fr-041: debris [Farbrausch, 2007] (examplatory nuskool demo)

Download this demo (PC)

ARTE [Sanity, 1993] (example of an oldskool / middleskool demo)

Download this demo (Amiga)

The videos give a good impression of the demos. But to share the spirit of the scene, demos should be run as executables on your machine.

 

Introduction to the Scene

The scene, or demoscene is an important computer art subculture that focuses on the production of audio-visual real-time presentations. Succeeding the early display hacks of the 1950s and 60s, the non-commercial movement started with some kids in the late 70s and early 80s who just wanted to play games. Thus, they removed the copy-protection of (floppy-disk) games and instead left small screens or intros that were their signature as a cracker.

These close ties to the cracking-scene, beginning in the times of c64 computers, have dissolved over time and the scene has completely separated from cracking in the mid to end 80s. It then had a huge rise in popularity in the tech-scene with the commercial avaiability of more powerful home computers, such as the Amiga, or Atari 16/32-bit systems.

Demos are complex audio-visual productions and are typically created by demogroups, collaborations of talented coders, graphic artists and musicians that work together on their demos as a team, meet in real-life on scene-parties that are similar to LAN-parties, or in virtual-life on message boards (e.g. http://www.pouet.net/) or in IRC channels. The communities they created are basically first-generation online communities, which date back to Compunet and newsgroups. Demogroups often share carefully shaped 'corporate identities' including logos, slogans, intros, ASCII-signatures, etc. and their members use pseudonyms as nicknames in the communities.

While the traditional focus of the productions lies in exploring the limits of contemporary computer graphics and audio equipment many groups also release artistic productions, or embed such ideas in their normal releases.

The challenge in the male-dominated and competition-oriented community is also held up high by different limiting categories of demos, such as size limitations (e.g. < 4 kB, < 64 kB). Many members of the scene also still prefer to develop on old standardized platforms and create works with typical 8-bit and pixel-art aesthetics.

Although the scene has shared news and information through various media (in oldskool and middleskool times mostly diskmags, more recently through online-communities, such as scene.org), it has experienced little to no recognition by the traditional art scene. Nevertheless over the years it helped the development of many talented artists, programmers and musicians that now hold important positions in the gaming-industry, are active new media artists, vjays, online-community activists, etc.

Because of the size-limited challenges powerful procedural content generation algorithms have been developed by the scene-coders that can save gigabytes of diskspace in textures, but remain largely unknown to the computer games enthusiasts and the game development community.

On the other hand trailblazers of the gaming- and art-communities are beginning to pick up some of the achievements of the demoscene in using the procedural algorithms (Spore) and recognizing the artistic potential (for example of the demogroup 'Farbrausch').

An informative timeline of the development of the scene can be found on the pages of the demoscenebook:

oldskool, middleskool, nuskool

 

Demoscene reel NVISION08 (overview of contemporary demos)

 

References

Websites:

http://www.scene.org/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demoscene

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demogroup

http://demoscene.tv/

http://www.pouet.net/

http://www.demoscenebook.com/

http://www.scheib.net/play/demos/what/borzyskowski/

Videos:

The Full History of the Demoscene

Demoscene Doku (inkl. Interview with Farbrausch) (German)