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Alive 9
Just Do it!

The tricky subject of demo's on the CT60, coder motivation and all...

In the June edition of the MyAtari webzine,  there was a rare article by the
Atari demo scene 'daddy' Evil, which went quite a way to explaining the lack
of  major  productions  for  the  CT60 thus far.  It  also  gave  some  good
indications as to what could be happening next.

Evil  identified  a couple of significant problem areas.  Firstly,  there is
still  a fundamentalist mindset among some Falcy coders,  even some of those
who have got a CT60. In their view, the only "true" coding should be done on
a bare machine,  ideally a 1993-spec 4mb box,  maybe grudgingly allowing for
the 14mb ram expansion.  Secondly,  and more significantly,  Evil pointed to
people  looking  askance at a stunningly high standards bar for  '060  based
productions,  which has been raised by long years of Amiga coders getting to
code the wotsits out of that chip, and with the help of a huge support staff
of good 3-D artists, texture experts and so on.

So we have two huge mountains to climb, let's take them one by one.

The  coder  mentality  is one which has  always  defied  easy  psychological
profiling,  and  is worth a PhD to someone brave enough to take on the  job.
The 16-bit Atari version of that psychosis is a rather puritanical  mindset,
that deems any hardware enhancement as unworthy. This is a leftover from the
early  ST/Amiga rivalry,  where the fact that "they" used custom chips where
"we"  had  to hard-code,  was deemed to be fairly gay on their part back  in
those days when we all thought like fifteen year olds.

The  good  part of this viewpoint,  is that miracles have been  accomplished
with  the  base  model  Falcon.  A key word at this point  is  "DSP".  I  am
personally ecstatic at the fact that Tat's retirement didn't mean the end of
massive  DSP-based 3-D exploits on a stock Falcon.  I still think that there
is more to come, if people can be bothered. This is where the downside kicks
in.  It  has  been  a  historical annoyance that a lot  of  the  people  who
complained  bitterly about breaches in Atari demo coding protocol  were  not
active themselves,  that is,  not a drop of code, or constructive assistance
to remedy the situation.

There has been a lot less outright moaning recently, which comes as a relief
to us all, but it seems that those people who are opting out of the CT60, to
keep the faith in the stock system, are proceeding on their chosen path very
quietly and slowly?  There may be good reasons for this,  of course, and I'm
sure  we'll  be  hearing more in a positive limit-busting  light  from  them
before too long?

Moving  onto  the lower slopes of the second mountain now,  the  Amiga  demo

Atari  coders,  new  to  the  '060,  are dazzled by the  coding  and  design
perfection  seen  in modern top Amiga demos,  and they will be reluctant  to
release  anything  that  falls  far short  of  these  high  standards.  Evil
perceptively  commented that 'spiky balls wouldn't cut it anymore'  in  this
brave  new  world  of 3-D excellence,  exemplified by the likes of  TBL  and
Ephidrena.  Indeed,  if  it  wasn't  for the pre-existing Amiga scene,  more
people would have been motivated to release something early, but the quality
would have been equivalent to the very early days of Falcon demos which used
rewarmed  STe code with the odd texture mapped cube thrown in,  albeit in  a
vastly superior form to that of course.

Evil  did  say  that there seemed to be two ways to  address  this  problem.
Firstly,  some people were coding with an eye on the standards raised by the
Amiga  scene.  That there would be productions released,  but not until they
were sure that anything being done could hold up reasonably well to the high
Amigascene quality level. Alternatively, another solution being investigated
was the outright porting over of some Amiga demos,  by the Atari sections of
a  couple of well-known Amiga groups,  although the participation of one  of
these must be in doubt now? This latter approach would save some time, and a
lot  of donkey-work in creating code from scratch,  getting hold of thin-on-
the-ground  artists and demo designers and so on.  I would personally favour
this  approach  for porting applications,  games and emulators to save  time
there, but it would be cool to see at least one big demo made this way.

I  might  be  so  bold as to suggest a third  option.  This  is  the  'Damo'
approach,  which  is  to avoid being too derivative of other forms  of  demo
making,  and being inhibited by their technical excellence for once,  and do
something,  well,  different?  Go back  to the core reason for coding in the
first  place,  which  is  for  fun,  do what damn well pleases  you,  whilst
remembering  to  release something fairly frequently for the benefit  of  an
appreciative audience!  That way,  we might even be in danger, over time, of
building something which is refreshingly different from the rest.

And  speaking  of the man himself,  he has now got a CT60,  so we're waiting
keenly to see what follows on from 'Grimey' and 'Comfort' on the '060!

I've got a final suggestion for those coders who might feel overawed by  the
vast  and impressive heritage of what has come before on the Amigascene.  As
reviewers, we can make allowances if this is your first time on '060. We are
well  aware that the heights of Black Lotus can't be reached overnight.  You
will  find us remarkably understanding in fact!  If fear of falling short is
holding you back, then stop worrying!

I've got a feeling that there will be a lot of articles about advanced  demo
design,  and  how to do this on '060 coming real soon,  so I'll stand out of
the way for now!

Anyway, whatever path you choose, don't sit around, JUST DO IT!

CiH for Alive Mag,July '04

Alive 9