2016/01/15

Interview with Demoscener – Cryptic (Approximate)


Welcome to the Interview with Demosceners.
This time, we welcome Cryptic, a coder of Swedish demogroup Approximate!

In this interview, Cryptic reveals how their latest work was born, why he likes to make 64k demo and how to tackle the stress before deadline… and so much more!

Happy reading! :)

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First of all, could you please introduce yourself briefly?


Photo by Cryptic

My name is Jonas Fredriksson, known as Cryptic in the demoscene. I'm a member of Approximate, a small demogroup currently consisting of me and our musician Velo. My main responsibilities are code, graphics and design.


I watched your latest release “Small matters of the heart” on Revision streaming last year (video is here). That was really beautiful! When did you start working on that demo? And how did it happen?




I’d worked on the technology on and off in my spare time without any clear direction since we finished “Gaia Machina” final version in the beginning of 2014. The actual start of this intro was probably after I talked to BoyC of Conspiracy about having a real 64k showdown at Revision. Basically it was to increase interest in PC 64k scene which had kind of lagged behind PC demo and PC 4k categories in recent years (with a few wonderful exceptions by demogroups such as Mercury, Brain Control to mention a few). So we decided to have something ready for Revision 2015.


And how did it go? Everything went smoothly?

In the end it turned out to be both good and bad thing. For the good parts, it gave us the deadline we needed to get something completed, and it was wonderful to see such a good 64k compo at Revision. But we would probably have needed another 1 month or so (with work, real life etc. getting in the way) to fix some technical issues and getting the design to the level that we were comfortable with.


So you had some different plan?

I had an idea of making something more plot-driven since I was hoping the graphics would match up. But in the end, we had to put together all the animations, stories etc. in a too short time span and had several bugs (mostly caused by me not being able to push all the shaders we wanted into 64k, combined with the graphics we wanted). This had a severe impact on the graphics quality as well as the time we needed for the story refinement.

So on the one hand I am glad that we released and that it was such a great compo, but on the other hand I felt that Gaia Machina was much more stable in terms of tech, story and design (even in its party version).


Oh really? Well, speaking of “Gaia Machina”, I’ve read that you started to work on that in 2009 and released in 2012. And its final version was released in 2014. It’s almost 5 years! And you didn’t release any other demos during this period… you never felt like “oh, I want to make something else!”? How could you keep your motivation for so long?

Mainly because it’s such an interesting hobby :) But as it is a hobby other things tends to get in the way, which means that I do not have as much time as I would like to spend on demo coding. And yeah, I do get that feeling to do other things as well, when it happens I go and do those and come back to demo coding a while later.

So it’s not that I have spent my whole time between 2009 and 2012 on demo coding, but it’s rather an on and off thing. One of the main reasons for the delay happening between Gaia Machina (party version) release in 2012 and its final version release in 2014 was because of the very sad passing away of our group member Meaty in 2012.



I’m sorry to hear that, yes I saw his name was credited at the beginning of the final version…
I felt that a story plays the key role in your demo, but you have whole story ready before you start coding? Do you keep your ideas in a notebook or something?

The development process has mainly been technology driven and the story has come along as I start creating graphics, and then we get fleshed out a bit more from that. I do write down/draw some of the stuff I come up with but not as much as I should. Instead I play around with my 64k tool. :-)

For Gaia Machina, the main story arc was really simple and clean so I could build the effects and mood out of that. In the case of Small matters of the heart, I was still not done with refining the story when we had to release, which to me is quite annoying since it turned into such a story driven intro.


Then what is Approximate’s general demomaking process? Music first? Title first? Could you explain to us a bit more?

In the past we started with the technology. I worked on 64k code and graphics and Meaty worked on the synth code. We have always tried but never succeeded in having an iterative process between music and graphics, even though we have planned to do that for quite some time. In the case of Gaia Machina, the music was completed at the party. So I spent a lot of time before the deadline to adapt the graphics to the music.

For Small matters of the heart, we had a bit more time before the party since Velo had a test version some weeks before the release. Although that time I was a bit caught up in trying to finish the code and story in time to actually sync the music properly. When it comes to the title, it has historically been decided a couple of hours before the deadline.


And where do you get the inspiration for the demos?

Most of ideas come when I’m biking, walking in nature or travelling to somewhere. The times when I get new impressions are when I am not actually using my computer but just let the mind wander.


Do you do anything particular while working on the demo? Listening music, drinking beers…

When it comes to actual coding and design process, I always listen to music while I’m working. I kind of need it. I feel I do the best coding late at night when you are all alone with some really good music and can just be completely “in the zone” without any risk of interruption. Beer is mostly used when we do brainstorming about new ideas or are stressed before demoparty deadlines :-)


Haha, so you start the party a bit earlier than everyone else :) What program do you use to make demo? Do you use your own tool?

For 64k development we are using a tool I have developed from the ground up based on C++ and OpenGL, that allows easy editing of contents such as textures, meshes, scenes, lighting, shaders etc. as well as optimising the data to please the packer. For music we have been using Meaty’s Mapprox synth that have a VST interface, which we usually use in combination with Renoise.


You’ve been releasing quite a many 64K demos. Why? What’s the appeal in 64k?

I love making 64k since they for me have the perfect tradeoff between size limits and design freedom. I can sit and do design quite freely in a tool and it’s easier to avoid that sterile math feeling that is so easy to get in with 4k. I also enjoy making the tools themselves, and 64k tools are pretty fun to make.


64k demo "ephemera" by Approximate (2009)


So you like 64k from making its tool… wow :) By the way, how do you get into the programming field?

I have always been interested in graphics and design. I found out quite early that it was more fun to create my own games than to play what others have made. And then I found out that the most fun part of the game programming was graphics programming and I have been stuck with it since then.


And when and how did you discover demoscene?

I was introduced to the demoscene in mid-90s. My first contact with the scene was through various cracktros that I watched, then being introduced to modules and Fast Tracker 2 and programming tutorials by sceners. I also read about the demoscene and demoparties in various computer magazines, especially the computer magazine “Tekno”. The first party I attended was Compusphere 1997 held in my hometown.


Ok, then shall we go on to this classic question? Your favorite demo, memorable demo, demo that changed your life… anything. Tell us a demo which is special to you.

The demo production that has affected me the most is probably “fr-08: .the .product” [video] by Farbrausch since that was what triggered my interest in 64k scene. I thought it was amazing when I first saw it and I got so inspired by reading the “making of” that I could not stop thinking about creating my own 64k. Other 64k that have also inspired me are “Project Genesis [video] by Conspiracy, “Paradise [video] by Rgba, “Zoom 3” [videoby AND, “Panic Room [video] by Fairlight and many others.

When it comes to demos, I love the flow in Andromeda Software Development’s demos where effects just blend together without any cuts, for example like in “Lifeforce [video]. Another demo that gave a great inspiration when creating Gaia Machina was “Sunflower [video] by Pulse. I really loved the atmosphere in that demo when it came out.


You know the scene back from cracktros, and I believe that’s quite a long time. Why do you like this culture? What is demo and demoscene to you?

For me it’s the combination of technology and art that fits me perfectly. I have always been interested in both so it’s the perfect subculture for me. You also get to hang out with a lot of really talented people and you feel like you are constantly pushing yourself forward and evolving.


What type of demo do you want to make in the future? Is there any dream or goal you want to achieve in the scene?

I would love to do something more abstract with great audio sync. I loved the demo “Artifacts” [video] by illogictree and I would love to do something like that. Other than that I guess I’ll just see when I get inspired by.

Currently I’m trying to teach myself sound and music programming since I would love to get a better understanding of that part of the scene. I will probably only understand the math part of it but it’s fun to explore and Velo can have a go at whatever comes out of that process in forms of synthesizers, audio experiments etc. and maybe have something ready when we visit Tokyo Demo Fest 2016. I have never been to Japan so I’m really looking forward to it.


I’m glad to know that you’ll be coming to Japan :) And, finally your message for demosceners and demo fans out there please.

Just keep making the stuff you love doing and socialize with other sceners. The demoscene is such a great place for musicians, graphic artists and coders to exchange ideas and understand each other's perspectives and work processes. I also hope to see a lot of you at Tokyo Demo Fest or Revision.

And finally I also have to mention to be on the lookout for updates on the demoparty Edison which Velo and friends organize, usually sometime in July. A relatively small but really nice demoparty in Stockholm, Sweden.


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Thank you for answering the questions while you’re super busy, Cryptic!

If you want to see Approximate’s work, check out their website and Pouet page. And if you are on Facebook, you may want to like their FB page to receive updates :)

And, Cryptic and Velo have shared their Making-of “GaiaMachina” on Hugi (diskmag – demoscene magazine). In this article, they explain more insight around the demo in chronological order. Better check this if you love this demo :)


Thank you very much for reading this till the end! :)


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- In case you’re wondering what “demo” or “demoscene” is, better check out the well-made documentary called Moleman2.  (and the director, M. Szilárd Matusik's interview can be read in here.)

  #1: Interview with Demoscener: q from nonoil/gorakubu is here.
  #2: Interview with Demoscener: Gargaj from Conspiracy, Ümlaüt Design is here.
  #3: Interview with Demoscener: Preacher from Brainstorm, Traction is here.
  #4: Interview with Demoscener: Zavie from Ctrl-Alt-Test is here.
  #5: Interview with Demoscener: Smash from Fairlight is here.
  #6: Interview with Demoscener: Gloom from Excess, Dead Roman is here.
  #7: Interview with Demoscener: kioku from System K is here.
  #8: Interview with Demoscener: kb from Farbrausch is here.
  #9: Interview with Demoscener: iq from RGBA is here.
#10: Interview with Demoscener: Navis from Andromeda Software Development is here.
#11: Interview with Demoscener: Pixtur from Still, LKCC is here.


For some of my posts related to “demo and “demoscene” culture is here.



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