Breakpoint 2009 Party Report

(April 16, 2009)

The is no such thing as easter. There’s only Breakpoint.
Happy Breakpoint!

This 1984-inspired text is from one of the bigscreen slides from this year’s issue of world’s largest Demoscene-only party: Breakpoint in Bingen am Rhein, Germany. As every year, the party takes place during what non-sceners call the easter weekend. And as every year, some friends and I were there, too.

Breakpoint 2009 had a very bad start: The two main sponsors, both very large US semiconductor companies, canceled their sponsoring due to the global economic downturn. Thus, the organizers had to call for donations a few months before the party started. This worked out quite well: after just a few days, the party was financially secured by sceners who bought expensive »supporter tickets« or donated via PayPal. At the end, there was enough money to have all of the standard Breakpoint party features except seminars (which were not so important anyway). Furthermore, two new smaller sponsors suddenly appeared two weeks before the party. One of them is the company that is responsible for the german PR campaign for 20th Century Fox’s new movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which meant that there was a bunch of movie posters all over the partyplace.
In the end, the organizers had much more money left than they originally anticipated, partly due to the surprisingly high visitor count. This, instead of the lowest compo prizes, Breakpoint had the highest compo prizes ever this year.

During the funding period, the organizers nicknamed the party »Brokepoint«. Only a tiny bit of that artwork and theme survived, but they kept critical of the society: Instead of concentrating on the economic downturn, the party theme was about the increasing amount of governmental surveillance and censorship. Since we’re heading slowly towards an Orwellian 1984-like surveillance state (already surpassing some of Orwell’s visions, as demonstrated by the frightening number of CCTV cameras in the UK), this is quite a fitting theme in my opinion. Hence all the newspeak, doublethink and fnords like on the slide I mentionend at the beginning of this post.

Party & Athmosphere

In 2008, the weather during Breakpoint was apallingly bad – it was cold and it rained all day, giving the party the nickname »Mudpoint« because it was impossible to get a snack at the food stands on the meadow outside the hall without bogging in the mud. This year, everything was different. The organizers added an artificial floor on the meadow around the food stands, but that wasn’t needed: The weather was perfect, there was no single drop of rain during the party. At 20-24 degrees Celsius outside and a lot less comfortable temperatures inside, there were as many sceners on the meadow and having BBQs on the parking lot than ever before. As far as I remember, the sun also shone permanently, being obscured by clouds on Saturday only.

The good weather might also have had a positive impact on the general athmosphere of the party: Everything and everyone was nice and friendly, there were no larger problems in the organization … summed up, it was the perfect party. In the pouet.net BBS, most attendees agree that this was the best Breakpoint ever, and some even go as far as saying it was the best of all demoparties. Personally, I don’t agree with the second part (Evoke is still my preferred party), but BP09 for sure was one of the best Breapoints, along with BP05.

The Kakiarts/Deranged/P.O.O.-Crew delegation wasn’t very big this year: It was only biff, Cyrus, ted, Sly42, SubC and me. Deranged West were completely absent, and so were the other Kakiarts members. But we had our fun anyway – having no time-critical releases to finish at the party place and the excellent weather meant that we could actually enjoy the party and have a barbecue each night. We even ate steak as breakfast one day, because too much of it was left over from the previous night :) There was also light on the parking lots this year, which made BBQing late at night feasible.

Releases

Now we come to the bad aspects of the good weather: Too many sceners (especially from the top groups) enjoyed the party instead of finishing their entries. The quality of most compos suffered severely from this. Let’s have a look:

Graphics compos: Nothing spectacular. The quality of the entries was at the usual level, and there were no major surprises regarding the results. The only thing worth noticing is that the entries in the Photo compo get more and more sophisticated each year – the number of good snapshots has decreased in favor of elaborate studio photographies. Furthermore, the executable 4k graphics compo was extremely weak this year.

Music compos: These were a bit disappointing. The only entry I find worth remembering is reed’s track »jools« from the newscool executable music compo. It includes all the technical gimmicks from Fairlight’s »Panic Room« 64k intro, namely acceptable guitar sounds and vocal samples.
Other than that, there wasn’t anything truly remarkable. The streaming music compo had two decent drum’n’bass tracks, but that’s about it.

Wolverine compo: As part of the 20th Century Fox sponsorship, there was a special compo with the goal to remix the promotional material (trailers, sounds, poster) for the movie »X-Men Origins: Wolverine«. Apart from the usual fun entries, there were actually some nice things there: A couple of ZBrush models of Wolverine, some poster remixes (like the Lego remix made by my brother or ted’s gardening remix) and some trailer remixes. nosfe for example, famous for his weird noise-only videos, distorted sound and video to the max and got the second place with that. The best entry by far was a trailer made in the style of black-and-white B-movie horror flicks from the 1940s. It fitted the content of the movie trailer really well and deservedly won the compo.

Animation/Video: That was a mildly disappointing compo, too. HBC or Junk didn’t enter anything, so we didn’t get any 3D goodness. Compositions based on photos were all the rage, though, with two entries dedicated to that theme. The winner was JCO with a satire advertisement for a very untypical NAS product: the Speichergurke.

Console/Real Wild: This was a very weird compo, because it was totally different from what I expected. Instead of GBA and Spectrum stuff, we got two half-assed Sega Mega Drive demos, two mediocre PSP demos, three Nintendo DS demos (one of which was actually quite enjoyable) and a nice MSX 2 demo. There were four first-on-a-platform entries, too: First, a demo for the Epson HX-20, written in BASIC and thus completely boring. Then, there was a demo for the KC 85/4 that very likely only scratches the surface of what is possible with that machine. The coolest platform idea award goes to the guys who made a demo in Excel using VBA. Finally, there was lft again: Last year, he exploited a ATmega microcontroller to its fullest with the award-winning demo Craft. This year, he returned with a Propeller 32-bit microcontroller in his pocket and delivered Turbulence, which unfortunately isn’t nearly as captivating as his former platform hack.

C64 demo: The quality of the entries in this compo was comparable to last year: Nothing really bad, but no top-notch stuff either. It seems that the C64 scene is still in a state of shock after Edge of Disgrace :)

Amiga 4k intro: This compo was dominated by Loonies’ Luminagia, which is certainly the best Amiga 4k intro up to now. Basically it’s just one effect in different variations, but it’s very nicely put together and it has a soundtrack that’s absolutely on par with those of PC intros.

Amiga 64k intro: A rather unspectacular compo. The entries were all OK, but not outstanding. The winner, Superkewl by Supergroup, is a bland AGA060 effect show and the second place, wasted years by Moods Plateau, is a nice oldschool intro for OCS Amigas.

Amiga demo: The compo started like the 64k one: Many okayish entries, but nothing to remember. The last two entries kicked, though, kicked serious ass: First, there is Jesus Christ Motocross by Traktor & Nature. It’s short, it’s fast-paced, it has loud punk music, it’s quite funny, it doesn’t make any sense, but it’s a technical masterpiece: Everything is flat-shaded 3D, but with antialiased outlines, and it still runs mostly oneframe on a 68060 @ 66 MHz. Less speedy, but much more impressive is the graphical style of Lightshaft by Elude. This demo starts where TBL stopped three years ago, offering lighting and glow effects at a quality previously unseen on Amiga, but still at (though just barely) watchable framerates. But not only the technical quality reminds of the good old TBL days, the content is very TBLish, too. For me, this was the best demo of the compo, but the audience preferred »Jesus Christ Motocross«.

PC 4k intro: Again a compo without any really bad entries, but with three entries that overshadowed all others: Sult by Loonies contains an impressive amount of scenes with beautiful raytracing graphics and a nice soundtrack – typical compowinner stuff. At BP09, however, this was only sufficient for the third place, because there were two demos that are still infinitely better. Both of them are never-seen-before achievements. Both are equally good in their own way, but they are actually too different to be compared.
One of them is untraceable by TBC. It shows raytraced Sierpinski and cantor cube fractals with good lighting, offers a large variety of scenes and has a decent soundtrack. What makes this intro special and catapults it from barely »good« to »un-f***ing-believable« is the fact that it’s not actually a 4k intro. It’s a 1k intro. To put this into perspective: 1k intros were, until now, usually single-shader raytracing stuff with only one scene and no sound at all. And suddenly, we have something there that would be good even if it was four times the size. I don’t know about you, but I am in awe.
The other too-good-to-be true entry and winner of the compo was something that could actually be anticipated, in a way. Last year, iq of RGBA dominated Breakpoint’s 4k executable graphics with Ixaleno, a Terragen-quality landscape. It was only a question of time until there would a a realtime version of this, but well … here it is. In 4k. With sound, high-dynamic range rendering and, as a bonus, motion blur. Elevated by RGBA & TBC is the type of demoscene production you may want to show to a non-scener, because it’s something you won’t get anywhere else, let alone in 4k.

PC 64k intro: This has been a somewhat disappointing category for years now, and BP09 continues this trend. Even the compo winner, 06059 by Rebels, isn’t phenomenal in any way.

PC demo: I’ll make it short » this was one of the worst PC demo compos ever. It had over 20 entries, almost all of them being boring techno-music-with-meaningless-shader-effects shit. The –big names« like Fairlight / UKscene Allstars, Andromeda, Plastic or Cocoon were almost completely missing. Only MFX had an entry, but, well … let’s not talk about that.
Summed up, it was like 2006 all over again – except that this time, the only half-decent demo actually won. It was Crush by Anadune & Floppy. While it’s not a particularly good demo, it deserved to win. Anadune was always a bit underrated, but now they finally get the attention and success they deserve. I’m really happy for them.

Final Words

Breakpoint 2009 was a very nice party. Although I feel a bit bad for not releasing a demo or intro, I must admit it’s also nice to simply enjoy the party and watch the compos, especially if the weather is that good. (In fact, it was already too hot for my taste sometimes :)
It’s a bit sad that except for the 4k intros, there wasn’t anything groundbreaking among the releases of the party. Let’s hope that this is really only due to the good weather and that many top-notch demos will be released later this year. Maybe at »zvokz«? ;)

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