Saturday, March 29, 2008

2008 CAGDC Tournament, Day 1


A few weeks ago I got an email from a gaming friend, Mark Alpiger, who runs asking me if I wanted to participate in his vintage arcade tournament, which was being held in Bloomington, IL, a scant two-hour drive from Chicago where I live. The tournament would have some of the best vintage gamers in the nation, including Mark Boolman, Pat Laffaye and the man who could make Billy Mitchell his bitch, multiple world record holder, Donald Hayes.

I haven't talked about it on this blog, but I am really into the classics. I grew up in the 1980's, so arcades were the draw of my youth (and rollerskating rinks, but more of that in another post) and playing technological marvels like Tempest, Centepede and Star Wars were tantamount to being cast alongside Jeff Bridges in Tron.

Like most guys in their 30's, I looked back on my youth and decided to take up vintage arcade gaming, first buying a Tempest and Star Wars and later a Marble Madness, Galaga, Robotron: 2084 and Crystal Castles. It was this later game that really hooked me. I never played it in my youth, but after stumbling across Mark's webpage, I became really interested in checking one out and found one for cheap that was restored in resting in Green Bay. I bought it for $400 and never looked back.

For the last two years, I have played it on and off, talking with Mark online and working on patterns for the more difficult later stages. It really cemented my love for classic games and their simplicity and I looked into the myriad of other titles and what it would take to be even remotely competitive.

Mark recommended The Glob, a title I had never heard of before and no wonder. It was a Pac-Man conversion kit, so not too many were ever sold and Mark is the only one I have ever met who played it back in the day. It really is a tremendous game with difficulty that ramps up unbelieveably quick.

So, after putting in some hours on that and working on CC, as well as finishing Marble Madness, I got interested in some of the classic tournaments around the US. It didn't hurt that about a year after I got into this, King of Kong came out and even my girlfriend and my sister enjoyed it, making me feel like a king for a night when they equating my mediocre gameplay with that of the classic arcade gaming greats.

Which is why, when Mark asked if I wanted to be in the tourney, I jumped at the idea.

I knew I could post decent scores at CC and The Glob, but the tournament would also have Galaga, Gorf, Rally-X, Kangaroo, Roadblasters, Discs of Tron, Frogger, Star Wars, Rampart and the late announced Thunder Cross. The tourney works like this: post high scores on six machines of your choice and your final score is calculated as a percentage of the overall high score on that game and all of your six percentages will be calculated as a final total with some logrithmic function doing all the work. The one with the highest percentage total wins.

Day one was really fun and it took me a while to get comfortable and use to playing on each of the machines I planned on competing on. Early on, Donald Hayes set the high score at The Glob at ~93,000 and as my high score before the tourney was ~81,000, I figured I would have to take second place (or worse!). I played and played, eschewing dinner and having a few cans of Coke, some bubble gun and a Clif Bar instead. After a lot of point pressing and a couple sly tricks, I topped him at 99,630 to capture the high score.

Mark, ever the instigator, let Donald know shortly after that his score had been topped and he set at the machine with renewed vigor, but didn't top the score I had set.

After day one, I lead on The Glob and Thunder Cross, which I turned a ~325,000 score on after a dozen or so rounds. I posted scores for Star Wars, Galaga and CC, but none really deserve mention.

Today, I will be trying to complete a game on CC, which would be a first for me, but I would really like to get one completed during this tourney as Donald Hayes already finished a game on the first day with a high score of ~829,000, which is also his all-time high.

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