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A Brief History of (disappeared) Demoscene in China

category: general [glöplog]
Revealing the "Dark History" of the Demoscene in China

In early 2017 I have written some articles for VICE Chinese website to introduce demoscene to Chinese readers. After that, there has been a problem that bothers me. Has the Chinese Internet community ever been connected to the Western Demoscene community? Is there a Demoscene in China?

EvilRyu (one of the last scener in China) have asked a question on Zhihu, a Chinese Q&A website like Quora: "Why did sYcini disappear? Is there a demoscene group in China?" But since the question has been posted, in four years, no one can explain what happened with sYcini, the only Chinese demogroup who was impressed western demoscene.

In order to restore the history of Chinese demoscene, I spend nearly half a year to collect scattered data and files, repair broken links on pouet.net, and try to get in touch with users of the year and try as much as possible Interview them.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to contact Sunnm0 and Yxh, the founders of sYcini, however I still get feedback from serval active members back in time: Powerwood, dwing, Wacker and wx. This article describes the results of my survey over the past six months, and it might answer some questions about the mythical Chinese demoscene.

A Brief History of (disappeared) Demoscene in China

The history of the Chinese community's starting to know Demoscene can be traced back to some pirated CDs in the mid-to-late 1990s. These CDs often contain some Demo programs, which are used as the "bonus content" of the CD to fill the capacity, that's the first impression of demos to Chinese community. As early as 2001, a hobbyist "eapass" shared some demos to the Chinese community on their "Computer Arts" (http://www.cqcn.com/computearts/) website. And later in 2003 or 2004, an enthusiast Frank from Chengdu established Farb-rausch Chinese mirror site, which is the first website to officially introduce demo production tools to Chinese community. Although we don't know how many demo makers have visited this site, this is indeed the earliest trace of Demoscene in the Chinese world I can find.

The Demoscene as a sub-cultural community is more recognized in China, it will wait until eapass’ blog article “The Dream of Demo” published in March 2005, and later several students from the "Studio 12" in Art College of Renmin University of China build the website "sYcini", after that the sYcini website becomes the first online forum discussing Democene topics in Chinese world.

The Demoscene in China has a very close relationship with the Flash animation community (was commonly called Flasher or ShanKe in China). Some of the earliest published works on sYcini such as "mario", "BeiJiNg utOPiA", 816.demo (childrenese), etc. are all produced using Flash. Although Flash is not a commonly used demo production tool in the international demoscene. However, as the most popular animation tool in China at the time, Flash did become the first choice for many enthusiasts, and the experience of animating with Flash also provided a basis for them to challenge more complex technologies.

SY03.Production released in March 2005 is probably the first demo from the Chinese community to be widely accepted in the Western world. "03" in the name is the month of production, and "sY" is the abbreviation of sYcini. In the following months, sYcini successively released another two demo prods, sY05 and sY06, all of these prods are made use werkkzeug, at same time they are still making some Flash based prods, for example, 816.demo was released in May 2005 together with sY05.

In summer 2005, "Experience and Perception"-New Video and New Media Art Festival of Beijing Film Academy becomes the first opportunity for the Demo makers to showcase their demos in the Chinese world. It can be regarded as a demoparty prototype. In the same year, sYcini also cooperated with Theatre SanTuoQi as a multimedia visual effects team to participate in the stage show "6:2 II", which was first performed in the Beijing People's Art Theatre. Become a unique attempt to combine Demoscene with stage art in China.

Almost at the same time, enthusiasts in other places also launched similar works independently. One of the more influential is "Ling Mei Ji Si" published by "Powerwood" of Xi'an Academy of Fine Arts in July 2005. This work is his graduation project that year. In addition, "Azure" of Hubei University also published "Memory 2004" and "Azure Will Makes" on their personal blog.

By the second half of 2005, some enthusiasts in the western world had noticed the existence of these Demo makers from China. And show great interest and curiosity about them. But some of these responses also show some Western communities' doubts about the existence of Demoscene in the Chinese world. Some people commented that Chinese people who are always busy making money and will not participate in non-profit activities like making demos, some western enthusiasts believe that Demo making, as a non-commercial cultural activity, is difficult to growth in China.

sYcini's influence continued to expand in 2006. During this year, Sunnm0 and others held an exhibition of “Floating Images” video installations in Yunshui Tiandi Gallery under the team name "Studio 12". E-magazine "PAiN"(http://pain.scene.org/) also published the interview with some sYcini members.

Other authors' works also began to appear on the sYcini website. Dwing produced two 32KB music boxes, while Wacker produced "China 2006 Intro", "China 2006 Musicdisk" (music disk) and logos and banners designed for AMP ( Amiga Music Preservation Program), Azure released his last demo work "Rebirth.azure", and psyong released "psyong64k-1". In the first half of 2006, sYcini released their last work-"Broken.Peony”, but this work has been lost. We have no chance to see this masterpiece of sYcini .

Beginning in the second half of 2006, the Demoscne community in China began to break the sYcini's "monopoly", and we can see more new faces. In October 2006, CSK published a blog article "Demoscene: theory technology and tools", became another article of Demoscene in China with a wider influence after “The Dream of Demo”.

At the same time, "Shengxun" released "pad50 (color)" and "32k_OpenGL_DEMO". In February 2007, "dword" released 4 prods on pouet.net, and "xlcger" from Ningbo also released two demo prods on the sYcini website. In March 2007, the community welcomed "EveTrex" team from Shanghai East China Normal University and "wx" released his "KXXT", which is widely complimented by sceners.

Navis of Andromeda Software Development commented to KXXT in an interview "It is not amongst the best demos that I've seen this year, but it is the most weird combination of effects and flow. I have never seen anything like that before!"
http://hugi.scene.org/online/hugi34/hugi%2034%20-%20demoscene%20interviews%20mag ic%20in%20focus%20navis%20of%20andromeda%20software%20development.htm


In the second half of 2007, the sYcini website was left unmanned and soon became inaccessible. I once tried to discuss with some Demo authors of the year the reasons for the decline of the Demoscene in China.

Dwing believes that the main reason is that China's domestic IT industry started late, and the low-level coding technique is not popular enough: "Demo is mainly for the purpose of showing off coding technique. This requires a in deep knowledge of certain specialized field, even if it has no practical value. In recent years, due to the explosion of programming knowledge, the complexity of software is getting higher and higher, and developers are more focus on the high-level design, only few people know the low-level coding techniques".

Powerwood believes that the Demoscene community is subject to the acceptance of media technologies in domestic art industry: "In that time, 3DSMax was still mysterious, no one understood what demoscene mean, as an art form, that most people who studied art in the era have no knowledge about computer programming. Now it may be better. Making demos must have both computing skills and artistic accomplishment, but the domestic education and art industry does not provide that kind of resources."

Wx thinks it is the pressure of secular success on young people: "There is still no economic benefit, this thing cannot make money, after all, the domestic society with such an environment, a good school and a good job are obviously more important things. "

After that, there is no second place in the Chinese world where we can discuss about Demoscene. The popularity of the domestic Demoscene has also plummeted, but there are still sporadic enthusiasts trying to release their demos, such as "Connie" and innovative text console demo "Blossom" by "mrTony".

Attempts to regain Demoscene in the Chinese world still appear sporadically in the Internet community. The "cjxgm" in Chinese Ubuntu forum has tried to make some Demos from 2010 to 2011, and some works by EvilRyu in ShaderToy have also attracted the attention of Western Demoscene.

In recent years, creative programming has been introduced as a course for some fine arts and new media program in colleges, objectively creating conditions for more people to know Demoscene. Let us seem to see the expectation of rebuilding a Demoscene in China.

To build an active Demoscene is destined to require efforts from many people. Even in North America and Japan, which the scene started relatively early, the Demoscene is still limited to a very small group. Only in Europe can we see a truly prosperous Demoscene. But I believe that the brave attempts of those "crab eaters" at that time will still leave a lot of reference and inspiration for today ’s Chinese community.
added on the 2020-03-11 14:12:59 by pengan pengan
Pengan: I think I read this some months ago, or at least, the Chinese version via Google Translate. Some cool info in here, thanks! Unfortunately some prods by sYcini and Studio12 ("Beijing Utopia", "happyDUDU", "childrenese" and "Pixel Changan Avenue") are no longer available anywhere on the net as far as I can see, do you perhaps have backups of these prods or know someone who does? Thanks in advance for your reply, whatever it may be :)
added on the 2020-03-11 14:22:54 by havoc havoc
havoc: yes I'm written the Chinese version about 2 years ago. I fixed all links for what I found. The only prod I know where is it but I don't have access is a prod named "Serve the People", which only accessible in Beijing Film Academy's library, but that library is staff and student only, I have been there in person but they don't let me in.

As I remember, "Serve the People" might be another name of "Beijing Utopia" or "Pixel Changan Avenue", but since I don't have access to it, I still don't know what it is.

I'm still trying to find someone in my network who working or studying in BFA, once they want to help, I can recover that prod.
added on the 2020-03-11 14:48:52 by pengan pengan
Quote:
In order to restore the history of Chinese demoscene, I spend nearly half a year to collect scattered data and files, repair broken links on pouet.net, and try to get in touch with users of the year and try as much as possible Interview them.

God bless.
added on the 2020-03-11 15:04:34 by Gargaj Gargaj
Quote:
But some of these responses also show some Western communities' doubts about the existence of Demoscene in the Chinese world. Some people commented that Chinese people who are always busy making money and will not participate in non-profit activities like making demos, some western enthusiasts believe that Demo making, as a non-commercial cultural activity, is difficult to growth in China.

Please don't take these opinions as representative of the scene as a whole. :( I think most of us have a cosmopolitan enough worldview to hope that the scene can find people interested anywhere around the world.
added on the 2020-03-11 15:06:29 by Gargaj Gargaj
Quote:
Quote:
But some of these responses also show some Western communities' doubts about the existence of Demoscene in the Chinese world. Some people commented that Chinese people who are always busy making money and will not participate in non-profit activities like making demos, some western enthusiasts believe that Demo making, as a non-commercial cultural activity, is difficult to growth in China.

Please don't take these opinions as representative of the scene as a whole. :( I think most of us have a cosmopolitan enough worldview to hope that the scene can find people interested anywhere around the world.


as this is being said about the scene in the US as well, it's probably safe to say it's bullshit
added on the 2020-03-11 15:09:24 by porocyon porocyon
However, when we were doing PS1 stuff, quite a lot of asian (mostly japanese) sceners said exactly that... they made mostly games, because their goal was to get a foot in the door of the industry. Not that there is anything wrong with that - a large part of the early C64 scene (compunet) was exactly the same.

That said, this is a very interesting topic... always nice to hear how the scene developed outside "our" ecosystem.
added on the 2020-03-11 15:16:10 by groepaz groepaz
pengan, thanks a lot for this investigative effort!
added on the 2020-03-11 15:56:54 by dipswitch dipswitch
i remember trading some mails with sycini guys back in the days. don't keep mail archives that old though, lost their contact. :(
added on the 2020-03-11 19:12:56 by psenough psenough
Thanks for investigating!
added on the 2020-03-12 01:57:06 by T$ T$
With all those people in China, I was hoping the demoscene would be popular too. :(
added on the 2020-03-13 22:42:54 by AntDude AntDude
Thanks, this is very interesting and I found your post just in time for Freax Vol. 2. I think I'll just quote all or most of it if you agree.
added on the 2020-03-13 23:58:43 by tomcatmwi tomcatmwi
thanks for investigation.
added on the 2020-03-14 01:09:06 by gentleman gentleman
This is really really cool to hear. I'd like to see more attention to the secen outside Europe and North America.
added on the 2020-03-14 11:06:26 by metoikos metoikos
I live in China and by chance was working in the same company as Evilryu. After we went home from a company event I wondered how he knew certain graphics techniques? Turned out he was familiar with many of IQ's articles and was active on shadertoy. We afterwards did a little co-op on Neonsky. He made a mandelbulb fractal for it.
added on the 2020-03-14 20:37:51 by rloaderro rloaderro
Really interesting read, thanks for doing that research Pengan. Good luck with locating the missing files, hopefully they're not lost for good.
added on the 2020-03-15 11:42:16 by exocet exocet
Quote:
Thanks, this is very interesting and I found your post just in time for Freax Vol. 2. I think I'll just quote all or most of it if you agree.

No problem, I am really honored to be quoted in your book.
added on the 2020-04-30 03:42:48 by pengan pengan
is there link to the articles in chinese VICE?
added on the 2020-04-30 09:22:15 by nosfe nosfe
pengang: Thanks for sharing, really interesting read!
added on the 2020-04-30 10:10:12 by kusma kusma
Quote:
is there link to the articles in chinese VICE?


No, I wrote some article about demoscene for vice.cn, but not this one.

The vice.cn site is down now, there are different opinions between VICE headquarter and VICE China team, then the China team going to operating independently and no longer using VICE brand.

The new brand of the former VICE China team is "BIE 别的 " which means "other" in Chinese. They are not running independent website but working on several social network account.

Bilibili
https://space.bilibili.com/12140808/

Weibo
https://www.weibo.com/u/2163553891
added on the 2020-04-30 12:05:50 by pengan pengan
Also big up to Evilryu for being the first ever Chinese entry at Revision - and probably even at most parties?
added on the 2020-04-30 14:04:15 by Gargaj Gargaj
Quote:
Also big up to Evilryu for being the first ever Chinese entry at Revision - and probably even at most parties?


The recent demos from Loaderror are for me Made in China anyway :) (and Evilryu was credited in Neonsky)
added on the 2020-04-30 14:49:02 by teo teo
Quote:
Quote:
But some of these responses also show some Western communities' doubts about the existence of Demoscene in the Chinese world. Some people commented that Chinese people who are always busy making money and will not participate in non-profit activities like making demos, some western enthusiasts believe that Demo making, as a non-commercial cultural activity, is difficult to growth in China.

Please don't take these opinions as representative of the scene as a whole. :( I think most of us have a cosmopolitan enough worldview to hope that the scene can find people interested anywhere around the world.


Also to believe that actually there are some western cultures and individuals equally if not more focused on commercial activation of their skills instead of non-profit/cultural effort driven.

Anyway this whole read is very interesting and reminding that this community is local/global in all possible directions.
added on the 2020-05-01 12:20:45 by hollowone hollowone
best thing I read on pouet in ages, thank you for sharing and long live the scene
added on the 2020-05-01 14:03:52 by randomi randomi
Quote:
is there link to the articles in chinese VICE?

Good news, I found one article are still accessible from archive.org

https://web.archive.org/web/20170719033522/http://www.vice.cn/read/demoscene-a nd-media-stories

and another article is accessible from kknews
https://kknews.cc/tech/929oraj.html
added on the 2020-05-10 19:09:14 by pengan pengan

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