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Alive 6
MJJ Player by MJJ Prod (Atari STE)

MJJ Prod. Now that was a demo-crew that i am really sorry to have missed to
meet. I remember how stunned i was at the intro, main menu (look Electronic 
Arts - this is what Marble Madness should have looked like on the ST !!!) of
Anomaly and i especially loved the synchro FX screen. Later on, i watched
Mostly Harmless on the Falcon030 andi was a bit sad to see their "final"
release, Canari, a short, but very nice demo.

Now MJJ Prod is back - sort of.

Obviously, none of their recent members responsible for either code or graphics
is being resurrected. It rather seems as one of the co-founders of MJJ,
Fel'x, assembled new members and tries to revive MJJ with a new staff.
And after having released a slideshow showing a lot of graphics of the by now
inactive graphic-gods of MJJ Prod, they return with a mod-compilation for
Atari STE, done in GFA-Basic, named MJJ Player.

Here we go.

The compilation comes as MSA so i wrote it to disk first. The disk contains
all the data and the combined intro and main menu. Also, it loads the program
if you allow to auto-boot the disk. In the intro, an MJJ logo fades up that
is being mirrored on what is supposed to look like a water surface which
wobbles the mirrored image of the logo slightly. Below that you find a
"2002"-logo which works as volume-meter and right beneath is a scroll-line. The
tune that is being played along is a chipmusic tune by Tao. Pressing space
enters the main module-part.

What you see on screen is a blueish menu featuring a single-coloured 8x8 pixel
font, an MJJ logo at the top and a selection bar which  can be moved up and
down using the cursor keys. Pressing return will load and depack the file and
of course play it. Pressing space when a mod is being played will remove the
MJJ logo and display information about the mod, accompanied by a single
coloured motionblurred silhouette of a dancer. Pressing return will bring back
the MJJ logo. Pressing F1 and F2 selects between two sets of modules.

In case you listened to enough modules, you can press Escape. Then, a
greenish and almost liquid "MJJ Prod logo appears, being drawn column by
column from the right to the left to meet in the center and below you see the
MJJ memberstatus in green, using the same font as in the menu. After a while,
you're brought back to the desktop.

Certainly not the demo everybody was waiting for. Let's begin with the
graphics. The MJJ-logo in the intro is nice, but the graphics around spoil this
screen a little though - the font of the scroller is rather simplistic in
comparison to the logo and the 2002-volume meter is just 4 single-coloured
chars - that's really not too much design in this screen. The MJJ-logo in the
main menu is also nice and looks well in this screen. Why the rest of the menu
is just the simple 8x8 1-plane text, blue on blue, nobody knows. The dancer is
cool but it looks like being ripped from an issue of Dance Dance Revolution.
Finally, the graphics of the end-screen are also kind of nice, but the green
logo/text on white background contradicts a bit to the strict blue/greyish
style of the other 2 screens before.

As far as the music goes - the intro features a tune by Tao and the modules are
well-known, fairly old mods of mixed quality.

Seeing it as a module-compilation, one might expect maybe just a selector -
like in Music from the Atari scene from Mystic Bytes, one might expect just
a replay-utility, such as OSCI by tSCc, a bunch of files to load into the
replayer and spiced this all up with a freaky intro contained on the disk. Or
you could expect a little menu with a little effect, such as D-Force

This MJJ Player is somewhat in between all this so let's just have a look of
the positive and negative aspects. On the positive side, we have a main-menu
that loads, depacks and replays the modules supplied flawlessly - And that's
the very essence of a module-compilation. Also on the positive side, we have an
intro as additional goody as well as an extro-effect before the program is
terminated. Also, you do get additional information about each module and the
whole compilation is rather large.

On the negative side, we have ... quite a lot.

First, the intro-screen. While the logo is nice, the rest isn't. All other
graphics are very poor and simplistic and the scroller jerks in a way that i
personally wouldn't have considered possible for a 16x16 one-plane font. Or is
it supposed to be 2-planes ? Sorry, can't affirm that because you can hardly
consider this movement. In the main-menu, only the very basic functionality is
given. Return loads and plays a song - even if you press return on the one
currently being played. No pause, forward, backward, next track, previous track
option, no VU-meter, no spektrum-analyizer - You can't even set the Microwire
values like left/right/main volume, bass or trebble - and this is an STE-only

The information you can request for each mod is bogus - file name, size and
volume-values which are identical for most of the mods. As long as this
information is shown, the whole menu is blocked btw. After the program exited,
the TOS tries to work itself through the keyboard-queue which contains each and
every key you have pressed in MJJ Player - odd for a program that requires
the user to press a few keys.

Finally, i really see no reason why to ship this production as MSA-file.
Might be okay if you run it on an emulator or only have a diskdrive anyway, in
all other cases it's just plain silly and makes it awkward for harddisk-users.

Now this is not supposed to be MJJ bashing time once again. This is just a
little mod-compilation no one would get wild about - except for MJJ Prod
themselves which seem to be wild about every of their production and especially
wild against anyone who might not see the glory in these.

So let's cut out the friendlieness for just one moment: This production is
about as useful as a second trashcan icon on the desktop. It really features
nothing that you couldn't get otherwise. It replays modules known and
available since quite some time, using a very basic low-functionality shell for
that. The intro is, besides the MJJ-logo, neither informative nor nice to look
at due to the jerky scroller, the extro just features a logo and a list of
names in the standard font of the menu.

The fact that this has been written in GFA-Basic hardly works as an excuse
for this - Just look at the stuff LouD! has done in GFA. So really, this
production is nothing to go wild about. And i usually wouldn't if MJJ Prod
hadn't gone wild about how great this production is and how lame everyone is
who might think otherwise.

That's the part that really spoils this mod-compilation. First, it would have
been easy to "spice up" this production by investing a bit more time in it.
Spice up the menu. Offer a next track and previous track button. Include
Volume/Bass/Trebble control. Check if the mod about to be loaded is maybe
already in memory. Have the information mode independant from the menu

That are things that really wouldn't require to rewrite the whole thing or to
invest ages of work and testing. Just a bit more work. Also, why have an
unreadable scroller for text presentation ? Why not simply display 20 chars of
text for a while, then replace with the next 20 chars ? Certainly wouldn't have
required more work - rather less.

But MJJ Prod. refused to invest this minimum amount of work to make this
mod-compilation a bit more friendly and dedicated. But obviously, that doesn't
prevent them from thinking that this production is excellent the way it is.

The really bad part about this is not so much that it isn't excellent. The
really bad part about this isn't that it's crappy either. The bad part is that
it would have been so easy to make it better.

Graphics:    46%  - The highlight of this release though 
Sound:       ??%  - Tao's intro tune rocks, the mods are mixed
Technical:   13%  - It all runs, but in a minimalistic, jerky way

                                               The Paranoid

P.S.: As you can easily see above, i spare the part about a comparison
      between the quality of MJJ Prod-released from the nineties and
      those today. Obviously, they can't be compared in a fair manner.

Alive 6