Tag Archives: outreach

State of the demoscene: 1991 – 2014

I know. It’s been a while. I’m sorry. But – I’ve now compiled numbers from 2013 and 2014 and added them to the stats. “But, Y U NO 2015?!” I hear you ask — because 2015 isn’t done yet, and since I’ve only dealt with full year data sets earlier, I see no reason to change that now. In other words, you’ll have to wait for the 2015-numbers until 2015 is over.

Anyhoo, without further whatever, here are the updated charts, with some accompanying observations..

Demoparties / events
One way to take the pulse of the scene is to look at the amount of demoscene events happening each year. This chart shows the number of registered parties (with releases!) from 1984 to 2014 – 30 years of demo parties! TL;DR: after hitting the lowest point ever in 2010 (63 parties), it seems to have stabilized around roughly 72-75 parties. There appears to be an ever so slight correlation between the amount of parties and amount of releases, but it’s impossible to say for sure (or even which way it would correlate).

sotd_2014_demoparties

Active demo groups
Another way to look at the activity level is to see how many groups are associated with productions / releases in any given year. Here is a graph showingthe amount of active groups from 1978 to 2014. TL;DR: the number of groups is on a slow but steady decline, which has been going on more or less uninterrupted since the high point in 1996 (1071 groups), in 2014 there were 549.

sotd_2014_active_groups

Total demoscene production output, all platforms
Alright, now we get to the meat of it. This is the go-to chart for people interested in the overall state of the creative output of the scene. TL;DR: the scene is still alive, chugging along at the same pulse as it’s had for the last four years or so. Building on my hypothesis of the previous few years, I can now with high certainty conclude that it has plateaued (with a slight increase in the last two years). Both 2013 and 2014 had the exact same amount of prods: 909.

sotd_2014_total_prods

Platforms

Let’s break these down into the individual platforms used to compile the overall number. TL;DR: for the last few years there seems to be an amusing correlation between C64 and Windows prods. When the one goes up, the other goes down, and vice versa. Could it be that the most active C64 people are closet Windows demo makers or the other way around? :) Also: from 2012 to 2013 we can observe good growth in the popularity of the web platform (jumping from 23 in 2012 up to 112 in 2013), which then took a bit of a dive in 2014 (down to 85). It’s interesting to see that the web briefly overtook Amiga as a demo platform in 2013.

sotd_2014_prods_by_platform
Let’s remove Windows, the dominant platform, and see what’s going on underneath the surface of the other platforms. I’ve limited this graph to the last decade (2004 – 2014) for clarity. TL;DR: Amiga is back, in a big way! If this trend continues, the Amiga might, for the first time in history, overtake the C64 as the second most popular demoscene platform (after Windows). Note: this data is from Pouet.net – it does not include other sources which might have more detailed C64 release data, so don’t go all flameparty on me, okay?

sotd_2014_prods_no_win

Categories
Alright, so let’s dive further down into what kind of productions are being made and not just on which platforms they are released. TL;DR: 4k intros still in decline (24% down over the last four years), 64k intros (10% up and down over the same period) have stabilized, and demos are seeing a slow but steady increase (25% up from 2011 to 2014).

sotd_2014_prods_by_category

Conclusions
Overall, demoscene output has indeed stabilized, which is nice. The large decline we’ve seen starting at the beginning of this decade has stopped. Differentiation seems to flourish in the platforms, but not in the type of productions (as in: there’s a consistent creative output, mostly of demos, but people appear to be moving between platforms). There does not appear to be any significant increase in overall activity (as in: not a lot of new people are joining the scene and making things though there are some exceptions), and if the demoscene is to survive / thrive once more, this needs to change.

My hope is that the new possibilites in the web platforms will serve as a new jumping-on point for fresh talent. We see it already, with sites like Shadertoy being really popular, so the question is: should those types of things be included in the scene rather than the scene expecting people to “graduate” to stand-alone demos? I leave that question with you, the reader.

If you are looking for some cool prods to watch, I would recommend you visit curio.scene.org. Special thanks to Gargaj for helping me with extracting data from Pouet.net, of which these statistics are based.

If you’d like to have a chat about this or anything else you think I’ll find interesting, then by all means, hit me up on Twitter: @gloom303

 

An interview

I was interviewed this week in the Norwegian edition of Computerworld Magazine about my involvement in the demoscene, and the Norwegian demoscene history exhibit “Pixlar” currently on display in Oslo. The interview is more focused on what employers should be looking for when recruiting.

After I posted it on Facebook and Twitter, I’ve been repeatedly asked if there is an english translation somewhere — unfortunately there wasn’t, so I went ahead and translated it myself. I also took the liberty to add in a few details lost from the original interview and to the final text as published.

The art of code
by Kenneth Christensen

Originally published in Computerworld on the 21st of February, 2012.
Freely translated to English.

Nobody challenges and explores technology like demoscene artists.

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Illustration by Fairfax/Torkell Berntsen


“The art corridor” at Oslo Central station in the capital of Norway has since January had a very special exhibit on display. The exhibit, named Pikslar (translates to “Pixels”) showcases examples of digital art and culture from the last 20 years, including retro computers like the Commodore Amiga 500.

The exhibit shows passers-by a glimpse into a world unknown to most. The demoscene is a subculture for people with a higher than average interest in finding creative uses for computer technology, and utilizes their exceptional technical skills to push the limits of what’s possible.

The real hackers

Demosceners are driven by the desire to make the computer do amazing things, says Bent Stamnes.

– Take the classic example of the Commodore 64. Turn it on, and it does nothing. It just sits there, waiting for you to tell it what to do.

The blank screen and the blinking cursor was an irresistible invitation to a world of technical wizardry and skill for those receptible to the charm of the little breadbox. Stamnes is part of the team behind the Pikslar exhibit, and has been an active demoscener since he was 11 years old, making music by stitching together beep.exe commands in .BAT-files under DOS. Today Stamnes works as a manager for a software development company in the telecom industry.

– I became a part of the demoscene in 1989, just as the Norwegian demoscene came into infancy. Now I’m 34 and I’m still active.

The first group he was in was called MAD (Microchips After Dark, a nod to the Danish 80s rock-band D.A.D – Disneyland After Dark), but these days he admits to coding way less and taking on the role of producer of demos, in addition to making music for them.

Self-taught enthusiasts

Most of the people who take an active part in the demoscene have taught themselves the skills needed. The type of technical interrest typically found in demosceners is something in the blood, says Stamnes. – You either have it or you don’t. In a professional setting, he often looks for people who lives and breathes computer code.

– I am an employer now, so knowing what to look for in people is really handy. It’s pretty easy to see if potential new employees are of the kind that just wants a job, any job, or someone who is born to code. That’s the difference between an enthusiast and a consultant.

Demosceners often have a completely different perspective on problem solving than those in the IT-business just there to punch the clock and go home.

– Demosceners are often exceptionally good at coming up with solutions in a macro perspective, something that’s both rare and and very important at times. These people have faced — and solved — completely unique problems. It is often a strong advantage to have such developers on your team, someone who dares to ask the right (and often unpopular) questions.

Huge advantages

If you’re looking for a job in creative businesses, such as advertising, film or game development, it’s often a strong advantage to have something to show, in addition to your regular resumé.

– There’s basically no creative business recruiter who doesn’t know what the demoscene is or what talent comes out of it.

To have a demo in your portfolion not only shows that you have the technical know-how, but also that you find creative ways to apply it through a passion for technology.

– A geniune hacker has this glow, this natural instinct about technology. For them it’s almost unbearable not knowing how something works, and at the same time: optimizing it and making it better.

The social aspects

The demoscene is very social, and the cliché of the bespectacled nerd in his parents basement is completely incorrect. A common interest in technology, graphics and music combined with the desire to meet, share and aquire new knowledge, is far more descriptive of the culture.

– Being social is very important. There are demoscene events almost every week somewhere in the world, often having people fly in from other countries just to attend for a few days. We talk, code, make demos and enjoy ourselves.

Having likeminded people around you to share your demos with is the whole point of the subculture. Getting immediate (and often brutally honest) feedback is almost addictive. This group of people can easily separate the good from the bad in a heartbeat.

– It’s a very knowledgeable and closely knit community. You learn a lot just by being around such creative people.

The contacts and relationships forged in the demoscene lasts your entire life.

– It’s very enriching. The contacts and relationships forged in the demoscene lasts your entire life. If you’ve competed head-to-head with your hardest competitior (which is often your best friends as well), you never forget it.

A lot of demsoceners naturally end up in creative businesses, often in larger corporations such as game developers or advertising.

A top-tip for recruiters: look for people with demoscene experience.

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