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After  eight month  of designing,  coding, and  composing Dune  and Sector  One
finally decided  to release  the demo  which ranked  3rd at  the EIL2003 ST demo
competition. Of course we  speak of Fantasia, which  was maybe the most  awaited
demo in  2003. Some  "anonymous" Atari  users couldn't  even wait  for the  real
Fantasia and coded a  fake demo which showed  some of the effects  in a somewhat
hideous and ludicrous way.

Late on an almost  perfect Christmas Eve where,  unlike most other years,  Santa
seemed to have  been lucky with  his choice of  presents, an additional  present
appeared at while  the dune site at  http://www.dune showed nothing but a well designed logo.

Thanks to my  DSL connection the  disk image was  transferred in zero  time, and
after I  had written  the MSA  image to  a real  disk, I  put it into my STE and
powered the machine up.



Almost immediately  the screen  fades to  black and  with a  short delay a black
vector rectangle is turning and shrinking to show the copy instructions in front
of a two planes, multidirectional scrolling, blue background. There is no  sound
but the humming of the disk-drive  yet. After a short while the  black rectangle
comes back  and covers  the screen.  Deja vu?  Has anyone  said Big Demo? Yes of
course this screen is Chuck's way to pay homage to the "Best in Galaxy" demo  of
the Exceptions.



The screen is turning  to a dark purple  and finally the speakers  start pumping
with a SID cover of Big  Alec's "Killer". Some ugly, misshaped vector  object is
twisting and turning and after a  flashlight fading, a golden dune logo,  with a
teddy bear beside it, appears on the screen.

A light purple one planed balloon is  falling down from above. It hits the  logo
which starts to swing nicely up and down. The balloon itself shows some kind  of
pudding effect, wobbling its way down the  left side of the screen. I am  sad to
notice that it didn't clip out of  the screen but just vanishes when the  screen
is fading out. A bit  more sense (or was it  time?) for details would have  been
nice here but I guess most people won't even notice this minor glitch.



Now the word  "presents" is scrolling  up the screen,  while a transparent,  two
plane vector pyramid is  entering from the right  and leaving the screen  on the
left side. Did I say enter and  leave? Well actually the vector object seems  to
be on screen almost all the time since  you can see that it is not clipping  but
crushed on the screens borders. At least Chuck seems to have a serious  clipping
problem here,  maybe some  more hours  to debug  the screen  would have  helped.
Perhaps some and.l #$FFFEFFFE on the right border and some more and.l #$7FFF7FFF
on the left border would have removed the visual evidence :).


The screen fades to blue and  shows a very well drawn NEOchrome  raster picture,
which shows a winter landscape by night and a beautiful fairytale moon above the
fantasia logo. The inscription  reads "Fantasia a winter  Tale". If you want  to
get a real impression better watch the demo.



I don't know how many kilometres of tunnel flight have already been travelled on
Atari computers, the following part will add some more. After showing the  title
screen the  colours fade  back to  the dark  purple from  the beginning  and the
compulsive tunnel effect  is opening up,  while some one  planed letters reading
"Dream just  goes on!"  are flying  up to  the middle  of the screen. Maybe they
don't like  complete sentences  in France  or they  have translated the sentence
from Japanese via babelfish :).

However the  tunnel keeps  moving and  after a  while it's  faded out  smoothly.
Beside  the  grammar,  this  is  an  almost  perfect  screen  with  very  smooth



All of  the sudden  the screen  turns dark  green and  a cleanly  rendered, pony
tailed, cartoon girl is bouncing in from above, while the SID-medley changes  to
Mad Max  "Astaroth Game  Over" tune.  The cartoon  girl is  holding a sign which
reads "Hi!" and beside the girl you find the Text "Back on Track Again ...  Dune
surprise(s) you with: Fantasia!!" First presented at the Error in Line 2003".


With a short delay, which allows reading the text, the screen fades to black and
some yellowish-brown trail lines appear on screen while dark clouds with a  dune
logo crawl in from  below at the far  right side of the  screen. The "fireflies"
(or "stars" referring to Chuck) seem to have the ability to vanish and  reappear
somewhere else on  the screen which  spoils the effect  a bit. Reliable  sources
claim that the vanishing and reappearing happens to be a clipping effect on  the
z-axis. However the screen still looks very nice. After a while it fades to dark
purple and puts you...



A bouncing penguin logo  is announcing "This is  old school" and after  bouncing
out and fading to black a massive four plane Dune Logo flies in from the  bottom
of the screen and the music changes to  Mad Max "Wings of Death - Level 4".  The
Letters of  the logo  are as  usually perfectly  designed with  a nice choice of
purple and yellow colours.



Soon afterwards the  Dune logo disassembles  into its four  64x64 pixel letters,
which move independently across  the screen. This means  we have at least  three
"real" - perhaps generated - sprites and maybe one "moved" one, even if I  doubt
it would be necessary to cheat that much with only four letters :).

It seems Dune made a lucky choice  with their crew name. The same effect  with a
name like Sector 1 would have been a bit trickier.

The sprites fly around the screen for some time and rebuild the Dune logo,  this
time centred on the screen. The rebuilding is done by simply switching to linear
vectors, which looks a bit odd  compared to the nice curves before.  An "inertia
based" movement would  have looked a  lot better. Anyway,  after rearranging the
letters all  sprites move  smoothly into  the same  place at  the centre  of the
screen and blend over into a white 64x64 pixel square.


The white  square begins  to move  and turns  into a  vector cube,  which starts
spinning on the screen for a few seconds, only to be blasted away into  hundreds
of one pixel dots which fly out of  the screen at top speed. Even if the  effect
is rather simple it's a nice idea and it looks very cool.



The  screen fades  back to  dark purple  and another  logo is  scrolling up  the
screen. It shows another penguin, with some blue background and some snow flakes
and reads "This is new school". Then a little ufo-sprite in James Pond style  is
crossing the screen  from the top  right to the  top left. Just  to return a few
seconds later, trying to escape a  following rocket. The ufo sprites manages  to
fly out of the screen  just before the rocket would  have hit it and the  screen
turns black again.


Just when the screen fades to black, a mapped cube comes in, followed by another
three of them. Here we go: Four mapped cubes on screen while Rob Hubbard's "IK+"
is pumping. The cubes are turning and after a while only one cube will remain on
screen.  Again  reliable  sources reveal  that  Corbeau  used several  different
rendering  qualities  on  the  four  cubes  which  are  dynamically  switched to
camouflage the cheat and to speed things up a bit. A really nice effect, but you
won't expect 50 Hz here.



The remaining  cube is  rotating and  zooming in  until one  face is filling the
screen with a golden  snake on a blue  background. The Music is  changing to Mad
Max "Atomix" and a golden torus is falling down and starts bumping and  turning.
The  whole effect  looks a  lot like  specular lighting  to me,  but again  well
informed sources told me it is environment mapping instead.


As soon as the torus has left the screen, the big textured cube starts spinning.
Then it is zoomed out and begins to dist in all three axes. Meanwhile the  Music
changes to Mad Max "Oh Crikey wot a scorcher Main Menu".


Suddenly the small disting cube is  replaced with a big one, filling  nearly the
entire screen, wobbling around. The transition between them wasn't what I  would
call  smooth but  who cares?  While the  wobbling cube  is displayed  the music
changes two times, first to Mad Max "Life's a Bitch Beat Nick" theme then to the
"Chambers of Shaolin" title tune.


Finally the torus and  the cube are shown  together. The cube seems  to be stuck
inside the torus, however  this sequence has either  a very strange design  or a
lot  of ugly  z-clipping or  z-sorting problems  :). And  while we  mention the
"clipping", it seems to be done  by averaging the z-value and either  drawing or
completely skipping  whole faces,  which speeds  things up  for sure but doesn't
look too nice.

Overall I have to admit that the cube-screens are looking very good, despite the
missing faces on the last one. Lucky enough Corbeau shares the same opinion,  so
I guess I can still travel to France without much fear :).



This synth animation was generated by MIC while the coding was done by ST Ghost.
After some delay the animation is  faded in very smoothly. Afterwards a  text is
scrolling up in the lower part of the screen. This is realized as a 320x16 pixel
sized sprite. (If you don't believe it, take a look at the yellow wireframe,  it
disappears behind the text.) The  animation mainly shows stars and  circles that
rotate on some black torus which has got some wireframe squares circling  around
it. The whole animation is played at full frame rate and looks rather nice. Just
before the screen starts fading out, the text is flying out of the bottom of the
screen again.



The next screen is a 4x4 pixel rotozoomer in one vbl. Well done I would say if I
hadn't seen the previews,  which used a somewhat  bigger screen area. Maybe  Mic
could have drawn a  smaller logo to allow  the effect to be  more impressive :).
Well the screen looks nice and it obeys the "one frame rule". I think Frost  has
done a very good job on it. I  can't wait to see him code on STE  again. (Please
note that my opinion on this screen might be enhanced for some reasons :)



What have we got here? Another  distorted cube is entering the screen,  but this
time without the mapping.  As soon as the  cube becomes "solid" a  moving mirror
appears and throws back  the image of the  rotating cube from several  positions
and angles. Of course this effect  isn't exactly what you would call  brand new,
but it looks pretty nice and it fits the demo very well.



With a radical  change in the  musical background, which  reminds me somehow  of
"Monster Business",  a very  simple screen  says "Time  for credits".  The three
words fly in nice arcs over the screen which gives overall a very pretty  visual
effect even if it isn't very spectacular from a technical point of view.

While this  screen is  displayed it's  about time  to think  about entering  the
hidden screen. As Leonard  / Oxygene posted on  DHS BBS the secret  code for the
hidden screen consists of  eight letters, which have  to be typed one  by one in
special screens of the  demo. Since there are  several keywords working I  chose
"XTRBRRB1" here, which  is in fact  not the original  keyword. Just type  an "X"
while the screen is still displayed and you will have only seven more keystrokes

Soon  afterwards the  credits show  up in  form of  another stunning  NEOchrome
raster-picture, which displays the  names of all guys  who were involved in  the
making  of  fantasia.  Golden  letters reside  beside  three  very  nicely drawn
characters. In detail they show a  man wearing an Aztec death mask  or something
similar, a slimy, green,  ball shaped monster and  a pony tailed girl.  It seems
Mic got a hidden  obsession for pony tails  :) While looking at  this marvellous
graphics type  "T" to  master the  next step  on your  way to  enter the  hidden

After the credits have faded out, the words "Big heart (or love) to" are  flying
over the  screen in  a nice  arc. Now  its time  to type  "R" to  go on with the
password input.

When the text  is gone, another  stunning work of  art demands to  type a "B" to
complete the 1st half  of the access code.  Mic's picture shows a  small Monster
and a  "Firedevil" plus  a Sector  one Logo.  Again it  looks very  much like  a
NEOchrome raster  picture because  you can  still guess  where the  palettes are
switched. However Mic surely is THE graphics-wizard. I am deeply impressed.


When the one plane  vector shuriken appears on  screen don't forget to  type "R"
again. I wonder if Chuck has got  the idea from his namesake "Chuck Norris"  who
might have used Shurikens a lot in  some of his martial arts movies :).  Whether
this is the case or not, the screen looks nice but again not really  technically


The mad circle effect  is rather old and  has been seen a  lot of times. It  had
even an appearance in the famous Odd Stuff demo. The Odd Stuff screen was  coded
by  Frost while  this one  is redone  by Chuck.  Beside the  new code  he used
different graphics, which look like rays that interfere with each other (instead
of circles). Again  one planed objects  are used to  get the nice  colour effect
when overlapping each other.

Press another "R" now to get closer to your aim to see the hidden screen.


This nice looking dot effect, which shows expanding circles, stars, squares  and
triangles consisting  of single  dots, demands  for the  last "B"  of our access
code. I  haven't counted  the number  of dots  per figure  but the  screen looks
rather nice and fits the mood of the demo. Well done Chuck.


When the spinning disc with the small balls appears on screen make sure to press
"1" on  the numeric  pad to  complete the  sequence for  the hidden  screen. The
hidden screen won't be shown  immediately its inserted just before  the credits.
This screen, which is  called the spiral balls,  is really nice. Apart  from the
spinning floor the tiny blue balls move smoothly at top frame rate and even  the
curves are nicely done.


ST Ghost strikes again. Some strange distorter  - which reminds me a lot of  the
one we  have already  seen in  Odd Stuff  - is  deforming an enlarged picture in
several not describable ways. Like in Odd Stuff, every other line has been  left
blank to keep the effect possible in one frame.

The last picture which is displayed  before either the end screen or  the hidden
screen is loaded shows  three comic characters. Apparently  there seems to be  a
boy accompanied  by two  girls. Each  of the  little characters  is holding up a
little sign  with some  inscription which  reads "What  a dist".  It's the  same
picture that was used in the distorter  screen but now you are able to  watch it
as a whole. Again the graphic is top league like you would expect it from Mic.



The hidden  screen shows  a 1x1  pixel 4  planes rotozoomer  coded by  ST Ghost.
Additional  credits have  to go  to Mad  Max for  the chiptune  and to  Edo for
graphics. The textures used on this screen show two jpop-idols named Misono Koda
and Hamasaki Ayumi and are  nicely pixeled. If you want  to get rid of the  blur
you can press F10 to toggle it.


The so called  end text is  not what you  would call technically  impressive but
it's a  nice end  for the  demo. Playing  another nice  tune from  DMA it slowly
scrolls lot of  greetings and even  additional credits accompanied  by some well
designed sprites  which alternate  every time  and fly  through the  screen from
various directions.


Yes, Fantasia has a few ugly glitches here and there and all of them could  have
been avoided by using more time  on the demo. Especially since Fantasia  is much
more  about design  than about  cutting edge  technology I  would have  expected
meticulous monitoring of details, which didn't occur all the time. For a perfect
design you won't need just  good ideas but proper craftsmanship  too, especially
on details.  However this  is not  about whacking  the coders,  it's more  about
trying to achieve perfect design in a demo. The "Fantasia crew" failed to notice
some tiny details, and that keeps  Fantasia from being perfect. A bit  more time
and the next attempt might be successful.

But can we really  blame them? To be  honest, everybody wanted to  see that demo
out a lot of time earlier and I  am thinking the result is still great. Most  of
the demo  is running  in one  frame except  for those  parts where  you wouldn't
expect it anyway. If you are looking for a well designed demo that doesn't  need
to act up with technological leadership, Fantasia is the right choice for  sure.
Most people will simply love it and  I guess a lot of them haven't  even noticed
the small things I wrote about.  Thanks to Chuck, Frost, ST Ghost,  Corbeau, Mic
and DMA for giving us this fine demo.  Keep up the good work and take your  time
on the next project.

2003-12-29 Cyclone / X-Troll

Alive 8