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Demos in the eyes of a games journalist
by Miguel Lopez, freelance journalist

Halfsome by CNCD and Fairlight

The design in Halfsome is simply marvelous. Some of the people on pouet were criticizing it for being stylistically incoherent, but I couldn't disagree more; the industrial theme flows through both the audio and visuals, and the whole thing has a sublime rhythm all throughout. In fact, I would say that, in terms of visual cohesion, this is the most successful demo of the bunch. Having grown up around graffiti art, I can appreciate the creativity and playfulness in that element of the demo. My big question: when game developers are plundering the demo scene for talent, why don't they give the people they recruit the free reign to be this creative?

Lifeforce by ASD

I'm aware that I'm very much an outsider looking in when it comes to what you guys do, but I have a feeling that -- and I hope I'm not overstepping my bounds by saying this -- Lifeforce is one of the scene's modern masterpieces. The "creeping tendrils" image that traveled throughout the whole piece was brilliantly done, and the 2D elements brought the whole thing a smart, tasteful vibe. From what I gather, ASD is known for setting milestones, and it's easy to see why. Lifeforce is an amazing work of art and craftsmanship, and if I weren't afraid that the games industry would squander their considerable talents, I would wish that they'd do some interactive stuff.

Beyond the Walls of Eryx by ASD

In terms of gaming motifs, this one is easy to wrap your head around. The isometric perspective is very evocative of Zaxxon, one of my favorite classic games, with a visual design that's quite reminiscent of the gorgeous rhythm shooter Rez. I appreciate the H.P. Lovecraft reference, but I think it's more tangential than anything else (maybe I'm just not perceptive, but I didn't notice anything that one could connect to sentient lizard men and Venusian mining operations). A nicely-paced piece.

ISo9241 by Still

The ship designs in this one were really cool, and I like the thread of conflict in the piece. The design was pretty slick overall, but I couldn't quite catch any discernible theme, which made the piece seem a little bit like an advertisement, if that makes any sense. Still, on the strength of the design alone, this is much stronger visually than what's in most games these days. Pardon the games industry commentary, but watching this stuff leads me to believe that art directors working at game development studios aren't given enough free reign to create truly inspired visuals. Perhaps they're "over directed" by their higher-ups. Whatever the case, I hope that some of the more creative people doing work in the scene get into these kinds of positions, and foster more inspired visuals in games.

STS-05: Royal Temple Ball by Synesthetics

Warm, colorful, and organic -- I'm glad that this was the last piece I viewed, given how cold and often grim in tone all the previous stuff I looked at was. I really dig the dub-inflected music in this one, and the first movement is what I wish Super Mario Galaxy would look like. It felt almost unfinished, though, which is a shame; the end came kind of abruptly, and the tunnel sequence lasted a bit too long, as if the creators were trying to inflate its length.

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