Tuesday, July 06, 2010

My few last days in Europe were spent attending a demoparty in
Maaseik, Belgium. I always wanted to be in a demoparty and this was my
first opportunity to do so. I didn't want to simply attend it. I
wanted to actually release a demo! My choice of development platform
was the Phillips Videopac G7000 (european name), also known as
Magnavox Odyssey² (in USA). In Brazil it was released as "Odyssey" since the original one has never been released here, so the number 2 in the name would not make much sense in the brazilian market.

I've had one of these in Brazil since my childhood, but I did not bring
it with me to my Europe trip (as I didn't want to risk loosing it or
damaging it for whatever reason). Because of that I tried to buy a
Videopac on eBay and have it delivered to Brussels, where my
brazillian friend Leandro Lameiro lives nowadays, so that we could
develop and showcase the demo in a real machine during Rewired 2010.
But then, unfortunately, the french guy who sold me a Phillips c52
didn't send the item at all. Also, I have contacted Sören Gust,
trying to buy a development cartridge from him, but he didn't have a
spare one to sell. I though about building one myself in some european
hackerspace (I have visited many of them during june), but then the
fact that the real console was not delivered made me give up and
simply focus on emulator-based development.

I knew that it would potentially not be the same as developing in the
real machine, but I needed to release something at the demoparty and I
wanted to do something wild instead of simply making a PC demo. I have
never coded demos before, so I was not expecting to do something
awesome. So, my strategy was to do something interesting based on the
novelty of it instead of technical sophistication. Indeed, this was
(as far as I can tell) the first demo ever for the Videopac/Odyssey² !

I was happy when the emulator properly rendered the results that I
intended to see when I implemented the Video Display Controller (VDC)
trick to change charactere configuration in the middle of the screen
in order to overcome the hardware restriction of only being able to
use only 12 characteres oncreen at a given time. Initially I expected
that the emulator would simply not emulate the trick at all. When it
showed up, I though it was nice and I supposed that it was the correct
emulation. My friend Leandro Lameiro have commented about the issue of
overlapping characteres (that he had read about in some videopac
forum) but we had no way to test it on a real machine to be sure.

I was also interested in releasing the demo as free software, because
I am not happy with the overall secrecy aspect of the demoscene. I
would like to encourage more people to learn how do code demos and
then I think it is essential that we release our source codes and let
people learn! So, now that Mark Guttenbrunner (a.k.a. "manopac") has contacted me by email pointing out this
on the Netherlands Videopac Forum, it makes me really proud
to know that the source code was actually checked out by at least one
person who found it useful.

I'd like to give a brief explanation of the name of our demoscene group.
When we were planning our participation in this demoparty we have
submited an entry in their website informing our name & country so
that the organizers and other people in the scene could have a general
idea of who would attend. This form obligated us to provide a group
name. But I had no group! I noticed that other people (probably in the
same context) had simply provided "-" as the group name (a dash
charactere). So I just followed the pattern. Then, in the party I have
met Niels van Dijkhuizen (NebulaH) who joined me and my brazilian
friend Leandro Lameiro and we decided to release the demo under the
group name "DashCrew" :-)

There were 7 demos competing at Rewired and our demo ranked 3rd :-D !!!

The entry for this demo at pouet.net is here.