MGC 2015

February 21st, 2015

Quick update for the Midwest Gaming Classic for 2015. Packrat Video Games, LLC will be there, selling what games that it can stock by the show (2600, O2/VP, and Vectrex). Steel Battalion will be at the show, along with the Quake LAN.

The updated area name will be the Packrat Games Underdog Chamber. Hope to see many gamers there again for 2015!

Downsize and possible more for 2015

November 7th, 2014

Quick update to the folks who stop in here once and a while. For the UC area for MGC 2015, as of this time, Steel Battalion is not making an appearance. This is due to family issues, simple (and complicated) as that.

As for the rest of the Underdog Chamber, that is in limbo at this time, and may actually be canceled for 2015 as well. We just don’t know at this time. It may or may not happen. More will be posted early next year as we will know more then.

Thank you for your understanding during this difficult time with family (which always comes first).

Midwest Gaming Classic / Underdog Chamber 2014

February 17th, 2014

Midwest Gaming Classic and the Underdog Chamber (along with Packrat Video Game, LLC), at the Sheraton Milwaukee Brookfield Hotel, April 12th and 13th 2014.

This year, 2014, marks several highlights and changes with the Underdog Chamber.
– This year is the 10th anniversary of the Underdog Chamber!
– After all this time, the UC returns to the very same room we started in, Moorland Room 4 in the lower level (downstairs at the front of the building).
– Packrat Video Games, LLC returns, this time with more than just a few things to demo (check out packratvg.com for more, as news is posted).
– Steel Battalion returns once again, with four systems for lots of gaming goodness.
– The ever popular classic Quake will be back again, running on the old classic CRT iMacs.
– Packrat Video Game, LLC will have the Atari 2600, Odyssey2, and Vectrex on display, along with goodies being demoed and sold.
– We plan to have a few extra Mac computers hooked up, for some game time on the underdog of home computers. This is in celebration of 30 years of Macintosh.
– There will also be some classic underdog consoles as well, but you’ll have to be there to find out what we have for 2014 (sorry, no pre-announcements on the blog this year — just how it is going to be).

And that is pretty much all there is for the 2014 MGC / UC / Packrat announcement. Unlike prior years, there will be no postings of things leading up to the show (we kind of wore that out in prior years — in our honest opinion). Not enough time for that either, as we have other things that will prevent us from posting much here (sorry about that — just the way it will be for 2014).

Hope to see as many gamers as we can for MGC 2014, and don’t forget, we are going to be downstairs this year. Come on down and join the fun!

Quake LAN – 2013 recap

June 7th, 2013

Been some months, but finally getting around the the last recap from 2013, the Quake LAN. As per last year, no changes were made for the setup, with a Classic Quake LAN on 9 older iMac G3 computers. As per every year that this has run in the Underdog Chamber, it was the most popular thing in the room, bar-none.

Gamers of all ages enjoyed fragging each other the entire weekend. Unlike prior years though, there was a nice steady flow of people playing the game, with no afternoon surge like we would usually get. There were no system break downs, with the exception of two machines having the game slightly messed up (control-wise) — not a big deal. I’m keeping this last recap short, simply stating that Quake did very well, and it will return again next year. Wether it stays on OS 9 of moves to OSX Tiger is another story (it will happen some year).

Quake LAN (9-player) popularity rating for 2013: A+

Timex/Sinclair 1000 (ZX81) – 2013 recap

May 13th, 2013

The old Timex/Sinclair (ZX81 for the Europe folks) has always been somewhat of a fascination of mine, ever since having one as my very first computer back in 1981 (it was actually a ZX81, before Timex took over production in the States). Even though it was black and white, had rather crude graphics, and no sounds, this machine just rocked (at least for me it did). I learned to program on this computer, and just loved how easy it was to work with.

For years now, this T/S 1000 has been in the Underdog Chamber as part of the ‘music’ setup, where the Sinclair machine would run digitized iPod commercials while a nearby Mac computer ran music and music videos on and LCD display. For 2013, thanks in part to a newer ZXpand unit (from the UK), the plan totally changed for the T/S 1000. The ZXpand unit that was on display with the T/S 1000 had a joystick port and a sound chip. This made perfect sense to have in the U.C. room, along with some rather good games from Revival Studios, who have released over four new games for the old ZX81 (T/S 1000, etc.). That, and I found out that Mazogs and 3D Monster Maze – super classic games from the early 80’s – worked with the joystick interface on the ZXpand.

In a few prior years, trying to run games on the T/S computers just didn’t work well. For 2013 with the ZXpand and games that used a joystick, this changed how people interacted with this old computer. They actually played games on it, and the simple (and slightly sad) fact was because they could do so with an Atari joystick that was hooked up to it. Whatever works though, and Revival and a few old classic games got their moment in the sun during the show. While they did not fair as well as would have been liked in regards to game play, they did okay, which is much better than running games on the T/S 1000 did back in ’09 when I last tried that. 3D Monster Maze and Mayhem were the two most popular games on display during the weekend.

Simple put, the T/S 1000 – aka ZX81 – did good for the 2013 U.C. exhibit. The joystick interface was the key in getting people to sit down and try games on this old computer, but if it works, that is fine with me. This setup will probably return for 2014, as more games are coming out that use the ZXpand joystick and sound chip (and not just Revival Studios either – other people are programming new games too). Come back for the 2014 show to see what is up for the old Sinclair computer.

Timex/Sinclair 1000 (ZX81 popularity rating for 2013: C-

Tele-Games Video Arcade – 2013 recap

May 12th, 2013

With the Packrat mini-display in the U.C. room for 2013, the Tele-Games Video Arcade (aka 2600) made a return for the exhibit, partially to display some of the older Packrat releases, along with some other underdog games for the 2600 system. Just wish I had more Packrat games at that time, but you do what you can.

At the time of the show, there was only a very limited amount of Packrat games to display, with Skeleton+ doing best in that category. Other non-Packrat games that faired well were Coke Wins (which got some good laughs – which was expected), Reactor, Solar Fox, and more. The best part honestly was running Fast Food alongside Fatso on the Odyssey2 for a while on saturday. This got some decent comments, and one really good conversation with a gamer who was into these older consoles.

While the Tele-Games unit faired well for gameplay in the Underdog Chamber area for 2013, it did not do more than average at best, which I find a bit sad. A few too many people walked by the unit, without even trying to play a game. That always puzzled me, as why did they pay for the show then? Each to their own I guess, as I think part of it is just the simple fact that the aging 2600 system (and this clone) are fading a bit from the public limelight.

Thanks once again to Jeff Koss for loaning me his Tele-Games unit. This will be back gain in 2014 if at all possible, just because I expect to be able to actually sell at least one new 2600 game at the show by then. That will be something I’m truly looking forward to, plus I will also be putting up the usual underdog games too.

Tele-Games Video Arcade (2600) popularity rating for 2013: C-

Steel Battalion – 2013 recap

May 11th, 2013

Back again after being such a success last year, Steel Battalion was in full form for the Underdog Chamber for the 2013 show. Just like last year, we had setup four Xbox units running Steel Battalion: Line of Contact, with its wonderful game-play, and of course the huge controllers with tons of buttons and switches – and foot petals too. All for the great experience of a realistic tank simulation game.

As noted for last year, Steel Battalion is a vertical tank game, and one which is made as realistic as possible (thus the crazy but super cool controllers). Unlike last year, it seemed that Greg (the guy who owns all the S.B. units) had less time walking gamers through actually playing the game, but that was in part due to some amount of repeat show attendees from last year (and you won’t hear any complaints about that). Difficult as it can be to play this game, it always draws in gamers, and the four units setup were pretty much in constant use the whole weekend.

Unlike last year though, we did not hook the Steel Battalion units up in a LAN. That proved too much trouble last year, and gamers did not seem to have an issue with us doing single player this year (even though we had one request for a LAN, but the guy did not deliver on bringing in four experienced players). We also did not have anything go out this year, which is a plus, as things can break – and with the amount of things on the Steel Battalion controllers, there is a higher risk of something happening – but it didn’t.

Overall Steel Battalion was a smash hit once again for the Underdog Chamber, right along with Quake on the other side of the room. This setup will continue to be a staple from now on in the U.C. room, so expect it back for 2014. This unique gaming experience is something that you have to experience, at least once, to truly understand how good it is.

Steel Battalion (xBox) popularity rating for 2013: A+

Sega Saturn – 2013 recap

April 27th, 2013

Another new (but old) system to the U.C. area for 2013 was the Sega Saturn, another underdog system that was cut off before it truly reached its true potential back in the mid 90’s. Not that it doesn’t have a nice selection of some great games for it, during the time it available from 1995 to 1998. This 5th-generation 32-bit system has a nice look to it, a good selection of accessories, and is just a great gaming machine. The PlayStation is what ended up killing it in sales, and making the Saturn an underdog system in the process.

For the U.C. area, it was decided to focus on light gun games for the Saturn, and it was setup so – even with a CRT TV set (which is needed for the older light gun systems). This turned out to be a good choice, as the system had a lot of people playing the small selection of light gun games that were running during the MGC show, which included Maximum Force, Area 51, and Die Hard Trilogy. It was rather cool to see the different ways that people played the light gun games, including one group of guys that just used a finger flick in front of the gun to reload, instead of aiming off to the side like most folks did (including myself). Nice way to keep your aim and reload at the same time!

Even though the Sega Saturn was not in the ‘sweet spot’ (see prior posts for that), this disc-based console managed to come in as the highest ranking system in the Underdog Chamber, with the usual exception of Steel Battalion and the Quake LAN. Good job Saturn. It may possible make a return next year, but with a focus on non-light gun games.

Sega Saturn popularity rating for 2013: A

RCA Studio II – 2013 recap

April 20th, 2013

Sitting near the entrance to the Underdog room for 2013 was a system borrowed from a friend (Jeff Koss), which was actually my first cartridge-based system when I was a kid. This being the not very popular, and somewhat rare, RCA Studio II. This console system from 1977 was crude (in many ways), being in black and white, only had keypads (not joysticks of any kind), and could only do two sounds – which I call ‘bleep’ and ‘bloop’. It also has an annoying non-standard TV cord setup, but some systems back then did too. Suffice it to say, this system did not do well in 1977 – being canceled in less than a year – and did not do that well for the U.C. room in 2013.

One of the main reasons I borrowed this system and set it up was the simple fact that the RCA Studio iI is a real big underdog gaming console (9.5 on a scale of 0-10 – using the U.C rating system). Amazing how I loved this system as a kid (I really did), but as an adult, really don’t care much for it. It does have it’s own little charm, and a few games that I find okay to play, but it is best for simply being a piece of history.

Of the few games on display, Squash/Tennis were the most popular, because they were the easiest to play – and that is saying a lot. Main issue is that when the screen just goes black when you hit ‘reset’, you get a lot of confused looks on show attendee faces. That was the main issue with the Studio II, as you had to actually read instructions to be able to play it, which is why I photo copied them and had a sign ‘please read instructions’ next to the thing. I still had to help out the few people who were courageous enough to try this mostly unknown system.

The biggest kick I got out of the RCA Studio II was when Scott Adams went through the U.C. room on friday night while we were finishing setting up the room. He really took a shine to the older systems, the RCA Studio II and the Channel F, and we talked about them and other old systems for a while. That was very, very enjoyable, and kind of funny too, as I did not know it was Scott Adams until about halfway through our conversation – which Scott found amusing (in a nice way). Glad I bumped into the guy – it was a pleasure talking with the guy who wrote a few games I played when I was younger.

Back to the RCA Studio II, it do not do well at all, but did garnish some game play. I am sure that the main issue was simply the difficulty in starting and figuring how to play the game(s). That aside, it was a piece of history, which I’m just fine with. I always like to have something like this in the Underdog Chamber each year.

RCA Studio II popularity rating for 2013: D

Odyssey2 – 2013 recap

April 18th, 2013

My favorite (sentimental) console form when I back much younger (and today too) was of course in the 2013 U.C. exhibit. It was setup as part of the Packrat Video Game corner (along with the 2600). As per last year, the Odyssey2 fairly slight better than average for gameplay, which is rather good considering the true underdog status of this console from the last 70’s and early 80’s. Even had a few Packrat fans show up, a bit excited to see Packrat back in the show, but a tad sad that I was not selling games (another story in itself).

For 2013, I had running mostly home-brew games for the Odyssey2, some from Packrat along with some from other home-brew producers. Never had a problem showing off anything for this wonderful system. Unlike last year, I did not run just one game a day. I did have a few of the Revival games running throughout the weekend, such as Mage, Stairrunner, and Air Assult, plus other home-brews such as Fatso (which did rather well running alongside Fast food on the 2600 – in fact, Fatso did pretty good overall). Many of the Packrat games did well too, but due to some technical difficulty, I was only able to run the upcoming Traffic game and a bit of Shooting Gallery, and not a few others in the pipeline from Packrat.

None-the-less the Odyssey2 did a good job of entertaining folks, and even garnished some personal conversation with a few fans of the system. This made having it at the show all the more worth it, as that is the best part of being there – talking and sharing stories with gaming fans.

So 2013 was another good year for the Odyssey2, with just a few issues with some games I wanted to test. Still considered a good run, and by next year, I definitely plan on being able to sell games in the Packrat corner of true Underdog Chamber.

Odyssey2 popularity rating for 2013: C+