"Architects are people who don't like fields."
DEMO REVIEW: THE VENTURA DEMO BY THE OVERLANDERS (AND FRIENDS)
by Richard Karsmakers
I've been waiting aeons (or at least well over half a year) for
the Overlanders to release their already legendary "last of the
big" demos, the "Froggies" Demo (or whatever it will be called).
The time I spent waiting has been made slightly bearable by the
release of another megademo with which these innovative Frenchies
have participated, the "Ventura Demo".
Furyo told me it wasn't a particularly good demo in the letter
accompanying the disks. Probably that was the best thing to say
about it in order for me to take a purely objective point of view
(I tend to look quite different, perhaps even somewhat negatively
biased, at demos that have letters like "this is the best thing
since sliced bread" sent with them).
On the side, I would like to say that sliced bread is indeed
quite an invention. It's pretty brilliant, even though it's not
yet common in all European countries (Norway and Germany being
two of these). Long live Mr. Slice (or whoever else invented it -
maybe Arthur The Sandwhich Maker?).
The "Ventura" demo comes on two disks - probably one disk for
each year that it went overdue. Because many of its screens have
been written up to two (or even three?) years ago, some of the
screens don't exactly meet today's standards of demo programming.
This entire demo, indeed, seems to consists primarily of
forgotten screens recently retrieved.
A most noteworthy thing about the demo is the intro. It's sortof
a movie picture involving Eddie (of Iron Maiden fame) in his
"Somewhere in Time" outfit. Animation is rather good, though
perhaps some sound effects would have enhanced the whole thing
considerably. The atmosphere is typically "Blade Runner". After
the intro you get another picture that is Beetlejuice's finest
picture I've ever seen.
You get to see a loading screen each time when, surprise
surprise, the demo does some loading. It's got 11 Khz digi sound,
rotating balls, a perspective dot scroll and a self-typing text
that adapts itself to the contents of whatever it is that is
being loaded. After this screen one usually gets a 'decrunching'
screen. This is probably the most original aspect of the demo,
where the word 'decrunching' gets 'eaten away' as the actual
decrunching process continues.
After the first occurrence of the loading screen you enter the
menu. For a moment I thought I would enter some sort of megademo
screen with an enormous playfield and that sort of thing, but I
was wrong. It's just sortof a horroresque picture with lots of
animations which I guess looks OK (and not quite unlike "Ghost
Battle", the Thalion game). It needs to be said that the menu
music is most excellent, particularly the quality of the lead
voice. This was the last bit of music I heard, however, because
I decided I enjoyed Joe Satriani rather too much not to turn down
the volume for. The lower border has a scroll in it (with a font
I don't exactly like) and the top border has a vertically
scrolling list that can be moved with the mouse. From this list
one can choose any of the 11 demo screens.
I promised myself to go through all these demo screens, mediocre
though some are, and describe them to you in reasonable detail. I
hate myself for having made this promise, but I am a man of my
word so here goes...
The "Rapidomax" screen starts off with an OK intro picture,
after which the screen gets filled by a large rastered scroll and
two TV screens. On these screenw you get to see various graphs
moving in accordance with the music, which looks nice. There are
10 soundchip music tunes selectable with the function keys, and
you can modify the graph parameters with other keys.
At exiting this screen, the TVs turn themselves off (nice touch)
Blasting Bobs (or Blobs?)
A screen with the lower and upper border opened, as well as the
side border on the height of the lower (follow my drift?). One-
plane rastered 'overlanders' tracking sprites fly across the
screen in keenly thought out (joke) patterns. Behind that is a
large blob scroll that zooms and sinuses and wobbles and that
sort of thing. It's limited to a fairly small bit of the screen,
though, and they don't use proper clipping with them. The scroll
is replaced by blobbed shapes of the kind we have seen for a long
time when The Lost Boys did their "Spider" demos.
Oh yeah. Out of my monitor came some soundchip music as well,
even though it was barely audible above Joe's "War".
Spectrum Pictures Show
The Overlanders in-house graphics artist, a chap who goes by the
name of Beetlejuice, had some pictures lying around. It is easy
to see why they were still lying around, for they are average of
nature, with one exception (and Stefan even though that was quite
average, but I'm a lot more lenient because I don't work with Red
of Omega and Tanis of TCB all day). Anyway, these pictures (about
ten of them) have been put in sortof a slide show program that
alternately scrolls new pictures in and out of the screen. There
are three 'ovl' tracking sprites as well, that sortof flipple,
flopple and flapple.
Although offering a promising presentation, this 'tracking stuff
galore' screen even doesn't succeed in me getting excited. Upper
and lower borders are open, but the sides are quite closed.
There's digi music, and a most prevalent overall feeling of 'this
I have seen before somewhere'.
Sounds impressive, doesn't it? The intro at least looks cool,
although demo-wise it's not neat at all. Saying this intro is a
good demo would be like saying Rembrandt's paintings are cool
demos. They look OK easthetically, but they're not hard to code.
Let's proceed to the post-intro proceedings.
Starfield. None-properly-clipped blob scroll. No borders gone.
Dist. And I'd try not to insult the programmer too much by
leaving it at that.
This is a full-screen two-screen-high picture with a scroller in
the middle, the whole thing bouncing up and down (and sometimes,
I might add, rather irritatingly so). The artwork (by Jovis) is
quite excellent, even though it seems he's used only 16 colours
except for a raster in the background. The graphics style is very
pretty, I think - the kind of stuff games programmers would love
Once you press space you enter a credit screen. Although it's
quite an original slide-puzzle sort of thing, it takes far too
long for someone not to resist pressing space again.
This is a really average screen. Basically it's some graphics
and an "Evil" logo (the latter of which does some distorting
eventually) behind which a pixel-plotted scroll runs. There are
different tables, the works. Precisely the kind of thing someone
might have liked about four years ago.
Board & Spheres
Two spheres, formed of dots, bounce around on the chequerboard
we've come to know and love in 1989 when The Lost Boys thought of
the scrolling rasters concept (or something like that). It moves
a bit jerkily, by the way. There's something scrolling up in the
background (but above the board, and only 2 planes probably), and
a tad boring 1 plane scroll text that does a sinus sort of thing
now and again. There's also a top-border "NAOS" logo you can turn
on with F1, according to the scroller, if you have an "STF". I
hope this is a typo, for I can't think of a built-in floppy disk
drive attributing anything to screen output. Anyway, on the ST on
which I tested this demo is was rather busted. I assume they
This demo might be quite cool on the STE.
Bless Dis Mess
This screen, dedicated to Russian scifi writer Isaas Asimov who
died last year, is quite OK - especially the graphics by Krazy
Rex. It starts off with an intro pic one cannot refrain from
calling 'cute', and after an extra pic (of a robot trying to get
a tan, I suppose) you enter sortof a megabig scroll (4 planes,
nice font - must have cost a bit of time to draw!) that extends
into both side borders. On the top bit of the screen there's sort
of a cilinder scroll that, unfortunately, is a bit too fast to be
able to read. I did see my name scroll by, though.
This is a nice demo.
The Ultimate Dist
This is probably the best screen in this demo. As a matter of
fact, even Stefan (who is demo-spoiled to zombie-ness) reckoned
it was OK. It's a full-screen distorter that does some incredible
distorting of the entire screen as if you're looking at someone
doing ugly things to a tablecloth. They claim it's real-time,
which even makes it better. I haven't got a clue as to how this
stuff is done. If I were the kind of person to wear a hat, I'd
take it off.
This screen, that has the oratory fingerprint of Furyo all over
it (primarily in the mentioning of various bands one should check
out, most of course METALLICA), is quite nice. It's a one plane
text scroll on top of a distorting background. Whole sentences
scroll up, and these contain the greetings. Sometimes these
readable lines disappear and get replaced by a vertical character
scroll of which the character are as big as the fullscreen itself
so that it's truly impossible to read.
Anyway, Stefan got greeted twice (ST NEWS Crew and The Lost
Boys) and I got greeted thrice (Richard Karsmakers, ST NEWS Crew
and The Quartermass Experiment), so it's a rather nice demo.
The Reset Screen
There is also a reset screen.
Concluding, "Ventura" is a nice demo but it doesn't quite meet
today's standards (i.e. it's sub-standard). Design is pretty OK -
everything fades in and out properly, and there's an auto demo
mode that gets you through all the screens in an even easier way.
Unfortunately you have to swap disks a few times in order to see
all demos - one swap would have been better, but perhaps it
wasn't achievable for some obscure reason.
I am afraid Furyo was right when he said that this wasn't a
particularly excellent demo. For those of you who collect
megademos, however, it's probably still worth while getting.
Thanks to Furyo for sending me the demo!
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.