Sunday, August 4, 2013

Blastoff!! Father and son Defender and Stargate World Records!

FINALLY! The big day!
After staying up late at Star Worlds the night before, we got to the arcade in the early afternoon. By 3pm, Mitchell had a streaming setup going and we logged in with my Twitch.TV account.

Matt and I were going for separate records, all officiated by Grace Snokes of Video Game Scoreboard

Matt's Stargate attempts are for world records on a) 3 man, regular play settings and b) 5 man, tournament mode (no extra ships, etc.). 

I attempted three Defender records, all of which were chosen due to time limitations at the arcade. The attempts were all on factory settings, recommended: Highest score on one ship, Fastest time to 1,000,000 points, and Highest score in an hour. I also attempted a Stargate record: 5 man tournament mode.

Matt's highest Stargate score was 54,750. I don't think he attempted a tournament mode score. 

My Defender records:

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  • Fastest time to 1,000,000: 50:12 minutes
  • Highest score in an hour: 1,251,750

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My Stargate record:

  • 5 Ship tournament settings 130,425 (I did it in a hurry as Grace was leaving)

We had a great time ALL day! Some highlights:

  • Pat and Glenn rebuilt a cocktail Stargate for Matt to play! - Dinner by Pat's mom, Bernadette, was awesome. She even made me some special vegan lasagna that was extra tasty!
  • Pat and Grace celebrated their birthdays with two cakes.
  • Matt and I presented Pat and Glenn with: a Wing Commander: Prophecy poster, signed by Matt and me; my collection of video game tokens from Texas in the 80s; my collection of 7-11 Video Game Trading Cups from 1982 and 1983; Twin Galaxies Trading Cards for me, the First Annual Texas Video Game Championship, and the Texas State Trading Card Premiere; and a few other interesting tidbits.
  • Took a big group picture in front of the arcade.
  • Everyone signed Pat's VGS shirt.
  • Grace officiated a LOT of world records!
  • Pat asked Matt and me to sign his Defender marquee!

The event was incredible. I got to see a few world records set, one of which was a 5 million one man challenge Nibbler game. I've never seen anything like that before and I likely will never see it again.

It was a lot of fun streaming some Defender playing online. Makes me want to do that a lot more. Playing solo at the house and uploading video to YouTube just isn't the same.

Thank you to everyone for making this happen and for making us feel so welcomed. It was an amazing experience from top to bottom and I hope we'll get a chance to come back and continue to be part of this community in person again one day!!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Father and Son Defendering launch: T minus 1 day

No pics of arriving at the hotel, so you get
another zoo picture!
After arriving early to town, we went and had breakfast and killed some time at Butterfly's, and it was pretty good. When we were done, we headed to the hotel.

They did have a room here at the hotel we could get in early, but it was a smoking room and having had a lot of experience in the Midwest with a wife that used to smoke, lol - no thanks! :)

Since we wanted to wait for a no smoking room, we slept in the car until 30 minutes ago. We're currently in the lobby waiting for someone to check out "on time." So the room can get cleaned.

We're not upset; we made the call to skip getting a room last night ourselves to save cash, and that is just how things go sometimes.

It was fun driving all night while he slept like we used to do. It makes the trip shorter for him. We think of it as a time machine. :)

Not sure what's in store today after we get our room besides a damn good shower and nap, but it is going to be awesome whatever happens! I feel the love here! Matt's already pushing to go to Star Worlds. What do YOU think we're going to be doing tonight?

We'll update our adventure here after a while. Who knows what will happen!

Father and Son Defendering launch: T minus 2 days

We had to run over and take this - didn't
want the security guard to get upset!
Waking up in the Dallas, TX, we loaded up the car and headed over to our first location: the Market Hall where the First Annual Texas Video Game Championships were held in 1982. We approached the massive building and learned that there were no visitor parking spaces. Apparently it's not a big hotel; it is a secure building now, and you can't just walk in. We find a security guard and get approval to snap a pic in front of the main entrance. 

Cool. But man, the guard agrees... that ballroom is huge. And it was FILLED with arcade machines during the finals.  You would think that someone would have pictures of it with all those machines! I only have one Polaroid and dang, there are only people in that. :)

Couldn't ride the real ones, but these'll do
Next on the day's activity list is the Dallas Zoo. Matt is a huge nature lover and I am trying to find outdoors things we can do together on this trip. Most require a lot of planning, like hunting and fishing, but walking and zoo visiting? No problem.

We spent five hours at the zoo, took a ton of pictures, watched a few live events, and headed out for lunch. We remembered to check in in Four Square as we exited to find that they were giving away a half cup of Blue Bell ice cream for a check in. Matt had Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. :)

Having fun, Matt?
Don't worry, you'll get plenty of sleep in the car.
Afterward, we found a lunch buffet and took to the road pretty hard. The decision was made to drive through the night so we could check in early in DeKalb and save the money on the hotel room. Matt said he'd stay up with me and we prepped to make a long night of it. About an hour after he started the "he who yawns first loses" contest, he was sawing logs. I guess I won?

I called the hotel and they said to just call them in the morning. I went ahead and drove all night and when we were about an hour short of the hotel, I called and they said that we'd need to wait until noon before they can assure that we'd be able to get in early.

More on the next update!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Father and Son Defendering launch: T minus 3 days

Prepping for today's trip has been interesting. Some of it is game preparation and other parts have been trying to clear the deck of life and work issues.

He hates hugs. Not!
The best part of this for me is that I am getting uninterrupted time with my son. Tomorrow will have work happening, but everything else is just him and me. No laundry, dishes, etc.

What a blessing to have this opportunity.  The crew at Star Worlds have been amazing and have made us feel so welcomed. It really feels like we are going to see old friends rather than meeting in person for the first time.

Pat wants me to speak with kids and parents about how to find a job in the video game industry,  and that is something I love doing. It is so great to help someone find out that their dream is really within their reach if they just know where to look.

Mark Hoff deserves a SPECIAL credit for making this happen, from first putting me in touch with Pat to putting all of the details together online. Mark, you are a ROCK STAR!  Thank you!

The starting odometer
This am, Matt and I put the finishing touches on our luggage and gear and while I got some last minute things done, I found out that he had set the Stargate to tournament mode, which was why he was topping out at 40k or so. I set it to regular settings and told him if he could break 75k I'd give him $5 and for 100k I would give him $10. By the time I had packed up, he hit me up with an 88k score. I figure it's just spending cash for the trip, so what the heck. He earned it.

First up was dropping off a borrowed paraffin wax heater I was using for my hand (I broke my left ring and middle fingers earlier this year) and some new paraffin with our kids' "Deathmother," Greta. She got that nickname because the kids know she is their mom if we die. They didn't like the term "Godmother" since that isn't what she actually is to them. Kid logic. Makes sense to me.

So after catching up, Greta gave Matt a cool dragons and guitars shirt and some National Geographic mags and we were on our way.

In front of the old BigSky Interactive studio
Our next stop was at Whole Foods where I got some vegan pizza and Matt got some cheese pizza. He also talked me into some fruit blended concoction that was pretty good. We ate our pizza on the way north on MoPac. Then we hit the toll road. Since Matt is the navigator, we learned together how to turn Google maps to ignore toll road and we were navigated around the top end of MoPac around Fry's. This took us on a back road shuffle, popping out to IH35 near my first videogame studio's location. I co-founded BigSky Interactive in 2001(?) and this was where we did SpongeBob SquarePants: Revenge of the Flying Dutchman and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius for THQ. We stopped and took a picture together. Matt was 2 when it shipped. Probably doesn't remember much more than I do about that time. It was so weird turning into that driveway... I hadn't accessed that part of my memory for a long time, but it kicked back in. And a lot of it was great, great stuff. Can't forget all of the pain, though. Bringing a great game into the world seems to always have its fair share.

Getting back on the road, we decided in Waco to stop and figure out some plans on how far to drive tonight. Stopping at one of those weigh your own yogurt and toppings places, we figured that maybe we could think about the Dallas Zoo. I am just not going to rush this, so to break up the driving, we found a movie we wanted to watch and zipped over to the theater.  Matt is getting very good with Google maps now, so he was making sure to feed me better data than the GPS voice. Bonus points!

We saw a movie and Matt and I laughed. That was the gist of it.

Afterward, we wanted to visit West, TX, the town with the fertilizer plant that exploded, devastating the town (at least that is my impression - I don't live there). It was getting late and it was dark, but we went anyway. It was eerie.

I grew up in a chemical plant so I understand dangerous situations. I know how horrible this must have been. I wanted to show it to Matt first hand as a learning experience. 

When we pulled off IH35, the road wasn't lit with streetlights. We reached a lit intersection and headed into shady areas under tree cover.

West is a small town that has stop signs and a lot of small houses, all seeming very nice. The night time just made the experience more real to me. It always unnerved me in my hometown at night, although that was where I spent a LOT of my time. It's calm and creepy at the same time, especially under mercury vapor lights with that brownish tint.

These were placed all
around the city
As we went further into the town, small stars were appearing on street signs or were standing on stakes. They were brightly painted, clearly memorials to the event. When we reached the point where we could see the football field, I wanted to cry. So much juxtaposition to handle. A joyful center of the community turned into a place filled with pain. Brief, yes, and the love absorbed the pain well. The field was well-kept, which tells me about the ongoing love there.

Past the field is the railroad track, which we passed on the way to the road leading to the plant. More stars.
We turned down the plant's road and you can plainly see that cleanup is no where near complete. Every bit of the plant is surrounded with chain link fence. And it is lit by some powerful halogen bulbs on stands. More stars.

We traveled down the road, eventually stopping in front of the main gate. I assume it was the main gate because the whole plant was all fenced up and this looked to be the biggest entrance.

Right across from
the plant entrance
A local church had erected a cross directly across the road and it had handwriting on it. And there were more stars.

Just two of the devastated vehicles on the lot
Nearby were huge masses of iron and steel, bulldozed together, a few auto carcasses, and some seriously destroyed vessels.

For anyone living near a chemical facility, this is a worst nightmare landscape.  I have had these nightmares ever since I learned that my father was a welder and he worked in these environments 24/7. Seeing it before me was devastating.

While I was telling this to Matthew, a couple of cars drove by. I had my flashers on and waved them on so they didn't think I was broken down.

An unbelievable mass of metal and detrius
I took a bunch of pictures, and a few minutes later, a security guard drove up. I explained how much this site meant to me and how personally I identified with the people of this town. He was very understanding and let me know that I would be more than welcome to come back in the morning... in fact anytime during the day. I thanked him and went on my way.

The police asking for my id, etc.
Matt and I headed past the plant entrance and toward another exit to IH35. I turned down the wrong road and discovered it was a cul-de-sac. I turned around and a policeman blocked my way out. Long, long story short, I found out there was a curfew at night and the police normally put up barricades on the streets. They had not gotten to the one I had turned down yet. I apologized, told them my story, and they let me go.

It scared the crap out of me, to tell you the truth, but as I told the police, I appreciate all they are doing for the community and how my heart aches for them all.

The security guard had told us that the government is getting the city $10 million for the accident; didn't know when. And that the plant is shut down. He did not indicate if it would reopen.

Something is wrong with America. I am not afraid to say it. Texas is in its third special session. What are they doing about fertilizer plants? They are actually real problems that need solving.

Okay. Enough of that. I think Matt got the point.

Then we ran into traffic, got gas, got a hotel, and a plan to go to the zoo in the am. Before it gets hot.

And just down the road from here? The hotel where the First Annual Texas Video Game Championships was held. We'll go try to get a picture in the original huge ballroom.

More tomorrow!
bjc and MTC