About Reality

Here’s a brief history of the New Zealand and Australian demo group, Reality, as recounted in 2018 by Shayde.

The year was 1991, and in the city of Hamilton, New Zealand, two small scene demo groups met up. Deciding they'd have a better time of it by joining forces, Bad Grafix and Myth of Side-FX, and Shayde of The Shadow Knights came together and, along with the swapper Bad Barty, formed the group Reality in May of ’91.

To mark the occasion the new group released a small Amiga utility called CLI-Scroll, a way of rendering a popular “sinus scroller” using custom text inside the Amiga’s DOS window, handy for placing on pack disks. Meanwhile the software side of the group started work on their first demo while the swapping side ramped up.

The finishing touches were put into this first demo, now named Kiwi Crap, and it was released to the world at the end of June ’91. By this time another swapper, Poison, had joined Reality.

Kiwi Crap was met with success, immediately being hailed as the best demo to have come from this small country at the end of the world. The demo was followed shortly by an intro that could be placed on the front of disk-packs so everyone would know the disk had been produced by Reality.

Meanwhile the group started on their next demo, to be called Dirt Cheap. Unfortunately this production suffered from lack of focus and, although it had a series of effects constructed for it, there wasn’t really a cohesive product there. Ultimately this demo would never be released, though one effect appeared in a later production.

Things didn’t stand still however, and when January of ’92 rolled around the group decided to bring together all those they’d met online in the scene in a big party to be held at Bad Grafix’s place in Hamilton. To spread the word we built a Party Invite intro and uploaded it to the local BBSes. This intro was completely made in two days, with the coding done in one non-stop 24 hour marathon.

When the party arrived the following month a good, and very drunk, time was had by all, and we got to put a lot of names to faces. By now the group totalled nine members, having added three more swappers, Krypton, Falcon, and 007, and briefly the coder Ajax.

Around this time we developed our first “intro creator”, a small demo that came with a simple text and graphics customisation tool, for use by our swappers for placing on our disk releases. This allowed each intro to be unique for each disk and gave the swapper an opportunity to place personal messages. This was followed shortly by our first non-DOS intro creator, a way to insert a customised intro onto disks that used their own disk loading software.

But like all good things, Reality on the Amiga was coming to an end. I don’t honestly know, this many years after the fact, why we decided we’d had enough, but we did. The core members of Bad Grafix, Myth, and Shayde decided to try their luck with one of the big international groups. Deciding the only way they would have a chance with one of the top groups was to produce something unusual, Shayde set out to make a world record effect.

And so, in April of ’92, Reality released Contravention. The main feature of this demo was a series of 96-face glenz vector objects running at 50 fps, a new world record. The previous best attempt at this was a 48-face glenz vector by well-known European demo group The Silents. Contravention even introduced a 134-face 50 fps glenz sphere to the scene. This was also the first and only Reality Amiga demo to contain our own music, authored by our new German musician, Ascender. Contravention’s release was notable for another reason: the group had been fighting rumours of “code ripping” since the release of Kiwi Crap. Now that we had created an effect achieved by no-one else in the world, the accusations of code ripping could finally be put to bed.

The core Reality members decided then that rather than join another crew they’d simply leave Contravention as a final parting note to the world. After almost exactly a year, Reality silently disbanded.

This wasn’t the end of the group however. Two years later Shayde and Bad Grafix (now known as Rogue) met up again, though Rogue had settled in Australia. A little older and a little wiser, we nonetheless were nostalgic for the old days. The PC demo scene at this time was starting to get interesting and we decided to have another go at it. Reuniting with Myth, and introducing a musician, Void, we produced our first PC demo, Inspiration, in August of ’94 to announce our come-back.

We next sought to make an intro featuring our own Doom-style engine utilising procedural textures. Around this time the Adlib FM sound was everywhere, whether as a standalone card, or integrated into the many Soundblaster cards around. Because the FM synthesis chip in these cards did most of the work tunes could be very small and they made an ideal target for intro music. But it was there we stumbled; we just could not find an Adlib tracker that came with player source code, which was a necessity to be able to play the tunes in our productions. This was bizarre for us coming from the Amiga where player code was common place. On the PC it seems tracker writers guarded their player code jealously and the closest we got was precompiled object files.

“Silly thought, why don’t we write our own tracker?”, we asked ourselves. Shayde hacked away at a quick Adlib tracker and presented it to the group. It was decided then to go all out and produce a proper tracker, one that came with full player source code. In February of ’95 Reality proudly presented to the world the Reality Adlib Tracker V1.0, or RAD for short. This was followed shortly by RAD V1.1 in April of ’95 which fixed some bugs and used a custom font to make the DOS-based character display nicer to look at.

Writing a tracker is no small task, and RAD’s development spelled the end of the Doomtro idea. Reality’s first production to use our newly minted tracker’s output was an intro by our new Australian coder HB, simply called the Startro. This was released in March of that year.

During Easter of ’95, a week after the release of RAD V1.1, Rogue was visiting New Zealand and was staying at Shayde’s place for the weekend accompanied by Myth. After a few hours of nostalgia, drinking, and Ridge Racing, someone crazily suggested the idea we produce a small intro. Hardboiled was the result, a colourful bouncy piece of fun. Naturally it sported a RAD tune.

For some reason the PC demo scene never really took off in New Zealand as the Amiga scene did previously. Interest in the Australian scene was growing rapidly however. HB was tasked with creating an intro for placing in archives downloaded from our international BBS HQ Mindflux, and this was released in April as well, a busy month for Reality.

Discussion around this time fell to the idea of doing a “disk magazine” which were becoming popular. We felt an Australasian-based publication would help to cover local events better. Planning began on what we called Scoop, and in June of ’95 Reality released a teaser intro, the Scooptro. This would be the last production HB would work on for Reality before he was let go.

Ultimately Scoop would not find a release. Becoming disillusioned with the scene at the time, and realising the amount of work involved in running a disk-mag, Reality cancelled Scoop. The information intro would be the last scene production Reality would produce until RAD V2 in 2018, as the members decided to pursue commercial projects.