After the big endeavour that H – Immersion was, we needed a little break and do something less ambitious. Have more fun with less work. See if we would be able to make something decent within a just a handful of weekends.
Moreover, we were curious to see what we could do now with that shiny new engine. A significant part of it was developed while working on the intro, so we still needed to try to use it and use it only. Focusing on content without without adding features sounded like a good test to spot parts of the engine that maybe were problematic.
By the way, we already had a couple of new features that we hadn’t tested in a production yet. We wanted to make sure that they would work in a real production and not just on a prototype test scene.
Finally, our musician also wanted to experiment outside of the constraints of a 64kB. As we mentioned before, extreme size intros make content creation harder, because you cannot use your usual toolchain and workflow. For example, as a musician, you cannot use your sound samples.
So those were our constraints this time: a demo with no size limitation, just two or three weekends of work, try to spot problems in the engine (and fix them), but no new features.
After five or six weekends (spread over nine months), we released I – Probe in early November, at Alchimie. The title refers to the main feature showcased in the demo: the use of light probe for illumination. We consider the objectives fulfilled.
After months of polishing, we’ve finally released the final version of our latest 64kB intro: H – Immersion. You can read the details, download the binary or just watch the captured video from the production page.
We’re also currently doing a write up to show some of the techniques involved in this intro, which we’re hoping to publish here soon.
Here is a sketch made about a month ago, after Cyborg Jeff, our dear composer, let us hear the first elements of his soundtrack. This was the base of our upcoming next production, a 64kB PC intro codenamed E. Our first demo, B – Incubation, have received a positive feedback, but was criticized design wise. E is music driven and focused on the visual experience; I hope it will succeed on the points the previous demo missed.
There is still work to do, but I am pretty confident we will be able to release it at the Ultimate Meeting that will take in Karlsruhe, Germany, starting tomorrow. I do not guaranty the fulfilling of this assertion though, should any supervening circumstances amounting to force majeure. Such circumstances shall include, but shall not be limited to, strike, snow storm, riots, train hitting a truck, hard drive toast, power plug left at home, earthquake, war or acts of God.
See you at tUM!
Update: nor the snow and the resulting almost three hours delay on train schedule, nor the very addictive pinball game could prevent the release of E as planned. :-)
After months of work, we’ve finally released our first demo: B – Incubation. As I love eading how other demos are made, I’m going to share a few things.
Zavie and I seriously started Incubation in January. At this time, we had no real experience in size coding, and almost no code base. We didn’t even know how to write a shader. All we had was a texture generator. We decided to start from IQ’s 64k framework (to get compiler options and basic code optimized for 64k intros). We planned to release our intro at Breakpoint in April, but it was so crappy that we decided to delay it. We finally released it at Evoke, in August.
Some groups (e.g. Farbrausch, Conspiracy, Fairlight) create their demos with a tool, while other groups like ASD prefer pure code. In Incubation, everything is hard-coded, but we used some tricks to improve our productivity and reduce the number of compilations. When the code is compiled in debug-mode, many shortcuts are available, such as time-control (play, pause, backward, forward), and camera control with mouse and keyboard. Camera data is stored in an array, and we use a spline to interpolate positions (thanks IQ!). This array is in a separate file: In debug-mode, we can reload it at any time; in release, the file is simply included. The same goes for the light position.
We also use a tricky macro, called Tweakable Value, to tweak our constants at runtime. For instance, we use it to update text position, fade in / fade out dates, and so on. As you can see, there are many things we can edit and update without recompilation (shaders are obviously reloadable at runtime, too).
In Incubation, we use about 50 colour textures, 25 normal maps (for parallax mapping), and 25 specular maps. Everything is generated in code – we don’t have any fancy node-based editor. I wrote a minimalist script language to call the texture generator functions and get immediate feedback without recompilation. We later replaced this broken language with picoc, a C interpreter.
For fun, I put this texture generator on my webserver. Imagine: You enter a few lines of code in your browser, press a button, and see the generated texture within a second. As everything is shared, we can see when other people’s textures, copy and edit their code, etc. Although a browser is not the best tool to write code, it is awesome for social interactions. We started making many textures for fun, we invited our friends to play with the online texgen, and we got many interesting results. For example, Rubix made a Pacman shape for fun, I decided to put it on a wall, and it ended up in the demo.
Here is a random list of things we’ve used: kkrunchy, v2, game of life, L-system, Voronoi cells, Perlin noise, convolution filters, parallax mapping, godrays, depth of field, glow, Bresenham’s line. Nothing new here, but this might help some beginners.
Size limit has not been an issue for us; 64 kilobytes is a lot when you have only code and no external library. We didn’t even apply the planned optimizations, but we’ll probably do the following for our next intro: truncate floats, reorder data, do delta encoding, obfuscate shaders… Here is the estimated compressed size of a few parts:
Camera data: 4k
Animations data: 5k
Yes, this is very different from Panic Room, about which Smash mentioned that “You might be surprised to learn that the shaders are the biggest single (yes, compressed) data block in the 64k, bigger than the meshes, samples, music data, texture data etc. modern rendering apparently doesn’t come for free.”
Next time, we’ll improve our rendering and get meshes. :)
We released earlier our first 64kB PC demo: “Incubation”, codenamed B.
The live feedback of the public, reacting at most winks we put, was really awesome. Likewise, the comments we can already see on Pouët are very much appreciated. Thank you all. As we are very tired, we will get some rest first (actually, two of us three are already sleeping somewhere :) ), then we will fix a couple of things: correct bugs some people seem to be experiencing, capture a video, etc.