Demoscene: you like it?

One thing that’s allways been on my hacking radar has been the demoscene. Is anyone else here a fan? I’ve always wondered why it never caught on in the states.

One of my favorite genesis demos.

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I certainly was; I was an Acorn kid, so the big name Archimedes groups such as Brothers in Arm, Hugo Fiennes, Arc Angels and the like. I’ve got out of it in recent years, but @dotwaffle used to do a really interesting talk at each LugRadio Live about the demoscene and I always loved watching that! I did think about getting back into it when JavaScript demos came along, but now they’re all WebGL and I don’t care again :wink:

My favourite demo is Masagin.

Thanks for the tag @sil, wouldn’t have seen this otherwise :wink:

I was at a US demoparty only this year… NVScene in San Jose. @party is popular on the East Coast, and trixter did some excellent coding in the 8088 which reached the front page of reddit.

If you happen to be in Germany at Easter, I’d heartily recommend going to Revision in Saarbrucken, failing that there will be another NVScene this year most likely in San Jose.

It is still very much alive, but tends to be more interesting for size coding and oldskool platforms as opposed to amazing PC demos. Having said that, regardless of the demoparty I very much enjoy the democompos for the atmosphere and occasionally see something new and cool someone hasn’t thought of before.

For 10 years I presented some compostudios on Finnish television. It’s still going… If you can’t make it to Europe watch the omnishambles that is my presentation skills, and enjoy the feedback from the Carnegie Mellon demosceners!

You know, I never really got the demoscene thing. I think it’s popularity peaked while I wasn’t really exposed to it.

@dotwaffle, maybe you could share with us your passion for the demoscene and why you enjoy it - this might get more people interested in checking it out. :slight_smile:

dude what is that hat? I mean, I like hats. But… damn. That’s a bad hat, Harry.


The hat is definitely epic.

Let’s have a stab at my memory of 20 years ago :wink:

Essentially, I had been playing with my trusty Amiga for a few years and enjoyed playing with a few games but largely I wasn’t interested in gaming because I quickly became bored with the same game types – generally 2D arcade style representations that involved quite a lot of repetition.

I remember seeing a coverdisk on Amiga Format (possibly CU Amiga) that had some music on it. I really liked it, and it turned out that there was a whole community around making music from their Amiga. A few friends gave me some (ahem) “copied” disks and most of them had intros on them, a fast loading quick animation that said who cracked the game. They were quite cool, and some looked even better than the games they were attached to. I was still only about 10-12 years old, didn’t really have any connections to the scene back then, but always had a look at the “intro” style productions that would be handed out on these coverdisks – they were no longer being made for cracked games, they were independent productions.

Once I moved to PC in about 1997, an elder brother of a friend of mine tried making one himself. It was a 3D landscape flyer and he showed me how changing a few variables dramatically changed the output. It eventually became this demo:

I couldn’t make it to that demo party, but a few of my friends went (for the first time) and one even entered the 4K compo with what I can only describe as being the shittiest thing I had ever seen: – however, it was only 4K big, and he wasn’t designing it to look exactly that way, he was just experimenting and came up with something cool. That had me hooked.

A year later, I went to a demoparty. It was in Denmark, between Christmas and New Years, and I was only 16 so my dad had to drive us there – it took a 19 hour ferry, and about 8 hours on the road, but we got there. 3 days of nothing but demos, talking to really cool people, and I have to admit, downloading as much pornography as we could lay our hands on and burning it to CD. The 64k compo had something utterly inexplicably amazing, from a group called Farbrausch:

I loved it. I saw demo after demo, downloading through a shitty 56k modem. I decided I would try and go to Mekka and Symposium in Germany, the biggest of the demo parties. But it was GCSEs time at school and I couldn’t go. I missed it, and then to make matters worse, they said there would not be another M&S. Shit.

I hung around in #ukscene on IRCNet, and found that lots of people were going to go to a different party, Assembly in Finland, that had more than 5500 visitors, 3500 of which brought their computers for a LAN party. Still only 17 years old, four friends and I decided to book some flights and go to this party. It was mostly gamer focussed, but played the demos on a gigantic big screen in the country’s biggest ice arena. We couldn’t work out how to ship our computers safely, so we bought flight cases and built them into them. Stayed in a youth hostel the first night and toured Helsinki, then we moved to the venue and slept in the arena. Most amazing experience I’ve ever had. The 4K intros were amazing:

I started going to more and more parties, Assembly every year at Summer, and a new party Breakpoint in Germany at Easter. When I learned to drive, I drove across Europe to go to TUM. On icy roads, on the other side of the road. What an amazing road trip.

As time passed, I started getting more involved – I applied to work with livecrew, who ran a TV station for the four days of the Assembly demo party. It went out live to hundreds of thousands of homes in the Helsinki area. At first, I just did voiceovers as I had a good English accent. Then, I started presenting shows. Then, I became a producer and ran other shows too. I was having a hell of a lot of fun!

I even went to Finland in Winter, to the Alternative Party – where the demo compos were more arty. I didn’t like arty stuff, but these guys made it incredibly fun. A Soviet theme where you had to get your ticket stamped by officials to get in. A space theme with astronaut ice cream. Covenant and Front 242 played a gig there! It cemented my love of the demoscene.

Finally, Breakpoint in Germany stopped, and some of the organisers decided to launch a new party, Revision. It was new and different. It learned from all the other parties. It had 1000 people but they were all demosceners, not gamers. I got involved on the network side and helped out too. I watched hours of demo competitions and it was fantastic… But the PC platform just became too easy – there was no technical challenge (there was, but it didn’t seem like it) so it was purely an artistic challenge. It became a bit dull… But the 64K, the 4K, and the Commodore 64 and Amiga demo platforms were on FIRE.

UK parties were never as big. I help organise the one in the UK, and that’s run for about 8 or 9 years now. Mark Shuttleworth once came, and described what later became Plymouth… But he couldn’t persuade people to code new and interesting code to present on boot because people were doing it for fun and most of the fun is the competitive element. It’s a shame, because many people did come to me and say that they wish Mark’s idea took off and we could have 30 second boot demos. But computers booted too quickly :wink:

Then things started dying out. It’s definitely less popular than in the past. The demoscene won’t change, because it’s entirely selfish – it does things because it thinks it is cool. If it tried to be inclusive, it wouldn’t be as fun. There’s only one rule when it comes to the demoscene… If you think something is shit, make something better. Compete. Tell people they’re morons over a beer, have a heated argument, and buy the next round. I’ve never seen a fight, people know that it’s passion driving them. It is a terrible way to run an organisation, but that passion really fires people into one-upping everyone else. No, generally source code isn’t available. Not because they dislike Open Source, but because they don’t want to see remixes. They want to see originality. It’s a steep learning curve, and one I haven’t really embraced. I’m a spectator, not an active participant. :smile:

Anyway, that’s my story of the demoscene. I like watching demos. They’re five minutes long or less, so if you don’t like something, you wait until the next one is on. You enjoy a good demo by a newcomer and critique it giving them praise, and boo a shit demo by an established older group that may be graphically better, but not what you expected.

It’s something cool to look at and listen to, with computers. It’s generated on the fly, rather than pre-rendered. It’s small size that will generally fit in less space than an empty Word document. It’s not commercial, and would horrify anyone that tried to sponsor it. Having said that, nVidia do sponsor parties, and they really get it, but they were really nervous. It’s a terrific bonus to the scene that they stay involved and enjoy the arguments as well as the praise :wink:

If you’re bored, look at some of these demos: – try and run them natively if you can, but if not, YouTube will do. If you’re up to it, try submitting something to a party near you. Oh, and for God’s sake, try not to keep up with the Finns if you’re drinking :wink:

Must stop typing now, sheesh.

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That was a bad hat. I borrowed it from waffle (the Finnish waffle) and didn’t realise quite how stupid I looked :wink:

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Oh, and four quick favourite demos:

Favourite 64K, made by a group I used to hang out with a lot:

First demo I saw on PC that got me interested in PC demos:

One of the demos that most people in the last 10 years brought them to the demoscene:

And finally, it’s only 4k, it can squeeze in here…

Amazing history of the scene! Wow. As I said before, I wish this had been more of a thing in the states. I could imagine there being some kind of retro resurgence of the demoscene. I know that Layer One in L.A is having a demo party along with their yearly security conference. The idea is to write demos for small devices like RPis and custom dev boards.

Pretty cool no? Maybe someday we can have a party in NYC.

Oh, while I think about it, @jonobacon might find a good introduction, because he should like the music :smile:

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There’s a group called ASD that do largely rock/metal soundtracks on their demos. Well worth a look on pouet for “lifeforce”.

Those of you in a slightly more 1992 mindset may prefer :wink:


Amazing topic!

I discovered demomaking back in the mid/late 90s thanks to a monthly French magazine that had a dedicated section about that. Hell, it even had articles on how to code shadebobs and bump effects in C!

Then I started hanging around on IRC, mostly on #demofr (French demoscene), #pixelfr (French 2D graphic designers, most of them being part of the demosecene) and #spline (French 3D channel).

I had an amazing time on IRC, spent nights on it discussing with people I’d never met. One night, a guy even did a NetMeeting session with me to show me how to play MP3 files on an Atari ST!

Of course I was watching a lot of demos, most of them from the CD that was included in the monthly releases of that French magazine (a lot of them miserably failed to run and it was a challenge to get them to run on my computer). I showed that to a friend of mine (we were in junior high school back then), he had an Amiga and was doing some Deluxe Paint and he got fascinated by the 3D. We got a cracked version of 3dsmax and started learning it. I tried a little bit of everything (2D, 3D, coding) and quickly realized I was not really good at any of those, but I was still fascinated by the demoscene, and as @dotwaffle points it, to the technical challenge of running amazing stuff with very limited computers or space.

In the late 90s my friends and I decided to go to our first demoparty: LTP99. My friend’s dad had to drive us there and come pick us up 2 days later, it was hot as fuck, we didn’t wash and barely slept for 2 days and a half, it was an amazing experience! I finally got a chance to meet some people I had been chatting with on IRC for ages, there was a guy doing a real time drawing using Photoshop on a big screen, and in the end all the demos were shown one by one on the big screen, and I fell asleep on a few of them :smile:

We participated in two contests: 3D and Wild, and won a prize (I think it was for the Wild). We had done a 5-minute long animation with 3dsmax but had no idea how to export it to give it to the organizers, so in the end we recorded it on a videotape!

We also went to LTP4 in 2000 and saw really good stuff as well, but the feeling was more gamers and less “creators”. Something I remember from this party was that some people who were part of demo groups also worked in videogame industry and they were using the 3D engine they developed for the videogame they were working on as the 3D engine for their demos (and as you can imagine, their employer was not super happy about it ;)).

Later on I started engineering school, got into open source and lost track of the demoscene, randomly met one musician in Taiwan many years after… Now I see oldschool demos brought back on the Web thanks to JavaScript and WebGL, and that’s pretty awesome :slight_smile: I regularly go check (and you should, too!) and I’m still amazed at what people manage to achieve…

A few of my favourite demos:

  • just a touch of funk (2000) (because there are characters and super funky music, quite a change from the landscapes/effects/electro music you usually see)

  • State of Mind (1998) with a great music (actually, back in the days someone on #demofr coded a tool to extract the MP3 so everyone could enjoy :stuck_out_tongue:)

  • Shad 2 (1999)

  • and most of farbrausch 4k/64k compos, of course!

I was very disappointed that I could attend VIP in Toissey, France. – it seemed like a fantastic party!

Be careful recommending, the discussion is rather raw! Having said that, it’s is a fantastic resource if you’re after discovering demos. All the files are available on, which is an absolutely amazing phenomenon – unlike a mirror site in the OSS world, it’s the canonical source of pretty much everything demoscene related and organised incredibly well if you know what you are looking for.

For those wanting some kind of demoscene playlist they can just put on in the background while working that they can glance at, perhaps you can take a look at one of the “Demo Or Die!” packs done by El Barto – – or indeed, there’s some DVDs you can buy that Trixter made – – or finally if you’re REALLY lazy you could try finding something interesting on the HD rips Annikras made on YouTube:

I’ll stop posting links now, except to say that NVScene in San Jose California has just been announced! 17th to 20th March 2015. There’s cheap tickets that also gets you into the GTC if you’re interested, and I’m strongly considering going. I have to make a decision between SCALE (incl. Bad Voltage Live), NANOG, or NVScene however… That’s a tough choice for me to make as I wish I could see all of them!

Dude, there is only one. You have to be at Bad Voltage Live. I think you may have just triggered a BV Demo Scene community going on here…there seems to be a lot of interest. :smile:

Also, @dotwaffle, would be awesome to get you on the show for a few minutes to talk about all of this. :slight_smile:

I’m in UTC+0900 for two weeks then UTC+0800 until January… But I’ll see what I can do :slight_smile:

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Since this post, demoscene folks in NYC have contacted me. I will keep you appraised of my progress trying to make a demo.

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@baordog just remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Cheat, use a few tricks that mean you have fun doing it, and most importantly, release it! No feeling quite like it, even if you’re near the bottom of the results. I should know :wink:

Just listened to the latest BV, I believe a gauntlet has been thrown down!

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Sorry to resurrect an old thread, but if you’re at all interested in the demoscene and you happen to live in the Bay Area, I’d heartily recommend dropping into NVScene on 17-20 March 2015.

To tempt you into it even more, here’s one of the invitations – and it sure is beautiful!:

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