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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Spy Hunter Lives!

I've had this sitdown Spy Hunter cab since 1999, when IBM closed down the Taligent offices in Cupertino. The cab was apparently DOA for several months before I rescued it. After opening it up, I found one of the beer-can-sized electrolytic capacitors in the power supply block had blown-up, spewing sticky brown acid into the bottom of the supply. The failure sent a jolt which fried the Power Supply board, main CPU board, and toasted the monitor. It must have been quite a sight to whomever was playing the game at the time, probably a loud bang, and then plume of smoke.

I've been working on restoring it on and off (mostly off) for the last 7 years. I rebuilt the power supply with a switching PS and new harness, replaced the monitor flyback, horizontal transitor, and then recapped the monitor PCB. I aquired a used/working CPU board-set from another collector in San Francisco. But for the longest time, I just could not get the sound or controls to work.

So I decided enough is enough, and dedicated the last two weekends to finishing this project! I bought a new MCR Switching PS from wizzesworkshop and threw out my homemade harness, and sure enough I now had sound with battery backup as a bonus to save scores and analog calibration settings. There were still issues with half the sound effects being distored, and the analog board being dead. I must have swapped out every chip on the SSIO board before realizing the boards were from a standup Spy Hunter model, which has only 2 speakers, so the sound connector is different than my sitdown 4-speaker wiring. After rewiring the connector, sound was solved, although there is still a sizable hum coming from the switching power supply. I don't know why, but the analog controls magically started working after I realized the star-grounding cables were not hooked up to the dual amp boards. Unfortunally this did not fix the loud humming. Last thing was to replace 3 flurecent tubes and starters.

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Anothing thing I discovered, is that the cabinet was made from parts of other cool arcade games at the time (apparently this is pretty common). Under the main flooring you can see graphics for a Star Wars upright. And inside the bottom of the seat, Discs of Tron. Both awsome games in their own right.
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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Eugene Jarvis

This past weekend I met one of my all time arcade heros, Eugene Jarvis. Eugene, and his partner at the time Larry Demar, were the primary developers of William's Robotron and Defender/Stargate.

I grew up playing Stargate at a local arcade in the early 1980s with my best friend. And let me tell you, we wasted a TON of quarters on this game. Stargate was THE most complex game at the time (and probably still today!), with its 6 buttons, 2-way joystick, and extremely manic style of play. I think the average play time of this game was roughly 2-3 minutes per quarter (for a beginner). I distinctly remember staying away from Robotron, as that game was even harder, and eat about 1 quarter every 1-2 minutes! I cursed these games more times then I care to remember, and vowed revenge every time we ran out of quarters. Well now I have the last laugh, as I bought both of these cabinets around 5-6 years ago, and play them whenever I think they need a good spanking. Well, actually, these games still kick my ass, but at least I'm not wasting any more quarters. :-)

Eugene gave a talk at this years California Extreme (the West coast's largest arcade and pinball show) and I was determined not to miss it. Now before the talk, this very talented guy (Jean Baudin) was warming up the audience playing a very strange guitar which had 11 strings! It had both bass strings and regular guitar strings on a single wide neck, and he played it with two hands like a piano. What made this even cooler, is that he was playing classic video game music tracks, like Nintendo's Mario Bros!
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Checkout the inlays in the fretboards. In the first pic, you can see a Pac-Man inlayed in a guitar on a stand to the right, and the second pic is a closeup of the guitar he was playing, which had a nice Joust inlay. Very cool!

Eugene then gave an hour long talk on how he came up with the idea for Robotron, went into detail on the programming/AI involed, and answered questions from the audience. He also pointed out several bugs in his code which were NOT fixed since they added some interesting gameplay mechanics (made it HARDER!). He is a very animated speaker, and a true pleasure to listen to. If you ever get the chance, pickup the PC CD-Rom "Williams Arcade Classics" as it containts video footage interviews with Eugene, Larry, and a few other Williams developers that echo the same excitement these guys still feel today when talking about their creations.

After the talk, I ran into Eugene on the CA Extreme show floor, and watched him play a few rounds of Robotron. I then talked to him for a bit about the manic nature of his games, and that in Japan today, some companies are still releasing 2D manic shooter games (like Cave). Knowing vertical shooters are still a niche market, I doubt he would ever think about producing one himself with his current company Raw Thrills...but if anyone in America could pull off something like this, he could.
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(if you couldn't figure it out, thats me on the left, and Eugene on the right)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Video Junkie

Props to Bloodflowers (on the shmups forum) for digging up this classic clip on youtube. Whats scary is that I didn't look to different from that kid back in the early 80s. :-) Good thing I have a well paying job to support my habbit now!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Dreamcast 9-9-99

The movie "The Omen" wasn't the only thing to capitalize on a special date (6-6-06). My beloved Dreamcast was released on 9-9-99. I still play my DC more than my PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube combined. Maybe its that the hardware is still used in Japanese arcades today. Or maybe its the style of games which are still being released today for the DC! Or maybe its just the cool ass commercials.

This was one of Sega's 9-9-99 launch commercials. Notice the armband the thief is wearing; Sega's slam to Sony, for being first to market before the PS2! Also, in what could be seen as a strange forshadowing, at the end of the commercial Sonic slips off the top of the console and falls flat on his face, loosing all his rings (typical of loosing a life in the sonic games).

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

DDP 2nd Loop

I started playing DoDonPachi again, and finally made it to the 2nd loop with the >50M requirement! I nobomb nomiss'ed up to the end of 1-4. Finished the 1st loop at 52M with 2 ships in stock. Finally died at area 2-3 with a score of 61,891,740 (max hit of 279).

I posted my last highscore back in December.

6/9/06 Score update: just made it to level 2-4 with 74,010,010.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Pacman at the Library

I may be oldskool, but Pacman just ain't my bag. Although this is too funy to pass up!

Monday, April 03, 2006

No Pants Allowed

Ran across this today on the shmups forum, and it is a bit dated (being last summer), but worth mentioning. Barcade (located in NYC) hosted a "No Pants Allowed: The Underwear Arcade Video Game Gathering", blog entry here, and flickr photos here.
Warning: links & images are not exactly work safe (PG-13).

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Two projects completed

Lack of updates to my blog should indicate my work/life job balance has been leaning almost entirely on the work side of the equation. But I had managed to finish two projects which I began back in December (mentioned in my 12/19 blog entry). I finished repainting the Sega Astro City 2 cabinet, and also finished routing a new control panel/table.

I completely disassembled this cabinet (almost every single screw came out except for two which were stripped :-( ) and repainted the inside and outside with Krylon Fusion spraypaint. Although this stuff is supposed to make a molecular bond to any type plastic, it does not bond well to fiberglass. :-( So I'm not too happy with the outcome, but looks nice for now.

Before (yuck! check out the mold under the control panel):
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After (clean as a whistle):
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Here is my completed console control panel project. Disregard the masking tape on the top, its there because the hinges currently have a problem when I open/close the top. Should be fixed soon enough.
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[update]Here is a pic of the panel with hinge from homedepot.[/updated]
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Friday, February 24, 2006


Icycalm has been on a role recently, now with a writeup (here) of another Cave fan favorite ESPGaluda. Warning, this review assumes you have prior knowlege of Cave's earlier work, especially ESP Ra. De, which ESPGaluda is loosely based off of. It also goes into detail on the play mechanics which can be pretty deep/complex.

I hope he doesn't mind, but I've blatenly stolen his banner, as a tribute to this awsome arcade game (which I do have in my collection). I'll put back my banner in a week or two. :-)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Ibara Black Label

Icycalm has another report from Hey Arcade, this time on the Ibara "Black Label" location test. Checkout his Insomnia website for details, along with a 169M video walkthrough of Hey Arcade!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Ibara 2 (Pink Sweets) and Trigger Heart Exelica

Hey Arcade, and Club Sega are two of the biggest and most famous arcades in Japan. And Icycalm, from the shmups forum, is our inside man in Akihabara Tokyo, getting some pics and movies from both of the two location test sites for Cave's new Ibara 2 (Pink Sweets), and Warashi's Trigger Heart Exelica.

You can read about Icycalm's expierence on his Insomnia website. Don't miss some of his previous posts on imaging Tokoyo or Yokohama wide-angle lens.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Shooter Parodies

As pointed out recently on the shmups forum, 1up has published a nice 3 page article on shooter parodies, titled "Schtick 'em up: What happens when a straight-laced genre gets weird?" . The first paragaph puts my passion for arcade shooters into perspective:

"Shooters are the foundation of the video game industry, dating back all the way to the 1960's with Steve Russell's classic Spacewar. Since that time, the genre has been responsible for bringing much depth to the world of interactive entertainment, popularizing vital concepts like the power-up and the end-of-level boss which are still used in many of today's greatest games."

To quote again from the article, here is the general idea behind shooter parodies:

"In the early 1990's, the designers at Konami felt like having some fun at the expensive of its first shoot-em-up, the genre-defining Gradius. They whipped up this spin-off which replaced the killer satellites, the laser cannons, and the combat droids of Gradius with waddling penguins, fifty-foot tall Vegas showgirls, and treasure chests loaded with hornets."

Its nice to read today's gaming journalists still acknowledging the shooters genre, much less the small faction of shooter parodies. A fun read, which even has a reference to my favorite defunct TV show Futurama!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Build Your Own Piece of Crap

There is this fantastic site that I've been a part of for over 5-6 years now, called Build Your Own Arcade Controls (BYOAC for short). Pretty much the place where Mame cabinet building started on the Internet. Tons of FAQ's, message boards, and a project pages - all on how to build, fix, or modify arcade cabinets. Well someone decided to go through all the user submitted projects and critique the worst cabinet designs (31 reviews in total so far). I'll start you off on #4 as the first three are just too lame to only gets better from here.

Warning: some foul language is used, but honest/funny feedback none the less.
(click on the "next" link at the bottom to go to the next review)