An Audience with KB
KB, member of the groups Purge, The Obsessed Maniacs and Smash Designs, is one of the main characters in the German PC demoscene. He is regarded as so important that Ys/CUD was once called a lamer because he did not know KB.
What are the reasons for this personality cult? What makes KB that much better than the others? What are his rewards? We decided to ask KB for an interview in order to give the readers an in-depth introduction to his character and views.
KB, you're a real cult figure in the German-speaking countries. Almost everyone there who regards himself as a scener has heard of you. People who don't know you are considered lamers. Now it would be really interesting to know what this human being who hides behind the two letters K and B is like.
As if I knew that. Well, regarding the "scene human" KB (everything else concerns only those people who know me personally and was already stressed enough in the Internet by several persons), I am a scener by passion. Such is the case with many people, my roots can be traced back to the C64, which I bought second-hand together with a handful of disks - and some of these disks contained these weird "demos", which didn't seem to serve a real purpose but which were colourful, loud, and seemed to be fascinating in a strange way.
Of course, as coding has always interested me since I got my C64 manual at the age of six, I started creating some pathetic intros with several scrollers and sine-sprites and even more pathetic graphics made by myself, and since I didn't know yet that something like a "scene" existed, these intros luckily went mouldy on some disks. Well one day I realized that all the people who made these demos had to be connected, and so I decided to become a part of this "scene". So a friend of mine and me sent a few things that we had made to a lamer group called "The Obsessed Maniacs", met each other, had fun together, joined, and suddenly we were in the scene. As simple as that.
After releasing two bigger C64 demos at the end of 1993 and in the middle of 1994 one of our contacts told us about these ominous "parties", which took place in, for instance, Denmark all the time, and before I knew where I was, I found myself at "The Party IV" in Herning and realized how big the scene actually was.
Here my PC career also started slowly. I skipped Amiga because, as I am also a musician and did a lot for SID, four channels were not enough for me. But then this "Gravis Ultrasound" appeared with which you could use up to 32 channels, and it didn't sound as shitty as the terrible 4-channel modplayers with which my classmates wanted to pose.
So, half a year later I had got a GUS and tracked a little using my father's PC. At the same time I had to learn Pascal at school. One day I bought a PC for myself and then really started tracking. PC programming seemed a bit suspicious to me then....
... and that was good, because one day I learned C++ and Pmode-ASM and thus skipped the dark and silly chapters of PC history (I also had an Archimedes at the same time and hence was a little spoilt regarding coding). I have always laughed at people who tried to code demos with Pascal seriously, as many of you certainly know. Besides, I got to know AEG of Smash Designs at the end of 1995 (to be exact, he intruded on me), and I guess almost every slightly educated scener in Germany knows to what this led till TP7.
Let's get to the point that is probably most interesting to you, which I just call "arrogance by knowledge by arrogance": I still have the "good old" picture of the scene, the picture of some elite groups that just communicate among themselves and look down on everybody else but that are also idols because they are that good.
Unfortunately, this picture has gradually changed in the PC scene, and especially here in Germany the scene is dominated by people who really manage to be conceited about their flickering Pascal shadebobs in the public. Of course you can say, "Hey, demos are so complex today that you HAVE to start somewhere", but does that mean that you should release every piece of trash and even be proud of it? No. I also stood there in 1995 watching PC demos and thinking "How could I ever catch up with these standards?" and was resigned at first. But then I started again slowly from the beginning in peace and quiet just like I did on the C64 and NEVER released anything because I knew exactly how much it was below the current standards. In fact "Event Horizon" is the FIRST serious PC demo which I and the other Smashers dared to release - and it immediately paid.
I really have to say that sometimes I don't like this "we release everything at once" and the "friendship over all" mentality of today's scene at all. The not so high quality of the compos at MS2K-1 shows where this attitude leads. And since there was no considerable elite in Germany I simply started to found this elite in the Fido net and on IRC by pissing around cheerfully. And the people there accepted it. Many felt tread on their toes but enough people really took me seriously (YOU IDIOTS, grin) - and the proofs of my expertise which were demanded from me one day I delivered by starting to think about them just at that very moment. In this way I derived texture mapping, phong shading and various other concepts by myself, just because some people wanted to know it from me and I didn't want to lose face. And by the way - there is no better way of realizing something than having to explain it to someone else.
Okay, that was a bit long, but who cares.
What are your most important projects?
In the past it was of course OpenCP (see below) and everything related to Event Horizon & Co. Like every real scener I also have a huge projects directory full of stuff half started and never finished, but I don't want to talk about them now.
In principle I love everything that produces noise. This becomes obvious facing the fact that I took over CP and worked on the unlucky version 2.09 of Fasttracker in which I implemented InterWave support but which the guys from Triton never really managed to make run - and to all my attempts at getting them to hand me the source code in order to fix the last bugs they did not react either. Well, tough luck.
Apart from that, I already used to contribute to the CP in the past, beta-tested and bug-fixed various programs and did all kinds of things. I have never really had a big project but that also comes from the fact that I started with C++ and PC coding in general only in 1996.
Smash Designs won the Mekka & Symposium 2k-1 demo compo with their production "Event Horizon". Many visitors think that this was one of the few demos at this year's Mekka that really could be taken seriously. How far were you involved in this project? How did the work on the demo go on? What were your first thoughts after the great success?
My first thoughts were, "Oh god, that's embarrassing." The code of EH may be good, but the design is bad, and it was a typical last-minute production (to be exact, it was even handed to the organisers slightly AFTER the deadline). It is no fun to win due to the reason "competition is none". But more about this later.
My main contribution to the project was the basic system called IDS, which follows the concept of CP's soundsystem IMS, allows 32-bit output on about everything that somehow looks like a graphic card and, I am not exaggerating, probably contains the most universal, bug-free and fastest VESA code (also check out my article in Hugi #14). Furthermore, I participated in developing the 3D engine. The lighting code comes from me alone, and apart from that, I took care of the structural integrity and general optimization in order to handle the mess that the other five coders produced. Being the only person in the SDs coderteam who had ever released a demo before, I guess I was the only one who had insight about the bloody chores which had to be done and also the only one who allowed himself to be persuaded to do them.
The development was correspondingly chaotic. It was never possible to get something like a "current version". Usually, all changes were somehow merged together, and I was the stupid person who had to tidy up the mess. The atmosphere in the group varied from the best harmony to the worst quarrels (the closer we were to the deadline, the worse our mood was), but after all it seemed to have worked (smile).
What was your impression of the party and the compos in general?
The party was cool, most of the compos were shit. I think that describes my point of view as a co-organizer of the MS2K-1 pretty well. I have the feeling that the people had a lot of fun again, but the mood during the main compo night, which had been so good last year, was rather dominated by disappointment. Not only did we not have a demo at the level of "The Fulcrum", no, most of all the PC demo compo was lousy all in all. The wild compo was similar, where only the two first entries were really worth watching (and good), followed by 1.5 hours of stylish boredom. I mean, who the hell wants to watch a video of a trip to MS with a length of twenty minutes? Almost all visitors had just made this experience themselves, so how can you get this evidently braindead idea to film and submit it?
The 4k- and 64k-compos, by contrast, were quite good. This also applies to the other computer systems, their intros were also beautiful and their demos rather disappointing. Well, about the gfx and the music compos I won't say anything, it's primarily a matter of taste anyway, and I'm not in the mood for getting hundred of flame-emails.
Last year, Pascal stopped developing the well-known module player Cubic Player. You were assigned to continue it. Can you tell our readers some details about your work on this program? What features have you implemented in the OpenCubicPlayer so far, and what do you still plan to do?
So far, I have implemented only a few new features, as my primary concern was maintaining the product. Version 2.0à++ was really crowded with bugs, and I spent half a year fixing all the player flaws and instabilities which I and other people on IRC spotted, until version 2.5.0 was ready to be released. At least it had reasonable IT support, an improved port of Michael Schwendt's SIDPlay and play lists.
Concerning the 2.x versions I want to implement the just finished (and pretty cool) new mixing routines as well as soundcard-mixing-functions for non-SB-cards and most of all IT filter support in any case, that's all. The actual efforts of our little team (consisting of TMB Inc, Ryg, Doj and my humble self) regard OpenCP V3, which will be rewritten from scratch and not only be much better but will also be available for all platforms for which a C++ compiler exists (ok, this aim is a bit too high).
What is happening at Purge? The last epoch-making releases such as "Totraum" are already a tad old.
Let's make it short: nothing. You could also say that Purge is dead, but even the Future Crew is said to be still alive, so what. In any case no Purge member I know of is even slightly active in the scene because all of them have been captured by this man-eating moloch called "real life" and deal with their studies etc. instead of leading the scene. Tough luck, but that's the way it goes.
What do you think of the demoscene and its productions? How do you think the scene will develop?
I prefer NOT to answer the first question after this MS2K-1. And as regards the development I begin to hope that it will take place one day. For years the demoscene has been stagnating, at least concerning the productions. Rarely I saw innovative effects - and the one innovative effect which we have in Event Horizon can't even be spotted (which will hopefully be fixed in the final version). From the beginning DOS has been used, which is an operating system that cannot be taken seriously considering the hardware of today. Yes, I know, EH is DOS-based as well, but the basic system is about 1.5 years old and I wanted to use it at least ONCE. Only slowly does the scene change to the "current" systems, nobody tries to make the most of 3D cards (instead, the scene uses software rendering with texture mappers that become slower and slower), etc., etc., etc., in order words, the evils about which I spoke in my article for Hugi #14 dominate the scene.
All I can do is to hope that some day someone will set a clear example (like we partly did with "MMX only") and point the way to the scene - and that the elite-concept which is essential to survive gets more influence again and that people are simply NOT satisfied with flickering rotozoomers on their P3-500s. Still I have the uneasy feeling that the trend to decreased quality will remain.
What are the sense and the tasks of the demoscene?
Oh God. In any case the demoscene cannot... could not... anyway... be compared with other scenes. For me it is most important to deal with the medium "computer" in a creative manner, to fulfil oneself by cool productions (and far-fetched posing) and exchanging ideas with other interested people, as well as making friends with them, of course. For me an important part of friendship is definitely personal contact. People keep being surprised by how arrogantly I treat people on, for example, IRC and how "nice" I can be when they meet me in real life. A reason for this may be that friendship should always be connected with direct contact, and anywhere else elitism should be predominant. How could new sceners get the ambition to become as good as Future Crew or Smash if everybody is warmly accepted at the beginning no matter what he is like? Exactly THIS behaviour has led to the fact that all people release all kind of trash and the scene has factually not developed for years.
And the tasks of the demoscene? Well, TO RELEASE COOL DEMOS, YOU FOOLS. Or to do some missionary work among the earth's population against the collective fooling of the computer industry - or if necessary also to prove that even unwordly computerfreaks can find a girlfriend. Or whatever - the scene offers many possibilities to pursue an aim, choose one for yourself, but please be ambitious enough to code, pixel, track, trade, or organize at least better than your cat. Please.
Now some personal questions. What is life like in your hometown, Oldenburg? Can you introduce the town and its surroundings to us?
Hm. Oldenburg is a 160K-people town in the north west of .DE, or let's rather say a 160000-people village which somehow managed to maintain the balance between a town and a city. We have bakers, supermarkets, a university and a lot of houses with humans in them, erm, do you need more? (grin) Ah, life is very cool in this town, and it's not distant to the "strongholds of the scene", Hamburg and the area around Essen. In other words, it's perfect.
"My Destiny is to confuse and to be confused" (grin).
I greet my grandmother, my parents, all my strange girlfriends and the Scala Family, where sceners are still sceners.
Thanks for the Interview!
No problem, it was time to interview me anyway. (grin)