After translating the demoscene documentary (Moleman2) last year, I could get to know Japanese demosceners on Twitter. (Thank you. And you should join, too..) Life is funny. Now that I know they are there … why not using this opportunity and pitching some questions? So here you go, this is an interview with Japanese demo coder “q” from nonoil. His 64k invitation demo “Candy” was lately ranked 1st at “2012 Best invitation demo” of 4Sceners.de.
In this mail interview, he explains why he chose demo over creating game, how he makes demo, some inside story around his demo and his workspace…with photo (Yes!) It’s a full of practical tips for non-demosceners too.
First of all, could you please introduce yourself briefly?
How did you find demoscene? What motivated you to create your own demo?
The first demo I saw knowing that ‘this is demo’ was ”elevated”.
I’ve made some casual games before but it didn’t go well for 2 reasons;
1. I simply wasn’t good at collaborating with other people.
2. I didn’t have much interest in games.
Demo can resolve these 2 issues. I mean, you can create demo by yourself if you have ideas, and even just a one-liner joke can be appreciated if it’s sophisticated or original.
# Of course, some evaluates the total level of performance.
# There are some games with such nature (like GGJ) but I don’t think these are the mainstream.
I like graphics programming but it accounts for only a small percentage of game development. Creating game is very difficult since it requires programming in different fields, planning to make it fun and creating resources (pictures and music). But when it comes to demo making, as long as you are able to do graphics programming you can create procedural graphics demo. And if you are challenging small size category, seems like it’s ok to have not-so-dynamic sound.
# Of course not everyone is ok about it, some people really care about sound.
I assume ”the impact” is the very first demo that you created.. How long did it take to make this? And how long do you usually need to make one demo?
Procedural graphics are not so time-consuming category compare to others, and I think I made that in a few days.If you try to make something proper, it will take a few months because you need to create tools, test it and so on. Early hiccup like picture is not showing or sound is not playing correctly can be taken care only by coders, and this working time depends on coders’ skill.
Some groups take a lot of time to make demo, and I heard "GaiaMachina" took 2 years to make.
When I check your demo-graphy, I felt that each of your released demo has different atmosphere. Do you set any specific theme before making demo such as “I want to use this technique” or “let’s go with this mood”?
I will explain this more later, but I don’t care so much about technical challenges since the biggest challenge for me is to complete demo. The demos that I released was the result of choosing what I already had and what I can easily access to.
Do you set your own rule? Is there anything you pay special attention to when you make demo?
The most important rule or goal for me is “to get it done on time”. It may sound super ridiculous but I believe this goal is quite difficult to achieve.
It’s an old reference but it’s been said that 90% of the amateur game are ended up uncompleted. There may be some difference in numbers but I guess this ratio is almost the same in other amateur production field. This occurs because there is no balance between their “vision” and their actual “ability”. Ability is not a performance at their peak levels, it is the speed of output that they can constantly keep. Assuming that one’s ability changes annually, you can get your approximate speed by dividing your output of the past year. ‘Ability x Man x Time’ is the limit of what we can create, and it is *impossible* to do more than this.
The speed of output slows down in time, so longer schedule is not necessarily better. I try to fix the time first, and focus on ‘Ability x Man’. More people is not necessarily better either (The Mythical Man-Month!) and the speed of output is very delicate.
# If we decided to strictly keep the deadlines, some parts may end up as “considered as completed” rather than “completed”. I don’t mind this because that’s the limit from the beginning.
Demo making is not a paid-job (it seems like this is the virtue in demoscene), and this makes the estimation of output speed difficult. Motivation for demo making is just “we can do what we want”, so if you ask strong commitment it won’t work. Not just for other people but it also doesn’t work if you force yourself. If we keep doing what we can already do, our performance will go down. So we need challenges to improve it. But then again if we set the challenges as precondition, we now need to take unnecessary risks.
# Some say it doesn’t work well even if the money is involved, but I’ll leave that out here.
# Some say it doesn’t work well even if the money is involved, but I’ll leave that out here.
Also, you need to prepare for the time you completely lost your motivation. I write down all the tasks I need to do, and I always keep certain amount of simple tasks that doesn’t require any motivation (like things you can get done just by moving mouse or clerical work) to prepare for the unmotivated hours. I also split works into 1 to 2 hours task so that I can handle them like a flow.
…well, I just dwelt on it, but if you can reach top 10% just by doing these things, I guess it’s not that bad. So my goal is to “get it done on time”.
You said that you write down every task. Is it handwritten memo..? Do you make a schedule?
My memo are handwritten + txt. And I used trac for our group’s schedule. trac is quite common in software industry, we use this to check progress of the project on browser.
|Here's the task memo! Photo by q|
(Unfortunately I won’t be able to understand.. but here’s one for readers who makes demo…) What program do you use to make demo? Do you create your own tool?
I’m using VC2008, VC2012, Qt and DirectX. I’m not aiming at multi-platform, so I make use of Windows platform-specific features too. I believe this is very normal environment. Almost all my demos are created on my own demo tools, which I’ve been making since early 2011. For the program around drawings, I always make it from scratch.
|Here's the tool he's making.|
Photo by q
Could you show us where your demo is born? Do you do anything particular while making demo… like listening to music, drinking tea… or is there any details/items that you care around your workspace?
|Tada! Here's q's workspace! |
He said that he did serious cleanup before taking this photo.
Photo by q
Sometimes I work while listening to music, and sometimes I work with earplugs + earmuffs and lights turned off. The latter is good to stay focus but it’s tough to keep up for long time, so I change it according to the task and my condition.
I divide my space into working and relaxing area. There’s sofa and projector on the right side to lie down and watch something. Here’s the space for fun and relaxing, and I bring together work-related document and such around my desktop.
You have collaborated with various groups like System K, RTX1911, Brainstorm, gorakubu, 301… How does the collaboration work? You don’t get into a fight?
Other than “the impact”, I always worked with other groups. nonoil is one-man group after all and I can only code, so it’s necessary to work with other people. Here’s how it went for each demos;
q^nonoil: I haven’t decided what I create but I made a tool anyway.
q^nonoil: Only a week left? Brainstorm, please help.
parsec^brs: Here’s your music.
TS^RTX1911: I want to make demos.
q^nonoil: Please use this tool to make demos.
TS^RTX191 : What is this? It’s hard to use..
kioku^systemK: I don’t have enough time, what should I do?
q^nonoil : I don’t have enough time, what should I do?
kioku^system: Let’s work together. I’ll make scene with my tool.
q^nonoil: I’ll make stuff around drawings with my tool.
TS^RTX1911: I made a demo.
q^nonoil: (Do you still use this version of the tool…?)
q^nonoil: I’m going to join Function party, I need your help.
301: You can add vocal in here.
machia: Here’s your music.
kabaki: Here’s your drawing.
We finally form a group called gorakubu to sit down and create demo. And we are planning to release something from this group in the future.
Your demo “candy” was ranked 1st in Intro at Function, a Hungarian demo party. A lot of people at Pouet (the biggest demoscene portal site) commented that this demo has Japanese “kawaii” factor. What was your motivation to make that demo?
|"candy - Tokyo Demo Fest 2013 invitation -"|
My goal was to get “1st at Function” from the beginning. I decided to join Function because it was “held 3+ months before TDF2013” and “recognized party” and because “I’ve never been there”. I needed “3+ months before” because that much time is enough to plan a trip to Tokyo and they can get cheaper plane tickets. Though 64k tends to have a few entries, I needed to achieve every goal I set in order to reach the first place. So I decided to do what I could do in the best possible way.
For this demo, kabaki made illustration, 301 made software synthesizer which can play voice sound, machia composed a song and I did programming for the rest. Each of us had experience in what we do, so we try a little bit more to improve our skill. kabaki draws with limitation around 64k, 301 created software synthesizer for intro which is specialized for Japanese pronunciation, machia composed with that brand new software synthesizer, and I dealt with SVG data to fit in 64k. I guess it’s relatively easy to imagine what will happen because we all know what we are doing. We chose this theme simply because we thought this helps to keep us motivated.
You have published your journal of demoparty trip on demoscene.jp. How was the international demoparty? What was your impression? Did something change after you visited?
Despite the fact that most of the people joining the party are usually sitting in front of PC and playing with it, they are very friendly. That’s my first impression. I’m average Japanese who usually deals with PC, so I have to make a bit of effort to keep up with them. I don’t think I have changed since I joined there, but I think the party becomes my strong motivation to keep making demo.
How’s the demoscene situation in Japan? Do you communicate with other sceners?
In terms of numbers, around 10 people are actively making demo and about 100 people have been involved in demoscene-related events. You may think it’s small number but I remember even France, which is known to be a fairly active demoscene country, has only 20 or so active sceners. So one more push and we will be moderately active demoscene country, I guess.
I started to communicate with Japanese demosceners from the end of 2010, so the situation I know is after that time. We used IRC a bit until early 2011, but most of us now move to Skype’s demoscene group and Twitter. Forums on 2ch and demoscene.jp are not as active as before due to the popularity of SNS. But luckily most of us live in Kanto region (note: around Tokyo), so we have some occasion to get together in person.
Will you introduce us some of your favorite Japanese demos?
I guess that's "Tokyo DemoFest 2012 Invitation by SystemK & Eldorado" and "The Sky Is Wide Enough by Reputeless".
Ok, so here comes the classic question… your favorite demo, memorable demo, demo that changed your life… anything… tell us a demo which is special to you?
"YouShould" by Haujobb". Rather than its theme or technical stuff, I’m just attracted by this high-impact picture. Probably this is my most played demo.
What is the pleasure of making demo? What demo means to you?
To me, it’s a place to show my work and my motivation of making demo is to show it to other people. In demoscene, it’s ok even if your work is a bit rough-cut and that attitude encourages us. It requires less elements compare to game making, so you can quickly make your ideas into work, and you can get responses very quickly. I think the demoscene will be more active if people realize these facts.
So the best part is to show your work? Do you get nervous?
Yes, I get nervous. When I release demo, I always go to the party and sit in the front row & on the ground so that I can take a close look at people’s reaction. People give harsh comments on pouet, but it’s not that harsh in real party. I guess it’s a universal manner?
What type of demo do you want to make in the future? Is there any dream or goal that you want to achieve?
I’ve challenged the category with fewer entries (like 64k or Vector image), so I’d like to create something straightforward and show that “we can do this in this main category”.
Finally, your message for demosceners and demo fans out there please.
It’s probably because of Megademo culture in 90s, a lot of people believe that “demo making is complicated”. Technical thing is not as important as it used to be, and now people focus more on the “fun” part of demo. I think this is an advantage for starters. If you are interested in demo, even just a little bit, let’s make demo!! If you’re already making it, take the all-time top position in pouet earlier than gorakubu!!
Though it was short notice, q has kindly answered all my questions and requests like sending photos. Thank you, q-san!
As you can see, demoscene does exist in Japan. On Japanese demoscene portal called “demoscene.jp”, JP sceners publish some useful information/document for fellow sceners. (The other day they publish tutorials as “demo advent calendar”. They also hosted “farbrausch’s source code decoding party” in the past… pics are here ...wow)
As Candy girl promotes, this year’s Tokyo Demo Fest will be held in early February. I heard there will be compo and valuable seminars too (including Square-Enix, btw did you see this?? wow wow wow). If you’re interested, go check now. You still may able to get cheap flight ticket to Tokyo!
For travel information of Japan, I recommend japan-guide.com (not because I did an interview with him before, it’s just super great site. You can send questions too.)