We’ve just got back home, unpacked and catching up with web stuff after one outstanding weekend in Manchester at Play:Expo 2012…or alternatively, from my wife’s prospective, a damn fine shopping exhibition in Manchester 🙂
This years event has been the best that Replay Events have held for sure. O.k so it had its moments but I guess some of those where out of the organisers hands…but some weren’t. So before we get to the good stuff here’s the naff parts out of the way first.
Now, as the UK’s biggest gaming event, it’s bound to attract a huge number of attendees, especially when the focus is a 40-60 split between in favour of modern gaming. On that first day on Saturday morning, the queue outside was massive and stretched the whole length and way beyond the equally massive Event Centre building. It continued further still and way into the carpark in a giant ‘U’ shape. Apparently, some folk had started queueing as 8am even though the door weren’t supposed to open until 11am.
At 11am they didn’t open – due to a technical hitch somewhere inside had caused everything to be running a bit late and so the crowds grew even longer. Without any update from the organisers messages started to travel from mouth to mouth along the lines of weary gamers. Also it wasn’t apparent that there was different queues depending on if you had prebooked tickets and therefore access to the ‘fastlane’ (like myself) or to pay on the door. It would have been so much easier if there was a few members of staff mingling outside to advise attendees. We queued for two long hours, but thankfully it didn’t rain and I would have been in the queue much longer if it wasn’t for a few familiar faces that let me join them further down the line. Suffice to say, we all had a laugh and probably one of the best queue’s I’ve been in 🙂
The second bit of bad news was that something had gone wrong with a contractor providing PA equipment and as a result all of the talks & Q&A sessions had to be cancelled. This was not taken happily by many classic gamers who, like myself was really looking forward to these. At that time on Saturday, it wasn’t clear if the talks would resume on Sunday either. A damn shame but not disheartened as the sheer amount of retro stuff wall to wall was staggering.
First port of all, the arcade!
Dedicated cabs included –
Return of the Jedi
Juno First (x2)
Robotron 2084 – Woo hoo!
Super Hang On
Super Chase HQ
Vendetta (four player!)
There was also rows of generic Jamma cabs playing games like R-Type, Bosconia, Kung-Fu Master, Klax, Wonderboy.
…and after that lot, its on to four rows of Pinball machines. Way too many to list (or remember) but some of the greats were here like the Pinbot series, Star Trek TNG, Twilight Zone, Tales of Arabian Nights, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Theatre of Magic….and my new rediscovered best friend Black Knight.
A really nice selection of Bally and Williams tables here as well as some of my favorites from Zacarria too…woo, wonder if they’ve got a spare coin door (and speaking to the Jamma+ guys, yes they do – am just awaiting an email!)
The home console and computer area was chock full of everything 8bit and onwards including the humble Zx81 up to the Amiga, from Atari 2600 through to the Dreamcast. There was also plenty of handhelds to sample including early examples from the 70’s, Game and Watch and up to Gameboys, Lynx, Game Gear. It was also nice that every single machine had been duplicated in plenty giving everyone the opportunity to sample old and future favourites. I particularly like the way that groups of consoles had been placed together based on game genres. For example you could sit on the fighting section and have everything from SF2 on the Snes, Soul Caliber on the Dreamcast, Virtua Fighter on the Saturn, Tekken on the PSX, Body Blows on the CD32, IK+ on the Amiga, Exploding Fist on the C64 etc etc
I did venture into the modern gaming area which was just massive. The Replay section was busy but that was nothing compared to the sheer number of teenage gamers.
Stopping by the watch two of the pro teams playing. What struck me was how incredibly rude and nasty each team was to each other. Back in retro land, it’s all rather friendly banter but the colourful language and abuse that they all threw at each other was certainly an eye opener. Is this what modern online gaming is like these days or were they all a bit too excited about playing for money prizes and full of sugar?
Not really my cup of tea so grabbing a coffee I headed back in to the land of beeps and blips and a long chin wag with old friends.
Here’s a few more photos –
The weird and wonderful Carnival area with real fruit based game controllers (i kid you not), laser retro games, a nice collection of Tomy Tronic games and a block game where someone has very cleverly created this.
Hanging with the Yak himself, Jeff Minter at his Llamasoft play area and picking up some game tips for Goat Up and Minotron. He’s also porting his latest iOS games to Android so if you’ve been wanting to check these out, head over to http://minotaurproject.co.uk/blog/ for details. Gridrunner on the Samsung Galaxy was very nice.
I also sptopped by Amibay and Techshack and picked up a few bargains for my Amiga as well as golden Competition Pro joystick, a new composite lead for my BBC Micro (no more dodgy RF for me!) and a few back issues of Amiga Future Magazine.
I also stopped by to chat with the with the guys from http://www.rgcd.co.uk/ and ‘attempt’ to show off my skills on Death Ray Manta. They were also selling copies of their Commodore C64 homebrew cartridges at reduced prices so I added Soul Less and Jars Revenge to Canabalt and Fortress of Narzod.
Console Passion had some pristine boxed Vextrex games and I was sorely tempted to get one or two. Sadly they didn’t have the two titles I really want for my collection.
Nevermind, some of the boxed Atari 2600 games were only £4…bonus!
Sunday was much of the same thing except, better queue control which had us all in within 10 minutes, slightly fewer people in the Retro section so hours of Pinball for me and at last the talks and Q&A sessions where back on. I thoroughly enjoyed the talk with Mike Montgomery of Bitmap brothers who hinted at more iOS/Android ports of their classic games including Chaos Engine (everybody say Woooooooo!).
More random photos.
Event organiser Gordon Sinclair gets to play Kick Off on the Amiga with the games creator himself, Dino Dini.
Retro GT T-Shirt for sale. Loving the Bubble Bobble and grey Bomber/Bomblitz tshirt.
So…apart from those initial snags on Saturday morning (oh and the huge traffic jams we encountered on the drive up Friday night) Play:Expo was one damn fine weekend of classic gaming, It’ll be interesting to read on on various forums what other retro gamers thoughts are the ever expanding modern gaming areas. The chaps who provided the arcades and pinballs are thinking about doing their own pure retro event. Let’s see what happens.
I’ve omitted a few items of interest from this post as I want to give them their own separate entry based on the fact that they are , truely awesome-Ness.
More Play:Expo stuff to follow.
Youtube videos are now being uploaded and this walkaround by Pinball News Videos gives you a great overview of what it was like being there. I even pop up at the 2:52 mark on Black Knight.