Happy 20th Birthday Second Reality

by Ryan Smith on 8/1/2013 6:00 PM EST
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  • makerofthegames - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    Watching this, for the first time, twenty years after its time, I'm still impressed.

    Yeah, most of those effects are trivial - I could do the same, or better, on a modern system with minimal effort. But doing that on a 486?

    I write code that has to work with a system that, to this day, runs on a 486 (despite the processor being discontinued in 2007, the box I got last year runs a 486 - knowing the general quality of their product and the attitude of their management, I expect they bought a hundred thousand of them as they were being discontinued, enough to keep them from needing to hire an engineer for at least another few years). While none of *my* code runs on it, from testing I know just how painfully slow even a "modern" 486 is. Doing this sort of stuff, on an early 486? Very impressive. I couldn't do it, that's for sure.

    Hmm.. maybe I'll try to get this demo running on that 486 system.
    Reply
  • Sertis - Monday, August 05, 2013 - link

    I also remember how amazingly compact the executable was. While most of my games came on several floppies, this was tiny. I think it was under 200k. Comparable to a single image on many web pages today, this was some high density coolness. Reply
  • wumpus - Thursday, August 15, 2013 - link

    Write in C with fairly standard libraries, and use libraries from that era (Linux .9x should be available). Write a fair chunk of code in assembler. Think in terms of handling kilobytes of data (not gigabytes, if you need that you are sunk).

    If you were around at the time it should come back to you. You just first have to narrow the scope of the problem to something that is possible with a 486. Doing Java calls to gigabyte (or really any sized) SQL backends just isn't going to happen. Likewise, trying to do OpenGL calls to handle 3D graphics via software isn't going to happen either (look at how DOOM worked for inspiration).
    Reply
  • BillyONeal - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    Typo -> "The Future Crew, Second Reality pulled off effects previously only scene on the Amiga".
    "scene" should be "seen"
    Reply
  • bobbozzo - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    and "Biyboys" should be BitBoys Reply
  • gobaers - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    I think my first jaw-dropping moment came at a friend's house watching Wing Commander on a VGA monitor for the first time. Being used to the usual CGA (4 color) displays and my EGA (16 colors!) display, seeing something in 256 colors, photorealistic animation for the first time with high fidelity sound just blew me away. The gameplay was nothing to scoff at, either.

    I'm trying to recall what type of hardware this would have been. I'm thinking 386 at 40MHz or possibly a 486.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, August 02, 2013 - link

    Wing Commander was what got me to upgrade from a perfectly good and only a few months old 286 12MHz (with a whopping 2MB RAM and 40MB HDD!) to the new hotness known as the 386 -- 33MHz, 4MB RAM, 80MB HDD, and lovely EMS (Expanded Memory) to help with all of the graphics. I still remember being severely pissed at the marketing people, though: the box had high quality artwork with a sticker claiming "actual screen shots!" Not a chance, Origin, considering the game was only running at 320x200 and the box artwork looks like it was rendered at 120dpi minimum. Reply
  • floppyrom - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    Did you guys see the C64 version of Second Reality? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiWbKQ_gUKQ Reply
  • GTForce - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    Yes, I did, and on my C64, too :) Reply
  • opy - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    Hardware audio acceleration, 256 shades of red, green and blue... each! There was no such thing as a 3D card (hardly 2D acceleration either but the Trident ET400 comes to mind). You really need to crank a game from 1993 to understand the milestone of this project. This 'demo' left many dreaming of a video game of this graphical calibre.

    The kids of today don't know how well they have it.
    Reply
  • Wolfpup - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    I really appreciate this being shared. I have to say I somehow missed it.

    I'm not sure though...is this actually impressive for 1993? Nothing here looks better than what a SNES can do with an FX chip (and mostly worse). I saw better stuff on SegaCD around this period too. Doom looked better to me. Hmm...maybe I'm just mixing things up a bit since the PSX, Duke 3D, Quake etc. are so close in time to this, but still I don't THINK this would have blown me away back then?

    Actually Jurassic Park on the SNES without any upgrade chip is more impressive to me, soooo I don't know.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    The SNES SuperFX chip was quite an interesting beast, but it still would have come up short running Second Reality. The 3D in SR is more advanced both in terms of the number of polygons and in the shading, since Gouraud shading is used in places. The real time raytracing and voxels are also unlike anything else. Though the SNES (even without SuperFX) could pull off some of the rotozoom effects with its sprite capabilities.

    As for other PC elements, this would have predated any of them. Doom didn't hit until December, and while it was John Carmack clever in its own ways it of course wasn't a multi-faceted technical demo like this.

    I think that had you seen this in August of 1993, you would have been blown away.=)
    Reply
  • Arbee - Friday, August 02, 2013 - link

    SNES could rotozoom one background; sprites could not be scaled or rotated. Yoshi's Island required the SuperFX2 simply to scale and rotate the sprites. Reply
  • Arbee - Friday, August 02, 2013 - link

    Yes, yes, a million times yes. This was *huge* on PCs in 1993. Amiga partisans at Assembly 93 were alleged to be openly weeping after this played. (That may be exaggerated).

    And it's not just the quality of the technical trickery, it's how everything flows together and syncs with the music just right. The demoscene didn't get that good again until 2007's LifeForce, by the Greek group ASD. (Unlike SR, LifeForce will run on any modern PC - it was coded on a GeForce 5900 and so even low-end recent cards will play it at full framerate).
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, August 02, 2013 - link

    "The demoscene didn't get that good again until 2007's LifeForce, by the Greek group ASD"

    Oh I don't know. I'd consider 2005's Iconoclast to be a modern classic; in fact I'd put it ahead of Lifeforce.
    Reply
  • GTForce - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    What a timing! Just last Tuesday, I posted to our Facebook group of friends, who are all around 40 years old, that it's been 20 years since we watched this Demo, drooling. To this day, I still crave watching it every so often. Exquisite piece of work. Reply
  • GTForce - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    As for YouTube not doing justice to the demo, these guys went out of their way to do their best:

    http://www.mindcandydvd.com/

    I have the first one of the series, which contains Second Reality, as well as Unreal which was the prelude from The Future Crew to Second Reality.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    Speaking of Mindcandy, I didn't want to link it in the article and give Trixter an unexpected crush on his FTP server, but he did put together an even better capture of Second Reality that was intended for Blu-Ray.

    SecondRealityHD.ts was captured in 720p with aspect ratio correction (for 320x200 and other non-square resolutions) and is based on a slightly modified version of Second Reality that retimes the 70Hz sections to 60Hz. It's by far the definitive capture of Second Reality, though because YouTube doesn't do 60fps it gets mauled just like any other upload.
    Reply
  • uop - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link

    I am not an atomic playboy! Reply
  • enkov - Friday, August 02, 2013 - link

    I have found this video - Making of the Second reality

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIIBRr31DIU
    Reply
  • Arnulf - Friday, August 02, 2013 - link

    "opy - Thursday, August 01, 2013 - link
    Hardware audio acceleration, 256 shades of red, green and blue... each! There was no such thing as a 3D card (hardly 2D acceleration either but the Trident ET400 comes to mind). You really need to crank a game from 1993 to understand the milestone of this project. This 'demo' left many dreaming of a video game of this graphical calibre.

    The kids of today don't know how well they have it."

    The chip was called ET4000 and was made by Tseng Labs. Trident never made anything but crap if I disregard their RAMDAC integration (which everybody did at some point).
    Reply
  • RootWyrm - Wednesday, August 14, 2013 - link

    Oh, thank GODS you noticed that Arnulf. I was about to go all hulk on calling a Tseng a Trident. You don't diss ET4k. Not now, not ever.
    Almost never saw ET4k as a native ISA though - it was VLB and PCI (Diamond Stealth32? ET4k.) Only ISA version I ever saw was an ET4000AX Orchid. I did own a number of Cirrus Logic CL-GD family including the 5426.
    And yes, this means what you think it does: I owned a genuine GD420 and a GD5421. ;)
    Reply
  • noeldillabough - Friday, August 02, 2013 - link

    I was in the demo scene and remember this stuff fondly, I never did anything this impressive of course but I still hold my head high, the techniques with limited memory and memory modeled code, so fun! Props to the modders too, that distinctive MOD music was a big part of it all. Reply
  • lcpitkan - Saturday, August 03, 2013 - link

    Future Crew and the making of Second Reality also feature heavily in episodes 2 and 3 of the Demoscene documentary made by the Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle) and freely available on Youtube http://www.youtube.com/user/demoscenedoc . Includes plenty of interviews with the group members. In Finnish, but with English subtitling.

    You guys should really visit us at Assembly (Summer) sometime. I'm sure Abyss will be happy to chat and can probably get some of the other guys to come. Skaven and Purple Motion are frequent visitors at least.
    Reply
  • NewBro - Sunday, August 04, 2013 - link

    I remember walking in the mall one day when i was like 9 or 10 and caught a glimpse of DOOM playing on a computer.... man I was literately blown away. I am just glad I can enjoy all the cool techs in this generation. Reply
  • hammerv2 - Tuesday, August 06, 2013 - link

    I remember watching second reality and completely ignoring the graphic masterpiece unfolding before me.

    For me it was all about the music. How did they fit the music on one disk? How come it sounded so good? My computer only goes "beep"..WTF?!...HOW DID SKAVEN DO THIS?!

    I hit the books and what little of the internet existed and found out. 20 years later I make music on the PC for a living, thanks in no small part to Second Reality.

    Reply
  • Pictus - Saturday, September 14, 2013 - link

    Hammerv2,
    You can get the demo music at http://www.mediafire.com/?ivqceqtd3bwmbnp
    Reply

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