Pilgrimage 2005 Party Report

By Polaris / Northern Dragons

This is the third Pilgrimage party report that I have the privilege of writing. It's a pleasant surprise that the Pilgrimage event has lasted as long as it has. I hope that I can make some useful comparisons over to the first two years of Pilgrimage and show how the event is evolving.

I've written this report for everyone I can think of.

- It's for people thinking of attending the event.

- It's for people that wish they could have attended the event and want to get part of the "feel" of the event.

- It's for people that attended the event but want to "see it" from another viewpoint.

- It's for the Pilgrimage organizing team, to gather some suggestions for next year.

- It is also for anyone thinking of organizing an event so they can consider these suggestions as well.

I'll mention that my party reports have been criticized before for ... their criticism. I suppose there are people in this world that believe any kind of criticism will derail attendance of the event, instead of believing that people can judge for themselves. In this mindset any criticism is seen as a disservice. I believe people are more mature, as it's only by identifying our faults that we can grow and hopefully makes the event better.

I would rather leave the judgment of my commentary to the reader. I respect that most readers will take my commentary in the light that it was intended (and I can't help if it you don't). I'm not setting out to inspire you to attend the event (or vice versa). Instead, I want you to know about the event, and what to expect from it if you decide to attend. It's up to you to decide what you think is important.

I would also like to greet Guybrush for reviewing its technical accuracy, and Penguin for her love & support and proofreading skills.

Without further discussion - let's talk about the party!

Thursday 3:00 PM CST - September 15th.

It's party time. I've done everything I can think of so far. I've got all the right software with me, so we can work on the demo that's still in progress. I have a presentation to give in Boston after Pilgrimage, so I've got that in progress as well. Complete copies of our CVS source tree and our file repository are on DVD. I've also got eight Northern Dragons T-Shirts and a little gift for all the members attending. My backpack and laptop case strain under the load. I'm just hoping that I haven't forgotten anything.

Clouds of bad press surround the start of Pilgrimage this year. Without a doubt the largest problem has been timely communication. Second to that has been well... timely organization. I've had a hard time promoting Pilgrimage to my demo group this time around. I've had to dance around the gloom saying, "It's up to you. I believe the event will go at the time posted... and I've bought my own plane tickets. It's the only demo party in North America after all." With a venue selected at the very last moment, many visitors have been weighing their options, and many have been public about their concerns.

It's not just a question of the venue however. Finding out a schedule - any kind of schedule proved to again be last minute. We were checking the website the same time it was posted, two days before the party (September 14th). Given that most of us were flying out the 13th... it was cutting it rather close!

Compo rules were another issue as well. All of us are afraid there won't be enough entries this year - because people might not have known the compo is even on. Sure, they can check the website from previous years... but many won't (and shouldn't) assume that the event will host the same competitions as years previous. Many have slammed Rich, taking him to task for the lack of organization. While I agree with many of the points many have put forth... I do draw the line at insulting his character.

I'm really lucky in spite of the gloom. Everyone that was on the fence in the Northern Dragons decided to take their own chances and attend the event. I know that regardless of what's going on with the event, we'll have a blast together, and that's what counts. The number of Dragons attending has increased over the years as well. I was the sole Dragon to attend in 2003. In 2004 we tripled that with three members making the trek. In 2005 we've increased again, with a total of six members and several extended friends attending. It's a good feeling.

I escaped the office just after three P.M. My heart wasn't really there anyway. My lovely wife gives me a lift to the airport, and we make it in record time. We had some confusion about where to go as I had paper tickets from my Expedia booking (imagine that). To my surprise the NWA agent eyeballs my backpack and laptop bag. He suggests because the airplane is small that my laptop bag is unlikely to fit under the seat in front of me. Instead of taking it as carry on it's accepted as a "plane side check". I remove my laptop and place it into my backpack, limiting my worry of having my bag unattended. I had never expected them to have a problem with my laptop bag; but go figure.

US customs doesn't open till 4:30 apparently, so we've got some time to kill. I grab some quick food, and share it with my wife. We don't really know what to do with ourselves, as the extra time is unexpected. Next time I'll call in advance to find out when I can actually be processed... showing up the mandatory 90 minutes before the flight only to be turned away is rather silly.

After a nice break, we return to the counter where I'm waved through. I say my good byes, and pass into the "ticket holders only" area. Luckily for me this year, customs wasn't such a challenge. It took a while to explain that yes, while I was going to a computer graphics event, that no... it didn't have anything to do with work. It's easier for me to call Pilgrimage a computer graphics conference than "demo party" as it's something people can relate to. A few additional questions later, and I was allowed into the boarding area.

I decided to try my new wireless usb nic at the airport. Last year I had tried to use my onboard wireless at Pilgrimage - but had no success. Many people had more luck with older wireless pcmcia cards, so I decided external was the way to go. I figured usb was even better as it made it really portable.

After some fiddling (wow, I actually needed the driver disk!), I was able to get it working without too much trouble. The Winnipeg airport has wireless; but as usual - it's looking for people to pay for the service. I disconnect the card and focus on my presentation. Conversation around me rings with business people coming back from various events in Winnipeg.

The first leg of the flight left on time without issue. I was somewhat surprised that NWA is no longer giving out the ubiquitous "butter spindles" pretzel snack. I suppose they gave that up after going bankrupt. At least NWA is still flying. To my relief after landing, my laptop bag was easily spotted just outside the plane. Truth be told, it would have easily fit under the seat, but I suppose it was fine as a "plane side" check as well.

I left the plane and into the terminal in Minneapolis, heading the wrong way. After realizing that I was at the end of terminal A, and needed terminal F (it's a horseshoe not a loop), I did an about face and started walking again. On the way I bought a diet coke and trail mix. I decided that I would stick it out and walk around the airport instead of taking the tram / shuttle system.

I checked out the business center I had used before, but decided it would be more sensible to try to set my self up at the gate. I hoped to find a find a power outlet there, enabling me to extended period of time while keeping an eye on the flight. It turns out that this was a good idea - I found an outlet along side the wall and started work on my presentation again. Twenty minutes later, the flight departure time becomes delayed by an hour.

More and more people start streaming in and taking seats by the gate. They look hurried, tired and desperate. The murmurs are that there has been any number of cancellations resulting in travelers being shuffled more times than a Las Vegas card deck. One of these travelers takes the seat next to me, and noticed my work on modeling ships as part of my presentation.

We started talking, and he introduced himself as Carl. He's a retired air force veteran, having seen service in Vietnam. It was fascinating to discuss the situation in Iraq with him. He was a very honest man - saying that while he had voted for Bush, he felt that Iraq had gone horribly wrong. Outside of that, we discussed the situation in New Orleans, and virtual reality used by the military. I enjoyed passing the time with him, as it was a fresh perspective on American politics coming from an unlikely source.

After the hour delay, the flight takes off as per usual. It's an odd delay after all - instead of blaming weather they admit that the pilot is delayed and won't arrive till 9:40. We depart promptly at 10:05 pm. Many travelers are simply relieved that the flight takes off. All this leaves me concerned about my next leg of the trip after Pilgrimage. I've never been happier to have my final return trip booked with Air Canada instead of NWA.

I arrive at just past midnight in SLC airport. I expect to meet up with Guybrush as we are sharing a room booked in my name. To my surprise, BarZoule and Blacklight are also waiting with him. Rather than booking into the hotel, I suppose they enjoyed chatting with Guybrush. Either way, it was great to reunite with them. I felt a bit guilty that my late arrival erased any possibility of us attending the pre-party.

We grab a taxi cab, and head off for the Super 8 hotel. The hotel was initially Blacklight's choice... but it got the momentum to become the "Dragons choice". It matched our priorities anyway. All we wanted was budget accommodation in a convenient spot. Conversation during the cab ride erupts into Gigertron - the PSP wild entry... and about demos.

After arriving, I pay the cab fare. The cabbie asks if we are part of the British military. I can find no reason for this question, but I chuckle and say, "no, we are Canadian military". Perhaps it was Guybrush's military style pants, our light luggage, or constant conversation about demos (demolition?). In any case, we left on good terms and entered the hotel half past midnight.

We were immediately greeted with a snag with our reservations. Our non-smoking rooms were given away; leaving only the smoking equivalent. Guybrush and I have both lived with smokers and decided to let it pass (for just one night). Blacklight and BarZoule were in the same situation. In the end we all got a significant discount and promises that it would be straightened out the next day.

We decide to call it a night, and did after a short visit from Thom and S_Tec. They shared with us some brief border crossing horror stories (Thom's hair got searched!). I suspect it was because he had no luggage with him. (Note - take at least one change of clothes!).

Friday 8:00 AM MTN - September 16th.

The following morning we met up in the lobby. BarZoule and Blacklight decided their room wasn't too bad for a smoking room... but Guybrush and I were suffering. I ended up taking Tylenol Cold (Nighttime) to help with my overnight congestion. The daytime staff didn't know anything about the problem - but they were happy to try to help. They gave us keys to a new room; we grabbed our stuff to transfer it over ... only to find that the room was still occupied.

We returned to the lobby with our small bags of carry on. She apologized; assured us she'd take care of it... and offered that we leave our stuff in plastic bags at the desk so they could place it into the room once it was available. We didn't have that much stuff anyway, (my bag was no longer straining under the load of Northern Dragons t-shirts). She explained that all we had to do when we returned was to identify ourselves, and check into the new room when we returned. Our stuff would be automatically moved for us. On that note, we enjoyed the continental breakfast, and ordered a cab.

The cab driver we got had a massive Texas Style Hat and addressed us in similar fashion but without the accent. "Where are all you boyz heading?". We watched outside the window, and as the few blocks passed we grew happier that we had taken a cab instead of trying to walk it. I was pleasantly surprised to see us pass a Buddhist temple on the way.

During the ride Guybrush used his laptop - trying to sniff out any networks that we might be able to use if the party place didn't have Internet available. Every so often he'd shout "Hello [internet service!]... you are un-encrypted too!". We loved every minute of it... knowing that if our Texas style cabbie knew anything about wireless networks he'd probably drive us to the police office instead of the SLC Utah Arts Alliance building.

We were the first to arrive to the building. The first floor is locked up (looked like a bakery with lots of equipment), but signs say to proceed to the second floor. We walk up... and things are just being unpacked. We offer to help out, but without direction there wasn't much for us to do. It was interesting to see some professionally printed posters displayed... and neat to see some of the Northern Dragons work immortalized on it as well.

The party space is divided into two areas by a temporary wall. We decide to make the best of our early arrival and claim an area in the second room as our own. We get together a table, and couch... run our power bars and hook our two laptops up. BarZoule gets to work on our demo, and Guybrush looks for networks unsuccessfully. Again, the party place is without Internet.

Overall however the party place is a good one. More tables and chairs would be ideal, and there is a disappointment that it's not 24x7 and without a liquor license. As the Pilgrimage venues have gone, it is the best yet. I suppose the only advantage the first year held was that it actually had Internet.

Shortly after we were setup, Rich started playing demo vibes cds on a stereo system. We began work on finishing our productions - Gigertron (our PSP production for the wild compo) and Eurotrash (a parody stylish piece for the demo compo). BarZoule's left-handed, which turns out to be a pain for him to use my laptop. The IBM T40 Thinkpad vents heat out to the left. We decide to do a tour about and see what we can find nearby... hopefully finding a usb fan to help cool BarZoule's baking arm.

A block North brings us back to the spot I was thinking of. Along the four comers are some major centers - an Ihop, Carl's Jr, Best Buy, Office Depot, Home Depot, and a gas station. Compared to other years this is the mother load - a few restaurants etc... within walking distance! Guybrush and I try Office depot and Best Buy for the fan, but we turn out to be unsuccessful.

We venture across the street to a gas station to get supplies. We buy Candy, Beef Jerky, Fruit, Vegetable Sticks, and a 12 pack of diet soda. We take are haul back with us. On the way back we realize how little people walk around the area. The air is so dry that it seems to suck the moisture right out of you. We come to the conclusion that most people stay in their cars.

We hang out at the party area some more, and I do some rounds to drum up support for the Ascii compo. It turns out this was a good idea - as one person was at risk of including copyrighted martial that would have been disqualified. I also have a look at the variety of stuff being sold. This year the t-shirts were screened and of excellent quality. I was blessed to get one as a compo organizer for free.

While we were the first table to be setup - other tables start to become occupied. The ambience of the area is good - having couches is a real bonus. We also found an available fridge, which we use to cool down the 12 pack of diet soda. The windows are mostly covered - including a Styrofoam chunk used to block the light out.

We are tickled to be re-united with some old friends. Nullsleep is in attendance, it was great to see him again as he missed Pilgrimage 2004. IC was there as well... showing off his homemade flashing wild compo prizes. People continue to roll in as it approaches noon, but there is no official welcoming speech.

Around 12:30 Rich makes some rounds to collect lunch orders for Grove Deli & Market Sandwiches. This goes rather well... and Guybrush and I decide to do another excursion shortly after the order... to grab some "mood lighting" from home depot. We decide to make a big loop of it - to try to find what's in the area that we might have missed.

Over all - the area is oddly industrial with a lot of bankrupt businesses. Despite the closures, there is one vibrant intersection, that has the Home Depot etc... and we end up there. We find a great rope light, which Guybrush buys as he'll take it home. (Editors Note: It's since migrated to his office :))

We both feel travel fatigue, and buy coffee from Mc Donald's. We grab some French fries to tie us over till the sandwich order arrives. When we arrive many folks were hoping we were the sandwich order.... but it was slightly delayed. We setup the light to good effect, and have some fun messing around with it. As time goes on, the lights get turned down... adding to the ambience...


Notes: (From Left to Right... Guybrush, Polaris, BarZoule, Blacklight).

We continue working on our productions.... Listening to demo vibes and basking in the red glow of our rope light. BarZoule is hacking away on my laptop (arm still getting cooked) trying to finish Eurotrash with Blacklight. I'm working with Guybrush on Gigertron ... but am distracted often by friends arriving, introductions, questions etc. I feel bad that I'm not there as much as I would have liked, but Guybrush is very understanding (and works hard on the PSP in my absence).

After we had all consumed our fill of McDonalds French fries, our sandwiches arrived on queue. True to Rich's description, the large sandwich was a monster, and we were able to save half in the fridge for consumption later. We get Nullsleep involved in the Gigertron music disk, which is a lot of fun. Guybrush asks Rich about nearby bars etc... and Rich is without any suggestions.

I think this is perhaps one barrier that keeps coming up. Pilgrimage continues to be a event that feels like it is "For SLC, by SLC". The delay in the venue announcement hurt anyone trying to book a hotel nearby. Lists of close food restaurants / bars / stores should be available... and yet... this is a gap that never seems to get filled. Those that have traveled the most to attend the event - feel the least welcomed by it.

Around three o'clock in the afternoon, the first (and only) presentation started. S_Tec was kind enough to provide a discussion about design in demos - not only from an artistic sense, but a technical sense. S_Tec is a former member of the Northern Dragons, so I was particularly interested to see how his thinking had evolved outside the group.

I was impressed by S_Tec's presentation, as it covered a lot more artistic design rules than I had expected. Being a coder, this was "art sense for the coder". I appreciated it. His presentation was a bit weaker in terms of technical discussion, where he tried to tie in his experience with demo engines (and the Northern Dragons invite 2004) with the 2005 invite. Luckily we had chatted before, so I was able to correct a few statements about the 2004 invite in a friendly way that didn't detract from his seminar.

While S_Tec's seminar was good - over all Pilgrimage dropped a few pegs in this department. The first two years had some fantastic speakers, and I was hoping for this tradition to continue. I'm afraid this is slipping. In 2003, there were seven seminars, and in 2004 this dropped to four seminars (but still with great quality). Having just one seminar in 2005 is disappointing, and shows that organization has to start earlier to make for a great event.

After the seminar, I'm tickled by an introduction to Charles Baker (from New Zeeland). He's familiar with some of my articles, and told me that some had inspired him to make intros. I'm happy to see that another intro will be released at a Pilgrimage - which is a great step in the right direction. Perhaps someday they will be able to split out the compos into real Demo / Intro breakdowns. I admired his C64 t-shirt as well... really fantastic old school gear.

I also meet up with Gem, a member of TRSI from Hungary. We chatted a bit; discussing things like the new In4k portal that will go live (we hope) October 31st. It's great to finally put a face to a pouet presence; especially one that's really involved in 4kb intros. I'm excited to show him the IN4K announcement intro.

Getting closer to the dinner hour, we decide to arrange an expedition to one of the local restaurants. At first it appeared that we were all going to be kicked out of the venue for a "UAA Capoeira Practice"... but as it turned out - a mutual agreement was struck that allowed both groups to use the space.

BarZoule and Guybrush stay back working on the entries, while Blacklight, S_Tec, Thom and I head off. We dined at Ihop, which worked reasonably well for all of us. Conversation was good, and it was entertaining to hear Thom's stories about Lloydminster. S_Tec was good company too, and he finally had a musician working on content for their demo, as Thom hadn't composed anything. We offer to S_Tec that we can try to recompile his exe to make use of new music if he's able to get it.

On our return, I tried to focus on the PSPtro, every once and a while meeting up with friends. Radman had arrived as well, and it was great to catch up with him. He had accidentally sold my reserved copy of Freax that I was hoping to buy for Syntax, but he promised to mail it to him. (Note: True to his word, it arrived a few weeks later). I chatted a bit with Tfinn as well. It was interesting to hear that DC5 and K-RAD weren't going to be represented in the demo compo.

This was also the first time that Guybrush saw our new demo creation tool SV3. It's our third attempt at this type of generic demo creation tool, and I'm feeling that we are really getting it right. Blacklight deserves amazing credit for taking to the tool to life. I performed the initial design and technology selection - but when work hours became too extreme... he took over to bring it to life. The tool is very interactive, yet still allows for AdHoc scripting... just about the right blend of code and data independence. While I don't look at the tool with the same freshly inspired awe as Guybrush; I can certainly understand where he's coming from.

Later in the evening, Soul D arrived. Again, we were all amazed by his arrival, considering that he started driving Wednesday night. The first year that he participated; he drove the entire distance himself letting his friends sleep. This year he was a bit more balanced; but you have to admire his dedication.

He had lots of questions about the fast track music compo; which we had no answers for. No sample set etc... had yet been announced. Luckily for us, IC had Dilvie's phone number so he was able to get some details... then go out and party. I wish we had the chance to hang out a bit more with Soul D, but since he traveled with his own group of friends (and had a friend to stay with)... we didn't see him as much.

Coding continued into the evening, while Rich set up a movie on the projection screen. Called, Koyaanisqatsi - it is an unique art film that has an interesting demoscene feel similar to some Halcyon demos.

Around 10:00 PM, Rich abruptly closed down shop. It was a pain really, not because we weren't expecting it; but because we didn't even get a chance to use the phone inside to try to secure a cab back. He just plain kicked everyone out. Radman lent us his cell phone, but the phone number the cabbie had given us before was ringing busy. After lots of frustration and confusion, we decided to walk back North towards the ihop etc - to use the phone book at the gas station.

We poured a few quarters into the pay phones ... and waited... on hold... for what really was an eternity. During the 15 minutes on hold, we spotted a nice Hawaiian restaurant and took note of it... possibly to dine at during the following day. It took another 15 minutes for the cab to arrive.

In a hilarious twist the driver asked if he could gas the car up. We agreed; and he filled with the keys in the ignition. He then left us alone in the car, to pay for the gas and pick up a package of cigarettes. We were all surprised that he trusted us with the keys in the ignition. We got back to the hotel fairly quickly, but not before we had all jokingly imagined just driving ourselves.

Upon arrival, we met another disaster. Nothing had happened with our room; we were still registered for the smoking room, and our stuff is still in bags behind the counter. I respectfully ask to speak with a manager.... And get told that they aren't available.

Guybrush is tired; doesn't quite hear what's going on... and assumes that we don't have a room at all. He starts yelling at the clerk, in disgust that we'd have to be on the street. After more insistence; I get on the phone with the manager's husband. He say's the manager is "indisposed". I ask to the nature of her disposition, and he doesn't understand. I ask again "Why can't I talk with her" .. and he says that "She's sleeping, pregnant and sick".

The night staff leak out that there are two non-smoking single rooms available. In the same breath on the phone, the husband assures me that "The hotel will do everything it can do to make it better." I explain to him that there are two single non-smoking rooms available.. and if they gave those to us - we'd be ok with it. I then instruct him to tell the staff to give it to us... and pass the phone back to the employee.

The super 8 is clean, has great budget accommodations, and has a good free breakfast... but I sure felt like I was dragging the horse to water to get us served properly. Guybrush's wife had apparently (after hearing some issues from phone conversations with him) ... had already barked up some of the management chain and secured lodging in another hotel. It's great having resourceful people on your side; despite I preferred my more subtle approach to solving things (scream as part of a last resort). In the end, we had great effectiveness in almost good cop / bad cop style. They assured us our two rooms would be available for our last evening as well.

We setup camp in my room, working on the two productions till 4:00 AM. Guybrush was able to get a wireless signal from the (good) hotel across the street and I dialed into my corporate network. We managed to get a few emails out and download content from K9D and Syntax. We also got some ASCII entries from Radman. After our Internet "fix" Guybrush chatted on the phone with his wife for a while to make sure she understood that weren't lost on the street.

Saturday 8:00 AM MTN - September 17th.

We checked the event schedule for the following morning, and decided to target around 11:00 to join the event. It gives us until 5:00 PM to make sure our entries were in place. Tweaking continues, while I get pulled into more ASCII compo organization duties. We enjoy the rest of our sandwiches, and snack on the food we brought previously. Radman helps Guybrush prototype filming and placing the psp Gigertron on the big screen. His help was fantastic - without his high-end equipment we would have been trying to wing it with basic digital cameras. He was also very generous giving some of the Dragons members' fantastic ASCII art prints. I also got my replacement Phluid t-shirt.

Progress continued on everything... and aside from some painful moments (where Rich didn't want to give up the compo machine for a routine test, again like last year) ... we were confident that everything was going well. I was pleasantly surprised when Rich gave us two copies of Visual Studio.net academic - he had saved some for shipping. It was very nice of him to think of us. One copy went to Blacklight, the other came home with me.

The submission system was very slick. Rich pulled a 360' on that one, once having proclaimed them all as "European - crap". In a pinch Hurri got PartyMeister working on a local wifi network. They mirrored the Pilgrimage website as well, but that didn't work at all. Minus a few file permission glitches; this was fantastic. Entries were easily uploaded, tested and screened, and edited. Great thanks to Hurri for getting this working... it was a fantastic improvement on previous years.

After submitting it we tried to help S_Tec, but his code was based on syntax available only in C++ .NET. In the end, it was too difficult to port over, so he abandoned us in favor of finding another machine to compile his stuff on. Luckily he was able to get it combined with the music in time.

After our entries were submitted and all was done; we had a sudden adrenaline crash. The compo wasn't scheduled to start till 7:00 PM, so we had two hours to kill. We arranged a group to head for the Hawaiian restaurant I had spotted earlier. We dine on a great mix of food, enjoying chicken and rice dishes... and lots of Bubble Tea (also known as Boca tea).

When we returned it was time for the competitions. Everyone gathered around, and the organizers did pre-screening. Loopy (a good friend of the Northern Dragons) arrived just in time to meet up with us again... and see our entries.

We were surprised to see two of Soul D's music pieces entered in the same compo... competing with each other. It turns out that there weren't enough entries - so streamed and tracked were combined. They should have at least told Soul D this, as he would have pulled out one of his entries rather than competing against himself (splitting votes).

Another nice touch (finally) was printed lists with compo entry details. This made it easier for people to keep track of what had been presented... and everyone took notes. The printed sheets were a very nice touch in addition to the party voting system.

The ASCII compo was the first up, and Radman gave me a lot of help making it right. My Acidview was corrupted; so he was able to solve that. Over all, there were three really excellent pieces of ASCII art. A stereogram was entered which took a lot of focus to see, and ... and a fake "psych you out " - stereogram. The stereograms were carry overs from last year's stereogram entries. Most people figured out the fake stereogram (nice try Thom).

The demo compo followed next. I really enjoyed it; as there were new players in the arena. ISO surfer had some great routines, and "If Plato was a scener" was a great 4kb introduction. The Northern Dragons entry ND-001: EuroTrash was a smash hit... just by audience reaction.

I'm noting a trend with some of the Trailer Park demo stuff to be "side scrolling".. as if someone had done a storyboard in that way. "Top down or bottom up". Over all, Free Fall is an interesting concept and was very artistic. Everyone should be happy that with all the challenges the event faced - that there were some excellent demo entries.

Graphics were fun, and lead nicely into the wild compo. I liked Pilgrimage 2005 by Ra ... but assumed (wrongly) that they must have broken copyright. It included an image of a lingerie model. We heard later, that it was a photo of a friend!

The music compo took a really long time, and it was hard to sort out all the entries. I felt badly for Soul D having poured so much effort into the event (8 months on one song), to get mismanaged at the last minute by the organizers. It's a crying shame that the tracked and streamed got combined. In addition to that, the addition of a file size limit to the compo very late in the game - forced him to compromise the quality his song allowing him to drop the bitrate in order for it to fit.

The wild compo was truly wild. It contained a mix of video clips, photos (including tfinn's excellent Polaroid work), and photos. I wasn't as fussy on the photos in the compo. Instead we should do a photo compo. At least Pilgrimage stands out in the wild categories. At other demo parties, wild has become synonymous with "video clip". We learned that one the hard way when a mame32 production got stripped of its included source code etc... and only the video clip distributed - as part of the Assembly 2003 event. That's why we don't make console stuff for Assembly anymore.

Once all the entries were viewed; everyone got a voting passcode... and were able to use a variety of machines to go to the wifi website to vote. PartyMeister is really unfriendly to anything other than Mozilla browsers. This became a bit of a pain for compo organizers without Mozilla installed, but worked ok for voters.

The vote count was almost instantaneous... and the final results were printed on a master list. I was given the chance to read out the ASCII art ones... and enjoyed playing Santa Claus. It was great to see Diamondie and jSepia place so well.

Announcements continued including the demo compo, wild compo, and music compo. Overall, we stole the show... but felt badly for Soul D getting shut out of first place in the fast track compo... and splitting votes in the combined music compo. Soul D was really excited for us, and we graciously accepted our 150$ cash prize for the demo compo. We will treasure the fantastic illuminated prize keyboard box from IC.

There were some good draws as well - I won a copy of Halo in the raffle. Compared to last year the prizes were quite a bit thinner... video cards were noticeably missing from the price list. Cash is always great, but getting hardware is excellent as well. I imagine that obtaining sponsorship requires a lot of advance organizing... so things fell apart a bit there. The music folks weren't happy themselves with how organized their prizes were... and asked for people's emails to help straighten it all out.

Winning first place in two compos, and our affiliates also winning the ASCII compo... felt great. Rich stepped on the wrong foot with us saying "aww... you must feel bad that K-rad wasn't here to beat". This shows us that he didn't get the point. We had made some great productions, had fun doing it... and were happy that they were enjoyed. I suppose he might have felt a bit out of sorts, as Eurotrash suitably diffused his war on the Euro Scene. (mission successful!!!! - Guybrush)

We posed for a few photos, and slowly cleaned up. We were invited to the after party, and the "after that ... after party" (held at Tfinn's room in the Little America hotel). We decided to catch it after we had gotten our stuff sorted out at the hotel.

(From Left to Right: Blacklight, Polaris, BarZoule, Radman, Guybrush, Soul D)

We met a lot of great congratulations and admiration from the demo party. Clarissa Helps asked us why we make such weird demos... (meaning intros and console stuff) and suggested that we should never stop making stuff on weird platforms.... While it was cool to be encouraged, we never thought of console hacking as a weird thing to do. The spirit was fantastic... and I too hope we never stop hacking weird platforms. (Thanks Clarissa!)

We joined Thom and S_Tec to take the Traxx back to the hotel. It's really a streetcar / above ground style subway system. We were pretty nervous waiting for it to arrive... it seemed like every so often one was heading in the opposite direction. Police cars seemed to aimlessly patrol the area too, and we couldn't imagine having missed the last one.

After lots of bubbling conversation about all that we had experienced, and the success of our entries... the traxx arrived. It was quick and effective... and we got near the hotel pretty quickly. It wasn't too much cheaper than cab fare split in four... so I didn't feel like were spending excessively before.

BarZoule and I decide there was no hope sleeping given our 6:00 AM / 6:30 AM departure times. It was a shame that we couldn't stay longer, as we would have loved to catch the Grand America buffet everyone seems to talk so fondly about. After arriving at the hotel to drop our stuff off... we were met with another glitch (our room keys didn't work)... and had to wait 15 minutes for a clerk to even come to the desk to sort it out. Three nights, and three problems at Super 8. I'm sure others had no issues with them (provided their room wasn't given away due to a late arrival, despite being guaranteed with credit card). For us, it was a source of endless frustration (and conversation).

Once this is straightened out... we figured that the after party would be closed.... So we headed straight for the party at Tfinn's hotel room. On the way we encountered Thom, returning from having found no one there. He tried again, following us and we met up with Tfinn and Company returning from The Bayou.

The Little America hotel is amazingly posh. The décor reminds me of a mix between the Ramses Hilton Cairo (with its deep dark wood tones and marble) and the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. Brass and mirrors gleam; and the cleaning staff is still evident at 1:00 am.

In the room, we enjoyed drinking some more Salmiakki care of Radman, and many spirits brought by various travelers. Conversation bubbled and was endless. Radman used it as a chance to invite everyone to a demo party he's planning to throw in 2006 (Block Party). BarZoule did the same - inviting everyone to Montreal for another Canadian based demo party.

Provided the community doesn't divide and collapse - having more options can only be a good thing. Many are excited to visit venues outside of Salt Lake City. We stayed at Tfinn's till roughly after 3:00; headed back to the hotel to collect our things (and pack). BarZoule and I said our goodbyes to Guybrush and Blacklight. We collect our stuff and push off around 4:30 am.

Every time I travel to SLC, I'm always surprised by something new. You can read about my first impressions in my previous party reports. In short, I've gotten used to the weaker beer (possibly), the sprinkler systems that fog the grass over night... the "Trust Jesus" spray painted on the sidewalks... the verbose posters legalese in bars... and the classically uninspired coffee. Every time however, something surprises me.

This time - while leaving for the airport at 4:30 AM... we pull up along side a Denny's restaurant - with eight police cars in front of it. Heaven only knows what could have inspired that. BarZoule and I both gawk at it... laugh a bit... and shake our heads.... "It's Salt Lake City man... I have no idea what to expect anymore".

Polaris / Northern Dragons