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Alive 7
DELTA

                                   By Lineout
http://lineout.atari.org


Before starting this review I feel I must apologize to you.

There are two reasons for  this  and  I'd  like  to enumerate them here.
Firstly, I did the unethical thing (at  least  it  feels like it to me) and read
Moondog's review of delta on UCM. Furthermore,  once  I saw the low rating Delta
was given, something went  "No  fair!"inside  me.  Which  leads  to the second
reason: Both me and Earx are coders (well,  to  be fair, Earx is, but I'm not so
sure about myself :). Over the  passage  of  years  and endless irc chats, we've
sort of become friends with each other. Every  time  we meet on irc we'd go like
"Hi, how's the coding?""Oh, it's fine,  how's  yours?" "Oh, ok, yesterday I did
.... and ...."and so on.

So, what I'm trying to say here is that I feel that this review might be
biased.

But, on the other hand, isn't everything  we do always even a little bit
biased? So, let's go...

Before even viewing the demo to  describe  the  effects, I went and read
Earx's log again (I read it once before). This is because I wanted to understand
better the atmosphere in which the whole demo was written.

   2 years!Do you know what  2  yearsin  the making means? Have you ever
participated in the making of a  demo?  Sometimes  it's fun, watching your stuff
running and you go "Wow, did  I  do that? It looks cool/nice/crap/shitty!!". But
most of the time it ain't. Most of the time it's (for a coder at least) spending
obscure amounts of time in the  development  environment,  typing a lot of code,
assembling it,  testing  it,  debugging  it,  optimizing  it,  re-assembling it,
deciding that it's crap, then deciding it's not, then dropping the whole effect,
then coming back to it after 2 weeks  to find that everything is ok but spending
lots of time into it made it look  crap etc., etc., etc. into infinity. The same
analogy applies  to  the  graphic  artists  and  musicians,  and  even designers
(although there aren't many people that their  function in a group is doing pure
design).

And the bad times don't stop there. You start asking yourself questions,
like: "Oh God, why am I still  at  it,  seeing that I'm hopeless?", "Will people
like it or just laugh at it?", "Why  am I not somewhere else doing anything than
this? Other people are having fun  at  this  very  moment, while I'm still here,
feeling sad, only to please some  lamers  that'll probably say 'Good demo!' just
out of courtesy, and then laugh manically at  it!"(got a bitcarried away here,
sorry! But please understand that  my  above  sentences are purely hypothetical,
and their sole purpose is  to  be  extreme  as  to  give  the  feeling of a demo
creator).

A small extract from  Earx's  log  about  this  demo will demonstrate my
point further: "[...] Also  it  contains  the  fastest  3d  routs  so far on std
falcon, but I don't know if people will  notice. The bottom line: even if I know
I'm making a satisfactory  product  for  myself  and  extending my boundaries, I
doubt if people will acknowledge this."

Sometimes it's out of control. Other  obligations in life need immediate
attention, and there just isn't enough  time  to  "play with the silly computer"
(I'm sure most of you have heard this  statement at least once from your parents
:)

So, for me, every person (or  group) that overcomes all these obstacles,
who has enough energy  to  pull  it  through  until  the  end, to make something
interesting, is a hero. And if this  mythical  status has been lost on platforms
like the PC, it's still here on the Atari platform. That's, in a way, the reason
that I always say when something gets released "Welldone!"

Well, Earx is one of  the  people  I'm  talking  about.  And this is his
latest work, so far. Delta.  The  fourth  letter  of  the Greek alphabet. A demo
divided into three parts: alpha, beta and  gamma(the first three letters of the
Greek alphabet). So, if we had to put it into an equation,

Delta= Alpha + Beta+ Gamma

Of course, before  I  begin  describing  the  (endless)  effects, let me
apologize for another small matter: I have,  in  fact, never seen Delta run on a
real Falcon, so this review will be based  on an MPEGed version of it. The specs
of the machine that were used  are:  Standard (non-accelerated) Falcon, 4MB RAM.
So, let's go.

Pre-Alpha
~~~~~~~~~
0. An ASCII-art logo appears while precalculating, along with some configuration
options.

Alpha
~~~~~
1. The Lineout logo appears in random vertical stripes.
2.The intro selector then plays, which  consists of: A wireframe Delta spinning
around leaving its trails as  it  goes,  a  text  saying "delta", and a friendly
message asking us to press a,b or  c,  or  esc  to  bugger off! Since we have no
control over MPEG, we just  let  it  press  whatever it wants (interactive MPEG,
anyone? ;)
3.D-Force's module starts  playing  while  the  standard  credits appear over a
lens-distorting background with  a  blue  texture.  Then,  the distortions start
getting wilder, rotating, zooming, scrolling, stretching., etc.
4.Some more  distortions,  this  time  with  a  much  more  peculiarly coloured
texture.
5.With the screen not cleared  from  the  previous effect, we are introduced to
the next one. Feedback.  3-D  "wireframe"  objects  made  of balls rotate round,
while the screen feedback scrolls towards  us.  Ace  transition! By the way, the
objects are real time tweeningbetween shapes. Cool!
6.Water ripplesis up  next,  over  the  blue  background  used at effect #3 (I
think). The waves used make the effect very pretty indeed.
7.Next effect: interference.  Two  patterns  of  red  shaded concentric circles
interfere with each  other,  while  they  are  scrolling  around, making another
pleasing effect. Palette changes from red to  blue, then to green and finally to
yellow/brown in a most pleasing way.
8.A change in music  signifies  the  change  in effect. The weird yellow/purple
texture at effect #4 is used  as  background,  and some translucent metaballs(a
bit slow there Pieter,  hehehe  :)dance  around.  After  a bit, the background
scrolls as well. Maybe a more  specific  texture  (a logo or something) would do
better justice to this effect?
9.Another violent change in music! And another effect! Z-buffered gouraud balls
move around zooming in and out, then  another pair appears in a path symmetrical
with the original to the centre of the screen. Then, another cool feedback. This
time it's away from us, which means  that  we  get millions of smaller copies of
the balls in the background, following the movement of the bigger balls (hmmm...
is this some sexual statement that  Pieter  does here?? The smaller balls follow
the bigger ones??? :)
10.The original object (one white bigger  ball  and four red bigger ones - more
sexual innuendos here? ;) then starts bouncingaround a few invisible walls.
11.A voxel shaded terrain. I can't vouch  for  its quality (the first one I see
on Falcon - even if it's on video),  but  it sure is damn fast (again, not quite
sure!). The terrain has the freedom to move  in and out, rotate around the z and
y axis (y axis limited)
12.A tunnelwith the blue texture  from  effects #3 and #6. The tunnel's centre
isn't static, but moves around as well. Then a couple of more centres are added,
making it an interfered tunnel. (Damn!  I  have  to  see the sources sometime! I
always wanted to know some hints about tunnels! Same for feedback too :)
13.A "flower"-like effectis  displayed.  I'm  not  sure  how to describe this
effect, but I'll do my best.  It  looks  like  a  texture (in shades of blue) is
wrapped around different sized petals, that cover a large part of the screen (in
fact, they go way beyond the screen). Looks like a kaleidoscope too.
14.Two horizontal planes that extend into infinity(using the blue texture from
effects #3, #6, #12). The far pixels look more like noise, though. The viewpoint
rotates around, too.
15.A triangle(could pass as a  Delta,  too  ;) with a weird background scrolls
about, and some weird feedbackcreates  something  like  a halo. Love the music
pattern, too :)
16.A weird tunnelappears then with a black-white texture. A message informs us
that we have, in fact, been watching part a. Wow! 18 effects for 1 part only! By
the way: How does a monkey hit  space?  Does  it  wave its arms around at random
hitting particles (a fragment of space)? :))

Round-up for part alpha:Nice effects,  did  not  bore me at all (unlike
some other demos that  one  good  effect  is  being  displayed  -maybe even with
variations- for a couple of  minutes.  Boooooring!!!).  Maybe more Falcon owners
will find this part passť. On the other hand, I've seen quite some PC demos (old
and new), and their effects usually bore me  to tears. But part a didn't bore me
at all. It was quite pleasant, in fact! One  thing I would like to see though is
more design. More transitions (like the one in effects #4-#5) could have made it
brilliant. But, as it is, it's "good"!

Beta
~~~~
17. Black, background, sinister music. A pure  white 3D Delta object (could pass
as a triangle, too ;) comes  scrolling  about and zooming. After resting quietly
in the back, it starts  casting  some  sort  of  halo,  which rotates. The music
reaches a (sort of) crescendo.  The  whole  effect  starts zoomingtoward us and
then....
18.the Delta object changes into  a  textured version(black-white texture) and
acquires little brothers! They zoom and rotatetowards us, one after the other.
(the music goes wild! But, unfortunately, not entirely synced - well, I'll blame
this to the MPEG ;). The  viewpoint  at  some  point  changes,  and we see the a
weirdly textured cubethat stands still while the Deltas pass around it.
19.The Deltas disappear magically, leaving  the  cube alone. The cube obviously
is pissed off at this, so it  starts  sprouting lightnings! The music fits quite
well with this effect.
20.Some yellow rhombi fade in and  outat random points, interfering with each
other. Then, they get more organized,  and  transform the effect into horizontal
and vertical lines, which leave a trail. The same thing happens once again, with
a grey palette.
21.Another grey tunnelfades in, which gets incrementally very white.
22.Two 3D textured springs  (environment  mapped),  move  and rotate about. The
background flashesaccording to the music.
22.An old  PC  effect,  this,  but  I  like  it:  Concentric rings (environment
mapped?), which start rotating  around  with  different  angles and speeds, that
create very nice patterns. The camera jumps  in  and  out in sync with the music
(with something resembling a snare drum :)
23.Some weird 3D shapes(well, I  can't  give  an  exact word, but they sort of
remind me of some tacks that  they  drop  on  action  movies on the road to blow
tires with :), lots of environment  mapping,  lots  of movement (both camera and
the shapes)
, pleasing effect (the shapes even form a pyramid in the end).
24.Another voxel terrain, but this one's distorteda bit, as to give a "globe"
effect. The terrain is not fractal. Instead, it reminds of a huge maze (remember
"The Shining"? :)
25.3 hollow hemispheres(env.  mapped)  rotating  weirdly, while the viewpoint
rotates too! Then one of them is gone,  and the two hemispheres face each other,
jumping around, looking like a sphere which has been cut in half.
26.2 gears of different sizes (env. mapped)get together, and start rotating in
sync. The gears have been even designed  to  work correctly! (equal moduls :). A
shaft is then added to the smaller gear (also called "pinion" gear ;) and in the
background another pair of cooperating gears  (of  equal  size) are added to the
shaft. The last gear has a  small  Delta  in  it  rotating too. Nice effect! The
camera zooms in at the Delta, and then...
27.... the Delta remains, everything else  is replaced by an environment mapped
cube(memories of "Hmmm...." spring here). Everything is rotating wildly.
28.Kaleidoscopetime. The hollow  hemispheres  are rendered with alpha blending
and environment mapping (maybe! I can't really  make out what happens there just
by looking :), and the whole thing  is mirrored horizontally and vertically. The
background & palette (as well  as  the  music)  are  going insane! Then it's the
weird objects' time (from effect #23).
29.The same effect as #22, but this time the rings are replaced with rhombi.
30.An extremely weird object(with  the familiar yellow palette) rotates round.
From one viewpoint it looks like a flower, but from another a drill or something
like that! The environment mappingdoes good stuff here!
31.The music softens up, the mood  changes.  From industrial to more mellow. An
env. mapped ring zoomsin, and Earx uses  a render effect(used by Defjam in the
zoomer/rotator on Suretrip, and Evil, and Ray,  etc.) to gain more speed and add
a "blurry" effect to the bargain.  After  the  ring disappears, the weird object
from effects #22 and #28 scrolls along.
32.Exactly the same as effect #21(maybe I shouldn't even enumerate this).
33.A big P-Q torusobject is  rendered here with environment mapping. The torus
is changing shape, too. As it  zooms  out,  and  the music fades out, we realize
that this is, in fact, the end of part beta.

   Reflections on part beta:Unlike  part  alpha,  almost the whole of this
part was a bit more "themed".  The  music  played  a  major role on this, and it
added the energy to support the viewing fx. It had a more natural flow than part
a (which, after part b, looks a  bit  of  a gathering of old fx). Overall: "Very
good"!

Gamma (Earx's favorite!)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
34. If the music sets the  mood  (underwater  bubbles), then the first effect is
the mood itself! Two starfish over  a  yellow background appear. What makes this
screen excellent though is that  one  of  the  two  starfishactually moves into
position (environment mapped) with very natural  movement! Well done! Part gamma
couldn't kick off better!
35. The whole screen is zoomeda bit. Then the yellow background disappears. And
then the bump mappingstarts. Clever! Screen is scrollingtoo!
36. Some sea shellsappear and move around, but then along comes a spiral thingy
that upsets them, so they clear off! The spiral thingy, unimpressed at the whole
situation, clears off as well! We  then  have  a  closer  look at one of the sea
shells (in a "Look mum, I'm on TV"poses :)
37. The music turns more "bubbly", so some distorted bubblesappear.
38. A blue background crashes the bubbles in the middle, and a fractal fern-like
plantstarts moving about, gradually morphinginto a myriad of nice shapes. But,
because it's shy, it zooms out of focus.
39. A weird voxel-like terrainstarts changing itself into a lot of shapes (even
in the shape of a gear!). Too pretty an effect to describe by words!
40. This effect is 3D environment mapped  metaballs. Nothing more to say, except
that it's pleasing.
41. After that we have  the  weird  shape  from  effects  #22, #28, #31, without
environment mapping,  but  some  gouraud  shadinginstead,  and  some particles
dancing around it. But  then  something  horrible  happens:  it  learns that its
grandpa died, and zooms out! Fortunately, some  of its friends come and save the
day, making it join their  circle  of  dancing!  The  particles  add more to the
general joy! But then something even more  horrible happens: The other 3 friends
find out that their grandpas were killed in the same accident! So they all leave
the screen, each one taking different  ways.  This leaves us with the particles,
that go "Screw this, I'm off to the  hookers!"  and blows the joint, after a few
minutes of dancing alone!
42. After watching all this madness in  the previous scene, we are rewarded with
a very very very nice fire  effect(it's  not  like the standard ones, too). At
this point, the music (by Frequent)  gets  a  bit more dynamic, and... well... I
just... like it!
43. A 3D rhombus-like  environment  mapped  objecttransforms above a scrolling
starfield.
44. A lot of stars(excellently  represented  by rendered single pixels!) form a
rotating spiral.
45. On that effect, I'm a bit  unsure.  Either it's a standard distorter(with a
blue/purple texture) using a pretty weird distortion, or it's a weird 3D terrain
which rotatesaround. Probably the second, but I wouldn't swear by this.
46. Fractaltime! But before  everybody  immediately  goes  to sleep, let me say
that the  palette  and  the  tweening  path  chosen  (Julia  curves)  is  simply
excellent, and blends in with the music  as  well  (which, for a while, has gone
asthmatic, breathing deeply). The number of iterations per pixel seem to be low,
but who cares? It looks better this way anyway.
47. My suspicions on effect #45are  more  confirmed here, because I think it's
the same effect with a different  scene  (which looks like a jelly-fishattached
to the floor sucking something)
48. "All these worlds are yours". What  worlds? A galaxy rotatingis the answer.
But why are they ours? Have we bought  them? Have we conquered them? Do the life
forms that (might) live in there agree with  that? Is this a sort of occasion to
start a galaxic war between worlds?  Pieter,  please,  be more careful with this
kind of statements next time ;-) Then a more "spirally" galaxy is shown.

                 G A M E  O V E R

Thoughts about part gamma: Well, I  understand  why Earx says (quite some times)
in his log that part gamma is his favorite. It seems more complete and mature in
comparison to the other two parts. Overall, it's "Ace"!!!

Comments on whole demo: I think that  the  effects were laid very wisely. In any
case, sorting through 50 effects (why the  hell  did I only count 48? Maybe Earx
will read this review and send me  an  e-mail. Sorry Pieter, but I'm running out
of time here!!!) is in no  way  an  easy  task  or something absolute (any other
person would make a completely different enumeration, I'm sure).

The general idea for this demo  (in  my  opinion) was: a) Give them some
effects, so they'll wake up and then  we  can have their attention, b) Turn more
aggressive and themed, so they'll get into mood, c) Astonish them with excellent
fx and design (and music), so they'll  go  totally haywire.And I think, in this
way, that the demo is very successful indeed!

Personally, I've seen a lot of demos. Most of them have a third (or even
half) of Delta's duration. But few can claim  that didn't bore me to tears. Most
of them are  built  under  the  philosophy,  "Oh,  I  just  coded  an absolutely
brilliant effect that I  can't  stop  watching!  So,  let's  put  it  on for 2-3
minutes. That way the crowd will love it  too!".  And you know what? Most of the
times the aforementioned effect is average. Sometimes  it even sucks! And if you
want to watch the full demo there is  nothing  you can do but sit down and wait!
That makes me pissed off!

Fortunately Earx didn't fall into this trap. The effects come in and out
without boring the viewer, but long enough to register the effect.

If there's  one thing  that the whole demo  suffers though, it's design.
More fade in/out routines or transition effects were needed, and we would have a
pure masterpiece  in our hands. But  I'm given the  impression that Earx doesn't
care about this (oh, yeah, like most coders care about design!)


Bottom line: I like it!Well done Earx and crew! Let's not' forget them!
It's rather rude. So, well done guys!





GGN/K‹A software productions/Alive Team
ggn@atari.org





Alive 7