Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Williams Manufacturer's Challenge 
at Barcade Brooklyn, March 16th, 2013 

      The Williams Manufacturers Challenge took place at Barcade Brooklyn, on Saturday March 16th, 2013. In this first-of-its-kind contest, Twin Galaxies and Barcade have teamed up to give the players a true challenge: a monster lineup of six classic arcade games made by Williams, a company known for designing games that require lightning-fast reflexes.
      To excel at any arcade game requires a combination of strategy and skill. Each game has a different balance; some leaning more towards strategy, some more towards skill. The classic games produced by Williamsʼ fall decidedly on the skill side. There are basic strategies for these games, but to get the high scores, you simply must have raw skill. 

      The six games of the tournament were: Robotron 2084, Moon Patrol, Sinistar, Joust, Defender and Make Trax. 

      In Robotron 2084, the player starts every round in the center of an arena with no cover to hide behind, and must shoot everything in sight while simultaneously dodging, weaving and squeezing through any narrow opening between dozens of enemies to stay alive, and rack up big points by saving the humans wandering around the arena before they are destroyed. There is no time for strategy in Robotron, it is a game that requires sharp reflexes and split-second reaction time.

      In Moon Patrol, while the terrain of the moon does not change from game to game, the flight patterns of the enemy UFOs are random. This means a player must perform the complex dance of jumping the moon buggy at the correct times and speeds, while battling unpredictable attacks from the skies above. 

      To defeat the Sinistar, a giant starship-eating monster that is impervious to regular laser attacks, the player must mine and collect bombs in an asteroid field, all the while in a high-speed chase with the Sinistarʼs endless supply of minions. Wave after wave of fast and accurate tank-ships assault your star-fighter from every angle. Sinistar has a reputation for being one of the most difficult classic games around. 

     Joust puts the player atop a flying bird in a vast cavern filled with crumbling platforms. The physics of flight must be taken into account as the player struggles to dismount all the enemy jousters by crashing into them from above using fancy flying. 

     Defender is another game where there is barely time to think. Once the unique control scheme has been mastered, the fast-paced action presents the player with a test of skill that is considered to be one of the hardest challenges in any arcade game. 

     And then there is Make Trax. At first appearing to be a simple Pac-Man like maze game, Make Trax looks easy, until you realize that these enemies are much smarter, more difficult to catch, and much better at cornering and capturing you than any Pac-Man ghost ever was. The clever AI of the enemies is known for making most games of Make Trax end very quickly. 

     At 11AM, Twin Galaxies referees and the heads of Barcade confirmed dip-switch settings and prepared the contest area for a heated battle between highly skilled players, who would be performing under the pressure of a large crowd of onlookers in the bar. Once the contestants had arrived, and just before the beginning of the contest at noon, the organizers from Barcade and TG revealed an unexpected twist: Scores on every game in the challenge would be taken after the first life was lost. As if these games werenʼt difficult enough! Sudden shock turned to renewed determination as the players made the mental adjustments necessary to switch from standard game play, to pure survival mode. 

     As the contest began Dane Tullock set the bar high early, with a Robotron score in the 190k range. The competition on Robotron was some of the strongest in the tournament, with at least six contestants making it past the first 'Brain Wave,' a difficult board that only the best Robotron players can escape from without losing a life. The Robotron fight went right down to the wire in the most exciting battle of the contest, with Dane breaking the 200k barrier, and Domenic Zito inching by Daneʼs score by a just few thousand points in the last minutes, leaving not enough time for Dane to get another game in before the contestʼs end. 

     Donald Hayes put up scores on Joust and Make Trax that no one else came within 100k of (with a 278k on Joust and 117k on Make Trax), although both Mark Michaels and Steve Wagner both cracked 100k on Joust. Nader Goubran put up close to 100k on Defender, with Mark Michaels in second with 77k. (Donʼt forget, these scores were all performed on one life!) 

     The competition on Moon Patrol came down to a contest between Don Hayes and Steve Wagner. Steve played Moon Patrol twice during the tournament, and had his games end when his moon buggy was destroyed by crashing into the same man-eating moon-plant both times. Donʼs 117k just edged out Steveʼs score of 113k. 

     Competition on Sinistar was stiffer than expected, with four players scoring above 90k. Ninety thousand points is a respectable score for a game of Sinistar with a full complement of ships. For four contestants to score that high using only one ship, is indicative of the insane level of skills that the players brought to this tournament. Both Mark Michaels and Nader Goubran had never put in the practice time to develop their Sinistar-fighting skills, and yet both had breakthrough games of 91k and 93k respectively. Dane Tullock came in second with a rocking 97k. Steve Wagner was the only contestant to break 100k(sick!) with a massive 113k. 

     As the tournament neared its end, the excitement built, and curiosity seekers and classic gaming fans stood in a row behind the refereeʼs table, looking on in amazement at the hot-shot gamers fighting to best each other with a late-in-the-tournament score. 

     At 5pm sharp, the last scores were taken. The players could finally breathe sighs of relief after such an exhausting competition. They relaxed and joked around while the officials verified the tournament standings. Those contestants who are beer-lovers appreciated the wisdom of having the tournament at this location, as Barcade is famous for its long list of tasty beers. 

     Donald Hayes took top honors, with a first place score on three of the titles: Joust, Make Trax and Moon Patrol, winning him $600, a Barcade t-shirt, and Barcade gift card.

     Steve Wagner placed second in the tournament, and won first place on Sinistar. Second prize was $300, a Barcade t-shirt, and Barcade gift card. 

     Mark Michaels, with a solid showing across all six tournament games, took third place, $100, a Barcade t-shirt, and Barcade gift card. 

     Afterwards, contestants and bar patrons all agreed: the event was thrilling and fun, whether participating or watching. The combination of Barcade and Twin Galaxies brings a welcome new energy to the competitive arcade gaming scene. Look for even more events from this exciting team-up of these two brilliant 
organizations soon! 

-GIV 3/2013


R. Lance said...

Great post! I read it on I wish I was there! :(

GIV said...

Thanks Lance!