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October 2003 News Archive

10/31/03

A Halloween Treat
For those of you who are dying to hear sound in Armor Attack and Tail Gunner, but who aren't comfortable with recompiling your own copy of MAME, Twisty has created a new version of SmoothMAME with sound support for Armor Attack, Sundance, Tail Gunner, and improved sound for Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. Well worth the download if you're a fan of these games.

10/30/03

Three Light GunsLight Gun Shootout Finished
The RetroBlast Light Gun Shootout is now ready for your viewing pleasure.

The review compares the ACT-Labs PC USB Light Gun, the Lik Sang PC Super Bio Gun, and the Lik Sang PC Virtual Gun, taking into consideration the performance, style, and overall "fit and finish" of each gun.

Sure, they've all got lousy names, but are the guns as bad as their names? The results were a mixed bag, but I do manage to crown a "champion" out of the three. Check out the review to find out more.

Light Gun Review Update: Got Any Questions?
I've been getting a lot of lightgun questions today, everything from how does the trigger feel on each gun to how bright the "flash" is. I'm going to try and collect all the lightgun questions I get over the next day or two, then update the review with as many answers as I can come up with. If you've got a question about the light guns not answered by the review, email me and I'll see what I can do.

"Share the Wealth" Coming Soon...
Like I hinted about earlier, I'm working on something I've code-named "Share the Wealth" (can you tell I'm lousy with surprises? ;-) I'm still trying to work out all of the details, but I plan on starting things up by next weekend. I'll post more about it once I've figured it all out myself.

10/29/03

ArcadeVGA Rocks...
Just wanted to post an update on my continuing adventures in setting up "arcade perfect" video on the Wells-Gardner D9200: the ArcadeVGA video card from Ultimarc is proving to be invaluable. I've been experimenting with different video cards, trying out programs such as AdvanceMAME, and in general tweaking everything to get things as close to the original arcade display as possible.

Now that I've gone up the video learning curve a bit, I'm getting great pictures out of the AVGA card, easily the best of all the different display tweaks and video cards I've tried. I've found that the AVRES utility for the ArcadeVGA card doesn't always pick the best possible video mode, but with a little manual tweaking I'm getting fantastic screen displays.

Light Gun Shootout Almost Finished
I'm just putting the finishing touches on the MAME light gun "shootout" review, and I should have it done tomorrow before lunch. I'm not sure if I'll have a video with this review yet — I had a lot of problems with the guns while filming, so I'm going to have review the footage before making a decision (irony: guns that don't like to get shot ;-)

10/28/03

Sound in Armor Attack!
This is cool beyond words for those of us who have warm memories of the old Cinematronics vector games: the ASTGL project has added sound (via samples support) to Armor Attack! Even better, work is ongoing for sound support for another favorite of mine, Tail Gunner. You'll have to recompile MAME .76 with the new source files, but if you're a fan of these old games, it's worth it. Thanks to MAMEworld for this exciting bit of news.

ACK (Another Cool Knob)
The New SlikStik KnobThose of you who have followed this site since it was known as the "MAMEframe Arcade Machine" already know about my ever-growing spinner knob collection. Well, another one will be added soon: SlikStik just sent me pictures of their new spinner knob, an original design with unique rubber grips on the sides. Christian at SlikStik mentioned that the knob will be available in all of their standard anodized colors.

The new knob is about the same diameter as their current "standard" knob (1 3/4"), but is slightly taller. I'll let you know how it does in Tempest as soon as I get my hands on one...

10/27/03

"Son of MAMEframe"
I just received some nice drawings of the MAMEframe-inspired arcade cabinet project currently underway by Steve Lilley-Hopkins (author of the great MAMEWAH front end!).

The "concept drawing" looks great, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it works out. He's planning on having swappable control panels, so it'll keep more of the classic Atari System 1 cab profile than the MAMEframe did.

I've always loved the sleek shape of the Atari System 1 cab (which was used in games such as Marble Madness, Indiana Jones, and Road Blasters). This cab looks like a good reproduction of all that was right with the System 1 design. Good luck, Steve!

Light Gun Testing Underway
In other news, the light gun "shootout" is underway, and I'm hoping to have everything finished in a day or two. I'm a bit disappointed in some of the results, but I've actually got an idea that may allow me to have the "best of all possible worlds," at least when it comes to light guns. More on this soon...

10/25/03

"How Far Back is the 4-way Joystick on the SlikStik?"
Click here to see the full size pics!I've gotten this question a number of times in email, and looking at the photos of the SlikStik control panel, I guess I can see where they come from — the 4-way joystick does look far back on the panel when there are no hands in the picture to put things "to scale." To remedy this, here are some pictures of the SlikStik 4-way in use (left and right handed, adult and child reach) (click on the picture to see the full-size snaps)

I've never found the 4-way uncomfortable to reach or use, and hopefully these pics will help alleviate any concerns people have had about it.

10/24/03

Arcade Controller Roundup Article Now Ready
Finally — the Arcade Controller Roundup is now finished and uploaded. 'Nuff Said.

10/23/03

Still Workin'...
This arcade controller roundup is growing out of control! I'm writing as fast as I can, and I still don't seem to be near the end of this review, and I haven't even begun adding the pictures yet. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Update (10pm): Almost there...but I'm too tired to continue. I'll have it finished tomorrow morning, I promise.

10/22/03

Still Workin' on It....
Sorry for the lack of updates, but things have been a bit frantic around here, and it's cut into my "site time" a bit. I had planned on having the roundup done today, but it was a rainy day, and with two young high-energy boys in the house, it meant emergency diversion time. I spent the afternoon introducing my kids to "The Wizard of Oz", and discovered that it's really cool seeing a classic through fresh eyes.

10/20/03

Arcade Controller Roundup Video Preview
Okay, the video preview of the Arcade Controller Roundup is up and ready for viewing. I'm calling it a "preview" because there is just far too much material to try and cover it all comprehensively in just under 5 minutes! The written review will be ready in a day or two, which will go into far more detail comparing the HanaHo Hot Rod, X-Gaming X-Arcade, and SlikStik Classic arcade controllers.

10/19/03

New .76 Version of MAME
Another new version of MAME? Unbelievable, but true (I just upgraded to .75 yesterday afternoon!) As, always, it's now ready for download at MAME.net. It seems to address some timer-related bugs that were causing sound problems, so it sounds like a "must-get" version!

New .76 Version of Univert
In another amazing coincidence, a new update of Univert showed up in my mailbox last night, fresh and tasty and updated for MAME .76 and now available over in the File Downloads section. Marcus Tiller keeps on top of things, that much is certain — thanks, Marcus!

10/18/03

A Freshly Wallpapered Cab
I just got an email from Gary Howard with a pic of his cab after adding the MAME Glowball Wallpaper I posted to the site last week — the desktop wallpaper makes a nice finishing touch, and it's a very cool cab. Good job, Gary!

Back to the Grind (heh...)
Okay, I think I'm on the "recovery" side of this bug, and I'm starting to get my land legs back. I'm currently working on the controller roundup, and am having a lot of fun playtesting each of the controllers.

I'm a bit surprised so far, as my expectations for these controllers seem to have been a bit out of sync with reality. I'm finding positives where I expected negatives, and negatives where I expected to find positives.

I'm hoping to get the review finished this weekend, as long as I don't push myself too hard and relapse (but the games are calling me, they are, I can hear them...)

10/16/03

Roundup Update
I've been working on the controller roundup, but the review is going slower than expected, mainly because I've caught a really, really nasty cold, and...well, everything I do right now is going slower than expected. I'm popping pills and downing tea, and hopefully I'll be able to get the review out this weekend. For tonight, however, the bug wins.

10/14/03

Virtual Gun (left) and Bio Gun (Right)Now That's A Gun!
Fresh out of customs (without setting off any terrorist alerts), it's my order of two light guns from Lik Sang, namely the PC Super Bio Gun and the PC Virtual Gun (where do they get these names?). I'll be reviewing them in the next week or two, and comparing them to the ACT-Labs Light Gun.

The two guns are an interesting mix — the Virtual Gun has a foot pedal and is the most "realistic" looking of the three, while the Bio Gun is practically covered in buttons (and even has a little D-pad!).

Site Business Today
Sorry if the updates are a bit slow — I didn't have much time today to work on reviews due to some site problems. I've still got some calls in to technical support that I'm waiting to hear back about, but hopefully things are working smoothly. If you have any problems accessing the site, please let me know.

10/13/03

Let the Games (Testing) Begin!
I just received the HotRod Review unit, and now that I've got all three controllers (SlikStik, X-Arcade, and now the HotRod), the "Controller Roundup" can begin.

I'll be testing each of the controllers out this week, and hopefully before the weekend I should have the roundup article finished. I'm going to try to cover everything from construction, to software, programming, style, and anything else I can think of to compare.) Looks like it's going to take a lot of playtesting to do the controllers justice...heh...

New .75 Version of MAME!
Wow, I wake up and another new version of MAME is now ready for download at MAME.net. This time it's version .75, and one of the biggest changes is the fact that there are no more "test drivers" — every game that was a previously classified as a test driver is now simply flagged as "not working." Lots of other little bug fixes, and a few new games.

New .75 Version of UniVert!
In an amazingly related bit of news, Marcus Tiller sent me a new version of the Universal Vertical MAME Bezel (UniVert for short), updated for version .75. You know Marcus is on the ball when the first indication that a new MAME release has occurred is an updated version of UniVert in my mailbox! Good work, Marcus, and thanks again!

10/12/03

Time To Play!
Yup, my tour of duty as a husband and painter is now finished, and I can return to my normal adolescent arcade-loving ways. To celebrate, I've just put together a collection of desktop wallpapers with the "MAME Glowball" design. It started as a "quick 'n dirty" graphic just to fill in the marquee on the MAMEframe II until I could design a real marquee, but I liked it so much I decided to make it the desktop wallpaper. The file includes sizes for desktops from 640x480 all the way up to 1600x1200.

10/10/03

Vortex First Impressions
I've got to admit it — as a Tempest fan, I am really impressed with the Vortex spinner. The spinner has a very solid feel, and a smooth spin. It's a great reproduction job by Kelsey of Oscar Controls, and the black oxidized coating is very cool looking. It's everything the original Tempest spinner was, without the wobble. ;-)

New Version of MAMEwah!
MAMEwah 0.962 has been released. Mainly a bug-fix release, but it does include a new version of the layout designer. Check it out if you've got a MAME cabinet and are running Windows.

Workin' for the Weekend...
My wife has let me know, in no uncertain terms, that this is the weekend that we will be painting the family room. In other words, site updates may be a bit slower for the next two days. :-(

10/8/03

The Tempest and Vortex SpinnersOscar Controls Vortex Spinner Has Arrived!
I got a surprise in the mailbox today, the Oscar Controls' Vortex Spinner. And, as an added bonus, there was an original Tempest Spinner (which the Vortex was modeled after) included in the box. Can you guess which is which?

This combination should make for some interesting spinner tests, and I'm looking foward to getting "sucked into the vortex" (sorry, but I had to get the puns out of my system now, before the review! ;-)

Hotdog, a HotRod!
I got some good news last night — HanaHo has just shipped the HotRod review unit I'll be using for the "Arcade Controller Roundup" article I'm working on. As soon as it arrives I'll have all three participants in the roundup (SlikStik, X-Arcade, and now the HotRod).

HanaHo ArcadePC Auction for Charity
HanaHo, the makers of the HotRod, ArcadeWerx cabinets, and the Arcade PC, are having a charity auction for the Sgt. Edward Smith Memorial Fund and the California Highway Patrol 11-99 fund. Sgt. Edward Smith was a gunnery sergeant in the Marines who was killed in Iraq. He was also a part time police officer in Annaheim. Hanaho is auctioning off an ArcadePC gaming system (very nice) that has been signed by a large number of professional baseball players (even nicer!). The auction's for a very good cause, so please check out the Hanaho Charity Event page for full details.

10/6/03

SlikStik Arcade Machine Written Review Now Ready
Okay, first the video, now the more detailed written review of the SlikStik Arcade Machine — video reviews are great for getting a "taste" of a product, but the written review's the full course meal. Excuse me, I'm suddenly hungry...

Confused about MAMEwah?
I love MAMEwah as a frontend for my arcade cab, but I have to admit it's not the easiest program to get up and running. If you're confused, here's a nice site that has step-by-step instructions on how to set up and use MAMEwah. Check it out if MAMEwah has you intimidated.

10/5/03

SlikStik Arcade Machine Video Review Finished
I've just wrapped up the video review of the SlikStik Arcade Machine, a "Do-It-Yourself" arcade cabinet for MAME projects. How easy is it to assemble? Is it sturdy? How does it look? Is it worth the money? Check out the video review!

The written review of the arcade machine will follow shortly, probably in about a day or so.

10/3/03

MAMEframe II Construction Diary Updated
As a "preview" of my upcoming SlikStik cabinet review, I updated my MAMEframe II construction diary with details and photos of the cabinet assembly. I'm planning on working on the review this weekend, and (family willing) I should have it ready by Monday.

10/2/03

PinMAME 1.3 Released!
I'm a die-hard pinball fan in addition to being a video game junkie, so it was exciting news to find out there was a new version of PinMAME released. Even more exciting is the fact that, baring a few obscure tables, the new PinMAME supports all of the major pinball manufacturers. If you're into Visual Pinball, check this new release out.

10/1/03

Controller Roundup Article Delayed
Unfortunately, I'm going to have to delay my "Controller Roundup" article for a while — it seems that Hanaho is currently backlogged with orders for their HotRod controller (and for their ArcadePC Deluxe), and it may be a while before they can get a review unit to me. The comparison review will have to wait until I have a HotRod to include in the "roundup." In the meantime, though, I'll go ahead and finish my review of the X-Arcade controller.

SlikStik Cabinet (And Review) Almost Complete
I received the last pieces of my SlikStik cabinet today, with the exception of the marquee plexiglass (which I'll probably just cut myself). I've got to finish assembling everything, but it shouldn't take long. As soon as the cabinet is complete, I'll start work on the written review — I've already started filming for the video review. Look for the reviews to be ready by early next week.

Joystick Roundup Almost Ready to Begin
I received a number of joysticks for my "Joystick Roundup" review today: a Happs Competition, Happs Perfect 360 optical, Happs Top Fire, Rotary Joystick, and more. I'm still waiting on Ultimarc for samples of their joysticks, and then the review can begin.

Lightgun Roundup Article Coming Up
I've just placed an order for two different light guns from a company called Lik-Sang: the "PC Bio-Gun" and the "PC Virtual Gun". I'm going to try them out, see how they work in MAME, and compare them to the ACT-Labs PC USB Light Gun. It should take a few weeks to ship them from Hong Kong, but I'll post as soon as they arrive.

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