Archive for May, 2008

What’s your top 1% video game?

Posted by matt on May 20, 2008

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)After watching the excellent documentary King of Kong, a Fistful of Quarters (which details the world’s top players of the video game Donkey Kong), it got me thinking…is there a video game that I can dominate 99% of the people that have played that game? Remember, that even George Costanza had a 1% game (FROGGER!). So what’s mine? Before I get to that question, some background is in order…

From 1982-1994 I grew up on a campground during some of the best years arcade gaming had to offer (1979-1982 was really good too). During this time, I had the privilege of sleeping less than 100 feet from a rec. room with a dozen or so arcade games that differed every year. With a solid 6 months and countless quarters later, I had a few games mastered by the end of each camping season.

MAME LogoIn 1997, something really cool happened. The MAME (multiple arcade machine emulator) project launched, providing a way to re-play all those old games in a near identical experience without having to leave your computer. I was instantly hooked, and worked to collect and play all of the games (ROMs).

lowerhell-MAME-Custom-Arcade-cabinet-by-Matt-AppsIn 2002, I built a MAME machine. This allowed me to get as close to the actual experience to having the real deal, all in one cabinet. While my MAME machine is in need of a revamp, it is still amazing what it can do. Imagine if I could take it back in time to 1985 with the few thousand games on it…

So what does it even mean to be 1%? I’m going to define it as being able to beat 99% people at the game who have at least played the game a few times. Obviously, for many games it would be easy to find 99% of people to beat if they’ve never heard of a game, so they must have some playing time under their belt. While it is probably impossible to prove, I’ll leave it at if you are the best at the game out of everyone you know, you are probably 1% at that game.

Rules established–what is my 1% game? A few candidates:

GORFGorf – This was my initial game I dominated, when I was 10. At the time, I could play this game almost continuously, getting to stupid-hard boards that were almost unfair. I haven’t played this game forever, but would be curious to see what kind of score I could put up.

Shanghai Kid – A fairly obscure one, this is another game that I had the high score on for 2 entire summers. It was a Karate Champ type clone but with better moves. I’d be surprised if you’d played or even heard of this game.

Double Dragon – Utilizing the elbow punch, this game was pretty easy to solve with a quarter. I’m assuming others could do this too, so hard to decide who would be better if you could solve the game without dying…

Pyros (Wardner’s Castle) – Back in the day, I can’t believe I solved this game with only 2 quarters. I played this on MAME a few years ago and after $2 worth, I was only half-way through. It’s tough!

indiana jones and the temple of doomIndiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – If I could pick only one, this would have to be my best 1% game. I had very a Seinfeld / Frogger-like moment when I ran into the same actual machine that we had at our campground at Beaver Dam mall about 50 miles away, years later. It was even for sale! I wish I had bought it… when I looked at the high scores, I couldn’t believe my 700,000+ high score was still intact! I played this game on the hardest level and had a pretty good pattern to snake my way through. It’s a fairly difficult game, but I can still consistently get 300k+ on it. I looked on Twin Galaxies site, and it looks like if back in the day (like 20 years ago…) if I had a referee, I would have been in the been in the top 3 worldwide.

My top 10% games:

Because I play a lot of games, I have tons of these, but some of the more popular:

Pengo – This game is fun, and I was pretty good at it. We only had it one summer, but it was a favorite of mine. For some reason there are quite a few penguin arcade games, probably more than any other animal. With MAME, the excellent and engrish ridden Penguin-Kun Wars was a lot of fun that a bunch of us played. My friend Wendy has the highest score I’ve seen on that one.

Galaga – I know people who are crazy-good at Galaga, so I would never assume I’m any better than the top 10%. I could get to the 25th or so level, but then saw my buddy Apollo roll the score over, so I’m nowhere near that elite status (totally geeky note, if you play on player 2, it actually has a 7-digit score rather than a 6-digit one!).

Commando – Good lord this game was hard. I could get to like the 3rd board and I’m sure that would put me in the top 10%. I watched people play this game and a quarter would last less than 30 seconds (the intro is like 10 of that).

Elevator Action – Simple yet fun, this game got pretty difficult later stages. Neat spy shoot-em-up.

Track & Field – I thought I was pretty good at this game, but then would see these speed freaks come in and play this game. This was a pure-skill button smashing game. My friend Cory has since become a master at this game, almost killing my MAME machine playing this.

Useful info from this post:

  • King of Kong – great documentary on the best video game players. Must-see if you like classic video games.
  • Twin Galaxies – From the movie, this site attempts to maintain all the high-scores, regardless of game, platform, etc. Maybe you could be on here?!
  • MAMEUI – this is the version of MAME I use, and is quite easy to set up. You need this play the games.
  • MAME ROMs – Doug Burton has them, and he only charges cost of the media. I get mine from him now, rather than scouring the Interwebs for them.
  • How to build a MAME Machine – This was a useful book when I was working on my cabinet. Check it out!
  • Matt’s MAME machine – My cabinet. I have a new computer that is waiting to put in, just need the time! I haven’t updated this site in years.

So what’s YOUR 1% game(s)? I don’t care if it’s an arcade game, Nintendo, Sega, or a PS3. Do you have a game that you may be even better than 1%, like a true Billy Mitchell? Add some comments below and let the world know!

Posted under tech gadgets, Video Games

Mini-Album Review: Flight of the Conchords, Self-Titled

Posted by matt on May 11, 2008

flight_of_the_conchords.jpgArtist: Flight of the Conchords
Album: Flight of the Conchords
Wikipedia Genre(s): Rock, Comedy rock, Folk rock
Matt’s Fav Tracks: The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room, Business Time, Robots
# times listened:
A LOT (>25 times)
Matt’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (the show gets 5 of 5!)
Buy CD: Amazon
Have a listen: Amazon Non-DRM MP3′s

Last summer, my wife and I were on a weekend vacation in Galena, IL when at the end of the day, we flipped on HBO at the hotel and started watching this strange, quirky show. At the time I didn’t realize I was watching what would become my new favorite TV series! It wasn’t until many months later when my co-worker re-introduced me to the show, but since then, I’ve checked out the entire first season of the excellent comedy (I’ve probably seen it too many times).

foc_first_season.jpgWhat is Flight of the Conchords (FOC)? Quite simply, it’s a show about 2 New Zealand guys who want to start a band in New York City. The first season goes through their trials and tribulations and becomes a vehicle for the music videos of their hilarious songs–some as part of the story, and others just wacky songs that they’ve worked into the plot. If you haven’t seen the show, check it out–there isn’t quite anything like it on television today. Kudos to HBO for renewing them as a second season should be showing up this fall or early next year.

About the album:

The self-titled album is not their first, but is probably the more interesting for any fan of the show, as it details almost all the songs from the series. I actually got a bootleg copy that was ripped straight from the show, and I must say I probably prefer that–mainly because I’m already familiar with the songs as presented on the series.

As for this album, I definitely recommend it though–if you find yourself humming the catchy songs from the show, then you know the album is for you.

US Tour:

So FOC launched a US tour, that sold out almost instantly…I’m bummed I missed the announcement of it, so I wasn’t able to get ticket initially… After it sold out, tickets were going for a TON online (from $120 – $400 EACH) but thanks to Wendy, I ended up getting some for Sara and myself at face value!

The Flight of the Conchords show is TONIGHT in Milwaukee, and we are pumped! I’ll be sure to put a review up later, but in the meantime, check out the first season if you haven’t seen the show.

Posted under music, reviews

Review: Popcorn Hour A-100, Part 1: Setup

Posted by matt on May 3, 2008

popcorn-hour-open-box.jpgA couple weeks ago, I did my ‘unbox’ review for the Popcorn Hour which was well received, so I thought I would go much more in-depth. This is part 1, which covers setup of the device and many of the setup screens. Later parts will go over video playback as well as all the streaming capabilities.

One of the more interesting devices I’ve used in quite awhile, the Popcorn Hour (PCH for short) is a device that I’d best describe as a cross between Apple TV (which I don’t own, but based on the specs), a media center computer and the some of the on-demand services you’d find on your cable or satellite box. It closely resembles a Mediagate MG-35, which I’ve had for awhile, but does so much more. The kicker is, it’s only $179 (w/out a hard drive) and for the money, is about as good a deal as you can get for the uncrippled feature set.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted under Popcorn Hour, reviews, tech gadgets

Unbox Gadget Review: Canon Digital Rebel XSi (450D)

Posted by matt on May 2, 2008

So coming from someone who has owned every Canon Digital Rebel (Rebel, Rebel XT, Rebel XTi and now the Rebel XSi), I can easily say this is the best one yet! Canon has done a nice job making each upgrade worthwhile.

  • From Rebel to Rebel XT, it shrunk the body, better battery life, 6.3 – 8.0 MP and quite a bit faster picture-wise.
  • From Rebel XT to Rebel XTi, the sensor cleaner was added so this was a must have for me (I change lenses a lot and had dust issues) . Bigger LCD with easy readout and the 8.0 – 10.1MP bump was nice too.
  • From Rebel XTi to the Rebel XSi (the model # is a little puzzling…) you get auto ISO, live view, 10-12MP, improved sensor, better timer, etc. etc. Actually, I’m a little bummed they went from Compact Flash to SDHC as so far, the SDHC card I have is quite a bit slower since I shoot both Raw and large JPEGs (each picture racking up a whopping 15-20MB for the raw+jpg…) I think my card is really slow though, so I guess a new one is in order there.

Since I shoot stock, I’m always interested in (responsibly) upgrading my gear. Where you may have heard that “megapixels don’t matter”, in high-end camera gear they do. If I need to crop an image but can still sell it at 8MP, then size does matter. If I’m starting with a 8MP file and need to crop, I might get a size not usable by stock agencies (or I’ll end up getting less $ since the size is smaller).

Why pick the XSi? Well I have a bunch of nice Canon lenses, so I’m not switching camps there. Where I’d like to get the Canon 5D, I’m not quite there yet budget-wise. With the good resale I get for the older rebels, my upgrades have been fairly inexpensive (I actually profited on one of my upgrades since I bought a nice lens off of eBay and resold it for more than I paid). The 40D is tempting, but the features and size it brings isn’t worth it for me. As far as I’m concerned, the XSi has leaped-frogged the 40D and is actually about $500 cheaper. Here are the quick pictures from my unbox:

canon-rebel-xsi-box.jpgcanon-rebel-xsi-front.jpgcanon-rebel-xsi-back.jpgcanon-rebel-xsi-everything-you-get.jpg

I might do a full review, but there are tons of these already online probably as good as I could do or better. I’d rather take pictures with it!

I highly recommend getting the Canon Rebel XSi though, or even the Rebel XTi if you want to save a little coin.

Posted under reviews, tech gadgets, Unbox