Fiasko 2k report
The Prophet of Being Late
Fiasko 2000 was held in the Czech Republic on August 19-20.
I arrived at Uherske Hradiste, the capital of a southern Moravian district, on Sunday, the 20th of August, at about 9 in the morning. Fiasko2k was taking place on one of the main squares in the town, Marianske namesty, in a building called Orlovna. In the center of the square was a large fountain, and there were a few benches to sit down and relax. There were buildings all around, and some looked pretty old. A café, a few food-stores, and even computer shops were within easy reach, so it seemed like a comfortable place.
On entering the square I already saw a small sign "Fiasko", pointing to the left. But I did not find the party place until I had walked round the square twice. Since the houses were not numbered, I had at least expected a large sign indicating "Orlovna", but there was none. Only a pretty small "Fiasko" sheet had been stuck on a wall. But I had found it, after all.
I remember the entrance of this building had the form of half an ellipse, which made it look quite intriguing. Right behind the entrance, there was a small hall with toilets on the left, ending in a little yard. On the rear was a house with a bar in its left half (nobody was there, though, as it was Sunday) and a large door on the right. I opened this door - and was in the middle of the event. Dozens of young men and a few women were sitting on chairs staring on the wall behind me, focused on listening to the loud music that was played through large speakers. Just a few more steps into the hall I turned around and could read from the information screen projected on the wall that the mod-compo was just being held. It was not the time to disturb anyone, so I took one of the vacant chairs close to the big screen and looked around.
It was a sport hall of medium size, comparable to my school's one. The floor and half of the walls were covered by orange parquet. The rear was taken up by a stage, so it looked as if this hall was also used for theatre performances. There were only a few tables with computers, all of them close to the side walls. In total, I guess, not more than twenty computers were at the party place. Most of the people were sitting on chairs in the middle of the room, and some also on the stage. On the left were three doors, two of them locked - I guess they led to the bar - and the third one leading to the designated "Sleeping room". This turned out to be an empty room, with only a few people's rucksacks. It was obvious the visitors had brought sleeping bags along. Still, most of them probably hadn't had much sleep the night before, judging from the expressions of their faces.
From the votesheets of the people around me I guessed I had only missed the 4k intro competition, so I was still going to see the main productions. But as I learned later, the gfx compos, too, had already been held before my arrival.
Most of the visitors were wearing their tickets, on which they had written their handles. That was a good idea so that others could identify them more easily, but unfortunately the handles weren't that legible since they were written using ball-pens. You had to bow so much to decipher anything that it was more convenient to simply ask the people who they were - and possibly get involved in a nice conversation. In fact I met most of the sceners from the Czech and Slovak Republics I had known from the Internet, like for example Shakul, Tryhuk, Scape, Flash, Stynger and Zden, and also got to know some of those with whom I hadn't been in contact before, like AdaMM (editor of the music newsletter Massage), Bluezone and Redox.
When the volume faded lower and the end of the first song was nearing, I went straight to the first computer table and asked the people sitting there, "Are you organizers of this party?" I felt like a cowboy entering a saloon and asking for the barman. Had I seen the projector, I'd have known the location of the organizers immediately. But after all, it's fun looking for organizers in this way, isn't it? The guy whom I had turned to first made an astonished look, so I slowly repeated my question. Finally he said, "No, they're about... there", and pointed behind him. As I discovered later, I was the only foreigner at the party (Slovaks aren't regarded as foreigners by the Czechs), so it must have been a surprise to be confronted in English. Well, after asking on the next table, I finally found one of the organizers. Incidentally, it was the main organizer, Shakul, who actually was the one who had suggested to me on IRC to go to the party. You may ask why I was looking for an organizer? Simple: The invitation stated an entrance fee of 139 Czech crowns, but nobody had asked me for it...
During the mod-compo it was impossible to go around and talk, so I sat close to the organizers. The organizers' desk was filled by three computers with different configurations (e.g. one had a SB, another a GUS) so that all productions would run. There was an Amiga on another table, used for the one and only Amiga demo that was going to take part in the same competition as the PC-based demos. As I already said there was no bigscreen, but the computer monitors were connected to an Askproxima projector system. The pixels were projected to a big white wall. In fact the pictures looked very good, especially as the room had no windows (as far as I remember). Of course there were delays between the compo entries when the computer connected to the projector had to be switched, but this didn't really matter - at least it was then possible to chat, or go out to the beautiful square in the sunny weather. A graver disadvantage of the projector system was that each time the screen mode was changed, it had to re-evaluate the data source. Thus the image went black for a split second. However, this concerned only a few demos.
It was very interesting to see Shakul and the other organizers work while the modules were played. He had to copy the compo entries in appropriate directories, fill in entry description forms and create the pictures that were to be displayed before and after each entry, showing a Fiasko logo plus the title and author of the entry. Fortunately he had created a program which extracted this information from the description forms and created the pictures automatically, but the rest still had to be done manually, sometimes under a rather high pressure.
All entries were displayed "live", none - except, of course, some of the wild entries - had been pre-recorded on VHS tape like it's common at many other parties. During the later coding compos (i.e. 64k intro and demo), the contents of Shakul's screen were constantly projected, so the audience could see the error messages that sometimes appeared and how the configuration was adapted accordingly. It was great fun. People laughed the most when Shakul started a demo, nothing happened, and then he switched to the command line display just to see that csdpmi.exe was missing in the directory. I enjoyed this openness, it was interesting to watch the organizers' live background work during compos. Each and every entry could be made to run at the second attempt at the latest, after all. In one case, however, the competitors had underrated the speed of the compo PCs: One game presented in the Wild compo ran so fast that it was unplayable at first, even for its creators. After running a patch that artificially slowed the execution speed down it was still quick. One needed fast reactions to succeed.
In fact the remaining compos were held in a row, except for short breaks in-between for technical reasons. The last compos were the 64k intro and the demo one. Many intros were just joketros, and often they had Czech or Slovak texts, so you could not fully understand them if you did not know the language. A nice exception was Return of Crazy Pipka, a fun intro dealing with chickens. The demo entries - 16 (!) in total - were partly simple, and partly very good. I think the top-5 could have also participated at international demoparties. Zden's and Raiden's Metamorf, placed 5th, was later honoured by a discussion on csipd.
After the compos all people gathered around the organizers' desk in order to deliver their paper votesheets. Then came a long break, as the organizers were busy counting the sheets and printing out prize certificates. They had a digital camera with which they wanted to convert the sheets into images, which would then be evaluated by a kind of OCR program coded by one of the organizers. But for some reason (I was told this method was too slow) they ended up counting most of the votes manually. Two guys typed in the points which their assistants dictated. In the end they merged their evaluated votes and started a vote-counting program, which automatically generated the results file.
Meanwhile some visitors were packing their stuff, most of the ones who had brought their computers along carried them to their cars. Many people went out to get a drink or ice-cream. I had time to talk to the visitors, heard their worries about the quality of music in the local compared to the world scene, I was asked if many people were actually still interested in demos and what I estimated to be the average age of sceners. The organizers first played some of the more recent demos from other parties, such as VIP2 and Mikro Strange, then the projection went off, as they needed all computers for vote-counting.
Two hours later, vote-counting was finished, and it was time for the prize ceremony. One of the organizers who sat in front of the PC with the just created results file read out the names of the first three places in each compo (while he was
formatting the results file), Shakul awarded the lucky ones with the prizes at the desk. As I was the only foreign visitor Shakul decided it was my job to hand the prize for the first place in the democompo over to the Peon crew, Visual Developer Studio 6 sponsored by Microsoft. On this occasion I was also asked to deliver a very short statement to the audience. I think I said something like, "This party was very nice, I met several people whom I'd known only from the Net, and also the productions were worth watching. So all in all...good."
Then it was time for me to depart.
Adok/Hugi - 30 Aug 2000
Thank goes to AdaMM for some of the photos.