Archive for April, 2013

Sega Saturn – 2013 recap

Saturday, 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

Saturday, 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

Thursday, 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+

Intellivision – 2013 recap

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

The Intellivision has not been in the Underdog area since 2010, so the decision was made to bring it back for 2013, and make it part of the ‘sweet’ and ‘dead’ spot experiment within the U.C. room. Thus the normally very popular Intellvision was put into the ‘dead’ spot in the back left side of the room, and setup running the new D2K cartridge (Donkey Kong), along with a few other Intellivision classic games.

Similar to the Arcadia 2001 in the ‘sweet spot’, the Intellivision display did not do as good as it normally would have done, somewhat proving that the ‘dead spot’ in the Underdog room really exists. However, since the system is popular with gamers overall, it did better that expected considering where it was placed in the room. Many gamers got a kick out of the new D2K set of Donkey Kong games, which are much better than the DK games done by Coleco back in the 80’s (much, much better).

Won’t deny that the Intellivision deserved a slightly better spot in the Underdog room, but I really wanted to put those two room spots to the best test I could think of. Gamers still got some joy out of the old Intellivision system, and with the original non-modified controllers (with some folks complaining about them too). I personally prefer them with joystick adaptors, but that is my choice on that. The INTV system will probably return again in 2014, but in a better spot.

Some how, I have to do something with the back left of the room ‘dead spot’. Don’t care much for non-play (or low-play) displays, but that back part of the room may turn into something more of a display area, just because of how that area just does play-wise. I do not like putting consoles there that are just not going to get much game play, due to some weird phenomenon that occurs in this area. Will have to debate it before next years show.

Till then, the old Intellivision did rather well for itself, room position or not, and garnished some good game play with the special new D2K cartridge running on it.

Intellivision popularity rating for 2013: B-

Channel F – 2013 recap

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Since the Channel F had a slight breakdown last year, in which I could only run the internal games only, I decided to bring it back for 2013 (to give it another shot with my nice multi-cart). That way it would get a better chance to show off what it was and still is, a great piece of history. And honestly, I think I found another sweet spot. Nah, just kidding on that last bit, but it did rather well in the back of the room.

The original programmable cartridge-based console from the late 70’s, the Fairchild’s Channel F, is still a rather unique and interesting system. While it only does three colors, red, green, and blue, it still has some good – if odd looking color-wise – games for it, considering when it was made and how weak it is compared to other systems around its time. The oddest and one of the coolest things about the Channel F in the controllers. They are both joystick, paddles, and action button, all-in-one. Which is kind of fun to watch, as a few people take a minute or so to figure this out. 😉

As happened last year, and more so for 2013, people playing the channel F seemed to really get a kick out of it. Adults laughed a bit at the simplicity of the console, but they still enjoyed playing an assortment of games I had running on it. On Family Day – Sunday – many kids got a kick out of Dodge-It, one of the better games IMHO for this console, as it is so easy to pick up and play this game.

While Dodge-It was the main game, a home-brew version of Pac-Man did well, along with the built in Pong-like games and a few others as well. It was just so cool to see a good amount of people enjoying a piece of video game history. And best of all, was talking with Scott Adams – who popped into the room on setup night – and we had a very nice chat about the older systems that started all this gaming goodness (including talking about the Channel F and the RCA Studio II to be precise).

To wrap this simple recap up, one of the oldest systems to date did very, very well for the UC 2012 exhibit, with only two other consoles doing better overall. And that is saying something for a system from the late 70’s that didn’t fair so well on the market back then!

Channel F popularity rating for 2013: A-

Arcadia 2001 – 2013 recap

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

I told myself I would not bring this system back to the UC exhibit for a long time, but for 2013, something changed my mind. The main thing was to put the ‘sweet’ and ‘dead’ spots within the U.C. room (two areas, where any console does really good, and one console does poorly in game play, no matter what the system). 2013 was to be the ultimate challenge for the ‘sweet spot’ theory.

With the help of an Arcadia 2001 multi-cart, and having the system setup in the ‘sweet’ spot, it was amazing to see result. The 2001 system did average at best (which is really good for this old console), in regards to people actually sitting down the play games on it. While this may seem to blow somewhat of a hole in the ‘sweet spot’ theory, the Arcadia 2001 faired better than it ever did within the U.C. exhibit for the few years that it was ever on display. So the ‘sweet’ spot is still what it is, an area that draws people to it, mainly because it is the first system seem upon entering the U.C. room (unless you sneak in the back door).

No particular game seemed to stand out amongst the others for the Arcadia 2001, with such games as Alien Invaders, Cat Trax, Pleiades, Red Class, Space Vultures, Spiders, The End, and Turtles running throughout the weekend. The shooters seemed to do a tad better than games like Cat Trax or Turtles.

And the main thing that confused most people on this system was how to start a game. Most games required the ‘reset’ and ‘start’ button to begin, while some also required a button on a control to follow as well. No real rhyme or reason for this, but just another reason this system is not that popular.

With the 2013 ‘sweet’ spot test over, the Arcadia 2001 will be retired for some years now. It will eventually return, but don’t expect to see if for at least a couple of years minimum.

Arcadia 2001 popularity rating for 2013: C

Recap for MGC 2013

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

MGC / UC Recap 2013

As with every show for a while now, I cannot recap the whole thing, simply because I did not see the whole MGC show. I would always like to do so, but it is amazing how much time goes into preparing for the show, and how quickly the time goes by when you are at the show (and running an exhibit). I did get to see more than usual this year, which was nice for a changes (thanks to the help of Greg, Erica, and Jeff)!

For 2013, the lower levels were not visited at all by myself, so apologies to those who were down there. Probably would have been fun to check the down level, but just didn’t do it this show, for reasons unknown even to myself.

Otherwise, in semi-alphabetical order:

Upper level, we’ll start with the museum wing. Guys, Games and Beer was an odd podcast setup with various consoles in the room. Have to say that I just didn’t get into this room, but that was just me, as the folks in there seemed to be having a great time.

Jersey Jack Arcade Video and Pinball Hall, was on the Main level again as last year. And honestly, this room just kicked ass. Literally over a hundred pinball and arcade games running, all set to free play. Who could ask for more. This year I had time, especially the after party on saturday night, to go into this room and have some electronic fun. While I played a good amount of classic stuff (my specialty), a few friends I was with and myself discovered something that was rather cool. A Dungeon & Dragons pinball machine from 1987. While it was not one of the better pinball games I’ve played, the fact that it was an official D&D machine made up for that. It was just so cool that there was such a machine made back in the 80’s. The price was reasonable at around $1,200, but out of my reach for this year. In all, the D&D pinball machine was the icing on the cake for the fabulous Jersey Jack Arcade Hall!

The Vender Hall on the main level was packed with lots and lots of cool gaming material, from consoles, and a few arcades, to everything that goes with them. This year there seemed to be a lot of 2600 stuff for sale, which is not an issue. But I have to admit, this is the first year I did not buy anything myself form the hall. Why? Mainly because I have so much already, and nothing really jumped out at me saying ‘buy me’. So sorry to the vendors for not giving you any money, but there was enough activity in the Vendor Hall that I’m sure everyone did well for 2013.

I did peak into the MGC FIght Club room, in which folks were having a ton of fun. But fighting games are not my favorite type of game, so I did not partake in this room myself.

The Midwest Light Gun Association had a small but very active room, crammed as much as they could with light gun games for older systems and modern as well. Looked like a complete blast – pun intended too.

Atari Jagfest was just a quick glance for me for this show. For some reason, it just didn’t attract my attention (not that I’m saying anything bad, I just did not partake much of it).

The Die-Hard Gamer Console Arcade (which I think needs a shorter name) was a great setup, as it always is. Lots of more modern games, this year with a different and simpler display board setup than in prior years (the boards were mainly used to display the game running – which was simple but effective). Very nice selection of games, systems, and all, and gamers in there were enjoying themselves immensely.

The E2M area did rather well for 2013, with various groups within the E2M area showing off lots of retro computer and video game goodness. I had the chance to play some TRS80 games this year, and also some pretty good ZX81 games too. And got a nice look at Demon Attack on the old TI system, which has the oddest looking demons in any version of that game I’ve seem, including a very odd but cool dracula type boss on the second level of this game.

My own area, the Underdog Chamber did very well this year, and will be recapped in detail later this month. The best thing I can say about 2013, is I got a reasonable amount of people talking about the old classic systems, which is something I just love – talking to gamers who are enthusiastic about the old stuff. And bumping into Scott Adams was rather a thrill too! And of course, some folks coming in and recognizing the Packrat area I had setup within the U.C. area. Just wish I had had stuff to sell, as there were people looking to buy.

As in prior years, I avoided the Versus Room, as it just isn’t’ my cup of tea. Once again, no offense to those that were enjoying that room.

Another new area this year was NintendoAge, which got only a brief visit from me, mainly because it seemed to attract the younger generation of gamers. Not that that is a bad thing, but I have not been huge on the old Nintendo systems, with the exception of the DS and Wii

Nippon Imports was in the Museum area, and had a nice selection of Import games. One area that I don’t do too much of, but it looked like a good thing for those into imports.

Slightly out of order here, but none-the-less rather coo, was Hyperkin – showing off their Retron 5 system which will be coming out this summer. This will be a system that will run NES, Super NES, Genesis, GameBoy Advance, and games from Japan too. The demo they were running was rather impressive, with the classic systems being upscaled to 720 on a high def TV set, which was looked very good. This is something I will be watching for this summer on the market.

Spooky Pinball was showing off some cool pinball games and other material, for pinball fans. Looked like fun, but I did not partake much of this room, for whatever reason.

Table top gaming the the hotel lobby seemed to do pretty good this year, with many gamers having fun with the games supplied by local Board Game Barrister store.

Benheck was back again, this time in the museum annex. The few times I stopped in there, he was busy building his latest pinball machine. I did not see too much fixing of gamers broken consoles, but I might have just missed this. I though about rubbing in the fact that I beat them at fixing a Channel F from last year, but they just seemed to busy, so I did not do so.

Lastly here, I did partake in Scott Adams presentation for his new Inheritance text/sound game based on previous games from last years show. It was an interesting show, with a good amount of participation from the audience, and a nice amount of humor tossed in (which made it rather fun).

To sum things up, the Midwest Gaming Classic for 2013 was a fantastic show, with more attendees than last year. There was a constant flow of gamers of all type, both days of the show. It was fun to see old friends, and meet a few new ones too, and have some very cool talks about old system – like the Channel F or RCA Studio II (seriously too on that – even by Scott Adams too).

(And I’m sure I missed a few things that I saw at the show – and apologies for those interesting things I saw but did not put in this simple recap for 2013)

As always, game on!