Euskal 18, the eldest of the Spanish parties, was held past week in Bilbao. For the first time since I first attended (in Euskal 10, back in 2002) I was invited to organise the scene area, since the person who did it in previous years (Bloodrinker/RGBA) couldn't do it this year.
Now I'll let you know what went on behind the scenes :-)
The first thing I wanted to have was some kind of intranet so that people could deliver their productions easily. In previous years, people had to upload stuff to an FTP and then fill in a form in another intranet... and most of the times they forgot one of the things, so the organiser would end with either a form and no production, or a production without an author or even a file_id.diz file. Think just a single .JPG floating in the void of the FTP server.
I had a look at partymeister but it had several problems: first, it's complicated to install. Second, it's in English --not a problem for me but truly a problem in Spain. Third, I looked at the code to see if I could modify it to fit my needs and I didn't like it. So after looking at some other alternatives I thought it was time to roll my own.
I first considered using Rails, since I had been targeted by several Rails-fans lately who insisted that I should have a look at the upcoming Rails 3. But seeing that the official documents aren't still up to date and that even for tasks such as authenticating users you still have to install a third party plug-in and wander through a myriad blog posts to learn how to integrate them, I quickly remembered about Django and its batteries included stack.
And Django was it. I was overjoyed. I had experimented with Django a couple of times before but I had never done an entire project with it. This time I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I didn't have much time to do it, so it was totally the case for using Django:
The Web framework for perfectionists with deadlines.
In a matter of a day I had a basic system which allowed people to register, log-in and upload their productions, while the system made sure that people always filled the form, validated the details and even made sure that the uploaded file was a proper ZIP file. The files they uploaded could be any size, including huge 1+ Gb files. The server (Apache + mod_wsgi) didn't go down every X minutes unlike my previous tests with Rails, lighttpd and mongrel some years ago. It was very smooth.
But I wanted to make things even easier for me as an organiser, so I added some functional sugar: In the admin area, I could lock and unlock competitions, so people would be able to submit stuff only when the competition was open. I also added a couple of functions which proved invaluable: one which would uncompress every file in a compo, so that they would be ready for projections time, and another one which would export files for FTP distribution, ignoring all entries which had been disqualified or retired.
I also went as far as implementing a voting system, where people could vote in the competitions they had entered (as we do in 100% demoparties). Unfortunately people didn't want to use that system and preferred to have an external jury to vote and decide the prizes, so my system had to be hidden from public view.
The other nice thing I had were the automatic competition slides, functionality that I cheekily copied from partymeister, but that I improved with nowadays browser's capabilities: instead of having a dedicated computer for showing the slides using DirectX and what not, slides could be accessed with just a simple modern browser (I used Chrome), and they had all sorts of nice stuff such as custom type fonts, (hypno) glow to give them some hyperspace feeling and even fade in / fade out transitions between slides, using CSS.
Yes, this is all done in a browser with CSS3 custom fonts, text-shadow and transitions
The competition slides were shown in the side screens, while the works were shown in the central big screen. It seems people really liked having the slides and reading what sort of tools had people used in their works and all that.
The only issues I found were the deployment which was slightly different from what I'm more used to with Apache+PHP, and some problems with encoding in ZIP files, specifically when there were "strange" characters such as ñ in the files contained inside the ZIP file, but I'm pretty sure there's a fix for that, although I haven't had time for having a look at it yet :-D
I'll probably release the code when I fix a couple of things, so if you need a lean partysystem management this might be your thing.
I'm glad we ended up having way more entries than I expected. The music and graphics compos were quite populated. I'm sad we had so few entries in the realtime compos. I know it's hard to start programming demos or intros, but I was hoping for a bit more of competition. Still, I'm happy there was some new people entering their first production ever in this party (a musician turned 4K coder, a few 3D artists, etc).
You should have seen the face of the guy testing his first-ever 4K intro in the compo machine... when he finally fixed a silly Windows 7 bug, he was SO HAPPY! It was amazing, and I felt incredibly proud! :-)
We also had four entries in the game dev compo, which was a new competition this year, so it was great in that sense. And three 4K 8 bit intros, which was great too, since it was also the first time that the competition was held. There was also a lot of entries in the 8 bits music and graphics compos, which were managed by Almighty God/Level64, although it was me who dealt with them at the party.
Something that delighted me, as a woman, was that there was an incredible amount of women in the 2D graphics compo. Not only that, but all the winners were women, unlike the rest of competitions which were totally men-dominated! It's not that I only want women to win, but I'd like to see more diversity. This was a good step forward! Go girls go!
My favourite moments during projections were when we turned off the central projectors (there were two for the central screen, for doubling the luminosity) and Marcan installed his DIY laser projector in the middle of the central corridor for projecting his wild compo entry. People thought this was just a video, until it finished and I took the microphone and remarked that this wasn't a video, that it had been all projected using Marcan's latest DIY hardware and it was installed in the corridor... and suddenly he got surrounded by a bunch of curious people asking about the device and all that. Also, when I loaded HAM's CPC intro using the oldschool CPC |tape method and we all listened to the familiar but long-time not heard tape loading bleeps and blops. Ahh the memories :'-)
Here's Marcan & thePope's wild compo live at the party:
I've got a penchant for this sort of productions so I would love to see more things like this one in Spanish parties!
On Friday we finally gathered together a bunch of people who were either interested in the scene, already doing things in the scene or had done things in the scene before, but weren't doing things any more.
The original idea was to gather people who were interested in doing things, so the meeting was intended to be a networking meeting, because since the event is SO HUGE it's hard to get to know each other. So we sat in the conferences room and tried to introduce ourselves, say what we do, what we are up to and all that. At some points the conversation derived into old glories and oldschool myths which are totally counter-productive, but I'm glad we managed to get out of that conversational trap and talk about more constructive matters such as hearing what do newcomers think of the scene, what sorts of problems do they find to get into the demoscene, etc, etc. I'm pretty sure most of us ended the meeting knowing more scene mates, which is what parties are about.
Also, on Sunday some people who didn't know each other before the party were speculating about the idea of making a demo, all together, so maybe the meeting was useful after all :-)
And let's not forget The Memorable Quote, said by none other than yours truly (i.e. me):
Los premios se van, pero los recuerdos se quedan
Or in English:
Prize money goes away, but memories stay
Surely future meetings should be better publicised, but since this one was really improvised, I'm happy it turned up so well.
If you were at the party you'll probably know that there were some recurrent network issues. Due to that, some activities which depended on the network got delayed and as a consequence of that, the big screen was highly disputed --specially because it can hardly be seen during the day, because of the light that enters the ceiling. An unfortunate consequence of this was that two of the demoshows that had been programmed for Friday and Saturday had to be cancelled and re-appointed for Sunday. I would like to thank stage7 and Mikel Erauskin, who had prepared the demoshows and were surely disappointed with the cancellation news, for their patience and understanding.
Also, if you were disappointed with not having demoshows on Friday and Saturdays, what you need to do --instead of complaining to me, who might have a little more "power" than you, but not that much-- is to leave a note in the scene suggestions topic in the party forum, so that the organisers can see that you really care about having demoshows. Otherwise your complaint just goes away and it's just as if it didn't exist, or as if I was a mad lunatic willing to be playing demos all night long.
What I totally fail to understand is when people came to the control area to
ask demand we played that damn formula 1 competition on the big screen. I mean, when you're on a party you're in for the party, not for something from outside. It's something I don't get, and I don't think I'll ever get.
On Saturday I had the BIG HONOUR of meeting Mr. Alfonso Azpiri, amazing Spanish illustrator who worked with most of the Spanish software companies in the 80's, doing cover art and even the game sprites, as he told us in his conference.
He's an extraordinarily nice person, and he gladly accepted our offer: being jury for the Fast 2D graphics, whose theme was going to be his MOT character.
Once the Fast 2D graphics competition was over, I went back to the RetroEuskal stand where he was "signing" copies of his "Spectrum" book. And I say "signing" because he was amazing in that too: he was making a watercolour painting on each book, right there, without batting an eyelid. It was amazing.
He was painting for two and a half hours and after that, and a TV interview, and being followed by fans who wanted to have a picture with him, he still gave us some minutes of his time for judging the Fast 2D entries, even if he looked super-tired.
For me, it was a true privilege to share a few words with him; I felt really fortunate since I grew up reading MOT comics and enjoying his work on those video game covers. I also felt a little stupid for not buying the book the day before, when there were still copies left, but I'm like that... Hopefully I'll manage to get a copy some day and will get it signed too!
Something that we all know is that the Euskal Encounter began its life as the Euskal Amiga Party but due to a number of reasons it has ended up being more about games than anything else. Unfortunately, most of the people who complain about this won't do anything more than that: complain.
I already said it to people who complained about the lack of demoshows, lack of scene activities and lack of scene whatever, but I'll repeat it again with the hope that it reaches more people: if you want the scene to have more weight in the Euskal Encounter, you must CONTRIBUTE with productions. It's not enough with saying that you want to sit in the scene area but then play games or download movies during the party, because when the party ends and we count how many releases we had, it hardly correlates with the number of people who say they are interested in the demoscene in the registration form.
Without productions we can't justify the level of attention you want to have.
Without productions, compos have to be merged or cancelled.
Without productions, the Euskal Encounter might end up being just another LAN Party.
If you really care, you'd better start doing something about that. And if you don't want or can't produce anything else, why don't you step forward and do a seminar about how to program demos? Or how to start making 3D graphics, or modules or simply about the demoscene in itself?
Otherwise please refrain from complaining because I absolutely hate people who complain but don't do anything to solve their problem. Plus, you're just demoralising me and any other organiser who dares to listen to you.
I'm happy not everybody fits into the serial-complainer stereotype, and a handful of people offered themselves to be scene mentors during next year's Euskal, so that novices could learn about let's say 3D in an introductory seminar and then continue working on their first ever 3D graphic during the party, asking questions and doubts to their mentor, and finally release their first ever 3D graphic entry on a newbie 3D graphics competition. Thanks to all of you who offered yourselves to do this, you really made my day :-)
I'm unsure about what I'll do next year. Ideally I would like to dedicate more time to my projects and less time to projects such as escena.org and party-organising, which although are satisfying in a way, also eat tremendous amounts of time, and I am rarely thanked for them... more the opposite: people complaining this or that function isn't there, or this or that competition is not being held, and etc. It's like most of the people take everything for granted, and then are angry when things aren't EXACTLY like they expect them to be.
To give you some numbers: It's more than two years since I last released an EP, a demo, or an intro. I wanted to do some 8-bit 4K intro for this year's Euskal but although Optimus, Silenci and Gasman pointed me to lots of interesting resources, I couldn't do anything at all with all the organising tasks.
I think it's time to start working on my stuff again :-)