August 2003 News Archive
Mutant Storm Review
My review of Mutant Storm is now available on the Product
Reviews page. The game is an interesting fusion of modern 3D-graphics with
old-fashioned 2D arcade "blast-em-up" gameplay. Does the mix work?
Check out the review.
If you've tried to visit the Lazarus
site to find a source for MAME ROMs, you've discovered that the site is
down. I don't know when they'll be back up, but in the meantime another good
source to get a full set of ROMs for the MAME emulator is the FreeMameROMs group.
Check them out!
It looks like it will be a week until I receive a replacement light gun from
ACT Labs, but in the meantime I'm working on reviews of Mutant
Storm and the Virtual
Music Jukebox software. Look for the Mutant Storm review in a day or
Ultimate Arcade Plans Review Updated
Scott Glazer of CyberTech Designs (MAMERoom.com) sent me a new "Details
Supplement" document that will be included with MAMERoom's Ultimate Arcade
plans. This 10-page document provides high-resolution drawings and measurements
of each of the cabinent's pieces. It addresses the one negative I had with
the plans, which was the lack of clarity on some of the drawings. I've updated
the Ultimate Arcade Plans review
ACT-Labs Light Gun Review Delayed
Due to a defective unit, I have had to delay my review for a week or so until
a replacement unit can arrive. You know, I've had more hardware failures
on the MAMEframe II project than I've ever had before on any PC-hardware
related project. Hopefully the end result will be worth it, and this isn't
a bad omen of things to come...
D9200 Review Updated
I've just updated the Wells-Gardner D9200
review, adding in my experiences with the D9200 board failure and Wells-Gardner
tech support. If you're considering buying one of these monitors, you'll want
to check out the updated review.
SlikStik Stainless Steel Joysticks Review Updated
Another update — I've updated the review of the SlikStik
stainless steel joystick handles to include my impressions of the new ball-top
version, and my results with using the replacement springs provided by SlikStik.
Sigh...Light Gun Problems
Yet another obstacle in my quest for gaming nirvana — I'm having troubles
using my new ACT-Labs light gun. It works as expected in 800x600 resolution,
but if I switch the display to 640x480, I get a solid black or white screen
(depending on the video card being used.) Since my D9200 monitor's "native" resolution
is 640x480, this presents a problem. I'll post when I have some more news,
good or bad, from ACT-Labs.
Balltops Video Review
The video version of my review of the SlikStik balltop stainless steel joystick
handles is now up and ready for your viewing pleasure.
The written version will be up soon.
Overall, these are a nice, shiny way to improve the
look of your control panel, and they even come with extra-strong springs.
Did I like these joysticks? Does an Enforcer lead with his shots?
The Repaired D9200 ROCKS!
Even Better Results — I just downloaded the ArcadeVGA
AVRES utility, which goes into your MAME folder and automatically configures
all of your games to run with their proper original resolution on an ArcadeVGA
card. Basically, you turn off hardware stretch, run this utility, and presto!
Every game looks perfect. Amazingly clean, crisp graphics, bright colors, everything
just looks marvelous. I'll be updating the D9200 review with my new findings
right after I finish the:
SlikStik Ball-top Joystick Handles Review
Is under way. Look for the video and written reviews in a day or so. I'm actually
behind on my reviews because of the problems I've had recently with the system
(a dead hard drive, a problem with the ArcadeVGA card, a few reinstalls of
Windows XP...it all ads up!) I'm working at catching up...
I've finally gotten the ArcadeVGA card working on my new system, with the exception
of the "half-screen" BIOS setup display. Andy Warne is looking
into the matter, and I'll keep you updated on what he finds out. In the meantime,
however, I'm really enjoying the ArcadeVGA card. The D9200 and the ArcadeVGA
were definitely made for each other.
Well, after I got the main board swapped out on my D9200, I almost immediately
noticed that the VGA picture was much sharper and cleaner than it had appeared
when I first got the monitor. I suspect the board was marginal from the beginning,
so in many ways it's a good thing that it died an early death. I'll be updating
my D9200 review soon with my new findings.
It's Never Easy...
I just lost the hard drive in the new MAMEframe PC, an 80-gig Maxtor I've had
less than a year. This is my first hard drive failure in nearly 10 years,
but of course it had to come right after I got my D9200 monitor repaired
and my light gun arrived! At least my new motherboard's SMART controller
spotted the problem and warned me about it before the drive died.
I had hoped to have the ArcadeVGA card reviewed by now, but I'm still having
some problems with it. Basically, in certain on-screen modes the bottom third
of the screen is "chopped off," with no way to resize the screen
to view the missing real estate. Andy Warne has not had anyone else with
this problem (just my luck), but he's looking into it. In the meantime, I'm
using a Geforce3 card on the MAMEframe II.
Finally, after 12 hours without power, the lights came back on at 4am today.
You really don't realize how addicted you are to having electricity until
you lose it — I kept flicking light switches all evening! Well, at
least I can say I survived the "Great Blackout of 2003"...
Labs Light Gun
I was trying to post this news yesterday when I was interrupted (by a complete
and total loss of power!), but my ACT Labs Light Gun arrived yesterday. I haven't
had a chance to test it out yet, but it looks nice.
Hopefully my D9200 repair parts will arrive today,
as I'm dying to try out some light gun action on a 27" screen! Look
for a full review in the next week or so.
Well, my D9200 repair parts did arrive today! I did manage to swap out the
main board on the monitor without killing myself with the big red wire (20,000
volts!), and after a call to Wells-Gardner tech support, I managed to get
all the little cables and wires reattached in their proper place (I had plugged
one cable into a normally unused socket). The monitor is working once again,
but I immediately ran into problems with my ArcadeVGA card. I'm working out
the problem with Andy Warne of Ultimarc, but the bottom line right now is
that I'm still without a properly working system. Nothing's ever easy...
Review of MAMERoom Ultimate Arcade Plans
The review of the CyberTech Design Ultimate
Arcade plans is now ready in the Reviews section (Sorry,
no video review this time, I just couldn't see videotaping a stack of papers!).
I was very impressed by the thought and attention that went into thse plans — check
New MAMEWAH Release!
Looks like Steve is at it again, with a new release of MAMEWAH.
If you haven't yet done so, check out this MAME front end. It's my favorite,
and it really has become so customizable in the last few releases that even
if you don't like it "out of the box," you can tweak it until it
looks and acts just the way you want it to.
Update for Mutant Storm!
Looks like a day for updates — one of my favorite "modern" arcade
games, Mutant Storm,
has been updated to version 1.3. This update is critical for me, since it adds
mouse control to the menus (Version 1.2 was unusable on the MAMEframe because
you couldn't remap the keys used in the menu screens, even though you could
remap the game keys!) If you're a fan of Robotron-style dual-joystick mayhem,
you owe it to yourself to try out the demo.
A Moment of Silence, Please...
It's been one of those days — my D9200 arcade monitor just died! Wells-Gardner
is shipping out a replacement chassis and board set, but that means I'm going
to have to play electrician and do a board swap when they arrive. Time to go
to Arcade Controls and
learn how to safely discharge
XP Activation Hassles
I've also been fighting with installing Windows XP on the new gaming system.
Nothing like having to call Microsoft and beg to get your legitimate, purchased
copy of XP activated: “Yes, this copy of XP home is on a new computer.
That's because I removed it from the old computer and replaced it with XP
Pro. No, there are no other installations of this copy of XP...” Next
time I'm tempted just to get a pirated copy so I don't have to deal with
The new SlikStik control panel is very, very nice — it's got a lot of
little improvements over my previous Slikstik CP, from a different style of
black formica (not as susceptible to fingerprints), very clean internal wiring,
improved fit and finish all around, and more. The changes are evolutionary,
not revolutionary, but it just goes to show that there isn't much room for
The new SlikStik ball-top stainless steel joystick
handles are also very nice — they're lighter than the original
SlikStik pear-shaped joystick handles, and they have an amazing mirror
finish. They also came with replacement joystick springs, something that
Christian says will be standard on all future SlikStik joystick handle
Between the lighter weight of the ball-tops and the
stronger springs in the Happ Perfect 360 optical joysticks used on my
new control panel, I don't think I'll need to use the new springs at
all, but they're going to be useful when the steel joysticks are used
in the regular Happ Competition joysticks.
Yup, my new custom-layout SlikStik panel arrived today. It's basically a minor
variation on the SlikStik Classic design, moving the spinner to the center
and adding a top-fire joystick (for games such as Battlezone, Tron, and Discs
All the parts of the MAMEframe II cabinet are now here, with one notable exception...the
cabinet! Christian at SlikStik is still working out the shipping and packaging
deals for the cabinets (they're huge, heavy, and hard to transport, so it's
got to be tough working out shipping arrangements!)
In the meantime I'm going to use the time to setup
the new computer that will be used in the cab. Look for some more reviews
in a few days, as well.
Hidden D9200 Setup Options!
Phil LeMieux (Aceldamor on the BYOAC Forums)
has sent me a Word document from Wells-Gardner that details a hidden “Factory
Menu” on the D9200 that includes some extra color adjustment options.
The file is available in the Files Section. Thanks,
Imagine how the game Asteroids would look if it had been developed by Eugene
Jarvis and Larry DeMar (creators of Defender, Stargate, Robtron, and other
classic Williams games). Now imagine they were high at the time they created
it. The result? Spheres
of Chaos, a head-trippin', pixel-pushin', color-blastin' version of Asteriods.
Please, do not do drugs while playing this game, as they are completely unnecessary!
Wells-Gardner D9200 Review is Ready!
My review of the Wells-Gardner D9200 arcade monitor is finally ready — if
you're building a MAME arcade cabinet, this display deserved some serious consideration.
Check out both the video review and the written
The Product Avalanche Begins
I received my new motherboard and CPU today, and also got news that my new
SlikStik unit has been shipped. Almost everything I need for my MAME cab
is now here or on its way, with the notable exception of the cabinet! I've
got an ACT-Labs lightgun coming as well, so it looks like there's going to
be a lot of reviews soon.
D9200 Almost Done
Speaking of reviews, the video review of the Wells-Gardner D9200 monitor is
almost done, and I should have the written review finished in a day or so.
Just a few finishing touches...
Please pardon all of the broken links yesterday. I made some changes to the
site, and later decided to "undo" those changes. Unfortunately,
Dreamweaver thought it was smarter than I was and didn't restore all the
files I asked it to. It's fixed now, but if you run into any 404 errors,
please let me know.
"New" SlikStik Underway
Well, the SlikStik crew is already hard at work on my "new" custom
SlikStik design, which is actually just the same design I used on the MAMEframe.
At least I've already tested this design, and know it works. Hopefully no more
control panels are destroyed because of my mistakes!
Ultimate Arcade Plans
I will be reviewing the CyberTech
Design "Ultimate Arcade" cabinet and controller plans in the
next week or so, just as soon as I finish the D9200 review. First impression?
Very detailed and thorough, with lots of illustrations. I'll write more once
I've had a chance to really go over them.
SlikStik Panel Almost Finished
Just got word today from Christian at SlikStik that
my custom-layout control panel is almost finished. They were apparently in
the process of putting in the joysticks and buttons today, so hopefully that
means I'll be seeing it fairly soon. I'm planning on doing a review of it — it
will be interesting to compare the new control panel with my original SlikStik
Classic that I reviewed last year.
And Then Things Began to go Horribly, Horribly
It was too good to be true — sometimes, despite all the planning, something
goes wrong. My custom SlikStik design looked great on paper, it even looked
great when the top panel was routed and all the holes drilled. It wasn't until
the SlikStik crew actually put in the joysticks that some bad decisions became
painfully apparent. My new design just won't work. Period.
I've gone back to the tried-and-true, my self-modified
SlikStik Classic design that I used on the MAMEframe:
It's identical to my original design,
aside from some different button colors and different types of joysticks
(Perfect 360's vs. the Competition Joysticks in the original unit). Unfortunately,
this sets back the timetable a bit, but only a little.
Okay, the PC part of the MAMEframe II is on its way — an Asus P4PE Black
Pearl motherboard, a Pentium 4 2.66ghz processor, 512 mb of PC3200 DDR memory,
and a Samsung 16x DVD / 48-24-48x CD-RW combo drive. I'm now also waiting on
a custom-layout SlikStik control panel, and I ordered a new white LED cluster
to illuminate the trackball on the SlikStik as well. I'm going to be getting
a lot of visits from the UPS man in the next week or so!
MAME ROMs on DVD
part of "starting fresh" on the MAMEframe II, I decided to
give away my full .59 MAME CD set and all of the following update CDs
(it was a stack of CDs over two inches thick!) and I'm replacing all
of those CDs with a full .71 set of ROMs on 3 DVDs. I picked burner Don
S. of the Lazarus
Group, but you really can't go wrong with any of the Lazarus burners — they're
great guys, and it's a wonderful service they're offering.
MAMEframe is gone!
It had to happen — first someone buys it, then they come and pick it
up. Still, it's a very depressing thing to watch as strangers put your pride
and joy into the back of a pickup truck and drive off. At leat it went to a
good home — the buyers are an entire family of arcade game players. That
doesn't mean I won't miss the MAMEframe. I've had to console myself by placing
an ever-growing amount of online orders for parts for the upcoming MAMEframe
Finally, after weeks of delays, I've got a new review up and ready.
Limited SmartStrip is a powerstrip with an interesting twist. Check out the written
review or jump over and catch the video
of the SmartStrip in action.