Tilburg 2003

by MSX Resource Center on 28-04-2003, 22:00

For many years the end of april has had something special for MSX users. During this period, the time has come to celebrate the MSX system with a huge meeting where active MSX developers demonstrate and sell their latest products. In the early nineties there were massive meetings in large gymnasiums where over a 100 MSX groups would have a stand, selling many products to literally thousands of visitors. Tilburg and Zandvoort were by far the biggest MSX fairs at the time, Tilburg being slighty bigger than Zandvoort.

When the biggest official MSX Magazine in the Netherlands - MCCM - stopped in 1997 the activity of the developers dropped and less visitors started attending MSX fairs. Both big MSX fairs, Zandvoort and Tilburg, moved to different locations. The annual MSX fair in Bussum is the continuation of the Zandvoort fair while Tilburg moved to a small community centre. The major drawback was not that the fair became smaller, but that the stands were devided over several rooms and several floors. Some of the rooms were easily overlooked giving stands less attention they deserved.

However, last year the third floor remained unused and most large MSX groups had a nice stand on a special hall on the first floor (the very same room were Kazuhiko Nishi had his lecture only a year before), the MSX Resource Center was on the second floor, but had a large room on their own which allowed many visitors to drop in during the entire day. With good memories of last year and the recent Oss fair in mind (which was a lot more interesting and crowdy than expected) we set off to Tilburg in the early saturday morning.

When we arrived at the fair, we discovered that the large hall on the first floor was not in use this year, which was quite a disappointment. The rest of the first floor was mainly filled with PC activities, the HCC stand (where second hand MSX computers and monitors could be bought) and MSX-NBNO. MSX-NBNO were selling XSW magazines, manuals and software, including Imanok's most recent game: Cat'n'mouse. It was a bit a shame that MSX-NBNO were the only 'second generation'-MSX team on the first floor, because the entrance of the fair would give everyone a bad impression of what's really going on.

We decided to head for our stand on the second floor, where another disappointment awaited us. Although we had asked for a room large and dark enough to give some interesting well-attended beamer-presentations, we were joined together with TNI and Compjoetania TNG (openMSX) in one of the smallest rooms of the fair. With no time left for arranging alternatives, we decided to set up our stand and forget about the planned lectures, despite of all the flyers we had handed out, despite of the promotion we had done on our website.

As usual, meeting all those familiar MSX friends was a very nice experience and soon we had forgotten about the organizational trouble. On our very own stand we were selling rare Japanese MSX games. Visitors could also have a look at the Japanese MSX magazines and at the MRC interview in @rroba magazine. Daniel Kim (Ginseng) had brought several slotexpanders, empty cartridges and megaRAM prints which sold very well. Especially the slotexpanders looked really good, small and solid. Michiel de Vries was demonstrating his monster-project Meridian. After creating a full-featured, blazing-fast windows-like environment for SCREEN 0 and a delta-steptime based tracker for playing and editing MIDI (or Meridian) files on the MSX using an external MIDI-module he made the best improvement he could make: he added support for the Sunrise Moonsound OPL4 wavetable sound card. Currently Meridian is capable of playing MIDI files on the OPL4 using 2-operator FM programs or PCM programs. Support for 4-operator FM programs will be built in in the near future. There are some other things that do not work on the OPL4 yet (like pitchbending), but having come this far already, we have no reason to assume this will be a real problem. Next to him was Marcel Delorme with his impressive Wave Editor. Thanks to the GFX9000 it's possible to work in a Windows-like environment without losing speed. Needless to say the program will support a file-format which can be used in Meridian as well. The lucky few who pre-ordered a Moonsound Sample CD from Wolf (Maarten van Strien) could get their copy at the MSX Resource Center stand as well.

In the same, small room with the MSX Resource Center were the TNI stands and Compjoetania TNG. The latter were demonstrating the most recent version of openMSX. This opensource MSX emulator has become the very best MSX emulator in a relatively small amount of time. Throughout the day they were demonstrating the way openMSX flawlessly handled games and demo's that give other well-known MSX emulators a hard time. To top it off, the SWISS demo proved that turboR emulation was no big deal either. TNI started the day with a blank monitor, telling about TVSP (the very secret project) which was to be announced later that day. Also, the very impressive Gameboy Emulator for Z380 and GFX9000 (GEMZ) could be admired. It's amazing that a computer like MSX can emulate a device that is 'about as fast as an ordinary MSX' with this little trouble.

In another room on the second floor, Bitwise demonstrated their TMT network cartridge and their USB interface which allows you to connect your MSX to your PC using an USB port. With this, you can use .DSK images on your PC harddrive as if it was in your MSX floppy disk. This is bound to give quite a speed-increase. Sunrise had a room on the second floor as well, where they sold their lineup of MSX hardware. Their IDE, CompactFlash, Moonsound and GFX9000 cartridges are already widely spread throughout the MSX developers community.

On the third floor a large room was reserved for the remaining standholders. www.samanet.tk" rel="external">Sargon (Rieks Warendorp Torringa) was back in business with two new translations: Hydlide 2 and Randar. Also software made previously by www.samanet.tk" rel="external">Sargon (like the Defender diskmagazines) could be ordered at his stand. Team Bomba shared part of the stand with Rieks and demonstrated the latest version of Bombaman. The game looks very professional now and it seems that it will not take much time anymore before the game goes gold. I for one can't wait for its release.

The MSX Affiliates Forum took some PCs to demonstrate their website to the crowd. Also they announced the MSXArt '03 contest. In this contest, the times of the MCM Artgallery are reviving, as you can join the contest by creating genuine MSX graphics. As usual the MCWF was there with a massive amount of MSX computers, hardware, cables and other devices. Bas Kornalijnslijper and his girlfriend Ditta must have had a hard time dragging all those product to their huge booth on the third floor, but they did not seem to be bothered too much about it.

Deltasoft were celebrating their 15th anniversary with the release of a new game translation: Sorcerian. People who bought the game got a free mini-sized CD-ROM which included the translated Sorcerian manual and the soundtrack in MP3. Also a disk containing the FindIt replayer was included. Of course their back-catalogue and the XAK 1 english translation were available as well.

Another room could easily go overlooked if it wasn't for the red cart in front of their door: MSX Info. Apart from the latest edition of their interesting MSX magazine (on paper, in dutch) they sold second handed cables, hardware and imported games like Kyokugen. Furthermore Leonardo Padial's MSX hardware was promoted.

After discussing the troubles the organization caused, Sunrise was kind enough to offer a bit of their stand so that we could use the beamer for two presentations after all. With a little less room than expected, and a smaller audience because of lack of announcements Team Bomba improvised a nice story about their upcoming game. Robert Vroemisse explained a bit about graphics design, while showing some nice worlds and boss-monsters. Yes, you read it right, this will be no ordinary Bomberman clone. The final version will contain different worlds, villages (so expect some RPG-alike storylines) and genuine hard-to-beat boss-monsters.

The second (and unfortunately last) lecture was about TVSP (The Very Secret Project, mentioned before) which was later that day also demonstrated at TNI's stand. It turned out to be an interesting project of five people. The information spread on the fair was for the people who attended the fair only, so there is little information we can give. We can already say that some interesting and impressive things are awaiting us. I don't think you saw a game that started with a full-screen animation, a game engine with invisible screensplits and a scrolling background on your MSX yet, did you? Add to that, there were some impressive rotations too! Since Musica is used for creating the music of the game, it's possible to use the PSG, FM-PAC and the SCC altogether. To accomplish this, a highly optimized and customized replayer had to be built. However because the game-engine needs quite some CPU-power, the final game will probably only be PSG+FM-PAC. Impressive nonetheless.

As you can see, every standholder on this MSX fair had done their best to show what they have been doing for the MSX in the past year(s). A quick walk around the fair and many things would surely remain unseen. However, the people who decided to take some extra steps into the maze of the second and third floor got the opportunity to look at the finest MSX projects. Since there were no maps available, we wouldn't be surprised if people missed the action on the second and third floor. Even some regular Tilburg visitors (who knew the third floor was empty last year) discovered the stands on the third floor after being around on the fair for quite a while.

All in all we have mixed feelings about this years Tilburg fair. We will save you the stories about how hard it was to get information about the fair and how to actually get a stand that in the end did not fit our needs completely, but we can not hide the impression that the CGV thinks of organizing the MSX fair as a burden instead of an honor. The recent developments in the MSX community on the internet and in Japan (MSX Revival) directly and indirectly led to more attention and activity. For the first time since years the number of standholders on the Tilburg fair had slightly increased, yet the space available for them was limited. Seeing many MSX users, most of them active members and visitors of the MSX Resource Center in person, having a look at new projects and being stunned by several of them we can only conclude that the MSX Community deserves more than what Tilburg has become.

If you want to discuss your feelings on the MSX fair Tilburg (positive or negative) read and write in this forum topic
Do you want more MSX fair experience? Watch our Tilburg 2003 photoshoot