In the Spotlight: Pyromaniac/Beyond
Paul Bragiel a.k.a. Pyromaniac is the organizer of Beyond, which is the most active demo group in America. They released a few productions in the past including the chartsmag Heroin. Beyond is also creating productions on the Game Boy Color console system.
Adok: First of all, let's talk about your chartsmag Heroin. Who created Heroin?
Pyromaniac: Heroin is a project created by the minds behind 'the' American demo group 'beyond'. We also had a lot of help from our European friends, including Atom, Jamon, Rappid, and most importantly Sky!
Adok: Why did you make it?
Pyromaniac: I decided to create 'heroin' since I felt there was a lack of a stable charts system in the scene. However in leaving for my world tour and starting my new job I haven't been able to keep it updated, and it seems that I just have contributed to the abundant amount of idle projects in the scene.
Adok: Why did you choose the name "Heroin" of all names?
Pyromaniac: We created it simply because we wanted to start controversy. It seems that the scene is too politically correct today. No one wants to offend anyone, to that notion we say "fuck you". While we'd like to be on good terms with anyone, the scene roots are in the underground, and we shouldn't lose this attitude by trying to acting like politicians. On top of that, the name makes a reference to our ultimate goal of getting everyone 'addicted' to the new issues.
BTW, what ever happened to good old scene rivalries? It appears to me that some of the best releases in the history of the scene were released by groups that had a rivalry or even a war with another group. Perhaps you editors should do some research on this topic.
Adok: Lately, the Nintendo Game Boy has been discovered as a demo platform. Your group, Beyond, is one of the pioneers in the GB demoscene. What's so appealing about the GB as a demo platform?
Pyromaniac: The Game Boy Color simply shouts old school. Working on this machine is like time warping back to the late 80's. In order to make the best demos or games you have to program in assembly, pixel all the art, and make chip tunes for all the music. You couldn't ask for more if you are a fan of the early days of the scene.
Adok: What tools do you use to develop programs for the GB?
Pyromaniac: We currently use RGBDS as our compiler, which happens to have been made by the coder from Melon Design that made "How 2 Skin a Cat". For art we use a combination of GFX2 as well a tile design program called GBTD. As for music, we create it with our own custom in-house tracker that is based off the classic ST3/IT2 interface. To test our productions we either use the Nocash emulator or just load it onto a ROM and test it on the actual Game Boy hardware.
Adok: How do you spread your GB releases? Will they be available as ROM for real GBs, or as ROM-images and have to be run on PC using an emulator?
Pyromaniac: Actually we distribute them both ways. For our scene related releases we simply compile them and package them as a ROM-image for use by the user as they wish. When talking to professional entities like publishers, we burn off a cart for them and distribute it that way. So currently if you are a scener and wish to see our stuff you'll either have to run it on an emulator or ask us for us to specifically burn a copy for you.
Adok: What projects are Beyond currently working on?
Pyromaniac: Right now we're making a game entry into Bung sponsored Game Dev compo. We also always play around with making cool little intros that look like they belong on the c64. On top of that we're working full time on a racing game similar in style to the Micro Machines series.
Adok: You've been in the scene for a long time. Some years ago, you were active as a mailswapper and Imphobia co-editor. What is different about the scene of today compared to the old times?
Pyromaniac: The biggest difference is that the scene seems to be decentralized. When I started out, the best groups all had contact with each other and shared information between each other often. Now it seems that the scene has shifted to a more country oriented focus. As a result it's quite common that the best group from France has no contact with the best group from Hungary, and so forth. This comes as a result of the scene being much more accessible to people starting out. When I started, in order to learn new tricks you had to ask the groups how they did it, and as a result a contact was started. Now there is such a strong library of source code and examples, people can become quite good in isolation from the rest of the scene. There are also other issues like the separation of the tracking scene, but that ties into the growth of the scene as well. Overall, the scene is just so much larger, so as a result it is impossible for a tight international community to exist as it used to.
Adok: I agree with the view that the scene is very big nowadays, and for this reason it is not possible to keep extensive contact to all major groups. IMO it is hence important that there is a worldwide platform where the people learn what the other groups do. In this way they need not care that much about keeping contacts themselves, and yet all elements needed for a community exist.
Pyromaniac: I couldn't agree more. This is where I feel magazines play a big part, and why I've been part of some type of a scene magazine for as long as I remember. While it can't replace a nice contact via e-mail, at least it can feature sceners that you wouldn't have heard of otherwise, and then you can establish a contact. Now if there only were a great successor to BBS's.
Adok: Do you think that the tendency in the scene is toward professionalism?
Pyromaniac: Honestly, not much has changed in this aspect. There will always be people doing it just because they want to play with the machine, and then there will be others that see it as fun, but think they might make a job out of it. As long as I have been in the scene there have always been people doing stuff proffesionally whether it's Arjan Brusse doing Jazz Jack Rabbit, Tran doing Zone 66 or the plethora of sceners that I meet up with at E3 each year. People are just more aware of the commercial possibilities since a few guys we know personally have 'made it'.
Adok: Here in Europe it's common that in school, groups of interests are formed that share their experiences among each other. Some would certainly be interested in demos, but most of them do not even know what demos are. They have never seen a demo; when they hear the word "demo", they first think of a political demonstration. Also, when you follow discussions in demo scene boards, the beginners are often regarded as lamers by the others. In this way they are scared away. What do you think: How should people be attracted to the demo scene?
Pyromaniac: Personally if someone is scared away then they don't deserve to be in the scene. It's an initiation of sorts. Everyone in the scene has experienced being a lamer and learned a lot from it. It also drives a lot of people to prove themselves, and this competitive spirit is very important in people developing their skills. If you let everyone in with open arms then all of a sudden there are too many people that have the wrong attitude in the scene. While I would love to see the scene grow (especially in the US), accepting everyone isn't always the best thing.
One of the best ways to attract people is to have gatherings. This is what makes the scene experience amazing. These smaller events are the most personal and allow for people to see what are some of the best things the scene has to offer. Outside of that, it would be nice if demos were more closely aligned to the other scenes out there. Basically more exposure means more potential talent.
Adok: What do you think about publishing an introductionary demo coding article in every Hugi issue?
Pyromaniac: I'm one that always applaudes tutorials. While us veterans don't need them anymore there is the kid that currently is a lamer but really wants to learn. For him something like this is his first step into becoming a contributing scener. So definately do it. It also would be nice if you could hunt down some of the more famous coders since even experienced people want to hear what these scene 'greats' have to say. It's like opening up their heads and getting a peek.
Adok: You've lately been on a world tour. Tell us about it.
Pyromaniac: Well, I embarked on a European tour following graduation from my university. It covered 14 countries in two months. Needless to say that I had really sore feet, my europass was well used, and I ran out of time to do everything. I had a chance to attend Takeover '99, which was my first European demo party. Along the way I met up with some of my close scene contacts over the years and also missed a few people due to bad timing (Darkness, Calodox studs, and the whole Polish scene). I enjoyed Switzerland the most besides the ridiculous prices for food. Krakow, Budapest, and Bol (Croatia) were some of my other favorites. Don't underestimate Eastern Europe!
Adok: In Europe, Chicago is mainly known for Al Capone and a lot of crime. Is it really like this? Can you describe what life in Chicago is like?
Pyromaniac: The mafia element doesn't exist as pronounced as it was back in the 30's. Of course as in any large city the crime element will exist, but for a normal person like myself it rarely affects me. There are places in Chicago you obviously don't go walking around in if you're of the wrong nationality. Outside of those scattered areas, its a beautiful city with some of the best modern skyscraper architechture in the world. If any of you readers need a tour and don't want to walk into those 'bad' areas, feel free to contact me.
Adok: Rumour has it that you are a great lover. So, how many women do you sleep with every day?
Pyromaniac: It's about time the legend hit Europe. It's been established over here in the United States for quite some time. I guess my conquest on the other side of the pond is starting to get spread through the proper channels (womens dressing rooms). The question I have for you is how did you find out this sensitive information, did your current girlfriend tell you? As for the number of women I sleep with, it all depends on the current woman I'm sleeping with. You stud demo sceners should know that being a good lover means taking care of your woman's needs. So if one girl needs you to cuddle her all day then you're only going to sleep with her on that day, but if you come across a crazy girl that likes it rough and doesn't need much foreplay you could get lucky and have two to three in one day. So play your cards right! To answer your question with an exact number I would say 1.1 on the average. I tend to enjoy foreplay as any famous lover should, so this cuts into my statistics.