To Unity or Not to Unity

category: general [glöplog]
Can we stop already?

First there was Athena, greek Goddess of Math!
Then there was Pythagoras, one of her followers on Instagram! ;)
Then Sierpinsky and Mandelbrot appeared in favour of Julia! (They all died, fucking ShakesBeer!)
And even before the Demoscene had a chance to invent anything Industrial Light & Magic did so before!

Big fat greetingz to John C. Hart for inventing SphereTracing in the 80s, based on Lipshitz-theories, so we can have those splendid 4Ks/8Ks nowadays! ;)

Are we done now?!!! :P

PS: be happy i dont mention names from computer-inventors at all! :P
PS2: Das Problem liegt in der OSI-Schicht 8 - Dem Nutzer!
Hey, Hardy, glad to hear from you!!!

Regarding the polemic, I won't talk about this again.

Let's do demos then, whatever way.
added on the 2020-04-21 22:55:33 by imerso imerso
Sponsored in my FB feed oO They're pretty much forcing us to us it! ^^

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added on the 2020-04-22 09:43:08 by HellMood HellMood
firstly to clear up a misconception: notch is not publicly available to make demos with. its only used by a few people who are either the makers of notch, work for the company, or are a part of a very small group of friends around us. you can't just go download notch and make a demo with it. both the entries in the revision democompo were compiled into demo form by me. so hopefully that belays any fears about notch demos flooding compos in future.

so why do people use notch at all to make demos? clearly there's a downside: the (perceived) negative connotations around using somebody elses engine and a bunch of things that might have been seen before. with unity/unreal those are arguably even worse and the process is harder. so why do it?

the scene is shaped not by opinion but by success: the natural process is of others being inspired to join the scene by, and copying, what they see at the time, perpetuating and then evolving it.

so here's a history lesson. lets rewind 20 years ago to when the demoscene was middle aged: the late 90s - early 2000s. most (successful) demos then were made by a combination of coders, and 2d+3d artists - and arguably the artist was the most important part of the chain. demo teams were usually several people (4-5+). this was the age the 3d flyby: quite a few demos were actually built entirely in another tool and exported out, and the demo exe was just a replayer. not just 3ds etc but quake levels too. looks were dominated by baked static lighting and often only minimal fx; we were in early hardware accel days so the possibilities were quite limited.

at this time numerous groups built increasingly complex toolchains in order to make best use of their 3d artists abilities. fully featured importer/exporters from 3d packages and then really fully featured tools like demopaja and werkzeug came about. this directly inspired a bunch of others to try and follow this path with the belief that success would come from building that tool (maybe not quite understanding the part the 3d artist played here). but alongside this we saw some very successful designer-coders (early creative coders?) who hardcoded everything - replay, asd and mfx/kewlers come to mind.

several things coincided over this time period which shaped the scene as it is today:

2d art, such a big part of early-mid 90s demos, was seen as old-fashioned and was largely phased out of demos (alongside the availability of tools and stock content that let you hack together "2d art" without having to pixel it by hand). a lot of 2d artists moved away from demo making altogether. at the same time new outlets for 3d artists appeared outside of the scene, and demomaking became increasingly frustrating: they'd be held back by the quality of the exporter/replayer. there was a talent drain of 2d+3d artists away from demo making that continued for most of the next 20 years.

meanwhile pc demos moved to gpu. gpus were initially very limited and only really capable of throwing out polys (with alpha blending), shaping the style of demos at the time and putting a lot of weight on the 3d. as they gained more programmability through the early 2000s post processing fx over 3d became the norm, and the balance slowly swung towards the coder again.

the scene aged. the age of the average scener has been rising since the late 90s, probably almost linearly :) . we're not a scene of 17 year olds with dreams, anger and plenty of time on their hands anymore - we're a scene of 40 year olds with experience but who are doing this for a bit of fun now and again. some demos have always been made quickly and some took much longer, but arguably the production time of a pc production across the spectrum from intro to demo (excluding libraries, base code, tooling etc) has been decreasing. for many people, time is spent slowly over the year trying stuff out or building frameworks etc but the actual production gets hammered together in a few days or at the party when they get the mood to do it. in recent times we've seen more older sceners "coming back" - rediscovering the hobby of their teens/20s; and often coming back with a ton of useful maturity and experience: engineering, design etc.

we saw more solo designer-coders starting to produce all the visuals for the demo on their own, working with just a musician. the development work needed to support a 3d artist - toolchains, import/export, replayers - was a drag and could be avoided this way. the rise of availability of stock content, libraries and tools made it increasingly viable to produce something decent like this, and the lack of 3d artists often necessitated it. working alone has obvious benefits in terms of getting stuff finished. but working this way makes it harder to involve others: you spend time making fx not toolchains for 3d artists.

when we look at compos now, a lot of demos (and intros) are produced this way: a coder making the visuals, a musician and maybe a couple of others in support. demos are stylistically shaped by the way they are made, and successful demos perpetuate their style. we're now looking at a more "coder-centric" scene than we've had for over 30 years - i would argue this is massively to its detriment. its not a good thing at all - the scene has become more and more niche, more and more geeky-coder-techy-centric, lost much of the wider appeal that it had in the 90s and shrunk as a result. but it's important to realise that this was not how it always was or where it always has to be. this is just where we've evolved to during the last 20 years.

so why unity/unreal/notch?
looking at the profile of people making demos with these platforms (and i can speak with authority on notch at least), the typical person is an artist who used to make demos 20 years ago. the reason they're attracted to the platform is that it enables them to make demos again - but without the reliance on dodgy tools or worse, no tools at all and having to give their graphics to a coder with the hope it'll make it in and look acceptable. these people want to make demos - the whole demo - not assets. they see these tools as a way to get back to their hobby, work in real-time and make demos rather than rendering animations, and be inspired again. in the case of unity/unreal you're seeing some artists who can also code/script (maybe learned during that last 20 years of working) too.

what you're not seeing is lots of instances of existing coders/groups ditching their own processes and moving to unity/unreal/notch. we're getting _new_ demos from this, demos which otherwise would not exist - because the people just wouldn't be making them if the process was less appealing.

my hope is that these new tools encourage more and more artists back into the game; that we see the results of the creativity and different kinds of output this can bring, and this actually evolves the scene as a whole. maybe it'll move demos back towards being made by coders and artists working together. perhaps it'll even help the scene to grow.

and then, one day, maybe we'll see a return to more of a balance: a shift away from the coder-centric world we're in now to a more accessible medium with a wider appeal.

or we can just keep copying raymarched blobs from shader toy or whatever. :)
added on the 2020-04-22 11:02:27 by smash smash
I love it. Great comment Smash.
added on the 2020-04-22 11:24:44 by hollowone hollowone
Yeah, very well said and /thread imo

what you're not seeing is lots of instances of existing coders/groups ditching their own processes and moving to unity/unreal/notch.

With poo-brain it was even the other way around, started in Unity, created their own engine and tools, won revision 64k compo.

The fear of tools 'taking over' has always been misguided.
added on the 2020-04-22 11:29:55 by okkie okkie
These tools can never "take over" the scene because they appeals more to the artist than the coder. And if this mean that more people enter the scene then all is good.

Nice article you wrote here, Smash. Almost the whole story of the demoscene in a nutshell. :]
added on the 2020-04-22 12:06:49 by ham ham
or we can just keep copying raymarched blobs from shader toy or whatever. :)

Wait what that's *not* the way?

*slams drawer shut and anxiously scans the room*
added on the 2020-04-22 12:09:24 by superplek superplek
coders are the biggest tools in the demoscene!
I don't disagree that the scene is always evolving, but I can't see how the scene today is more coder-centric than before. It feels the opposite to me (that's another reason I am more impressed by oldschool compos and get bored of PC the last few years). I don't know about code/artist ratio, but what changed? Nothing stops artists to support with textures, images and meshes than the supporting with 2d art in the past.
added on the 2020-04-22 15:02:50 by Optimonk Optimonk
I can't see how the scene today is more coder-centric than before.

Nothing stops artists to support with textures, images and meshes than the supporting with 2d art in the past.
added on the 2020-04-22 15:20:06 by Gargaj Gargaj
or the (PC) scene has been a little less coder-centric for a short while when certain groups bothered to empower artists with tools. because i agree with Optimus that for example early 90s demoscene is very coder-centric as well as 2D graphics were just decoration and garnish in between the effects and the 2D artists were not that involved in the effect esthetics
I don't know the numbers.. perhaps it's true that there are fewer artists then 20-odd years ago... certainly seems like graphics compos are much smaller than they used to be, but that goes for most compo types I suppose.

anyway - regarding tools, and how they support artists .. it's certainly something I can see for myself that whenever we have a tool that allows a short iteration loop, the results become so much better. Booster and I have been pushing some rather inane effects to new territory just because he wrote a little previewer tool for windows/mac where I could see instant updates whenever I modified assets.

I know poo-brain have a pretty great tool, which I'm sure is a large part of the quality of their releases.. same with Notch obviously, and logicoma's stuff. Not because of the tool itself, but because of rapid iteration in the hands of both coders and non-coders. I don't think it's really about empowering artists, it's about empowering everybody who wants to contribute.

stating the obvious really, I know.
added on the 2020-04-22 16:45:40 by farfar farfar
Another thing that changed for sure is less 64k.
added on the 2020-04-22 17:00:27 by Optimonk Optimonk
Could it be that the wider appeal of demos in the 90s was because the effects were relatively impressive compared to what people were used to seeing computer programs generate? Now everyone's used to seeing just about anything, especially in games.

Or what's the assumption - that the reason why demos attracted the attention of teenagers in the 90s was ... visual "coherency"?
added on the 2020-04-22 17:44:25 by yzi yzi
Words from a genius that strangely enough, comes here and deny all that I'm sure is exactly what he himself believes:

" For me a demo should be about the technology, the fx, the code at the heart of it. If a demo shows nothing that is technically cool, why do it? Why take the trouble to do it realtime etc if there's nothing to prove by doing so? "

I feel so sorry that a genius like you, smash, comes here and negates what you certainly believes in your interior.

Genius or not, and even knowing that I'm now most probably the most hated person in this community, I will die without agreeing with your conclusion. Sorry to say this, smash, but you are wrong!

Yeah yeah, I never did cool demos, right. So what? I know that I do a good job in other places, where I can conciliate money and skill. So I'm not that much affected by not being active in the demoscene.

Regarding demos, if I am not still able to reach some genius quality, I simply applaud him. You can find me applauding many demos here (including from you, smash). I try to learn as much as I can, so that in the future I become as skilled as that genius. He becomes my inspiration, what is wrong with that? I don't simply ask "hey genius, create an easy editor for me so I can pretend that I am a genius like you!". If I don't reach that kind of skill, I continue applauding, and studying.

I am not sure if I will spend any time building a demo just to prove that I'm also capable. I like to write my own 3D engines, and I do have a long term project already, so I will just continue with that. I won't change my course to try to prove anything. It would be probably destroyed by negative comments anyway, because of my opinion on what a real demo is, or was.

And now I'm swearing to myself, I will never ever talk about this subject again.
added on the 2020-04-22 19:29:50 by imerso imerso
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added on the 2020-04-22 20:10:45 by Sir Sir
If every coder criticising Smash and his non-technical demos could write a Notch, the demoscene would have probably overtaken the world by now. But I don't really want to talk about it, because code vs "design demo" is done to death. And trust me, Imerso, I am a coder, but designer-coder at heart, so I am about as desperate about coders not getting it, as you are desperate about non-coders not getting it.

I think this is a bit like poetry. The great poets of old would fish amazing meters and rhymes out of the thin air. Nowadays all these lazy talent-less people created rhyme dictionaries and try to imitate magic using the helper machines. How dare they!

Smash, many thanks for your text. It makes me want to create something fresh.
added on the 2020-04-22 22:04:33 by introspec introspec
please just go make a demo about it
added on the 2020-04-22 23:28:21 by lynn lynn
HellMood: Sounds promising - now I can hardly stand waiting for your upcoming Unity 32b ! :D
added on the 2020-04-22 23:59:37 by T$ T$
The better the tool, higher the expectations.
You can make a couple of pixels move in hand crafted 16b assembler and get the praise, but if you use Unity you better make all the jaws drop.
added on the 2020-04-23 00:46:50 by rutra80 rutra80
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added on the 2020-04-23 21:25:01 by r1g8 r1g8
just be sure to use to put plenty of GetComponent<>() in the Update() to make sure your demo runs crap and you're all set to go! :D
also, use English!
yeah, let's not do that in the Update() method, but cache it earlier ;)

What smash wrote is really worth the read (go do it if you discarded it as TL;DR).
I'd like to add the observation that the scene started shifting towards raymarching ~10 years ago, which is obviously great for size prods, but graphics artists cannot participate there unless they have a black belt in GLSL.

Gfx artists make their living with their DCC skills, which aren't in demand in sizecoding. Notch/Tooll/Unity/Unreal changes that and the demo category allows them to participate at parties - do you really want stop that? (at least I wouldn't want to miss what alx, Jugi or ntsc built with tools they didn't write themselves. <3 )

When you point at evil commercial Engine with your index finger, remember that at the same time 3 other fingers point at yourself while doing so.

(I'm not looking for a witch to burn/blame, instead offer a different pov)
added on the 2020-04-24 16:18:33 by r1g8 r1g8