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Alive 7

                                 by Checkpoint

    Foreword by STS : having read the POSH review in UCM24 I've just thought of
    a small correction that need be done. Tho I gave the gfx entered at EIL3 to
    Defjam, he couldn't use it  in the "final" version of POSH - due to lack of
    space... Therefore my  name should *NOT* be included in the credits of this
    awesome demo I'm afraid :) Get back to the review now.

        Have you ever wondered why big demos  (1  disk or more) are hard to come
across on STs these days? Demos these days  are  small in size, come as a single
file (no custom formats) and usually contain  a small amount of fx (sometimes as
small as 1).

        The answer to this question is simple, if you think back about a decade.
Then we had a scene blooming  with  new  talents  of all categories. Demo groups
were much bigger in size than now.  To  get  a  megademo  done for a crew of 2-3
coders and a couple of graphic artists  wasn't that difficult: if each coder did
3-4 screens, the graphic artists drew the  gfx for the screens and the musicians
composed the music (or, easier still, somebody  ripped Mad Max music), plus some
guest screens and a main menu and a loader,  then bingo! you had a megademo in 6
months. But what happens if the  crews  get  to  the  bare minimum in man power?
Then, the time schedule gets quite bigger.

        Also, consider that most fx have been  done to death. People have gotten
sick and tired to watch the same  stuff,  only  "with more rasters, pixels and a
soundtrack routine". That's where innovation  comes  to  play. Due to the public
getting more and more demanding, coders have  to  come up with new ideas all the
time to please it.

        So, with all these facts taken under consideration, a coder (usually the
driving force of a demo) these days has to squeeze his mind to find new effects,
code some early versions, get some graphics for the artist(s), combine them with
the fx, optimize the fx, do some design, recode some fx, leave some fx out, code
new fx, re-design, debug,  argue  with  other  crew  members  etc.  I'm not even
touching the subject of morale (after  the  Nth  time  he sees an effect he gets
sick of it, he doesn't like the framerate,  or  the music, or the gfx, drops the
project, after a few months gets back to it to find that there was nothing wrong
with it, trying to finish it, etc.).

        (Of course, this is just my  interpretation  of things. I don't claim to
be an expert of other people's lives and  the way they live them. It's just that
I've observed most of these with myself.)

        Let's consider now Posh.  It  was  probably  started  after Suretrip was
released (in 1999), planned  for  STNICC2000,  then  announced  as dropped, then
released at EIL2003. As I always say: Well  done guys for getting it done in the

        Now, for the actual  review  (if  anybody  read  and  hasn't gone to bed

        Right from the start,  the  demo  gets  interesting. Booting from floppy
(custom loaders rule!) some rectangular portions of the white background fade to
black to spell a blocky "Loading" graphic.  Great!  I  like a demo which has you
waiting while staring at a white (or black for that matter) border.

        While loading a sample is played, but  not  any sample. It starts with a
scream and a voice (Malcolm X?) is heard  on  top of a bass and hi-hatch saying:
"Tolerance, ignorance, obedience. Who gave them the right to judge what color is
right, what color is wrong? Who gave  them  the right to judge what nationality,
whatever that is. We all bleed the same,  cry  the same, laugh the same. Time we
take it back to the basics." (sample, as  we're  told in the end is from a group
called 'Headcrash' - sorry, never heard of them). The voice, as well as the rest
sounds very aggressive. As the  last  phrase  is  spoken, a rotating and growing
black square fills the screen with black,  and  the border fades to black. Well,
here in Greece we have a phrase  that  fits  exactly to what was witnessed here:
"He scored a goal from the locker room"!!! Unbelievably original!!!

        The demo continues  just  as  aggressive.  A  logo  of  the crew appears
(horizontal lines scrolling from  the  right  or  left  to  the center without a
recognizable pattern), and then the  name  of  the  demo  appears in speedy bump
mapping! By the way, the music adds to the aggression of the demo too.

        Then, the three  people  involved  (Defjam,  Five'O'Five,  Modmate) have
their logos moving around erratically. A  short while after, the logos disappear
from screen, the background fades to  white,  which becomes a rectangle swinging
about, getting bigger and smaller, and then covering the whole screen again.

        We then have a text-mode like  plasma,  but  with pretty dither and nice
colours. After that a weird pic fades in  (no, I don't dare speculate on what it
represents, but it's cool anyway :). And  then an effect featured in Suretrip as
well: 4 bitplane distortions with weird lenses that change constantly (as I seem
to recall Suretrip's slower and had a smaller window - this one's 320x200 c2p).

        After that comes a pic,  but  with  a  cool display routine. Imagine the
picture being cut in 16x16 pixel  blocks,  which  rotate  and move into place. A
very good effect indeed  (especially  to  me,  as  I'm  a freak about appearance
effects :)) I've noticed some abnormalities  on  this effect though, but more of
that later. Now, that logo didn't  exactly  fill  the screen, so what could fill
it? A fire effect involving  a  3D  rectangle  spinning around maybe? Well, yes,
that might do! Defjam must really like the  fire  fx, as he puts one on (nearly)
all his productions!

        Some more distortions follow (for a  short  while this time though), and
then another cool appear fx.  It  looks  like  some invisible brushed give apply
small dabs to the monitor and the dab becomes  a part of the pic. Lovely, and it
reminded me of the game  Exile's  introduction  (I  guess  many will say "What?"
here!) Background colour fades between some  colours, then into black, then some
blocky water ripples make their way into our screen.

        After that we are being  informed  that  we  are  about  to watch a non-
precalculated, 128 faced, free light sourced, real illuminated, (not environment
mapped!), shaded in something that looks  like phong, realtime, doughnut! Defjam
already made a joke in  EIL  99  about  the  Shadows  demo having a pre-rendered
doughnut, and from there he built on the  idea to materialize a real doughnut on
a plain ST. Guess what, he did  it  :)  And with background pictures on too! Top
stuff! Of course, due to the  c2p  it's  blocky,  but I don't complain here! Any
complaints from others? By the way,  the  pictures  fade  out and in quite cool!
And, saving the best for last,  the  last  background  is simply (!) a shrinker,
which means that it takes  a  frame,  shrinks  it  in  half  resulting in 4 more
doughnuts, then another shrink and  then  another  (well,  it's not the way it's
done, but you get the idea I hope!).

        A big textured tunnel is  up  next,  moving and rotating wildly. Another
nice pic fades in and out, and then  it's z-buffer spheres time! The spheres are
done in the text-mode manner, and this shows a lot when the spheres intersect.

        Then we get to the heavy stuff,  and  this  is more enforced by a module
playing in the background instead of  SID  sound.  Firstly, we have some fractal
fern-like plant growing  and  rotating,  which  is  quite  pleasant  and NOT the
standard static fractal screens.

        Then the action gets heavier. A remix of the well known module by Jester
of Sanity is played, while  a  red-white  checkered  board rotates and zooms. It
looks a bit slow, but the reason for  that is revealed when the red-white blocks
change into  full-blown  textures.  Then,  just  to  increase  our  pain, Defjam
increases the border size! Yep,  that's  right,  a  full screen roto-zoomer with
module playing!!!!! And if that wasn't  enough,  the screen starts distorting as
well!. Just one  word:  AWESOME!!!!  I  think  I've  witnessed  one  of the best
fullscreens ever (if not the best!)

        After that, what else is to show  but... the end... has not been reached
yet! (I don't know, that's what the logo said!) We have a Doom-like engine, with
the variation that some of the  textures  are  a  bit weird! Well, you don't get
textures as rotating Fuji logos,  bump  mapped  fuji  logos, tunnels (!), plasma
(!!) every day! It's a bit  blocky,  but  when  a  C64 scener starts telling you
about his demo scene, maybe  this  will  make  him  shut up! (well, according to
Defjam the effect was lifted from a C64 demo, but who cares?)

        Finally (phew!), the last  effect  is  a  girl  called Jasmine smoking a
cigarette and smoke going up. The  end.  A  vertical  scroller and a bit bending
checkpoint logo wait patiently until you press reset or switch off.

        Now, before the sum up I'd  like  to  point  out  that out of interest I
downloaded and watched Mathematica By Reflex (on emulator, I have to admit) just
to get a taste of what  Defjam  was  trying  to  do. I found Defjam's adaptation
better (of course :) but Reflex had a bit more limited hardware to work on.

        What can be written as a  sum  up?  This  is one of those sporadic times
that something this good comes along and sets a new standard in ST demos. Not so
much in design, but for speed  and  effects.  It's  true that it's mostly a very
technical demo (the routines must've been  optimized to the extreme, no question
about it), but it's very good at  being  just  that. Some of its effects will be
discussed still in the distant future  and  will  be considered 'classic' (in my
humble opinion, as always).

        Put it another way, extraordinary code, brilliant graphics, out-of-this-
world music. This is a demo that you must show to a PC scener when he/she starts
blabbing about his/hers new cpu,  graphics  card,  music card etc. shouting "Eat
dis!". A must see!

GGN/KÜA software productions/Alive Team

P.S. Unlike other  articles, where  I used  Bugaboo, STEem  was used to take the
snapshots (so  people won't go  telling that I'm a  ripper :). The conversion to
.pi1, alas, was not as  straightforward as  it appeared, as  no PC program (yes,
even XnView) could do it. So I had to code my own conversion program (BMP->PI1).
Sorry to the creators of the demo  for any graphical glitches, as from one point
onward I got too bored to fix it.

Alive 7