Author Topic: Interview with Corial / Focus Design  (Read 2188 times)

Offline 4pLaY

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Interview with Corial / Focus Design
« on: August 31, 2020, 07:37:59 PM »
Hello Corial. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

Hi everyone. My real life name is Søren Bondrup Rasmussen and I'm 43 years old, which probably means that I have the average age for an Amiga scener. I live in a suburb outside Copenhagen, but I grew up on the Island of Falster, which was a great place to grow up, also in terms of getting in contact with the demoscene many, many years ago.

Outside my scene life, I work as a consultant+developer making frontend/C#/integration and more for a small company. I used to code solutions for Sharepoint Online and Episerver CMS, but I'm having a break from that now, even though I like CMS development. I'm also the father of two boys, and I also enjoy running marathons here in Denmark (and abroad) when the world is not in annoying lockdown. So yeah, not that much sparetime for the scene anymore, but I try to release something every year, and I do my best to still visit the Gerp party, as it is just my cup of party.

When did you get interested in computers and what was your first computer?

Now where did it all begin? I remember getting a c64 at the age of 8, but it was only used for gaming. I did think that those crackintros before the games were fun to look at, and I remember some Ikari and Dynamic Duo intros. But the demoscene slowly came to my attention via my brother, who is nowadays known as Optima, but back then he was a graphician known as The R in Static Bytes. Even though we grew up on an island, there was a fairly large Amiga community. Buck and Elin also from Static Bytes lived very close by, but that's a different story. The first real encounter with the demoscene, which made me feel "what the heck did I just see there?!" was when Optima put on the fabulous Boulder Demo from Tristar. That Tristar logo...those scrolling balls...and that fantastic music. That simply gave me goosebumps. I also remember some Trilogy demodisks and some Kefrens stuff, but it was not until 1991 that I really got hooked. It was when I visited the local party Amiga Summit Convention, which was organized by Static Bytes. I remember that my parents allowed me to visit the party one day, because Optima was one of the organizers. So, I got to see that epic democompetition and still remember the impact that Global Trash left me with.

I had never seen raytracing before, and that spaceship animation looked absolutely smashing! So this was in 1991. At the age of 14, there was an after-school offering that I signed up for. It was an "advanced computer club" held after school in the evening. Others played pool etc, but I was one of the few kids that was interested in computers, and I was thrilled that I was allowed to join it. I had to pursuade some boring adults/teachers, and I simply think they got tired of me in the end and allowed me in. It turned out that Kollaps (Cult and Light) was the teacher in that computerclub, and he became a very important person along with Optima in teaching me how to program the Amiga. I remember many Saturday mornings that I rode my bike 8 km each way to visit Kollaps, and he taught me much  about many things, and his mother always brought us tea and cookies. Great memories! But that "advanced computer club" was important, because really many of us founded Focus Design. That was 1992 and that was a great period of my life (Denmark also won the Euro 1992 in football, and I was also a happy football kid) and I have super fond memories in my backpack from back then. I especially remember a trip to The Party in 1993 where there were about 20 of us going by old and slow trains, and we simply occupied everything. We had our computers and monitors in those really big and unhandy cardboard boxes and we really made many fellow passengers mad, because we took up every available seat...we were kids, we didn't care, because we were on our way to The Party 3!

Can you tell us a bit about the story behind Focus Design?

Focus Design has its roots in that local computerclub. It was founded right there, and most regular attendees in that club joined. Later on we expanded and got members from outside. I think we had a maximum of 15 members at some point, but I could be wrong. We were quite certain that the group should be named Focus, but Kollaps suggested that we should call it Focus Design, and so we decided on that. Our productions didn't really excel in having good design, so maybe we should decide on just Focus. Anyway, time passed, we made some releases, we got members such as Coma and Bigmama, but eventually the members got other interests and other things to do. People went to school elsewhere, and all of a sudden it was just Optima and I who were left. We kind of kept the group alive without releasing anything, but at some point we killed the group. Optima went to Scopex and Haujobb and I was just a hangaround for quite some years. In 2007 we then returned from the grave and began releasing again. More members joined from Hungary, UK, Sweden and Norway, and that is the membercomposition that we have now. But yeah, we are not super active as such anymore, but at least once in a while releases pop up.

Our biggest succes back in the mid nineties must have been the party trilogy, South Sealand Party. It was a Danish summer party that ended up getting great releases such as Love/Virtual Dreams, Phi/Artwork, Chronic/Passion and more.

What Amiga(s) did you have in the past and if you remember, what were the(ir) configuration(s)?

I started out with an unexpanded A500. But as everybody else I upgraded to 1MB and got an extra diskdrive. Then I got a vanilla A1200. First I purchased a 020 card, then a 030 card, until I got my hands on a 060 card. My current Amiga, which really only leaves the cupboard for testing is a 16MB 060. All my productions are made in an emulator and then tested on real hw. Oh btw, I also had A600 a couple of years ago, but I never used it and I therefore gave it to Booster in order to give it a good home with a loving parent.

Do you remember which tools you used back when you started out, and what are you using these days for development?

The tools back then were first Seka assembler and later an early version of AsmOne. The tools today are still somewhat scarce. I use the newest version of AsmOne for writing assembler, which is the only language used in all of our productions. Then I use PicCon for converting graphics into the chunky format, I use The Player (NoName's build) for playing modules, and I use Scout's excellent 8 bitplanes chunky2planar routine. When I need to pack things it's Blueberry's Shrinkler. The emulator I'm using is some older version of Amiga Forever. So no crossplatform development, no C language, no streaming music, no Rocket, and it's a setup I am super happy with, and I don't have plans to change anything really. I thought about prototyping effects in a different language once though, but never really got it going, and now I don't care about it anymore. So the environment is actually very simplistic but it works for me. It's ok that it feels a bit primitive, and is something that is a lot different from the coding/environment you have under your fingers at work. I like doing stuff for the 060, and I will continue to make productions for that target platform as long as I remain active in the Amiga scene. I never got comfortable coding on the A500, so I'll stick with my chunky effects.

Do you have some tips for anyone that might want to start doing Amiga productions in 2020?

Well, luckily some very bright people, such as Bartman and Hannibal, have made some clever toolchains for A500 development. So, if you feel like being very close to the hardware, then there are options. But never, ever skip your tests on real hardware! The Amiga isn't super easy to code really, but nowadays you can find lot of codesnippets etc on Google, and the EAB website should also be a good place to ask questions. Doing c2p based effects is different than banging the hardware as you would do it on the A500. But, if you find sourcecodes from the late 90's PC demos you should have good options for understanding the principles for tunnels, bumpmapping and so on, and how to implement them. And then you need to decide on your preferred programming language. I personally never wrote anything in C, but learning assembler might be quite intimidating, if you haven't had any kind of experience with it before. And be realistic. Getting the first goddamn moving dot on screen is truly a succes. Don't expect that your first effect will necessarily be groundbreaking, or that it will even impress your cat. And really, do it for fun and not for anything else. If your biggest dream is to code an RGB plasma on A500, go right ahead! If the biggest dream is to code a relatively smooth 1x1 pixel water effect on a 060, then do that instead. Oh, and do it for your own fun. There will both be people that will cheer your effort, and others who will express things such as "060 is not a real Amiga!!!... and I can do it better on my unexpanded A500!!!...if I wanted to!!". The feedback on Pouet should not be the only goal for struggling many, many evenings on getting something on the screen.

What would you consider the best production you worked on and why?

The process is very, very important. I would never accept working on a hobbyproject, such as a demo, if it was run like a project at work. So, I tend to find nice equalminded people to work with, who also have scarce sparetime, and who also get tired of the scene from time to time. I have the best chats with Mygg and Optic on FB when we produce demos, and that is the most valued part of it. And then we think that we make some demos that we at least like, and that's the goal of it. A super fun process and an end result that WE like.

But to mention productions... hmm, the tiny intro Leisner was the most important one, as it marked my comeback to the demo scene. Really tough to relearn stuff again, but I was genuinely proud. Be Kool Fool was fun as well, as it was really my own cup of demo. Bad humour but a somewhat good flow. 1992 was personal for me. I loved being a kid in the nineties and I really feel that Optic, Mygg and I felt that it hit the nail in terms of what we wanted to express. But I don't remember all my productions. I have just been super fortunate to work together with some super people, and that's what matters the most for me. I have also enjoyed that I have been able to share the passion with my brother, Optima, and that we have made just a little mark in the Amiga scene history. Oh, and it was honestly also proud moments that I have been fortunate to win a prize both at Mekka/Symposium, Breakpoint and at Revision. Those parties were special for me in the past.

Can you tell us what you consider the best Amiga demos back in the golden years? as well as now

There are so many fantastic demos! Every age had had it's highlights, and it's impossible to choose 🙂. But when I got really interested in the scene, it was demos such as Global Trash, Hardwired, 3d demo, 3d demo 2, Groovy, How to skin a cat, Plastic Passion, Faktory / Virtual Dreams, Pulse / Nerve Axis. And then the big switch came. I really liked everything from Gengis. Origin blew my socks off. Those French were stunning. And everything released by Dr. Skull. Man, such a huge talent. PG also made some fantastic things e.g. Deus ex machina. Oh, too many demos to mention. Klone by DCS. Everything made by Boogeyman/Passion and Scoopex. Fake Electronic Lightshow, Fruitkitchen, Closer/CNCD, Vision/Oxygene (uhh, that soundtrack) and I was fortunate to experience Nexus 7 live, incredible. And the Polka Brothers style was an immediate love. Their demos Twisted, The Prey, Gevalia... yes, my cup of demos! The demo Myster & Tremor/Embassy is also rock solid. And the Loveboat demos!... better stop here.

The demos nowadays... hm, I am a bit torn. I respect everybody who is actually able to make something for the Amiga, be it on the A500 or other configurations. I just have a feeling that we are seeing a lot of productions that are mostly scrollers and logos, without much attention to sync to the music etc. They may very well contain well written code, but without good sync they don't work for me. Fair enough that you can run out of time, we all do, but I am a bit unsure about some of the designs I see in many of today's demos. Having said that, Dodke's demos are superb as they contain the entire package, Loaderror operates on an insane level of awesomeness, and the audiovisual package that Haujobb & Ghostown present is as high end as it gets on the 060, imo. Capsule and Obsolete also make stuff I really enjoy. I always end up rerunning Moods Plateau and Pacif!c demos, and they make me in a good mood. And the totally Unique Software Failure style mezmerizes me 🙂. I surely forget somebody, sorry!

What do you think of the state of the demo scene today?

I have a feeling that there are more releases around. Gerp had 10-11 demos, and Revision Online had about the same I think. So in that sense it's doing good. But of course it's difficult to attract new talents. When you can have a modern framework up an running in an afternoon, and produce your first rotating cube in the evening on a PC, why on Earth would you sweat so much about getting a stable system up and running on a computer that was obsolete 20 years before you were born... And you can't dot your way into anything, crazy. So, the Amiga scene lives because us 40+ year olds keep doing this thing. I would be very surprised if I get to see a demo written by a 20-year old coder the next 3-4 years.

What do you feel you got out of the whole experience of being active in the Amiga demoscene? for example, did it lead you to code professionally in any way?

No doubt that it gave a foundation. But back then it also gave a place to belong to, and I think those nineties were inspiring with many great demos and parties. So it opened up my eyes for computermade visuals, and when I was able to put some pixels on screen programmatically myself, it of course made me want to improve, and probably the most important lessons learned were to "keep trying" and "seek further knowledge". Those abilities are in use most days when working in the IT industri, that never stands still. But to learn to know new people and work together with different nationalities is also an important thing that I somehow learned from the demoscene.

However, it wasn't always cut in stone that programming should turn into a living. For a long time I actually wanted to be a physiotherapist, that's a fun fact that probably noone would have guessed.

Is there anyone you would like to send some greetings to? Or perhaps you have some other last words?

My greetingslists always end up incomplete, even though I try my best. But big hugs to Presence and Rachel for organizing the super cozy Demostue. Hello to the FD guys, Mygg, Esau, the fluffy gentlemen in Pacif!c and Moods Plateau. Blueberry, Psycho, Curt Cool, Cytron, Dalton, Magic, NoName, Dodke, Bonefish, Ramon B5, Hannibal, Kollaps, Stingray and all forgotten this late hour.

Oh, and come to Gerp in Skövde/Sweden when the world becomes less insane again!

That is the end of this interview, thanks for taking the time to do it Corial, I am sure our readers will appreciate it :).