12 Years of Text Mode Demo Competition 1996 - 2008

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Update 11/2008: Northern Dragons took over TMDC - the contest site is at tmdc.scene.org

Text mode demo competition (or compo, or contest - same thing, really) was held for the first time in 1996. Back then there were a few demos running in text mode; some were 'pure' textmode demos such as what TMDC was after, and others tweaked the text mode.

We wanted more textmode demos, and we saw two ways to go about it - make them ourselves, or hold contests to get many more!

Grand total of 90 demos were produced in the 10 contests, including the invitation demos and the couple of disqualified entries. A handy ISO has been produced that includes all of the demos as well as Dosbox 0.72 plus batch files to launch the DOS demos with it.

Download "The Complete TMDC" ISO (about 100 MB zipped ISO file)

All of the entries are available separately for download below.

TMDC has had its supporters as well as its doubters. In the beginning, the people against TMDC kept saying that you can't do anything in text mode, and later on saying that "it's just a low-res framebuffer".

What these people never seem to grasp is how hard it actually is to make things look nice in text mode. The resolution is low, true, but it's "tricky" - you can use several different techniques to reach higher resoltions; antialiasing, different charset tricks (such as the 50% high blocks used in many Alpha Design demos), etc. There's much more to text mode than what TextFX, AA-Lib or LibCaCa can offer!

Even if you do pick up LibCaCA, like I did for the last two TMDC invitations that I made (tmdc8 and tmdcx), your job isn't done. The ready libraries do not help you with the very limited color space or contrast. Watching some of the old entries now shocks me on how well picked colors they have. Others are a noisy mess.

The most argued aspect about TMDC was the 'no tweaked modes' rule.

One reason for why TMDC did not accept tweaked modes was that, well, after Future Crew released a couple tweaked text mode demos, there wasn't much you can do in that area =)

Okay, I'll admit that you can do cool stuff by tweaking text mode, but that's a subject for a different kind of contest.

There's one thing in TMDC that worked very well that I'd love to see in other contests out there: the commentary for each entry. It's one thing to receive a standing, or a number or two on how you fared, and another completely to read comments from the jury (or organizers, or voters, or whoever).

One of the side products of TMDC was the rather detailed ruleset. The ruleset grew as we wanted to rule some things out (such as the 'must have digital audio' rule) or loopholes were found. If someone wishes to hold a contest on the net, feel free to read through the final rules and steal whatever ideas you wish.

The rules do include the clause "we'll change the rules if we want to", but we never actually changed the rules during a contest.

Okay, sure, the ruleset was so long nobody really read it. The one rule many people hit pretty hard was the size limitations. The idea behind the size limitations originally was that since it's textmode, you don't need that much space for content, and when textmode demos are small, they spread well. This was back when there was practically no internet and everyone used modems. Slow ones.

One recurring thing in TMDC, and, I believe, in just about any contest, is that people tend to make their entries as late as possible. Some people even complained when the deadline was on a work day. This, after they've had a whole month to submit their entry, and they already knew that the compo was coming few months earlier.. =)

I understand that it's just the nature for people to do that. On the very first TMDC we moved the deadline when several people needed more time. And then we moved the deadline again. And again. And again. Until we had moved a whole month. It was a disaster, really.

Afterwards, if someone asked for more time, they were granted extensions personally (and never more than a couple weeks max, a little at a time). In many cases, most entries were submitted after the deadline.

Considering this, I always found it funny when people asked me, a couple weeks before the deadline, how many entries there are. How could I know? Such a situation is quite nerve-wrecking, when you sit around hoping that someone would just upload that third demo so that you have people to give the prizes to..

As time went by, and DOS changed to windows console, the size limit slowly started to grow. This was mostly because audio formats changed - the good old mod/xm formats started to be hard to compose for, as the old tools did not work under windows, and nobody bothered writing new ones as composers moved to MIDI based equipment and started spewing out MP3s and oggs.

Lately we've started to see that, while the demo quality has kept rising, we were getting fewer demos (even though the invitations were as popular as ever), and in the end decided that it didn't make much sense to run a contest of this magnitude for a handful of people.

We'd like to thank all our sponsors, past and present, as well as everyone who entered the contest.

It's time to move on.

We have some ideas for other 'alternative' demo contests, so maybe you'll see something.. different.. from us at some point =)

  -- Jari Komppa
     TMDC Organizer
     tAAt ry


All TMDC Contests

The Complete TMDC ISO (Pouet)
- about 100 MB zipped ISO file
- ready to run all demos in win32 or win64

n/a TMDC10 advert / flier
n/a TMDC10 results
n/a TMDC10 invitation by Sol and Orbiter (Pouet)
1. Clockwerk by Northern Dragons vs xplsv (Pouet)
2. SESSiON-ONE by bawlz (Pouet)
3. Triuksmas by paulius (Pouet)
4. TMDC10 by BITS (Pouet)

n/a TMDC9 results
n/a TMDC9 invitation
by Lifepower & LPChip from Crimson Shine (Pouet)
1. Signal To Droids by The Northern Dragons (Pouet)
2. Somnium by paulius and Altoriu Seseliai (Pouet)
3. Devious by Traction (Pouet)
4. Carbon Monoxide by Hedelmae (Pouet)
5. Diet Cola by Alpha Design (Pouet)

n/a TMDC8 results
n/a TMDC8 invitation by Sol & Skaven (Pouet)
1. InnerFlux by Crimson Shine (Pouet)
2. signal2noise by the northern dragons (Pouet)
3. Tremor by Creative Mind (Pouet)
4. Textel by Trailer Park Demos (Pouet)
5. Music To My Ears by Reaper_Unreal & co (Pouet)
6. Drift by AnthillUnlimited (Pouet)
7. BUCHSTABENSUPPE by Null Ok (Pouet)
8. Kazkas by Paulius & Linfeng (Pouet)
9. Dance of the fridge Fairy by triDDDs (Pouet)

n/a TMDC7 desktop wallpaper 1600 1280 1024 800 Tapwave Zodiac
n/a TMDC7 results
n/a TMDC7 invitation by Sol & Phaser (Pouet)
1. Rivulet by Trailer Park Demo (Pouet)
2. Dead Blue People by Traction (Pouet)
3. Outsync by Crimson Shine (Pouet)
4. Carbonara by Alpha Design (Pouet)
5. zero2nine by Four Byte Aliens (Pouet)
6. Fixedsys (compo version) by Kaleido (Final version) (Pouet)
7. juPop by Morbid Cru (Pouet)
8. Textosteron by Creative Mind (Pouet)
9. Häpeän vuosikymmen by DHFC (Pouet)
10. Vespertine by Reaper_Unreal (Pouet)
11. Bars by Quantum Sufficient (Pouet)

n/a TMDC6 results
n/a TMDC6 invitation by Sol & Phaser (Pouet)
1. Bolognese by Alpha Design (Pouet)
2. MOOIT by KALEIDO (Pouet)
3. Zero by Northern Dragons (Pouet)
4. Porcine by Fallow (Pouet)
5. Armageddon by Crimson Shine (Pouet)
6. Wormhole by Aardwolf (Pouet)
7. Continuum by quantum.sufficient (Pouet)
8. Sweet Sauna Girls by tri DDDs (Pouet)
9. Antichrist Superstar by Tonrauschen (disq) (Pouet)

n/a TMDC5 results
n/a TMDC5 invitation (Sources!) by Sol & Teque (Pouet)
1. 13 December by Psikorp (Pouet)
2. Infekt by Dairos, Nula, Robotriot, Soulis & Tpp (Pouet)
3. Insane by Dawning (Pouet)
4. Tribute by Alpha Design (Pouet)
5. Rapture by Temulent, Kork & Jistyles (Pouet)
6. K by Grin (Pouet)
7. Atlantis by Pixelcrew (Pouet)
8. Antimatter by Swansontec (Pouet)
9. The Crypt by 6Toed & Jeelos (Pouet)
10. Antichrist II by Tonrauschen (Pouet)
11. Antichrist by Tonrauschen (Pouet)

n/a TMDC4 results
n/a TMDC4 invitation by tAAt (Pouet)
1. Super Killer by dairos, nula, para, raist, stonda, tpp (Pouet)
2. contact by portal project (Pouet)
3. flowres by Numedia Cyclops (Pouet)
4. TextOS by Tonrauschen (Pouet)
5. Holiday by Tonrauschen (Pouet)

The following, older demos most likely won't run under windows. DOSBox (from 0.72 onwards) works pretty well.

n/a TMDC3 results
n/a TMDC3 invitation by Sol, Spector and !Cube (Pouet)
n/a TMDC3 pre-invitation by Sol and !Cube (Pouet)
1. Senseless by Static (Pouet)
2. Bunny Tell by Calodox (Pouet)
3. Rebellion in dreamland by Dazed prods (Pouet)
4. Aivopesula by tAAt (Pouet)
5. God is an alien by m.A.D software (Pouet)
6. Big Daddy by Alpha Design (Pouet)
7. Moonwalk by Pontus (Pouet)
8. Madness in white by White Shade (Pouet)

n/a TMDC2 results
n/a TMDC2 invitation by Sol and !Cube (Pouet)
1. Tahma by Recreation (Pouet)
2. Spaceless by Portal Project (Pouet)
3. Ajan Dilataatio by tAAt (Pouet)
4. When will you rage by Kolor (Pouet)
5. Bad Mutha by Alpha Design (Pouet)
6. Beaty & the Beast by Noice (Pouet)
7. Crispy by Whiteshade & Phantom (Pouet)
8. PGT by MPI (Pouet)


n/a TMDC1 results
n/a TMDC1 invitation by Sol, !Cube and Teque (Pouet)
1. D'Orzo by Recreation (Pouet)
2. Tremor by DEMOlition (Pouet)
3. Dentaalispirantti by tAAt (Pouet)
4. Textacy by The Enterprise Crew (Pouet)
5. Spaceless Spot by tAAt (Pouet)
6. Textmode Windows by Five Coders (Pouet)
7. Textosis by Vinlandia (Pouet)
8. True Lameness by Alpha Design (Pouet)
9. Fartart by tAAt (disq) (Pouet)

The screenshot grid:

Some useful links:

- Home of tAAt ry and tAAt the demogroup

Alternative Party
- Home of the Alternative Party

- Home of the DemoDVD project, which has spawned the Mindcandy DVDs.

- Huge demo archive

Sol's Code
- Home of TextFX4, easy text mode graphics library, among other things

- The (in)famous ascii-art library (for linux), used to render quake in ascii art, for instance.

- Does pretty much the same as the above, except it supports color.

- DOS emulator (virtual machine). Works rather well.

- Virtual CPU emulator, rather fast, and is able to run many old demos already.