viznut's amazing discoveries

[2007-04-15]

Splitting the paths: not just hardcore 8-bit anymore

It is soon six years since the last time I released anything demolike for bigger-than-eight-bit platforms. However, there is a very good chance that the six-year mark will never be reached.

I've been following the "techno-extremist path" for several years now, creating more and more extreme material for the VIC-20 and from now on, it seems, for the Atari VCS. At the same time, however, I've been trying to maintain some level of artistic expression or at least keep the presentation enjoyable, but this is becoming more and more difficult due to the increasing technical challenge.

Don't take me wrong: I'm not completely abandoning extreme 8-bit democoding. It's fun and rewarding, I like the 8-bit esthetics, and it gives this nice feeling of charting unexplored territories. However, for some years already, I've been having an urge for forking to some alternative paths.

One path is the "low complexity path", meaning the exploration of the expressive power of very small bytecounts. Basically, this means the sub-4K size class in demos. Naturally, this exploration is also possible with the 8-bits, but PC-like platforms make it possible to go much deeper, down to some of the very profound ideas. On the 8-bits, you always eventually get stuck with the platform restrictions that demand you to go for case-specific tricks instead of general-purpose algorithms.

Another path I want to take is the "non-technical path", that is, concentrating primarily on the esthetics, design and storyline rather than technical details. This is actually something I have been wanting to do with computers since the very beginning, before I had even heard about the demoscene. Of course, this does not mean that I should switch away from the beautifully crude "lo-tech" esthetics! No way, I dislike anything oversmooth or semirealistic, or anything that looks like a modern 3D video game.

What I'm most cautious about on the non-technical path are the reactions of the audience. What is the recipe for amazing the audience if hard-core technical excellence no longer matters? Before my 8-bit era, I mainly used humor, but now I'd like to supplement it with something new and mind-boggling: illusions of vast fictional worlds, wild combination of concepts, totally absurd mental associations, exciting and thrilling storylines, etc. There's a lot of room for experimentation.

One technical thing I've been recently exploring on the PC is a simplistic concept for character animation. Not anything realistic, but rather like something that is simple and fun to use, expressive enough for vivid creatures, and does not look as wooden as modern video game characters tend to. I've been using marionettes as my main source for inspiration, so look forward for some character-driven stuff from me in the future. And yes, I may even implement these digital marionettes on the 8-bits if the concept works well enough.