E-JagFest 2004: A

by LinkoVitch


Having missed JagFest UK due to a date clash (my son's second birthday is kind of hard to get out of for a retro computers day out) I vowed to go to another 'fest this year. I was half hoping that there would be another JagFest Micro in Birmingham as that's nice and near but alas no (well not yet, but it doesn't sound likely now anyway), so that left E-JagFest.

When a date was decided upon for E-JagFest (after one false start), I quickly contacted Blodge (Matthew Blower) and GazTee (Gary Taylor) who are also "Northern lads" and hence likely travelling companions. It took a bit of persuasion on the part of Blodge him being out of work and all, but that soon changed. Gaz was much easier to get onboard. Unfortunately the planning could have been a little better and well researched on my part, but going from the information I had available I booked the flight with EasyJet (12 each way per person, bargain), and hunted for a nearby hotel. Booking a hotel is a pain, but when you don't even know the country it's more of a pain, as I was booking well in advance of the event there were no hotel details available or addresses of the venue, just an approximation, Neuss. Alas it turned out to be Kaarst just outside of Neuss where the event took place, adding more travel time to our journey as I booked a hotel near to the airport (which kinda worked out in the end I guess). Would have been nice to wait for the hotel list to be made available, but I wanted to confirm that there was going to be somewhere we could stay that night, so booked into a Travel Inn (24 per person it worked out at for a night including breakfast).

Anyway, on with the diary... The day started early (more early for some, as poor Gaz had to drive from south Birmingham to be at mine ready to depart for the airport as check-in was at 09:00 at the latest). So we all met at my place around 07:00. For the first time since I have known him, Blodge arrived on time, and conveniently at exactly the same time as Gaz. A quick brew to re-energise the zombie-like Gaz and my dad arrived to give us all a lift to the airport (cheers dad!). One thing about Liverpool Airport to be glad of, they have a rather large display of a boob on their billboards which amused us greatly at this wee time in the morning. Unfortunately the bar there is closed at this time in the morning so we had to settle for their rock bottom prices on food, so with new mortgage paperwork neatly folded we sat down to breakfast (well Gaz and I).

[Photo: EasyJet]

The flight was the usual EasyJet affair: get on plane, make dubious references about air safety, watch short play performed by wooden actors about donning the fluorescent orange shackles of the working man - and thankfully was a quick one and half hours-ish, before we touched down in Cologne. Of course being EasyJet we hadn't quite paid enough for the plane to roll the extra 20 feet to a nice gangway which we could walk off the plane on, so more tarmac adventures were had. Cologne airport is nice and big, just the place for three northern, non-German-speaking Brits who had adopted the phrases, "What-ho", "Tally-ho", "By Jove" and referred to their homeland as, "Old Blighty" on a lack of sleep quest to get to JagFest. Thankfully unlike the UK, sorry Blighty, the public transport and information about the transport is excellent, and we were soon touch-screening our way on some bizarre video game which scored us tickets on a train (couldn't figure out how to enter our initials in the high score table though).

Alas I thought it would be a quick 30 minutes to an hour to get to Kaarst from Cologne as Multimap claimed it was a mere 50 miles, but no, a couple of changes of train, a CurryWurst (yum) and a few hours before we arrived in Neuss Hbf. At this point we had already had a concerned Nick Harlow ringing my mobile to check we were on our way or not as it was approaching 15:00. At Neuss we thought about taking a tram ride to our destination, but after inspecting the map several times, some wild pointing and gesturing and no real grasp of German we resorted to plan B, Taxi, an eventuality for which I had prepared - get address of venue, print onto sheet of paper in large bold letters, find cabbie and point at said print-out. Worked like a charm and we were soon whisked away to Jaggy goodness (although a little worrying when he decided to play with his route finding in car software which required some CD changing, while driving... Ah well all fun and games eh!).

Thankfully Bjorn had supplied pictures of the exterior of the venue on the E-JagFest site and we were able to spot it, and Nick Harlow as we approached. Paid our cabbie who gave us a receipt should we need a ride back, which also revealed we were riding in a "Funk Taxi". By jove! What what!

The venue was a rather nice German pub/bar, looked like there was another event going in the main bar with lots of old chaps drinking and chatting while JagFest occupied the larger back room. Right in front of the door was 16/32 Systems spread out before us. Lots of tempting Atari wares as usual from Nick, some now at silly prices but I held strong and my credit card remained hidden! Nick also introduced us to a lovely brown liquid called Alt... and mighty tasty it was too, unfortunately for poor Nick his southern complexion meant he had to take this beer stuff quite steadily as it seems lemonade wasn't supplied!

[Photo: LinkoVitch drinking German beer]

In the main room were several people, few of whom I recognized. One new face I did recognize was Starcat (Lars Hannig) whom it was good to finally meet after all this time, we were quickly introduced to people there and even managed to convince Arethius to run a Tempest 2000 tournament after Blodge challenged since he came kind of third in JagFest UK 2003's tournament. It was nice to look around and spot a few faces from the UK JagFest such as Robert Demming and TXG (eventually! Took me a few second glances since he has removed his tash). So with a few Alts down our neck (ah the liquid refreshment at last) we set about meandering.

One thing that was a big shock was the lack of Tempest music blaring out in every direction, there was obviously lots of other noises but no Tempest, weird! Closest to the door Arethius had set up his laptop (complete with silver Fuji) with some clips from Duranik showing the bosses for Native, alongside the PS2 he had brought which was running Rez, a rather trippy, bizarre but pretty game. Moving round we had a stack of old retro Atari stuff some of which looked rather interesting but I somehow managed to forget to check it out! D'oh! Next along was the Lynx tournament of Checkered Flag (in which I did appallingly, although Gaz gained third place). Next to this was where Mathias had setup, he had the JagAds running on a large TV throughout the event and next to that he had a Jag showing off Clicks, a game which he is working on based on the ST version I believe, and a very promising production it looks, too, one to watch out for definitely. Also in the Jag running Clicks was one of Mathias' Ethernet Flash cards (without the Ethernet portion), it looked of extremely high standard and production quality.

[Photo: E-JagFest in action]

[Photo: Atari notebook!]

Around the table and behind Mathias was Lars Hannig (Starcat) showing his Eerievale demo, yet another excellent title to look out for, the screen shots on the site are one thing but to actually see it live in person is another, I was very impressed with how this is coming along, and cannot wait for its release.

Next up was Arethius and the tournament set-up, here was where the Tempest 2000 tournament took place, I took fourth place (which is amazing for me) and Blodge took second place, duelling it out with Arethius himself. So Blighty did better at JagFest than in the Olympics I think! Alt was blamed for our lack of gold medals of course. Further around the corner were more Jags being used for general game playing, along with a chap who is (hopefully was) having problems with his Jaguar CD, I tried my best to assist and we did get it to fire up without its lid, proving it was on the whole, working, but when re-assembled it proved a different story, hopefully a few more adjustments would see this unit right.

Further along we had Robert showing off his Nuon and holiday snaps, definitely a machine I must obtain if I get chance.

Thankfully everyone there spoke English to a sufficient degree that my shouting of gradual phrases to make them more understandable to non-English speakers, as is the way in Blighty, got my fellow UK chaps and I through the day, also the folks there got to laugh at my dubious German pronunciation of a phrase I was told a few years ago which was supposed to be quite insulting, to find apparently it was pure nonsense. I suspect it meant something and they just aren't telling me, the rotters!

Making a late appearance at close to 21:00-22:00 was JustClaws, who had unfortunately been stuck in traffic for eight hours! This unfortunately meant that he missed seeing a few chaps and that his goodies remained in his car, although there were still quite a few people around, we were decidedly hungry at this time.

So off we trotted to enjoy some tasty food, and my word was it tasty stuff! And of course we ensured we had pictures of everything eaten for Shiuming (or food porn as it has become known) as he couldn't be there. The food was so good I even pondered flying back over some time to have another meal at that pub and bringing along the missus! After much drinking of beer, including us northern lads deciding to try a Stein of beer (which they unfortunately didn't have so we settled for glasses slightly smaller than a pint in size), we set about saying farewell. Nick Harlow departed, planning to sleep in his van somewhere on the route home, I believe. We had the fun task now of getting back to a train station, thankfully we had a receipt from Funk Taxis so we could call them and try pronouncing the current location. Luckily we were saved from this challenge by the very generous JustClaws who (once stuff was relocated) gave us a lift back to Neuss train station.

[Photo: Scrumptious grub]

From there was another 2-3 hours of train-hopping fun (including the purchase of chocolate covered ricebread, very tasty) before we were back in Cologne. A quick cab ride and we were at our hotel. When I booked I booked a single room for three adults, I should have realized this would mean a double bed and a single, but it didn't cross my mind until we entered the room! Ah well nothing better for getting to know someone than spending a night in bed with 'em, eh!

[Photo: Ethernet board]

[Photo: Group pose]

Gaz and I spent the night sharing opposite edges of the main double bed while Blodge took the couch bed. Apparently several jumbo jets were flying around our room during the night. I never heard 'em, but Blodge and Gaz complained about them in the morning.

Early morning and we were up, well Gaz and I were up, Blodge refused to leave his bed, however the thought of breakfast won me over. When we came to leave the room we realized that Blodge would be without power and lights as the plastic key operated the power for the room - luckily I had brought the JagFest UK 2004 pass that Gaz had made me, which seemed to posses enough Jaggy power to illuminate the room successfully! Off we went for breakfast. Breakfast concluded that Germany is the place to go for tasty food, and several rolls with meats and cheese soon had us satisfied. Surprisingly Blodge was up when we returned so a quick packing and off to the airport. A short stint of trying to will the rather attractive check-in lady to join us later and we were awaiting boarding of our flight home. Nothing much of interest in the airports, a glass cabinet displaying stuff that you were not allowed to export, we could figure most of the items, stuffed birds, crocodile and snake skin goods, coral, but we couldn't figure out the branches that were in there. Quick trip through customs - twice (apparently us UK lot cannot be trusted or something), and we were homeward bound.

[Photo: Atari overdose]

One uneventful flight later and we were back in Blighty. Everyone was very tired, so I was left to test my single-slot JAMMA which I purchased off Lars by myself, and very good it is too! Then it was simply a case of going to bed and catching up on the sleep I missed.

All in all it was a good day out (we spent just over 24 hours in Germany) although I think a little too much time was spent travelling. Now the initial scout has been done and we know what to expect and are looking for I would hope to be able to get some more bods from the UK to attend the next event. The transport system in Germany is spot on and fairly easy to figure out even if you are not a German speaker. The event itself was smaller than JagFest 2003 but still of interest. And the food, along with the beer, was first-class.


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MyAtari magazine - Feature #4, November 2004

Copyright 2004 MyAtari magazine