On Friday, May 7, I had the fortune of playing the Nintendo 64 on 4 TVs! Just imagine playing some of your favorite multiplayer games and splitting the signal to four television sets. Impossible, you say? Well, with $2000 worth of equipment, it was done. So why would anyone pay such a price just to play games this way? Actually the equipment wasn't purchased just for games. Adam Kontras, local radio deejay, used this equipment for his concert. Since he was going to have this equipment out, he decided it would be neat to play some multiplayer N64 games later in the night. I was one of several invited to try this out. It was an unforgettable experience. Here's a breakdown of the events that occurred that night: The Concert, the Show, and the N64 madness!
The Concert - Friday 9:00 p.m.
At around this time I arrived at the radio station. Just in time to check out Adam's concert. As time went by, more people showed up. There were about a couple dozen people there to see his performance. There were two TVs on the left and two on the right, not too far apart. The performance started with Adam appearing in the upper left TV, and eventually you see more Adams appearing in the other TVs. In the upper left TV, Adam was talking with his counterparts in the other TVs, and eventually the real Adam came out from behind the TVs.
Shortly after his conversation with his other counterparts, the performance began. Adam sang quite a variety of songs, including his parodies and original songs for the next hour and a half. Each TV represented a different part in each song, while Adam sang the major part along with the 4 TVs. For example, you might see one TV representing the bass part, one for rhythm, one for piano, one for the harmony, while Adam does the melody. I can't imagine how much time and effort had to be put into this, such as getting everything synchronized just right. There were a few minor bugs here and there, and Adam wanted some feedback from everyone to get ideas of how things could be improved. All in all, I think he did spectacular considering all the difficulties of getting everything just right.
He then repeated the concert again for those that showed up later. A few minutes before midnight, Adam was ready to start his radio show....
The Radio Show - Saturday 12:00 midnight
After his performance was over, Adam had to get ready for his radio show. His show airs every Friday night (Saturday morning) from 12:00 midnight to 6:00 a.m. [Update: Adam has quit his show to pursue his interest with the concert on 4 TVs!] Actually the last 3 hours are a repeat of the first 3 hours so that you can catch the whole show by listening to any 3 hours straight. Several of us went back into the studio while he was on the air. This was my first experience seeing a radio show live, and I'm sure it was a new experience for most of the others. I enjoyed seeing all the technical equipment and other things that you normally don't see. During commercial breaks and tapes, Adam told us about some of the weirdest things people would do just to win tickets to various concerts with popular bands. Well, I won't get into all the details on this, but if you're interested in knowing more about Adam's concert and weekly radio show, you can check out his new web site at www.4tvs.com.
N64 on 4 TVs! - Saturday ~2:00 a.m.
This was the moment I was waiting for. While Adam's show was still going, we set up the TVs for the ultimate gaming experience! We split up the TVs in such a way that nobody could see anyone else's screens. Each TV received one fourth of the TV signal, effectively splitting the signal into 4 quadrants. Four games were played: Mario Kart 64, Turok 2, GoldenEye, and Blitz.
Mario Kart 64
The first game we popped in was Mario Kart 64. Even before we started, I brought up the idea that we might have a few difficulties with the player selection screens. Boy, was I right! Just imagine only being able to see one quadrant on the selection screen and you get the idea. We all had to help each other out by telling each other where our cursors were located! Man, that was funny! Once we thought we had things straightened out, we attempted to start Luigi Raceway. One problem, though... some of us had the wrong player on our screens! So we had to get the controllers and quadrants figured out and once we did, there was still another problem I noticed... some of us had no sound! Obviously it wouldn't be right for anyone not to have sound, so I suggested that we go to the options screen and change the settings to Mono. That was a lot easier than bothering with rewiring anything, so once we fixed that, we were ready to go!
We played quite a variety of tracks for a while and it was a blast! Believe it or not, I agreed to avoid using any shortcuts! Some strategies that worked before would not work since we have no idea where the other players are. Each person could only see a portion of the track indicator in the middle of the screen (or in the corners in our case) so it was virtually impossible to tell where all players were all the time, even if you change the track view to the "line" view. This totally messes up strategies like trying to use Lightning Bolts and Ghosts at the right time since you don't know your opponents' positions or even what items they may have. And forget about strategically lining up shots at players who are behind you - just take a wild guess and hope you can hit them! Somehow I managed to get solid 1st place finishes despite these difficulties and the fact that I hadn't played the game in over half a year.
The next game we popped in was Turok 2. This was Adam's idea so we can blame him for how this turned out. :) Most of us, including myself, had never played this game before, so I was pretty much expecting Adam to crush us. Once again the character selection screens were quite a laugh! What's worse is that most of us don't even know what the menu screens are supposed to look like anyway, so Adam had to guide us through. For some reason the game picks players' positions on the screen based on who chose their players first. Too bad none of us knew that! It would have saved us a lot of headaches. :) Anyway the game seemed pretty cool, but I think I would've preferred playing it on a normal screen since I've never even seen the game before. Fortunately I have Turok 1, so I was able to adjust to the controls fairly easily (except for the weapon switching). I think I managed to get a few good kills but I really had no way of easily knowing if I did. Being a rookie, I was just glad that I was able to wipe out Adam while he wiped me out!
It suffices to say that this game didn't work out as well as the others because for some reason our screens decided to swap quadrants in the middle of the game. You really can't play the game once this happens. Oh well. We didn't even finish the game and decided it would be best to switch to GoldenEye.
I knew this was going to be quite a challenge right from the start. Naturally we agreed to choose the No Radar Cheat to make things interesting. This way, there was absolutely NO way of telling where anyone is. It basically turns this great N64 game into a PC-like shooter. Since I've never played PC shooters, I had to totally rethink all my strategies. Normally I dominate when I play this game, but this was my worst performance ever. Not to mention the fact that two guys decided to work as a team. But anyway, I knew I'd be able to adjust after the first couple games. The first game was in the Temple, first to twenty kills, Power Weapons. I had a feeling that some of these guys would play similar to how I play, which involves guarding the Body Armor! Wow, what a fight we had! Two of the guys acted as a team, so I had to exploit their weakness somehow. They helped each other by telling them when they're approaching so they can trade turns getting the Body Armor. So I decided to sneak in when both were around, and then take off! Next thing I knew, they were blasting each other, thinking they were fighting me! LOL! Unfortunately this didn't always work out, and I ended up with a pitiful 3rd place rank for the first time in my life. Oh well, there's always next round....
The next round was played in the caves with Proximity Mines, 20 kills. I think the resolution of the monitors was too dark, but oh well. I'm usually dominant with Remote Mines, but this time it was just difficult since I'm used to seeing where people are planting their mines. Once again I placed another awful 3rd place. Now I had to get back at them and allow me to choose my favorite scenario...
I dared them to even try Remote Mines against me in the 3rd round. I can't believe how people will chicken out without even wanting to try! I mean, at least I attempted Turok 2 for my first time just for the fun of it. Anyway I must give credit to those that dared to try playing against me with my favorite weapon, the Remote Mines. It's difficult enough not knowing exactly when to detonate these things when you can't see your opponents' screens, so I used my abilities of anticipation to keep me on top. We played in the Library stage, and right near the start I already headed for the mines. I set traps in some of my favorite places and kept a good eye on where they were, hoping to see innocent victims dare to enter my turf. Kaboom! Boom! What a blast! I was racking up on the kills better than I thought I would. Anyone that tried to get near me soon found out that once I get mines, I don't need any guns at all. :) However, one player managed to sneak past my defenses. "Crap," I thought, "no time to detonate these things without destroying myself! Gotta run!" So I did just that - run! I ran down a narrow corridor with my pursuer following my footsteps with his Assault Rifle. I tossed one of those mines at a nearby wall, hoping he'd pursue. Then I had to anticipate the timing of its detonation based on his relative position at the start of the pursuit. Boom! Sure enough I got him. That had to be the best kill of the night. Too bad these guys gave up before we could finish the round. Can't imagine why. :)
Mario Kart once again!
By this time Adam's radio show was already on full autopilot and he was able to keep playing. Before that, he played a few rounds of the previous games when he was on commercial breaks. At this point I knew things would heat up because two other players from the local Mario Kart tournament just walked in. Now there were 4 of us from that tournament, which was held back in the summer of 1997. We hadn't all played together in almost 2 years! I was very excited at this point. We played a variety of tracks just as before. I was expecting the rounds to be close, but I just ended up with solid 1st place finishes. My dominance on the tracks kind of reminded me of the old tournament, but back then it was at least a little bit closer.
It turned out that I was playing better than I had expected, and I was flying through the 150cc tracks like never before. Perhaps that was because I didn't have to worry as much about having them nail me with weapons since they couldn't see my screen. A few times I fired some green shells backward in hopes of hitting someone. Despite the inability to see their screens, I managed to get a few direct hits! I remember one of them vividly in the tunnel of Choco Mountain. The only reason I knew I did this was because I could hear them yelling and uttering a few words that I won't repeat here. :) He he. That was fun.
A few other great moments in Mario Kart come to mind as well. Banshee Boardwalk is usually one of my tougher tracks in 150cc, as it is easy to accidentally fall off the track and try to play catch up. This time it was another story. I was power sliding around obstacles like no tomorrow! This had to be one of my best performances of the night. But if I could summarize that course with one word, it would be BANANAS! Lots of bananas! I just kept getting Bananas one after another. I even had a couple banana bunches in a row! I littered that track so bad, you'd think it was raining Bananas! All I could hear was lots of swearing from some of the players. And they just kept hitting them! I couldn't help but laugh maniacally all the way to the finish line! :)
Sherbet Land is typically another tough track for me since I have a nasty habit of trying to jump over the cracks to gain every second of time that I can get. The risk of trying to jump to far is generally not worth the effort as one slip will send you into the ice and leave you behind. On lap 2, I did a power slide that just turned ugly. So bad that I thought for sure I was headed for a watery doom. Someone else was watching me at the time, which was all the more reason why I did not want to slip off the track. Don't ask how I ever managed to make it out of that ugly turn because I still don't know how I pulled out of that one! I guess you'd just have to be there to witness the moment.
DK's Jungle Parkway was one of the last ones that I remember well. This track is always a blast with 4 people going at it. Once again I was able to get a few banana peels right when I needed them, so I placed them in the most natural location... on the bridge! Those were good for a few laughs, but I didn't get nearly as many bananas as I did on Banshee Boardwalk. Oh yeah, then there was the jump from the ramp in lap 2. Leon, one of the former tournament players, was right up there with me on this track. I had the triple green shells surrounding me, hoping to ram him just before he could reach the ramp. Well he evaded me very well and we both were going for that ramp at the same time. But here's where it was funny. Leon is generally very good at veering off to the left, but somehow I managed to veer off just a little bit further. We both landed at the track ahead, but I was just barely ahead of him. So I just waited in that spot for about a second, and before I knew it... WHAM... he ran right into me! That was hilarious! So I just drove off into the distance like it was a hit-and-run accident. He he. :)
After we all finished up Mario Kart, we all agreed that it was a blast. You'd be surprised how well the resolution shows up when you consider that the screen is being blown up 4 times. It almost looks as good as it does when playing the one-player mode! Despite the fact that I dominated the races, all of us agreed on one point: Mario Kart 64 was meant to be played so that you can see everyone's screens. It was just a different game since a lot of the strategy is lost. But it was still fun and I wouldn't mind doing something similar once again.
The last game that was played was NFL Blitz. This was just between Adam and Leon, who I should point out are two of the finest Mario Karters I've been able to play against. At this point Adam presses some button, and suddenly you can see the entire screen on each of the 4 TVs! Man, why didn't he do this when we were selecting our characters on the previous games?! Anyway, Adam was boasting 85 consecutive wins against Leon! I guess there was some kind of bet whether or not Adam could beat him 100 times. Two games were played. Adam was using his favorite team, the Denver Broncos, and Leon was using the Dallas Cowboys. This was the first time I had seen this game played, and now I understand why this game is called Blitz! Anyway, Adam was pretty much the dominant player in this game. Personally I was rooting for Leon, the underdog, just because I wanted to see him break his long losing streak. So Adam chalked up win #86. Then came the next game. This time Leon chooses the Denver Broncos for an even matchup. Man, this game was exciting. The battle was intense, and Leon was holding his own very well. I think the game was tied in the 4th quarter and you wouldn't believe the turnovers! During a few points in the game it really looked like Leon could win, but unfortunately he didn't. Adam chalked up win #87 in a very well-fought battle.
What much more can I say? Playing the N64 on 4 TVs was an incredible experience. It's difficult to describe the feeling, but hopefully I've given you an idea of how enjoyable this can be. I know that Adam and all the others enjoyed this unique experience, and I have a feeling that he will want to do this again sometime. I look forward to the next time I get to do this. I hope everyone enjoyed my report (I tried not to make it too long, oh well). ;)