This year Assembly was held at its usual time, 3rd to 6th of August. Let's start reporting from the weather again. The wise men originally forecast rain for the first three days of the party, but in the end there was only a trickle of water on Thursday and the rest of the party got plenty of heat and sunshine, just like the previous 4-5 years. I arrived at the partyplace at about 15:00 on Thursday. The first person I met was Tomcat outside of the arena. He showed me a copy of his new art album which looked impressive.
In the oldskool area I found out that my computer place was in front of Preacher's place and on the opposite side of Ravel's one. I decided to submit my productions first, so that I wouldn't be in a hurry. I hadn't created thumbnails of my pictures because the website didn't mention them this year, so I assumed they would be created automatically. No such luck. I tried making the thumbs with a friend's laptop, but it turns out Photoshop Elements is not able to resize pictures to a certain pixel size. So I downloaded the trial version of Paint Shop Pro, as I'd be needing it for the fast graphics compo anyway.
My italian friend Fogbank arrived bringing me some Compeed bandaids for my heels that weren't too fond of my new shoes. Now that I could walk again I went to submit my floppy to the infodesk. Many other, mostly Finnish, people arrived, like ld0d, MegaMies, Blueflame and iood. Blueflame said that he was going to code a 4k even though he hadn't even started yet. This year you were allowed to update your productions in all compos until one hour before the jurying started.
The opening ceremony began at 18:30 and the lights were turned off to reveal your usual flashy neon-colored and glistening party hall. The ceremony was also your usual hyping show preceded by loads of yelling. I saw the Assembly invitation for the first time and I have to say I was quite disappointed. Pehu and Abyss asked for two volunteers to appear on the stage. They were asked two questions about the party and as a prize they both got an ATI Radeon graphics card.
My friends disappeared or went to listen to the seminars, so I decided to aimlessly wander around the party place. I overheard some random person saying to someone else "This is such a nerdy event" in a surprised voice. I wonder what he was expecting. I met Rigi at the Star Wreck stand and we chatted for a while. I also showed him the oldskool area and he praised the silence and lack of crappy music. Only minutes later ravel started playing something utterly horrible.
I installed my tablet on my friend's laptop and his girlfriend started doodling with it while I hung around for a bit before the fast graphics compo which started at 20:30. The theme of the compo was "On the rocks" and I spent a good quarter an hour thinking about what to draw and settled with a penguin standing on an ice float with a laptop, titled "Why WLAN Rocks". I finished the picture in time quite happy with the result and left to Boozembly with Deep-blue. The place looked saddening with most of the trees gone, dusty sand everywhere and rubbermats lying on the rocks, even though they made for some comfy chillout places.
We came back for the game development compo that was shown at 23. There were several games with interesting and clever concepts. In Tattoo Frenzy the player uses a Pocket PC pen to draw tattoos. The idea was neat, but it could have been used in a better way. Frets on Fire was a good-looking and sounding, very polished guitar playing game, similar to dancing games but by using the keyboard. The most original idea was by tAAt, whose racing game used the microphone as the controller device. The audience was in hysterics with laughter watching the video of a tAAt member playing different levels of the game.
Bloboats was a nice game a bit similar to the Across motorbike game, but using a boat instead of a bike. I think that Stariffic was utilizing a similar concept, but it wasn't nearly as interesting. Spacetruck both looked and sounded good, unfortunately it just seemed boring at least on the bigscreen. Super Puzzle looked like a commercial game with its candy colors and shiny graphics, but the lack of sound was a big minus. I rather liked Traction & Jumalauta's game too, it was a platformer with some great levels.
I got a ride home after the gamedev compo. I woke up early on Friday and got to the party place by 10:45, only to find out that not only had my fast graphics entry not qualified, but also my C64 picture had been preselected because some jury members had a problem with the fact that it was made by me. I know who these morons are and it doesn't surprise me that they'd resort to such childish and repulsive behaviour. And why are you even in the oldskool jury if you're not a scener?
Feeling rather pissed off I wandered around the Areena and paid the compulsory visit to the main area, but it was fairly boring. Most people were watching anime or playing games, even though the hardcore gamers had their own area. I checked out a few of the sponsor stands. The ones with sleeping facilities were particularly popular. On Microsoft's stand you could even reserve a bed place for yourself. There was a bunch of people playing dancing games by the IRC galleria stand, stomping hypnotically in unison to the same tune. Some guy who was wearing about ten different Assembly wristbands wanted to take a picture of me.
My little sister arrived at 13. She looked a bit puzzled when the security guys inspected her little handbag and asked if she had any drugs or weapons with her. I showed her around the partyplace, even though there wasn't much to do at that time of the day. She was keen on the t-shirt booth and bought a badge from there. We went to watch the outdoor compos, disk and floppy throwing. There would have been football afterwards, but it was incredibly hot outside, so I went back to Areena as soon as she left. Lostchild arrived and brought me a new cell phone and a basil plant. Apparently the security guys had been a bit puzzled by the plant, but concluded that it's not a hemp plant.
The fast music compo was shown at 18:30 and it sucked. There were just six entries that qualified for the big screen, but not a single one of them was worth mentioning. The fast graphics compo was quite a bit better, though I wasn't surprised to see some entries much worse than mine being shown. There were many different interpretations of the theme "On the Rocks", including drinks, stones, cliffs and one piece showing a stone engraving. My favorite entry was "Something missing" showing two teddybears on a rocky terrain, it felt polished and didn't have a hurried feeling to it at all.
We headed for the rocks and it seems that several hundreds of people had got the same idea. BassCadet and osyn played live music with an accordion and a guitar, though in the end the sound was switched to a boomblaster playing metal. Kakka was showing his beautiful thong pants. Led by Aani some of the security guys made a visit to Boozembly. They were just watching around, but I heard that their behaviour got much nastier later on when people kept relighting the fires. The Demoscene.tv folks spread around some of their frisbees resulting in a mad frisbee war.
Next up was the instrumental music compo at 22. Its quality came as a nice surprise to me, since it has often been utterly dull. This year we didn't only have movie soundtrack anthems, only a handful of them and most of them were actually fairly decent. There were some metal tracks and of course the mandatory funk piece and the mandatory agent tune. Sadly many of the songs were ruined by bad mixing and some sounded cheap because they used sampled instruments instead of real ones.
The drawn themed graphics compo wasn't quite as high in quality. There were some great pictures, but also some rather sloppy ones. Of course the themes of the compo weren't shown on the screen, something we've been waiting for for several years. In many cases it wasn't at all clear whether the theme of the picture was Obsession, Transparency or On the Go/Mobility. There were some rather crappy pieces that got a huge applause, because they were WoW or anime themed. My definite favorite was Mun omenat!, an actually artistic picture with a child holding apples. Some people complained that it didn't "fit in" at Assembly, God forbid people submit anything artistic in the graphics compos.
The 4k compo was a disappointment especially compared to some previous years. There was only a handful of entries and none of them really stood out to me. I liked Northern Dragons' intro for the creative style and Shroom for the lovely coder color design. Glitterati by Fairlight was technically nice, but I found it boring. Last Man Swinging was a nice lego intro whose music kicked ass on the sound system. The rest of the entries seemed quite forgettable.
By the oldskool music compo I was starting to feel very sleepy. After the first tunes I had to lie down on the seats and listen to the rest of the compo from that position. So I don't remember that much of the compo, except that all of the entries sounded nice and nothing in particular stood out to me. The oldskool graphics compo had some excellent entries but also some incredibly crappy doodles. Lord Rothschild was a great piece that seemed to be a digital painting. 2nd Count was an awesome C64 picture. There was one ANSI entry too, but it seemed a bit plain to me.
The oldskool demo compo was shown at 2:00. It only had three entries after one of the entrants had been disqualified for copyright infringement. Jumalauta's Gameboy Classic demo looked cool and had great graphics. PWP's colorful C64 entry didn't stun the audience with anything groundbreaking, but I liked the flow and the message in it. I wasn't fond of RNO's demo, but I've never liked their prods so much.
There was a 45-minute wait for a train after the oldskool demo compo. I got to bed a little after 4, but only managed to sleep for five hours. I hurried for the DeviantART meeting that I had organized in front of of the Pasila railway station at 13:00. There were about 25 people and a few of them were also at Assembly. I and the others left back to the partyplace to catch the freestyle graphics compo at 16. We missed almost all of the freestyle music compo, assuming that it probably wasn't so great after all. Between the compos they played My Monkey Got the Flu from the oldskool music compo again, because the compo recording had been broken.
The freestyle graphics compo was probably the lowest quality graphics compo I've ever watched at Assembly. They showed 20 entries, which was way too much. There was a handful of eyecandy but some total crap too. Most of the entries were made by combining a 3D modelling program with Photoshop, but there were also some photo manipulations, pure digital paintings, some pencil drawings and one oil painting too, which I voted for. A Parrot Stalking Its Prey was an excellent and humorous piece with a parrot stalking two pandas. Reanimator had put his nickname and group name in the "techniques used" field, but apparently no one noticed or cared.
We hurried to the Pasila railway station to buy some food and film for Skizo's camera, as grocery stores already close at 18 on Saturdays. He wanted to dine at the Hesburger there so we were also in a hurry to get back in time. No worries, the first prize ceremony started late at about 18:45, with Pehu and Abyss asking for 100 volunteers. It didn't take too long until the people had amassed in front of the stage and the organizers threw them t-shirts.
The prizes in most of the music and graphics compos again went to known veterans who claim the stage every year. John Peeba won the fast graphics compo and Random placed third. Fast music was won by Aikapallo for at least the second time in a row. Kinnerean got the first place in the drawn themed graphics compo with Invisible Man Saves The World Again and the freestyle graphics compo was won by Migugi's parrots and pandas, both well deserved victories.
The music from the Frets on Fire guitar game fared well in the music competitions. Cairbre's This Week I've Mostly Been Playing Guitar won the instrumental music compo and another tune from the game placed third in the freestyle music compo, which was again won by Paavo ^Tarantula^ Härkönen. Aikapallo placed second in instrumental with Heavy Metal Ownager. Little Bitchard ranked third in instrumental and second in the freestyle music. Quasian, SounDemon and Future Crew had to do with lower places.
Oldskool music also invited some known names on the stage. Jammic placed third, !Cube was second, but the compo was won by Monk. Surprisingly for me Britelite wasn't in the TOP-3, but bubbling closely under on the 4th place, with reed and Eeben slightly lower in the ranks. Partikle won the graphics compo with Lord Rothschild just as I expected. The awesome C64 picture ranked second and iCE's ANSI fit in on the third place.
The results of the oldskool demo compo really surprised me. I was sure that Jumalauta would win, yet they only placed third. PWP was second and the winner was of course RNO, which felt quite undeserved to me. I didn't exactly agree with the results of the 4k compo either, as I hadn't voted for any of the prods that placed in the TOP-3. Prophecy's The Thing was third and I can't understand why, since I found it uninteresting. TAAt placed second and Fairlight won the compo.
The mobile demo compo was due at 20:00 and the quality in it wasn't too bad, even though there were just five entries shown, though I have to admit I can't remember much of two of them. Byteraper's PSP demo felt like a half-assed effort to me. I rather liked the black and white clown-themed GBA demo from Shitfaced Clowns. Hedelmae's Pulque was also impressive, even though the design seemed to go slightly downhill towards the ending.
We made a trip to the gas station again for some beverages and ice cream and not surprisingly met many other sceners on the way. From there we headed to Boozembly, which for some reason was much less crowded than on Friday. ISO had finally got their DVDs ready and were selling them with success. Demoscene.tv were again present and they made an interview with Truck, who was apparently also advertising those DVDs.
The short film compo started at 21:30 and was crappy as always, though there were some real gems too. Nosfe didn't qualify for the big screen, but that's hardly a surprise by now. The compo started with a crappy animation that was very painful to watch and then we got to watch some lovely (or not so lovely) agent themed home movies full of horrible acting and AfterEffects explosions. TAAt usually makes enjoyable wild demos, but this year they had entered a piece made at the party-place based on McLad's fast graphics entry. Korch Fu by Innovators was some kind of a kung fu parody of Shrek combining 3D with real acting, partly well made but partly poorly executed. First Contact by Future Vision had some cool 3D stuff and a funny Space Invaders part, but overall it was cheesy.
There's nothing particularly innovative about rendering "demos" with real world objects, but Tekotuotanto (which has mostly released junk in the past) had done it in a creative fashion, utilizing food for the effects - including a cream pie scroller. There have also been many Lego wilds in the past, but Lelulaatikon demohetki was one of the best ones so far, recreating many demo effects in lego blocks. Unknown Media by TimeScratchers was a nice fractal video, even if there was nothing special in it. My favorite in the compo was still Maxon's What's up with adults. It wasn't visually as impressive as his previous animation, but the atmosphere and mood were just about perfect, it was a trip back to childhood.
After the short film compo we finally got to hear Higher State of Consciousness, courtesy of ravel. I met my friends Deep-blue, Ladylion and hydron and we chatted for a while. We went to watch the 64k intros as a huge group, including at least ld0d, skizo, huhta, huhta's girlfriend, hydron, Ladylion, Deep-blue, fogbank and his girlfriend. It turned out to be a longer sitting than we anticipated, as there were problems with the bass playback of the Arena's audio system. First we had to wait quite a while for it to be fixed and then the first entries of the compo were reshown with the proper audio configuration. During the waiting time some people played the "Jos sun lysti on" song and almost the whole hall participated in it, including the sceners in front of us with their own lyrics.
There were just seven entries in the intro compo, not much, but at least better than the three in 2004. There was even a MacOS intro, something I've been told is technically impressive, but visually it was a total lackluster. Aspekt's laser trip felt rather mediocre as per its name. People seemed to prefer the intros from the famous names (Conspiracy, Farbrausch, Fairlight and Kewlers), but with the exception of Fairlight I found them all too boring. Fairlight's intro was rather appealing, even though there were some little tweaks I'd have really liked to perform on it. Still my favorite prod in the compo was the last one, Fit's intro (Emo Defect by Fiture Crew, one of the best demo names ever), because it had the real demo flow that I feel the other entrants lacked.
When the intro compo was finally finished we met unssi and I asked him to tell Ladylion about Boozembly, since she had never been there despite having attended Assembly six times. Unssi explained something about hot guys (like Kakka, I guess) showing some ass. We got Ladylion convinced enough and headed for the rocks, but there wasn't much to do there since it was very dark and not too crowded either, so we didn't stay there for long. Inside we noticed on AssemblyTV that there was a nice-looking concert going on, so we went to the concert area. It was packed full of people who seemed to be having a blast, but we couldn't even see the stage and decided to leave.
The combined demo compo was shown at 1:00, which is a bit of a late timing. I had trouble staying awake and focusing to the big screen, but at least I didn't nod off once this year. Somehow there are many demos I can't remember at all, though. I can recall feeling rather unimpressed when watching IT-Forge's and Wamma's demos. I was also disappointed by the Traction demo, it just felt mediocre compared to most of their other demos and the same goes for Matt Current, I didn't like BOMBMAN nearly as much as Elektronimusiikkia for example. I liked Unknown Artists' Primate Theory if only for the room concept I hadn't seen used for a while. Iterate by Imbusy & xerxes was enjoyable with its mathematical effects.
Track one by Fairlight pleased the crowd, but I didn't get much out of it and it wasn't just my sleepiness, I'm just not a big fan of their style. However the MFX & Kewlers demo kicked ass, probably the only Kewlers prod I've ever really liked, what a shame it's their last one. The demo just reminded me why I am in the demoscene and it's not all just dull numedia crap. However the last demo shown in the compo blew us away. TBL's Starstruck stunned the audience and probably left some Amiga enthusiasts wiping their tears. I don't think it was a coincidence that it was shown as the last compo entry at Assembly, it made people feel much less bad about the sorry quality in many other compos.
After the demo compo they showed Korch Fu from the short film compo again, this time with a proper synch. I had no intention to watch it for the second time, so I quickly got back to the oldskool area. I was feeling very tired and ready to collapse any moment, so it felt like luxury to get to travel in a cab with fogbank and his girlfriend instead of waiting 45 minutes for the next train. Many others relied on taxis as well. There was a guy queueing in front of us and he got into a huge family taxi alone while the four of us waited for a normal size one.
I got back to the partyplace at about 13:45 on Sunday. The prize ceremony was supposed to begin at 14:00, but of course it was delayed like it always seems to be and there was no information about the real starting time. I started to talk with waffle and ended up watching the second prize ceremony with him. The ceremony started with another giveaway with hundreds of people gathering in front of the stage in hopes of catching a t-shirt or a game, even ripping them from each other's hands.
Probably more than half of the prize ceremony was taken up by the awarding of the sponsor prizes, whose winners for some reason aren't listed in this year's results file any more. I don't mind that at all, but I would have liked to see the names of the sports heros mentioned. There were prizes given out for numerous game tournaments (also some more sporty ones like Guitar Hero and the dancing game ITG). Some sceners were among the winners as well, eg. melwyn won the second(?) prize in the guitar compo. The winners of some of the game compos get to travel to China to play in the world championship games. At least in some of the compos trophies were given to all the winners, not just the first prize, which seemed rather strange considering only the winner takes a trophy home in the demoscene compos.
The sponsor compos included such hallmarks as computer assembly, fastest computer and coolest case. The winners of F-Secure's "hacking" compo were also announced, but the top winners hadn't even been to Assembly. Most of the sponsors had a spokesman on the stage and some of them were really sad, the worst one being the ASUS(?) one who read the whole speech from the paper, including the "Hello Assembly" greeting. Opera's representative was the chattiest one. He said that they had plenty of job openings and swimming to Norway was not a requirement, they had other types of jobs too. Also before he announced some kind of a stressball as the winner of the Opera widget compo he advertised their real-life stressballs, saying that they're good for the times when Firefox crashes or Internet Explorer doesn't load pages properly.
Apparently the quality of the sports compos wasn't too high this year either. The winning throws in the floppy and CD throwing compos were like 50-60m, while the records have been something like 80-90m. A guy who won the third place in either of the compos told me that he had done some Googling and it seems like his result was the just about the worst one ever winning a prize, heh. Don't tell me it was about the wind, I was there and it wasn't. The winners of the basketball and football tournaments were all gamers, I think both of them have won some sports compos in previous years as well.
Hedelmae's Pulque won the mobile demo compo with quite a margin leaving Shitfaced Clowns and Byterapers behind. I was a bit nervous about the results of the short film compo, considering that stupid home videos tend to win. The winner was Tekotuotanto's food demo, maxon had to do with the second place and the lego demo came third. Not too bad at all even though I wished that maxon would win.
The organizers considered the quality of the 64k compo "so high" (which made me think they were the ones who were high) that they added an extra fourth prize to it, a decision that made it seem rather like they wanted to award Farbrausch even if they weren't in the TOP-3. So Farbrausch won the fourth prize, Kewlers came third, Conspiracy was second and Fairlight was the winner, all with clear margins. The winners were shaking each other's hands on the stage, as if they hadn't just met at Boozembly. Quite a winner crew, the same people could have won at Breakpoint as well.
There are always five prizes given out in the demo compo. Again the same winners could have been awarded at a Breakpoint compo. Traction was fifth, Matt Current fourth, MFX & Kewlers placed third which I think was a shame and that they would have deserved the second place instead of Fairlight. Everyone knew that Starstruck by TBL would win the compo, so there wasn't much of a climax left, but it's always nice to watch this final of Assembly. When the closing ceremony started I went back to the oldskool area to avoid the most boring part, but there wasn't much to do there so I packed up my stuff and left.
I hate conclusion paragraphs, but I'll just have to make one (or two) this time. I've been at Assembly nine times and this was probably the worst one so far. I'm not saying I didn't have a good time, it's impossible not to when you're surrounded by great people, some of whom you've never met before or only meet them every year at Assembly. I'd really like to thank all the nice people. It's a real shame that I wasn't able to attend many of the events at the partyplace. I'd have loved to go to the raves, but the timing was just incredibly bad, as it's next to impossible to sleep at the partyplace so I couldn't stay at the Areena during the raves. Many concerts were also held during inconvenient times. And it's a real shame that Altparty didn't hold any compos this year.
In closing I'd like to send fuckings to some of the security staff whose behaviour is a disgrace to the whole profession and to those jury members whose behaviour is a disgrace to demoscene spirit. I wonder if I'm even allowed to talk about this, as a few years ago one of the main organizers threated me with a permanent ban from the event after I pointed out some errors the organizers had made (which they never fixed). But yes, I'm stubborn enough to come back next year and probably stubborn enough to even enter the compos again even knowing that it's probably not worthwhile. And who else would write your party reports anyway?