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X 2023 Demo Compo - A Look Back

X 2023 Demo Compo - A Look Back

Summary #

The X Demoparty is undoubtedly the biggest event in the demoscening calendar for C64 sceners. Traditionally being held every 2 years in Someren, X 2023 turned out to be a much bigger event thanks to COVID - creating a FIVE YEAR delay from the last (X 2018) to this one.

Most of the big guns were there with a demo to release - and some couldn't quite finish in time (perhaps the nerves also played a part - it was well known that X 2023 was going to be a very tough competition, after all, and even the big players can get last-minute jitters).

Some groups seemed to have spent the entire 5 years since the last X fully focused on their X demo.. others had used the long gap to put out other releases (some big, some small) and left much less time to create something new. All would compete...

At X, you really never quite know how things will play out. Voting can be strange. Every person with a vote sheet can see things differently.

The Top 5 Demos #

Here I'm going to take a look at the top 5 ranking demos from X 2023.

1. Next Level by Performers #

From the get-go, you quickly realise that this demo is another game-themed release from Performers (their previous being the 2016 X demo, Concert which came #4 in that year's compo). Performers hadn't had an X-winner previously - but you could see that they'd gone all-out this time to try to get the top spot.

Other than a PETSCII demo in 2022 (Formula Petscii), Performers hadn't actually released any demos since the last X in 2018 (C=Bit 18, coming #3). So they'd had a pretty solid 5 years to pull this demo together - and it shows.

The stand-out for most is the 100-games part that files side 2. I feel a little differently as, really, although the amount of work involved in that is considerable, and the compression work impressive, I just find it a little "dull". Sorry Mahoney, hope you can understand, it's just something that personally I would fast-forward past if I'm able to (ie. if watching on YouTube or emulator).

Personally I really liked the vector 3D parts. Largely because I've personally never coded such on C64 so, for me, they're always impressive - when they're largely realtime at least (which they seem to be here - please correct me if I'm wrong).

The audio throughout is fantastic, the graphics quite stunning (though of course they had to borrow Genesis Project's Facet - his work shines throughout this), and there's plenty of "code p0rn", too.

A deserved winner I have to say.

My score: 93%

2. Mojo by Pretzel Logic and Bonzai #

Bonzai had released quite a few demos over the years since X, helping keep the scene alive with a good mix of technical and graphical demo releases. So many in fact that, come X 2023, they'd largely run out of steam - hence the team up with Pretzel Logic.

You can see from the screenshots below the ridiculous amount of artwork throughout this demo. They really went to town with artwork - giving the coders a bit of a break (although of course displaying, animating and scrolling art on the C64 also involves considerable coding work).

For me personally this demo was lacking in the code p0rn area. It's not until side 3 that we get the perspective up-scroller (you can see a similar effect in Anniversary from Finnish Gold - though, actually, Trap had made the effect first and had mistakenly sent Proton a preview.. doh!). There's really not much following that, either, other than the circular scroller and the dot scroller on side 4.

The design, artwork and music really make this demo and, for those alone, this demo stands tall.

My score: 83%

3. Wonderland XIV by Censor Design #

Censor of course were winners at X 2018 with "Star Wars Demo", narrowly beating Bonzai's Unboxed. Some believe that Bonzai deserved to win X 2018, which I'm on the wall about personally (both demos are pretty even-par for me).. but I -do- believe that X 2016's top 2 should've been reversed - for me, Censor's demo should've been a clear winner that year.. but Bonzai won people's hearts simply by returning to the scene at that time so perhaps that played a part.

I really like Wonderland XIV, it's possibly my favourite from X 2023 actually. As with other groups, there are several parts that have become tropes for Censor - the colour cyclers, the wavy bitmaps, bitmap scrollers and such. No problem here as it seems that each has advanced a little since the last time we saw them.

Censor picked up Talent, their new graphic artist and someone new to the scene, in 2022. His art shines throughout here - and there's an incredible amount of it. All hitting a very high bar and with his unique dithering style.

There's a really good mix of new and old code p0rn throughout, clearly a lot of love and work went into this demo on all sides - code, music and art.

The absolute showstopper, though, is that end part. Amazing, just jaw droppingly fantastic in every way.

My score: 89%

4. No Bounds by Genesis Project #

Rather than review a demo that I worked on, I'll instead just explain a few of the reasons why we wanted to make this demo "different". With most of the recent demos that I'd worked on, there'd been some recurring comments from rival groups - "amazing graphics, not enough code", "the kings of disk swap!" and such... and we'd had some great comments on our previous demo, Memento Mori, as well - such as "really nice, fast pace!" and "the whole pace makes it look as if it's an Amiga OCS demo".

Taking these comments on board, we made some rules:-

We did fail on a few of these in places .. the turn-disk part, for example, is of course a very long greetings scroller .. it also was very similar to what we'd done in our previous demo .. but we wanted to include the part as it was a significant improvement and, well, it just looked cool.

Would we do this again? I'm not sure. Every other group had huge amounts of art and were flipping sides quicker than a mad pancake chef.. and they all did well at X without the negative comments... so... we'll see!

My score: Withheld

5. Multiverse by Nah-Kolor #

I'd heard so much about this demo over the years .. originally planned for X 2018, it had had an incredible development cycle. So much so that artists involved with the demo had given up hope of it releasing - I'd received a few pieces from this demo for consideration for our own, in fact, and it's lucky that we didn't include them!

Anyway, this really is a hot mix of so many different groups and sceners, with Magic commanding the workers involved and even convincing some of Nah Kolor's Amiga coders to come onboard to learn C64 coding on-the-fly.

Artwork throughout is really nice - mostly coming from Genesis Project's Facet, Wrath Design's Joe and Genesis Project's JonEgg.

There are a few parts that stand out, such as a really cool sun animation and the Coma Fight sequence (which could've benefited from a bit more animation and higher framerate).

What I think really let the demo down, though, was that so many of the parts seemed like almost identical copies of things that other groups had done before - mostly Censor, to be honest! The colourful scroller, in particular, is just their Daah, Those Acid Pill! scroller - I can't see that anything is improved or different here at all, making me wonder simply "why??". Likewise, the wibbly scroller seems to be just the Space Beer one but with some added (unintentional) glitching?

It's great to see Nah Kolor entering, and coming in with such a sizeable demo.. but I hope next time there can be a cleaner design and more originality.

My score: 70%

A Quick Note #

I did actually write some paragraphs for one of the C64's scene mags (Vandalism News) a while back .. but asked to retract them when the editor had suggested to edit the wording on one of the reviews (the review for the demo that that editor had personally been involved with). At first I asked that my words could either be taken in their entirety or not at all - but since they weren't accepting that, I simply asked to pull my reviews completely. That issue of Vandalism News hasn't been released yet so I don't know whether they respected those wishes.

Personal Demo Post-Mortem (for No Bounds) #

A new trend is definitely to feature a lot of art in each demo - just look at the screenshots above for evidence of that. Plus, 15+ mins per demo seems to be "the new norm" for the bigger demos. So, in hindsight, I can take the blame for G*P's demo running short and focusing too heavily on code p0rn - others had suggested that we should have more in there and, yeah, it does look like it would've helped.

I am still a strong believer that the best demos should feature a lot of code p0rn. A few of the above seem to show that that isn't everyone's view of course. But.. that's one thing that I'm not going to give up on easily as, for me, that's the fun part .. I'm not an entertainer here, I'm in this to try to push the C64 to new limits, to remove imagined bounds and so forth.. if that's the sword that my demoscening efforts die on - so be it ;p

X 2023 was a fantastic compo to enter, honestly, and anyone who enters deserves a pat on the back just for getting there I think. Reaching the top 10 even more so - because it's really not easy and is a HELL of a lot of work.

Congrats to all this years entrants - and we'll no doubt see you in battle at a future X :-)

CSDb Voting, Commenting and Interaction #

If you're a scener and haven't voted on any of the above demos, or any other releases from X 2023, please do so - it means so much for us sceners to read people's thoughts (good or bad). I've had a few people tell me of late that they don't comment on CSDb any more because they prefer to just write privately - that's a really lame excuse, to be honest.. please, go support the scene and comment.

One scener that I know really well (he's -not- in Genesis Project and that's as much as I'll say) told me pretty much that he wouldn't vote or comment on several demos due to "retaliatory voting". Grow some balls and stop worrying about charts, I say :p .. seriously.

Inviting Feedback #

Please, if you completely disagree with me, if you have your own favourites from the compo, if you think the demo scene is rubbish.. whatever.. please leave a comment :-)

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