Category: Demo/Promo discs

Remember when you’d get demo discs in the mail or in magazines, which usually had the hot new stuff? Maybe you’re too young to remember, but hey, try to reminisce with us anyway.

The Nintendo Power 2005 DVD Special.

I’ve mentioned in the past that I collect a bunch of unusual things, such as demo discs and promotional DVDs. I covered a Nintendo Promo DVD from 2002 last year, and mentioned that I had other promo discs that I intend to write about. Well, here’s another one of these.

This is a special promo DVD from Nintendo Power, released around mid-2005. 2005 was a dark age for Nintendo. The GameCube was literally on its last legs, the DS was floundering and the GBA was the only success for the big N. This was before the Wii (or the “Revolution” as it was called) was even revealed. Like the 2002 promo, this disc is chock full of demos for the hottest new games on Nintendo platforms.

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True Crime: Streets of LA Uncovered.

Remember True Crime: Streets of LA? It was a decent Grand Theft Auto clone developed by Luxoflux (RIP) and published by Activision in 2003. While it didn’t reinvent the wheel, it was a decent shooter, driving game and beat-em up. While I was doing my Game Fuel hunt a few weeks back, I had stumbled upon this mysterious gem in the DVD section at a Goodwill.

This is True Crime: Streets of LA Uncovered. A promo DVD for the game, presumably given to GameStop employees or people who pre-ordered the game. For $3, I couldn’t pass this up.

This promo DVD is chock full of interesting videos that highlight the game’s mechanics, a few behind the scenes features, even a video advertising the (now-defunct) truecrimela.com. There’s even a trailer for the original Xbox version of the game, which looked somewhat better than the other versions of True Crime.

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The 2002 Nintendo Preview DVD.

Anyone who follows the blog may know I collect large amounts of video game-related crap. (For those who are visiting the site for the first time: I collect large amounts of video game-related crap.) Most of the time, it’s video game trinkets and items from press events, magazines, and demo discs, among many other things. This time, I’m gonna look at a preview DVD.

It’s a Nintendo Preview disc from about mid-2002. Mostly an ad for the forthcoming Metroid Prime, it also features other flagship Nintendo GameCube games like Super Mario Sunshine, Mario Party 4, Animal Crossing, and Star Fox Adventures, along with some advertising for the Game Boy Advance, including the ill-fated e-Reader add-on. One of these days I’ll get around to covering that e-Reader, it’s a strange part of Nintendo history.

I remember this DVD being available at a Game Crazy (RIP), and took one home to watch at all the reasons for me to ask for a GameCube that Christmas. Nowadays the only reason I still have my GameCube is because my Wii doesn’t support the Game Boy Player add-on, one of the best damn hardware add-ons out there.

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The Half-Life 1997 Alpha.

Half-Life is one of my most favorite games of all time. It blended action, platforming and story perfectly to be one of the awesome shooters of 1998. But it wasn’t always that way.

Valve, back then a small development studio, made a press demo version of Half-Life that showed a drastically different version of the game: While the story was similar, almost all the levels and designs were different from what we got. Originally slated for November 1997, it missed the release date and came out a year later with many significant changes to the final product, all for the better. Getting a chance to play the Half-Life that never was is really a treat, which has many unfinished levels — some early versions of levels in the final game — as well as tech demos such as skeletal animation. You can shoot a robot and make it do that dancing baby animation that was popular in the late ’90s! Not only that, it has documentation about the game and Valve itself, a walkthrough of all the levels, even copies of Paint Shop Pro and WinZip for some reason…

Here’s me playing through one of the levels, The Security Complex. It’s one of the more complete levels of the game. I go through the stage area at least once, then show the solution as given in the walkthrough.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGCecUyAk9o&w=640&h=480]

Thanks reddit user jackaljayzer for uncovering this gem, who got it from a friend in Bellevue, Washington; and to Valve Time (har) for revealing the leak. There’s links in there if you wanna try it yourself. If somehow you are one of the few who have never played Half-Life, go buy the damn game on Steam already.

(The YouTube video is a sneak preview of what’s to come. Stay tuned…)

A look at CD+G with Rock Paintings.

The Sega CD is a fascinating piece of hardware. A CD addon for the Genesis, it added full motion video and other assorted features. I got a second hand Sega CD off a classmate back in freshman year of High School. I was bored in class and was looking at Sega CDs on eBay, and my friend offered his for $15. I couldn’t pass it up at that price.

It came with the pack-in title Tomcat Alley as well as the abysmal Double Switch, a Night Trap-esque game by Digital Pictures starring the late Corey Haim, Blondie’s Deborah Harry, and R. Lee Ermey. It honestly isn’t that great, and can be beaten easily in an hour. Trust me, go watch this longplay of the game instead, it’s better than wasting time trying to figure out the game’s plot while trapping random criminals.

I wonder if these actors thought they were doing something amazing or were just there for a paycheck.

While I was perusing for some other Sega CD games to buy, I had stumbled upon this little gem, and it’s not even a game: Rock Paintings, a CD+G sampler featuring a multitude of Warner Bros. Records artists — Chris Isaak, Fleetwood Mac, Jimi Hendrix, Information Society and Little Feat.

While it’s advertised as a Sega CD product, any console that supports CD+G — from the Philips CD-i to Sega’s successor CD console the Saturn — can play this. Hell, if you got a karaoke machine lying around, it’ll probably play this disc too.

I thought this was simply just a silly little CD compilation, but it’s so much more.

Oh good, I can learn things while listening to music. Thanks, Information Society!

CD+G is a short-lived media format used to show graphics on your television while listening to music CDs. The concept was that you’d hook up a CD+G enabled device into your television set, insert any supported CD+G disc, then listen to the music with video playing in the background.

The only record label that bothered to care about the technology was Warner Bros. Records, as a gamut of their offerings from 1989-1992 feature the CD+G tech. However, it was not popular enough, so it got shelved in the early ’90s. While the original purpose for CD+G died, the system would later be used for karaoke machines. Though the CD+G used in those isn’t 100% compatible with the traditional CD+G in most cases, which is a shame.

The Rock Paintings sampler features two tracks from each artist above, with embedded CD+G tracks for each, plus a blank audio track for disc information. For the most part, they were little more than just tacky screensavers. For example, the samples they used for Information Society being somewhat informative and goofy (as seen above), while Jimi Hendrix’s Smash Hits brought us this wonderful gem:

Not pictured: The flashing colors that played during this Hendrix montage. Great for stoners, bad for epileptics.

 

Rock Paintings also came with a second, non-CD+G disc titled Hot Hits, which featured a sampling of other artists on the Warner label. Most of them are a bunch of unknowns I hadn’t heard of — The Wolfgang Press, Saigon Kick, Throwing Muses — while the rest are artists with minor hits but bizarre track choices. For example, They Might Be Giants, one of my favorite bands is featured on the compilation. They used “Mammal” from Apollo 18. Of all the songs from that album they could’ve chose, they chose the worst track of the bunch. I guess executives wouldn’t have appreciated a compilation having a song titled “The Statue Got Me High.”

While doing my brief research for this article, I found out there is actually a site dedicated to chronicling all the CD+G media ever released. It’s called The CD+G Museum, and it’s worth a look into the weird history that was CD+G technology. They even catalog the CD+G graphics themselves on a YouTube channel, so you can experience the tracks for yourself. It’s great someone is cataloging this obscure piece of tech history

Now I wanna find those CD+G versions of some of these albums, just for kicks. Though, I definitely want Hendrix’s Smash Hits so I can Experience Hendrix the way it was meant to be: on a Sega CD in mono audio.

My demo disc collection.

I think demo discs are pretty cool. As I mentioned in a previous entry, they gave us an opportunity to play a game before it was released, as well as give us other useful tidbits and secrets. While high speed internet has pretty much made the demo disc obsolete, I still hold a fondness for them.

Here are most of the demo discs I own:

Almost all the demo discs I have. This was taken before I had acquired more demo discs, including the aforementioned Rainbow Six 3 Companion Demo Disc.

To me, demo discs are a great snapshot of the video games of old to me. They give people a chance to gleam into what gaming was like in that time period. For instance, look at this menu of a PC Gamer demo disc circa late 1999:

Look at this menu! It’s so late ’90s it hurts!

The main menu, as well as some of the pages, have those remnants of late ’90s web design. Completely animated, with varied fonts, a somewhat confusing web interface, even animations everywhere.

On this specific disc, there’s even a gallery of really bad photoshops of former PC Gamer mascot Coconut Monkey in there just to drive it home that this is a byproduct of late 1990s PC gaming culture.

It’s more prevalent in older demo discs than in newer ones, but sometimes you would find modifications or additional levels to add on to your games. For example, the PC Gamer disc above featured above has USS Darkstar, a Half-Life mod made by future They Hunger mod designer Neil Manke; A custom level for Duke Nukem 3D, which I didn’t know people were still making by 1999; and an Unreal map called “DM-TittyTwister.” Hey, I didn’t say all of these were gems.

In some cases, demo discs had demos to games that didn’t get released, or got heavily modified from their eventual release. Early PlayStation Jampack discs would sometimes highlight an import game straight from Japan, which was pretty cool at the time for that was a peek into gaming outside western territories. Sometimes they even made special demos of games, like a Christmas-themed edition of Toy Commander that was bundled in an issue of Official Dreamcast Magazine.

The absolute highlights of my collection are those PS2-exclusive demo discs. Sony seemed to do this a lot during the PS2 era, giving out these demo discs like they were candy. I got each of those demo discs by different means. For instance, I got Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain by being part of a minor viral ad campaign involving several different websites where you’d input codes and unlock goodies, including wallpapers and the aforementioned demo. Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror and Hot Shots Tennis were discs I got back when I was in the Gamer Advisory Panel, before Sony realized that a PlayStation Blog was a more reliable way to get your praise from diehard Sony fans.

Someday, I may cover some more of these demo discs. This would be more for historical reasons than anything practical, especially since about 90% of the demos you can freely access on the internet.

I like demo discs because you never know what you might find on them. For example, one of my finds on a different PC Gamer disc was a video of editor Norman Chan, now a host and personality at Adam Savage’s Tested, promoting Comcast high-speed internet, at a whopping 8mbps download speed! EIGHT! That was pretty impressive back then.

Dammit Norm, stop shilling Comcast and get back to making experimental toys with Adam Savage!

(UPDATE 4/10/2019: Adjusted the post in several spots. One of these days I’ll give a better compilation.)

The Rainbow Six 3 Companion Demo Disc: DLC and Demos abound!

Before online gaming, back in the days when dial-up was the only means of internet access for many, there was the demo disc. The demo disc was a means to try out games and see if they were worth buying. From demo discs inside magazines like PC Gamer and Official Xbox Magazine, to purchasable discs such as the PlayStation Jampack, there were many ways to try out the hot new games.

Then high speed internet started becoming a thing in the mid-2000s. Nowadays, almost everyone downloads demos through their consoles over the internet, thus negating the need for physical discs to be pressed. The demo disc died a sad, quick death.

Thankfully, the old demo discs never gone away, and can still be found at a thrift store or local game shop near you. Most of them are useless unless the demo is slightly different than the final game, but in some cases it’s just a vertical slice of the final game to try out. But who knew a simple demo disc for one of the biggest tactical shooters would be one of the only ways to get exclusive downloadable content for another game?

A $10 Rebate?! Man, that would’ve been useful years ago…

This is Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3: Exclusive Companion Demo Disc. This mouthful of a title was something I had found at a Goodwill, and was curious about the contents of it.

As far as I know, this was likely given as a pre-order for Rainbow Six 3 on the original Xbox, or might’ve been available for purchase separately. There’s sparse info about this online, so I’m gonna hazard a guess it was the former.

Normally I skip demo discs as I see no need to own them unless you want a good time capsule of what games were like in that period. Until I found out something interesting about this particular disc.

I should give a little backstory to all this. Back in the early to mid 2000s, online gaming was not as prevalent as it is today. While people did game online with their PS2, Xbox, or in rare cases the GameCube — mostly for Phantasy Star Online and little else — it wasn’t anywhere near as big as it is today. Most online gaming was more on the PC, with lots of people playing Quake III Arena, Unreal Tournament 2004, Counter-Strike and many others.

Instead of millions of people fragging online in stuff like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, it was only several thousand playing Halo 2 on the original Xbox. Even the concept of “downloadable content” was still pretty unknown back then.

That doesn’t mean that downloadable content for games and digital downloads didn’t exist. In some cases, developers bundled online content into special retail discs, such as the Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack; or re-releasing the game in a “Game of the Year edition” on bargain price with all the content already on the disc. Presumably, this was for those who were still rockin’ dial-up connections, or had no convenient means of downloading the content digitally.

Seeing “download new content on Xbox Live” on a single player game was pretty mind-blowing for console gamers back then.

In 2002, Ubisoft released Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, the first in a long-running series of stealth-action games. The Xbox version took advantage of the then-new Xbox Live service by releasing three exclusive levels — Vselka Submarine, Vselka Infiltration, and Kola Cell — freely downloadable via Xbox Live. For a while, these levels were exclusive to this version of the game.

The only other version of the first Splinter Cell that got these extra levels was the PC version. The downside is these levels were only available in a special patch that came bundled with the collector’s edition of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, the third game in the series. As far as I know, this special patch has never been made publicly available for download.

Now, these bonus downloadable levels sounded like a great idea, to give online-enabled gamers incentive to use the service. Ubisoft used this to full effect in every major Tom Clancy game that appeared on the Xbox, from Rainbow Six 3 to Ghost Recon 2, even releasing exclusive disc-based expansions for those games only on the Xbox.

Things can’t last forever, though. Microsoft, for reasons not fully explained to this day, announced that they were shutting down the network services to the original Xbox’s Live service in early April 2010, less than eight years after it launched. This lead to people pulling out their original Xbox systems to shoot dudes in Halo 2 or Counter-Strike one last time before its inevitable demise. Not only did this mean the end of online play for that system, but also for any downloadable content available on that system. This meant that if you didn’t download the bonus Splinter Cell levels before Microsoft shut down original Xbox Live, then there was no way of downloading or playing them again. Until now.

My apologies for the “shot from a phone” images, I don’t have a capture device.

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