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Alive 5

                In Brief...

Some Acorn Archimedes and Risc PC Demos sampled.

One of the major reasons why I got into RiscOS hardware was Starfighter 3000
(grin!)  Another  compelling reason was for the fact that there was  a  demo
scene  for  it,  with quite a range of material,  sort of shadowing what the
Amiga and PeeCee scenes were doing.

Almost  since the idea of coding demos became respectable,  back in the late
eighties,  someone,  somewhere  was kicking out an equivalent on the Archie.
This activity continued,  right through to the present day,  if at least one
person is to be believed,  albeit at a lower level of activity now. Checking
out  the  demo  server at I found a more  or  less  complete
archive  of  Archie and Risc PC demos,  a huge range of material.  Surely  I
should be able to run all this with my newly acquired Risc PC?

In practice,  the amount that will run successfully reduces down for various

Some very old demos may well need the first generation RiscOS,  v2.00.  This
is considered now to be as out of date in Acorn circles, as say, TOS 1.01 is
to us.  A "modern" Archimedes will have an OS starting at v3.1.  The Risc PC
came in at v3.5 - 3.7 (I've got v3.6) and the newest generation RiscOS is at
version 4.

A feature of the Risc PC design, is that with additional Video RAM, it could
display a number of extended screen resolutions and enhanced palette  modes.
A lot of later Risc PC demos make use of this,  and guess what,  Acorn often
supplied  hardware without this useful extra preinstalled.  This includes my
machine, and a lot of demos get excluded for lack of this. VRAM would be the
one  essential extra I'm getting,  right after I've recovered from the  CT60
spend-out, even if I don't do anything else to this machine.

Still,  that leaves quite a lot which will be able to run perfectly okay. so
I  started with some of the Archie demos that I collected when my A4000  was
running,  and were archived for safekeeping on my Falcy hard drive. If these
were  able to run on a RiscOS 3 machine,  then they shouldn't have a problem
with this later model.


These are (mostly) written around a RiscOS 3 based Archimedes,  typically an
A5000,  which had a 25mzh CPU not a lot slower than my RPC. One or two demos
may well have been older generation,  and I could tell as they ran very very
quickly indeed. The other point of interest is that these sort of demos were
a  lot  more likely to work with my default monitor setting  in  place,  and
without fiddling to set up a 'fake' 100hz screen mode.

'Funky demo' - JSG (1992).
This is probably the nearest thing to a rave demo you're going to see on the
Archie. A huge dancing chromium effect stick figure dominates the screen, to
a  pulsating  soundtrack,  the screen splits in various weird and  wonderful
ways,  there is a crazy gyrating starfield in the background, and some madly
spinning spectroscopes. After two or three minutes, the demo loops. There is
also a second Funky Demo,  called "Funky Demo 2", which carries on with this
general theme.

Minutes of harmless fun for all the family. - 65%

'Spaceballs' - Paranoia Complex (199?)
We  are  into  something  Amiga-ish,   something  oldskool  here,  with  the
Archimedes  take  on  the  3-D Vectorbob demo.  You  may  well  scream  "Red
Sector!",  or  even "Mindbomb Demo!" Or perhaps not?  They don't imitate the
two  famous demos exactly,  there's no mirrored watery bottom half,  but the
impressive  profusion  of vectorbob objects,  a nice starfield and  galactic
backdrops,  plus  the fact it is running in 256 colours,  not to mention the
decent runtime length of this demo, go some way to make up for that. There's
even a little Xmas themed bonus screen buried deep in there.

Did anyone say Amiga? - 75%

'Damn!' - Arms Tech (199?)
You  will  hear  the name 'Arms Tech' again,  when it comes to the  Risc  PC
section,  a  bit later on.  This demo runs on all flavours of Archie though,
assuming  there  is at least a 12mhz CPU there.  What you get,  after a neat
shatter-effect title screen,  is a walk-through,  or more accurately, a fly-
around  tour of a 3-D world.  This is a world not unrecognisable to fans  of
the EKO System demo concept,  where lots of angular polygons predominate. My
memory  of running it on the A4000 suggests that there was an  option  where
you  could take control yourself by the keyboard?  There is also a  windowed
desktop version (rather like the GEM Demo idea) which works perfectly  well,
and  prefers  a 256 colour screen mode although it will run in  a  fast  but
grotty manner in 16 colours.

Quite a slick and user-friendly production. - 80%

'Fishtank' - DFi (1996).
Dfi are another crew who mainly coded on the Risc PC,  tending to specialise
in higher-end demos.  However, this little demo is a perfect example of what
is called a 'screensaver demo'.  It runs on non-Risc PC RiscOS as well,  and
consists  of a huge polygonal fish or shark swimming constantly  around  the
*inside*  of a torus which is light-shaded,  the light source following  the
big  fish  around.  Also in the same tank there is a shoal of  little  fish.
There  is a slight element of interactivity here,  as pressing the space bar
disturbs and scatters the shoal. I have fond memories of this, as it was the
first demo I got to run on the A4000, and it even works on the LCD screen of
the A4 laptop, as we proved at the 3rd Alternative party back in January.

Very impressive for a small demo - 85%

DFi ("Digital Fish International") Old style demo (Early 1990's?)
This is DFi again,  in a very early production,  and subsequently patched to
work  on later series machines.  This is completely oldschool in design  and
inspiration.  The opening screen is a classic compilation of sineous scrolly
texts, wobbly logos and strange little hand-drawn grapics and a mirror image
of  all  of  this  for the bottom half of the screen.  It  is  running  very
quickly,  as you might expect,  being originally written for an  8 or 12 mhz
computer.  I  dread  to think what this would be like on a  StrongARM  based

Other  highlights of this multi-part demo include a nicely done  256  colour
title zoomer screen,  there's also a big scroller in the B.I.G demo sense of
the word. A heavily self-satirising shadebobs screen ("Yawny yawny yawn, you
can  press space to get out of here ANYTIME!") gets in there,  and there are
some mad many-coloured plasma screens right at the end.  This demo shows its
age,  with  hours  of quitless end and no escape route back to the  desktop,
until you decide to turn the machine off.

What might have happened to Tex,TCB etc in a parallel coding universe? - 75%

'Philosophers Song demo' - Topix (1993).
You  remember the ancient and crusty sample demo format,  where people would
use  their  brand  new sound sampling cartridge to grab  a  chunk  of  their
favourite tune,  stick a lame menu on it, and release it on floppy disk as a
sample  demo.  Well the Archie didn't get away with avoiding this format I'm
afraid!  To  be  fair,  this is one of the better members of the genre.  The
choice of song is the Monty Python "Philosophers drinking song", sung by our
heroes  in  an  Australian bushman's setting.  It does the decent  thing  in
getting the whole song down.  There is a little bit of a screengrab, which I
haven't worked out the best way to display yet (That old VGA inspired  cock-
up again.) But the sound is what is important, and that works just fine.

I drink, therefore I am! - 60%

'Jojo' - Archiologics (1996).
Here we have a modern style demo, with authentically new style effects. This
first  saw light at the 1996 Yelling Jam Party where it won.  It is intended
to  run on anything from an Arm2.5 - Arm3 processor upwards,  and  functions
pretty  well  on  a  standard  Risc  PC.  Many  effects  will  be  instantly
recognisable  to the Atari coding fraternity,  such as a fully 3-D  spinning
texture tunnel.  Dead Hackers in the audience may also be keen to learn that
the  Archiologics coder has added an extra layer wth cut-out panels,  so you
get  a  'double  tunnel'  effect.  The  3-D  dungeon  walk-through  is  more
impressive  than  normal,  with  some icy looking  Sub-Stationesque  visuals
enhanced  by a travelling downwards perspective,  that owes a lot to the  PC
game 'Descent". There is a nice screen, a cross between a flight over an icy
landscape,  with  glowing  star-sprites spinning above and lighting  up  the
ground  immediately beneath them.  A fancy still graphic endscreen rounds it
up well.

Archie does new school nicely! - 85%

'Insanity 64ktro' - Expression (1996).
Also  seen  at the Yelling Jam Party was this respectable  64k  effort.  The
effects are straightforwardly presented,  a cow distorter,  a texture-mapped
cow-cube, various gouraud shaded objects, and a little bit of a phong torus,
culminating  in  a  brisk roll around in a 3-D  Wolfenstein  style  dungeon.
Another  good  release from what looks like a vintage  Archimedes  supported
coding party.

Cow-a-bunga! - 75%

'Metamorphosis Megademo' - Zarquon (1994).
It's  a  rare beast on the Archie,  a menu-demo!  Zarquon wrote three  major
parts,  the  first of which is a 3-D morphing screen very much like the tSCc
4k  entry  for the Symposium '96,  but done in Amiga red and white  chequer-
vision.  Following that is a very wobbly distorting screen,  and lots of 3-D
bobs  that  look a lot like the DNA structure of the coder  concerned.  It's
also  worth mentioning the menu transformation,  which resembles the 'spinny
boxes' in Apex media.

A well-presented if not groundbreaking demo - 70%

Code Craft 3 small intros - Various (2001).
This  was a competition hosted by Icebird,  and consisting of various 1k and
4k intros.  There were several small demos, most notable of which included a
4k  from Exoticorn of Icebird.  An everlasting flame effect blazes behind  a
Commodore 64 resolution girly piccy.  What interests me most, personally, is
that  the  Archie  has  been made to play some sort of  chip  music  with  a
reasonable  SIDdish  twang.  Jeffrey Lee did a little demo  called  'Voxie',
which  distorted  the desktop for starters,  and then generated a crude  but
quick  3-D voxel landscape which you could tour with the help of the  cursor

In  the  1k section,  you are invited to drag a load of balls,  joined up by
string, courtesy of Arms Tech. Topix and Icebird hit back with 'Demo 6401',a
double scrolly,  starfield,  and soundchip tune,  all in 1k. The winner, for
me, is a 1ktro called 'Pins in Space' by Topix, which replaces the dull grey
default desktop,  with a starfield. This is remarkably immune to most events
that  take  place on your Archie or Risc PC,  until you run  another  little
proggy, to kill it...

-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -


It took a bit more time and effort to get anywhere with these.  I hit upon a
lot  of  non-runners  when I dearchived the  competition  entries  from  the
Relevation  '98 party.  A lot of these represent the very best RiscOS  demos
written  at the time,  but they also excluded any machine that didn't have a
StrongARM  installed.  Where  I  was able to get demos  running,  there  was
initially a problem with screen modes displaying in a 'smear-around' fashion
on  my VGA screen.  I managed to find a monitor type (Acorn AFK92) which was
able  to  display  correctly,  which looks like how my Falcon does  a  100hz

'Infinity' - Reactive (1997).
This starred at the 1997 Revelation Party, and was this groups first venture
into Risc PC coding,  using the enhanced video chip.  It runs reasonably, if
slowly on some parts, on this RPC 600. This demo really prefers a StrongArm,
as it positively chugs in places.  Some solid wall tunnels,  morphing figure
of eight phong shaded objects,  a smart bump-map,  and a 3-D flight sequence
all feature here.

Nice, but not too exciting on slower hardware - 70%

'Reactivity' - Reactive (1998?)
This  was  the follow-up to the Infinity demo.  No date was given,  but  the
style of coding looks distinctly like it has evolved from the previous demo.
I think this appeared at the Revelation '98 competition? The flight sequence
is  back,  but  looks  more like a version of Starfighter  3000  with  smart
graphics,  there's  a  walk-through a 3-D dungeon which is a 1-2  frame  per
second slideshow, some amazingly simple but effective dot-based effects, and
a heavy preponderance of radiation warning logos,  some of them light-shaded
and  bump-mapped.  Smart  transformation sequence from the desktop and  back
again, by the way.

Less appealing on slow RPC boxes again - 75%

'Miss Tech' - Arms Tech (1996).
This  production  is  a pre-version of a demo intended for  showing  on  the
StrongArm,  and  written  just  before that machine came out.  It is  a  bit
crudely thrown together,  but shows some impressive effects, which even just
about work on a bog-standard RPC. There's some objects made out of what look
like 3D bobs,  Amiga style,  but these are very large, very high resolution,
and are almost certainly genuine 3D objects. There are some equally high res
3D fractals,  which evolve in their own time on my machine, but are probably
realtime,  or as nearasdammit on a StrongArm machine.  Some very complex 3-D
objects follow that, more fractals, and we end up with the fiery death of an
Arms Tech logo.

Chuggy but promising, did they ever do that reworking they promised? - 75%

'!Jan 3D' Demo - Arms Tech (No year, or textfile).
I've written about this crew before,  but this small and serviceable 3D demo
adds to their reputation as an extremely good RiscOS demo crew.  This little
demo comes as a stand alone app. No documentation, or fancy sprite file, and
when you run the demo, not much there either, no sound or background, just a
bunch  of  pleasingly  complex 3D objects which  are  lightsourced,  texture
mapped,  environment mapped, phong lit, any bloody way you want them really!

You do get a frame counter in the top left corner of the screen,  so you can
see how fast, or chugging it gets. As I've got a machine which is as slow as
it gets, the frame rate on the more interesting objects might drop down to 3
to 4 frames a second. Sometimes it can be a bit quicker. Amazingly, it works
quite  well!  A  lot  is down to the coolness factor of the 3D  objects,  no
boring  old  cubes  or toruses (torii?) for them,  but horses  heads,  human
skulls,  and  china-glazed  effect cartoon bears rule in this  3D  universe!

Simple and to the point - 80%

'Xtreme' - Various (1994-96).
Here's  a mystery for you.  A multi-part demo,  pulling together some of the
finest talents on the RiscOS demo scene,  able to run on almost any machine,
from  a reasonable RiscOS 3 Archie upwards,  but including some special bits
that use the Risc PC's video hardware,  starts off very promisingly. It runs
very slickly through the intro,  loads in the next bit.. Crashes!!! It might
be  down  to  a fault on my copy on the Acorn World CD-ROM,  It may  be  the
peculiar configuration of my machine?  But it's a four meg download,  so I'm
reluctant  to go through that for something which only *might* work,  second
time around?

Better try this one again when I've got some video RAM...

'Vox!' (The consolation prize from Xtreme!)
However, there was one bit of that demo that Arms Tech managed to prize free
from the grasp of the main code. And that was a gorgeous 3D Voxel landscape.
This  rather  looks  like one of the Risc PC  specific  bits.  The  shading,
lighting  and  mist  effects  are  to  die  for  here!  It  is  fully  user-
controllable,  you  can  fly  around  the  place  with  your  mouse  as  the
controller.  Hurtle around the hills,  splash around in the lake,  and check
out  that  hilltop temple or fortress whilst you're there.  It  maintains  a
reasonable frame rate in the order of 8 - 12 frames a second.

Gives 3D landscape gardening a new lease of life! - 85%

'Era' - The Xperience (1997). (Top Demo!)
I've saved the best (for now at least) until the end. This demo by Xperience
was  the  winner  of  the 1997 Siliconvention  Party.  This  demo  was  thus
occupying  the same big screen as the almighty Sonoluminescenz!  Any of  you
Sili-goers  remember  this  one  at all?  According to  the  Coders  Revenge
diskmag, this was the best all-time demo for the Risc PC, at least until the
1998  crop  of releases came along.  Going hugely in its favour is the  fact
that  it works (relatively) smoothly on my humble RPC 600 without VRAM.   It
is  one of those rare productions that can be considered an authentic  full-
blooded RPC production, as opposed to an enhanced Archimedes demo.

You know that you are in for a major treat right from the opening  sequence,
which  is a 3-D chinese style logo which motion blurs across the  screen  to
join  up.  What  follows,  is  about five minutes worth of  classy  effects,
including some of the bext bump-mapping seen anywhere,  combined with a zoom
and  rotate.  There's  a gorgeous semi-transparent 3-D tunnel,  a  brilliant
bump-or texture mapped planet. There are also some of the slickest meta blob
effects ever, including a totally perverted solid looking 3-D version! There
is  more,  and  the finale of the main part of the demo seems to  have  been
lifted from the movie 'Independence Day',  with a fleet of solid poly flying
saucers cruising through space.

The  whole demo reeks class,  even the inbetween effects and transformations
keep  up the quality,  and the fact that it works well on lower end machines
(running  at  60hz if you are lucky enough to own a  StrongArm)  suggests  a
thoroughbred coding heritage. This is definitely one to show off to impress.
A real "Wow!" demo!

May well be the best, at least for this level of hardware! - 92%


My  all too brief look at the RiscOS scene shows a long and fairly  prolific
history.  In  terms  of  general  quality,  the  original  and  later  model
Archimedes were more than adequate in holding their own against contemporary
Amiga 500 demos. The Risc PC took Amiga AGA and PeeCee demos as their model,
and from the screenshots that I've seen of the StrongArm demos in the Coders 
Revenge diskmag, look utterly fantastic. But with a level of power such as a
233  mhz  Risc  processor,  then so they should,  I  hear you cry.  Even  my
limited  RPC 600 is capable of hosting some class acts.  The Era demo  would 
stretch  existing  Falcon  hardware,  but  it would  not  be  impossible  to 
replicate by any means with a bit of thought.

But  I'm  left wondering what is coming next?  Any material relating to  the
RiscOS  demo  scene  seems to refer to it in the past  tense.  The  internet
information  sources  that I have been able to find all seem  to  stop  dead
around  a couple of years ago.  A lot of links to individual demo crew sites
are long gone as well. I get the feeling that the demo scene here suffered a 
huge  body  blow when the Risc PC 2 or Phoebe was cancelled,  and a  lot  of
crews  who were looking forward to coding on it,  gave up at that point.  At
least  some people are still out there,  one of our favourite German groups,
tSCc  has  got  a healthy cross-fertilisation going with  the  RiscOS  group
Icebird. We know very well what they are up to on Atari, but on RiscOS? This
deep silence from the RiscOS demo scene may also have something to do with a
lack  of  focus  and motivation.  I don't think there have been  any  recent
coding parties for this format.  This serves as a useful warning to those of
us who wish to see more Atari demos in the future!

Anyway,  one  correspondent,  who  expressed their thoughts about the recent
Mekka  Symposium party on the Alt Party website,  described the RiscOS  demo
scene  as "Small but still alive." If anyone who is closer to the centre  of
it  than I am can tell me what is going on at the moment,  I'll be more than
happy to share the news with the readers of Alive! in the next issue.

 CiH - For Alive! Mag, April-May '02

Alive 5