232 by ainc


232 took part in the demo competition of Mekka & Symposium 2001, where it placed 8th out of 21. Despite this placement, it is an atmospheric demo that is definitely worth watching. The style of 232 has been inspired by the goa music culture. I had a talk with Toxic Avenger, the coder of the demo, also known briefly as Toxie.

First let's talk about the group ainc which isn't that known in the international scene. How did it start? Who is the founder, how did he discover the scene? How did the other members find their way to the group? How did it develop? What productions have you released? How did you improve in the course of time?

Apocalypse inc. was founded in 95 or 96. "Ainc" resulted out of a 3d-mesh-workaround because it was impossible to "spell" the complete mesh (apocalypse inc.) at decent framerates in an unreleased "intro" back then. ;)

The only member was myself. :( But since I was only interested in games (consoles!) and how to code games on the PC, that was enough. :) (Admiring Jeff Minter!!! (Get a Jaguar for consultation!))

After two more or less kewl games and a lot of feedback and new coder-friends, somebody copied Second Reality onto my HDD... That was it! Goodbye games, hello scene! (I had known only few productions before then (mostly cracktros ;) on the Amiga and ST, so that thing blew me away!)

I started coding the usual crap (Sine-plasma! Scrollers! Tunnels! Palette-shifts! Stars! Shadebobs! Those were cool effects back then, if you don't remember anymore.. ;)) and downloading tons of demos and intros. That all resulted in the Mekka/Symposium 2k-1 party-release: Dark Side Of The Sun (What a stupid name, ey? And it's kinda tooooooo long. =)).

The members back then: Lichtmensch (muzik, but was very lazy... I got the tune one day before the party! :( I knew him from university... he's gone/kicked by now...), Bander (graphics, soundcode, mostly does "furry" graphics, but did the logos here... is still a member. (sometimes helping me out with using Windoze-APIs.. ;))

For the 604-demo (starting the "mysterious-kinda-number-thingie" ;)) I looked for new members and found Biotic (muzik, now trying himself as a professional musician/DJ) through searching the Net for goa/psytrance-XMs. I was fascinated! Wonderful psykko tunes packed into stupid-old XMs... =) He also gave his okay to use the tunes! Yiehah! Zuljin (graphics) also joined the team and did the logos! But I was very lazy that summer and the not-really-complete 604 was released at Evoke99.

I then decided to REALLY get a demo done, which should at least meet my own "standard" of visions and feelings about watching/designing demos! So the graphics-engine was re-done... A heavy amount of effects, algos and ideas were added and optimized for speed. ;)

I started designing shitloads of meshes, graphics, effects and tried out the various tunes I got from Biotic. Everything was hacked together, and again: The final stuff (954) was done on the partyplace! Damn! So the consumer got about 1 or 2 minutes less than actually planned. :( But all together I'm still pleased with this demo. There are also a lot of people that like its style! And it's a fact: It IS influenced by the old PC TBL stuff! ;)

After that Biotic more or less left the team, but I was still "allowed" to use all of his old tunes. Since there are also newer unreleased songs, made with more powerful software, I would love to do a demo especially for one certain song (which would have made it almost into 954, but was kicked because of the BIG MP3-file!)... maybe later. ;)

Zuljin does his own coding by now, but more in the games-sector. So after that: again: no more members except me.

What is the general aim of your demo productions and the philosophy behind them? (After all, "apocalypse" is a rather strong leitmotiv.)

Hmmm... Pleasing the consumer!

The people that watch our stuff should be stunned or smiling while watching our productions! If they don't like it: That's okay, press ESC to end. But then it should be because of the wicked style that your weak minds can't stand and not because of boredom! ;)

Currently the style is a bit goa-ish and weird. At the beginning it was more dark and spooky. We'll see what the future holds.

The name Apocalypse Inc. comes from the troma-movie "Toxic Avenger" (duh!) and is, so to say, a "funny" name... "haha"... ;) Actually it was chosen because of its complete stupidness and later cut down to the unreadable ainc. But we'll see things in the future that will make clear why apocalypse has its meanful rights to stand in the group-name itself! (Hint?!)

What's the basic idea behind 232? How would you characterize the demo?

The main theme is of course: psy-trance!

As easy as that! I mostly listen to music to get my ideas. So I got some tunes from em-cee (muzik, still member) and listened to them! The first thing that dropped to my mind listening Psyzone (232-track) was the guitar-playing mushie! The fire with the two mysterious mushies standing around, watching each other (a bit like in an old Western-movie)!

Most of the graphics (static artwork) already existed and fitted in well.. So I put in some "connector-scenes" to fit the whole thing to the music and kept playing with the engine effects till MS 2k1. ;)

Sounds simple, huh?!

When did you begin to work on 232? How long did it take to finish the demo?

The demo started as a simple OpenGL "try-out" in late 2000 (September?).

I wanted to kick my old software engine from 954, because it was sooooo hacked together! It was cool to make demos with it, 'kay, but it was at no means designed to hold those shitful of things that one sees in 954.

So glAinc (the engine itself) was born. Again: Pascal code (Yes! FPC rockz! ;)) and a lot of shit to do! I wanted it to be at least as cool as the old engine plus all the "new" stuff one was able to do with 3D hardware! That resulted in a first functional version that was/is also used in the commercial screensaver "Deepsea Waterworld" by shortcut.nl. Then it expanded to the state of 232.

Apart from that, there are still a lot of features one cannot "see", because they are disabled or unused in the demo/saver. Also, there have been some new things added lately.

So the engine and everything was ready in about March 2001. The rest of the time was: learning (university :() and designing/fixing the rest of the stuff especially for the demo.

The design itself was more like "relaxing" from coding and took from Christmas 2000 to April 2001 maybe... That means: making 3d models, drawing and arranging pics and textures.

What are the special technological features of 232? What algorithms and techniques do you use?

A lot! ;)

The stuff that took me longest to do:

- Wavelet based image compression (editor/source available!). I read some papers about wavelets that made me hungry.. ;) So I implemented a simple algo (Haar wavelet) that was put to its limits over the time. By now it's almost as good as nowadays jpeg. It was used in 232 to make the damn thing "small". (The MP3 still eats up tooooo many bytes! :()

- Realtime shadows for unlimited pointlights. A real pain in the ass! Never do it! Wait for the vertex shaders! =) I used the volumetric shadow algo with stencil-buffer help. That thing usually works very well, but in some special situations everything "breaks up" or slows down. So my version is a bit hacked, but working well (99%)! Used in 232 for the "marshmellows" and the jumping cubes.

- Level of detail terrain-renderer/generator. Lovely algorithm! And I made it even easier to implement! ;) Basically it's a quadtree (described through a simple 2d-array!) that holds the polys for the terrain. Used in 232 for the terrains. (Duh!)

- Mass-string realtime physics / deformable objects. Another pain in the ass! You gotta know maths to do it. =) And it's incredibly slooooow! I wonder how Matrix did that stuff back in their gcube/luxo-intros! Used in 232 for the jumping cubes.

- Texture synthesis (editor/source available!) Combine simple visual algos -> wonderful artwork! Used in 232 for some textures and the terrains.

- Visual/GUI demodesign. VERY kewl feature. Allows some Flash-like design by pulling some switches and entering numbers together with mouse drag'n'drop support and stuff... ;) Brings all the features of the engine together! Allows every switch setting found in the engine! Allows influencing all the stuff! Allows world domination! You can have this, too! Fetch the TSQ-demoeditor from the last Hugi, read the article by Hopper and be famous! Actually it's not that complex to allow your code to be "handled" by these scripting-files! Try for yourself!

What impression did 232 make on the audience?

The feedback was very good, actually! Also some of my "personal legends" already mailed me (Jace^TBL, doj^Cubic,...) and I read some forum-posts about our demos from sceners... Of course there are people that don't like the colorness and style of the things, but almost no one made "technical" runts or said that it was boring like shit! So I think that people love it or at least didn't "esc"ape. ;)

What are the ainc members doing in real life?

Bander works as an Internet - whatever - designer/coder... and he loves that "furry" artwork/live-stuff. Em-cee is a DJ in Hannover and also has some trax released on "commercial" compilations. I study (learning :(, doing a bit of working for shortcut.nl and playing a lot of pinball at the moment (visual pinball/pinmame rulez! ;))).

What are your future plans?

I coded a lot of weird stuff in the last months, but I don't know yet if anything of that will make it into public release versions. There are plans for a 64k-intro, but don't expect that one until next year or even later! I just made some PLANS... and some progs that could be abused for that are on their ways, too. ;) Maybe some "other" releases for the MS 2k2, too. But that's all VERY unsure!

What's for 90% sure: a demo for MS 2k2! Expect new members (famous ones?! ;)) and some new shit hopefully! No boredom guaranteed!

Also sure: Update for the screensaver...

Maybe: Update for 232... (just some "new" features... no re-design!)

The current list of ainc members looks like the following: Toxic Avenger (code, graphics, 3d) and em-cee (muzik) can be considered "true" members. The "inactive" members are Zuljin (graphics), Biotic (muzik) and Bander (code, graphics).

I also asked Toxic Avenger about the roots of ainc's closeness to the goa scene. "It's the music, of course", he answered. "Personally, I've been a 'fan' of psychedelic sound for years and most of the time I'm hanging around with people listening to goa and living in this style. Biotic and em-cee are DJs and sound artists working in this style. In addition, I have an extreme preference for 'wild' and extremely colourful design. The symbols from Indian religions also add a mystic, 'unreal' touch to it."

How would he describe the philosophy of goa to outsiders? The use of the word "philosophy" is met with astonishment. "Well... adapted hippie culture of the 21st century, perhaps. ;) Extremely dependent on psychedelic sound. With veeeery relaxed and peaceful get-togethers. Some of the dudez have a spiritual touch, others give a damn about that and are only interested in the music. I have no idea."

And how to get in touch with the goa scene? At open-air parties - as simple as that. "I guess there are regularly parties of this kind in all regions of Germany (as well as Europe, and the rest of the world!). The people are usually very nice and in a good mood. ;) You need not be afraid about getting in touch with them. Simply make the experience yourself!"

Toxie & Adok