The end of mixed feelings and a new demo


Warning: this post begins with a bit of a long rant / history lesson, so if you just want to see the demo, skip down..

Update (27.04.2011): I added a few paragraphs a bit further down to clarify some points.

Last week was a pretty big demoscene week. I finished a prod for the competition at The Gathering 2011 and I also spent two days there with my wife (and one of them with my daughter as well, who charmed pretty much everyone on the hall with her antics). 


At this point I should mention, for those who might not know, that I used to be one of the main organizers of The Gathering (from 2000 until 2005, and I was a crew-member for many years before that). When I decided to stop doing that in 2005, it was not an easy decision – a big part of me wanted to carry on, but ultimately I decided against it, mostly for the following reasons:

  • The party no longer represented the people who were important to me – demosceners
  • A vast majority of the crew had little or no interest in the roots of the scene, returning to the party year after year just to meet friends and do nothing creative
  • I didn’t like who I became when I entered “full-on organizer-mode” – too much yelling and running around, to little creating – not fun, and not productive

So I quit the TG organization and started focusing on two other areas instead: “my” (as in: I was one of the original founders and I’m currently the only remaining one) party – Solskogen, and I can safely say (and I’m sure others will agree) that this was the right choice indeed. Solskogen has since 2002 grown to become a must-attend event for almost the entire Norwegian (and scandinavian) demoscene, and all while not being a bitch to organize. The crew is fantastic, and our returning guests make the party what it is.

My second demoscene “occupation” is with – the largest demoscene archive in the world – where I involve myself with getting sponsors for the actual site (and it’s services) as well as doing outreach for the demoscene. The latter is a bit of a hot topic for some who believe that the scene should stay small and hidden. Naturally, I do not agree. :) This is why I travel to conferences pretty much all over the world (either on my own dime, or because I’ve been invited) to speak about the demoscene, real-time graphics and computer subculture.

I dig doing both of those things, and it does leave me free to pursue other demoscene-related activities without completely burning through my spare time, but leaving The Gathering as an organizer wasn’t easy, and some small part of me always wished I hadn’t.

Until last week. 

The Gathering 2011

When I went there last friday I became completely at peace with my decision 6 years ago, and here’s why:

  • I would only have held back the few people who longed to expand the creative areas of TG outside the conventions of the demoscene
  • Those people are today the most important people in the TG organization, because they have managed to do what I thought impossible: breathe new life into the creative areas of a huge, commercial “hybrid” computer event (I can’t call it a demo-party because it’s not, and I won’t call it a “LAN-party” because it’s so much more than that as well)
  • Had I stayed, I would only have burned myself out trying to accomplish something impossible, and I would have taken everyone else down with me

So you see, The Gathering – a party I had attended since 1993 (I was 15) – will always have a special place in my heart. The Gathering 1993 changed my life, and The Gathering 2011 changed it again – in a different way. I must give mad props to the people of the (semi-awkwardly named) “Creativia”-crew: you guys (and girls) rock. I had a great time this year, and not because I placed 4th in the competition (I’ll get to that in a bit :), in fact – not because of that at all, but because the Creativia lounge, the professional stage shows, competitions and buzz at the event was “just right” this year. I dug it.

Will I return to organize The Gathering? Nope, never, but it’s okay, because I don’t want to either. There are new kids in town, and they are doing a way better job of taking care of the creative heritage of The Gathering than I can. The good bet is to stick with them. Mixed feelings about TG? Not anymore.

Update: What people seem to be forgetting is that these things are cyclical, they come and go. Which is, as explained above, why I left TG as an organizer. At the time, it was interpreted by some as laziness or giving up, but the simple truth is that I simply couldn’t see how I could contribute any more, and the best thing was to move out of the way and let someone else take over. After that, the remaining team tried some different things, but they appeared to me (as an outsider) to be attempts at rehashing the past and after a few years they tried something else, with a mix of new and old people. This last time however, it worked. Bigtime.

At the head of every uprise there are eager and talented people pulling their weight to make it happen. In the past, that has included me, but now there are other people at the helm, and I couldn’t be happier. Again: congrats to the TG Creativia-crew – a fantastic collection of people, I’m impressed and forever grateful, because a positive creative experience at TG – the biggest event of it’s kind in Norway and almost in the world – has a spillover effect on everything around it, including Solskogen – my baby.


Spheres on a plane

Oh, yes – the demo. It was about half a year ago that I spoke to a friend of mine whom I’ve done demos with in the past if we should perhaps team up again for a new production – a big one. The kind of demo that wins parties with twice the amount of votes as the second place. He was up for it, and we started scheming. However, due to various things that happen when you’re an adult, it became apparent that this demo would not be doable within the timeframe we were looking at (and because we were lacking a good 3D artists – a must-have if you’re aiming for the kind of show that we were in fact trying to pull off).

We therefore went back to the drawing-board and decided on making a very peculiar piece of art, inspired by various motion graphics pieces found on Vimeo (and other places). Something weird and highly conceptual. Something that threw all the conventional demoscene “guidelines” out the window.

What we came up with was this:

[vimeo w=640&h=336]

Overall there is quite a bit of advanced code in this one, even though it might not look it. It is by no means a “throwaway-demo” based on “leftover effects” as at least one moronic person on the internet have described it. For example, the AO is particularily nice, and there are a fair amount of GI-trickery going on as well.

There is also physics-based animation in almost every part of the demo, but only subtle, and not in a traditional “THIS IS PHYSICS! LOOK AT IT!”-way that demoscene productions tend to use. I’m going to write a follow-up piece that goes a bit more in-depth about the various tricks that went into making the demo. Look for it within a few days.

In the meantime, you can download the demo and run it on your own computer (preferably one with a fast GPU (NVIDIA) and CPU – it also needs to run either Windows Vista or 7 – sorry, no XP-support).

I am very happy with the way the demo turned out. I believe the best part of it was after the competition screening at the party, and someone (I can’t remember who, unfortunately) described it as “David Lynch-like” – whoever you were, thanks for that one.

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