Consoul's Blog Consoul Games: October 2004

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Soul Edge Tournament

Last weekend I finally had the great pleasure of staging a SoulEdge tournament. This event was long overdue. I actually had invitations designed for the event about six years ago, but alas, it was simply not meant to be at that time (see The Stage of History post below).

With my beautiful SoulEdge arcade machine back in full working order, it was only fitting that I celebrate the occasion with a party and a tournament to see who among my friends would prove to be the ultimate SoulEdge champion. It was also a celebration of my birthday, my wife's birthday and our first anniversary, but that's beside the point.

Despite early concerns about the lack of serious players (with many of the original Newcastle contingent unable to attend), the turn-out was impressive and consisted of a mix of seasoned veterans, avid gamers and newbies. I devised a 'double-header' tournament structure that meant no-one could be eliminated in the first round. All the players who lost their first round battled on to eliminate each other, until the eventual winner of the first-round losers met the winner of the winners in the FINAL BATTLE. This proved to be quite a good method for keeping newcomers involved. As any arcade player can tell you, a button-mashing noob can be a real challenge. When fighting an experienced player, you can analyse their strategies and learn to anticipate their next move. When fighting a random button-pusher, you never know what's coming next.

Those in the know expected Mat Kelleher to take the gong. Despite not having played the game for years, he displayed a rapid return to form in the warm-up matches and was able to recall unblockable moves long forgotten by the rest of us. Mat's brother Dave and myself were also expected to perform well. It was with Dave K that I had originally spent so much time in the arcades playing SoulEdge back in the ninties.

Thanks to a competitive crowd and a lot of alcohol the matches were fiery and raucous. There were many upsets. Mat won his early battles as expected and the female contestants performed very well indeed. In fact the girls won nearly all the first heat battles. Mat was eventually knocked out of the competition by Anna (Dave K's gf) who played a mean Rock. Tara also put in a very solid psyche-out game. I was taken down in the opener in a third round ring-out by Robyn Chiles, and was eventually knocked out in the quarter final by the fluke-ridden style of Steve White. Despite being a self-confessed masher, Robyn beat Anna in the semi-final, before falling in the FINAL BATTLE to Dave K.

Joe, Loraine, Petras, Dan, Mick, Lucy and Emma all put in a good showing too.

The four finalists (Dave, Robyn, Anna and Steve) won lame prizes and the kudos and respect of the crowd. Anna was particularly pleased as she got to drink the champagne that Dave won as champion.

All in all, a great night.

The Stage of History

Welcome to the stage of history. Many years ago, I was living a frugal life of leisure in my sprawling bachelor pad at Rocko Courts in Newcastle's West End. One fine day I saw an advertisement for an impending auction of jukeboxes, pinball and arcade machines several suburbs away. Despite my lack of motorised transport or disposable income, I knew that I was destined to attend the auction.

I managed to scrape up a few hundred dollars and took the long walk to the deepest darkest depths of Mayfield, where the auction was being held. I lodged my hundred dollar entry deposit, grabbed the lot listing, picked up my bidder's card and began my round of the floor. Ah yes, you can't beat a good auction. There were literally hundreds of items on offer - air hockey and pool tables, skill testers, stand-ups, cocktail cabinets and the kind of miscellaneous spare parts that only fat sweaty men in singlets could identify. Excellent.

The crowd was mostly industry - only a handful of game geeks were actually present, and we were trying desperately to look like we knew what we were doing. The auction finally kicked off and my heart sank - competition was fierce. Non-working cocktail cabinets from the seventies were fetching more than $1500, and some newer items were reaching well into five figures. Ouch. Fortunately, as the day wore on, the ferocity of the bidding wore off. The auctioneers had cleverly placed the highest-demand items at the start of the lot listing to set the tone.

By about halfway through the day, my hopes of picking up a cocktail cabinet had been dashed and I had been outbidded by the narrowest of margins on a large hydraulic sit-in helicopter game. Thank god. The damn thing never would have fit inside my house. There were still a few items I was interested in, most notably a 26-inch Leisure and Allied stand-up cabinet with my all-time favourite arcade game in it - Namco's 1995 3D weapon-based fighter SoulEdge. It was toward the very end of the lot listing and being a reasonably new machine, I figured it was well and truly outside my $400 budget. For reasons I honestly cannot explain, I bid $5 on a 28-inch spare arcade monitor and won it. Suddenly I was the bewildered owner of a spare arcade monitor. Given that I had no arcade machine, it seemed a bit daft at the time.

As the end of day drew near, the industry folk had pretty much blown whatever cash they could, and bidding had slowed considerably. The SoulEdge lot number was called and the bidding began at $150 from a young Chinese guy. I bid $200, he counter bid at $225. I bid $250 and he instantly upped it to $275. I wasn't feeling confident at this point - my Chinese opponent clearly had intentions on the machine, and with a buyer's premium of 12.5% (added onto the hammerfall price) I knew I was running out of room to move. I tipped my card in the air and called $300. My opponent's words never came - he simply looked at me, raised an eyebrow and dropped his bidding card to his side. The auctioneer called $300 again. There were still many bidders present, but all remained silent. Going once, twice, SOLD. I couldn't believe it.

I paid up and returned home victorious that night, albeit without the machine. In the morning I went back and got it (and the spare monitor) thanks to my friend Shane and his mini-van. Many glorious days followed, well eight to be exact. My friends and I played SoulEdge day and night and I ate meals at their houses, as I no longer had money for food. My parents visited me and I somehow managed to cover and hide the machine from them as I knew they wouldn't approve of such a frivolous and expensive purchase at such a poverty-stricken stage of my life.

However, eight days after I got the machine home, my Dad dropped around and I figured I'd just show him the damn thing and get it all out in the open. I led him to the machine and flicked on the power switch. This was immediately followed by a loud zapping sound and the unmistakable smell of electrical components frying. Not real good. Needless to say, my father was not impressed. Nor was I: the machine appeared to be dead.

The monitor was blown and I knew enough to know that getting it repaired would not be easy. Arcade monitors can give off X-ray radiation and can store enough voltage to kill you even after they've been unplugged for many years. So DIY was out of the question. The $5 spare monitor which had become my coffee table was unlikely to fit into the cabinet, as it was apparently two inches bigger than the original. Buying a replacement monitor looked like it was going to cost about $600 plus installation costs. The non-working SoulEdge machine was essentially just a big money box. Of course, I could (and did) still switch it on occasionally and play a match or two based on sound alone. I could even still get a perfect victory on the first round. Somehow, (visually I guess) it just wasn't the same.

So I lugged the machine down to Sydney when I moved in with my girlfriend a few years ago. She was also not very impressed by it, or by the fact that it was too big to fit down the hallway, and hence had to remain as a prominent feature in the loungeroom. We got married, (I got ridiculed about the machine in the wedding speeches) and a year later, my wife revealed that she was making preparations to have Betty(as she refers to the machine) repaired for my birthday. Brilliant. I was floored by this incredibly selfless act. Video games aren't really my wife's thing - particularly when they're a huge ugly monolith that dominates the loungeroom and clashes with the decor. She knew how much this machine meant to me.

Sergio the friendly repair guy (his name had to be be Sergio, didn't it?) turned up and took a look at the back of the monitor. "Weird!" he said. That's never a good thing for a repair guy to say. It translates as "this is definitely going to cost you". Turns out the monitor was of a particularly obscure brand - one for which he had no spare parts. He took the chassis away for analysis. On his way out the door, I directed his attention to the $5 spare arcade monitor, which had been sitting out the front of our house for some time now. I told him it was no use to me and he could have it if he liked. He immediately opened up the casing on it. Despite having been rained on several times, it appeared to be in reasonable condition - and better yet - the auction listing had been wrong - this was a 26 inch monitor, not a 28, and as such could potentially fit into the SoulEdge cabinet. He took it away for further testing.

A few days later, Sergio returned. The existing monitor could not be repaired, but the $5 monitor had come up roses after some testing and tweaking. It wasn't an exact size match, so we built a new bracket and installed the monitor in the cabinet. After double-checking all the wiring, I powered it up. It looked beautiful. Sharp, vibrant and without a hint of burn-in. It was destiny I tell you. Somehow I knew to buy that monitor even before I had bought the SoulEdge cabinet. Destiny or dumb luck. One of the two. The repair came in way under the expected cost, my wife gave Sergio a tip for his excellent friendly service, and I smashed all my old records.
What a bloody fantastic birthday gift.

So that's the SoulEdge saga to date. Or How Betty Got Her Groove Back.