Hugi Magazine #33: MP3 Power

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Breakpoint 2007 Party Report (Written by syphus/BDSE)

When Magic asked me to knock up a Party Report for this year's Breakpoint (so soon after I got home that I was possibly still drunk), my immediate reaction was to think "Surely this would be better done by a demoparty veteran; somebody with years of wider experience against which to measure Breakpoint'07". The more I chatted to others about the party, though, the more I realised the value of a report from the perspective of somebody for whom Breakpoint was their first big, foreign demoparty. I'll assume little about other people's knowledge of the now-traditional Breakpoint format, since I feel compelled to evangelise about my experience and to encourage everybody who, a week ago, was in the same situation as me; not having travelled to a big party! NB: I shoulder no responsibility for any alcoholically-induced vaguenesses and inaccuracies that may creep into this report...

Good Friday started quite early for me, since I needed to fly from my home in Newcastle to London, whence I would travel to Hahn after meeting up with other members of the Ukscene. Even if I hadn't already met most UKsceners at Sundown '06, they wouldn't have been difficult to spot: the sight of bonkers/Tulou with an A1200 under his arm is a fairly unambiguous means of identification :) Also present were smash/flt, rc55, Navman, gasman/atebit, evilpaul/atebit, xeron/IRIS, Vampire/TZT, Vespa/TZT, Devistator/DCS, MeteoriK/Approximate, white_shadow/Finality, 71M/TRSI and George.

After another uneventful flight, and despite gasman's Spectrum ZX receiving some severe abuse from the baggage handlers and losing a key, we embarked on a drink-driven journey through airport bars, onto a bus full of friendly Poles with vodka and eventually to the partyplace in Bingen. The next half-hour can be pretty much envisaged if you visit and check out pictures of the sports hall, the info desk and the partyhall interior - the aim in that first half-hour is to hand over your money, get your wristband and grab a nice table inside. Fortunately, Cryptic/Approximate and SirGarbageTruck had positioned themselves in an area that accommodated most of us, while some went off to join their various groups: xeron to IRIS, bonkers to Tulou, etc. 'Settling in' was simply a matter of finding a power supply, connecting to the local wireless net and...hunting for a well-deserved drink:)

As a first-timer at Breakpoint, I can't say enough good things about the bar system. 24hr availability of coke and beer is good enough by itself (some would say essential) but the bottle refund system was fantastic. People kept leaving empties all around my laptop and not coming back for them... Four empties == one beer! Seriously though, since it was Easter weekend in Bingen, the town was almost entirely dead (I think I saw three pedestrians in town the whole time) and so good food and drink will always be really important at Breakpoint while shops are closed. The fast-food, despite being unhealthy in the long-term, was remarkably good and reasonably priced.

The next thing I should mention, before getting further into the 'demo' aspect of 'demoparty', is the wonderful sensation of belonging and trust that you get at a party like Breakpoint. Breakpoint has never had a single reported theft, and the idea that you can leave your laptop/Amiga/equipment all set up while you roll around drunk in a field, go upstairs to watch demos or even go to your hotel for the night, is really amazing. It seems trivial and materialistic of me to mention it, but it reinforces the fact that you feel like everyone's there for the same reason; everyone has certain shared passions and something in common, despite there being 1100 visitors many of whom you won't meet in person. Even the local IRC channel is friendly and active, and there aren't many IRC channels about which you can say that ;) The Infodesk (which doubles as the bar) is open 24 hours and is the authoritative source of assistance if you need it, with friendly organisers who'll really do their best to sort out your problem. I only had one - I was concerned that my Oldschool Executable Music entry had precalc that might have gone over the time limit and Stingray, who did my replayer code, hadn't arrived yet... So I needed to ask if this would be a big problem, etc. - basically do a bit of pleading and grovelling :) Anyway, a helpful organiser led me around the partyplace until we found wayfinder, who was able to give me a definitive answer. In the potential chaos of a big party, this is a pretty essential thing, and I was very grateful.

Anyway, down to the real facts. There's always something happening at Breakpoint. Not only that, but it's always really easy to find out WHAT is happening. The big screen cycles through a load of useful infoslides, with daily timetables and deadline warnings, while the booming (yet strangely velvety) voice of kb/fb comes over the PA from time to time, keeping you informed as to what's going on. Seminars have now moved slightly away from Breakpoint to a nice new school building across the road - the atmosphere in here is very pleasant, as people will soon be able to see from the videos made in there. I checked out TyRaNiD's PSP seminar in there, although I was still drunk from the night before and had to leave half-way through for fear of collapsing on the floor... Very rude, but I think he forgives me :)

While the main thrust of a party report is usually the actual demos and productions, and the competitions in which they were released, this really is the hardest part for me to discuss. Put simply, Breakpoint 2007 seemed to me to be an absolutely amazing demo experience, in terms of the unending list of entertaining prods thrown up on the big screen over two days. Admittedly, that's influenced by the excitement of actually being there (and definitely by the evils of alcohol) and, admittedly, the PC demo competition featured a large number of fairly bland, unexciting demos, but high points like Shitfaced Clowns' GBA demo, Salami Tactics' hilariously ridiculous 'i has a demomaker' on the Amiga, Archee's similarly entertaining 'sumotori dreams' in the 96k Game compo and Farbrausch's winning (and spectacular) PC Demo entry kept the whole thing rolling along. My own particular points of interest had been the music compos (I entered all four, including the unofficial tracked compo) and while I didn't have any success, the competitions themselves were really good fun with no poor entries. I was even sort of happy to place 5th in Oldschool Music, behind some really fantastic entries from the likes of my good friend Dalezy/Triad and the brilliant 505/ymrockers ;)

Of course, you could have a good set of demo compos anywhere, as long as you got good contributors to come along. But that's the point: Breakpoint gets the good contributors because of the small but significant ways in which it makes itself a perfect environment for these kinds of groups and artists. There's a sense of high 'production value' to the whole organisation and management of the event, without giving a visitor the feeling that it's commercialised or that it has sold out in any way. You're aware on a personal, rather than on a corporate level, of what has been put into Breakpoint by volunteers and particularly by scamp, who invests so much (financially and emotionally) in Breakpoint.

Aside from all that, it really is the people who make the party and the oft-repeated adage that 'the real party is outside' made some sort of sense at Breakpoint, where it's in the tent and on the grass that you really meet all of those friends you know so well from IRC, but have never met in person. It was great to catch up with Dalezy/Triad, reed/flt, Stingray/Scarab, gilligan, Truck (whose cover of Hard Rock Hallelujah with BASS was triumphant), Nosfe (while he was helping reed during a time of... discomfort), Gargaj/Conspiracy, ps... the list goes on. Of course I came away from Breakpoint with all sorts of entertaining anecdotes, but since this is a party report and not a tabloid gossip column, they'll remain secret so that the dignity of various sceners is maintained :)

Getting home was a painless affair and I was back to the comforts of my desktop PC, my precious Amigas (which I couldn't take on the plane with me) and IRC by 10pm on Easter Monday. I'll now spend the next eleven months persuading absolutely everybody to hit Bingen in Easter 2008 for Breakpoint!

syphus/BDSE [13.04.2007]