January 2004 News Archive
Just a heads-up. I'm going to be offline for a while. I'll post when I feel
Coin Door Light/SuperBright LEDs Video Delayed
I swear the universe has it in for me. All I had to do yesterday was finish
the narration for the new coin door/super bright LEDs video, and I end up
getting the flu and losing my voice! I may release a "narration-free" version
sometime today, and then finish it up later when my voice returns. Or I might
just sleep. We'll see...
MAME .79 Released!
Sorry, I haven't had a chance yet to dig into it and see what's new, but it's
ready and waiting for you over at mame.net.
Univert .79 Released!
Ever vigilant, ever efficient, Marcus Tiller watches the ever elusive MAME
release and keeps his "Universal Vertical Bezel" up to date (can
you tell I'm running a high fever right now? ;-) Anyway, Univert has been
updated to version .79, and can be downloaded from the Retroblast
John's Retro Arcade: Cool Custom Gaming Electronics!
I got an email from John Lundy pointing out his custom-designed circuit for
interfacing a real pinball plunger with Visual Pinball. Not only that, but
his web site, John's
Retro Arcade, has a lot of other neat electronic "hacks" that
he's invented for MAME cabinets, including an LED driver board, and an upcoming
4/8 way joystick circuit. Very cool stuff.
Testing, Testing...Is This Thing On?
I swear the Internet is a living, breathing entity, one that knows what I am
doing and is hell-bent on thwarting my meager plans. Every time I try to
post a new review, my ISP has an "issue," (such as, apparently,
the new MyDoom virus) and I'm suddenly scrambling to find some other way
to get back on the Net and get my files uploaded. (Luckily, at least my hosting
service has been very reliable!) If you're reading this, then I've succeeded — enjoy
the new articles!
Updated update : My Internect connection (via
cable modem) now back up (apparently, it was some sort of provisioning
error.) All is well, at least until the "cable" light goes out
A new RetroBlast review, this time of the LED products available at SuperBrightLEDs.com.
I finally wired up the coin door lights on the MAMEframe2, and I decided to
use ultrabright LEDs for the lights. I ordered a number of different LED lamps
to try out, everything from white to red to ultraviolet. Which LEDs did I decide
on? Check out the review and see.
How to Wire Up Coin Door Lights
In an amazing coincidence, I also have a new article available, a "How-to" guide
to wiring up the coin door lights on your MAME cab. I took a lot of pictures,
and even threw in a few diagrams. And (believe it or not!) there will be a
companion video, most likely available tonight or early tomorrow (if the almighty
Internet god smiles on me, that is...)
SlikStik Poll: Up/Down Tornado Spinner?
The SlikStik crew have just posted a poll on their forums, asking if anyone
is interested in a Tornado spinner with up/down movement added (such as the
arcade) Discs of Tron spinner. If you're interested, go check
out the poll and enter your opinion.
MAME .79 Soon
It's looking like the next release of MAME may happen today, according to Aaron
Giles' site and the Alt.Games.MAME newsgroup. The new memory routines Aaron
has added to the MAME core seem to be working well, and only minor tweaks look
to be added before the next MAME release.
No, not with the Joystick Roundup - sorry. That won't be ready until I get
the final joystick from Ultimarc, their production version of the T-Stik Plus
Balltop, with the new "quiet" microswitches. What I'm finishing up right now
is a "How-To" article on wiring up the lights in a coin door to your PC. It
will also have a video, believe it or not. Check back in a few hours...
SlikStik Trackball Unit
It looks like SlikStik has
just announced their new single-player trackball and joystick units, and even
posted a picture of the trackball unit on their site.
If the photo is any indication, the new single player
units will be just as sturdy (and hefty!) as the regular lineup of SlikStik
products, and should make a great "desktop" gaming system.
Joystick Roundup Update
I'm still working on it, but it won't be ready for a few more weeks, as I'm
adding a couple of more joysticks to the lineup: Ultimarc will be sending
me the new production version of the T-Stik Plus joystick with new, quieter
microswitches; and I'm waiting on a leaf-switch joystick from Centsible Amusements.
This delay (yes, I know, one of many — sorry!)
will give me a bit more time to refine my test criteria. I've got a few
ideas for how to measure the pressure needed to move each joystick, but
I've got to test them out to pick which one I'll use when testing.
Construction Diary Updated
I've updated the MAMEframe2 Construction
Diary with more hardware-related details, such as how I mounted the marquee.
Not much, but it does pretty much wrap up the hardware side of the new cabinet.
Next phase in the diary: details on the software setup and configuration.
ATI Cards, a D9200, and the Act-Labs Light Gun?
In my discussions with Andy Warne of Ultimarc, we've come across a possible
new lead in tracking down why I've had such problems with the ACT-Labs light
gun and the ArcadeVGA card. Seems it may be an issue with all ATI-based cards,
not just the ArcadeVGA. So, I'm curious — is there anyone out there
using an ATI card, a Wells-Gardner D9200 arcade monitor, and a light gun?
How's it working? Any success or failure stories? Email
me and let me know.
Here's something I stumbled across today — a
new joystick from Ultimarc.
Actually, it's a new ball-top version of their T-Stik
Plus, and features the same elegant "lift and twist" 4 way/8
way switching action as the regular T-Stik Plus. In addition, however,
it has a traditional ball-top shaft, available in two lengths, one for
metal control panels and one for wood control panels. (It's available in
red now, with other colors in February).
I love the easy 4/8 way switch on the regular T-Stik
Plus, and the addition of a ball top shaft (with a version long enough
for wood panels) makes this sound like a really great joystick.
thought I'd put up a pic of how the SlikStik marquee looks installed
in the SlikStik cab. It's a nice design, and it looks nice on the cab.
(I'm still going to use my own custom MAMEframe2 marquee,
of course, but I thought I'd at least see how the SlikStik one looked in
the cab! ;-)
All in all, it's a nice looking piece of work, and looks
great backlit. I may just have to put it up as a "poster" next
to the arcade game.
I want to apologize for not making more progress on the Joystick Roundup review,
but there is some good news to come out of the delays — I've ordered
another joystick for the review. This time it's a leaf
switch joystick from Centsible Amusements. I figured I needed another
leaf switch-style joystick to compare to the original Wico already in the
I'm still trying to figure out a way to accurately measure
the force it takes to move each of these joysticks, so if you've got any
ideas, please feel free to drop me a line with your suggestions!
Saitek Gamepads Rock!
I just got finished playing a great two-player round of Mutant Storm with my
son, and I've got to say that Saitek gamepads absolutely rock for this game.
The dual analog thumbsticks on the gamepads are just perfect for this game,
and I've got to admit that it's great to be able to fire at, say, a 35 degree
angle (instead of the normal 45/90 degree limits of a standard joystick).
(This was all for the upcoming Saitek P3000 review, you understand — there's
no limit to the extremes I'll go to to give you a thorough review! ;-)
Site Links Working...Hopefully!
I have to apologize for all the broken links the last few days, but I finally
think I've tracked down the problem links and have fixed them. Nothing a
like site-wide change (like adding the "Search Site" button) to
really mess things up! Hopefully everything's fixed — it seems so,
but I thought that when I made the site changes the first time!
Virtual Music Jukebox
I just finished up a review of MAMERoom.com's
Virtual Music Jukebox Plans. If you're looking to build the ultimate gameroom
companion accessory, this is probably it. It's a very unique design, a low-profile
wall-mount system with an LCD screen. As usual, the plans are great.
New SlikStik Goodies
just got another package from SlikStik, this one containing an updated
Tornado spinner (with a black oxidized shaft and brand new custom encoder
board), and a nifty new dual-color knob.
The knob is a blue anodized knob, the same size as the
original "standard" SlikStik knob, now with a "groove" in
the center carved out, revealing the original aluminum. It also has a great
new knurling pattern that's easy to grip (and doesn't feel like it's grinding
away my fingertips!). The smooth center section seems ideal for Tempest
spinning, allowing for easy "fingertip control," and I'm looking
forward to trying it out.
The new Tornado spinner is impressive, especially the
new encoder board. It's tiny, and yet is PS2/USB switchable and has a socket
to easily attach a cable for Left/Middle/Right mouse buttons! It's the
same great Tornado spin, with brand new electronics.
I'll be testing both of them soon, and will update the
Tornado review and the spinner roundup with my findings. It should be fun
testing both of them, and I'm looking forward to it. ;-)
Mutant Storm and Space Tripper Updates
My favorite modern "retro-shooter" game, Mutant
Storm, has just been updated
to version 1.38, including support for a new level editor! Space
Tripper, also by PomPom Games, has also been updated
to version 1.83. Both are great 3D-acclerated arcade-style shooters, and
highly recommended for a good adrenaline fix!
I just got my copy of the marquee that will be included with all SlikStik
Arcade Cabinets — it's a very cool design. SlikStik is going to be
using two 1/8" pieces of plexiglass for their cabinet marquee (instead
of one 1/4" piece), which is a great decision, as it allows you to "sandwich" the
marquee between the pieces of plexi to keep it flat.
Speaking of Marquees...
The SlikStik marquees are printed by the same company that I used to print
my cab's custom marquee, namely ClassicArcadeGrafix.com.
I've added a new picture of my custom marquee design (installed in the cab
and lookin' good) to the Classic Arcade
Well, I've been busy the last couple of days playing around in Photoshop, trying
to get some nice looking instruction and information cards for my Doctor Who
pinball machine. Since I don't have to have a pricing card on a machine that's
set to Free Play, I've replaced the pricing card with one that details a bit
of history about the machine. Click on the picture for a higher-resolution
group of all three cards.
I've gotten a lot of requests for the high-resolution Photoshop file I used
to create the MAMEframe
Well, the graphic is now available from the RetroBlast
The card was designed for a SlikStik Classic and MAMEWAH,
but it can be easily modified to whatever you're using on your cab, as
all the layers in the file are editable. Feel free to modify it however
you need to.
Lots of MAME Code Changes Underway
It looks like it's been a busy couple of weeks for the MAME development team — I
noticed that all driver updates
have been halted until the new
core changes by Aaron Giles (who has been making amazing progress in emulating
more recent arcade games that included a Voodoo2 GPU) have been incorporated
into the main MAME code.
It looks like this will change every single MAME driver,
so this could be a substantial change. Who knows what this change will
bring — better speed, robustness, or something else? All I know is
that I'm looking forward to the next release!
Now this is interesting — here is an announcement of a new
type of video game gun, one that works with any display system: plasma,
LCD, 100mhz TVs, and (gosh!) even regular PC monitors. Apparently, it uses
some sort of motion sensor instead of the traditional light sensor, but details
are really vauge, including how much this thing will cost. It may be my last,
best hope for an arcade gun, since I have yet to get any of the available light
guns working with the ArcadeVGA card in my arcade cab.
New Ultimarc Goodies Coming Soon
I just saw a great
post from Andy Warne of Ultimarc over on the BYOAC
forums that mentions a lot of nice goodies coming this year, including
a Mini-IPAC, and updated WinIPAC programming utility, and an IPAC X-Box interface.
Very cool stuff.
Using a SCART TV With the ArcadeVGA Card
I received an interesting tip from "Orclord" over on the MAMEWorld
Forums, mentioning that the ArcadeVGA card is compatible with SCART TVs.
While SCART TVs are scarce to non-existent in the U.S., they are available
in Europe, the UK, and Australia, and with the AVGA card they can be a very
inexpensive option to an arcade monitor. Here's a
page about using SCART TVs with MAME. Thanks, Orclord!
Review Now Ready!
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus — and he just dropped a finished
review of the Ultimarc ArcadeVGA card in my lap!
This particular review has been a long time in coming,
but it's finally ready. Overall I like the card, but it took a bit of a
battle to get things up and ready for "prime time." Still, I'm
really glad I've got it installed in my arcade cab. Why? You can read the
ArcadeVGA M.A.M.E. Resolution Tool v1.0 Released!
In an amazing display of synergy, the great ArcadeVGA tweaker that I mention
in the just-released ArcadeVGA review has just had a big update to version
1.0! If you have an ArcadeVGA card, you need this utility. Great
stuff, and it makes it a cinch to quickly fine-tune all of your MAME games
for "arcade perfect" display. Grab it over at the MAMEWAH
site. Thanks, Steve!
P3000 Wireless Joypad First Impressions
I finally got the chance to install and use my new Saitek P3000 wireless joypad,
and I've got to say that I'm very impressed. The range is amazing — I
could play games on the MAMEframe2 from the other side of the gameroom, about
25 feet away (I couldn't actually see what I was doing, but I could still control
my onscreen character! ;-)
The joypad is responsive, the twin battery packs guarantee
that you'll never have to wait for a recharge, and it just works the way
you'd expect it to. I'll be writing up a full review soon, but I can already
safely say that I recommend this as a quick and easy way to add additional
players to your arcade cabinet!
A Slow Start to the New Year
Sorry, I had planned on cranking out a review or two today, but my wife's sick
and the kids had doctor's appointments, and...well, you get the drift. Hopefully
tomorrow will be more "hobby-friendly" — don't you just hate
it when life gets in the way of play time? ;-)
Happy New Year!
And so begins another exciting year. Last year was a real growth year for retrogaming,
with a lot of new companies and products. There are a lot of neat new products
coming out this year (sorry I can't comment more, but trust me, cool stuff),
and I'll be sure and try to review them ASAP.
My apologies for not spending more time on the site over the last couple of
weeks, but I've been doing extensive "gaming research" on my new
Dr. Who pinball machine, trying to clean and tune it up (not to mention playing
it for hours at a stretch!).
There's something about having a real pinball machine
that really brings back the "arcade experience" — perhaps
it's all the flashing lights or the sound of the machine in action, but
it's really taken me back.
What Model D9200 Did You Get?
I've gotten this question an amazing number of times over the last couple of
weeks, and (finally) realized that I should probably put that little tidbit
of detail in the D9200 review. It's been
added now, and for the curious, the specific version of the Wells-Gardner
D9200 monitor I reviewed is:
Inch D9200 Digital Monitor - Universal (15/25/31 KHZ)
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