When you first arrive in front of the GamesCom entrance, you just can’t say anything else than “Wow, there are a lot of people here”. It was my first time at the GamesCom, so I wasn’t sure on what to expect. Well, I’m literally not alone in this convention. There are just thousands of people here. And I then realized that finding the Open Pandora booth may not be as easy as I thought…
(This is a guest post by PtitSeb, the now famous Pandora hacker responsible for numerous excellent ports for our beloved machine)
I arrived Friday, around 1 pm, and the car park, where you line-up to get a half-day ticket and enter, was beginning to be quite full. More than 1 hour of queue here.
Once inside, it even gets bigger, because GamesCom takes place in many Halls, and even a single Hall is already HUGE!
It took me quite some time to locate the Open Pandora booth. I knew it was located in the Retro Gaming Area, in Hall 10. But once inside, it’s a bit more difficult because of the size of everything, and the sheer amount of people everywhere.
During my stay, I spent most of my time in Hall 10. There was the Retro Area in it, and some non-retro too, like the Occulus-VR (which I tried, and it’s a really cool device), AMD, Samsung, the CosPlay Village, etc. It was clearly the less crowded hall of all.
Anyway, not too long after I found Hall 10, I was able to locate the Open Pandora booth. It was in fact quite easy to find because it was near the “Meeting Point”, a little isolated area within the Retro Area.
Being at the booth, I immediately recognized Evil Dragon and decided to introduce myself: “Hi, I’m ptitSeb”. The GamesCom is also very noisy. So you have to shout even to say “Hi”. Not always easy to communicate. So after some introduction to Evil Dragon and Askarus, I was offered a nice coffee (one macchiato coffee from ED’s coffee machine), and a T-Shirt, ready for a picture. After a few discussions on where would be the best place to take it (hum, inside KITT is probably not the best place), I then put the T-Shirt on and we went just in front of the Open Pandora booth, displaying our Pandoras in front of us. ED had his nice Blue Pandora. We took many pictures (at least 10) before we finally got a good one.
And then I did some chit chat, both with ED and Askarus, showing games, discussing of many things, trying some oddities on each other Pandora… On Friday and Saturday, I stayed with the Pandora team till the end of the day. It becomes quieter when all visitors are gone.
The Unspoken Challenge
We shared some gaming thoughts with Askarus, tried some games with TV Out. DraStic is great on TV-Out, using both screens like a DS. I also tried Jedi Knight and FreeSpace, in German version from Askarus’s Pandora, on TV too. We spoke about games we would like on the Pandora. I mentioned Portal, that I would love to have/port (but that’s unlikely, as even Portal 1 is based on the Source Engine, and so has some quite high spec for the Pandora, and is not likely to be open-sourced at all, and is probably too complex to run nicely with QEMU/Wine).
We Spoke about ASCIIPortal, and Askarus told me there was a game called mari0, that mixed Mario and Portal, and it’s open source, and there is even the developer here at the GamesCom. We went to their booth (not far, in the Retro Area). Many people were playing mari0 with 4 players, but also Not Pacman with a steering wheel, and Not Tetris also.
Askarus grabbed the sources of all this and gave them to me. The Unspoken Challenge was set: port one of those game (and preferably mari0). Those games where all based on the löve engine, wich is a lua+OpenGL(SDL) based. Using lunixbochs libGL allowed me to go faster, no need to convert to GLES…
Löve is big engine, with a few dependencies… So it took some time, just to compile it. So I have also been doing other things while my Pandora was compiling. I grabbed a few pictures (like when Askarus & Elw3 are playing PCSX with TVOut on the same Pandora using MasterControl), went to the nearest Hall to see what’s inside (I wanted to try the new Wolfenstein, but the queue was too long, same for the WiiU and many other booths)…
Finally, compilation of Löve finished, and I could try the games from Stabyourself. That was a bit disappointing, because the first one I tried didn’t work. Bye bye mari0, no luck for Not Tetris. But then, Not Pacman worked very well (and another game too, but the window was way too big for the Pandora).
I showed it to Askarus, and to EvilDragon. Before going to the Stabyourself booth, I wanted to ensure it ran in full screen, as it was running in a window and I didn’t like that. Of course, trying to make it full screen didn’t go as planned. It turned out that the Windows size was 640*500, and that didn’t fit well the 800×480 screen of the Pandora, so I had to improvise some quick and dirty scale mechanism in the Löve engine. So, after an hour, it was ready to be shown. We went to the Stabyourself booth and showed the port to the author. We had a good time with him. We chatted about the game and the other games (the author told me that mari0 needed Löve 0.8.0, and I had only ported Löve 0.7.2), the success of mari0, and so on.
After we came back at the Open Pandora Stand, the author of Not Pacman came back, with camera, to shoot a picture of Not Pacman running on the Pandora. So I launched it again, started a game, rotated a bit, et voilà (here’s the picture from the Fickr album of Stabyourself, below).
I tried to package the Game, but went into trouble, so I decided to left it as is and work on it once I would reach home again.
Life on the Pandora booth
In the Pandora booth, there were 8 Pandoras to try freely, some of them connected to TVs (some Sony Trinitron flat CRT screen) and some actual consoles (SNES, NES, N64, 3DO and so on) with a real cartridge or an Everdrive. And be sure that the N64 running MarioKart with four gamepads was always both busy and noisy!
Many people came, took a seat (on one of bean bag Pandora chair for the lucky ones) and a Pandora and tried to play with it, but if no one came to explain how the Pandora works, some of them became puzzled with it, so the Pandora team was very busy during the Convention explaining what could be done with it.
The team had also work to do to answer technical and commercial questions, and when people left the Pandora to go somewhere else, the team had to put a new demo to prepare the Pandora to next visitor. From time to time, the battery needed to be changed (though not often, of course, as the Pandora’s battery lasts pretty long!)
Once, Askarus repaired a shoulder button. Certainly, the Pandora had fallen on the floor… Some other things were not so cool as well: a few SD Cards were stolen…
Every once in a while, ED went to make a speech on stage just next to the Pandora stand, but I can’t tell you what it was worth as it was, like almost everything else at the Convention, in German only 🙂 I was indeed very surprised to see that almost nothing was translated in English, though it is true that most people were German, Askarus told me he spoke English only 4 or 5 times during the whole Convention.
ED wasn’t the only one to present stuff, but the only presentation I could really enjoy was “Sound of Game”: two guys making live music on their iPad, playing famous game songs. There were also some duels on video games, I saw some gameplay of Speedball 2 (using DFend / DosBox) and some Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge too, two people with an antique joystick, dueling on a large TV on a retro game…
Time to Go back
I left Sunday. Of course, I spent part of the night packaging Not Pacman, I just couldn’t leave it unfinished. I corrected my problems (data where written in the XDG_DATA_HOME export, not HOME), grabbed a few screen shots, and made a crappy icon (note from Ekianjo: I have to admit it is a really crappy icon :)).
I shared the PND and tried it on Askarus’s Pandora, but couldn’t upload it at the GamesCom, the network was not working well enough at the time.
I met F-Slim there on Sunday, introducing himself with “Are you ptitSeb? Hi, I’m F-Slim”. I had a nice chat with him too. Soon It was time to say goodbye and go back to the airport.
Oh, and GamesCom is huge, I got a little lost trying to found my way out (so, this is where XBoxOne & E.A. Hall is !), and almost missed my plane… but I made it back!
So, waiting for next year now, I guess 🙂
[ Note from Ekianjo : Many thanks to ED and ptitSeb for letting me re-use their pictures in this article. The picture of Not Pacman running on Pandora is from Stabyourself.]