With Katsucon being next weekend, I just realized that I've not yet posted my report about my trip to MAGFest this past month. Thankfully, I've already had it typed up and all ready to be posted.

It's a new year, and for me, that usually means the first convention of the year for me, MAGFest.

Part of this opinion could be due to the rough time I've been having leading up to the convention (i.e. having to take three weeks off of work, and during the busiest time for me, due to my department moving to a different building, the mess that my family had when getting new cable boxes) and another part could be due to the bad weather and having to plan things around that (that usually means leaving the con earlier than usual), but I felt there were a number of problems with MAGFest this year.

To begin with, MAGFest made a really dumb move this year in terms the handling of the Marketplace, in particular the plans of not opening it until around the same time as the Video Game areas (aka 3:00 PM Thursday afternoon) and having their Merchandise booth be located there instead of another part of the convention center. The reasons for my complaint are as follows:

1. Although there are some events that start around 1:00 PM (with me checking out the start of this year's Mega Man-athon to kill some time), holding off the opening of the Marketplace until 3:00 PM means more "dead time" (time where there isn't really much to do) for those who arrive at the con Thursday morning. As a regular MAGFest attendee, this is one reason why I usually don't show up there until 11:00 AM on Day 1, because while "dead time" is easier to handle at anime conventions thanks to the chance to look for cosplay pictures (and the eventual lining up for the Dealers' Room), it's harder to kill time during the morning hours of Day 1.

2. A huge advantage of having the Marketplace open earlier than the Video Game rooms is that it helps diminish the crowds of people waiting to get into the Exhibit Halls. By not opening the Marketplace until the same time as the Video Game rooms (and having the entrance to the Marketplace be the only entrance the Exhibit Halls all together), the end result is the hallways to the Exhibit Halls being completely full of people wanting to get into them at 3:00PM, whereas most conventions would have that line pretty much gone around the same time on Day 1.

3. Having the merchandise table be in an area outside of the Marketplace actually gives those who pre-ordered the merchandise something to do while they wait for the rest of the convention to open up, whereas having it in the Marketplace would take away some time that could be used in other activities.

The other thing that hindered this year's MAGFest: you can definitely tell that some areas of the con were lacking when compared to the previous year. Yeah, the lack of a MAGFest Challenge this year was no big loss, as things have been going south in the last couple of years. However, unlike the last couple of years, there wasn't a unique pinball table that screamed "must play" (although MAGFest did make up for that with one of the biggest selection of pinball tables in recent years). Also, when it comes to the concerts that serve as the main reason for people to attend the con, it's hard to top last year's headliners, Tupper Ware Remix Party and Ninja Sex Party. When you're ready leave MAGFest on Saturday around 7:00PM, then you know that more could have been done to keep you entertained (although part of it is due to me being tired after two days of con attending, the rough weather that National Harbor had that weekend, and me completely forgetting to attend the one event I wanted to do on Saturday evening: a screening of a documentary about the Amiga).

However, even with the all the complaints I had with this year's MAGFest, that doesn't mean that I consider the convention to be a failure. To begin, there's what I picked up at the Marketplace this year. Right off the bat, MAGFest tends to offer some of the cooler "Artist Alley" type stuff when it comes to the cons that I go to, and this year was no exception, with the items that made my purchase list consisting of an Egg Incubator from Pokemon Go that was made via 3D printer and a plushie of D.Va from Overwatch that's done in the style of a giant version of those Japanese stackable plushies.

Also, MAGFest's tendency to have a number of second-hand video game dealers was one thing that I took advantage of this year. With my mother finding a working Dreamcast while attending an estate sale this past October that had numerous video game items, I was looking for some games for the system (although I'm sure I have some games from when I originally had the system buried somewhere in my younger brother's old room, which is one reason why I held back getting certain games). Eventually, I found a couple of Capcom fighting games (Plasma Sword and Power Stone) and the Dreamcast Lodoss War game at a decent price on Friday and Saturday. Also, after learning about the existence of this version of the game a few months earlier, I was hoping to find a European region copy of the PSP version of Tales of Eternia, with me finding the game on Thursday.

As for some secondhand temptations:

-After attending a panel about it Thursday night, I was tempted to pick up a Sega Saturn and some import games for it (especially with some dealers having the white Saturn system). However, there wasn't any real import games being offered there that screamed "buy me".

-While on the subject of import games, given how they tend to be cheaper than the American versions,I also considered picking up some import Dreamcast games as well, with me even preparing a boot disc one night after I got home in preparation for this type of purchase. Again, nothing was being offered that either was a must-buy or something that I think could be found downstairs.

-With my younger brother getting back into Nintendo 64 himself, one dealer had one game that he was looking for, Harvest Moon 64, on Friday. However, when I offered to pick up the game for him, he declined the offer, with the game being bought before he got a chance to step on the con floor on Saturday.

Speaking of retro gaming, the Computer Museum had some new exhibits to check out this year. In terms of hands-on gaming, the Museum offered the Japanese versions of various Nintendo and Sega systems. However, the real highlight of the Computer Museum this year was that they had a Nintendo Playstation on display this year.

For those not familiar with it here's the history of the Nintendo Playstation. Around the time Nintendo was working on the Super Famicom (Super Nintendo in America), Nintendo entered a partnership with Sony to develop a CD-ROM add-on for the system. As part of the development for this add-on, Sony developed a "Play Station" that would play both Super Nintendo cartridges and SNES-CD games. However, due to licensing disagreements (in particular, Sony would have been the ones in control of the SNES-CD format), Nintendo instead opted to partner with Philips as the developers of their CD-ROM add-on, an add-on that sadly never saw the light of day. The only problem with this: by the time Nintendo announced their new partnership at the Summer 1991 Consumer Electronics Show, not only did Sony made their announcement of the Play Station a day earlier, but they also began production of prototype systems, with 200 being made. One of these prototypes, one that was owned by Sony Interactive Entertainment founder Olafur Johann Olafsson, eventually turned up a few years ago after a former employee at Advanta, a company that Olafsson worked at after leaving Sony, bought it as part of a lot during the company's 2009 bankruptcy auction and he and son did some research about the system. Along with bringing the system to display at the convention, the two that found the prototype also had a panel that told the story of their discovery.

Speaking of panels, along with the Sega Saturn import panel and the Nintendo Playstation panels, another interesting one that I went to was a hands-on demonstration of the NESpectre. In case you go to a video game show featuring this panel, the NESpectre is a "possessed" NES system that was developed by some homebrew game makers. Using a modded NES system and some coding, the NESpectre is set it so that people attending the demonstration can visit a server site and use their cell phones to manipulate various Nintendo games. The main examples of this involves messing around with the graphics and sounds of Super Mario Bros. and Contra (especially Contra, which has a lot of interesting things that users can do, including a "Prince" mode that turns everything purple). However, one of the funnier results of this demonstration involves the Long Jump event in Track and Field. By having all the members of the audience tap on their phones as the player is making his dash to the jump line, it's possible to have the long jumper jump off the right side of the screen and reappear on the left side, making it appear as if he made a jump that circled around the stadium.

Some additional notes (part of these I'd hope to expand on further, but due to time, I had to condense here):

-As someone familiar with National Harbor, I was well aware of the new MGM casino that opened a mile-and-a-half away from the Gaylord last month. With four hours to kill between me getting to the MAGFest on Thursday and the main areas actually opening, I killed some time by checking out the casino. As someone who regularly walks through the Maryland Live casino whenever I attend my monthly Disney pin meeting at Arundel Mills (and sometimes gamble there if I need to kill time before the meeting starts), my opinion on The MGM National Harbor is this: while it's definitely the grander of the two casinos, with it doing something's better than Maryland Live (i.e. their slots take $1 bills, whereas the minimum bill in Maryland Live is $5), I see the two casinos dealing with two different audiences here. Outside of locals (i.e. those people in P.G. County, Maryland and Fairfax County, Virginia), MGM National Harbor is mainly going to attract those with bigger wallets and visiting National Harbor for the resort side of things. Meanwhile, I see Maryland Live as more of a casual casino that will attract, among others, shoppers and film-goers (as the casino is a short walk from the Egyptian 24 movie theater).

-Another place that opened between the two MAGFests that I checked out over the weekend: Brother Jimmy's BBQ, a restaurant that's just a short walk away from the Gaylord. Having gone there twice over the weekend (once on Thursday night, then late Saturday afternoon), I definitely found a new place to eat whenever I attend a con at the Gaylord, with me interested in having the rest of my family try it out one day. However, if I do go to the restaurant by myself, I may need to bring some additional money if I want something more than just the fried chicken meal (I had some hush puppies while sitting at the bar on Saturday, while I'm also tempted in trying their fried Oreos).

-One cool thing that MAGFest had this year was that they had some BattleTech battle pods in the rear of the console area. Those battle pods were definitely a huge hit at the show, with me actually getting a chance to try it out Friday morning (the controls take some time to get used to, but once you figure out how they work, it's a fun experience). Given the feedback it's been receiving on Reddit, it would be a smart move for MAGFest to bring back the battle pods next year.

-Note to self: next time a convention has this, and it doesn't interfere with other events, try to attend an event where one of the Jackbox games is being played. As someone who doesn't really have anyone close to play these games with, I haven't bought these games myself. However, with all the people attending the cons that I go to, I can really take full advantage of the games that Jackbox has to offer.

Next up on the agenda: Katsucon. Until then, here's some cosplay photos that I took while I was at MAGFest.