Breakpoint 2006 Report

(April 18, 2006)

It’s the day after Breakpoint, so it’s party report time :)
This year we had a great party again, although the weather was bad so we couldn’t do the traditional Kakiarts/Deranged barbecue. The organizers did a great job at keeping everything running without major problems. Compo delays were minimal and even though there were problems during the compos itself, these weren’t tragedies either. (A WordPad-driven PC Demo compo is actually quite a funny thing.) I didn’t notice any major issues with drunken sceners, and the toilets were acceptably clean throughout the whole party. The only thing we missed really badly was a fast competition, because we had several quite good ideas, but no use for them. Hanging around the whole time, doing nothing but waiting for the next compo to start, isn’t exactly what we wanted.

This year, I managed to visit at least some of the interesting seminars. (This is actually a good side-effect of not having a fast compo :) Chaos’ seminar about writing a GUI toolkit from scratch was a strange mixture of being too specific (implementation details) and too general (lots of common-sense tips). The Cell programming seminar contained a very interesting hardware description, but at the software part, the main message was that using the eight mighty SPEs doesn’t even remotely look like the black magic it seems to be: SPE code is almost run like normal threads. The most interesting seminars for me were the compression-related ones from ryg and peci: ryg explained some of the things a coder should do to optimize his code and data for maximum compressibility. While he was at it, he gave the (IMHO) best introduction into data compression I’ve heard before. peci showed a nice and convenient way of running Win32 code from inside a DOS executable by exploiting a bug in the NTVDM extension API. This makes it possible to create 256 byte intros using some Win32 code or freely mixing 16-bit DOS and Win32 code at will.

As usual, there were live gigs every night: Friday and Sunday, we heard Ultrasound and BASS, the typical demoscene bands who play demo songs with real instruments. At Saturday, there was a short, but really great Welle: Erdball concert. The scene.org awards followed immediately afterwards (that is, with only half an hour delay :), so they had to dismantle their equipment quickly, but they stayed a little while and watched part of the show. The Awards show itself had some minor technical problems, in particular the not or only badly working live connection to the Gathering. The background graphics, for example the presentation of the nominees, were really good and compared nicely to commercial awards like the Oscar. However, I’d like to see less typos and spelling mistakes next time. The jury decisions were OK for the most part, but seeing mfx’ »ballet dancer« win the prize for the »most original concept« made me shake my head.

The competitions

The strangest thing about this year’s Breakpoint was the huge disparity in the quality of the compos. There were some compos that almost exclusively had good and excellent productions, some were just short (3 entries) and some were long and appallingly bad. But first things first …

Freestyle Graphics

This was the first of the high-quality compos I mentioned: There were quite some really good entries. The first and second place went to Helge and Prince of the Obsessed Maniacs, however in the wrong order. Without question, Helge’s picture is nice, but nothing compared to the extremely detailed »Village People« of his competitor. I think there was some major namevoting involved here.
The other images got far lower scores. Gabi’s marionette puppet came in 4th.

Theme Graphics

Unlike last year, there were enough entries of sufficient quality to deserve the name »competition« There was no no real highlight, however. gabi and bearb got the 5th and 6th place, with gabi missing a 4th place by only 6 votepoints.

C64 Graphics

There were only three entries, one bad, two OK, but nothing really impressive.

Photo

Photo competitions are quite new in the demoscene, but unsurprisingly tend to have high-quality entries. The vote results were a little bit strange, having a simple waterdrop shot first. But we can’t complain, as bearb’s »Metamorphosis of D.« came in 2nd, with only a small difference to the 1st place and quite a bit of room to the 3rd.

Tracked Music

The usual mixture of newschool (Renoise) and semi-oldschool tracks. dq’s entry was unfortunately preselected.

Streaming Music

A couple of minutes before the competition, I accidentally listened to a conversation between two organizers. One of them said that they preselected 75(!) entries and are going to play 15 only. (This made me 100% certain that my brother’s tune wasn’t in the compo :) Unfortunately, dq’s tune was also preselected. Even more unfortunetely, the remaining tracks were mostly uninteresting mainstream stuff. There were also two nice drum’n’bass tunes and a weird but funny hip-hop-alike track in English and German, done by Dutch people who seemed to know neither language.

Animation/Video

This was the most astonishing compo of the whole party. The entries were all at least good, with numerous really great ones on top. There was a great parody of the JCO video that won last year and another funny video about the same topic (food). Also, Aenima CGS again had the latest and greatest in 3D graphics, »Egon & Dönci 2«. As one fellow scener put it, »it isn’t noticeable that it’s not from Pixar«. However, they didn’t win – instead, an incredibly funny comic strip with a really weird story took the first prize.

Console / Real Wild

The alternative platforms compo was also packed with high-quality entries. It had fr-051: Brotkästchen, a C64 emulator in less than 64 Kilobytes (including the ROM, of course). (My personal opinion: they should have waited a year and release it as fr-064 then ;) Bluebox Cinematique showed a really smoothly running J2ME demo, TRSi had the second PSP demo ever (AFAIK) and Shitfaced Clowns again produced the most beautiful imagery possible on a Gameboy Advance. Binary Brains showed a video on how to »Build your own Bigscreen«: They stacked together a 3×3 matrix of 9 monitors driven by 8 PCs. Then they showed a demo that run distributed and synchronized on all the PCs, each rendering only part of the final image. Finally, there was The Black Lotus with a PlayStation 2 demo that had both boring and excellent stylish parts, which was enough to win the compo.

C64 4k intro

There were only three entries, but the quality was quite good. The winner, »Artefacts«, showed impressively smooth rotating planets and voxels.

C64 demo

Like the 4k compo, the demos had a high level of compatibility. Especially »Error 23« by Resource The Dreams and »Non Plus Ultra« by Singular Crew were incredible and pushed the limits of what is possible with the C64 another step further.

Amiga 64k intro

There were only thre 64k entries of acceptable quality. The really interesting thing of this compo was that it was won by a 4k intro that had to be moved into this category because it was the only Amiga 4k competitor: »Planet Loonies« by – guess who – Loonies reprised the catchy BP04 invitation tune and even featured a speech synthesizer and a cool real-time 3D fractal generator. Somehow they managed to cram all that into 4k …

I couldn’t see the compo myself, because I had a seminar during that time. Everybody kept on telling me how cool the Loonies 4k was, so I decided to install UAE to watch it at least. (This was actually my first Amiga experience. I’m really glad that I read how to use Workbench menus before :) While I was at it, I revisited the other 64ks, too. There I discovered that Moods Plateau greeted Kakiarts in their intro. This was actually the first time I know of that someone greeted us in their demo or intro. Perhaps we wouldn never have noticed that if I’d been present at the compo and hence hadn’t installed UAE to watch the intros in full length …

Amiga Demo

Just like last year, the Amiga Demo compo hat numerous stylish releases. My personal favourite was the Drifters one with its extremely nicely rendered clouds, but somehow they didn’t even make it into the top 3. Instead, there was some kind of »Ocean Machine on valium«-style demo from Ephidrena that had a great voxel landscape effect, but didn’t make much use of it and was otherwise nothing but boring. The winning demo, »Kilofix« by Iris, had very impressive 3D scenes. If you want to know how plastic demos would look like if they were made on Amiga, watch this one. As already announced after BP05, TBL took a step back and only came up with a half-hearted entry named »Requiem« (which ironically was a working title of Ephidrena’s demo, too).

PC 4k intro

The 4k compo was the least exceptional compo of the party. This means that the quality level of the productions was neither lower nor higher than at last year’s parties: Almost no crap (coding a 4k is too hard to do a quick fun prod there), a broad range of really good entries, and finally the really good ones. Bitpopler had really stunning graphics in »Gaia«, Ümlaüt Design had a fantastic invitation for the Function 06 demoparty. Neither of them won – instead, Gabi’s Origami concept worked out so well that we actually got the first prize, with quite some gap to the next places!

As a side note, there was another intro with a unique theme: »Domino« by Konfusion had a very high potential, but suffered seriously from being cut way too fast and being to repetitive. Some flybys or slow motions here and there would have done miracles. This is actually why Origami was just 3.5K: Of course we could have stuffed the remaining 514 bytes with more scenes, but that would have not been an improvement. So we decided not to overdo it.

PC 64k intro

New Kakiarts member jk’s 64k intro was so great that I easily predicted a top-three ranking. But this didn’t work out – the competition was too stiff so we only got the 5th place. All major intro brands were there: Bypass, Mind Control, Traction, Conspiracy (who released their first really good intro ever) and of course the winners, Fairlight.

PC Demo

In the C64 version of the BP06 invitation there was a screen that read something like »C64 demo: 0 entries, Amiga demo: 0 entries, PC demo: 30x metaballs«. Well, fortunately they were wrong about the oldschool platforms, but the statement for the PC demo compo proved to be eerily prophetic. All the demos came with enervating, hectic Techno music and contained nothing new at all. There was only one notable exception, namely »Monorail« by Bypass and Black Maiden. While not being an exceptional demo by itself, it clearly was the best of the whole compo in my (and a lot of other sceners) opinion. But for some strange reason, MFX’s »Deities« still won. I guess it’s time for another »Winnerdemo«-like shock to the scene … :(

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