Over the years I have set up and broken down my old gaming systems and computers many, many times. Sometimes — often times, actually — it seems like I spend more time connecting and configuring and reconnecting and reconfiguring them than I do actually playing games on them. When it comes to old hardware I have a softer spot in my heart for old computers than old console gaming systems, but the biggest problem with them is that they take up so much space. At one time in our old house I had over 20 video game consoles sitting on a relatively small set of shelves all hooked up to one single television. In that same room I had my three favorite old computers (a C64, an Amiga, and an Apple II) hooked up to three separate monitors tying up an entire 8′ table.
The other day I decided, why can’t I do that with my computers as well? Almost every flat screen television on the market now has multiple connections that would support these old computers. Last night while shopping at Sam’s Club I decided to pull the trigger and do something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while now.
For just under $350 I purchased a Sanyo 40″ flatscreen LCD television. They had bigger and smaller models with more and fewer features (actually there were few there with fewer features than this one), but it had all the right inputs for the job and the price was right.
As I said last night on Facebook, “the milk crate is temporary.” The television’s stand isn’t tall enough by itself so I needed to lift it up a bit. I’ll replace the milk crate this weekend with something else, but in the meantime it’ll do. My old trusty Commodore 64 plugged right into the television’s composite input and looks great. I did have to figure out how to set the default picture size on the television to 4:3 instead of 16:9 letterbox to keep the picture from being stretched out.
With the C64 up and running, the Amiga was next. The Amiga looks particularly crappy when connected via the composite cable. I found a couple of “VGA Flicker Fixers” in the ~$100 range that I will research and look into purchasing. So it’s not a great picture at the moment, but it’s working.
With the two Commodore products out of the way it was time to hook up the old Apple II. In a recent episode of You Don’t Know Flack I talked about the CFFA 3000, a compact flash/USB card reader for the Apple II. After reconnecting the composite cable from the Apple into the television and selecting a disk image, I was immediately greeted by the familiar sounds of Karateka. I don’t mind saying, the project took a back seat for a few minutes as I kicked and punched my way through a few enemy combatants.
That’s what they all look like now, sans any real cable management and with a milk crate in the picture. This weekend I’ll re-run all the cords and replace the milk crate with a proper stand.
Leaping from moderately mainstream to moderately obscure, Episode 123 of You Don’t Know Flack is dedicated to the CFFA 3000, a relatively new card that plugs into vintage Apple II computers and allows retro hobbyists to load virtual disk images and convert physical disks to virtual disk images (and back). I also coin the word “floppycentric” in this episode.
Again, thanks to everyone who mailed in pictures and entered the contest. Although the contest is over, if you would still like to submit pictures for Robb’s game, you can continue to e-mail them to me and I will make sure he gets them.
On Monday of this week I announced a contest in which all you had to do to enter was take a picture of yourself from either the waist up or the shoulders up and mail it to me for a chance to win fifty bucks. On Monday I had six people enter. On Tuesday I had three people enter. On Wednesday and Thursday I had 0 people enter. Ah, the short attention spans we have all SQUIRREL!
Seriously though, today is the last day to submit your photo to me. Your photo will be used as a character’s photo in Robb Sherwin’s upcoming work of Interactive Fiction, Cyberganked. Your name will also be entered into a random drawing to win a $50 gift card. If you need more specifics about the type of pictures or characters you can re-read my original announcement.
I can’t imagine why more people haven’t sent in a photo. Here are the reasons why (in my head), and my answers to them.
“I am not very photogenic.”
Some of the characters in Robb’s new game include “man on street corner” and “girl in restaurant.” Surely you fit the bill for those. No costumes necessary for those!
“I feel stupid having my picture taken.”
I did too. It lasts about 30 seconds. And, unless you show them, nobody in real life who knows you will ever see your picture in this game. Your real name will not appear in the game next to your picture.
“I hate gift cards and money. I have no use for $50.”
Throw the gift card into the drawer under your microwave and re-gift it.
“Robb probably already has all the pictures he needs.”
Robb most definitely does not already have all the pictures he needs, otherwise I wouldn’t have launched this contest. Robb has dozens of characters he wants to implement and dozens more he would like to. He is even creating new characters based on some of the photos that have been received so far.
“I don’t want to be a bad guy in Robb’s game.”
Not all the photos will be used for enemies. Some will be used for good guys. Some will be used for neutral characters. Some will be used for background characters.
Those are all the excuses I can think of. What are you waiting for?
My very good friend Robb Sherwin is working on a new computer game, titled Cyberganked. It’s a text adventure (er, Interactive Fiction) game that takes place a few years in the future. In his game, Robb wants to include pictures of random people, and that’s where we come in. Anyone who e-mails me a usable picture by midnight this coming Friday will be entered into a drawing to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card. Are you interested in having your picture appear in a computer game and possibly winning $50? If so, keep reading for details!
I’ve talked about Interactive Fiction several times in the past — they’re the games that require players to type in commands like GO WEST and TALK TO GUY instead of using a joystick to interact with them. And yes, people still write these types of games! But not all works of interactive fiction are limited to strictly displaying text. Robb’s games also typically contain still pictures to accompany the text. In these games, a person typing ENTER CAR would then see a picture of the inside of a car displayed. If you type TALK TO JILL, you might see a picture of Jill.
Each year, interactive fiction games go head to head at the Xyzzy Awards (pronounced “zizzy”). In 2011, Robb’s most recent game (Cryptozookeeper) won Best Game, Best Writing, Best Setting, Best NPCs and Best Individual NPC. In a recent review of Cryptozookeeper, long time interactive fiction enthusiast Jacek Pudlo referred to Robb as “Shakespeare” when compared to some other contemporary authors of interactive fiction (if, one assumes, Shakespeare talked like a sailor.)
In Robb’s current game in progress, riots have broken out in the streets after everyone’s internet access has been cut off. For an early proof of concept test of Cyberganked, Robb asked me to send him a picture. In the demo I play a mercenary, so for my picture I I threw on a coat and a hat and a pair of sunglasses and sent him the following picture:
In this game, this is how I appear:
Here are a couple of other characters that appear in the game’s early demo:
Don’t worry about dressing up in a costume. According to Robb, he needs pictures for (at least) the following classes in his game: Adrenaline Junkie, Burglar, Carny, Communist, Crack Addict, Embalmer, Homewrecker, Illiterate Polish Web Forum Troll, Mall security guard, Motorcyclist, Mountain Climber, Nurse, Policeman / Policewoman, Private Detective, Programmer, Prohibition Advocate, Racecar Driver, Surfer, Swordsman/ Swordswoman, Whig, Wikipedia Admin.
So, what do you need to do to appear in Robb Sherwin’s next computer game and have a chance at winning a $50 Amazon Gift Card? It’s simple!
01. Take somewhere between 1 and 5 digital pictures of yourself. The best pictures will be of you from the waist up, although pictures from the shoulder will also be accepted. If you only take one picture, have a “neutral” look on your face. If you send in more than one, you can try a few different expressions. (Happy? Mad? Insane?) Pictures taken in front of a plain wall will make it easier to cut your picture out in Photoshop, but if that’s not possible, don’t worry about it. (Both I and Rob are pretty handy with Photoshop.) The main colors in the game will be red, blue, purple, black, and white, so if you can wear one of those colors, that’s a plus. If not, again, it may get digitally changed later.
02. E-mail the pictures to me. If you don’t know my e-mail address, click here. To be eligible for the drawing, pictures must be received by midnight on Friday, January 12, 2013.
03. In either the subject or body of your e-mail, please include the phrase, “Robb Sherwin has the right to use this picture/these pictures in in his game.” Please, only send pictures that you have the rights to.
04. Robb needs both men and women to appear in his game. If you would like, you can also send in pictures of your significant other as well. If you do, I will enter each one of your names in the drawing. What a great way to double your odds of winning!
05. Everyone who submits a photo has the option of having their name appear in the game’s credits. If you would like your name to appear in the game’s credits, let me know how you would like your name to appear. It might be your real name. It might be your online alias. You might not want your name to appear in the credit. Whatever you want is okay — just let me know.
On Saturday, January 13th, I will wake up and add everybody’s name into a big spreadsheet. Each line will have a unique number. If you sent in pictures of your significant other (or a friend, or whatever), each person will get their own line and own number. After that is done I will use an as-of-yet-undetermined random number generator to select the winner. This process will be recorded and uploaded to YouTube. After the video has been uploaded to YouTube, a link to the video will be posted on robohara.com to announce the winner.
When the game is finally released, each person who mailed me a picture will receive an e-mail containing a link where the game can be downloaded for free. Additionally, I will create a photo gallery where you can go online and find the final version of your picture, in case you don’t want to play through the game just to see it. Other than that single e-mail, your e-mail address will not be used for anything else. I will not share them. I will not post them. I will not sell them. I will not spam you with e-mails. I won’t even give them to Robb. The goal of this contest is not to harvest people’s e-mail addresses; it’s to collect usable pictures for Robb’s new game. That’s it.
I think I’ve covered all the bases here. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me. Otherwise, I look forward to seeing your pictures. Good luck!
(EDIT: The Amazon Gift Card has not yet been purchased. If you would like a gift card to some other online store, we can discuss that as well.)
Episode 118 of You Don’t Know Flack has just been released! Episode 118 is all about the iCade, the ThinkGeek/Ion mini-arcade cabinet for tablet gaming. The name implies that it only works with the iPad, but did you know the iCade works with Android tablets as well? You didn’t? Find out what else you didn’t know about the iCade in this episode!
Also, if you’re on Facebook, I just added a page for You Don’t Know Flack. The link is here: https://www.facebook.com/YouDontKnowFlack?fref=ts. By liking that page you’ll get notifications about the podcasts before anybody else. If RSS is your thing, podcast.robohara.com has its own RSS feed as well. Additionally, new episodes are announced here at robohara.com too. I guess the point is, there are many ways to be notified of new episodes.
Wednesday night for Mason’s birthday, Susan, the kids and I attended the Thunder vs. Hornets game. From the moment we found our seats and sat down I knew there were going to be problems. The people sitting directly behind us were already drunk and being loud and belligerent. This was 20 minutes before tip off.
You know you’re going to be dealing with obnoxious drunks when they shout “USA YEAH MAN WOO!” during the opening prayer, which is exactly what happened. A few minutes into the game, the two guys directly behind us began shouting “DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE!” That is a perfectly acceptable thing to do when your team — or any team, really — is on defense. It’s moronic to do so when the home team is shooting free throws. Later, during one of the timeouts, the Redneck Duo discussed whether or not they could hit a player from there with their hunting bow. The longer the game went on, the louder these two got.
At the end of the first quarter, one of the guys left to go buy three beers even though the venue is only supposed to sell you two at a time. When he returned, he told the stranger next to him how he had defeated the system by buying two beers, setting them down, getting back in line, and buying a third. When he returned to buy the third beer, the vendor said, “damn, that was fast!” When his other buddy returned behind us, he told him how he had defeated the system by buying two beers, setting them down, getting back in line, and buying a third. When he returned to buy the third beer, the vendor said, “damn, that was fast!” Then when his girlfriend returned to her seat, he told her how he had defeated the system by buying two beers, setting them down, getting back in line, and buying a third. When he returned to buy the third beer, the vendor said, “damn, that was fast!” During the third telling of the story, we all chimed in and did the punch line with him — “damn, that was fast!” Annoying.
Right after those three beers is then the f-bombs started. F this game, F the Hornets, F everybody. I finally turned around and told them to watch the F-bombs. Then they returned to yelling “DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE!” and whistling so loud that every time they did it Morgan would jump and plug her ears with her fingers. Don’t get me wrong; I have no problem with people enjoying a game, but a modicum of self-control in public is expected. Shortly after asking them to refrain from using the F-word, I heard them say, “F them, we paid our $10!”
When Susan had had enough she texted guest services. At the beginning of every game, fans are told that if someone is being unruly, you can text a number and they will send someone over to address the issue. So she did, and the response she got back was, “go find an usher.” This was during the middle of the second quarter and we were sitting in seats 14, 15, 16 and 17 in the nosebleed section. Finding an usher is not the easiest thing to do at that point.
And so with about a minute left in the first half, we decided to leave. For the record, this is when *I* began dropping f-bombs, out of the range of my children’s ears (I hope). When I stood up and turned around … let’s just say, words were exchanged. The drunker of the two told me what he thought about me and I told him what I was about to do to him. After a long stare down Susan began pulling me in one direction and this drunk buffoon continued yelling about his “19 and 0 record,” which could have only referred to cow tipping.
Out in the hallway Susan found a vendor and complained about the people to him. The man said he couldn’t leave his station, but began actively looking for an usher. We had already received that advice, via text. After 5 minutes of standing around, we did eventually find an usher, who asked where the group was sitting. Susan then asked if we could be relocated somewhere else and the usher shook his head no. And then we left, with one kid (Morgan) confused and the other one crying because we had just left the game on his birthday. On the way home we stopped by Cold Stone Creamery and had some ice cream. When that didn’t cheer him up, we stopped by GameStop and bought him a copy of NBA2K13 for the PS3. Thank god that cheered him up because I was about to go broke.
When CiCi’s Pizza first opened their doors they charged $2.99 for their all you can eat pizza buffet. What I dislike most about CiCi’s isn’t their pizza (although it can be pretty bad) — it’s being around people that can only afford $2.99 pizza. (It really is the dearth of humanity.) I now feel the same way about the nosebleed section at Chesapeake Arena. The problem with buying $10 tickets is that you end up sitting by people who can only afford $10 tickets. (At our last game, it was a row of Hispanic kids who spent half the game kicking our chairs, and the other half kicking me in the head.) It’s a shame because I don’t think you should have to expect to put up with things like that. I don’t think that “comes with the territory” just because you bought cheaper seats.
Susan sent a follow up message to the Thunder organization, so we’ll see what if anything comes of that. We have tickets to three more games and we’re debating on whether to hang on to them or sell them. I’d rather buy one or two pairs of semi-expensive tickets next year than half a dozen pairs of cheap ones and have to deal with this again. Unacceptable.
This morning on Facebook one of my friends forwarded me the link to a news story on MSN.com. The story is about video games as financial investments, and references the current auction of an Air Raid cartridge which is currently selling for $20,000. I wrote a bit about the last Air Raid cart found, which sold for $36k. That’s not really the story here.
When I clicked on the link, I saw something familiar — a picture of my old game room!
Here is a link to the article. It’s always surprising to see a picture of the inside of your house on the internet, especially when the picture is almost 10 years old.
In 2004, an AP reporter interviewed me in regards to a story about retro games making a comeback. After interviewing me over the phone, the AP sent a photographer out to the house and shot some pictures. That led to this story, which again, ran in 2004. The picture MSN used in this morning’s article was recycled from that 2004 photo shoot.
It’s a little hard to tell because of the angle, and things are definitely messier in this shot, but here are the same shelves about a year later. As you can see I ended up painting the shelves black. The walls remained green.
This weekend marked the 9th annual Oklahoma Video Game Expo (OVGE) in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I attended the first show in 2003 as a spectator, but have participated as a presenter (almost) every year since then.
Along for the ride this year were my friends Robb and Steve, who I previously mentioned flew in from Colorado and New York (respectively) to attend the show. Robb Sherwin is, among other things, the author of the award winning interactive fiction game Cryptozookeeper. Steve and Robb have known each other since the BBS days.
Photo by Brandon Staggs
Since our local NBA team (the Oklahoma City Thunder) are currently in the NBA Finals, I decided to go with a basketball theme this year.
Due to a slight table misconfiguration I only ended up with one table instead of two this year, but we made it work by just cramming everything together and leaving a few things under the table. From left to right we had my NES playing Double Dribble, my (blue development) PlayStation running NBA Showtime, and my Commodore 64 running a couple of different games, including One on One and Street Sports Basketball. I wouldn’t say I had the most popular table at the convention, but lots of sports fans stopped by to play a few quick games of basketball. At the table I also had a playlist of basketball-related songs and sports anthems going throughout the day, playing songs like “Basketball Jones,” “We Will Rock You,” and of course the parody song “Beard Like Harden.” I apologize to the people across the aisle from me who got bombarded with this music all day long.
Along with all the console and computer games available to buy and play, there were also several pinball machines and arcade games set up to play at the show. These are machines that are brought in by private owners and set up for people to play for free all day long. They’re a great hit every year and really add to the show.
Besides games, there were a lot of other game-related items on display and up for sale, including these animation cells over at Drew Stone’s table. I probably should have bought one of these when I had the chance.
Photo by Earl Green
You may notice that I’ve had to borrow a few photos from my friends Brandon and Earl for this post. That’s because, before I knew it, the show was winding down. I only got out from behind my table a few times, and when I got home I found I had only taken a dozen or so photographs … so I went to Facebook and borrowed a few from other people. I added the ones I took to my photo album of the show along with theirs, renaming them to give them proper credit.
Photo by Earl Green
Photo by Earl Green
Although OVGE is pretty console gaming-centric, Ed Martin brought another giant stack of retro Apple computer hardware, along with an impressive spread of classic boxed text adventures.
Several local groups and websites were on hand this year, including Nintendo Okie who did a live podcast from the show. They did a decent job of capturing some of the in-show action going on throughout the day.
Brandon Staggs also uploaded this video of OVGE 2012 to YouTube. He did a great job of capturing all of the booths there. You can catch my basketball-themed table just after the 2:30 mark.
Thanks to everybody who came out to OVGE this year and everyone who stopped by and said hey. Next year will be the 10th anniversary of OVGE, and I know people are already talking about what they will be bringing to next year’s show. I know I am!