The Making of the Ninjafore Megademo
An Interview with Ninjaforce by Doede Boomsma


Q: How often did you come together?

A: In the beginning, there were only the two of us, Jesse Blue and Clue. Since we are living only 50km away from each other, we met about two times a month, exchanging ideas, graphics and code. In other words, we weren't really "working" during our meetings - most of the time we spend together we were fine-tuning things (for example, timing effects with music) or were just putting together what each of us had created so far. In addition, we phoned each other quite often (which our parents were not very excited of because of the phone bills) to chat about several aspects of the demo, weather and life in general... :) When we later met Dreamer (who was known as Dakkar back then), things didn't change that much. Dreamer only showed up to get an impression of exactly what he was going to do music for. He also attended when we were finishing the parts containing his music (BBS Demo, Dotland, Intro) to optimize sample sizes or rearrange some parts of the music.

Q: Was it nice work (although the demo says it isn't always)?

A: Yep, it was just as we wrote. Most of the time, it was a lot of fun. When you see the whole thing is taking shape, and your ideas, whether it's coding, graphics or music, turn out to work, there's always sunshine in your mind. But there were also moments of darkness: When the hard disk crashed with all the code on it, when an effect taking hours to code didn't look good, when an idea couldn't be implemented because of technical problems, and when those always annoying bugs showed up. For example, Jesse thought he had a bug in the program where a picture did not decompress properly. Later it turned out that the cause of the problem was just a loose RAM chip! Finding that "bug" took about three entire days! Other parts where very nice to do, for example the Dotland part.

Q: Was it hard to write the demo?

A: The hard part about creating a demo is having decent ideas, and transforming these ideas into bits and bytes. Keep in mind that a demo is more of a piece of digital art that has to be entertaining and (traditionally) show off the capabilities of the machine. That means that coding a nice routine/effect is one thing - presenting this effect to an audience is another story. Perhaps the best example of this is the 'Dotland' part which most people who wrote us liked best. The effect itself is pretty boring. The difficult thing now is to make it look (and sound) interesting, i.e. include variations, a theme, etc... Regarding the technical side, it can be a real challenge to create a demo on the GS. For example, on the "demo machine" Amiga, you have much more creative freedom because you don't have as much limitations as on the GS, where you "just can't create a phong-shaded torus consisting of 500 polygons rotating at 30 fps in real-time". You are very restricted in all areas on the GS, and you have to ultra-optimize your assembler code to get the job done. Yet, maybe the hardest thing for our coder Jesse Blue was to keep himself going during the two years. :)

Q: Were the used pictures the one-and-only pictures? Or did Clue create others too (I saw a couple in an SHK archive that he or you had uploaded to caltech -- nice pictures)?

A: Most of the pictures Clue created were used in the MegaDemo. But yes, there were indeed some exceptions. For example, the first design of the MegaDemo logo - it looked totally different from what was later used in the demo. Think of the German Sega MegaDrive logo, with Sega replaced by NFC, and MegaDrive replaced by you may guess what... :) Later on, when we were working on the Dotland part, things got worse for poor Clue. He had painted the Dotland logo you may know from the 'Gimme A Clue' gfx collection, along with a big 'Dot-Bye' graphic. He liked the result very much - the only problem was that dear Jesse didn't! Since in most cases our coder has the final word, Clue had to create new pictures.

Q: Did you have any other parts of the demo in mind, did you leave any out, did you include a few things at last?

A: Yes, because the demo was not planned from beginning to end (we started with the ending, and ended with the intro!!). There were several parts we wanted to include, but didn't make it in the final demo. One of these was called 'Vertigo'. The big thing about it was that you'd have had to turn your monitor 90 degrees to get most of it. It should have featured geometrical shapes morphing into another. This was popular in many Amiga demos at that time. Jesse even had coded some lines, but we decided to cancel this one due to disk space limitations.

Q: This is what wonders me most, and I'll quote from an issue of Dark Castle Magazine: "In this great demo you see a Wolfenstein 3-D look-alike game. These guys from Germany 'just' program it, and Vitesse can't even complete the game!" Would it ever be possible to use your routines to create / write a new 3-D demo program? The 3-D effects are real nice, and a somewhat smaller screen might speed up the display (like you can make your screen larger or smaller too in Duke Nukem 3-D on MS-Dos)... People would LOVE it!

A: Well (laughter), to be honest, for writing a game we would have to completely re-write the 3D "engine". For making a new demo, it wouldn't take too much efforts to build a new dungeon. Making the screen larger or smaller wouldn't be much of a problem, either. However, 'Vaultage' was just a show-off thing, nothing more. We wanted to have a real good looking dungeon, not just a bunch of rectangular rooms. Yet, we'd not say such a game was impossible to do on the GS, but why do a second Wolfenstein? Also, developing a fast, optimized 3D engine takes a huge amount of time. 'Vaultage' was developed in about two months, and Jesse had never done anything like that before. Just think of how long Burger Bill needed for _porting_ Wolfenstein 3D - the engine code was already available. Moreover, we think that texture-mapped 3D games don't make sense on the GS - if you want to play these games, get a PlayStation or a decent PC. That's one of the reasons why we are working on a 2D, multi-player arcade game based on the infamous Bomberman series. This type of game hasn't been done before on the GS, it is completely new terrain (and what's more important, it's tremendous fun to play!). Check out our upcoming WWW home page to find out more about it! :)

(Note: In the end Ninjaforce took an active part in finishing Wolfenstein 3D for the Apple IIGS together with Eric Shepperd. So while they did not program a first-person shooter on their own by popular demand, they helped to make Wolfenstein 3D the cool GS game as we know it today!)