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.

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: Rock Paintings

I remember when I got a second hand Sega CD off a classmate back in freshman year of High School. I was bored in a class and was looking at Sega CDs on eBay, and my friend offered his for $15. It came with the pack-in title Tomcat Alley as well as the abysmal Double Switch, which was 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 money on this tripe.

I wonder if Corey Haim was on drugs when he signed up to do this. Hell, everyone involved had to be on drugs if they thought this was a good idea!

While I was perusing for some other Sega CD games when I had stumbled upon this little gem: Rock Paintings, a CD+G sampler featuring a multitude of Warner 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 run this. Hell, if you got a karaoke machine lying around, it’ll probably play this disc too.
I originally thought this was 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 music company that bothered to care about the technology was Warner Records, as a gamut of their offerings from 1989-1992 feature the CD+G tech. The Rock Paintings sampler features two tracks from each artist above, with embedded CD+G tracks for each, plus a blank track for disc information. They looked like tacky screensavers for the most part, except the Information Society portion being somewhat informative and goofy (as seen above), and Hendrix’s Smash Hits, which is amazing in itself:

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

Alas, the CD+G died a short death but still has this remnant to live on. Warner Records did multiple CD+G sampler compilations, even one for the CD-i, so they thought this was worth a try even if many people didn’t get to use it as intended and looking tacky even by early 90s standards. 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 — 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 is featured on the compilation, but they used a song from Apollo 18 called “Mammal.” 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 approved of a compilation having a song titled “The Statue Got Me High.”)

While doing my 15 minutes of research, 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. Now I wanna find those CD+G versions of classic Beethoven and Holst music, as well as Smash Hits so I can Experience Hendrix the way it was meant to be experienced: on a Sega CD in mono audio.

Game finds 4/25: A bunch of PC nostalgia.

Normally I document these finds on my personal blog, but I thought this recent haul was worth mentioning here. This time around, the stuff I’m about to show you will give us some insight into ’90s era PC gaming, as well as a bunch of demo discs with free games on it. Because, hey, who doesn’t like free games? Unless they’re terrible or something.
So I was making my usual thrift store haunts until I stumbled upon one that had a few demo discs. Okay, that’s a lie, it had at least 50 demo discs. For 25 cents each. From the early days of PC Gamer and Computer Gaming World to lesser known ones like that PCGAMES.EXE disc up there, which I could find no information on who published these. I only grabbed a few of these since I really didn’t need every demo disc, just ones that seemed appealing. Hell, for 25 cents each, I had to resist from buying all of them. Somebody must have dumped their old PC gaming collection.

The first one on the upper left is from Computer Gaming World’s November 1999 issue. It has demos of games like Freespace 2 and Midtown Madness, but what really caught my eye was that it had a trailer for Halo. Yes, that Halo. Back before it was a first-person shooter title for the Xbox, it was once going to be a third-person shooter that was supposed to be a PC and Mac game before Microsoft snatched it up for the console’s 2001 launch. The trailer on the disc is almost identical to the one featured below, the only difference being a slight changeof the intro. I thought it was an interesting piece of nostalgia, and it seemed even in 1999 the Halo theme was in full force.


The remaining three — PCGAMES.EXE’s July/August 1998 disc, PC Gamer’s July 2000 disc and CGW’s March 2001 disc — all boast having a bunch of free games on them. Each disc had a different collection of games, and some of the games overlapped. Since some of these games are either hard to find or ridiculously expensive, I think I’d made the biggest gaming haul of them all. Here’s a list of what was on each disc:

  • PCGAMES.EXE: Battlecruiser: 3000AD, Betrayal at Krondor, Descent, Red Baron, Star Control II, and the first three Zork games.
  • PC Gamer: Alone in the Dark, Descent, Duke Nukem II, King’s Quest, Links: The Challenge of Golf, Road & Track Presents: The Need for Speed, The Secret of Monkey Island, Terminal Velocity, Ultima I, Ultima Underworld, and X-COM: UFO Defense.
  • Computer Gaming World: Acheton, Alphaman, Alternate Reality: The City, B-17 Flying Fortress, Balance of Power, Betrayal at Krondor, Bunni-flip, Crusader: No Remorse, Elite, Elite Plus, Empire, Kampfgrup, Nethack, Mystery House, Pirates 2, Rogue, Super Dune 2, Tac Ops, X-COM: UFO Defense and Zelda Classic.
 Other contents on the discs included the obligatory patches for those who were stuck with 14.4K dialup connections, a few custom levels here and there, including a bunch of Duke Nukem 3D levels and a Quake map by Levelord; and a bunch of demos, including PC Gamer advertising the demo to John Romero’s Daikatana. Thankfully it’s shown as a footnote on the cover, with pixelated Duke Nukem being the focus instead. It’s like even PC Gamer knew Daikatana was shit.
The Wolfenstein 3D disk is just a 3 1/2″ floppy of the game’s shareware version sold by some computer store and had the goofiest cover ever. This is how things looked in the 90s, man. Gradients and mediocre art everywhere for your $5 shareware disk. I bought this one just for the novelty cover, I already have a full copy of the original game thanks to Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Game of the Year Edition. But the discs are just the tip of the iceberg. What I found next was more amazing.
 
I found these two PC game boxes in the same thrift store for $2 each. Wheel of Fortune featuring Vanna White is a 5 1/4″ floppy version of the PC game complete with a signed Vanna White poster. I almost didn’t grab this because I thought it was the NES version at first, which has an identical cover. The left box is a non-descript Interplay box, but has more interesting stuff when you look inside…
The first game is The Lost Vikings, a side-scrolling platformer released on a handful of systems. It was made by a company called Silicon & Synapse, which you know nowadays under a bigger, more popular name. This is presumably what was in the Interplay box originally, though I’m not sure for certain. The other game is King’s Quest V, one of the games in the long-standing King’s Quest series by Sierra. It’s bizarre that a promo booklet and seven floppies from a competing publisher would be shoved into an Interplay box, but I’m not complaining. Oddly, it’s the Macintosh version of King’s Quest V, which is weird to see in a sea of PC games. Maybe the guy bought that one by accident or something. Even though I lack a floppy drive to even play these on, it’s still a blast from the past. (Speaking of King’s Quest V, a few friends of mine at Hardcore Gaming 101 recently reminisced about the game in their recent Game Club 199X podcast, which you can find here.)
 
All of these discs for a nice sum of $5.25. I honestly think I cannot top this find, not for a long while at least. I like PC gaming, but I didn’t really get into it until I was in my teens, so I missed a lot of the 90s PC gaming greats. Primarily because I was content playing GoldenEye on my friend’s Nintendo 64 at the time. One of these days I’ll give some of these games a shot and see what I missed out on. At least I have two discs that have Descent and Betrayal at Krondor on it in case one version doesn’t work. If you live in the Portland, Oregon area, go check Deseret Industries on 82nd Ave. and King Road, that’s where I found all these discs, and there’s still a whole bunch of them there last I checked.
(Updated June 21, 2012: Replaced ugly cameraphone pictures with better quality ones from an actual camera. You can actually read the text now!)

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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