Accosting more cosplayers in Manchester

This post might be a little brief because Spencer and I pushed the Oldschool Gaming kit into the back of his car and spent the weekend at the Play Expo in Manchester.

So I’ve had a weekened of babysitting temperamental 1980s and 1990s home computers – the CPC464 developed a fault two days beforehand, the Spectrum +2’s DivIDE conked out completely during the set-up and one of the VGA monitors was dead on arrival but it probably wouldn’t be quite the same if everything had worked perfectly – whilst talking to people about recent 8- and 16-bit homebrew games and getting to meet with some friends who I only get to see in person at these events; I was joined once more by Mark Ball with his Intellivision and some new games he’s been working on and Frank Gasking who arrived with the Games That Weren’t rig. And of course there were the amazing cosplayers who put so much time and effort into their costumes only to be stalked approached for pictures by me so I should probably apologise for being so shameless. Again.

Even after a pretty good night’s sleep I’m still fairly thrashed this morning to the point where I’m having to look at the keyboard once in a while just to keep my typing straight! I’ve repeatedly said that I’m getting too old to do these events and that my poor joints can’t take it (usually from around 3pm on Saturday onwards, give or take an hour) but then the next one comes around and off we go to have another great time with some lovely people and shouted conversations over the white noise of coin-ops and pinball tables. A metric bucketload of photos were also taken, some of which come handily packaged thus:

Play 2015

And as a footnote, whilst driving around slightly [ahem] “misplaced” on the Sunday morning we went past Coronation Street! There’s a big version of the sign by the gates an’ everything.

Accosting cosplayers in Manchester

So last Friday saw Spencer and I piling worrying quantities of computer equipment into his surprisingly spacious Mazda and wandering over to Event City in Manchester for the Play Expo. Once there we unloaded and I started making things up planning the layout for the weekend and setting up the Oldschool Gaming computers.

Things didn’t go entirely to “plan” of course, the telly taken along for the VIC 20 decided to start ignoring its own controls and wouldn’t flip over to the composite input (so a CRT portable was blagged from the organisers), the monitor cables on the Amstrad CPC464 are becoming temperamental in their old age so it would occasionally drop green from the picture and the Spectrum’s VGA upscaler had sync problems so the picture would jitter and roll occasionally. Only that last one was an issue that couldn’t eventually be “fudged” on the spot.

The event was, as is always the case with Play, a huge amount of fun and our kit was set up in pretty much the right area, not too far from the “beaten track” but away from the louder areas to the point where Frank Gasking, Mark Ball and I could actually have conversations with people about the games and hardware on show without having to pretty much yell ourselves hoarse!

The machines themselves saw quite a bit of use over the weekend as well, with Commando Arcade on the C64 (which takes Chris Butler’s original 1980s code and yanks it apart to add the missing levels, stop the sprites flickering and generally improve things) seeming to be the most popular on display, even attracting some of the security staff… or at least I think he was?

I’d like to thank the people behind Play (and there are far too many for my still dessicated brain to remember even twenty four hours later so I won’t list names for fear of forgetting someone) for putting on such a great event and inviting me along to fill a very small corner of it, all of the people who stopped by for a chat, Mark and Frank for coming along with their own hardware and helping on the stall so I had a chance to wander around and Spencer for giving me a bed for the two nights and driving us around once again.

There’s a photo album to go with this post which is, for some completely unexplainable reason, just a teensy bit “cosplay heavy”.

Play 2014

Road trip time

The more observant visitors to my website (both of them) have already noticed that the photos and associated gallery both went live a week back but due to things in the “real” world and work deadlines getting in the way, a post about the Play Expo (which was on the 12th and 13th of October) failed to materialise due to “life stuff” and writing deadlines jostling for attention.

As with last year, the event itself was vast; Event City is a huge venue and, along with a significant increase in the numbers of people through the door, there was also more to actually see once inside; there were stands for the new Assassin’s Creed, Nintendo’s Wii U and Oculus VR’s kit but to be honest those don’t really interest me, but I did get a chance to chat with the people behind the FUZE, a solid all-in-one shell around a Raspberry Pi and a BASIC interpreter which is primarily aimed at education but they’re hoping to get some indie interest as well.

There were loads of machines out to play with too, including an Apple IIc and Commodore PET (both of which I believe conked out during the weekend and we were aware of some “electrical burning” type smells fairly early on which may have been the latter) and a couple of VIC 20s just opposite where Oldschool Gaming was set up and a range of other kit from ZX81s to reasonably old but networked desktop PCs, all running games and left there for people to play.

The Oldschool Gaming stand itself was back, completely lacking in branding as always and twice the size of 2012, spanning a whopping four tables (with a fifth containing the Games That Weren’t stand in the middle) and seven of the machines out were mine…

…which were (left to right) an Atari 800XL, two C64s, an Amiga 600HD and a Raspberry Pi running Chameleon Pi so it could be an Apple II or ZX81 emulator with…

…an Amstrad CPC464 and the “trusty” Spectrum +2 (which scared the hell out of me the night before the event when the PSU on the CF converter arced itself to death and took my only spare CF card with it which lead to a mad scrabble to find something that could be “recycled”!) The remaining two machines were an Intellivision and an Atari Jaguar with a white case which were brought along by Mark Ball and Kevin Dempsey respectively and that’s their backs in the picture above too. Sadly, Kevin couldn’t stay for the Sunday but we ended up with a Vectrex running some new games and prototypes instead.

Apart from the event’s food being pretty expensive and not much cop with it, the only “issue” I had was that Dave Footitt was premiering his brand new BBC Micro game Mountain Panic (which I’ve been waiting for since Console Combat back in… well, it was few years back now) and, because that stand was on the far side of the hall from us, the first I heard about it was on Facebook back at the hotel on Saturday evening! Next time I’d really like to see all of us homebrew and indie development bunnies (preferably including people like Llamasoft) all in roughly the same space because it just felt a little spread out this time around.

I’d like to say a quick but more thorough thank you to Spencer Guest, Mark Ball, Kevin Dempsey and Frank Gasking for helping out and turning up with their own gear this year, offer some more general thanks to the organisers who made it possible for us to be there and wave generally at people who made Play a great weekend. To finish off, here’s the gallery of twenty eight images (including three taken before the event) which is, as always, more about machines than anything else although there are a few more cosplayers in there this year.

Play 2013