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by Jason Whong

[Warning: The following column may be considered boring if you don't think the inside of the software biz is interesting. But if you're a Mac publisher thinking of exhibiting at MacWorld, or just merely hope to one day own your own publishing label, this article may prove invaluable.]

July was an interesting Time for Ambrosia. It was an interesting time for me. It was just plain interesting.

Some of you may recall that we delayed the Ambrosia Times until July 8 so that we could bring you all kinds of exciting news that we were keeping secret until MacWorld New York. This east coast Mac love-in was held August 8-10 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. MacWorld is a huge trade show with the same name of the famous magazine, and both are owned by IDG.

Oh, and it's also the coolest place a Mac fan can be. Thousands of Mac fans from all over the world attended the show. While I didn't get much of a chance to test my Spanish or Italian skills, I do recall meeting people from Germany and Japan. Luckily, they spoke plenty of English.

This year's MacWorld was the first one that had a special area devoted to gaming. A bunch of serious game publishers were in attendance. MacSoft (the fifth largest MacOS software publisher) had the most floor space, with about 16 computers, and games running on each of them. Bungie wowed people with videos of Myth II. Ambrosia was right next to them, at booth 2013.

(I wonder why they bother to give people booth numbers at a show as large as MacWorld. Nobody writes the numbers on their booths, and the floor maps are so small that many people can't read the numbers anyway. I had no idea what anyone else's booth number was, anyway. But I digress.)

Anyway, soon after we arrived to set up, we met with the nice people from Kernel Productions. Brian Flaherty, the company's President, met us with a handful of hardware. Rounding out the duo was Mary, his partner in crime. Together they would provide some really nice contollers for our booth (can you say, "Mars Rising with RumblePak?"), and hold us together through crisis.

Fans gather 'round to see the Ambrosia booth, right by the entrance to the game area.

Mary and Brian proved to be great friends, and the deal worked out just beautifully. We showed people Ambrosia's hottest titles through the beauty of the JoyPort ADB, which lets you use any N64, IBM, Sega, or Playstation (I think) controller with your Mac, and they helped out with their wisdom and presence, while our booth was absolutely mobbed by adoring fans.

In fact, the friendship we saw from them was evident everywhere; even our competitors were pleased to see us. We spent evenings dining, drinking, and laughing with employees of rival software companies. Everyone seemed to be passing on little tidbits of information. It was like going to Software Publisher's College, with each peer acting as a professor.

But even with this newfound comraderie, I still was faced with an embarrassing situation: It was my first MacWorld. I've been employed by Ambrosia for over a year, and prior to that I had never been to any huge trade shows. There was even a MacWorld DC during a summer when I was living in my native Maryland. Unfortunately, a long hospitalization kept me out of that show.

A blue-haired Jason, flamboyant Matt Walicke, and Michelle, an Ambrosia fan.

OK, I bet you're thinking to yourself that Andrew must be crazy to let someone who had never even been to MacWorld plan and execute Ambrosia's first official presence there. Well, I'd have to agree with you. I had exhibited at a smaller show at my Alma Mater, but that was a one-day affair, and a one-person job. Planning for a major event like MacWorld is a bit like planning military actions, except that your friends don't die when things don't happen as planned.

We were an 11th hour entry to the show roster, signing up just in time to make sure there would be electrical power at our booth. Part of the reason for this tardiness in signing up was because a special deal for MESA members arrived later in the game, thanks to Vinny Salzillo at Double Exposure. It happened just in time -- Just in time for me to plan the presence, execute it, and go insane making sure things were done right.

This fan looks at Cythera on the Twentieth Anniversary Mac.

I think there's a reason most companies commit to exhibiting at these shows 3 months in advance: because they need that many months to plan. In any event, I'd still recommend orchestrating a presence later, rather than never, even if it is a road that leads to a quick burnout.

The night before the show, I sat on the roof of our Manhattan hotel with Matt Walicke, and said to him, "Tomorrow we find out what it was all for." It was an emotional moment for me. My entire existence for the month of June was inextricably tied to the show. Ben Spees and I had worked long hours putting together the frontend for the Ambrosia CD. I had spent hours on the phone making sure we had electrical power, carpeting, tables, a banner, a hotel, phone service, CDs for the store, and everything else. I even sent Matt on shopping trips to get me some 2-wheeled luggage carts, and emergency parkas in the event that we should have to load or unload in the rain. We didn't end up using them, but then again, most people don't use their airbags, either.

A Blue-haired Jason, stylin' Ben Spees (the creator of Harry), and Matt Lee, an Avara.com admin.

Anyway, Ambrosia's presence was awesome. Tons of people visited our booth; crowds several people deep were standing in the aisles to see our wares. Andrew's and my 20th Anniversary Macintosh computers were on display, running Mars Rising and Cythera. Ben Spees took great delight in showing a pre-alpha of Ferazel's Wand, a truly exciting game that I'm glad he's making. Glenn Andreas even dropped by for a short appearance one morning before the show.

Matt was there, being his cool self.

Ambrosia joined a cadre of elite software publishers by exhibiting at the show. But MacWorld is more than selling, or proving how big and bad your company is; it's also a show of support for the MacOS. Ambrosia is very serious about the Mac, and our presence verified that.

In all, it was an awesome experience. Although not everyone gets this kind of opportunity (except for maybe planning a wedding), I'd highly recommend it, just for the experience.

Apple showed off Mars Rising on the iMac, with USB controllers! Unfortunately, they didn't register it. :(

It might just change your life. I looked at how well we'd done, at how well Ambrosia looked, and I thought to myself that if we could pull that off, anything would be possible.

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