Demoscene articles

Breakpoint 2010 report

April 1st 2010, late night

Pretty much everyone from the UK demoscene expedition was using ryanair and flying to Frankfurt Hahn. But since we decided on going to Breakpoint a tad too late, flying with ryanair was more expensive than with British Airways, so we decided against the flying cattle bus and chose something a bit more humane. Plus we could just bring two pieces of hand luggage on-board, very convenient since Frankfurt Main's airport was totally chaotic when we went in 2006 and we hated checking luggage there.

The problem was deciding what to bring. I had seen an announcement from scamp warning us that the weather was horrible. Snowy, windy and all. Some of our friends, which had arrived in Hahn a day earlier and were staying in a hotel while they worked on their compo entries, confirmed Scamp's warning and even added they were considering to store the beer inside the fridge so that it didn't freeze. Really! So I had to quickly dismantle my previous idea of a sunny beer garden, well away from the Big Smoke, and begin to think of something more on the lines of a typical Icelandic summer day. Therefore we packed lots of warm clothes, including the never-praised-enough second skin clothes that we actually bought at Iceland, just in case. That ruined my plans of travelling very lightly and turned them into travelling lighter than normal, but hey... at least we didn't have to check in our luggage :-)

April 2nd 2010

The flight was super-early in the morning --7 AM-- but I still wanted to sleep a bit, even if it was just a quick nap, because the flight was quite short (an hour and a half) and it's quite hard to sleep on planes these days with all those announcements blasting out all the time. Therefore I went to sleep at midnight and woke up at 3 AM. I thought I was going to feel horrible but it was pretty much OK.

So we left our flat and there began the race to get a cab. You know that when you don't need a taxi you see lots of them, but when you need them, they are nowhere or they are already booked. And it's even worse if it's raining --which it was beginning to--. But finally trace saw one going one way and then intercepted him when he came back the other way round the block, and we set towards Heathrow.

The driver was all in awe:

-- Terminal 5?! -- Yes... -- It's the new one! -- Hmm... yeah, we know...

We certainly were not impressed. Apart from feeling super-cold. I think that was a secondary effect of not having slept too much. Trace attempted to emulate Japanese people, trying to get asleep for those 30-40 minutes until we reached the airport but as soon as the driver saw him close his eyelids he turned on the most tacky radio station ever. So he had to stay awake.

Finally we arrived to the famous Terminal 5, and I must say: it is huge! It reminded me to Hong Kong's airport. The good thing about it is that they intentionally don't announce things unless it's strictly required, so it's relatively quiet. Apart from the fact that it was 6 AM, of course. We had a coffee while we waited, and it was then that I remembered that I hadn't checked where the shuttle bus was going to pick us. So we just connected to the website using trace's phone and stored the map somewhere in the device. We tried to remember the explanation on how to arrive to the shuttle bus stop, but when we landed on Frankfurt we had forgotten mostly everything, so we just decided we would wait around the area we vaguely remembered and would have a look to see if there were more sceners coming.

The Shuttle bus

Some time later a group of people with rucksacks and geek t-shirts (you know, Atari logos and miscellaneous party memorabilia) sat behind us. We suspected they were sceners, but when we heard they were introducing themselves and someone said he was a member of loonies it was clear that our suspicions were well founded, so we just waited a bit more since they would probably know at which time the shuttle arrived.

At some point they got up and went out of the building. We discretely followed them from a distance but they seemed to be a bit confused too, wandering around the bus stops and looking at each one with an air of uncertainty. We checked the front of the buses which were parked there but no one was the one we looked for, so we just asked the anonymous group of sceners:

-- Hi guys, I guess you're going to Breakpoint? (They all look at me, surprised) -- Uh, ah, hum, yeah...? -- Do you know where does the shuttle bus stop? -- Uh, ah, hum, maybe... huh... not really...

Then just out of the blue appears a guy which says the bus will stop somewhere behind a couple of fast-food outlets. Then he hid again, leaving us all in a high state of confusion.

We just waited, and waited, and waited a bit more. So much for German efficiency..., I kept thinking, specially when the bus was an hour late already. Meanwhile we kept checking every bus front, and we even connected --with roaming!-- to the website again for checking the exact details of the shuttle bus stop location, but even then it wasn't too clear. So we just kept an eye on every bus which entered the area.

Finally a bus with a breakpoint sign on the front arrived. People cheered! And we thought we would get on it one person at a time, while paying the ride and all... but no, it just opened both doors and everyone began climbing its stairs, rucksacks and everything. So we did accordingly.

The journey didn't seem too long, and we even managed to sleep a bit, while some people enjoyed taking pictures of us. Which is something that I don't fully understand. I mean, we are not Japanese and we weren't in the Tokyo subway so why do you take pictures of us while sleeping? You're insane!

Tickets and wristbands of hell

We were greeted with a not-too-long queue, and every single one of our attempts to get our friends --which were already inside-- to notice us waving behind the fence were frustrated, since they were totally focused on their currywursts and similar German delights.

Once we paid for the tickets, the guys on the infodesk insisted on securing the wristband on our right hand. I insisted that I was dexterous and that it was truly annoying to have that pointy piece of plastic attached to the right hand but I had just stumbled upon German stubbornness and they wouldn't accept a change in their plans. So I would have to suffer involuntary self-inflicted pain and scratches during three days. Oh well. At least this was the last time I had to use those wristbands!

Inaugurations

We went directly to the beer garden, greeted everyone we knew --pplux, kraptor, shash, slack, sml, and maybe the bixo and nocturns guys too-- and had a tepid currywurst with a bit too raw fries, and excellent beer. Since it was getting cold, we just went into the party hall. And admired the big screen. We also noticed there were more tables than usual, but it was something to be expected, I guess. Ham and winden were sitting inside while Ham was finishing his 64k intro.

I took the opportunity to upload my exe music compo entry, since I wasn't sure if I would be able to do that before the deadline --which was at 22h--, and that way I could forget about that.

Outline hats (photo by Shifter, I think)

At some point, sml, trace and me took the shuttle bus to Bingen and met with bp and pasop which had just arrived with another bunch of people wearing Outline hats. They were very easy to spot! We went to our hotels and checked in there. As there weren't many acts programmed for that afternoon, we decided we would use the time until the inauguration ceremony for sleeping. At that point trace's memory got confused and he thought that it was Saturday already, or a new --yet unnamed-- day between Friday and Saturday. Casually we found sml at the bus stop too. Not that it had been arranged beforehand!

We arrived on time for the opening ceremony, and I must say this is the only Breakpoint opening ceremony I recall having seen before. I found it quite hilarious, and was totally looking forward to finding out who was hiding in the coffin (unlike Leia who apparently had guessed it well before anyone else). Although I think Scamp was expecting a lot of people to just jump on the stage when the music began to play at the end of his sudden apparition but that didn't happen, and that's why he had to go to the stage again and encourage people to dance like there was no tomorrow.

BASS

Maali is loving it!

After that, we grabbed something for dinner and spent some time chatting with miscellaneous people while we waited for the BASS concert to begin. I took several pictures but most of them are superblurry since I had to avoid people dancing. It was funny nevertheless.

## song, people dancing ## (?)

The concert was a bit chaotic in that I couldn't quite relate to most of the songs that were played... it seems they have gone a more punk way and since I am not that much into that scene I really didn't know which songs were they playing most of the times :-P

But it was cool! (you can watch it here)

surprised Jeenio Surprised Jeenio!

Jeenio showed up in the middle of the concert --not that he played but he was walking among the watchers-- and we spoke a bit after the gig finished. I congratulated him for his rapaz :), and he introduced me to Lord Graga, whom I hadn't met before. There was also another guy who said that planned to attend Barcelona's Saló del Còmic and have a stand there, but I can't remember his name.

I think I also spoke to Pinza who told me he was in the pre-selection team and had to wake up early the next day in order to listen to the entries. I told him I just avoided submitting music stuff to big parties like Breakpoint because my songs never passed the pre-selection phase and he was tried to convince me to do otherwise, although he failed at that, ha!

I spent some more time socialising afterwards and enjoying the magnificent still water that was on sale this year. I was a bit terrified by the prospect of having to drink fizzy water like in previous years, but when I found that this year's still water was really still, I was super happy! So thanks to whoever who managed to get that supply!

At some point trace came and told me that people were leaving... or in other words, that he probably wanted to leave too! I think it was maybe 1 or 2 AM, so it seemed appropriate to leave then.

April 3rd 2010

We wake up relatively early --at noon, ha!-- but could probably have slept a lot more if I hadn't set the alarm the night before. We wanted to be in the party at 14h because that was the time of the executable music compo, in which I participated! We even had time to visit a bakery close to the bus stop and buy a couple of sweet rolls for the very-late-breakfast. Before leaving the premises, the woman in the bakery asked us, with a more than certain tone of suspicion, where did we come from, and if we were there for the computer event. We said yes, smiled a bit and left.

In the party, I met syphus, who told me how to use an stylophone --which was going to be my musical instrument for our upcoming amazing performance in the Sundown Quiz (scheduled for later)... I would play the bass part with the stylophone and he would play the melody with a melodica, while Okkie would sing the lyrics of fr025: .the .popular .demo and knock on the table at the same time so that we didn't lose the groove. He lent me the stylophone for a while so that I could practise with and get used to it, although it was an relatively inconvenient moment to play, since the exe music compo had already begun!

bizarría sorollosa by supersole

My song was the first to be played, and worked perfectly! I'm unsure whether they just played the .ogg file I provided or if they actually ran the .exe's during the compo or whether they re-recorded the song anyway (I hadn't included any WAV writer). The key fact is that it got some people clapping, and most important of all: it sounded great! (Although those speakers make anything sound impressive anyway!)

I slightly regretted not having included any bassdrum at the end, but I'm sure there will be more places in which to use bassdrums in the future :-)

Sundown Quiz

Then I think we had lunch and came back for the Sundown Quiz. That was an idea from MeteoriK (also known as Meaty), who has been running it at Sundown demoparty since at least... past year.

It is something in the style of a British TV show called Never mind the buzzcock, and basically it works like this: Meaty is the host and asks the two teams to perform several tests in order to entertain the audience while making a fool of themselves. The first team was composed by syphus, Okkie and me; the second one by ne7, Havoc and Maali. The result... well you can watch it yourself, courtesy of m0d:

Breakpoint 2010: Sundown Quiz from m0d on Vimeo.

We tried really hard to win (so that Meaty wouldn't give us the second prize, consisting in the remains of the kebab he had been eating for lunch), but we couldn't beat Havoc's voracious appetite for Pringles or ne7's team eagerness to stick potatoes in their trousers before it was due. Something else we couldn't manage to do is to actually hear Meaty's questions most of the time: instead of listening him we just heard the reverberated sound coming from the speakers and back from the end of the hall so it was really hard to discern what was actually the question! Had we been able to listen properly, the result might have been different ;-)

Graphic compos

Shortly after that, the graphic compos started (sadly I had missed the C64 graphics while having lunch :-(). It was a long time without watching graphic compos --let's just say Spanish parties are not specially favoured by graphic artists-- so I was really looking forward to them. However, I got a bit confused with the compos: the first one was the handmade graphics competition, which I aptly expected to feature a series of paper-drawn or paper-painted or at least something pretty much physical medium based. Very few of them were so, and most of them were entirely digital (I think, or at least that's what the steps led me to believe). The second confusing compo was the freestyle graphics. Every tool could be used. Which is fine with me, but when I saw that entry whose main subject was a photography acquired at istockphoto, I wondered if things had gone a bit too far. Some people have argued afterwards that demoscene artists used to copy images all the time back when scanners weren't easily available and blah blah, so in this case jcs (the author) is way more legal than all those pixelled works of yesteryear, since he bought the license from istockphoto and is legally allowed to use it. But still... I thought this was about unleashing our creativity... not relying on stock resources that somebody else could use anyway and which really make your work lose its own personality.

Animation/Video

At some point we went to the tent outside and sat there for a while with fellow Spanish sceners bp, sml and pasop, while we watched the Animation compo in the screen which was in the tent. My super favourite entry was HBC's How to use Blender. It's just so awesome that I am going to embed it here too:

I also liked neuro.concept's Twisted. Truly impressive:

Kewlers' Isoljator Remixed trailer was pretty funny to watch, and a very good promotional tool:

I quite like the epileptic/flashy/wireframe-y style from SECLIFE DECONSTRUCT:

(is the music by dstrukt?)

Scene.org awards

This year I was totally prepared for the awards: instead of sitting on the bench I chose to bring a chair. And what a difference it made, compared to 2006 when I was sitting on a bench and ended the ceremony in horrible back pain and general agony (the latter due to the repetition of the same demos once and once and once again).

The ceremony itself was a quite enjoyable act, and the connections with the correspondents were a bit quirky but still funny. Unfortunately the PANTS OFF! and AMIGAAAA memes were beginning to sound a bit too tired at that point, and some of the guests seemed to have enjoyed the winner's champagne beforehand, which didn't make for very fluid interventions, but hey...

What was really a surprise was that the Gathering link worked so well this year... and with audio in both directions!

I must confess that I hadn't watched most of the candidate entries so most of the stuff being shown was relatively fresh for me. Which probably made things even more interesting ;-)

Ronny's dj set

That was placed in an awkward position in the timetable... the most appropriate thing --in my opinion-- would have been to place it after the compos, so that Ronny could keep on blasting megahit after megahit out from his laptop, without worrying about later events. But since there still were some pending compos, the inevitable had to happen and we got The Message From Above:

You know, we COULD start the compos now

You know, we COULD start the compos now...

Priceless!

Although at that point the hall was filled with so much smoke that distinguishing things in the big screen was next to impossible. Ronny played a couple more songs --including the party theme one-- and people left the hall, quite slowly at that too, but not without chanting the classic We want more! We want more! that always shows up at the end of every single live act at breakpoint. Which I guess it's a good sign!

There's an mp3 of the session, just in case you want to listen to it...

PC 4k, Amiga 4k, C64 4k, Amiga 64k

I don't know if that's because I was quite tired at that point, but I actually hardly remembered any intro right after the intros had been shown. I was speaking with Smash when he asked me which intro did I like the most and I was like hmmm... wait... can't recall any! Maybe the three pixels one...

... which is PWP's Dramatic Pixels for Commodore 64:

The other one I liked too was Ikadalawampu by Loonies, probably because it looked and sounded more like a 64k than a 4k... and had nice flow and effects (the "moppi" growing effect thing mostly). Here's a video, and here's the executable just in case you have an Amiga or want to mess with UAE (I was considering uploading the video to youtube, but I am not very keen on uploading somebody else's work).

I think I am not versed enough to appreciate the coder pr0n behind the rest of the intros, so that's why probably they didn't manage to catch my eye ;)

More socialising ensued.

April 4th, 2010

We met bp, sml, pasop and dario_phong and had lunch in the town. No disrespect for the food stalls in the party, but sometimes there's nothing like a proper dish with proper cutlery and proper seats ;-)

We had something which was basically meat and potatoes, in a place ornamented with lots of nautical motives. Very quiet pub/restaurant (I'm still unsure as to what was it really). After that we visited a cafe/ice cream/tea salon that bp and company had discovered the day before, while we were at the party, because they had spoke so well about the wonderful tiramisú that we had to try it by ourselves.

Actually I don't have a picture of the tiramisú, but there were quite original desserts on offer, such as the nutella spaghetti which trace ordered:

Nutella spaghetti

Once the sugar high was in full swing, we decided it was a good moment to go to the party. Euphoric and in super good moods, we found some more Spanish sceners in the bus: Leunam and Winden of Network, Peskanov of Capsule and some new guys which I spoke a lot with during the party but I still don't know their handles or groups O:-)

We had a little discussion about optimal ways of composing and exporting music for 4k/64k intros with trackers and I realised that little is known about Renoise and its wonderful abilities when combined with VSTi's and all that, so I decided that I would write a tutorial or something in the future, in the interest of both musicians and coders :-P

Streaming music

It was actually quite late by the time we arrived in the party, but luckily I still managed to catch the streaming music compo. There were some nice entries! My favourites:

  • Unreachable by AceMan - made with Renoise! It also included the .xrns file :-)
  • Fuck on the floor by glxblt - grime! this one really made good use of the party speakers ;-)
  • The End by jco - I didn't know this guy was so versatile! I liked how many styles are in this song. Very cinematic :-)
  • Human Programming by pinza - funky chiptunes \o/

Chaser from elude had submitted a song titled petarda. Since he was close to me I could hear when they said something along the lines of this is yours!!. So curious me couldn't help asking him why had he chosen that title and he said it was because it was something to do with explosions and fireworks in Spanish. I tried to explain him that actually that's not the meaning of petarda in Spanish slang but he was quite happy with it. I wonder if he really knew what it means and what just acting like he didn't!

PC 64k intro

Shortly after the music compo finished, everyone grabbed a chair and moved in front of the big screen. Unfortunately no 64k entry made much of an impression on me. So I won't comment on that.

96k games

Oh yeah, I can easily recall a couple of games that caught my eye:

  • Spike by TRSi - if only because of the silly samples :P
  • rubr by farbrausch - because anything even if just slightly similar to Stunt Car Racer deserves appreciation! Although it didn't look too playable, but it's a start

C64 Demo

After the games we watched the C64 demo but I can't quite highlight any demo, although I liked what I saw.

Console/Real wild

Maybe because these are odder and more diverse, they caught my attention. It was truly an impressive amount of entries and I liked that... it shows people aren't resting in their laurels and are experimenting with all sorts of platforms, which is always good.

My favourites:

High school love by adinpsz for the TI-8x - the only one with a theme and slightly meaningful direction, although it's also one of the nerdiest productions I have seen in a long time :-P

Lineart by Metalvotze and Nuance - A Vectrex demo!! The most exotic, the better!

Led it Be by darklite - a pity that the 3D can't really be appreciated:

After that we went out to grab something to eat -- we were STARVING! We sat with some ukscene guys (gasman, meaty) and meaty's group mates - velo and cryptic. trace started asking questions to gasman about browser demos, the HTML5 audio tag and the conversation degenerated into the speccy's ability to generate triangular waves using its envelopes and native square waves only. At that point I realised that the Ultrasound concert was about to start -- if it hadn't started yet! So I rushed into the hall and yeah it had started already! :-(

Ultrasound

But there were still lots of songs to be heard. It actually seemed super short to me, although when I checked the recording I discovered that I hadn't missed too many songs and actually was a quite long concert.

Obviously the highlight was when kb suddenly jumped into the stage complaining about the band playing Rob is Jarig yet another time. I told shotgan/nocturns: Sure this wasn't prepared, was it?, but in a very ironic tone. He replied quite ironically too: Oh of course, this surely hasn't been prepared at all. It was really amusing to watch them perform that sort of theatre act; at some points kb is trying to act like he's so desperately angry that he doesn't know which profanities to say! haha!

The best part is that he actually surprised them: slack told me that kb was meant to jump on stage later, but as he did it before his time was due, they all were really shocked, and not acting like being shocked, so the trick worked quite well.

I liked more Ultrasound's tracklist than BASS', although I would have loved to see more of dope/complex being played. That said, the medley was really sweet! And all the guest players/singers were great, so well done guys!

The final song (elevated with lyrics) was maybe a tad too emotional for my tastes or probably a hint of what was to happen later.

In any case I had the feeling that the public wasn't as involved this year as in previous Ultrasound gigs, or maybe my perception is wrong due to the fact that a guy decided to stand right in front of me and block any other possible sights that I could have, and that's why I couldn't experience the public's reactions to the music... until I got fed up and stepped up onto a bench! Suddenly I could see things again! Yeaah! (and that's why I dislike going to gigs)

And the demos

I have mixed feelings regarding the Amiga demos. The first problem is that I can't really discern what the differences are between the different Amiga platforms: OCS, ECS, AGA... I always look them up, and always forget about them as soon as I close the website with information. So I can't really appreciate how good a demo is in Amiga.

Besides, most of the things I saw just looked like plain cubemaps to me. Is it sad, or short-sighted? I can't decide. Each time I saw people cheering things that looked like fakes, I was wondering whether no one was really noticing that it really wasn't a 3D scene, there weren't any more than 6 quads there and all that. Or maybe they really noticed, but want to stay in a self-deluded world where Amiga is still the king of the hill, and people greet each other shouting Amigaaaaah in the streets. I don't know... maybe it's just me that again can't appreciate coder pr0n.

Another thing slightly deceiving is the fact that most of the demos are actually coded in a PC, using emulators. And when watching the compo we are actually watching a capture. So it all feels slightly fake (although you know that we know that the demos for non-PC platforms are recorded in the best interest of the audience!)

Even though, I still liked a couple of demos:

We come in peace from Elude was quite good

Ozone's Fetish 2 was a very intense and nice surprise, albeit TOO DAMN SHORT!

In the PC side of things, there was one particular demo that made me happy. It was freaking awesome! And I'm not talking about Fairlight's or Farbrausch's demos, nooo! I'm talking about PandaCube's Partycle!

When I saw the info slide stating it was their second demo I was a bit scared. But as the scenes were appearing before my eyes I was more like...

IS THIS REALLY THEIR SECOND PC DEMO?!?! MASSIVE AWESOMENESS!!!!

Oh those textures, and the lights, and the direction. Some people dismiss the demo as being a simple fly-by. But the PandaCube guys seem to be in the good track to master fly-by's. The scenes don't stop for a minute ---except probably in the first dark scenes in which hardly anything can be distinguished--, and there's something new to look at every moment. Very, very good. I was in total awe and still am -- I wish my second demo had been that damn good! If I had to complain about something, it would be the speaker scene. Which is super impressive, as long as one doesn't listen to the music, which is absolutely disconnected to what is being shown. It's all about the sync!

Brainstorm's Lucifer had also some mesmerising moments. Watching it, I couldn't stop wondering whether Preacher had been reading Arthur C. Clarke's 2010 recently. The moment in which that planet is set in flames is epic. As in impressive. Obviously Romeo Knight's music plays a big deal in the whole sequence.

A bit disconnected globally, but worth a watch (if only for the flames and constellations):

Bonus: here's the source code. If you're the first that ports it to OS X, Preacher promises a bottle of the finest salmiakki ever.

Second coming by the Biomechanical Bastards was a truly perplexing demo:

Second Coming by Biomechanical Bastards from xphere on Vimeo.

Of course Fairlight's demo Agenda Circling Forth was astonishing:

And my problem with farbrausch's rove is that it just can't stop thinking of Avatar.

Once the last demo of the last demoshow of the last breakpoint ever ended, we all were like... and now? But since no one jumped on stage to present the new replacement for breakpoint, we decided to socialise a bit more and enjoy the last hours of breakpoint :P

Ronny Pries installed his laptop on the infodesk tent and began playing hit after hit, including songs from demos such as dose 2 by mfx and Saint by da jormas and halcyon.

The best part was actually this last one: we were waiting for the bus to get back to the hotel because we were suuuuper tired at that point. And then from the distance we hear the beats of Saint. trace loves that tune, so he decided to go back to the tent to listen to that song. We rushed there while I asked him if he was going to perform the handbag dance, and when we arrived, we noticed that people were singing some strange 2 Unlimited/Reel 2 Reel eurodance-style lyrics on top of the Saint song. trace was super horrified at that and decided to leave with a look of terror in his face while muttering aaah! they are singing horrible things on top of the song... they are horrible...!!

And so that's how we said goodbye to the party: running away from it! (and also because by that time the bus had already arrived).

5th April, 2010

You might be wondering why didn't we go back to the party the following day to attend the prizegiving ceremony. The reason is that since so many people decided to visit the party but weren't decent enough to register for the airport shuttle, there weren't enough places in the bus for everybody. So organizers asked people with later flights to take the train instead.

Since we are nice people and our flight was quite late, we decided to do that. The infodesk guy suggested us to take a train that left at 15h since "it would be the best one". So we checked-out of the hotel, had a quiet last morning wandering around Bingen and we also visited the ice cream parlor again to get another dose of sugar... although this time we opted for amazingly huge and super-yummy luxuriously sumptuous Italian ice-cream.

The journey back isn't half as interesting as all that I have told you already, so I'll save some typing and end this report here, with the sweetness of the ice-cream still in your mind ;-)

See you at the next party!