crews, this big demo features a very long multipart showing numerous
effects like distorting scrollers, starfields, tunnels, wireframed objects,
all stylishly put together. On the first disk, you'll also enjoy a Tetris
game which is above all a great collection of chips composed by Jess (one
of my favourite "old time" musicians with Scavenger !). All his chips can b
found here including the amazing "16 minute long theme" :) The second disk
is a nice slide show made of raytraced pictures displayed in 4096 colors
plus 15Khz soundtrack on a humble STf, respect ! The third disk contains
more goodies with another tho shorter multipart and an awesome sequence
that will remind you of the intro to Another World but with more colors,
sounds and animations ! Definitely great.
2 - Flip'O by Oxygene and Diamond Design : Of course no one can forget what
is to many people THE demo. Released in 1993, Flip'O got us facing an
incredibely well designed and coded production. It goes very fast with dots
(of course :) shown as balls, vawes, tunnels but also rotozoomer (a picture
zooms in and out and rotates at the same time), a dice with a motive on
each side, and so forth. Design and pictures have remained a reference for
years with artwork by the best French artists such as Niko, Mon and Spiral.
Definitely a must be in spite of its age.
3 - Japtro (4DD!) and Blood (2DD) by HOLOCAUST : This crew has the solid
reputation to be hardcoders and these last two demos showed it again with
huge 3D objects, tons of dotballs, TrueColor converted pictures and so on,
most of these screens in fullscreen (all borders removed !). They called
their routines "brutal code" and that was really amazing and so huge esp
for a two men crew ! Last but not least, the trend was all about manga at
that time and surely the guys from Holocaust seemed to love mangas since
JAPTRO featured about 2Mb of packed JPG scanned from various mangas.
------------------------------- B O N U S -------------------------------------
Another great French demo coded in these years was finally released last
year. I am of course thinking of Virtual Escape by Equinox. A brainblasting
demo with fast 3D, many objects on the same screen, original ideas, fast pacing
musics and tremendous overall design, ie another MUST HAVE !
Of course there were other crews which tho not bad quite didn't make it to
the international reputation of mentioned above ones. Let me shuffle through
the shoes box that holds all my ST demos and I'll give you extra names.
POSITIVITY : they produced a couple of Ste demos that were ok.
ETERNITY : very stylish band with original ideas !
ARSENIC : design before everthing but very few projects taken to completion
ADRENALINE : famous band esp for their later demos on Falcon. Besides who
could forget the great pictures by Flan(ker) ??
ATROCITY : the - only - French fakedemo crew by excellence. They were
really nuts and cool friends !
AMNESIC CACTUS / RIBBON : tho not very active this band reinforced the
"French Touch" feeling with nice graphics and design.
CYBERNETICS : besides giving us their Synthetic Art painting programm they
also released 'Relapse' a 3 disk STe demo with a real mystical feeling,
nice musics and gfx.
FANTASY : surely not really known outside France, this crew was REALLY
succesful though ! They released a couple of hilarious and delirious demos
based on a famous magician called Garcimore. Undoubtedly the funniest demos
ever seen on an Atari, unfortunately 100% French written :(
To wrap it up, in 1990-94 there were a lot of Frenchies (I counted 20
crews !) involved in the Atari ST Scene, some of them now labelled 'legends'
and others partly remembered. Of course there were also more obscure crews
handling utilities, diskmags or associations, so better add another 10 crews to
this list. Unfortunately 1994 brought us a great deal of change and not the
type you could rejoice :(
So what happened to these many people afterwards ?
2. The "French Touch" Passes To Falcon
The arrival of the Falcon in 1993 finally hit the Scene... months later. In
my opinion the Falcon raised too many questions and hesitations and eventually
acted as a Scene splitter... Many talented and famous crews stopped working on
ST but didn't turn to Falcon instead, maybe feeling it wouldn't live up to the
ST or they were just getting old and thinking of a job and family instead of
nights spent coding, painting and composing :)
Farewell Oxygene, OVR, Legacy, ST Connexion, Dune, Holocaust, ACCS, Equinox
and the others as these bands never released a single intro on Falcon :( Still
the Scene, tho reduced and shaken by mixed feelings, was not dead yet and soon
new groups emerged : most of them were raised from their graves on ST (change a
few nicknames and you have a new crew :) and collaboration brought life to new
groups. In my eyes, these crews never had as great a reputation as their ST
fellows, still the word "French touch" was to be heard again.
Yep French crews were still in town ! Sure some bands moved a shy step
forward the way MJJ Prod, DNT or Hydroxyd did. Soon after some of these band
quit and left the rest of them the responsibility of acting on the Falcon
Scene. Fortunately we were not orphans yet, since we could still count on EKO,
EXA, Scarface, Toons, Abstract and others. Still not so many crews compared to
the feverish ST scene...
The first wave of Falcon demos mixed enhanced old school effects clearly
adapted from their previous ST efforts. Sure it looked nice but I guess people
expected something more. Then we were offered a lot of 3D objects : they were
mapped, gouraud shaded, big and distorting and set a new fashion on Falcon the
way dots had hit the ST before. Oddly these two genders of demos focused on one
peculiar feature : the overall feeling. Instead of flooding us with the usual
techno track, the French demos often opted for funky and funny musics bringing
a happy atmosphere even to the most common French productions.
To be honest very few demos of that time really got me hooked. Most of them
were enjoyable enough but still they showed that the Falcon was not fully
exploited yet. Fortunately original musics, by Djamm and Maf, and awesome
graphics, especially by Niko, Flan, Nitrik and few others greatly brightened
The French Falcon scene didn't last long and was actually active from 1994
to 1996 - early 1997. Yep, as early as 1997 the whole French scene had faded to
nothingness... Luckily enough, the Froggies (as Frenchies were nicknamed after
the unforgettable Froggies Over The Fence demo) had already released some cool
and really nicely coded and put together demos such as Eko demos, Xperience by
Abstract, demos by MJJ Prod, Hydroxid and fellows. Once again here come my
three favourite French Falcon demos :
1 - Entracte by EXA (96 Kb standard Falcon). Really this is a MUST HAVE to
any Falcon user ! EXA managed to put an incredible number of things into
one small file (remember it's 96 Kb big only). Music by Djamm is funky as
ever (and who would dare complain about that ? :), graphics tho limited are
cool courtesy of Flan and there are really many effects especially tons of
colorful and smooth 3D objects (most of them wrapped into gouraud shading
and mixing together). You'll enjoy it right from the funky start to the
peaceful end and you'll keep checking the actual size of the file. Yep not
doubt this is the best looking 96 Kb I have ever seen on Falcon !
2 - EKO System by EKO (standard Falcon). Tho EKO had already released a
couple of nice Falcon demos, EKO System really pushed them to the forefront
of the Falcon Scene. As usual - at least in French demos - music by Djamm
was funky and happy sounding. Graphics by Flan also looked great and that
was when the cute teddy bear fasion started :) Actually most French demos
of that time seemed to adopt the "cute" pictures style but who would
complain ? This demo is really greatly coded, 3D objects are really big and
smooth (nice colours too) and above all this demo features a couple of 3D
worlds which are really smooth and addictive. You almost won't notice your
head turn up or down, unconsciously following the camera :) Last but not
least the greetings part features a lot of 3D logos of very high quality !
A really nice and fat demo you need to get !
3 - Gloop by MISFITS and Yepyah by TOONS (standard Falcon). Don't get lost
here, these are actually two different demos but styles are very similar
and the overall atmosphere is also in the same line (quite logical when you
know that both demos feature musics by Maf). Another piece of evidence that
the French touch is still lurking : nice and cute pictures, colorful
effects with neat transitions (esp. in Gloop) all put together very nicely.
They are not that technical, or at least to me, but the happy 'n funky
music plus very colorful pictures really brings an intense feeling of
delight when watching these demos ! Maybe not the best but definitely very
eye catching and believe me you're going to hum their tunes for hours and
hours, oh yeah man !
Still... As said before the French Falcon Scene faded almost as quickly as
it had bloomed. Very few crews dared release a second demo which was sad
enough. Also things became a bit gloomy these days as some 'private' wars
So far, tho less numerous, Atari magazines were still present either in
paper form or diskmags but the Falcon Scene failed to bring enough motivation
to Atarians and activity both on ST and Falcon got less intensive. As a
consequence even surviving diskmags such as ToXic Mag had to go through a hard
As the word "accelerator" was spoken out, the mentioned war really started.
Ok there were some tensions before : EKO was said to hate Abstract (still it
seemed more like a private joke) and Centek's Centurbo started to upset "real"
Atarians. At that time, a new and ambitious Atari mag called STratos (released
on paper and also on CD) popped in. Very soon, they faced St Mag's views... No
need to waste too much time on that stupid rivalry which ended with the demise
of ST Mag shortly followed by that of STratos... Both had seemingly forgotten
the meaning of the word "passion", too bad...
1998 was here and most French sceners were long time inactive either on ST
or on Falcon... Official magazines had also collapsed on the way on so that the
French scene was almost reduced to nothing... Just a collection of hot ashes.
Did it mean the end of the French Scene ? You'll have to move to the next part
if you want to know about that :)
3. Now What ?
Actually the ATARI Scene enjoyed an unexpected revival in 1998 with demos
coming from Eastern countries such as Poland. Still no life sign was shown from
French crews... There were some small things released especially compilations
and slide shows by Supremacy and Typhoon, a couple of intros of average quality
as well as some issues of Toxic Mag released on a very irregular basis
unfortunately. Not much to feed on and surely the Scene feeling had moved to
other countries. Some French Sceners such as DMA Sc (music composer) and Edo
(graphician) were still active and collaborated on other crews projects. Also
former members of Hemoroids reactivated their old crew St Knights and promised
us a really cool demo called RESURRECTION. This project didn't last long and
nothing was released in the end... On my own, I painted graphics for our game
TRACE coded by guys from Typhoon and also worked with Thyrex on the first LOud!
production, our long delayed gfa megademo Back In France. But I'm not sure you
can count these as Atari milestones. The "French Touch" was no more as all the
people who had spawned it weren't doing things anymore.
The year 2000 brought the first signs that there was still a French Scene as
Equinox finally assembled and released Virtual Escape. Though 6 years late, the
demo still shook us - and made me go gooseflesh as it was pure bliss (report to
part one for more info :). In the meantime Leonard of Oxygene had also awaken
and launched his NOSTALGIC'O project that was supposed to gather mythical crews
(either French or from other countries) into a huge old school megademo. In the
end the NOSTALGIC'O quite missed the point : the 3D intro really rocked and the
screens coded by Leonard with graphics my Mon were cool too, tho strictly
following the old school rules (dot objects, fractals, moving sprites...). but
to be honest I was really disappointed by it, especially after watching the
great intro. Most screens looked like many others done before ! The only other
French contribution was brought courtesy of Ben of Overlanders and showed nice
modern effects with some fire and mapped objects. I wish we could see an
independant demo by Overlanders again !
Leonard also released another ST demo at the STNICCC 2000. This demo fully
uses the 3D routines already seen in the Nostalgic'O intro except that this
time it's the only effect : a 3 minutes long ride in 3D tunnels and weird
shaped rooms. Nice try tho it's not the kind of demo I'll be watching again and
Another survivor from the old days was DUNE or better said its coder Chuck
as I doubt anyone else but him did something over the last years. He brought us
nice old school intros like Memorial or Paradise, both highly inspired by
ancient standards with no new effect. Yet all - old - pictures by Mic were
great, colours just perfect and transitions well worked on. Ah the French touch
wasn't dead after all ! He also coded a nice intro to the last issue of Toxic
Mag having reached number 18. Last but not least we can notice the appearance
of minor groups like Idemline, Popsy Team, Fla or Blue which released various
screens or demos of quite low quality... Another noticeable event was the first
Atari steps of talented graphician Exocet, coming from the PC scene, who amazed
us with his great pictures. Tho he mostly produced a couple of funny gfa
intros, his presence was also felt here and there in various foreign
productions. At least fresh blood was flooding in and I hope Exocet will keep
going even longer !
The biggest and best surprise surely came from Sector One. Note that in
spite of their name the current member list was entirely uncommon to the former
"Sector One" of the golden years. Still they released a nice and cute game
called Mister Boomer which was a kind of crossing between Bomberman and Stone
Age. Later on they released the first Mp3 Player for the Falcon called Falcamp
as well as a nice game Pie Bill Gates in which you could throw pies at Bill
Gates. As before both their musician, Dma Sc, and graphician, Edo, took part to
several other demos for our greatest pleasure !
Thyrex and I also released another gfa demo called "Waiting For the
Apocalypse" which has to be interpreted more like a life sign than another
limit breaking demo :)
The 2001 edition of great party Error In Line showed that the French Scene
was still here thanks to Sector One's great ST demo Odd Stuff done in
collaboration with Dune. This big production really brought back the good old
feeling of a strong French presence (tho only two crews were involved) with a
great quality demo with nice pictures, musics and tons of really cool effects !
Before we draw a conclusion and try to examine the prospects offered by the
French Scene let's stop and consider several interesting homepages and urls
from which you'll be able to download all demos mentioned above.
4. French Sceners On The Internet
Before I let you browse thru the following urls I have to say that as many
bands left long time ago they never grabbed the chance to build a homepage :(
fortunately you'll be able to find their productions on the best filled French
archive site at : ftp.lip6.fr/pub/atari
Also if you feel curious enough to visit the following links you'll notice
that I haven't listed ALL their Atari releseases : hey where would the surprise
be then ? :)
Oxygene homepage http:\\leonard.oxg.free.fr
Equinox homepage http:\\equinox.atari.org
Sector One homepage http:\\sectorone.atari.org
Supremacy homepage http:\\supremacy.atari.org
Loud! homepage http:\\stsurvivor.atari.org
Toxic Mag homepage http:\\toxicmag.atari.org
Idemline homepage http:\\www.idemline.org or www.idemline.com
5. The Future ?
Well time has come to draw some sort of conclusion. As you've been reading,
the French scene mainly evolved the way our European Scene did : first it was
extremely active and there were plenty of bands, most of which simply decided
to switch off their machines by 1993-94. Few of them kept going on Falcon tho
less successfully. Still some demos are still remembered and worth watching
again and again ! Above all, what characterized the French Scene was that design
thing. The "French touch" is hard to define : it's not about one single type of
pictures or colors, it's more about making sure the whole demo looks and sounds
nice. Sure pictures will have to be here, but they must also be put at the
right places and appear in an original manner. Transitions are very important
and definitely put an end to the concept of demos with effects following each
other without the slightest cohesion. Last but not least the often very happy
music brought something "more" to these demos, maybe something that looks like
a soul :)
As I write this, I cannot tell you what the future will be made of. Yep I'm
not fortune teller :) All I know is that I wish to keep being active at least
with the aLiVe! diskmagazine and I think you can still hope for cool musics by
Dma Sc, nice pictures by Edo and Exocet and maybe a new demo by Sector One (I
said maybe, leave them some time off after their hard work on ODD STUFF :). The
real question is : what can we expect from French legends like OXYGENE, EQUINOX
or DUNE to name a few of them ? Well the last ST demo by Oxygene totally took
us by surprise, so we can dream of other surprises. Also if you read the whole
scrolltext in the last part of Odd Stuff, you could read that DUNE wanted to
release their 7 years late ILLUSION demo this year ! If it comes to be true,
then I'm sure we'll be given a great present (the very few things I saw were
amazing even tho coded in 1993-94!). What else ? Well it now depends on former
sceners to wake up and do things. We cannot decide for them and shouldn't
forget they've already done so much in the past years. Still I'm sure that if
we ALL do things, we'll bring former Atarians back to life. Remember : no dream
is over as long as you decide it's still ALIVE...
Sebastien LARNAC aka ST Survivor
email : email@example.com
homepage : stsurvivor.atari.org