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Old/Deprecated stuff >> The 20 years STE anniversary demo >> Screens' Post mortem!

Message started by ggn on 27.11.09 at 16:55:18

Title: Re: Screens' Post mortem!
Post by ggn on 04.12.09 at 07:47:00
So, this is the story of my screen.

It was going to be branded under the Reboot label, but for various reasons (among which sh3 wasn't available for drawing some pretty gfx) I decided to release it under KÜA software productions label.

People involved are me, Excellence in art, Ukko/Live! and Havoc/Lineout.

The oldest of the fx here is the scroller with moving background, which was intended to be included in Oxygene's Nostalgic-o demo (written in early 1999)! Unfortunately, my STE's floppy drive got damaged while I was coding this and finding a replacement proved difficult (I was a poor student back then etc etc), so it got delayed. Couple that with the face that Leonard totally filled the demo disk to the brim, so it was finally left out. I remember that I finished because Leonard had expressed the desire to do a "never ending demo" with expansion disks etc, but that never saw the light. So that screen was left in a closet to rot, until I would find a suitable reason to release it. (it came close to being included in one of the D-Bug menus, where we were toying with the idea of including a different menu for the ST, STE and Falcon, but we scrapped that idea too).

Most of the rest of the stuff was intended to be included in my collaboration with RG and Sector One, that is known as "Faery Land Adventures". They were written in 2002/3. Mr Pink was happily coding away the main game and I was doing some support routines, the credits screen (the parallax screen with text on top), the pause screen (the tangram letters forming of their fundamental shapes) and some menu transitions (the appearing effect of the first pic). Sadly Mr Pink lost interest in the game (it's still rotting on our hard drives ;)), so these screens were left unused too.

Enter 2009 and Paradox announced this Megademo. Feeling very guilty that I missed out completely on the 20 years ST megademo (to my defence I was pretty much idling the year it came out) I committed myself to submitting a screen for this demo (and hey, the STE was my first 16/32 after all!).

During the summer I got involved in the creation of a Jaguar game called Project One (more info here), so my idea was to make a small game as my entry to the demo. However, progress was very slow, and I didn't just want to put a game in there with no fx. So as time progressed I remembered that I could use some of the old screens to spice things up, but I was unwilling to go and code the game. So, 2 weeks before the deadline I decided that if I were to submit something, I'd have to ditch the idea of the game.

But then what? Just give the screens as-is with some music thrown in? That would look really lame and would seem like a diskfiller. Then, one week before the deadline, an idea struck me: In the game I was supposed to use the ending of the 1812 overture as soundtrack (because the game which I was trying to code was a port of an 8-bit game with that tune). So what if I threw in all the effects and changed them in sync with the cymbal hits? At least a) it would only last one minute so people wouldn't get bored and b) it seemed fun to do!

Hooray! I finally had a nice concept! With 7 days to implement it! Holy shit! The final week of the deadline I was a bit busy with some chores etc so that didn't help either.

Initially I thought about downsampling and cutting the .ogg tune from wikimedia, but it turned out to be too big for the 160k limit and I didn't have enough time to experiment with adpcm encoding (plus I was afraid that the result would sound shit - compressed orchestral music usually sounds pretty unimpressive). So I asked very shyly on IRC if someone would like to help and almost immediately Excellence in Art responded positively :). I quickly explained him my idea for a screen, and he seemed very positive and eager to help. That meant that a) I'd get my tune after all (I was going to use any leftover/unreleased track by him or Dubmood at that point), b) not only me thought that this screen was going to turn out fine!

Xia worked very quickly on the musical front, and I got the final version of the tune about 2 days after I asked! So I quickly wrote some code to use the sync byte and then it was time to bring it all together. At this point, it was Friday, and the Deadline was on Sunday night! Oooops!

Actually a part inside of me didn't want to touch 10 year old code, which was written for various reasons and God knows how much stuff was hardcoded. I dived straight in, merging all the sources in one big source file, just like Turbo Assembler likes it, and went in for the toughest part: the scroller. After quite some fiddling, I managed to make it re-entrant per VBL (which up to that point wasn't - not a pretty sight) and integrate it with the frame-based demo system the rest of the screens used. If I'm not mistaken this took the largest part of Friday and I was quite relieved when I got that up and running: it meant that most of my worries were over! XiA was mostly online and provided massive moral support (I've sent him some stand-alone versions of the screens so he'd know the material). Ukko came on IRC too, asking if someone needed any gfx help and I immediately PMed him, and he promised me that I'd have an intro pic before the end of the deadline! Neat!

Saturday was spent tweaking around the screens, removing any bugs that I could see and syncing a couple of effects partially to see if it's worth it (me and XiA liked it at least :)). XiA also pestered me to use the appearing effects on Ukko's screen. One small piece of trivia: that effect has 2184 different ways to compose the screen! Well, probably a bit less because there are some duplicate fx, but they're a lot anyway. In the end I left them all in because we couldn't decide on a particular fx (and it would be hard to spot a single one, they all looked nice), so each time the screen is run the pic is shown with a different effect. I also had this idea that in the end I'd show a big chunky 1-col Atari logo that would disappear as I would fade in some static. The plans slightly changed when XiA gave me that stonking logo with "STE" drawn in the background in a light gray. Maybe there would be a way to disintegrate that into static as well, but I was too tired to think of how to do it. So instead I just drew some static and changed some palettes around while fading down. Not too bad I guess. Up to this point, the demo was quite compact (around 40k compressed). I was going to use some noise generated from the code itself, but XiA wasn't 100% satisfied with the quality, so he sent me some pics with gaussian distributed noise, which is practically uncompressible, so the size was bumped up to about 140k! Havoc drew in a quick pic of Kabouter Wesley as well, after I joked with him on IRC that I would like to include a pic like that. This was supposed to be faded in at the very start, but XiA (rightfully) pointed out that it would look better at the very end. (part of why I wanted it at the start was because of any potential bugs I might encounter if I included it at the end, but in the end I obliged ;) ). The last item I wanted to address was the logo for the main menu. I sketched something very quick and sent it to XiA, and I remember sending me back exactly what I had in mind, only prettier, and drawn very quickly! Also, he had the main idea of the screen's name (I can't remember if I had any idea at that point, but his sounded clever so I went along!)

Sunday morning found me very relaxed and not too worried, even though I haven't synced anything up to that point: I simply had a full day to do it. Of course various bugs crept in during the sync which had to be addressed, and I had a few small arguments with XiA about how exactly it was going to be synced (he would rather see it that I changed screens at almost every cymbal hit, I thought it would be very epilepsy-inducing - in the end we agreed on something in-between that we both were pretty happy about). Ukko delivered his pic just in the nick of time, but I foolishly used XNview to convert the pic from PC1 to PI1, and it screwed up the palette. The demo screen was submitted about 25 mins before the deadline end, and when I sat down to relax a bit I got a PM from Ukko about the palette! I was so tired I couldn't figure out why it happened, and then it hit me: it was XNview. Well, this was very easy to fix, I just converted the pic using dpaint, and re-sent the screen to Ra exactly 1 minute before the deadline ended :D.

So that's about it from me. As you see, XiA played a major role in the making of this screen, so I can't thank him enough! Ukko's and Havoc's help was also incredible and I'm proud to have included the pixels of such skilled artists (well, XiA drew some amazing stuff at phenomenal times, but I don't want to thank him twice - don't want to boost his ego too much :P)

I did promise for the full source and WIP assets, irc logs etc. I will release those when I clean them up and get permission from the other people involved. Maybe they'll present them on their own.

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