Archive for March, 2013

MGC ’13 is over…

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Had a really good year for MGC, and the Underdog room too. Lots of gamers, good conversations with people actually interested in talking about old consoles, and so much more. Tired for now though just from all the physical and emotion highs from the show (and the crash after – kind of like a sugar/caffeine low). Have to catch up on things now I did not do last week due to the show. Will slowly start putting recaps on here in the coming weeks, and photos too (probably through an online service though – bit tired of posted them through the blog).

Later folks (and hope those at the show enjoyed themselves – I sure did)! 🙂

MGC ’13 day one is over…

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

Very good first day for MGC 2013, at least from what I would tell, as I did get some time to explore – but again did not get downstairs. Lots and lots of gamers, friends (new and old), and folks I meet at this show every year. Had some pretty good discussions with some nice folks about old systems, like the RCA II and the Channel F. ZX81 got some good attention as well. This is the part of the show I really like, talking, not just playing and moving on to the next thing.

The Underdog Chamber of course did well, but there were a few odd things that happened. First off, the sweet spot theory was tarnished, or maybe tampered depending how you look at it. I purposely put an unpopular and unknown system in the sweet spot, and it did not do well. This being the Arcadia 2001. For the dead spot, I put the Intellivision there, and it did fairly well – not great – but better than the dead spot normally does. So the sweet/dead spot theory kind of works, but it also depends on the systems too. I find it so odd, as 2010 had the 3DO in the sweet spot, and it did so well. Another year, the 3DO in a different spot did rather poorly. Just hard to wrap the old head around it. I will be rethinking system arrangement based on what I’ve observed.

There was also a bit of testing with upcoming Packrat games, and I ran into issues with all of the ones currently being worked on. I will have to investigate more on that, but there was graphical issues with one using the Voice with it, and the other acted totally against the way it is supposed to work, and with the Voice too. Time for some bug hunting and fixing.

But the day is done. People enjoyed themselves, the room was not too warm like last year, and overall it was good. A few issues with two people (troublemakers), but nothing to post here at this time. Trying to stay positive for now.

Later folks…. sleep, then the rest of the sunday part of MGC… and the Scott Adams presentation. I actually bumped into the guy in the U.C. room – he came in after show hours just walking through – talked about old stuff (like the RCA and Channel F) – till I realized who he was (the adventure game guy from some years ago). He seemed amused by the fact that I did not realize it was him at first, and of course he invited me to his presentation on sunday afternoon (must remember to see it)! And that is finally it. Night all.

U.C. setup and ready for the weekend

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Spent about an hour packing three vehicles, drive to the hotel, and about an hour to unpack. Then roughly eight hours to setup the room. Much smoother than prior years though, with no major issues and only a few minor problems (nothing that really got in the way). Looking forward to gamers of all ages over the weekend, but in particular, the one that show a true interest in the old stuff.

(Special thanks to Dan for buying food during the early evening for exhibits in the museum wing – and nice to see familiar faces once again)

On a side note, I did bump into a fan of Packrat Video Games during setup, which was rather cool. No games to sell at the show unfortunately, but that is just how it goes this year. Next MGC will be a different story.

Later folks… it is going to be a long and busy day.

Almost setup time…

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Stopped by the Sheraton for about 3 1/2 hours to help move things around (and to check out the U.C. area). Was surprised, pleasantly too, that the U.C. room is already setup and ready for actual putting together of the Underdog exhibit. Thanks to the show guys for doing that this year!!! Much appreciated. 🙂

Now to get up early on Friday, and get everything up and running. Not a real Spring day for Wisconsin, but at least there is no snow in the forecast – and it better stay that way!

Night all…

Intellivision is back

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

It has been missing since 2010 in the Underdog Chamber, but the Intellivision is official is the show now for 2013. Didn’t take much to get this system working on a Magnavox LCD screen, along with the rather good new game DIIK Arcade. This set of two Donkey Kong games, along with the likes of AD&D, Astrosmash, Dragonfire, Nightstalker, and many others will be running at the MGC show for 2013 (I have virtually the entire library, excluding and recent homebrew games). Can’t deny that it feels good having the Intellivision back in the U.C. lineup. This system has always done well as far as game play in the U.C. area, so this console will also be putting the ‘dead spot’ to the test.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, there is a sweet spot and a dead spot in the U.C. room, which is something I noticed over the last three years at the Sheraton. Both spots have existed since 2009, and I still find it somewhat odd. I won’t give the secret away (only a few friends really know), but one very specific area does rather well, no matter what console I put there (3DO in ’10, Dreamcast in ’11, and a pong system in ’12. The opposite is true for another area of the whole room, were the 3DO did poorly in ’11, and the Dreamcast in ’12. This year I’m putting both areas to the ultimate test, by putting a rather true but not well loved underdog system in the ‘sweet spot’, and a rather good and well liked underdog system in the ‘dead spot’. Will see how the ‘experiment’ turns out!

On the side, I did manage to phase out a CRT TV, as I found an extra one I forgot about in the corner of my basement (silly me). So the Odyssey2 will have a nice 24″ screen, which is what I wanted in the first place this year.

That is it for now. Have to do a bit more packing, and try to create a new display board for this year. Thursday I will be helping out for about three hours to start the initial setup of that area. Friday will be the big ‘setup’ day. Then on with the show saturday and sunday!

Music and video is set

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

While I have finally dug out the Intellivision unit (it took a bit of time to find the thing), it was one of the last things I did today, so Wednesday is when I get the thing going. So much time, so little to do… and of course, strike that and reverse that.

I did manage to finish up on some paperwork today, adding some extra signage for the Packrat area. I will hopefully get that 100% done tomorrow. But honestly, it is amazing at how time flies when your trying to get this stuff done. Poof!

I tried using a larger 23″ TV for the Odyssey2, as I wanted that on a bigger screen. But the larger LCD TV just didn’t like the old analog signal, and had way too much whine in the sound, so that just won’t be happening. Such is how it goes with older equipment. I actually keep a list of what systems works good with every TV I have. Sounds tedious, but it saves time down the rood. So scratch off the 23″ for use with the Odyssey2 (which is rare – this thing has worked with every TV I every had, until now). While doing this, I also uploaded the latest, and possible final release candidate for Minefield / Shooting gallery onto the 7050 test cart – which I just got recently from Rafael (the game designer/programmer). This will be the version of these games to be shown at the U.C exhibit, and I hope to get some feedback on these and a few other games too – such as Traffic, which was done by Chris.

Last but not least of the things done today, the old Macbook and the MGC music library are ready to go, including cleaning off a rather dirty 20″ monitor that I acquired late last year. This will be for iTunes music, and music video too.

And frankly I’m tired and need some sleep now, so that is it for today (I did more, but this is enough details for today). One and 2/3 days to go (Thursday night I’m helping at the show). Rush, rush, rush. Later gamers…

Paperwork, paperwork…

Monday, March 18th, 2013

First day of my vacation, for the show, and for myself too. After a long work weekend, not doing much today, but I am doing needed paperwork for the show (and shoveling some darn snow – no nice temperatures for the MGC show this year). Printing up signs for the two new systems for the U.C. area this year (RCA and Saturn). Printing the master U.C. signs for my area, and other such things too. Need to see if I can come up with a nice Packrat display board too, as that would be nice. Will see if I have time or not for that, otherwise simple 8 x 11 signs.

And still need to pull out the elusive Intellivision (I am sure it is hiding in the basement – just need to find it – soon).

That is all for today. Four days till the fun starts (if you include things happening on Friday evening)!

How I beat the BenHeck Experience (at one thing)

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Last year, 2012, the Channel F console suffered from a broken cartridge port mechanism right at the start of the MGC 2012 show. It was somewhat of a disappointment, but it worked out okay with the built-in games for the Channel F.

At the show in 2012, the system was taken to the BenHeck Experience, located then in the basement level of the Sheraton. I didn’t talk or meet with Ben directly, but did deal with one of his crew members. He stated they would take a look at it and see what they could do, and that I should come back on sunday morning.

With high hopes, I returned sunday morning to the BenHeck Experience room. I have to admit that the name of the guy I dealt with is forgotten (sorry – just remember a tall guy), but he informed me then that they could not find anything wrong with the unit, and were even puzzled by the cartridge eject button itself. Direct quote was “the button appears to have no real function at all”. Now this system has been with the U.C. area for a while, and I knew that the eject button pops the cartridge out, but didn’t feel like arguing the point. If they couldn’t fix it, then they couldn’t fix it.

It was my determination to try fixing it myself then, but that was to be done during the summer of last year. With the 2013 show coming up real quick, I took the Channel F console out on March 10th, and was determined to see what the true issue was.

Normally, on a Channel F, the cartridge is pushed into the console cartridge port and it locks in place after it seats itself into the port assembly. Pushing on the eject button moves the cartridge port assembly in a minor way, but enough to unlock it and allow it to pop out slightly, were you can then safely remove the cartridge.

Since last year though, the cartridge port would not ‘hold’ any cartridge, and the eject button did not move at all – not even the tiniest movement. This of course is not normal. So removing two small screws from the bottom front of the unit, the Channel F cover was loosened up somewhat (enough for the eject button to fall out). The tricky part was prying two tabs on the back of the unit, that hold that part of the case together. Won’t deny that I ended up breaking the small plastic tab that held one of the joystick holders in place, but that was a small price to pay to get the unit open.

Once open, it was amazing (but not unexpected) to see how easy it was to access all of the insides of the Channel F, including the RF shield that came off by simply pulling it off (no screws or such). Once off, the cartridge port was much more exposed, and the problem was very visibly apparent. After playing with the cartridge port for just a minute, it was found that the right side had a piece of plastic that was supposed to hold the thing in place, but it was bent – probably from age. With this piece loose, part of the cartridge port assembly would come up, and this prevented the eject button from working at all.

The cartridge port came out after removing four screws and removing two ribbon cables, which again was very easy to do. After a small time just playing with the cartridge port assembly, and a hair dryer, I found that the bent plastic piece would not bend back into place. So it was determined that something else had to be done to prevent the bent piece from popping out in the first place. I decided that if I could put ‘something’ into the side area where there was too much movement, this would effectively prevent the bent plastic piece from popping out of the port assembly. After a bit of using my brain cells, I simply decided on using a glue gun to insert a glob of clue into the hinge next to the bent plastic tab. I just had to make sure the glue got into the right area while it was in a good position, which wasn’t too hard to do. Before the glue had a chance to harden, I pushed it in with the flat part of a small screwdriver, and let the glue harden. Then made sure that even with the glue in place, the cartridge port assembly still did what it was suppose to do.

And the cool thing was, the glue gun did the trick perfectly, and the cartridge port assembly on the Channel F works rather well now (I would not say perfectly, but it works good, and that is what counts). What puzzles me somewhat is why the BenHeck Experience could not find the problem I found and fix it, or at least determine what the problem was in the very least. In fact, I wonder if they (or the one person) actually took the unit apart at all, or if they just looked at it and could not make sense of it without taking it apart. I’ll never really know, but if they had truly taken the Channel F apart, the problem would have been very, very apparent.

Now I have a lot of respect for Ben Heck and his group (I really, really do), but there is only one thing I have to say about the Channel F and The BenHeck Experience. I BEAT THE BENHECK EXPERIENCE (at least in regards to an old Channel F with a faulty cartridge port assembly). Guessing the really old stuff stumps them at times, as no one is perfect. Hopefully they will take this post with a grain of salt, and I will say ‘hi’ to the guys this year. (On the side, I won’t take the unit apart again, but I could bring a spare along to show the guys, if they would really be interested in the original underdog programmable cartridge-based console – the Channel F).

And with that, I officially announce that the Channel F is in the U.C. exhibit for 2013, with a nice selection of games using a great multi-cart I had from last year (and updated to work a lot better for this year). Alien Invasion, Dodge-It, Spitfire, Video Whizball, and a Pac-Man homebrew will be running during the show.

Channel F innards

Channel F innards

Channel F cartridge port

Channel F cartridge port

Fix for Channel F cartridge port

Fix for Channel F cartridge port

2600 (aka – Sears Video Arcade) in for 2013

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Temporality skipping the Channel F (for the moment), I am announcing that the Sears Video Arcade is officially back in the U.C. for 2013. While not an underdog in itself, it wasn’t the ‘true’ Atari 2600 console, and it will be showing underdog video games. On the Packrat side of things, Skeleton+ will be running on this console, and a great game it truly is (stop by if you don’t think so). I’d show more Packrat Games, but due to the slowness with the Packrat asset sale, that is currently not possible (sorry). Other games will be less popular (in sales) U.C. style games, such as Air-Sea Battle (popular in the old days, kind of overlooked today), Coke Wins, Condor Attack, Halloween, Jawbreaker, Laser Gates, Marauder, Reactor, Rescue Terra 1, Tac Scan, and Solar Fox, plus possibly a few others mixed in. Stop by if you like the odd but great 2600 games.

On another quick side note, the Quicksilver PowerMac G4 unit is ready to go, which will be the controller once again for the Quake LAN.

That is all for now. More on the Channel F late Friday/early Saturday.

Channel F is fixed!

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Busy at the moment, but I managed to fix the broken Channel F cartridge port. I’ll hopefully detail this in a day or so, because there is a story behind it, and one that will poke some fun of a famous modding group out there (that could not fix it last year). More to come soon…