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The Southsider

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I attended my first computer show ever yesterday: the vgXpo in Philadelphia (formerly PhillyClassic). I thought I would post my impressions and experiences here just in case anyone is interested :) Unfortunately I didn't take a camera to the show, but hopefully there will be some pictures by other AA member soon.I have been visiting the AA site for a bit over a year now, since I first got into the Atari 2600 homebrew scene. During that time I have read about various computer shows in the USA on the site, and they always seemed like fun. However, I didn't expect to be able to attend myself, as it would be very expensive to come over from the UK. Of course, there are computer shows in the UK and Europe that I could attend, but there wouldn't be an AA booth or contingent of AA members. Anyway, by a happy coincidence it turned out that I would be visiting Washington DC for work in the week before the vgXpo this year. By using some of my holiday time, I was able to extend my stay in the USA by a week so that I could attend the show, while my work paid the cost of the flight and some of the hotel bills! The additional motivation for me was that two carts containing my games (Hunchy 2 and the Minigame Multicart) were being released at the show.Getting to the show itself was a bit of an adventure. The trouble that I always have when visiting the USA is that it is difficult to get around by public transport. I have never learned to drive, and I don't find this a problem in the UK (or Europe) as the public transport is excellent. However, the USA is the land of the automobile, and this makes it difficult for me to venture outside of the city centers. To get to the show, I had to travel from Washington DC to Fort Washington in Philadelphia and back again in one day, as I was flying out the next morning. Fortunately there was an Amtrak train service from Washington to Philadelphia which took about 2 hours. However, things were not so straightforward after that. There is a regional rail system in Philadlephia that runs from the main train station to Fort Washinton, but it only runs once an hour at the weekend, and there were severe delays for some unspecified reason. I eventually reached the Fort Washington station, where I was hoping to take a bus or taxi to the show, but it turned out that the station was in the middle of nowhere and the bus service did not run at weekends! As a result, I had to hike around 2 miles to the show along the side of the road, which involved a bit of jaywalking! Fortunately I had a hard copy of the Google map, and I eventually reached the expo center! Total elapsed time was around 4 hours of travel to get there from Washington DC: I set off from DC around 6am, and arrived at the expo center around 10am. Naturally I had to do all this is reverse to get back again!The vgXpo was held in conjunction with the NBC consumer expo this year for the first time. This decision caused quite a bit of controversy on the foums, with many people and exhibitors threatening to pull out. At one point I thought I would also cancel as it looked like a train wreck, but I decided to go after Albert said he would attend with the AA stand. Also, it was going to be very expensive to change my travel arrangements at the last minute. The consumer expo part of the show was rather strange with a whole assortment of different areas, and no obvious connection between them. The various areas included a rally simulator, a battlebot contest, some college recruiters, some public talks, some competitions, a popcorn maker, several groups in fancy dress, and people attempting to sell various services and gadgets! I didn't spend much time in these parts and headed straight for the vgXpo which was located right at the back of the hall. This area was by far the busiest and got steadily more crowded thoughout the day. The consumer expo was very quiet by comparison, and in my opinion they should have kept it as just a games event. Naturally there were various NBC camera crews, and I am sure that I will now appear in the background of various TV shows!The first thing that hit me when I entered the vgXpo was the quantity of games and peripherals on offer. There were at least half a dozen stands which were stacked high with boxed consoles, and rare games. In the UK, I am continually scouring car-boot sales and charity shops, and I consider myself lucky to find a Combat cart :) However, there were literally thousands of Atari games for sale, and for almost every other platform (particularly the NES). I should have expected this of course, but I immediately realised that I had not done my homework properly and didn't have a clue what to buy! I am not a collector by any means, primarily because PAL region carts are essentially worthless, but there are various NTSC-only games that I would like to obtain. Unfortunately I didn't make a list beforehand, and so I ended up only buying a couple of boxed NTSC-only 7800 games that I knew I didn't have. I was also hoping to pick up some Vectrex titles, but the prices were similar to those on eBay back in the UK. I also intended to pick up an FB2 console, but nobody was selling them, though there was one on display. As a result, I spent most of my money in the AA homebrew section. It was clear that vgXpo was primarily intended as a classic gaming event, though there were some modern games games on show (which I ignored). Fortunately, despite what I had previously heard on the forums, there was a large range of classic arcade machines available, all set to free-play. I had just visited the Smithsonian a few days before, where they had a single Pac-Man arcade encased in perspex, but here you could actually playit for real, along with Space Invaders, Missile Command, Donkey Kong, Defender, Tempest, Pole Position, and all the other favourites. There was even an original Pong machine, though it didn't seem to be playable. My favourite was the Asteroids machine which I haven't seen in many years - presumably because of the special vector monitor that is required. Unfortunately I soon realised that my game playing skills had withered over time, and I sucked badly at every game that I tried :) I had a great nostalgic trip though, and despite the crowds it was still possible to get to play most of the machines without too much waiting.The AA stand was definitely the highlight of the show for me. It was great to finally meet Albert and the others, which I had previously only talked to on-line. The amount of effort that Albert had put in was immediately obvious, and it truly must be a labour of love for him! There were little plastic stands and printed summaries for all of the homebrew carts, and lots of leaflets and posters explaining what it was all about for the uninitiated. The quantity of homebrew titles was also surprising. I had played them all previously by emulation, but seeing several tables completely covered in homebrew titles was very impressive. The AA stand was the only one attempting to keep classic gaming alive by producing new content. - all of the others were just peddling the old stuff. There were at least a dozen machines set-up with the latest homebrew titles, and they seemed to be occupied for most of the day. It was great to finally play Boulderdash, and many people were asking to buy it (along with Man Goes Down and Reflex). I saw many kids enjoying Hunchy 2 and the minigames, which was a really great experience for me. I had to resist the urge to go up to them all and say "I wrote that", and instead I watched the enjoyment on their faces from a distance! This experience has definitely encouraged me further to produce more Atari games in the future.post-4137-1102443658_thumb.jpgUnfortunately I only had four hours at the show, and it was over all too quickly! I had to leave around 2pm as it was a long journey back, and I had to go to the airport in DC. I doubt that I will be able to attend another show for a long time, but it was a great experience for me. If anyone here hasn't been to one of these shows then I would definitly recommend it. I don't really have anything to compare it with, but the vgXpo seemed like a great success to me. I hope that Albert sold a lot of games, and that next years show will have even more games on offer. As a result I have decided not to start programming for the Vectrex in the near future and to stick with the 2600. I need to start thinking about the minigame contest for next year already, as I think it will start in January, and then there is PoP to finish ...Chris

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Hi there!

 

Glad to hear that you enjoyed the show! (And that you're *cured* from your Vectrex ventures :))

 

I'm also starting to plan for the 2006 mini game contest, since Colony 7 won't work for it :)

 

Greetings,

Manuel

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Hi there!

 

Glad to hear that you enjoyed the show! (And that you're *cured* from your Vectrex ventures :))

 

I'm also starting to plan for the 2006 mini game contest, since Colony 7 won't work for it :)

 

Greetings,

Manuel

Not to hijack Chris' blog, but what's up with Colony 7? Haven't heard any news for a while...are you stopping work on it completely, or will it just not fit in 4K?

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Hi there!

 

Not to hijack Chris' blog, but what's up with Colony 7?  Haven't heard any news for a while...are you stopping work on it completely, or will it just not fit in 4K?

 

Oh... no, no, everything is fine on Colony 7! As you guessed, it just won't fit into 4K, that's all :)

 

Regarding 4K, after favorising Space Beam for a while, I think I possibly found an even better 4K project by now: Indian Battle (Beware, as the name indicates, it's totally unPC :))

 

Greetings,

Manuel

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By using some of my holiday time, I was able to extend my stay in the USA by a week so that I could attend the show, while my work paid the cost of the flight and some of the hotel bills!

Glad you were able to come to Philadelphia for your holiday. Wow, your employer paid for part of the expenses? Those are some nice benefits. Or were you able to justify it as business? :)

 

I can imagine the feeling of watching kids playing Hunchy II. That is truly the greatest reward of homebrewing - to watch someone enjoy your work.

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Oh... no, no, everything is fine on Colony 7! As you guessed, it just won't fit into 4K, that's all :)

 

I am still looking forward to seeing Colony 7 with those great sprites - it is a pity that it won't fit into 4K though. Perhaps you could resurrect balloon bomber for the minigame competition :)

 

Chris

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Now you have a Vectrex, you really should pick up a few homebrews!  :)

http://www.vectrexcarts.com/

I highly recommend YASI/Protector, Gravitrex, Thrust, and Wormhole.  Actually, most of the Vectrex homebrews are brilliant!

Also, Richard has the VecFlash up for sale again.  I couldn't recommend it more!  :)  http://vectrex.biz/

 

I definitely intend to acquire some of these Vectrex homebrew titles in the near future as they look great. I haven't had much time to play with my Vectrex yet - I'm still surprised that I won the auction! Thanks for the suggestions.

 

Chris

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Glad you were able to come to Philadelphia for your holiday. Wow, your employer paid for part of the expenses? Those are some nice benefits. Or were you able to justify it as business? :)

I can imagine the feeling of watching kids playing Hunchy II. That is truly the greatest reward of homebrewing - to watch someone enjoy your work.

 

My employer paid for me to attend another conference, and I paid the expenses for the rest of the time. It was still expensive, but definitely a worthwhile visit. The show has certainly inspired me to produce more games, and I am currently trying to think of a good minigame idea for next year.

 

Thanks,

Chris

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Hi there!

 

I am still looking forward to seeing Colony 7 with those great sprites - it is a pity that it won't fit into 4K though.  Perhaps you could resurrect balloon bomber for the minigame competition :)

 

Still searching a suitable project as well. (Favorizing a port of Taitos Indian Battle ATM)

With the reserve plan of talking the Mini Game organization into trying an 8K category :)

 

I hope to find some time at the weekend for Colony 7. Not sure if I will start straight into the sprites but it's time to pick it up again :)

 

Greetings,

Manuel

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How was your flight home, Chris? It has been my experience that jet-lag is more severe flying east than west.

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How was your flight home, Chris? It has been my experience that jet-lag is more severe flying east than west.

 

Thanks - the journey back was very smooth. I got to travel on a brand-new Airbus A330-200 which is a lovely aircraft. In my experience the jet-lag is definitely worse going west->east as your are losing hours, but I have done this trip many times and I have a reasonable recovery schedule worked out. Albert promised to come to a show in Europe next time ...

 

Chris

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Albert promised to come to a show in Europe next time ...

Chris

LOL. I can imagine Albert making a non-stop drive to Europe. That is, as soon as an Alaska-Siberia ferry is operational.

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Albert promised to come to a show in Europe next time ...

Chris

LOL. I can imagine Albert making a non-stop drive to Europe. That is, as soon as an Alaska-Siberia ferry is operational.

 

I think Albert was just promising to visit Europe, rather than bring the whole AA show along! However, I'm sure he would drive if it was possible! 31 hours is longer than all of my flights in both directions - that is dedication for you!

 

Chris

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