How To Win A Demo Compo

By Trixter / Hornet

Note: All my previous articles, including this one, are also available as a formatted, hypertext documents at

A Brief Warning: This article is meant for the fledgling (or confused :-) demo group/coder, and assumes the reader has a basic understanding of demo terms, slang, and demo effects. If you do not have this understanding, or are a little rusty, check out the URL before you read this article.

NAID was certainly one of the most surprising demo compos, and I was very glad to have been one of the judges. Since NAID, I've been asked by many of the people who entered the demo compo how they could have placed better.

Without going into a technical list of things immediately, I'll offer the most obvious answer right now: Design.

First, let me explain this rationale. Sure, optimizing effects is important, of course, but every year we keep hitting the upper limit of what our PC's can do. It's getting to the point where previously original effects are now becoming commonplace, like Gouraud shading, environment mapping, texture mapping--even Phong shading is becoming common. We need something *original*. We need something *different*. After all, aren't demos really a sophisticated art form?

Design is the number-one factor that will ultimately impress the audience. Everyone has seen 3d cubes rotating on the screen, but how many have seen 100 or so cubes slowly combining to form a larger, complex object? Everyone's seen a 3-D ship flying through a 3-D vector city, but what would happen if the ship flew inside one of the buildings? What would it see inside? It's that original quality--style--that demos are missing and need badly.

What if you already have design, but the audience or judges didn't rank your obvious Second Reality-killer number one at the compo? Well, there's many things that factor in a lower or higher score--follow this checklist before you submit any demo to a compo:

Granted, some of the above might seem like common sense, but it helps to review. Keep in mind the above knowledge when coding or designing your masterpiece, and your 6th or 5th-place demo could place 2nd or 3rd next time. Good luck! Comments or Suggestions on these WWW pages? Email Trixter.