Category: Conventions and Events


Hi hello. It’s been a bit since I posted, and it’s been rough for me lately to really get that drive to actually post stuff here. So this will be a fairly quick one.

I went to the Portland Retro Gaming Expo last weekend, as is custom for me. I’ve been writing about it almost every year, and it’s great as always. Nice blend of retro stuff from the Atari/NES days to even an Xbox system link section where games from Outrun 2006: Coast to Coast and Halo 2 were being played throughout the weekend.

I tagged along with my friend Weasel who writes for Hardcore Gaming 101, and a fascinating little blog called Grinding the Rumor Mill that he should get back around to updating sometime (hint, hint). Most of the time we were perusing and finding interesting things here and there with not a lot of purchases (at least for me). Despite that, we both saw cool stuff. I posted some of my pictures to the Secret Area Facebook page here.

(PS: You should go to the Facebook page and give it a like and a share. Helps a lot!)

Though, I did grab a few games, none of them I’d classify “retro” except maybe the PS2 stuff. But enough about that, let’s show my “haul”…

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TimeSplitters (PS2): $5

One of the launch titles for the PS2, and heard it was good in its own right. I already had TimeSplitters 2 and Future Perfect on the original Xbox, thought I might as well complete the trilogy.

KillSwitch (PS2): $5

Despite the $1 price tag, I actually paid $5 for this. One of the early cover shooters before Gears of War made it blow up into something big. Might be fun to mess around with.

Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine (Wii) and Call of Duty: Black Ops II Original Soundtrack: .50 each

This was in one of those discount “everything’s 50 cents” bin, which was actually pretty nice.

Iron Chef America was one of those schlocky licensed titles released during the heyday of the Wii’s life. Yes, it has caricatures of Mark Dacascos as The Chairman, host Alton Brown, and Iron Chefs Cat Cora, Mario Batali and Masaharu Morimoto. (Guess Bobby Flay was busy that day.) The only other reason I remember this was Kotaku doing a preview that featured Dacascos as the Chairman name-dropping Kotaku in the teaser. Sadly, that seems to be lost to time. 😦

As for the CODBLOPS II soundtrack, it’s one of the few games that I’ve seen Jack Wall compose for that wasn’t Myst III: Exile or Mass Effect. While most Call of Duty games don’t have particularly iconic soundtracks, I couldn’t pass it up at this price.

Forza Horizon (360) and 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand (360): $15

Probably the most recent games in this pile. I liked Forza Horizon presents: Fast and Furious, and I’m always up for an arcade-like racing game experience. As for 50 Cent… well, I want fitty to jump off that big-ass ramp.


 

Hopefully I’ll get out of this funk and have more interesting stuff for you guys over the holidays. I know there’s a bunch of you that like my stuff, and I always appreciate it. It’s what keeps me going.

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R.I.P. August 7, 2008 – March 31, 2015.

On March 31, 2015, a piece of PlayStation history died. PlayStation Home, the strange graphical chat client that had been running for about seven years, was ending on that day. I had almost forgotten about it until someone had mentioned it to me.

For those who never experienced it, Home was a graphical chat client that was meant to be used as a social hub. It was like Second Life but more PG and less phallic objects. Home was announced by then Sony executive Phil Harrison, complete with this trailer:


(courtesy of IGN.)

Naturally most of us laughed it off and mocked it incessantly. Webcomics, gaming sites, among other places were lambasting the idea, even more so when it was released to the public. For its entire run, it was a punching bag more than it was a legitimate thing.

Then again, it's hard to take it seriously when you see stuff like... this.

Then again, it’s hard to take it seriously when you see stuff like… this.

When I got my PS3 around 2008, they actually were doing their “closed beta.” In spite of the dog-piling, I decided to hop in and give it a try. As the years followed, there was always that moment of “Oh right, Home is still a thing,” and I’d pop back in to give it a look to see what’s happening. This was usually when a big event was happening that had a Home space, like when E3 came around. For instance, back in 2013 I actually did a video of me roaming around the E3 Studio, which was an interesting experience.

I think I still have those pictures on my PS3 somewhere…

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So this past weekend, I went to the Portland Retro Gaming Expo. It’s my fourth time to the con, and I remember when it was wedged into a small conference area in the DoubleTree Hilton near Lloyd Center to it’s current home at the Oregon Convention Center.

Last year I had recorded video footage from the event, but didn’t use any of it and didn’t write anything about it. This year, I promised myself I’d actually blog about it this time. Especially since the people that run the Expo actually linked to my entry from 2012, where I had gotten a bunch of stuff, talked to “Gamesmaster” Howard Phillips, and had David Crane sign a copy of Pitfall I found at the same expo. I have to thank the expo for even giving my podunk blog a few extra views every now and then. 🙂

This is more of a “what I saw” post. I didn’t spend much at the con itself, but I did find a bunch of really, really interesting gaming stuff. Join me as we look at some of the things these vendors had to offer.

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Another year, and another PAX has passed by. I played games, met with people and thankfully I’m not recovering from some nasty post-convention flu. (I am sleeping a lot more, though.)

Alas, there wasn’t any big outside-of-PAX events that I was aware of, nothing as awesome as last year’s Final Fantasy 25th Anniversary expo thing that Square-Enix did with playable copies of FF2 and 3 on the original Famicom. (you can see that blog entry I made of it last year here.) What I did notice around the Seattle area was a flood of gaming-related entities. From seeing ads for games, to seeing retail stores show their slight understanding of video game culture. So I took a few pictures of them while I was around Seattle.

Most people who were walking to or from the convention center saw this one from the nearest Starbucks (out of about the 50 other Starbucks in Seattle). I have to give credit to the sign-maker for making a Ms. Pac-Man reference.

I don’t drink coffee, so I didn’t go in and try it. Was anyone else willing to give that a whirl?

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I’m gonna be honest, I’ve never played a game by Peter Molyneux. Populous, Black & White, Fable, I’ve never played any of his work. However, I am familiar with Peter Molyneux, the man with really big ideas. What with his lofty expectations for games like Fable and that “Milo” demo he featured back when he worked at Lionhead Studios.

Back in November, his new studio 22Cans had released an iOS/Android game titled Curiosity – What’s Inside the Cube?. The game was rather simple: it was a giant cube with hundreds of tiny “cubelets.” The goal was to clear the cubelets layer by layer to reveal the next layer. Tapping the cubelets gave you gold, continuously tapping would give you a gold multiplier, which you could then use to buy things like picks and firecrackers to tap more cubes faster. You got gold bonuses for clearing the cubes on screen, and a bigger bonus for cracking an entire layer.

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I don’t go to very many conventions. Most of them are cost-prohibitive to me, and I’m amazed I can make PAX every year. I almost didn’t make PAX this year thanks to tickets selling out in record time, but was able to get the last few tickets. However, I’m always on board for local conventions in Portland, because it means less travel costs and is very convenient, which is always a good thing.

Earlier this month, I found out that an artist I like (Amanda Lafrenais of Love Me Nice fame) was going to be at a local comics con here in Portland – the Stumptown Comics Fest. I couldn’t resist having the opportunity to meet her in person, and get all awkward and nerdy about stuff because that’s how I usually act around people I like.

I’m not big on comics, or books in general. I don’t hate them, I just don’t have a drive to read them. I still got a copy of Ken Jennings’ Because I Said So that I got back in January when he stopped in Portland for a book signing, and got plenty of other books I never got around to reading. However, I didn’t have to necessarily be a comic book nerd to appreciate what I saw at the main show floor. (My apologies, there won’t be any con pictures in this one, didn’t bother to take any while I was there.)

In addition to meeting Lafrenais and her cohort/comic friend Lin “Ovens” Visel – whom their art styles are so similar that people frequently confuse the two – I saw several comic book artists, a few indie comics, the typical booth that sells comics at ridiculously inflated prices (Scott Pilgrim collectors editions for $100! OH BOY) and a few publications pimping their wares. Dark Horse Comics was also there, which makes since considering that they’re pretty local.

I also spotted a guy named Bill Mudron, who was selling his Hyrule and Castlevania world map posters there. They were pretty, but I’d have trouble putting them on my walls as they’re covered in shelves. Even Greg Rucka was there, writer of the Perfect Dark Zero novels (which he says are actually pretty good) and Syphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow (which was not so good).

At one point I saw political cartoonist Matt Bors at the con. I had a conversation with Bors about political cartoons and mocking certain artists, like he mentions in his book Life Begins at Incorporation. I also feel bad because I said I was gonna buy his book at the show, even got money so I could do that, and then I didn’t buy it. I should buy it online just to keep my promise.

You may say this is only tangentially related to video games, and you are right. Dark Horse was selling books and issues of comics based on games like The Last of Us, and there were some artists who were selling fanart of The Legend of Zelda and Sonic the Hedgehog. One of the comics I got — The Devastator — seems to be tangentially referencing video games. However, the convention itself was more general comic book malarkey, and I’m okay with that. It’s always good for people like me to get out of my comfort zone and check out things I may be missing out on.

It’s weird, but it gave me this weird creative spark about wanting to write/draw a story. Alas, my story-writing skills aren’t up to snuff, but it’s a dream I might consider sometime. It was great to see some famous artists and some cool comic stuff I might actually look into. Stumptown was pretty cool, and I might check it out again next year.

Happy Holidays, everyone. Hope your Christmas was full of joy in some form, and that you got whatever you wanted for Christmas. For me, that was a new desk chair, an ION Drum Rocker for Rock Band, and a bunch of games varying from Assassin’s Creed II to Dishonored to Homefront. Oh well, not everything’s a winner. A few of these things I got will come useful in the New Year.

After the Spike TV Video Game Awards article, I really didn’t have much planned for the rest of the year. The Atari Hot Wheels article was a spur-of-the-moment thing I found out from a friend, and I was out yesterday hoping to find some gaming stuff. I found some at an antique shop, but it was pretty overpriced — Super Mario Bros. 3 for $12.50, a complete in box model 2 Sega Genesis for $65, etc — and the thrift stores had nothing that appealed to me that much. On a bus ride back, I noticed there was an arcade in Milwaukie, not too far from the main offices of Dark Horse Comics that I mentioned in a previous post about video game comic books. So I thought, hey, let’s have a little fun today.

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Last year, after PAX Prime 2011 ended, I found out there was a local retro games covention around Portland called the Portland Retro Gaming Expo. Apparently it had been running for several years, and I was unaware of its existence, so I decided to head over to the event. Despite the small venue – it was in a hotel convention area not too far from the Lloyd Center mall – I had a blast buying a few games to fulfill my ever-increasing collection. Well, a year has passed and the Portland Retro Gaming Expo came back for its seventh year. This time, they kicked things into overdrive as they moved facilities to the much larger Oregon Convention Center just off downtown Portland. Though the ticket prices jumped due to the venue change – $20 for a day, $25 for both days – I still expected to have a lot of fun.

On Saturday, I grabbed a friend along for the ride. He hasn’t played much video games, but did remember messing around with old Kaypro, Macintoshes and Commodore 64s that some of the vendors had, while occasionally talking about the classic Atari 2600 and NES eras. Since it was in the convention center, the place had many different vendors selling off all sorts of things: Old computers, Nintendo Power magazines — since the magazine is due to shut down in a few months — NES and SNES game reproductions, Tiger Electronics handhelds, various toys and figures, comic books and other assorted nerdy things. There was an absolute breadth of stuff there. My wallet took a hit during the whole event, which I’ll chronicle later.

Pictured: John Hancock, Steve Lin, “Gamemaster” Howard Phillips, and Chris Kohler.

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As I sit here in a Seattle hotel room, day one of PAX Prime 2012 has ended and day two will start pretty soon. While I met some people, got some swag to shove into my suitcase, and got to enjoy a few panels like the PAX Game Show Night, there was another video game event happening around the same time. Square Enix decided to celebrate Final Fantasy‘s 25th anniversary with a small event about a block or two away away from the Washington State Trade and Convention Center, which is the central PAX Hub. Unlike PAX which required a badge, attendance was free in this one. So I met with a few local Washington friends and high-tailed it to the event at the ACT Theatre.

Disclaimer: My experience with Final Fantasy is pretty much little to nil. Platformers and first-person shooters have always been my jam, so my JRPG experience is pretty limited to about a few games, which include Chrono TriggerKingdom Hearts and a few Pokemon games. I did play part of Final Fantasy VI on an emulator ten years ago, but I don’t think that counts. Despite my inexperience with the famous Square franchise, I had to go check it out.

First of all, the event was in a tiny room that’s used for small private concerts or something, as it was packed the whole time we were there. It was a celebration of Final Fantasy alright, as all the mainline titles were playable on the main stage. None of the Final Fantasy spinoff games were there, just the main 13 games plus Final Fantasy XIII-2 which came out recently. Sorry, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles fans. All six of you.

The other gimmick was that each of the games were squared off into a small space that resembled a living room from the era, complete with CRT TVs everywhere. Now, you’re probably asking, “Wait, we didn’t officially get Final Fantasy II, III and V until they came out much later!” Well, I’m gonna blow your mind: They were playable. They were the original versions released for the Famicom and Super Famicom respectively. This was an absolute treat, in spite of the small venue. Here’s a picture of FFII just to prove it.

At one point some of the TVs glitched out and some of the older NES and Famicom games weren’t completely working, resulting in my friend to yell to “Blow the cartridge!” Even in 2012 that’s still suggested as a way to fix busted NES games. Alas, FFII, III and V were in their original Japanese, so I didn’t attempt playing them. I’m surprised they didn’t contact the guy who was selling the Final Fantasy II US Prototype recently, that would’ve been an interesting item at the show.

While this was going on, we had music blared by a couple of DJs while we roaming around looking at the PS1 and PS2 era Final Fantasy games. This DJ sucked, mainly because he was just some dude blaring dubstep and Pac-Man techno remixes (Wrong publisher, buddy!). Honestly me and others would’ve preferred to just hear a sampling of the many tunes throughout the series, but there probably would’ve been a massive well of tears once Aria di Mezzo Carattere came on, so I guess I’ll settle with the awful dubstep instead. Thankfully those who would rather hear the game had headphones available to put on in every station, which probably makes the experience all the better.

Also featured there was a tech demo for the upcoming Final Fantasy XIV. While I’m skeptical of its statement of being “real time footage”  — this is Square-Enix after all, king of FMVs — It looked pretty nice and I hope we get to see it in an upcoming game in the near future. One other observation: Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 were played on Xbox 360s as opposed to the PlayStation 3, which is weird considering Square-Enix’s heritage.

The last things at the tiny event were little table games like “Moogle Hop” and Cactuar Ring Toss. Alas, the line to get into them was too long and probably not worth it for the prizes. After that, we high-tailed it out of there, with my friends grabbing a 25th Anniversary poster designed by original Final Fantasy character designer Yoshitaka Amano featuring all the main characters drawn. Most of them look pretty effeminate but it’s better than Tetsuya “belts, zippers and Gackt lookalikes everywhere” Nomura, so it’s a nice touch. The same design was also on all the cards advertising the event, so I’m not saddened that I didn’t get the poster. Besides, it probably would’ve gone in the same place my Kevin Butler PlayStation Move poster and my GFW Radio poster are: Rolled up in my bedroom, waiting to be sold or thrown away.

I will say that despite the tiny-ass venue, Square Enix did a fine job with this event. For diehard Final Fantasy players, it was likely a treat to play Final Fantasy III on an actual Famicom rather than emulators or the DS port, and there was stuff for the average congoer anyhow. Maybe I need to pick up one of these games and start playing them already, I’ve had enough time to get them…

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