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Alive 5
  | \ | EKKA OR \ | / ASOCHISM ?                                    party review
                   freeze your feet with the w1nD0wZ 1337
                                                         by Havoc/FUN Industries

Easter time was coming up and just like many times before there it was going to
be filled with loads of weird travel problems, a big party, substance abuse and
ofcourse above all some Atari demo compos! Little Havoc was so happy about this
that he didn't manage to arrange anything like a travel plan up until a week
before the party. Using his crappy mobile phone he called some of the strangest
people in his addressbook, both from his own cheese-producing nation as well as
from a sandbank monarchy in the North Sea.

After some negotiations a plan was decided upon and so he expected two rather
notorious journalists to show up at his place one evening. And he expected, and
he expected. And he expected some more... but lost his expectations and went to
sleep. And when he had just fallen asleep, two rather notorious figures showed
up at his doorstep. After a short while they went to sleep and the next day was
wasted doing useless things such as spending time at school by yours truly and
visiting certain parts of Amsterdam by the two notorious figures from the
sandbank monarchy.

The next day, after some heavy sleeping action, the lazy people went down the
elevator shaft with a load of obsolete equipment which would be stashed into
a small bright red vehicle with a major steering wheel misalignment. Large
quantities of instant food and cheap fizzy drink followed soon and then the
three somehow managed to fold themselves into their limousine.

In a matter of minutes they reached the border of the Bundesrepublik and the
subsequent journey on the Autobahn was short enough not to let the three worry
about either the inversed starfield of BMW's and Mercedeses on their main
display or the somewhat repetitive German national pastime called "Jedes
Wochenende Staufahren". After a few hours of travelling the three reached their
destination and after some mild confusion concerning different buildings that
were supposed to be in the same village but turned out to be rather non-existant
they managed to find the right location.

The first impressions were allright. The party building looked like an airplane
hangar but turned out to be a rather large sportshall. There were more than
enough parking places, and inside already quite a few people were installing
their systems. Unfortunately only a few Atarians were there, but they had
strategically placed themselves as close to the exit as possible. After the
party had taken off this turned out to be an excellent choice...

After some initial chatting and handshakes with various longtime buddies the
raw basic pride of Atari computing was setup for some pixel action. Nothing
beats an unmodified 1040STf for reliable party pixeling and this baby has been
proving it for well over a decade! The hall filled up rather quickly during the
next few hours and it became more and more apparent that we were lost at the
edge of a sea of wincrap boxes. Some C64 people were also scattered around the
place, and also some Amiga freaks, but by far the majority of visitors brought
lame machines.

The entrance fee was extremely high- 40E sets a new record for an Atari related
party, the highest we managed to remember collectively was about 23E which
included free drinks and breakfast. For this price we obviously expected a high
level of service but although the organizers were plentiful and easy to
recognize, none of the other facilities improved on the situation we know from
previous parties. Actually a lot of the facilities were quite bad to say the
least. One of the first disappointments was the low quality plastic wristbands
everyone was forced to wear- cotton ones are the same price guys!

After some time and a lot of conversation with the other guys around the Atari
table it was time to hit the toilets. This was one facility that actually was
quite good- clean in relative terms, plentiful, and even the paper and towels
were exchanged every once in a while.

Somewhere during the first evening a bunch of (mostly Swedish) people at the
Atari table decided to make a partydemo and enter it for the competition. Apart
from that, only Nerve/Ephidrena was planning to release anything for the
competitions which was Atari related. With so few Atarians present and basically
just two competitions where people could enter their productions this could have
hardly surprised anyone though.

With so many pc kids and easy availability of alcohol it didn't come as a
surprise that quite a few drunk people could be spotted in the hall and just in
front of it. In itself this is no problem- it's a party so people are supposed
to be drunk!- but there were too many braindead idiots among them. One guy fell
asleep on a stack of promotion material in front of the building with his beercan still in his hand, another slept a few hours in one of the toilet boxes
and many more got very noisy and started a constant march between their
computers and the parking lot where most of the boozing took place. Some people
took the marching bit so serious they started wearing helmets and waving flags-
not a pretty sight on a drunk-to-death teenager in my opinion.

After dinner (cookies and peanuts: yumm!) some pixelling work needed to be done
and this went on until the next afternoon. During this time it became apparent that there was only very minimal showerfacilities available. Once a day three
showers were available for an hour- later on some more hours were organized but
not many. The official explanation for this was that separate showering should
be possible for girls- what a load of bull! So give them separate showering
hours and let the guys have the rest- no problem is it really?

The huge projector screen in the backside of the hall was well visible from
almost any location on the party floor. Most of the time it was displaying some
general information about the party, but also some demos and other stuff was
shown at various times. The information screens were ripped from "Defender of
the Crown", all in coordination with the theme of the party which was "Defenders
of the Scene" or something along those lines. In practice this meant some of the
organizers had made a trip to the local historical museum, ripped all their
medieval suits, harnesses, helmets, swords and other various objects and used
them in some weird acted scenes on the stage in front of the bigscreen. This was
funny but after a while it got a bit repetitive- the forced theme-following
reminded of the schoolcamps your editor has visited and that's not a good sign.

In the early hours of the next day the local Penny Markt was raided and more
cheap food and fizzy drink were added to the already impressive amount stored
around our tables. While doing some more pixelwork, some contacts were
established with various oldskool pc sceners and it was cool to notice the kind
of respect shown by these people for the Atari scene. Even though there might
be big differences in our scenes, true hackers can be found in both and it would
be unfair to judge all pc guys by looking only at the majority of lame releases
in their scene. Ten years ago a lot of crap demos were released on Atari too,
and pc demos today are just a different thing than we're used to. It's obvious
the main item in pc demos is design- technical possibilities are so advanced
that it often makes more sense to improve the design than the code for a better
result in a competition. Obviously you don't have to like these demos- it was
surprising to see that a lot of older pc guys don't do so anymore either. What
is impressive about pc productions these days is the size optimized demos- it's
amazing to see how some groups manage to stuff long 3d anims into 64 or even 4
kilobytes. It's hard to judge how much of this optimization can be explained
by using accelerators or code-libraries, but texture-generators are the way to
go surely.

After 24 hours of straight pixelling, it was time to hit the bed. But hmmm...
sleeping under the table? Nah. The keyboard method? Nah. Sleeping in the
sleeping area then? Ah nice idea- where is it? Outside?! OK- so it's a tent with
a heating system... Okey let's inflate the bed and give it a go. The whole tent
was jampacked with sleeping people, no place but close to the door was left open
so that's where the crash took place. Temperature inside the tent was quite
acceptable while standing up, but once on the bed the horror started. Because of
the construction of the tent, cold air was sucked through the holes at the
bottom of the side panels and this made sleeping conditions damn uncomfortable.
Also the door of the tent did not close properly so whenever it was left
unattended for more than five minutes you could bet it was wide open. Amazingly
enough the organizers did not manage to fix this problem in 4 days- one hint:
use a piece of rope and a stone... Really, it isn't that hard!

The first reports about stolen goods started to appear on the second day, later
on some more stuff appeared on the bigscreen, even going as far as someone
reporting a stolen laptop. This was sickening, nothing like this has happened
at Atari parties in recent years. The worst case I can remember in recent years
was a lost SCSI-adapter and a bunch of lost cables- not nice ofcourse but in no
way comparable with a complete stolen laptop.

There was a chance to use the showers unexpectedly, and it was grabbed with both
hands. The showers were good quality, but having only 4 boxes meant there was no
way everyone could take a normal shower surely in only an hours' time. Most
people chose not to shower at all.

The food service at the partyplace itself was rather limited. You could buy beer
and softdrinks at the entrance at reasonable prices, and there was a reasonably
inexpensive foodstall located just outside the main building which sold more
or less traditional snackfood like fries and such. Further away from the
location some restaurants could be found, and the McDonald's was within reach
for cardrivers.

As noted before, there were only two Atari related entries in the competition.
"Atari Behn" by Ephidrena was obviously the best release- NervE did a cool job
and should be applauded for releasing his demo in these circumstances. The
mysterious Spice Boys showed their love for German poetry combined with demo
effects and ST pixel graphics in a well received although somewhat incomplete
Falcon intro. Both productions were shown in the same competition which was a
good decision of the organizers.

The other competitions were reasonably interesting. A few nice 64ktro's on both
Amiga and pc could be seen, but the demo competitions mainly offered another
load of mtv-style animations you really don't want to see. The 4ktro's were
better, graphics and music competitions were of acceptable quality without
being surprising in many ways. 24bit and mp3 may be raising expectations too

On the third day finally a way was found to catch some hours of sleep- some
heavy substance abuse and about 60 hours of insomnia enabled me to force
myself to sleep under one of the tables. Although very noisy, this place at
least offered temperatures that would not cause instant pneumonia and with the
aid of some earplugs it was even possible to catch a few hours of sleep.

So monkey won a prize. He went to the stage where some odd guy with strange
clothes offered offered to slice his head off. As he refused this, he was
offered a 5 year old CD in compensation. Feeling too happy about the fact that
many people would not notice his involvement he quickly walked on and with the
help of some notorious figures from the sandbank monarchy stuffed his belongings
into a small red vehicle with a major steering wheel misalignment. After some
more exchanges of words with the remainder of the Atarians they drove their
limousine towards the Autobahn once again, where with only a minimal amount of
time wasted on Staufahren and a slight detour they made quick progress towards
the border of monkey's own cheese producing nation.

After getting back to the appartment nobody could be bothered to move any
further than the telephone to acquire food and so the three gastronomes decided
to call local favourite "New York Pizza" and have them deliver some fine Italian
cuisine. Processing copious amounts of olive oil made them decide to sleep rather quickly.

The next day the two diskmag editors went to their beloved city of sex, drugs
and rock'n'roll once again before moving on to catch their ship towards the
sandbank. Somehow however, the largest of the two managed to loose his passport
and this prevented the two from boarding the ship in time. Some time later
during the afternoon an arrangement was made and the two drove across the
country for the fifth time in five days to be able to sleep with a roof above
their heads.

The next day started with a visit to the local police station to report the
missing passport and after that the two notorious persons took their car to
drive across the country for a sixth and final time. No incidents have been
reported about this trip which came as a bit of a surprise.

It was definitely a good thing there was an easter party- we have to thank MC
Laser for ofering us this opportunity. It's impossible to blame him about some
crappy organisation of Mekka- he's been a loyal visitor of Atari parties for
ages and so obviously he had no chance to check out recent editions of Mekka.
One thing is quite obvious to me though: this kind of party is not what I would
like to be repeated next year as the major Atari easter event. But I don't think
that will be the case anyway... :-)

Alive 5