7. Smitty's South American Adventure

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7. Smitty's South American Adventure and a Deep Dive into Nintendo’s History

 

Erik explores the history of physical video game media, while Smitty regales Producer Dan with a story about his (mis)adventures during a trip to South America. Plus, everyone talks about the next exciting release from Special Reserve Games: the beat-‘em-up Mother Russia Bleeds!

Games You Deserveis a weekly podcast from Special Reserve Games that celebrates the digital art of video games. Join us for gaming industry interviews, insider perspectives, and interactive content. Production by Dan Vadeboncoeur. Music by Jesse Hamel. New episodes drop Sundays at 9:00 a.m. CST.

Listen below (or on your favorite podcast provider) and don’t forget to subscribe! Links and transcript follow beneath the player.

 

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Transcript

Dan: Welcome to Games You Deserve, brought to you by Special Reserve Games. This week on the show, Erik takes us through the history of physical video game media. Smitty tours with Rock Stars in South America, and Mother Russia Bleeds comes to the special reserve.

Erik: I was looking at some really old cool video game stuff as I may do every once in a while. Everybody's familiar with Pong. You know Pong?

Dan: Sure.

Smitty: P-O-N-G.

Erik: Paddle goes up and down. Pong, yeah. Everybody knows that and that's definitely one of the oldest video games. It's not the oldest. Pong is like the ... What casual people think of as the oldest video game. And then you talk to video game people and a lot of them remember something like Spacewar! . Spacewar! was written in code on a punch tape. I mean, I know you know what punch tape and punch cards are even though—

Smitty: Got some right under my desk.

Erik: And that's how you got online today, is you fed them into your mainframe.

Smitty: No, no. I have 10 more AOL-3500 minute discs left, thank you very much, and that's—

Erik: Trying to burn those up. Yeah. They're all leftovers from 1993.

Smitty: Yes. I got them from the Dallas Texas office. Yes, it was amazing. So, Broadcast.com, you ever heard of it?

Erik: I only use Compuserve. But the mainframe worked a little bit differently. They actually had micro processing available that could take your input and dynamically do some things with it. So it was a little bit different. But, of course, those mainframes took up a warehouse, a room. They were huge. They were massive. It's not something you're going to be able to take home, Pong. You could still ... They could shrink that down, you could take it home. It was done a different way. Around 1975, in Japan, there was a game that was called Western Gun, and it used transistor logic the same that Pong did, but when they were coming over to the US with the game, they decided to make the same game but using microprocessors and chips. So it's called Gun Fight here in the United States. Space Invaders comes out in 1978. I mean, everybody knows Space Invaders.

Smitty: Wohooo! San Fran Space Invaders.

Erik: Wow, that's going to take out my eardrum.

Smitty: Oh, you're so sensitive.

Erik: I know, I know. And then I started thinking about the next step. And I know you remember this fondly. Storing games on cassette tape, magnetic tape.

Smitty: Yes.

Dan: Commodore 64 was that?

Erik: That was one of a few that did that. Yeah, Commodore 64 is probably the most prolific for home use.

Smitty: They were that ugly like weird Manila colored plastic or like off white.

Erik: Oh, yeah. And used to have a sheet of paper because you wrote down, "This game was at this time," on the tape.

Smitty: Yeah.

Dan: Fast forward through it. Yeah.

Erik: And if your counter on your tape player was not set to zero at the beginning of the tape—

Smitty: That's when we all would hit that little button that sticked out to re-zero, the three... And there's only three zeros, of course.

Erik: So then you'd have to line it up and then you'd fast forward until you were just before where it started, type in your load command and then hit enter and it would seek to the beginning of that next—

Smitty: That's the year that pterodactyls disappeared from the face of the earth.

Erik: It feels like it. It feels like it. But in that same era, we went from magnetic cassette tape, which was nice but cheap and had floppy disks.

Dan: You speak for yourself.

Erik: You could now insert your floppy disk. This is where things got difficult though when we talk about preservation, because, Smitty, how were games distributed on floppy disks? Did they come in nice fancy boxes originally with lots of cool stuff or?

Smitty: Oh yes. Yes, I used to venture in Enid, Oklahoma. I used to go venture down to Willow Shopping Center, a little strip mall, and there was a place that fixed computers and whatnot. The same place that fixed my 5200 buttons and they had a pegboard, a cork pegboard with Ziploc baggies with a floppy in them and a handwritten logo and some kind of notes, and then the fancier developers would actually print off a black and white pictures. Something that they made. Put it in the front of the Ziploc bag, and then those were stuck with thumbtacks to the cork board. That's how I used to buy ... Or that's how I saw them distributed.

Erik: That's how everybody used to buy them back then. They didn't stick them in a nice box with artwork and shit. They didn't have money for that or means for that.

Smitty: They made them one at a time at their house.

Erik: That was the coolest thing back in the floppy days though, because you'd walk up and you'd be like, looking at these things and you're forced to either look at those crude pictures and decide or read the titles and go ... Or if you were really lucky, the dude that worked there—

Smitty: Exactly.

Erik: ... knew some shit about it.

Smitty: Exactly.

Erik: He knew.

Smitty: Like Eric would talk to you and he would be like, "Hey, I like that. And it's just like this or that." And then you had a moment to say, "I like you Gun Wars and stuff like that."

Erik: And then you'd pay your 10 bucks and—

Smitty: Like the word of mouth, though. I mean, that is the most organic guerilla marketing you could ever achieve right there.

Dan: Now this is really in the era before video games were mainstream. This is like pre Atari.

Erik: Well, it's still even into like the mid '80s, we were still like this.

Dan: But the computers were not as big like the, Macintosh hadn't come around yet or had just came out.

Erik: Even Apple IIE didn't really take off at a house. It took off in schools and academia.

Dan: Yeah, I remember having Apple IIE in my class and we would play games on there.

Erik: Right.

Smitty: And it was in the library. And that's where ... but rarely did you see an Apple IIE, and someone ... My cousin Brad, had an Apple IIE at home, the founder of a game company. But that's the only guy in my whole life I ever saw with an Apple IIE in their house.

Erik: And they were not cheap. At the time they were not cheap.

Smitty: No. And there was no internet, hello. I mean.

Erik: In 1976, the Fairchild Channel F comes out and that actually was the first home console to have cartridges with their own circuits on them that contain the game and had their own actual chips on them. And, of course, a year after that, Atari comes out with the VCs, the 2600 and just blows it up and becomes cartridge time. Everybody knows those. Everybody had a Nintendo, or an Atari or something that did cartridges after that. And then, of course, what was next? What comes out after cartridges? Optical discs right?

Dan: Sega CD is the earliest time I remember playing. I wasn't a computer guy, didn't have a computer, but as far as the consoles go, my friend had a Sega CD. And that was the first time I remember playing video games on a CD system like that.

Erik: But you know—

Dan: ... blew me away.

Erik: You know the optical discs were invented in the late 60s and actually put into use in the 70s.

Dan: I did not know that.

Erik: Yeah, they've been around for a lot longer than their practical use, but, of course, they were super cheap to make compared to the cartridges. And you could store—

Dan: Really?

Erik: Oh yeah, and you could store more data on them too.

Smitty: And they were supposedly less destructible.

Erik: Which is now turned out to be not so true.

Dan: Not even close.

Erik: I do want to say though, and I dug this up, I actually had to do the research on this because I want to figure this out. The first computer game, I'm going to blow your minds twice in different ways, the first computer game on the Macintosh, not the PC, the PC actually didn't have the first computer game. The Macintosh had the first computer game on a CD. It was called The Manhole.

Smitty: Oh, I thought it was called Terminal Velocity. The Manhole, sounds like we're in the wrong podcast.

Erik: I know, right? I know. That was 1989. But that was not the first game on CD. The first game on CD actually came out a year earlier than that in 1988, and that was on PC Engine, which in the United States is known as the TurboGrafx 16. The Turbo CD had Fighting Street.

Dan: And Fighting Street was—

Erik: Fighting Street was a name used to avoid a copyright clash with Street Fighter.

Dan: No kidding.

Erik: The first game, I'm not even joking. The first game on CD ever—

Smitty: Was a rip.

Erik: ... Was a rip of Street Fighter.

Dan: Was it pretty much the same game? Was it exactly—

Erik: It is the exact same game as the first Street Fighter game.

Smitty: But dude, does that not define the video game business? You know what I'm saying? The first the game out was— 

Erik: Was Fighting Street. See, we talked about this and you look back and you think about what we do. We're preserving all of this physical, the same physical media.

Smitty: Was bring back Fighting Street.

Erik: Yeah, no kidding.

Dan: Next release.

Erik: So, it's easy to go back and capture discs and cartridges and stuff, and it's easy even to go and hunt down an odyssey, or a Pong machine, that type of thing. I mean, they're still out there. You can still find them. You can still collect them. It's a lot more difficult in some of the cases when we talk about some of the floppy disk stuff or the cassettes, because they didn't come in a box. They were stored, tucked away. And then you asked me what I did with mine. I chucked those things years ago. I do regret doing that.

Smitty: They were heavy. Eventually you're like, "I don't want to move this box too."

Erik: And we weren't thinking about preservation back then, man. We were just enjoying the games.

Smitty: Well, and honestly, a lot of it we were told was trash. It was blah, blah. It could be reused. And I mean, not to talk about tapes, but I mean, just talking about VHS tapes.

Erik: Yeah, just right over the thing. When you're done, you don't want that anymore.

Dan: I had a question about the disc versus cartridge thing, because we saw in the '90s it really everything went discs and we had the PlayStation. We had the Sega Saturn, we had the Dreamcast, all CD-based, and even the GameCube. Now, there was the N64, which was still cartridge-based. Maybe, I don't know if you're going to cover this in your documentary, Erik, but I remember at the time my friend getting a N64, and the big selling point was, "There's no load times. It's awesome. I can just plug it in and play." And that was a big selling feature for the cartridge. But I was like, "Why are they still using cartridges?" I thought that was so weird that they made that choice to use a cartridge at that time.

Erik: Well, ultimately, the partnership that Nintendo had with Sony had failed dramatically. That's why we ended up seeing recently that Nintendo PlayStation, the one that then partnership, that prototype that sold for buttload of money. But they left off of that and went to Philips and worked with Philips on a partnership. And ultimately, that's how Philips ended up working on the CD-i. And they had a couple of really terrible Zelda games on that thing.

Dan: That's right? Yes. I remember that.

Erik: And I think Hotel Mario might even be on that or—

Smitty: Hotel Mario.

Erik: Oh, there's a couple of really bad Mario games on that thing too. But yeah, they stuck to their guns with this cartridge thing going into the 64. And in one way it killed them. But in another way yes, you're right. There were some serious advantages to doing that expense, however, it was something that hurt them. Cartridges were more expensive than the discs to make. You could press discs way easier, way faster and way cheaper. But cartridges to chips and plastics and all kinds of stuff to put together. At the same time, yeah, easy load and fast. You didn't have to wait for level one and then wait for level two and that type of thing.

Dan: And in those early days, that was really a bad aspect of that. Then they went to those weird little discs of the GameCube, what’s up with that?

Erik: Well, it's just another attempt by them to both trim costs and apply some copy protection to that. Because the whole bay for the GameCube was small. And so, you physically couldn't stick an entire full-sized disc in there. Eventually, they came out with burnable Mini DVDs too. So you could go and burn one with the right tools and stick that in your GameCube and go. Plus, in Japan, they had something called the Panasonic Q, which is basically a GameCube that's a little fancy, plays DVDs, and it accepts full size discs. So people start looking at that as, "Oh, can we use that to do some stuff?" But yeah, Nintendo just has this weird relationship with copy protection and pirating and that type of thing. And some of that—

Dan: They're trying to protect their games from being pirated basically.

Erik: And I understand that. I get that, but it's a cat and mouse game. But—

Dan: Well, now they have these little tiny little cards for the Switch, right? That's a whole different thing. Is that a cartridge? Or, what is that? Is it another version of the cartridge?

Erik: Well, it's a cartridge, ultimately. It's a circuit board with a chip on there with data on it. But I was looking at this from the idea of this preservation. We talked about how much we want to preserve as collectors, and even what we do when we talk about Special Reserve, we put together a nice package, or a package that's tactile that you can feel, and you can touch, and you can experience something. I'm sitting here staring at some of the boxes that we've made. And I think of the experience of when it finally arrives, and I'm able to open that up. And it's something that I get to do one time for each of those. But I can keep reliving that by sticking it up here and looking at it. And it reminds me a lot of what it was like when I was young. And I'd get that game. I'd go to the mall with my dad and be like, "All right, son. You get to pick one game today." Choose wisely. And I'm standing in front of a wall of games. What do I pick? Do I get the thing that I've never seen before? Do I get the thing that my friend told me? Do I get the thing that's on a sign out upfront, this brand new one? What do I get? And then you take it home and you rip open the plastic, and rip open the box and getting through that manual on your way home. All that feeling though, that whole experience, and that preservation of that. We're not just preserving the code on a piece of media. We're preserving the experience. We're preserving the feeling. If this goes away, if this dies, this idea of being able to take home your media like that, and we talked about what's coming in beyond, what happens. How do you get a game on your phone? How do you get a game on your PC nowadays? And how do you get a game on console a lot of the times? You download it, what's that experience like?

Smitty: The onset of digital downloads and SSDs instead of a disk. I mean, amazing loading times, blah, blah, blah, damage. You don't have to carry around a small zipper bag of games, whatever. Get it. But, it all goes back to that one thing that one of my vendor said, right? And he said, we were trying to just talk about what we're doing at Special Reserve by building these special physical versions of these great digital games. And we say it that way, because it is that way now. It didn't always used to be that way. But he said, "I talk to people about printing and the value of a tangible asset in your hand. And they always say, "Well, what's that worth?" And he says, "Well, I could just have a digital download of it. Anyway, what's the deal?" And he goes, "Well, tell me how much the Mona Lisa costs. How much does a JPEG of the Mona Lisa, how much is it valued at? What's it worth?" Nothing, but what's the Mona Lisa worth? That's the difference. The picture of the Mona Lisa is worth nothing. But the actual Mona Lisa is priceless. It's invaluable. It's one of a kind. So it's not like, "That's what we're making with these games." But kind of, because each one of the games that are being made are these developers’ Mona Lisas. I said this before in a previous episode, I'm sure I talked about it all the time. That this may be the only time that this one particular set of people, this one particular individual, the time is right whatever, would even get to make this one particular game. That is a "Mona Lisa of video games" Or it's just a great game. It doesn't matter. It's just a great game. It's only that most people never in a million years would even get the opportunity, nor have the skill set to start and finish a game.

 

[BREAK]

 

Dan: It's story time with Smitty.

Smitty: Dan it’s just you and me. I don't think you've heard all these stories. Erik's heard all these stories at least eight times. That's why he's going on AFK here. Well, my first girlfriend in second grade was named Susan Towson. Oh, wrong story, right?

Dan: Yeah.

Smitty: Well, I don't know, Dan, we've talked a little bit about a few things. Do you want to hear stuff about games or rock and roll or just personal?

Dan: Well, they're all a little bit personal, I would assume. But I remember you in passing at one time telling me that you had taken a trip to South America for some reason? And that sounded intriguing to me. So let's hear about the South America story.

Smitty: I did take a trip to South America. Specifically, we landed in a Asunción, Paraguay. I visited Buenos Aires.

Dan: When was this?

Smitty: This was 2012. Yeah, 2012.

Dan: The year the world was supposed to end.

Smitty: Yeah, that's right. Two years previous in 2010 I had the H1N1 swine flu.

Dan: Oh shit.

Smitty: Things that I remember. Well, it was weird, because to go on this tour, I was on a concert tour, and I had a partner on that tour, a guy named Matt Sorum who was the drummer from Guns and Roses, Velvet Revolver, drum for the Cult. Man, Matt Sorum is just one of the nicest, sweetheart dudes I've ever met in my life. It's hard to believe he's in the rock and roll business because he's such a nice guy.

Dan: That’s why he’s still alive.

Smitty: He's got something, just starting this off, Matt has something called Adopt the Arts out there. And without going into it, look up Adopt the Arts, specifically in California, but he's got a great organization with goals that helps arts in public schools. But Matt had a band that he was ... It was like a corporate band where they had some all-stars that would play all the time. And so, he had Steve Stevens, who was Billy idol's guitarist and also played with Michael Jackson and wrote a record with Michael Jackson. And, of course, he had Duffy and Duff McKagan and Gilby Clarke from GNR. He had some just amazing friends. He introduced me to some of the greatest rock stars I've ever ... Well, the guys I grew up listening to. So anyway, there was an opportunity for me to be a part of a concert tour that went to South America. It was supposed to be about a 21-day tour. We were gonna hit several countries, and each night was about two and a half, three hours long. And what it was supposed to be was, one band that was an all-star band. They've played all the greatest tunes from the '70s, '80s, '90s. But it was played by the people who wrote them, sung by the people who sang them. And so, on that tour was Gene Simmons, Joe Elliott from Def Leppard, Glenn Hughes from Deep Purple. And we had also a Mike Inez on bass from Alice in Chains. Billy Duffy on guitar, Steve Stevens on guitar, Gilby Clarke on guitar, Duff McKagan also on bass. And we had this amazing band, I mean, one of the greatest bands you can ever imagine. And then you've got Gene Simmons out singing Kiss songs. You got Joe Elliott singing ... We had to actually beg him to sing Def Leppard songs because he really wanted to sing Mott The Hoople and Bowie. That's all he wanted to sing.

Dan: If you make your life — you play those songs all the time. You can't imagine how many times you must have played those songs right?

Smitty: Well, yeah. How many times do you think he has played Pour Some Sugar On Me? How many times? Now, Joe told me some crazy stories about the times that Pour Some Sugar On Me was top 10. And, my, my, my rock star. And so, boy, if you grew up watching MTV and seeing those live videos, especially the Def Leppard videos, everything was true. I'm just going to tell you all your fantasies and dreams about what was happening, and it was all absolutely true. But so we had this great tour. We had a private charter jet. It seated 64 people, just a mere 64 people. We had the Gene Simmons family jewels, road crew and film crew with us, which was 11 people. And then everybody in the band had their wife or significant other with them. There weren't kids or anything, but a couple tour managers, and had a couple Navy SEALS. And that was our internal security.

Dan: Why did you have Navy SEALS?

Smitty: Well, they were ex-Navy SEALS, they weren't active duty. And there's a lot of Navy SEALs that when, I mean, they are the elites and they are a brotherhood you wouldn't believe, and they deserve all the respect you can ever give them. And they stick together. And so, after, I guess they serve, a lot of them do go and serve different kinds of security details. Some of them ... I mean, you've heard of companies like Blackwater and things like that, got a bad name for the wrong reasons and a lot of ways. But people don't realize there's a lot of bad, bad people in this world, and a lot of bad, bad things happen in this world. And I guarantee you, there's a lot of good, good people, and a lot of good, bad people that protect you. Just like, "You can't handle the truth. You judge me. I sit on the wall." Man, there's a lot of truth to that, because I saw it firsthand. I'll tell you that the guys that took care of me and took care of all of us, and actually saved my life and saved many of our lives on that tour, literally, were guys that, they had methods that if you were going to judge them on paper, these would appear hardcore. You'll be like, "Is that a good guy or is that a bad guy?" You're like, "No, it's a good guy who's willing to put his life on the line to save your life no matter what it takes." So, sometimes it ain't like you see on the movies, kids. But, so I was on this amazing, had this opportunity, this tour took about nine months to put together. We raised millions and millions of dollars to take this ... Well, not millions of millions, but I mean, it took several millions of dollars to actually get this whole thing started, pay everybody, rent the jet, get overseas. And the one reason I talked about the weird thing on swine flu was, I had to get a yellow fever inoculation. I'd never even heard of such a thing, had to get a yellow fever inoculation simply because of, if I went from one country to another country, they required a yellow fever inoculation as part of your passport to even get in. So it's like harkens to what's going on nowadays. That kind of idea has been around for a long time. So, we booked the tour, we did a lot of great pre-press and radio, and we landed in Asunción, Paraguay and the thing was. We would put on a two and a half hour, three hour show. All of a sudden, I look over, there is Sebastian Bach from Skid Row. He joined us to sing the ... So, we just had some great times, and we get to the hotel, and I run into a guy named Abe Laboriel Jr. and he's an amazing drummer. Look him up. His father was an amazing drummer. And I see a couple guys are recognized. I said, "Hey, what are you doing in Asunción Paraguay? And he goes, "Well, I'm playing with Paul tonight." And he said, "Oh, yeah. There he is. Oh, hi, Paul McCartney, how are you doing?" "Nice, very good." And we had literally probably 400 military at one point around this place that security detail was unbelievable. We were in a four or five story hotel, it was the tallest building in all of Asunción for sure. They had a jungle language that they spoke there called Guarani. And that's also the name of their currency, I believe. But I just thought it was so amazing for all those kids, and all those adults to stand out in front of that place. And in one night, they saw the Beatles, Kiss, Guns and Roses, Def Leppard, Deep Purple, they saw all this one night and all those guys I was with, not all of them all the time. And Gene was the most reserved, because he was by far the most pursued by fans, but Duff McKagan would go over there and sit there and talk to fans until they were done talking. He would sign guitars. He thought they were great. I mean, Steve Stevens is one of the most beautiful souls I've ever met on the planet. His wife Josie is amazing. These people were very giving. But can you tell me once in your life where you've ever heard the big tour, and that's something on Paraguay. This is probably the first time any of these kids and people had ever even seen anything like this kind of tour. I talked to kids on the ground, and parents on the ground. A lot of parents were bringing their young children to these shows. And in some conversations I had with Gene Simmons, which is just so cool to be able to say that flying around on a jet with Gene Simmons, we talked about. But he was very, very touched at the number of parents and then they would bring their children to the show. And so, they're introducing a whole new generation which is now technically a third generation of Kiss fans, being introduced here are fourth generation. I know. Sorry, Gene, if I got that wrong. But it was really amazing to see that how this music was multi-generational. And especially in South America, it was almost religious, because the first show In Asunción, you know how people will sing along to lyrics of every concert? They sing along to the guitar riffs, and they sing along to the guitar solos. So like when we played Sweet Child of Mine, the whole crowd was going "Ah ah ah" They were in unison, singing, I get chills just talking about it, because it was amazing to look out on 15,000 people standing in front of you that yesterday — I think we played on a polo field. We were on a polo field. They had a polo field there. And these crazy old concrete stands that looked like they'd been there for 100 years, and it was just insanity. But it was beautiful, just amazing. And we had a great show that night, and we jumped on a plane and went to Argentina, and went to Buenos Aires. And we went to this hotel, and it was just ... It had a 20 foot wall around it. I didn't understand it. I mean, I learned a lot about South America there, that it's different than America. Each country is its own country. Boy, oh boy, oh boy, is it ever? And they don't necessarily want to be friends. And their soccer teams are definitely not friends. But everyone was so passionate about the music. And a lot of them have the same stories of, "It took me three months to save up just to come see this concert.” And we were like, and they were serious. These weren't people trying to get backstage with the sob story. This was story after story. And so, what I came to realize was South America was run a little bit different especially from this side of the business. Each one of the promoters down there, they were hustling baby. They were all independent promoters ... There's no Live Nation or AEG down there. They were trying to get in and they would get in, but most of the countries had their own Ma, and Pa, if you will, promoters. And so, those guys are hustling. But what it also tells you is they've got a lot of personal money on the line, and they have personal interests that their entire year is probably this concert. I found out Ecuador and other countries, they have laws on the books that if you sell a good or a service to a fellow Ecuadorian, and you don't deliver on that good or service. Let's say you booked a concert and that concert gets canceled and you have taken money for that, you have to return all that money. If not, you face going to jail until you pay back every penny of that money. You don't hear about that going on in America. Here, they cancel concerts like that, willy nilly. They ruin entire households, but not over there. There, they hold every person accountable for every single penny right there as long as they don't have corporate whatevers. But it's not all shady business down there. It's a lot of very personal business. And so, they don't let a lot of stuff slide. And so, I will say that by the time we got to Lima, Peru, and man, I got one of my greatest buddies. I know you're not listening to this, but Alberto … Alberto was the promoter in Lima. And he had some great sponsors. He showed me around, and he was just a wonderful guy. We had an assassination attempt on ... Well, at first, it was a guy that was involved with the booking and the promotion of our actual tour who had a dispute with several other promoters in South America as to how he had sold maybe this tour to them. They possibly hadn't fulfilled their obligations to the tour ahead of time, and their show had gotten canceled, and their deposits had gotten retained and kept as part of the legal agreement they had signed. And so, some of those people when you're talking about $400,000, they're going to let that go. And some people show up with knives and try to stab y'all in the lobby of the hotel when you arrive.

Dan: Is that what happened?

Smitty: That's what happened.

Dan: Oh, my God.

Smitty: I had those two ex-Navy SEALs with us. And I don't say ex, because they are Navy SEALs forever.

Dan: Right. But they're not serving anymore.

Smitty: Yeah. I just want to make it clear that we didn't have US military with us. But those two SEALS, one of the key things here is they were part of different SEAL teams that worked with the White House and whatever administration they were under at the time to do different missions, training missions and things like that with other countries. So, they had trained every single security person that we had in Peru and Argentina and Paraguay, they were very large security details, 30 and 40 people security details that we hired and we paid for, or the concert paid for to watch us. I mean, we had 11 to 16 vans just to move us from place to place. We had no less than 11 sprinter vans just to move our party. And so, it was like a small military operation every time we moved just to get all the vans to all leave the concert venue and arrive at the hotel at the same time. You can't, you can't lose a van of rock stars in South America.

Dan: No, but what you're describing to me, have you seen Jack Ryan? The series on Amazon?

Smitty: No. Uh-uh no.

Dan: This is season two of Jack Ryan. In South America, it's all the same shit. It's exactly like this. Traveling as a convoy down the—

Smitty: Yeah, there was no military escort either because that would draw attention as if we didn't draw enough attention. So those SEALS had trained. And I'll just say hey to them. Hey, Rob. Hey, Sarge, I love you. And I miss you.

Dan: Is that the Sarg? Is that where the Sarg comes from?

Smitty: No. No, not at all. In fact, he is the exact opposite of a female St. Bernard. He's a bulldog, man. He's a mother scratching bulldog. But anyway, they had trained all these different security guys. And so, and these were also the only people down there around us that were allowed to carry guns. We certainly weren't allowed to carry guns or anything. So you should have seen some of the things in our pockets. I mean, ooh, scary stuff, like needles on needles on rings. I mean, like weird, crazy things. I was scared to death, I'm going to be honest with you. About half the time I was petrified while I was down there. I had never experienced anything like this. And so, when they had these other security detail, they would usually be on the ground a week ahead of us arriving. When we landed, we were handed an envelope at the airport that had all of our key cards for our hotel. We were all pre-checked in. All the rooms had been checked, everything had been checked. Your luggage goes in another van, not with you. And the luggage gets delivered to your rooms and stuff for you. There is no, "Everyone pulling their luggage and checking in." That does not happen. The deal is, we go right to the hotel, you go right to your room, everyone's safe, everyone's accounted for, your luggage is there, Bing, bang, boom. And then they control the movements. It's pretty serious. And it's a lot of what they call high value targets in that type of tour. I mean, Gene Simmons alone is, his net worth is astronomical. And so, the fame. And then, keep in mind, everybody has their wives, their girlfriends with them. They don't want them hurt. And we had a film crew with us. We had a film crew — Hello. So, anyway, we found out that there was a problem in the tour. And that it was coming from within the tour, and we had to get that person dissociated with the tour immediately, and that happened. And so, there was a person that left the tour immediately and left the country immediately. And that was the target of the original attempt, and then, there was Rolling Stone article written about it and I found out by reading that article. I didn't even know this, that during that time, there was a negotiation being made that in Argentina, not even Peru, but in Argentina, there was a negotiation being made with, let's just say a cartel down there, that was planning to bomb our hotel, kill several others and kidnap the others and get that money back. I was unaware of this, completely unaware of this. And so, I was almost murdered the first time in Argentina by someone threatening that may or may not be associated with the tour, who may or may not have had an armed guard right there with them with an oozie under their shirt, that was Russian and absolutely going to shoot me. And then we get to Peru, and that person's off that tour, and people are still looking for their money for the shows that got canceled, and guess who's number two on the tour? Guess who did all the visa clearances and who's 6'4 and stands out like a sore thumb? Me. So there was a murder attempt on my life, and then I was sent to my room. I mean, I couldn't come out of my room. We had an armed guard on the floor. There was, I couldn't leave my room without a SEAL. I had to have a Navy SEAL. One of the two guys escort me out of my room. And so, the only time I was allowed to leave from that point was to go from my suite, which thank God, I had a suite, and I ordered all the expensive food I could. I ordered lobster, duck l’orange, both, like, "Which one's the appetizer?" I was like, "If I'm going to die, I'm going to die happy." But literally, they would take me down a different elevator shaft. We'd meet up with the tour in the basement, where the parking lot was. We'd go, right. And then we'd go to the concert venue, and most of that was locked down in a lot of ways. Yeah, it was very scary. And we were only spending just a few days in each one of these countries. So, you literally have no time to get your bearings or anything. So, I was 100%. My life was 100% in the hands of those two SEALS, and some really great tour managers as well. Like Gooch was out there with us. I mean, dude, that son of a bitch was a real deal. He was the Smashing Pumpkins tour manager. He was a tour manager for Kiss, I mean, these were some, OGs. And I think if we didn't have that many OGs involved, I wouldn't have come back.

Dan: I want to know in detail, how did they make the attempt on your life?

Smitty: He was going to stab me in the chest with a giant Bowie knife.

Dan: Just walking by you in the hotel lobby or whatever?

Smitty: Right. Mm-hmm. Yeah. They wanted to kill you in front of everybody. And they wanted everybody to see it. The guy screamed ahead of time. He wasn't—

Dan: Well, that's a dumb move. What are you doing, man? You can't announce your ... Maybe it's an honor thing or something, but you announce your presence to everybody, and—

Smitty: Yeah, well because what we realized was that there were additionals, what they considered assassins that were already registered and guests of the hotel. So, we couldn't lock that. We did lock down. The hotel got locked down. Trust me, the head of the security of the hotel was standing right next to me in about two seconds. And yeah, the regular patrons of the hotel would never have known what was really going on. And they would have really not ... Other than there's a crazy amount of rock stars in the lobby. But like they didn't know that we went on code yellow, locked down ... I just made code yellow up, but that there's a security problem like that. And so, it was just strange. So, we didn't really know ... Like I said, I learned a lot about what was really going on afterward. If I hadn't known what was going on, Oh my gosh, I would have gotten my ass out of that country. I would have used my credit card and maxed it out to get the very next flight out of that country. I mean, I'm not in for kidnapping and all that kind of stuff. And then when I got back to America, I had a couple of brushes with some very potential deadly situations, because, I mean, people know how to get on airplanes and fly to other countries. And so, that was honestly the end of my idea of being in the music business at that level. I had done a lot of things. I'd worked with like Erykah Badu, I'd worked with Prince and Prince twice, Snoop Dog, Dave Chappelle on multiple occasions. I got to be friends with Questlove, work with other guys like Derek Trucks, just amazing. And all these incredible guys that were involved with Kings of Chaos, that's the name of the band, by the way. I should name the band, it's called Kings of Chaos. But back on that tour, it was called the Rock and Roll All Stars. And the name got changed from the band Rock and Roll All Stars after that tour because the name was tainted. So really, that tour got cut short, and I will say in closing on this, that every single guy named on that tour cared more about the fans coming to those shows than their own pocket books in a lot of ways. They really, really did. And they were making promises to other promoters like, "Hey, we'll come back. We will come back and try to make up these shows that got canceled and stuff." So the tour ended on a bad note and, I mean, a couple of murder attempts will end a tour quick, I think. Right?

Dan: Yeah, no kidding.

Smitty: Well, honestly it wouldn't have ended the tour. Trust me, most of these guys, they were like, "Yeah, okay."

Dan: There wasn't an attempt on their lives. I mean, what are they going to do? They weren't the ones—

Smitty: I mean, I think they'd been there, done that.

Dan: I guess, yeah. Not surprising at all.

Smitty: I mean, Gene Simmons himself actually helped negotiate with one of the promoters who had gotten his show canceled. He negotiated to try to help the guy. I mean, Gene stepped right in there's as a business guy to try to help. And so, it was quite an eye opening experience for me, because I grew up listening to that music. I have my own fantasies about that world of Rock and Roll. I mean, I'd seen, I've been involved with a lot of live shows, but not an international Rock Star Concert Tour and a private jet. I mean, and I'm talking about a big jet with all those bands. That's movie stuff.

Dan: Yeah, that's big time.

Smitty: That doesn't happen twice in your lifetime for sure. And so, I learned so much. I was so green. I was so green and such a baby in a lot of ways. And boy, oh boy, that was another one of those things that showed me how much growing up, if you will, I had to do, how many sad lessons I had to learn about the world and evil people and greed. And then for a little while it ruined me on music a little bit. It took away some of the way I appreciated music even. And so, I don't recommend that anybody go through what I did. I mean, I wouldn't say I would, you know what I mean? I'd do it again because I didn't die and I don't have any scars that are visible from it. But it is one of those things I would have tried to do a little bit differently.

Dan: Sure, wow.

Smitty: That's a story time with Smitty right there. That went from right up there to cool to oh, that's dark.

Dan: Wow. That's incredible. Thank you. That's crazy. That's a good one.

Smitty: That's a good story time with Smitty. We'll do another one one day when you guys want to hear another crazy story.

 

[BREAK]

 

Dan: Speaking of Mona Lisa's, I don't know if I'm going to say, I can just cut it out.

Erik: Too good not—

Smitty: That has to be in there –

Erik: That has to be in there. It has to be said, these games developed, these are the Mona Lisa for these developers. This is their passion. This is their creation, and it's certainly something—

Smitty: Mother Russia Bleeds!

Dan: Certainly sounds just based on what you guys have said about this game in the past, it sounds like this is another case of just a labor of love in this game that you guys are releasing now on ... Is it for PS4 and Switch or just Switch?

Smitty: It was originally just going to be for Switch just simply because we didn't know if there maybe would be an appetite for this physical game. You always kind of have to ... Just because it's a great game and it translated well digitally does not mean it's going to be a superstar seller physically. It just may not have an appeal to certain collectors for whatever reason. And sometimes it's just timing too. So, the developers behind Mother Russia Bleeds, great group named Le Cartel, and Le Cartel is based in the country of France and they are not Russian. And so, this is very much a game they created. They most recently, also through Devolver Digital had put out Heave Ho, which was what we would consider the complete and polar opposite of Mother Russia Bleeds. It's not even—

Erik: Two different worlds.

Smitty: Yeah, one's a monopoly and the other one is a motorcycle. You know what I'm saying? Not even the same right. And so, Mother Russia Bleeds is been one of those games that ever since Special Reserve Games came to be, we're talking that we're in just now in our fourth year. I mean, we're not even four years old. That Broforce, Enter the Gungeon. Some of those were the, when are you going to do that? When you are going to do that? So Mother Russia Bleeds, I was actually introduced to Mother Russia Bleeds that way. I didn't really know about it. When it came out at Moore, I was introduced to it by fans. And so, how cool was that? That's half the point of some of what we do, by the way and why I always love the idea of developers and their Mona Lisas, helping expose consumers and fans to other developers. And their Mona Lisas, just like what we were talking about earlier, going into the oldest store where the guy selling you the software would give you a recommendation. That's what this is in a way. It still has that brotherhood and that sisterhood, if you will. But anyway, where were we?

Dan: Mother Russia Bleeds.

Smitty: Mother Russia Bleeds, it's one of those games that it's ultra-violent.

Erik: That's maybe one way to put it.

Smitty: It's a pixel art. It is fun, fun, fun.

Erik: It checks all the boxes, man.

Smitty: Yeah.

Dan: It's a beat-‘em-up game much in the style of Double Dragon or Streets of Rage, but much gorier than those games could be. Those games could have a lot of blood or anything like that because they had to be sold to kids. This one is not for kids. It's for adults. I'm watching some game play footage of it right now. Well, and then there's, even though it's like choking a guy out here what's going on?

Smitty: Oh, yeah, yeah, absolutely. But there's characters ... There's real, actual, there's discernible, good guys, bad guys. There's some really great characters in there too that I think are a little iconic here, and they're easy to identify with also. So, it's not a fantasy game. It's very much steeped in reality in many ways. And then, I guess we'll call it fantasy violence. If you want a good laugh, just go read the ESRB descriptors that go along with the mature rating for it. And it takes up the entire space. I get them off and read them later. It's almost like that should be the marketing ad for the game, whatever is just the mature rating.

Erik: We've talked about how difficult it can be to write stuff for ESRB ratings to pass those and get those done. This one, although violent, it's very straightforward. What's happening. So it was probably really easy to write that particular description down, and look, "Yeah, this guy's grabbing them and choking them out." Yeah, we're going to get that M rating.

Dan: Oh my God, what's going on in the background here though? Holy crap.

Smitty: Well, I'm going to say this, this ain't for the little kids.

Erik: No.

Smitty: That mature rating. I mean, if you—

Erik: They earn that.

Smitty: Yeah, they earned it. So, there is content there that is certainly not meant for a young child at all really. I mean, I'm an old man saying that, but come on, man, you don't need to see everything until maybe at least 13.

Erik: Exactly.

Smitty: I mean maybe 12. So Mother Russia Bleeds is something that we've been able to work directly with Le Cartel, of course, that we're so lucky to be able to work directly with each developer, gotten some great key art. We've gotten sprites for every single character. We're going to be able to put out some, looking at doing some lenticular stuff. I don't know if it's actually going to work out or not, but I'm trying to do some lenticular cards and lenticular stickers since we have the sprites for every single character, then that will lead to a really, a crisp and clear step and lenticular to one, two, three, four, so I can have three movements and it's going to look pretty crisp. With My Friend Pedro, when we did lenticular cards — that thing is such a fast-moving beautiful game ... and it didn't lend itself too well to chopping out frames out of 50 frames that I had in a second to look at, to take six frames. And that's what makes it a lenticular card. So, anyway, not to go down the lenticular highway here, but there's a lot of cool things that we'll be able to do with Mother Russia Bleeds with a physical presentation through the reserves, and some of the accessories that go along with it that totally accentuates some of what I consider cutest, coolest bonus things about this ultra-violent, crazy game, the character movements and the design that was intended from the developers. A lot of that's going to be translated into the cover art, the jacket art as well. We're going to have multiple jacket art and cover art versions that may or may not ship with it. There's a lot of cool things I hadn't ... I haven't said, it's not settled science, so I don't want to really talk about it and get recorded saying it, because I'm going to change my mind on this tomorrow. But it's coming out June 23rd, we're going to have a set number of units for both switch NPS4, and our partners at Limited Run Games are also going to get an alternate cover variant from us that will be like the switch single we did with Hotline Miami, same kind of idea where they have the single, we have the reserve, if you will. And so, we get more of the box, and maybe the additional accessories through the Special Reserve. But June 23rd is when that sale's going to go live on specialreservegames.com. And, of course, all our sales go live at high noon, Texas time. That's 12:00 PM central -5 GMT. It's a great game, so we've been able to work on this for a little bit and honor it the way that we should with the great packaging, the sequential numbering, the amazing reserve box, some great art accessories around it. And just an honor again, to Le Cartel for trusting us to take their amazing, Mother Russia Bleeds a Mona Lisa, and make it a physical forever and ever, and ever.

Erik: I'd like to remind everybody that if you follow us on Twitter, so twitter.com/special reserves, you will be able to catch further news on this as we release further details. And then, of course, the best way, come join our Discord server. So discord.gg/specialreservegames, and you'll be able to be one of the first people to hear all the juicy details that somebody wants to share.

Smitty: And if you're old school, you can sign up for our newsletter on our website.

Erik: That's right.

Smitty: We have a newsletter sign up right on our specialreservegames.com website.

Erik: Shout out to Jay Ball.

Smitty: Yeah. Jay Ball does a lot of great writing for us. Shout out to Amanda as well and—

Erik: On the Twitter and Instagram?

Smitty: Right. And the Gram Gram, we call it.

Erik: The Facebook, Facey space.

Smitty: Yeah. And then you'll always see Eric in Discord. You'll also see me, I'm under ask Smitty and Discord. And in fact, most of the crew from Special Reserve is in that Discord because let me just say how much I love Discord and whoever the people are that made Discord and run Discord, thank you very much. I want to tell you, I run my entire company through Discord. We share screens. We do collaborative design. We're on Discord right now. Yeah. Recording. And then we can take all of that. What the magic, magic of this for me is, we can be in the middle of a creative idea, Erik and I can be talking about something, a contest, anything we want to do, we can, in real time, go over and touch our people, especially the Dogfathers, which is the elite group in our Discord that helped boost servers. And they participate at a high level. These are super amazing people and really a lot of fun to talk to, by the way, so jump in there just for that. But the technology to be able to go and talk to our fans or somebody else and just take their temperature, do a poll, ask a question, and then go right back into the creative meeting and never leave the creative meeting at all. There's a lot of abilities to connect with other people, to use entertainment as a way to bring people together. But it also helps me a lot in designing products and designing things, and then being able to speak to people one-on-one about them. And then it doesn't feel like we're running a bunch of marketing ads and buy this, buy this.

Erik: Yeah, it's not official. No, we're being genuine.

Smitty: We're like, "They're in the mix. They're a part of the product design."

Erik: Absolutely, they are. Absolutely.

Smitty: A lot of the people in the Discord, you see it Eric all the time. I have load pictures from the printer, or when I get a print press backward, when I get press I'll ask, "Hey, do you guys like breads and figurines?" So, all that stuff comes into play all through Discord. Anyway, big shout out to Discord. Hopefully that was a five minute ad for you.

 

[BREAK]

 

Smitty: It looks like we're out of time. I've talked a lot. You've listened a lot. Thank you, Dan, for always helping with the great production and being a great voice on the show. Thanks to Erik, collector's corner and everything he does. And my story time with Smitty, you actually made it through. So we'll do it again. But right now it's officially ...Game over.