Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

Back from Block Party 2009

Posted by Trixter on April 20, 2009

It is a cliche to say “this year was the best Block Party ever” so I won’t even try to claim it.  But they have all rocked mightily in their own way.

When I was younger and childless, I had tons of free time to write long party reports.  I don’t have that luxury any more, so I’ll summarize my Block Party experience in many little bite-size chunks:

The ride to/from BP with Virt and Necros exceeded my wildest dreams.  I don’t normally suffer from rampant fanboy-ism, so I kept it cool, but I did pinch myself once or twice.  I got a lot of answers to some game industry and musicology questions I’d been meaning to ask for a long time as well.

Gargaj was a very welcome addition to BP; big thanks to Jason for flying him over.  His talk on how to bridge the gap between the North American and European demoscenes was enlightening, especially with what the main fears of a party organizer are (here, it’s “will we get enough money to do this properly”, whereas over there it’s “will someone else take over the party when I’m not looking and turn it into a gamerfest”).  He also took time out of partying to help me with me compo entry, and helped keep me on track when I was starting to go nuts from exhaustion.

Speaking of which, I brought a Tandy 1000 and coded an intro completely at the partyplace, bringing only a PCjr assembly book (for graphics reference) and my old CGA rotozoomer routine.  I coded a scroller (and spent way too much time optimizing it when I should have gone for a new effect) and submitted it to the oldskool demo compo.  Phoenix / Hornet entered as well.  Unfortunately, there weren’t enough entries to hold the oldskool demo compo, so those entries were rolled over into the wild compo, where Phoenix won 1st place and I won 3rd out of nearly ten entries.  While I’m happy Hornet won two out of the three places, I am somewhat disappointed that some of the other entries didn’t.  I spent about 18 hours on my entry, but there were some really awesome hardware entries (a hardware NES/SNES tune player, an implementation of Milkdrop on an FPGA) as well as creative ones (complete foley and soundtrack on Turkish Rambo!) and I feel all of those were much better than mine.  They deserved to place and/or win instead of me.

1am Saturday Morning, Virt and Necros and The Fat Man were jamming in the demo lounge.  In case that isn’t awesome enough a thought for you, Fat Man was jamming on some little nearly-toy hardware, and Necros was using Ableton on his laptop (literally using his laptop keyboard, which has one octave and a 40ms delay!).  In case that wasn’t surreal enough, there was the experience of Virt playing (on a piano keyboard) one of Necros’ tracked tunes back to him.

Jason pulled his usual trick of packing a ton of information and context into a presentation that he barely prepared for.  When I prepare for a talk, I spend about a month getting ready.  This is how he gets ready:


Instead of gaining weight at the partyplace, I lost 1.5 pounds.  Crazy.

The entire mobile blogging thing is just too clunky without a full-size keyboard, so I don’t think I’ll be doing that again.  And cell-phone pictures generally disappoint.  Still, if you’d like to check out some pics, here’s my Block Party set.  Don’t forget to check out Jason’s Block Party Set (much nicer).  Val has a Gallery too.

If I remember more (I’m a bit rushed at the moment), I may go back and edit this post to expand it.

17 Responses to “Back from Block Party 2009”

  1. Was Gargaj’s talk recorded? It actually sounds very interesting (particularly because we both attended Breakpoint 2009 and I’m hoping to come to a US demoparty as well at some point).

  2. Doug said

    Wow, Milkdrop on an FPGA? That is awesome; Even by today’s standards. Can you tell us more about that entry and how it worked? What kind of FPGA? Any VHDL available?

  3. I was on the floor during the jam session wailing on a drum machine the size of a pack of playing cards. makes me wish I lived closer to everybody.

  4. Servo said

    Looks like a lot of fun! Would have loved to see The Fat Man jamming :)

  5. Chris said

    Jason’s speech prep reminds me of when I took a public speaking course in college. People used to not like me very much because they would spend hours preparing a speech and a stack index cards and get graded like a B or something. I would prep a half hour before class, the most notes I ever had in front of me was similar to Jason’s…. if I even had notes, then proceed to somehow get an A. Even I couldn’t figure it out… I guess some folks are a natural at it.

  6. metoikos said

    Here’s another photoset for you. You figure muchly. Because, well, Tandy = l33t. \m/


  7. textfilesdotcom said

    You are confusing “written cue notes” with “preparing”, buddy. I spent months preparing the Mario 64 speech, and ended up trashing some planned approaches when I picked up “Racing the Beam”, integrating that study into how to approach describing Mario 64. I also read up extensively on the development process of the program and Nintendo’s history (some of which I knew).

    The bulk of the speech is a exacting overview of the experience of playing/using Mario 64, so notes would be a little silly.

    Anyway, more than meets the eye. You are obviously going to find use in my presentation presentation.

  8. […] Writeup by Trixter […]

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