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August 03, 2008

NWCGE 2K8 Portland Retro Gaming Expo in Full Swing!

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Today is the opening day of the 2008 Portland Retro Gaming Expo at the Holiday Inn Airport hotel. Almost 100 people have showed up so far for the best deals on classic and modern video games, to participate in contests and to win prizes!

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Just to give you an idea of the kind of deals that are happening here:

  • Nice Toploader NES $35
  • PS2 JP Space Invaders Deluxe box $50
  • Genesis Virtual Reality Set in box $25

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I saw tons of Nintendo NES, SNES and SEGA Genesis games and stocked up on some Xbox and Xbox 360 games as well. There were even some Vectrex games for less than half of going Ebay prices!

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On the collector's side booths range from "I cleaned out my basement!" to "Here are all my duplicates!".

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Video Game Wizards, Recycled Gamer, Billy Galaxy and many more professional video game traders showed up as well. In total there are about 20 booths with anything related to classic and current video games.

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On the contest side there are tons of single game contests, the highlight so far was the Atari 2600 Track & Field contest. Very arthritic in nature :)

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Some unique things I saw:

  • Amiga 500 in a giant box
  • SEGA Dreamcast development kit
  • Xbox development kit
  • SEGA Dreamcast display kiosk that's being raffled of
  • PS1 display kiosk
  • Various prototype and lab-loaner carts

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Still happening today:

  • Atari 2600 Championship @ 5:00 PM
  • Showing of the movie HIGH SCORE with the start of the movie, Bill Carlton being present and answering questions!
  • A few more single-game contests

The show goes on tomorrow with N64 contests and more selling and trading as well as more prices and competitions.

For more information check out http://www.retrogamingexpo.com/

September 25, 2007

Seattle Area HALO 3 Launch Event With Bill Gates

Starting Sunday, September 23rd around 4:00 PM in the afternoon the first few hardcore HALO fans lined up at the Best Buy store in Bellevue - site of one of the four official launch events in the US. By the evening the number had grown but only a handful stayed throughout the night. Then on Monday, September 24th, the line grew and by 10:00 PM Monday night, the line was around 800 - 900 people long, snaking around the Best Buy, along the parking lot almost all the way to Home Depot.

Line started in fron of the building... ...and went around and then down the parking lot! And so do we!!! Whipping the crowd into a frenzy Fill 'er up! Master Chief with date :)

Master ChiefSwaaaaag!

The Best Buy and Bungie/Microsoft folks kept the crowd entertained with tons of swag: t-shirts, caps, posters, Clix-models, inflatible HALO chairs, squishies and tons more! Master Chief made the rounds for photo opportunities, the Mountain Dew crew replenished the thirsty crowd with "Game Fuel", there was pizza and Bungie/Microsoft employees signed pretty much everything that was asked of them.

Action CLIX Bungie folks signing stuff Bungie folks signing stuff

Mountain Dew not only had folks refill the cups with Game Fuel but they also had "Respawning Stations" with portable arm and hand massage which was very popular! Some RedBull Minis also made a quick run past the line.

RedBull Mountain Dew Respawning Station Mountain Dew Respawning Station

Then at around 11:00 the first celebrities started to show up: Warren Moon, former QB of the Seattle Seahawks (1997 - 1998) and today a radio broadcaster for Seahawks radio. Mr. Moon went around, shook hands and signed tons of posters and stayed for the official store opening.

Mr. Hoadley and Warren Moon Warren Moon signing a t-shirt Warren Moon

Next was the man himself: Bill Gates made the rounds past the first part of the line, shook hands and was ambushed by tons of photographers. He stayed for quite a while and was enthusiastically celebrated by the crowd - he seemed to genuinly enjoy his celebrity status and mingling with the crowds.

Bill Gates Bill Gates Bill Gates

There were a few other folks, Laura Foy (formerly G4tv, but Microsoft these days), also Jeff Bell (Corp VP Global Marketing), Don Mattrick (Senior VP Interactive Entertainment, formerly EA), Marty O'Donnell (HALO music composer) and others. Then a few busses with Bungie folks arrived and the crowd got showered with swag items and went totally nuts. People shouted "Bungie, Bungie" and at some point one half of the line shouted "HALO" while the other half shouted back "3" which went on for quite a while.

Laura Foy of Microsoft (formerly G4tv) Master Chief in the crowd Swag frenzy!

Finally a few minutes before midnight the Best Buy folks cleared the entrance and made room for the buyers to enter the store and at midnight exactly the first few lucky folks were allowed into the store. In there was a group of photographers and cameramen interviewing buyers and getting the first reactions. Soon the deliriously happy buyers emerged from the store, shouting to the waiting crowd and holding their treasures up in the air. The Legendary Edition seemed to be quite popular! Best Buy continued to let small groups enter the store and the line was still pretty long by the time I left.

Store opens!!! Happy HALO 3 fan! Happy HALO 3 fan! Happy HALO 3 fan!

All in all a great event, the fans kept it going all night long and the Microsoft and Bungie folks as well as the people from Best Buy, Mountain Dew and Clix fueled the frenzy.

September 15, 2007

Original Pong Arcade, Going Once...

"Deposit quarter, ball will serve automatically, avoid missing ball for high score". These instructions started the history of arcade video games when the original Atari Pong was released late in 1972(*).

Now Ken a fellow at Microsoft is selling his Pong machine on Ebay. As a kid Ken spent some time at a resort in Eastern Washington where he encountered his first video game: Pong. Years later Ken had an itching for this first love and started asking around about Pong machines and eventually found one in Kansas 1997. After some negotiations he ended up sending a cashier's cheque sight unseen to the seller and soon was the proud new owner of a classic Pong.

This machine is in great condition with just a few dings in the cabinet. The face plate is great, all the lettering on the control panels is pristine and everything is original. It even has the original Syzygy service manual!

The counter inside states that 12029 games have been played on this unit, not bad! Game board and coin mechanism are also on great shape, so is the original Hitachi TV with its tie down strap. And yes, it does come with the original back board.

Ken wanted to raise some money for the resoration of a 1936 Ford Convertible so the Pong machine has to go. Well, I'll be bidding on it and so will every other classic game nut out there :)

(* Yes, I know Computer Space was first but that one was a flop! Cool game and cabinet though!)

August 22, 2007

HALO 3 IMAX Preview Event 8/21/2007 Seattle

Wow! I am amazed... in awe... but let me start from the beginning.

You probably saw this earlier at Bungie, people were invited to a "HALO 3 Preview Event" at the IMAX Theater in the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. I went with Nate and after we had prepared ourselves with some good Pho we got in line at around 9:30pm. At this point there were roughly 300 people waiting and we were told that this was the line for the 2nd show!

The line for the 2nd showing starts here! Outside the Pacific Science Center gates... And the line snaked all the way down past the Space Needle

Originally there was to be one event at 10:00pm but then so many people showed up that they let a first batch inside the Science Center early and then let more people queue up at the gates outside. This line was now for the 2nd show at 11:15pm.

There were tons of young and old gamers and many kids with their moms (yeah, these must be some cool moms you have there, better stop your whining and do your chores!). Finally around 10:30ish the line started moving and we were let inside and queued up at the IMAX doors. Here some Bungie guys took lots of pictures to be posted on Bungie.net and handed out some small swag.

Then the doors opened and thanks to a bunch of really nice PAX folks we got some prime seats right in the middle. The theater was almost filled to the last seat! The Bungie folks had a giant projector hooked up that filled the IMAX screen to the corners - a fantastic setup! Sounds was just in stereo and a bit distorted but that wasn't distracting.

After the last few stragglers had been seated, Frankie (Franklez) and Luke (Lukemz) started to demonstrate the Campaign in competitive co-op mode. They chose to play Tsavo Highway (3rd level in the game, 1st level with vehicles) on Heroic (the audience wanted Legendary): they started out in a garage with some Warthogs, loaded up with Marines, left the garage and right into the thick of things. Graphics are amazing! Beautiful lighting effects, tons of enemies and action with no slowdown whatsoever! The route goes through some caves and finally into a Canyon of some sorts into the open. Landscape design is stunning with reddish rocks and some shrubbery here and there and of course the occasional sniper tower or other fortification.

The lines was pretty darn long... All the way down past the Space Needle HALO 3 sticker and IMAX ticket

Frankie and Luke used lots of different weapons, occasionally jumped off the Warthogs for some close-up action and yes, they died a few times as well :)

After some time they got to the actual highway and followed that until they came to a scenic bend atop of a steep cliff. Here you were told and saw that the Covenant had excavated the Ark in the background with a few Banshees swarming around it. One of the highway bridges was out so Frankie and Luke had to leave the Warthogs behind and continue on foot, making their way across the bridge. I wonder if you can jump that gap with a Warthog? More enemies and finally they had to hole up with some Marines and beat back a Covenant assault until reinforcements and new Warthogs arrived. Lots of action with mines and shields, nice!

We were told that the demonstration of Tsavo Highway was roughly twice as long as the previous group, a little "thank you" for "waiting patiently in line".

Next up was a demonstration of Forge where you can edit objects in existing maps, in this case High Ground. Frankie changed into a Monitor and picked up items, rotated them and placed them somewhere else, played with some weaponry, a Scorpion tank and finally with the Flamethrower. Yeah, the Flamethrower looks sweet and really heats things up :) Frankie set fire to Luke (now playing as a monitor) and Luke took off, trailing flames and smoke before blowing up. I also noticed a secondary turret on the Scorpion, it looked like there was a machine gun of some sort? The Scorpion was very detailed with lots of intricate textures. Each weapon item costs money from $2 and up and vehicles start at $5 all the way to $20 for a Scorpion (if I remember correctly), with an overall budget above $100 - that's a lot of stuff to play with! Finally we were treated to a quick demo of the water (looks great) and some teleporter objects (sender and receiver). And we were shown the Gravity Hammer, this thing is brutal!

You can change spawn points, flag capture points and so on, Forge is amazing, as Frankie said: there really isn't anything you cannot do. I imagine a lot of BBQ fun with Flamethrower-only maps :) Forge alone has amazing potential unseen in console games before.

Lastly we were treated to a saved multi-player movie of Sand Trap that was shown on the HALO 3 build from E3. Two teams of three each with lots of vehicles: one Brute Chopper and two Warthogs on each side. The Brute Chopper has a boost feature which kills some other vehicles when rammed into. Warthogs were killed with a single hit. We were also shown the Elephant, a giant transport tank/base of some sort, as Frankie put it: "It's really slow but has an amazing horn". Elephants can hold complete teams, can be loaded up with Warthogs and even Scorpions fit inside! Unfortunately no action with the Elephant but it is huge and could be a lot of fun!

The movie mode has full time line control: fast forward, slow motion etc. but also has spacial control: you can stick close to one player and pan around him/her or you can move freely in 3D space. You can take screenshots and post them in double resolution on Bungie.net, you can take small video segments and send them to your friends that you just owned and so on - tons of functionality!

Finally Frankie showed off a series of crazy kills: some nice rocket launcher hits in slow-motion, Spartan Laser hits close-up frame by frame and so on. Graphics are amazing with debris, lighting effects and even dust particles coming off the tires. Audio stays positional in freeze frames as well. The resolution will always be translated to whatever your viewing resolution is, so even when your friend kills and records you on a low-res set-up you can later "enjoy" this on your own setup in full hi-res glory.

The event closed with a huge ovation and a thanks from the Bungie guys.

Well, I look forward to HALO 3. The campaign looks amazing, Forge and the Movie features look amazing, it's all good. This game is so much more than just a first person shooter, with all the extras it will set the bar for a long time to come!

Bungie-folks: THANK YOU!