Sunday, June 26, 2016

How Poke Press Came to Cassette

Putting my interviews on audio cassette has been an interesting journey, and I wanted to give you a summary of the process.

The Original Idea

I’m not sure exactly where the original idea came from, but I believe it was a combination of hearing news stories about the cassette revival (running hot on the heels of the vinyl revival), and the “How to Beat” videos produced by the “My Life in Gaming” YouTube channel. The former reminded me of how I used to conduct field interviews on tape (I didn’t get a digital voice recorder until about 2006), and the latter probably helped give me the idea to distribute my content in a more low-tech form.

Got a Recorder?

While I could have had the tapes duplicated professionally, I decided (for various reasons) that it would be better for me to get some blank tapes and record locally. In order to do this, I would need to get a tape recorder. Technically, I had a portable CD player + cassette machine, but it was pretty low-end and I didn’t trust it to be able to handle the repeated duplication. Therefore, during a visit to my Mom’s house back in April, I attempted to find a dual-deck recorder that I had used to archive episodes of a pre-PIRN audio blog I did for a few months in 1999. Unfortunately, I was unable to find that deck, but my sister Amy let me borrow the late-90’s stereo system she left behind when she moved to D.C..

Tale of the Tapes

I wanted to produce something that looked at least somewhat professional, so instead of buying standard blank tapes, I ordered tapes, cases, and labels from the National Audio Company, a Missouri-based tape supplier. Additionally, I picked up special cassettes for cleaning and demagnetizing the tape heads to improve audio fidelity.

Track Selection

I had already decided on the main interviews for the tape (to aid in selecting a tape capacity), however in order to minimize the amount of silence at the end of each side, I had to choose the additional tracks carefully. I came up with:

1. Intro (0:22)
2. Mark Chait Interview (16:58)
3. Midwest Regionals 2015 VGC (4:32)
4. Pam Sheyne Promo (0:59)
5. John Loeffler Interview (15:40)
6. Midwest Regionals 2015 TCG (7:04)

With the first four tracks on side “A” and the last two on side “B”. After adding a few seconds of silence between tracks, I wound up with only 30-45 seconds at the end of each side.


To create a “master” for the tapes, I burned a CD with the tracks I needed, and put that in the CD tray of the stereo system. The actual recording process involved labeling a tape (to make sure the “A” and “B” sides were correctly assigned), putting it in the tape compartment, and setting up the CD-to-tape recording mode. Once both sides were recorded, I did a brief check to make sure each side transferred properly, and then put the tape into a case with a J-Card.

Production Problems

While the story should probably end there, there were a few hiccups in the recording process. First, the outer plastic stop/eject button on the stereo system’s recording deck broke (sorry, Amy). I attempted to fix this with duct tape, but eventually that failed as well, forcing me to reach into the hole it left behind and press the inner button to stop and eject tapes.

The second issue I ran into involves the CD portion of my sister’s stereo system. After about twelve tapes had been produced, I noticed that the audio on the burned master CD was skipping. I tried the CD in my computer, where it played fine. I can only assume that either the CD portion of the stereo system is starting to go, or having been produced in 1998, wasn’t well-designed for recordable media. Fortunately, the system also has stereo inputs, so I was able to hook up a DVD player to it to make recordings, though I did have to burn another CD at a lower volume to avoid distortion issues.

The End Result

Overall, I found the experience of making tapes easier than I feared, but there were definitely some issues I didn’t anticipate. I do expect to keep making these, particularly as I’ve come to appreciate the “toy” factor that the medium has over CDs and vinyl. I’m definitely looking forward to working on a volume two once my supply of tapes runs out.

More Technical Notes:

-The cassettes I ordered are “tabs out”, meaning that they are protected from writing by most consumer tape decks. The typical way of getting around this is to put tape over the hole where the tabs would be, but instead I created a reusable “tent” that I could put on top of the cassette.
-The tapes also had the length of the tape stamped on top. Luckily, that can be removed with some facial tissue.
-I had repeated difficulty getting the labels and insert cards to come out correctly-my inkjet printer seems to print at a very slight angle, and I had to make sure to leave enough of a margin at the edges to avoid having things cut off.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Poke Press Interviews...Now on Cassette Tape?

Remember these? Yes, now you can listen to your favorite Poke Press interviews on that boom box you had back in the 90's!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

HD Retrovision SNES Cable Unboxing + Tests

Back in 2014, I supported a Kickstarter to create component cables for the SNES (and Genesis). The resulting product finally came in last weekend:

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Fixing the Pokemon VGC's Barrier-of-Entry Problem

The Pokemon VGC is difficult to get into. What can we do to fix that?

If you'd like to listen to the episode of "It's Super Effective" referenced in this video, you can check it out here:

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Midwest VGC Regionals 2016-Masters Division Winner Interview

Diana Bros
The following is an interview with Diana Bros, winner of the Masters Division in the video game portion of this year’s Pokémon Midwest Regional.

Where are you from, and how did you get into Pokémon?

I'm a player out of the Chicago area, and I've played Pokémon since the original Red and Blue came out. I competed in a couple of online tournaments towards the end of 2015, and then finally started attending tournaments seriously.

What tournaments have you gone to so far?

Well, I have played in a lot of smaller tournaments leading up to this regional (Premiere Challenges and a couple of Mid-Season Showdowns). I felt I got decent results at those events, so I wanted to test myself at a larger tournament.

What was the team you used for this tournament?

-Groudon (Primal)
-Kyogre (Primal)
-Salamence (Mega)
-Thundurus (Focus Sash)
-Ferrothorn (Leftovers)
-Bronzong (Lum Berry)

What made you choose to use this team for this tournament? 

This team is a modified version of one that saw regional success in Europe with PokeAlex. I felt like his team had a solid answer to most of the common archetypes I’d be facing, so I decided to bring it.

What worked well for the team?

Overall, I like the way I had the team set up had a good mix of speed and bulk, and how I was able to work in both Tailwind and Trick Room, which allow for some adjustment in a best-of-three environment.

What was your strategy for the finals?

It was to apply offensive pressure with the speedy Salamence and Groudon in the early game and then get Bronzong and Kyogre next to each other under Trick Room for the late-game clean up. Also, I wanted to say, playing Sam was a lot of fun! It’s not often you get to be laughing and chatting during a big final.

What was the most interesting thing that came up in your discussion with Sam?

The discussion with Sam was actually a lot of fun. Most of the time it was a “mind game” discussion-did he side pup [1] again? Does Smeargle have Wide Guard? In the end we were talking about a tech on his Zapdos-Hidden Power Ground which was really interesting.

If you used this team again, are there any changes you might consider? 

I would definitely use this team again, and I have a few possible move set changes I’d consider.
Going forward with this team, I’ve been testing putting Safeguard on Bronzong to stop minimum speed Smeargle as well as maybe replacing Ferrothorn with Amoongus for redirection on the team.

1. Using Mega Kangaskhan’s Power-Up Punch on your teammate in a double battle