Breakpoint 2010 Party Report

(April 11, 2010)

It was the end of an era: On April 2-5, 2010, the last Breakpoint demo party took place in Bingen. After 8 years of partying (6 of which I personally participated in), the main organizers decided that they need a break, so 2010 was the final event. Fitting to that situation, the party had the motto »like there’s no tomorrow« – and having a party like there’s no tomorrow is indeed what the visitors did :)

I think I don’t need to write anything specific about the partyplace here – after all, this is the sixth Breakpoint that took place at the Rundsporthalle in Bingen, and the organizers never changed their proven formula regarding the general layout of the partyplace. The only thing special this year was that there was not only one, but three tents outside, so the visitors could more easily deal with the rain that came and went every few hours. Overall, the weather was fine, but not as good as last year.

In the previous years, Kakiarts / Deranged / P.O.O. Crew usually went to Breakpoint with a delegation of 10 or more people, but this wasn’t the case this year. Nobody of Deranged West showed up, the creative heads of Kakiarts (gabi, baerb, dq) didn’t come, biff had business to do at home, and even subc wasn’t willing to attend the party. So Sly, ted and me were practially alone if it wasn’t for the Moodsplateau guys. I took two members of the (newly-founded) group trbl with me on the ride from Hannover to Bingen, but they sat a good 20 meters away from us.

The lack of people coming from our group wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, as the party got crowded anyway: This year, Breakpoint finally passed the 1000-visitor mark. (They even interrupted a compo for celebrating the 1000th visitor.) This meant that almost all seats in the main hall were actually used and the luxury of having just two people instead of three sitting on a table was a rare one.

The huge amount of visitors also relaxed the financial situation a bit: Just like last year, Breakpoint was short of money just before the party and had to sell specially expensive »supporter tickets« again. However, they sold only very few this year (about a dozen, I guess) and they didn’t even need them, as there were more than enough normally-paying visitors. In fact, they had enough money to shell out 20,000 € as prizes and an additional bonus: At Sunday 1:45 pm, a mysterious »Very Important Announcement« was scheduled and all visitors were told to come to the hall. The hopes were high that a follow-up party was about to be announced for easter 2011. This wasn’t the case, though: Instead, the organizers entered the hall with about 10 shopping carts full of chocolate bunnies and other sweets which were given out to all party visitors. That was a very pleasant surprise indeed.

There were three musical acts in the main hall during the party: On Friday, there was BASS, the only pure-demoscene band consisting only of demosceners. I was too tired to watch the concert and went to sleep instead of watching it, so I can’t tell anything about it from my point of view. However, I was told that the concert wasn’t very good afterwards.
On Saturday, Ronny (rp^Farbrausch) had a DJ set had a very very very great DJ set in the main hall. Especially the end rocked hard, with kb singing along Apoptygma Berzerk’s »Starsign«. I still can’t wait to get a recording from that :)
On Sunday, there was Ultrasound, another demoscene band, who delived a solid concert of rock adaptations of demoscene tracks. Again, there was a funny part during the concert where kb was involved: Just after they started to play »Rob is jarig«, kb came down to the stage and yelled at them that he couldn’t stand this track any longer and that they should play something else. They did – and played Rick Astley’s »Never gonna give you up« instead :) (As a side note, the organizers really seem to be fed up with »Rob is jarig«, because even though it has allegedly been submitted twice for the PC Demo compo, they didn’t play there.) The concert ended with an adaptation of Puryx’ »Elevated« soundtrack, for which they even wrote some lyrics fitting the party theme.

Another non-compo event was the Sundown quiz, a demoscene-related game show that first took place on Sundown 2009, with lots of typical British humo(u)r. What started as a real quiz (»Which platform does that demo run on?«) quickly turned into a collection of silly games like stuffing potatoes into pants or trying to eat while the other team tries to prevent you from doing so by beating you with inflatable plastic hammers. My favo(u)rite game was when each team had to pick one guy from the audience who could juggle so that they could do a direct one-vs-one match for their respective teams … though not in juggling, but in arm wrestling … :)

Since this was the last Breakpoint and the organizers have a valid interest in motivating and helping future party organizers in getting a good start, there were special »guided backstage tours« for interested visitors. This way, I got to know what the »beam-team« and the compo team are usually doing to get the party to work as smooth as it is. I found this very interesting and learned some details I weren’t previously aware of.

The compos

The heart of every demoparty are of course the compos. This is especially true of Breakpoint, because it’s the largest and most important demoscene event of the year where around one half of the most important demos of each year are submitted. So here’s my (highly personal) opinion of the compos:

Music

Tracked Music: Even though this was an unofficial compo, organized by volunteers and without prizes, there was a tremendous amount of entries. In the end, T-101 of Accession won the compo with »Mountain Gate«, a track that sounds as if it came straight from a early-90s Amiga demo (in a good way!).

Executable Music (Oldschool): More or less your average collection of SID tunes and Amiga chip music, with a few other platforms mixed in. There were some noticeable technical achievements, but the most impressive of these was certainly Reed’s »Flamethrowser«, which tortured a SID with samples galore and rightfully won the first place.

Executable Music (Newschool): Again a quite unspectacular compo with a single outstanding (and winning) track: »Commence/Collapse« by Gargaj is finest demo-style D’n’B packed into 17 kilobytes. A pity that there are no visuals ;)

Streaming Music: As usual, this was the compo with the most entries: Most of the ~65 submitted tracks have been preselected and only 18 of them were played in the compo. Unfortunately, I must say that this one was quite similar to the other music compos: Okayish stuff all over the place, but nothing really remarkable, except Puryx’ winning D’n’B track »Disrupt«.

Graphics

Photo: I remember Breakpoint photo compos as consisting of 80% nice holiday snapshots, 10% entries with interesting ideas and 10% eleborately rigged studio shots. This time, this was quite different: The amount of snapshots was reduced to less than a quarter of the compo, there were not that many studio shots and the majority were cool and fresh ideas. I especially liked one photo with a retro-style film projector and some small film rolls, labelled with names of popular demos – and, of course, the winner photo, »Inderarbeit« by T$ (who is a long-time demoscene friend of mine, we know each other since Dialogos 2001), showing a Fakir’s keyboard and mouse, with needles sticking out of every key.

Freestyle Graphics: Lots of great entries, just as in the photo compo. To me, there wasn’t a clear winner here, but the public voted for PGCS and s7ing’s »Lonely Planet«, which is fine with me.

Handmade Graphics: This compo contained roughly 50% good stuff, but there’s a clear favourite and worthy winner: »Explosive4« by DFeKT is an awesomely nice fake movie poster.

C64 Graphics: Many nice entries, but nothing really overwhelming in my opinion. There was one interesting NUFLI image by Veto of Oxyron and two IFLI (?) images by Havocplague of Inversion and AMN of Resource, who also won the compo, even though it’s clearly not the best image in my book.

Executable 4k Graphics: No surprises in this compo. The deserved winner is »Burj Babil« by Loonies: It’s a nice idea and very detailed, but unfortunately heavily postprocessed so it doesn’t look all that good close up.

Misc

Animation/Video: This was quite a good compo, this time with a heavy bias on match moving: After two entries that used this technique in a decent, but obviously still experimental manner, I already though »Ah, they discovered match moving. Now give them another year, and they will do useful stuff with it.« My estimate was proven inaccurate by one year when the next entry, »Membrain« by our friends from Moodsplateau, came right next and showed match moving in perfection and put to good use. They eventually won the compo and I’m absolutely happy for them.
Another honorable mention goes to Half-Bit Cheese – they didn’t deliver one of their usual perfectly executed, stylish animated short films this time, but they did something quite original instead: »How to use Blender« is a perfect blend (pun intended :) between a tutorial, a demo and a typical HBC video. Everything in this clip is done right in the UI of Blender, without rendering anything offline, and it’s incredibly cool.

Console / Real Wild: While there were many okayish entries, I feel that this compo was quite weak overall. For one, modern consoles were absent completely (not even GBA or NDS) and there wasn’t even a Speccy entry. There were a few bland und uninteresting demos for mobile phones. I also remember a demo for a weird homegrown FPGA-based computer project centered around a Z80 CPU, but with better-than-Amiga graphics and sound, which makes the whole thing a bit uninteresing again. LFT surpassed himself again by using the same ATmega microcontroller as in »Craft« two years ago, but this time not generating a VGA signal, but proper PAL. Unfortunately, the actual demo still wasn’t anywhere near as good as his older masterpiece, so he only got the second place. The winner, »BluREU« by Crest, is a C64 demo which combines a 16 MiB (!) RAM Expansion Unit and NUFLI technology to play back smooth 25-fps 320×200 16-color video.

96k game: A short compo with only five entries: A funny, but rather lame C64 BASIC game, a more interesting »real« C64 game, a simple RTS game for Linux, a simple racing game with nice physics and finally the winning »Kl√§mrisk Hero« by kryo, which is too weird to be described ;) The coolest game was certainly, adinpsz’s »Wormhol«, a the 3D version of the popular »Snake« game which unfortunately ended up being larger than 96k and was thus only shown outside the compo.

Intros

C64 4k Intro: A pretty weak and short compo. I only remember two entries: »Rushed Orb« by Resource is a decent 4k intro with few, but good effects and got the second place. The first place went to »Dramatic Pixels« by PWP, which can be seen as a triumph of originality over technology: In that intro, a small story is told using only 3 colored 8×8 blocks and a few simple SID sounds.

Amiga 4k Intro: This compo had only three entries, and two of these had actually been hacked together in a hurry by Focus Design to save the compo. The only serious entry, »Ikadalawampu« by Loonies, is again so cool and brilliant that it would certainly have got the first place even if there was serious competition :)

Amiga 64k Intro: This compo has also been saved by Focus Design, who again did two only half-serious entries for it. However, one of these, »Charget« was good enough to actually win the compo in front of Moodsplateau’s classic OCS/ECS intro »fibomoodcci«.

PC 4k Intro: I know that you can’t expect a revolution to happen every year, but after the bar for 4k intros has been raised at Breakpoint for two successive years now, you can’t help but have high expectations. But even if you didn’t have exaggerated expectations, you would be left disappointed by this year’s 4k intro compo: Lots of good entries, half of them based on raymarching (which already starts to become boring, I must say), but nothing that makes me really cheer. TBC improved upon their stunning 1k intro from last year by writing a more interesting shader and calling the result »Mistrace«, which got them the second place. To my bewilderment, the first place went to »Darwinism« by Archee, which is technically mediocre and boring to watch in my opinion.

PC 64k Intro: This compo confirmed again that the 64k scene is practically dead. There were some entries that I enjoyed watching during the compo, but none of these got me a »I need to watch that again« feeling. The winner of the compo is »Imagine« by CodingCat, TGGC and Turri, but even this intro isn’t really spectacular.

Demo

C64 Demo: The main party for the C64 scene is no longer Breakpoint, but X, as could clearly be seen in 2008 when »Edge of Disgrace« was released. However, the C64 demo compo surprised me with three great demos, particularly »Snapshot« by Glance, who won the compo with TBL-style animated skyboxes and lots of other well-made effects.

Amiga Demo: This was one hell of a compo! 7 of the 11 entries are absolutely cool demos in typical Amiga demo style and each of these are worth watching. Haujobb returned with »Prototype I« and Ozone with »Fetish 2«, Traktor & Nature retained the style of last year’s winner in »Garden Variety Autobulk«, and Elude … well, they perfectioned their notion of an epic, atmospheric demo again and finally won their first Breakpoint Amiga demo compo with »We Come In Peace«.

PC Demo: The PC Demo was also a very pleasant one: Almost no crappy fun entries, and tons of good stuff instead. The five top ranks are particularly interesting: On #5, we have »zcareplex mk5« by Nuance, a very smooth, well-made demo with really good models. The fourth place went to United Force and Digital Dynamite for the follow-up demo to »The Golden Path«, called »Wir Sind Einstein«. These two demos are very similar in style, but while I absolutely hate the first one, I very much like the second. PandaCube surprisingly got the third place with »PC-04: Partycle«, a DirectX 10 demo with very game-like graphics and a truely awesome 3D model at the end. However, the two top demos are clearly »rove« by Farbrausch and »Agenda Circling Forth« by Fairlight & CNCD. »rove« is meant to be an epic demo with beautiful, yet strange landscapes and perfect graphics. However, due to some minor stilistic flaws, it got only the second place in the end. The compo was won by Smash’s demonstration of what one can do with just a particle system (an immensely huge one, though). The demo is very stylish and keeps its own mood, nicely accompanied by its (unfortunately ripped) music. It’s not as good as »rove« in my opinion, but it’s absolutely understandable why they won the compo.

scene.org awards

I didn’t follow the scene.org awards show the previous years, because I was having a BBQ on the parking lot at that time usually, but this year, I could watch it again. I’m also fine with most of the results, with one exceptions: How on earth is it possible that the soundtrack of »Blunderbuss« could be selected as the best of 2009?! If anything, I would have expected »Rupture« to get this prize, or even better, »Chameleon«, or »Frameranger« (which was not even nominated for unclear reasons).
Anyway, I’m quite surprised that »The Golden Path« didn’t get a single award, even though they were nominated in three categories – after all, everyone seemed to love this crap! :)
I also think that scene.org should have left out the »best 64k intro« category this year: If you want to give an award for the best thing in a category, you need to choose from several good things in that category to begin with. However, there was no really good 64k intro in 2009, so they should have simply dropped this.

Final words

Once again, Breakpoint was a magnificent and perfectly organized party. The atmosphere was nice, the releases were OK, overall it was a great experience. It’s too bad this this is really the last party of this type – I’m so used to the location and the smooth organizing that I wonder whether it’s possible to reproduce this elsewhere. However, I’m certain that at least there will be people who try to do make this a reality: Scamp already announced after the prizegiving that he will personally make sure that there will be another demoparty next easter, which is good news indeed.

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