direct to video

September 29, 2009

old demos #2: media error (and track one).

Filed under: demoscene — Tags: , , — directtovideo @ 8:43 am

Our entry to the demo competition at Assembly 07, placed 3rd.

media error by fairlight cncd orange

In 2006 we made track one for Assembly 2006, and placed 2nd in the demo competition. We did quite well out of it, later picking up the award for the best demo of 2006. So we decided to do it again, and try and go one better and win Assembly.

Winning the Assembly demo competition is pretty much the demoscene equivalent of winning the world cup. The event has been around for over 15 years, and a lot of people interested in the demoscene today grew up marvelling at the demos released there back in the day. It’s a massive event today, with over 4000 visitors – most of whom are gamers, but it still has a strong scene pedigree. The combination of the size and exposure of the event and the historical significance makes it the one we always wanted to win.

Track one was probably one of the most intense creation processes I’ve ever been involved in. We only really decided to make something a few days before Assembly 06 started. This was partly my fault as I was off making glitterati and dead ringer, eating up a lot of my time before the event. We – a team of programmers and 2d+3d artists – spent three days of the four day event holed up in Destop’s apartment in Helsinki, only sleeping a maximum of 4-5 hours the whole time. It was insane and completely exhausting but still an amazing experience – everybody throwing out quality work, making new effects and graphics, running over to someone else’s pc to see the latest big addition. Thankfully the artists had quite a few pieces lying around on their hard disks that we could use.

Of course it was also utterly shambolic. Not only were we not sleeping, we were drinking more or less continuously. Of course we missed the deadline. Then we missed the “real” deadline – the usual cutoff point – and then we were rushing to hit the “absolutely final” deadline – when they record the entries to video. Usually in a demo competition one can push the deadlines right up until the minute they start the competition – and indeed, my current record is submitting a demo at breakpoint while the 8th entry in the competition was actually playing on the big screen. At Assembly they prerecord the entries to video so you don’t have that luxury. Well, we made it – but there were some compromises, like the last minute or two of the demo being just whatever we had to throw in. Someone (we never found out who) moved a load of the timeline bars during the last night and made it all out of sync, and we never quite fixed it all. By the end we had made it but we were totally exhausted and vowed not to do it like that again.

Track One by Fairlight
track one on pouet

The making of media error was supposed to be a carefully planned affair, starting early and finishing on time. Of course it wasn’t. Firstly we decided – at artist request – early in 2007 to completely remake the engine, adding a node graph to our current demo tool which largely resembled the AfterEffects timeline at that time. Then we fully integrated Lightwave support – the artist’s tool of choice – with a full loader for objects and scenes. This was all good, but the tools were quite fragile as a result. Then we foolishly got dragged into the Intel Demo Competition 2007, and by the time we were done we had less than four weeks to make a demo for Assembly 07.

Still, we had managed to assemble a superb team – and we felt we could pull it off. Sadly we ended up exactly where we were in 2006, with a bunch of us piled into Destop’s apartment in Helsinki working all hours on a demo. Again, we missed the deadline by an epic amount. Again it was a crazy but amazing process of not sleeping, drinking too much and spitting out graphics and effects left and right. We made it a bit earlier than track one, and felt pretty good about the demo.

Unfortunately in the competition we came up against one of the biggest demos ever made – Lifeforce by ASD – and fell to 3rd place. Winning Assembly would have to wait.

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