Code notes – Bog Standard Demos (part 3)

The general theme for this third Code Notes about “bog standard” denos on the C64 is going to be productions that take their inspiration from television, film, music and print media. As with the two previous posts, these releases all adhere to the basic template of music, picture and sprite-based scrolling message with a few slight variations on that theme.

Metal Bar 2 (C64)Our first port of call is the Borderzone Dezign Team’s 1986 title Metal Bar 2 which is based on the cover artwork for Iron Maiden’s Piece Of Mind and, unlike the other demos we’re delving into for this series, also opens the side borders for the eight sprites making up the scrolling message; this is done in a similar manner to removing the upper and lower borders, except it abuses the horizontal smooth scroll register and requires some precise timing on every raster line where the borders need to be opened[1].

The first Metal Bar Demo predates the formation of Borderzone but has a similar theme to the graphics, this time duplicating the artwork from Powerslave, but isn’t covered here more directly because it borrows music from the game Max Headroom by David Whittaker.

Monster Show (C64)There is a horror-flavoured theme to Monster Show by Reset 86 (which was, possibly unsurprisingly considering the group name, released in 1986) with a suitably ghoulish picture – your correspondent believes it to be based on an Oli Frey image from either Zzap! 64 or Crash magazine, but can’t find a source to confirm that at the time of writing – and a rendition of Bach’s Toccata And Fugue In D Minor. There are fourteen hardware sprites in use with six in the upper border (four for the Reset 86 logo and two for the patrolling spiders) and eight in the lower for the scrolling message, which works differently to the bog standard demos we’ve examined previously since it assigns one sprite per character and is moving the sprites horizontally.

Gallery 1 (C64)Gallery 1 from the Mean Team in 1987 is doing the same thing for the scrolling message as Monster Show with one hardware sprite being used per character, although this time the sprites are in multicolour mode. This demo also contains three movie-themed images – more specifically from promotional media for Top Gun, Highlander and Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom – along with a fourth of 2000AD characters DR & Quinch (as shown above). These pictures can be cycled through with the space bar and the transition between them is handled by a Flexible Line Distance (or FLD for short) routine which utilises a “feature” of the C64’s vertical smooth scroll register (the same register utilised when opening the upper and lower borders) to push the screen downwards without having to actually update the data! We shall, dear reader, cover this technique in more detail at a later date.

Biggles (C64)And staying in the cinema, We Music 8 features the soundtrack that We Music produced for the Mirrorsoft game Biggles, which was in turn based on the 1986 movie that took the heroic characters of Captain WE Johns and, rather than telling one of their stories, instead came up with a faintly ridiculous narrative that revolved around time travel in order to drag the present day into the plot[2]. Ratt’s picture has always left your correspondent more a little cold – he assumes it was produced in a hurry in order to get the demo out to a deadline but there’s a far better rendition by Mean Team member STE’86 – but this stands out particularly for the music, including a solid cover of the film’s theme Do You Want To Be A Hero.

Airwolf Demo (C64)And from film we move to television with the Airwolf Demo from Tangent in 1986, which just about keeps to the established template but does something different again with the message, delivering it eight characters at a time on hardware sprites that drift into view from behind the lower border, cycle their colours and then pootle off again. The picture is of the titular attack helicopter whilst the music is an original piece and, despite the high octane action of the series, the overall feel of this demo is rather sedate and indeed relaxing affair to watch.

As always, looking from C64CD’s side of things these demos were released around 1986 or in one case 1987 and were created by people who would have started learning the C64 as amateurs either during or at least near to the author’s 1984 to 1985 window, pointing out the same, significant flaw in the author’s claims that it was too difficult for others to do rather than just himself.

[1] Opening the side borders is considered much easier now, but at the time these demos were released it was a newly-discovered, impressive and not fully explored “feature” of the hardware.

[2] This does rather sound like your author dislikes Biggles as a film but that isn’t entirely accurate; it’s somewhat disappointing that they didn’t build the plot around the source material, but it does at least hold its own reasonably well as a “summer blockbuster” action movie and can be enjoyed at that level. The game on the other hand, that was remarkably weak on every platform with the only saving grace being the music.

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