Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

Archive for August, 2008

Chock full of awesome

Posted by Trixter on August 27, 2008

NVScene was everything I had hoped for and much more.  Thanks to the money put behind the event by NVidia, the sound system and bigscreen was something to be in awe of:  1920×1080 on a screen about 30 feet tall.  North American sceners got the chance to meet some of the modern greats, with representatives from Farbrausch, ASD, Plastik, and more.

The talks were all outstanding, even the “history of the scene” talk we could all give in our sleep.  The demoscene.tv crew were busy running around doing interviews and live-cutting footage for your enjoyment, so they were understaffed for the actual talks and conferences.  I missed Mentor’s talk :-( :-( due to a misunderstanding on my part about the schedule, and then I may have irritated him by asking him for his slides during the Spore talk when he was busy, so that was a flub on my part… I hope he releases his slides because they looked really awesome and I’d really like to learn what he had to say.

I am in the airport waiting for my delayed flight to be undelayed, so I thought I’d put up a quick summary of what I learned at NVScene.  First, the obvious-to-Euros-but-not-Americans surprises:

  • Americans and Euros can get along wonderfully in the demoscene. (By association, there can indeed be two NA demoparties in a year without the space/time continuum imploding.)
  • Everybody has a chance to learn from each other, regardless of experience or skill.
  • Computer graphics techniques are so universal that you can hold a conversation with any demoscener, even if you can barely understand each other due to English not being your native language.

Here’s what I learned that surprised me, mainly because I don’t write demos for modern platforms, only follow them:

  • Realtime raytracing with fantastic quality is not only possible, but can be done entirely by the graphics card using pixel shaders (!).
  • Most demos (and some 4K intros!) use a scripting/build system, and each major group has their own tools.  One very interesting exception is ASD, whose coder writes all sections of the demo with the ability to render along any point in time (ie. f(x) where x is a float from 0 to 1 with 0 the start of the scene and 1 being the end).  He said he likes to “scrub” through his demo using the mouse, and doesn’t mind that his scenes are hard-coded because it only takes him 3 seconds to recompile and run.
  • Future of the scene for the next two years in two words:  Ambient Occlusion.

Polaris/ND and I tossed around a demo idea.  Not sure if NVScene will be around next year, but if not, Block Party will be.  So who knows.

I would like to publicly thank the organizers of Block Party for enabling me to attend NVScene.  And, of course, I would like to thank Gloom, Gargaj, Steeler, and Temis for making NVScene possible.

Posted in Demoscene | 2 Comments »


Posted by Trixter on August 18, 2008

As the title says, I will be attending NVScene this year through RVScene (“The demoparty you can drive!”). I hope to see you there!

Posted in Demoscene | 2 Comments »

Kicking my own ass

Posted by Trixter on August 8, 2008

I love Wizball. Every few years, as I slowly work my way through my hobby of restoring vintage IBM PCs and clones, I will pull Wizball out and try to finish a game on the PC that I’m restoring at that time (as a burn-in test — yeah, that’s it), and see how far I can get.

The PC version of Wizball is brutal in that the speed of the game is not constant. It speeds up and slows down based on where you are and what enemies are onscreen, which is annoying all by itself, but the real problem is that the entire game is not based off of a timer. If you play it on an original 4.77MHz 8088, gameplay is glacial; the game itself is much easier because of the slower speed, but you discover a new hidden gameplay mechanic of endurance (it can take three to four hours to finish). If you play it on any 80286 or higher, it’s too fast to play.

About two years ago, I discovered a bootable disk distribution I hadn’t seen before with four games on it, one of them being Wizball. I wrote it to disk and decided to try it out on my 4.77MHz PC/XT. After trying the others, I started Wizball and before I knew it a few hours had gone by. Determined to finish, I slogged through and managed to complete the game and get a pretty good high score.

Since the game wasn’t written to save high scores to disk, I wrote my score on the sleeve (like putting quarters on the marquee of an arcade game, a common computer nerd practice back in the day). For your enjoyment, here is that disk:

Not a bad score, if I do say so myself. I wrote the score down, happy that I had finally finished the game, and put the disk away.

Today I was organizing all of my loose floppy disks and sleeves (gathering into a giant pile is more accurate) in an effort to see which disks I could reformat to archive some data off of a new conquest.  In a pile of nearly 100 sleeves, this little gem put me in my place:

Evidently, twenty years ago, I had kicked my own ass at Wizball.

(And it was a true ass-kicking, since my machine twenty years ago ran at 7.16MHz, not 4.77MHz, which meant the game ran normally and required decent reflexes to play.)

Posted in Gaming, Vintage Computing | 6 Comments »

A Rebuttal

Posted by Trixter on August 3, 2008

My son wanted the opportunity to rebut the rules I laid down for shooters, so here is his response:

Max’s Rebuttal

Posted in Family, Gaming | 1 Comment »

Birthday Frags

Posted by Trixter on August 1, 2008

Today I am 37. I am also 237. I’m working on the latter.

My youngest son Max will be 9 years old in November, but already he has been bugging (begging?) me to play some first-person shooters. I initially thought this was a good idea and let him play TimeShift with all of the blood/gore turned off. But something struck me as he played it: As he was gunning down the enemy, he was showing hardly any reaction as to what they were doing. In other words, he was shooting a fairly realistic gun at a fairly realistic enemy, who was yelling and dying in a fairly realistic way, and he simply was not reacting to this at all. That bothered me, so I uninstalled the game (actually I rar’d it up and moved it to another drive — I figure by the time he’s smart enough to figure out how to restore it, he’ll be old enough to play it :-).

While I relish the thought of nurturing the next Fatal1ty, I am bound by the morals/values/scruples that all parents (should) have. So I had to lay down the law last month about what he could and couldn’t play specifically regarding first-person shooters. Coming up with parenting-friendly rules was surprisingly easy (no realistic human targets, etc.). Coming up with the games that honor those rules was a little harder, given that the point of an FPS is to kill things :-) Here’s what Max can expect:

  • 8-9 years old: No human targets or scary environments. Acceptable FPS games: Serious Sam series, Tron 2.0, Shadowcaster
  • 10-11: Human targets okay only if they are zombies or possessed or otherwise completely unrealistic (ie. quite pixelated graphics or low polygon count). Acceptable games: Doom, Heretic/Hexen
  • 12-13: Any target or setting is fine as long as the game is rated ESRB “T” for teen
  • 14-15: Can play anything he wants as long as it’s not pointlessly sadistic (ie. games like Manhunt are not allowed)
  • 16+: Anything goes (I was sneaking into R-rated movies when I was 16 so I figure it would be hypocritical to not let him play anything he wants at 16)

(I’m probably forgetting some eligible games; let me know which ones and I’ll amend the above.)

Note that the above guidelines assume all games will have all gore and bad language set to “off” if the game allows it. Even if they don’t, Max and I have an understanding about bad language (when it is and isn’t appropriate) so I’m not worried about that, and blood coming from an obvious non-human enemy is fine too. Fantasy violence is clearly a game. Getting a headshot on a human soldier can also be a game, but only if you’re properly grounded, and I don’t think a 9-year-old is that grounded.

Max, of course, thinks these rules are completely unreasonable. I think they’re pretty damn lenient!

Posted in Family, Gaming | 6 Comments »