Jari Komppa is one of the leading people around the Finnish non-profit group tAAt ry. They do every year the Text Mode Demo Contest that is held between the 11.11 and the 12.12. He is a programmer and PC demoscene veteran from Finland and still does random things on the scene when he finds the right inspiration. He says about himself, that he tends to like “small freaky projects.. for example, I wanted to play Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri again, and wrote a universal VESA driver for Windows to make that happen”. We directly step into the topic.
Jari Komppa and a contribution from TMDC 9
Why do Text Mode Demos matter?
Interesting things come from limited environments. If you look what happened to the Amiga, or what’s still happening on the C64, the limitations have stayed the same for ages, but people still keep finding ways to make more creative and interesting things with them. The Text Mode has a very low resolution (or, if looked in another way, a very strange resolution), very limited contrast and very limited and fragmented color space. Once you start to see these not as obstacles but as challenges you may end up with something completely unexpected.
How did you came into text mode demos and why do you organize a yearly competition on that?
Back in 1996 I was hanging on IRC with a bunch of demoscene people and we were discussing text mode demos. We pondered on how to get more text mode demos and figured that there are principal two ways of getting this done: either we write them ourselves, or we get other people make them. Hence, it made more sense to hold a contest.
We never intended the contest to become an annual thing, but since there was interest it just sort of became that way. I’ve actually considered stopping the commitment and almost succeeded a couple of times (pretty much every year in fact), but it somehow keeps dragging me back. =)
How is the relation of the “Text Mode demoscene” to the rest or other parts to the demoscene?
As for the rest of the demoscene, we’re either ignored, ridiculed, or loved; for some, Text Mode seems childish, or too easy – they probably haven’t tried to make anything that looks good with the limitations. To some, it is only considered a rgb-textmode blitter contest, and they think that it’s too much effort. This is also not true as you can make a cool demo in various ways. There were a few out there back then, some of which followed the strict TMDC ruleset and others which tweaked the text mode by changing the font data, for instance. I simply liked the ‘strict’ demos more.
One of the ideas that I had back when we were starting these contests would be to get the ‘ASCII art scene’ (iCE, ACiD, etc) involved somehow. But it pretty much didn’t happen – there has been some demos with ASCII art in it, but never to the scale that I would have wanted. And as for now, I don’t even know if there are any active ASCII art groups out there anymore. =)
Do you expect changes in the Text Mode demoscene through technological changes in order to style or other belongings?
Even though we’ve kept the rules pretty strict some technological advances have forced some change. One example: the move to windows forced us to change colors. The Windows console palette is different than the old DOS Text Mode palette!
The demo size limit will be relaxed more since people for some reason can’t seem to be able to fit text mode demos in 2.8 megabytes anymore. Also another thing that is going in is the move from tracked music (.mod) to mp3/ogg audio streams. This stressed our relatively small size limits and we had to increase the demo size limitations. And since people keep wanting better audio quality, we’re increasing it this year again. Call it progress, if you want.
What are the expected results for this years competition?
Way too early to say, but we are accepting sponsors at this time, who will be also mentioned at the website as well as in the invitation demo. =)
Are there any related readings, websites, tools or other resources on Text Mode Demos?
We’ve tried to link to the relevant sites on the TMDC site’s
What do we also want to know about you?
If I had more time and financial freedom, I’d probably concentrate on writing tutorials and interactive teaching applications, such as the GalaXQL SQL tutorial I wrote last year as a school project.
Thanks for this Interview!
Text and Interview: Martin Wisniowski, September 2007