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STRINGRAY - A RISING STAR (Interview)

Author:Wade/Haujobb
Published:Devotion 2
Year:2001


Stingray - A Rising Star

Interviewed by Wade

Introduction

Born in East-Germany during the reign of communism, his only contact with computers was through a friend: the proud owner of a Commodore 64, and the envy of his town. They would gather at his house after school and indulge in its curious wonders - Pitstop and David's Midnight Magic being two favourites among the raring horde.

Then, one Friday in 1989, the entire world was called to witness an historic event that would change the lives of millions forever. The left wing oppressors were dethroned and the Berlin Wall was razed. Two nations became one, estranged families were reunited, and a young boy was granted his dream of 15 years. The dream of owning a computer.

"I begged my parents like hell to buy me a C64. And they had no other chance than to buy me one," he recalls. "Since I have very nice parents (not meant ironic!) they bought everything, a monitor, a floppy, a printer and the C64 of course."

It was on this humble machine he learned how computers operate and laid the foundations of his fated calling. But his days as a C64 user were numbered, as a year later, he had his first Amiga experience. Having seen and played such games as Turrican, he was besotted, and so returned to prey on his parents' generosity once again.

And so with his newly acquired Amiga, he entered into a world familiar to us all; he met friends, made enemies and embarked upon many exciting adventures. He became known as Style, a pseudonym that would earn merit among traders and crackers for many years thereafter.

These days, however, Style is better known as StingRay - winner of the Mekka Symposium 4k intro competition, and one of today's most sought after coders.

We decided to contact this rising star and find out just what he has in store for the future.



The Interview

Wade: Welcome Reinhold, and congratulations on your well-deserved 4k victory at the Mekka Symposium. How did it feel, taking first place at such a prestigious scene event?

Stingray: This was great, especially considered that Secretly! was not a very known name in the scene. But we have shown the audience that we have potential. Expect some other nice things from us in the future.

I also released a 4k intro for Darkside at MS99 (3rd place, don't watch it, watch Boom instead) and scicco and me released 'Ill' at the Comparade 8 party and we even won the 1st prize (our 4k was the only entry in the demo compo though). It wasn't my/our 1st 4k, but it is certainly our best one, 'till now (Loaderror watch out :P).



Wade: What do you think made your 4k intro better than the rest?

Stingray: Well, we (scicco and me) have worked for 4 months on the intro and I think the result shows, that it is not one of the typical fast-made intros. Also our musician, DC.Clark, did a very nice job with the tune, which scicco had to convert and adapt in hard work for the 4k.

I don't wanna say that 'Boom' is the best 4k ever, but I think it is a very nice 4k indeed. Normally I'm not very satisfied with my productions, but when Boom was finally finished after a lot of hard work ("Yeah, we can kick out this 'rts' too") I was extremely satisfied for the very first time in my coding life. Hardcore coding, nice music, nice effects - that's what I like in 'Boom'.



Wade: Since taking a more active role in the demo-scene, I see you have changed your handle. Is there a reason for this?

Stingray: Actually I didn't rename, I was using 2 handles. One for my illegal and one for my legal activities, although I have also produced some legal stuff using my sTYLe handle, e.g. the 'Innocence' slideshow, featuring great pixel art by a certain graphician :) and some hd-fixes of old games and demos and some cracktros for RSE and DCS. I was using the StingRay handle since 1994 at least (came from cb-radio times and friends called me 'Sting', so it became my nick in real life too). When I joined Outlaws in 1996, sAXOn suggested that I should use another nick and so the sTYLe handle was born.



Wade: After many years cracking and fixing, what made you decide to change paths and become a demo scene coder?

Stingray: Have a look at the actual illegal scene on Amiga and you can figure out the rest. It's just a bunch of stupid kids hanging around on #Amielite. No, the spirit of the old cracking scene is no more! Besides, I was extremely bored cracking only shareware stuff (this does NOT mean I hate shareware!) since there are not many majors released on Amiga nowadays, sad but true.

Furthermore I always loved to code demo effects, I just had no one to draw some graphics or compose music for me, so I couldn't make a demo. But luckily I met scicco in early 2ooo and everything changed for the better. We made the 4k intro and our 'Artifictional' demo for MS2k1 and after the Mekka it was clear that I wouldn't do any cracking any more, it's not worth to spend my time for some kids who can't respect others' work. I always tried to make my cracks as perfect as possible, the 'Apano Sin' crack took 4 weeks of my time and after the release I got some very nice comments from a certain Exon/Faith because I wrote some words about the 1 disk Faith release in the .nfo file. No it's simply not worth to spend any minute for the illegal scene on Amiga anymore. (Hey Exon, do you still ask yourself what an MFM-protection is? Grow up kid!)



Wade: Would you say your experience with cracking and fixing has helped you become a better demo/intro coder?

Stingray: Yes, I'd say. A wise man once said: "Hacking can be very educational" and I think this is absolutely true. If you fix alien code, you see all the nasty things which should be avoided. As strange as it may sound, I was first able to crack and then I learned how to code for real. You can really learn a lot by examining other code and as a cracker you often see other code. And as you know - "Knowledge is power, power is money". My cracking knowledge also helps me to get some bad coded demos running on my machine. But I want to make one thing clear: There is a big difference between examining and learning from work done by other coders and using RIPPED code!



Wade: As a long time scener and an experienced coder, what are your opinions of today's coders?

Stingray: I think most demo coders know how to code the basic 'PC-effects' such as bumpmapping, all kind of 3d related stuff and all these so-called 'new-school' effects, but I think there are not many left who know how to code REAL (i.e. non chunky) Amiga stuff...I could cry when I see a chunky scroller running slow as molasses on my 68o3o although it is so easy to code SMOOTH scrollers on the Amiga (and you could even have running a chunky effect in the background!). Just read the 'A Better Amiga Scene' article written by Mr.Tickle/Darkage in Devotion #1 (that was a hidden advertisement ;D). I absoluteley agree with his opinions. For me it seems, that most coders have forgotten the Roots (that was a GREAT demo) of the Amiga. I don't have anything against the use of new approaches such as c2p, but I think using c2p ONLY for every single effect is a bit stupid!

Where is the competition? Everyone is able to do 3d engines, table effects etc. etc. Come on, just show me some real Amiga coding again, even in the year 2oo1 it is possible to use the copper or blitter for something!

At this point I wanna thank Cupid/Iris for his article about copper coding in EC #42. Hopefully this will encourage some more coders to start using the copper again.



Wade: Are you among those who believe better hardware makes for better productions or does it just encourage lazy attitudes?

Stingray: A bit of both I think. But I think, when coders start to code for higher processors (e.g. 68o6o) they don't care much about slower CPU's any more. I think they should at least TRY to support the poor owners of 68o3o. And saying that something is impossible on 68o3o is a bad excuse if you ask me. I think scicco and me are a perfect coding duo; he is the proud owner of an 68o6o and he is also a very talented coder, he codes his routines on his 68o6o, and after he has finished 'em, Grandpa Sting starts to optimize his work for 68o3o. After this process we have routines running fast on 68o6o and still watchable on 68o3o. It is maybe a bit more work, but I think there are still lots of sceners without 68o6o based machines (such as me and Wade, who will appreciate it.)

Real coders don't need fast processors. And btw, just have a look at older demos and see what was possible on a plain A5oo with a 7.o9Mhz 68ooo! So just get a cup of coffee, some cigarettes maybe too and then start optimizing, it's fun!



Wade: Humility is not a common trait among coders - even less common among crackers - but even the best sceners in the world have somebody they look(ed) up to. Who would you consider your coding idols?

Stingray: I don't have any coding idols, at least not in present demo scene. In the good old days, I admired coders such as Laxity, Chaos, Deftronic, The Spy, Touchstone, Dan, Kreator, Hannibal and Musashi (he was extremely underrated I think, just watch 'Deformations' again and see what he was able to do without any c2p routines on a standard A5oo). Also Lonestarr was good, but contrary to Musashi, he was extremely overrated in my opinion.

Having a look at present coders, I love to see work done by Psycho, Dr.Strangelove (he is also extremely underrated I think, his design is maybe not the best, but he has very nice ideas!), Mavey (too bad he codes for PPC now), Kalms a.k.a. Scout, Rubberduck, Schlott (the best new-school coder in my opinion, I would die to see a new demo by him). Also a new demo by Jamie wouldn't be a bad thing. Oh and of course the crazy french Krabob knows how to impress me with 68k code and unusual, yet pretty good design. Loaderror is also a good coder, but I don't wanna say anything about the design in his demos. Also for his 4k intros he should think about changing his style, I'm bored to see the same effects 1ooo times. But the worst in this aspect is for sure Exploder, seems he can only do his 4 or 5 standard routines. Even his MS2k1 demo looks like a remix (and remix is a very positive word for this!) of all his 4k intros. I can't understand how it reached the 7th place in the compo.



Wade: How about your favourite demos?

Stingray: First that comes to mind is for sure 'Desert Dreams'. Until now I haven't seen any demo which can gimme the same feeling. I can't say exactly why I love it that much, maybe it's because of some nice hardcore coding in it (although Chaos/Ex-Sanity would disagree for sure here, but I don't care), maybe it's because of the great soundtrack, maybe it's because of the nice graphics, maybe it's because of the melon, I don't really know, but I know for sure, that I'll love to watch it forever! BEST DEMO EVER ON AMIGA (At least for me). I would like to see a demo by Laxity in these days, but unfortunately this won't happen.

But I also like lots of other old-school demos, such as Hardwired (although it was coded really lousy, I know it, since I've fixed it and this was the hardest fix I ever did. "The Spy - Best Coder, Worst Driver" they said once, I say "The Spy - Worst 68k code ever seen, if he is driving his car the same way, he was coding, then Pedestrians watch out" but he was a great coder nevertheless).

I love most of the older demos, the so-called new-school demos don't impress me very much because it's mostly 3d stuff in it, which every PC can do 1ooo times better. If I had to choose between 'Desert Dreams' or 'Pulse' (which is one of the best New-School demos I have seen till now) I would always choose 'Desert Dreams'. I don't say that new-school demos are bad, it's just that they can't give me this special 'That's what I call real Amiga coding' feeling. Most newer demos aren't worth to watch for more than 2 times, if you have seen one, you've seen all (there are exceptions of course, but these are VERY rare). So watch out, here's my ranking list:

   1.   DESERT DREAMS/KEFRENS    2.   ROOTS/SANITY    3.   RAMPAGE/TEK    4.   ENIGMA/PHENOMENA    5.   PULSE/NERVE AXIS    6.   SHOWBASE SHAPE/C-LOUS    7.   HARDWIRED/TSL&CRIONICS    8.   WOC 92/SANITY    9.   HUMAN TARGET/MELON DEZIGN    1o.  RISE/MELLOW CHIPS^TRSI

(For those of you who might wonder, Roots on position 2 is not a typo, in my opinion it was better than A.R.T.E.! As you can see, A.R.T.E. didn't even make it into my Top 1o, but I think it deserves position 11 and Relic is on pos.12)



Wade: Since the Mekka Symposium, we came to hear about some internal disagreements within Secretly!, which I see has lead to you and many others leaving the group. Could you perhaps tell us more about these disputes?

Stingray: Oh, this is a sad story really. I won't mention any names (most of you will probably already know whom I am talking about anyway), but there was one person in that group who never respected the work of the other members. After Mekka^Symposium he wrote a very 'nice' mail and this was reason for us to leave this group! I was member of SCL! since 1996 and during all the years, he NEVER appreciated ANY of my work. I have no problems with constructive criticism, but what he did was far away from what I call criticism. It's strange how a single person can destroy a promising group. Luckily all other ex-SCL! members are very good friends and we are working really good together, therefore we decided to form a new group. Just watch out for further information.



Wade: It's widely understood now that you are in the process of recoding Showtime. We all saw your secret parts and your modified gallery, and read your candid comments here and there. What improvements are you hoping to bring to issue 17?

Stingray: You can expect a completely new engine for the next Showtime issue. It will be completely multi-tasking, supporting CGX etc etc. And I think it will also run on a plain A12oo without fast ram (with some features disabled maybe). And it won't be one-filed any more! At the moment we in Darkage discuss the basic concept of the new engine, after this I'll start tormenting ASM-Pro again.



Wade: Now that you have seen the original source for yourself, can you tell us why Showtime requires extra fast memory when some of the best designed and most functional magazines - including Rom, Raw, Seenpoint and even Pressure (issue 2) - do not?

Stingray: Oh, don't remind me of the Showtime source. Well, I don't want to say too much here, but the original Showtime code is extremely messy. To be honest, it was the worst source I have ever seen in my life. If any coders are interested, just drop me a mail and I'll send the source. And because Showtime was a one-file production it needed fast-mem, because all articles/modules/cliparts etc. had to be placed somewhere in the executable.



Wade: So far we have seen a number of cracks and fixes, a slideshow, a 4k intro, a demo, a magazine intro, and soon a magazine bearing your name. This is more than some of the scene's most respected coders manage in an entire lifetime. What else can we expect in the coming months?

Stingray: Now that my coding motivation finally came back thanks to this crazy man called scicco, you can be sure to see some more demos/intros from us. At the moment we are preparing a 64k intro and our next 4k. After this work is finished, we will start the work for our next demo. Once there was a 'Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde' duo, now it's 'Scicco & Sting'. Oh, and I'll do the new engine for the next Showtime issue so that I don't have to complain about 'spaghetti-code' any more.



Wade: And that just about wraps up this interview session. I'll leave you with the last word...

Stingray: Greetings to all active amiga-sceners, keep the spirit alive! Some personal greets/messages in A-Z order to:

Ghandy  - RAW - We try harder :) Let's bring Showtime to the top :)

Medi    - This time I didn't forget you :) Thanks for letting me use your internet account ;)

R.a.y   - I've never seen someone eating as fast as you, incredible ;) Scicco  - Thanks for getting me back into this strange world of 68k coding ;)

Sniper  - Next time fill your fridge so that we don't have to drink wine all the time to daze our hungry bodies :P

Wade    - If you ever want to have a sequel to 'Innocence', I'm your man :) It's nice to see there are still some old-school lovers left. Always nice chatting/working with you! Looking forward to seeing some new full-screen pictures from you. (I restarted coding, so you must restart drawing ;D).




Addendum:- Since conducting this interview we have learned that StingRay and his ex-Secretly! colleagues have formed another crew under the name of Scarab.

GREETINGS

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INTERVIEW SCICCO
STINGRAY - A RISING STAR (Interview)
HOW 2 MAKE 4K - REPLY
COMPARADE 8 REPORT
SCARAB - WE GAVE OUR MOTIVATION A NAME