CG Expo 2004

The website

The team - oh god I look worse than Matthew Smith

This year was the inaugral CG Expo weekend, held in Croydon, South London. The BBC Games Archive was there bigging it up for the Model B massive, so here is the story of the weekend told by your very lovely webmaster.

Friday, 23rd July

The website

We woz there

The stage was all set, the days had been counting down and the three musketeers (Chris Richardson of 8BS, Gill Richardson wife of 8BS and Jeremy 'hi-score' Grayson were trundling down the M4 slower than loading Elite by tape, yours truly (Dartagnan if you will) was office-bound in Central London thinking of the weekend ahead. We were all set to meet up that night, but somehow it actually took the guys longer than loading Elite on a punch card system from the Bletchely computer museum to get there, and amid much gnashing of my teeth in only having Jeremies phone number in my phone, the net result was me trundling round Croydon for an hour looking for anything saying 'CG Expo' and failing, even having been standing right outside the venue and not only that but also walking past the aforementioned trio's Hotel a couple of times. It wasn't looking good, but I told myself that the hellish nightmare that is Victoria station on a Friday when you dont have the correct change for the ancient ticket machines (which only take a very limited subset of the currency currently in use by this country) was all worth it. I returned home defeated, but ready for an early morning start.

Saturday, 24th July

Up early, have 1.5 bacon sarnies and a good cuppa and then get to work dismantling girlfriends computer for the show. Feeling good, ready for some retro action. Jezza had very kindly offered to get up early and pick me and said computer up from darkest North London, despite me hurling this obstacle at him at the very last possible moment, so a round of applause there please.

Jeremy arrives 8:20 and we lob all the stuff in the backseat of the agile but clutch-shy Micra. It's not going our way, quite literally actually because we fell foul of the complexed one-way systems in Central London about 5,000 times, and that my friends is why they definitely don't bother going saaath of the river at the end of the night. Anyway, we make it across the Thames and then its (fairly) plane sailing until we arrive at the venue about 25 mins after opening time. We unload my PC and a couple of beebs, including Jeremies pristine BBC B - the best condition I or Chris (and he should know he used to have a loft full) have ever seen one in. So even after populating almost the entire scoreboard here, the humble Beeb just keeps on going.

Having unpacked, and setting the Beebs off we relax into a familiar pattern of handling queries, watching with delight as various peoples faves lit up at the sight of the Grannies Garden loading screen. Jeremy had brought with him a hefty load of games, manuals and Repton memorabilia to sell and was doing a steady trade throughout the day.

The stand - 1

Our stand at CGEXPO 2004

Our stand was right in the centre of the floor, in prime position and Chris and Jeremy did us proud with the amount of equipment they brought with them. All in all we had 4 BBC Master 128's, 2 BBC B's, an Electron and my PC on the go and that, plus the sales stuff was enough to fill our big square stand on all sides. We were right in the thick of the action, and the whole conference room was filled with the sounds of various computers doing there thing. There were Space invaders cabinets one side, the guys from the Bletchley computer museum the other, some guys with a PC and what must have been every Atari emulator and game in existence EVER were being mobbed by arcade fanatics. We weren't doing too badly either, and I was pleased to see some young gamers appreciating the delights of Repton and Arcadians, some of them even coming out with such wise words as "well, the graphics aren't as good as the new ones, but that doesn't matter" and "you should be able to run those Policemen over" when Daredevil dennis was foiled by a crafty copper.

Things died down a bit at lunch-time, so I nabbed a quick bite to eat, the food wasn't too bad, but was pretty expensive. The others all being cunning Northerners had hatched some kind of crazy scheme to avoid paying crazy money for a Flat Bread by smuggling in their own nosh. I however was naive and put my trust in the way of the expensive cafe.

Computers

I had never seen so many computers

As the day went on, we met many people, some just hoping for a quick game, others picking up a lost treasure on floppy, some having a good old natter with us about the days gone by. One of these was a guy called Chris from Cardiff, who really entertained us with his fond memories of the games, it was really nice to meet a games fan, and it seems also a master game copier. Towards 17:00 I spied a cunning Thrust fan, breezing past the 50,000 points mark, so i got his name for the high scoreboard - so well done Chris Baggett with your score of 70,100, top of the board. I must admit, I was hoping for some more games guru's to show-off their long hidden talents, but it was left to Jezza and me to fight it out on Banaman, me setting a record 65,000 odd, and him then smashing that down with 75,000 - one nil to Jeremy, but I would have my revenge.

As it approached 6pm most games fans had gone home, which allowed us to have a good look around, and I had a good chat with Pete and Jules from the Bletchley computer museum, they really were a great bunch of guys there, with all kinds of interesting things, and a museum that is definitely worth paying a visit to, take a look at http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk. We shut-up shop at 7pm, although this became 7.30pm as we waited for the security men to lock-up our priceless equipment. It was the end of a long and tiring day for all of us, and what a totally exciting one it was too, as I sank into the seat of the rickety old train back to Victoria I was already excited about Sunday.

Sunday, 25th July

The stand - 2

It was still there in the morning.

Having been completely shattered the night before and not set my alarm, I woke at 9:00, hastily printed off some banners (which I had totally forgotten about for Saturday) and shot off on the bus. I then caught some weird scenic route train to Croydon which took over twice as long as the others I had got, and which seemed to afford me a view of almost every back garden in South London. Arriving at the hall at around 11:00 I got to the stand and got straight back into it. There were less people around, but we were still hungry for more fun and there was still a steady stream of people over to the Beebs to have a quick bash on something.

One thing we noticed through the weekend, was how careful everyone was to take care of the machines they were playing on - there were no drinks spilled, no bashing on the keyboards, and not even anything like "you %^ing little Arcadian, i $"^&ing shot you" was heard. It really was a great atmosphere for everyone, and there were plenty of families around - and more than a few girlfriends being dragged round like Zombies to cries of "oh my god, look at this honey", "yes, its ANOTHER computer dear". Ah well, some of them got in the spirit, including Gill who could be regularly spied having a run through of Arcadians.

Jeremy

Jeremy in his natural environment.

Jonathan Harston arrived at around lunchtime with another set-up - this time a Master Compact. All carried with his patented "duct tape handles" approach which made me feel very ashamed of nabbing a lift with Jeremy because of carrying the computer, when he'd taken his all the way from Sheffield like that! As we were all there, we nabbed a quick photo with Gill on camera and also video camera, i'm sure that'll be all appearing on Chris' site soon.

Chris from Cardiff was back at around lunch time, Jeremy had alerted him to the presence of the formerly lost game by Ultimate Play The Game called Cookie. Shamefully, I hadn't even heard of this title until now and I was also eager to have a look - and what an addictive little game it is, Jeremy and I had regular turns at the helm of this little lost gem. Chris from Cardiff managed a particularly decent 1,500 - delivered with battle hardened wit "I don't even bother putting my name in on the scoreboard unless i'm 1st". Whilst subsequent plays by Jeremy lifted the days high-score to 1,640 it was I who had the last laugh with a pipped to the post score of 1,700. These are probably pitiful scores by the way, but we were happy at the time.

Jeremy

Some lucky punters enjoying the finest machine ever

Having given a linux lesson for quite a while to a nice guy called Steve, Jeremy and I then headed off to expand our gaming minds with a talk by Matthew Smith of Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy fame. I have to say, I have never met anyone quite like Matthew Smith, and thats a good thing because i'm not sure what the world would be like if it was full of Matthew Smiths - one however is an extremely interesting person with a different story to tell about the early days. Probably one of the most 'rock star' games makers ever, having suffered a sharp fall from grace as his company Software Projects went under, he then headed off to Holland for a bit, and without a doubt making hefty use of the local 'legal' produce. He may or may not have been spied rolling a fat one before the talk, but thats all heresay............

After Linux lesson part 2, the day was pretty much done, but there was time for the big raffle. I suffered from extreme good fortune, winning 2 prizes out of 2 tickets purchased, so was well chuffed with that. Matthew Smith made it the most entertaining raffle i've witnessed with his half Johnny Depp from Pirates of the Carribean/half escaped loon turn, so everyone was a winner really. It then just remained for us to pack up and get the hell out of there, as the other three had a whole heap of driving to do. Jeremy very kindly once again took me and PC back home first, what a star that man is.

Beebs

Beebs glorious beebs

Overall, it was one of the best weekends I've had for a long time, and I can't wait to do the whole thing again next year. It was great to see Chris and Gill - who by the way are possibly two of the nicest people you'll meet, so trundle on over to www.8bs.com and check out those dodgy videos of us all which will probably appear soon. Thanks to Chris, Gill and Jeremy for making the whole thing possible, they were the ones who did all the hard work and made the weekend so great. Thanks to everyone we met at the show, it was great to hear your tales, and make you happy with the old games again. A big thank-you to Chris the organiser for setting up the whole thing, it ran like clockwork and was a great time. Also thanks to Matthew Smith for being so, well...disturbed I think...but in a good way.

Roll on CG Expo 2005!

If you met me at the show and i've forgotten to put you on here, get in touch! E-mail me and tell me!