The DARTSLIVE USA kickoff at the Tartan Pub in San Bernardino, CA marked the beginning of a new era of soft tip darts in the USA. Many players traveled from far and near to participate in this highly anticipated event and become the first players to play a US tournament on the new DARTSLIVE machines. I had some extra travel miles and points available, so I decided to make the trip and see what this was all about.
As I boarded the plane for my departure, several questions came to mind like, “Would the DARTSLIVE boards live up to all of the hype and my personal standards for quality? Would I enjoy playing on the DARTSLIVE boards? Would I get to meet and talk with the senior DARTSLIVE representatives? Would this trip be worth taking and would I enjoy myself and have a good time?”
My flight from Houston to the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was great because the seat next to me was empty. Usually, I’m sitting next to a very large person who is overflowing into my seat area and it makes a long trip last even longer. Lucky for me, this was not the case this time.
After landing at LAX and sorting out my rental car, I programmed my GPS with the hotel address and I was on the road by about 3:30pm local time. Traffic was very heavy and slow. It took 2.5 hours to reach my hotel, which was about an hour longer than I had expected. I unpacked my things and began relaxing in the room and my phone rang. It was Tsuyoshi Yamasaki (President, L-Style Global Inc.).
Tsuyoshi was en route to San Bernardino and I agreed to join him and his lovely wife Rachel for dinner. Tsuyoshi said to meet him at the Tartan Pub because Chris Lim (Champion Darts) was joining us for dinner and Chris was still at the pub working on getting the boards ready for the weekend. This was fine with me as it gave me a chance to familiarize myself with the route to the pub and I would be one of the first players to see the new DARTSLIVE boards. I grabbed my darts and jumped back in the car for a short 30 minute drive to the pub.
Upon arriving at the pub, I met Chris Lim and his brother Michael. I immediately flashed back 20 years to the time when I first met their famous father and friend, Paul Lim. Time sure does fly. The Lims run Champion Darts & Games, which is a dart board operator and vending games provider in San Bernardino, CA. Chris and Michael were responsible for setting up all the DARTSLIVE boards and running weekend tournament. Also on hand to help were Honda and Toku, two friendly DARTSLIVE guys that came from Japan to help start-up the business.
Upon walking into the dart room and seeing the DARTSLIVE boards, the first thing that I notice are the colors of the face of the board. Upon closer inspection, I notice that all the segments in the face of the board are made from a white, translucent nylon material. These white nylon segments dynamically transform into different colors via LED lighting that is controlled by computer chips inside the board. The primary colors on a ‘lit-up’ board are red and blue like in this picture. But these colors may change throughout the match, depending on the game (i.e. cricket, ’01) that you are playing and the match circumstances of your turn at that specific time. The lighting for the external face of the board comes from the two vertical panels on each side of the board. In this picture they look like white colored plastic panels, but these are actually large light panels which are illuminating the board. This lighting is superb and it goes well with the white nylon board face and dynamic LED lighting behind the segments of the board.
After throwing a few darts at the board, I could sense a noticeable difference between these DARTSLIVE boards and the Arachnid boards that I’m used to throwing on. The impact sound was different, the darts went in easily, and the darts were also easier to remove. I also had almost no segment bounce outs. This could be due to many factors — brand new boards, improved hole design in the segments, material used in the segments, etc. I realize that spending only 2 days throwing on these new boards was not enough to draw any scientific conclusions. But aside from that, I know that these boards look, feel, and sound uniquely different and I enjoyed playing on them very much.
The display monitors used on top of the boards are high-quality DELL monitors that are capable of displaying cool animations, excellent graphics, webcam streams, photos, etc., all of which are controlled by the board’s internal computer chips and powerful software. This comes as no surprise as DARTSLIVE is the product of a collaboration with SEGA, a large Japanese computer and video games company. The DARTSLIVE board has all the traditional soft tip games that US players are accustomed to, and several new types of games. These boards also have the capability for you to compete live, against players in a different city and/or different country. Both players can see each other on their display screens through the use of webcams that are mounted inside the DARTSLIVE boards. Imagine going to your local pub and challenging somebody in Japan or Spain and being able to see them too.
This sounds really cool, but what is the caliber of the person that you’re about to play? Would the games be competitive or would you get crushed? Are they a Grand Master, a AA Pro, or just an average player like yourself? Could they fake their real ability and lure you in for an ugly beating? Although nothing is totally foolproof, DARTSLIVE has a very good way to address these questions through the use of DARTSLIVE player identification cards.
The card on the left is a special limited edition DARTSLIVE players card that was created exclusively for the US kickoff event at the Tartan Pub in San Bernardino, CA. Although it is a real card that can be used, I purchased it as a commemorative collector’s item. The card on the right is the players card that I use. These cards came in many different graphic designs. I chose the skull and crossbones design because it looks cool. When you first buy a card, your personal information and your card are registered into the global DARTSLIVE system. If you lose your card, you can buy a replacement card and have your information assigned to your new card.
Whenever you play on a DARTSLIVE machine, you place your players card into one of the four (4) card reader slots located below the face board. This instantly identifies who you are and it allows the tracking and storing of your game statistics into the global DARTSLIVE database. Your player statistics are accessible when you play on any DARTSLIVE machines around the world. Using a web browser on any computer or smart phone, you can log into the DARTSLIVE website with your PIN number and access your playing history and statistics. On this website, you can also see information about other DARTSLIVE players. With this ubiquitous connectivity, not only can you see how well others have played, but you can also see exactly when and where your friends are playing on DARTSLIVE boards around the world. Two other features of note are — a points system which adds points into your personal DARTSLIVE account each time you play and these points can be used to buy various things, and a special DARTSLIVE social network that has features like other popular social networking sites.
You’re probably saying, enough with the DARTSLIVE infomercial. How did the kickoff tournament go?
The blind draw tournament on Saturday was targeted at the higher ranked players of 7 or above and the Sunday event was for 6 or below. I don’t play in Medalist or NDA so I have no idea what this numeric rating means. I played on Saturday and there were approximately 60+ players. The format was 701 (stacked, fat bull, master out), Cricket (20 turn maximum), Choice. I drew a good partner from the area, Joe Barcenas, and we had a great time. I played really well in some matches and only average in other matches. I think my partner would say the same about his game. But that didn’t matter because together, we played well enough to sail through the winner’s bracket and into the finals.
After a poor opening turn in the finals 701 game, I got myself back together and I refocused for the rest of the game. I then stepped up for a look at 167 and I checked it out with Bull, T20, T19. Booyah! The following Cricket game was a battle and it was very close. Our opponents missed a crucial shot at the end and this gave me a chance to finish the game. I needed 3 Bulls to win the game and I finished with DBull, DBull to win the game and match. Sweet! I was extremely pleased that we won the kick-off DARTSLIVE tournament.
I had dinner twice with Steve Ngu and the others over the course of the weekend and I spoke with Steve about his vision and the future of DARTSLIVE in the US. Steve has ambitious plans and I am confident that he has the drive and the resources to achieve his vision. I left California with a good feeling and a sense that good things will be coming to US soft tip darters soon.
Thanks go out to Champion Darts & Games (Chris & Michael Lim), Tartan Pub, Honda and Toku (DARTSLIVE staff), Paul Lim, Steve Ngu and the rest of his DARTSLIVE team for this kick-off event.
Be sure to check back often as I will post more DARTSLIVE news as it unfolds.