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February 2004 News Archive

2/29/04

Status Update
I don't want this to turn into an ongoing medical report, but I thought I'd let everyone know that I should have the MRI results on Tuesday, and hopefully that will lead to some sort of fix for my pinched nerve. I'll try and get out a few short reviews this next week, but no promises.

2/25/04

The Complete Pinball BookWhat Gamers Do When They Can't Play
Since I currently can't sit or stand comfortably, I've been doing a lot of "laying around" — but what is a retrogamer to do when he can't play video games or pinball? In my case, I read about video games and pinball. I'm currently reading a great book about the history of pinball, aptly entitled "The Complete Pinball Book." It's got some great photos, and chronicles all the major developments and changes to the game of pinball. It's fascinating stuff, especially for an arcade junkie like me.

Even cooler, a lot of of the fantastic pictures in the book (and the author Marco Rossignoli's other book, Pinball Memories) are available as poster prints from the author's web site. I've been looking for some gameroom decorations, and wanted something a step or two up from neon beer lights and stop signs. These prints are classy, cool, and (dare I say it?) art.

2/23/04

Personal Update
I want to apologize again for all the recent delays. I went to the hospital yesterday, and they've now got me pumped up with predisone and percocet, so things are improving, although slowly. Hopefully I'll be able to keep the news page updated more regularly, and restart work on the reviews in a few days.

Storm Angel Video Review Update
Well, I'm finally making progress in the video review — I just switched to a new video capture program (Fraps, which is also a great FPS and benchmarking tool), and while I'm still having some problems integrating the captured video, I've at least managed to process one test clip correctly!

I also upgraded my main video editing software, Pinnacle Studio, to their just-released version 9, which is always an invitation for unwelcome surprises when you're trying to rush something out. Still, it looks promising.

Unfortunately, I am going to have to re-capture all of my previous Storm Angel footage, a bigger challenge than it sounds due to the fact that my current pain killers have made my reflexes, well, a little sloppy. ;-)

2/21/04

Quick Situation Update
I'm still basically incapacitated (I can only sit upright for a few minutes at a time), but I thought I'd pass along a few news items. Reviews are still on hold until I can actually stand up (Hopefully the doctor can fix me up on Monday!)

SlikStik Marquee Contest
The gang over at SlikStik are having another contest, this time to design a new marquee for their cabinets. The prize is a SlikStik Tornado spinner and a choice of two spinner tops. Full details available in the Slikstik Forums.

New SlikStik Up/Down Tornado Coming!
It seems that the poll is in, and SlikStik will be designing a new up/down version of their Tornado spinner. Even better, the up/down armature will be available as a retrofit kit for existing Tornado owners! This is very cool, and I'm looking forward to reviewing it once it becomes available.

2/19/04

Sorry for the Continued Downtime...
I'll still suffering through a wrenched back, pinched nerve, and the hallucenogenic effects of the medications I'm taking to treat the pain. I've got some more doctor visits early next week, so hopefully they'll be able to at least get me into a sitting position soon. ;-)

2/16/04

Bear With Me...
I hate to have to keep making excuses, but this really has not been my month. I'm currently nursing a bad back injury I got last week (yes, right after I recovered from the flu!) — I finally went to the ER yesterday when the pain was just too much. The muscle relaxants and narcotic pain relievers I'm now on have got me floating merrilly in and out of consiousness (and I'm having great dreams, as well ;-) What this means, however, is that new reviews are going to be delayed a bit until I can stand upright again...I'll keep you posted.

2/14/04

House of Payne Plastic WashersHouse of Payne Plastic Washers Review
Okay, that's a strange title, but trust me, it's accurate. If you've got a pinball machine, you owe it to yourself to check out these unique polycarbonate washers, designed to help protect your pinball plastics from breakage due to flying pinballs (always a risk inside a pinball machine!) Check out the review for my action-packed findings (okay, so it's just washers, how action-packed can it be? ;-)

Joystick Tests Begin
I've just finished setting up the "testbed" for the joysticks — I've set it up for testing both metal and wood control panels installations (thanks to some metal joystick mounting panels generously donated by Kelsey of Oscar Controls!) I will be wiring the harness and encoder tomorrow (I'd do it today, but I promised my wife I'd take the rest of Valentine's day off ;-)

Joystick Testbed

Oh, and this is the last chance for suggestions — if you have any specific things you'd like to see tested (smoothness, amount of pressure to engage switches, etc.) Email me and let me know soon!

2/13/04

Storm Angel Video Review Delayed
I have to apologize, I had expected to have the video review done at the same time as the written review, but something about the video captures I took from the game are absolutely choking every video-editing program I have. I've massaged and reformatted the video, but I may have to find a new way to capture in game footage before I can release the video review.

2/12/04

Storm Angel Review Now Ready
I've just posted my review of Storm Angel, a 3D-accellerated side-scrolling retro-themed shooter (whew, that was a mouthful!). I've had a lot of fun playing this game, and it's worth a look. I'm working on the video review of the game, which should be ready later today or tomorrow.

2/11/04

Fourteen Joysticks, Ready for TestingAt Last — All The Joysticks Have Arrived!
Okay, it's been a long wait, but as of 7:55am this morning (thanks to a very early DHL driver) I now have all fourteen joysticks that will be included in the joystick roundup:

  • Happs Perfect 360
  • Happs Competition
  • Happs Super
  • Happs Ultimate
  • Happs Rotary
  • Happs Top Fire
  • Omni-Stik Prodigy
  • Ultimarc T-Stik Plus
  • Ultimarc T-Stik Plus Ball Top
  • Ultimarc E-Stick
  • Ultimarc J-Stick
  • Centsible Amusements Leaf switch
  • X-Gaming Joystick
  • Wico 8-way Leaf switch

I'm going to be setting up a joystick "test panel" this week in preparation for a weekend of joystick testing (hopefully). After that, just give me a while to get everything written up (it's like writing 14 reviews all at once), and I promise I'll finally have the Joystick Roundup review up ASAP. And yes, there will be a video. ;-)

Storm Angel Title ScreenStorm Angel Review Coming Soon
I'm currently working on a review of a new 3D-accellerated update to the classic side-scrolling shooter genre: Storm Angel by Loaded Studios.

The game has great graphics, smooth framerates (even on older 3D cards), and a lot of surprises. I've actually had a lot of trouble tearing myself away from it long enough to write the review. I should have the review finished very soon (as long as I don't load it up again for some more "testing!")

2/10/04

Click Here to See the Head in Motion!I got a Wobble Head!
No, not a bobble-head. A Doctor Who Dalek Wobble Head...okay, you can stop laughing. You see, the Doctor Who Pinball machine was designed with a moving Dalek topper (the robot-looking thing). After the first 100 units or so, they removed the motor as a cost-cutting measure. The standard production software still supports the moving head, and now I've got one of the few replacement mechanisms ever made to restore the motor into the head. Click on the picture for a video of how it will look in motion (from the "Install a Moving Dalek Head" site).

4-Color LED Coin DoorMore LED Goodness
I got a great email from John Laur, who bought some additional types of LEDs from SuperBrightLEDs.com, including a 6-LED lamp he used for the trackball. He's got some great pictures of how everything looks over on his MAME cabinet site, and I've got to agree with him that the 4-LED lamps really do a nice job. I'm especially impressed with the various colors in his 4-mech coin door and the start buttons on his control panel. I've updated my SuperBrightLED review with his findings. Thanks, John!

2/9/04

This isn't lame, it's L.A.M.E.!
LAME Arcade ProjectAnd it's very, very cool as well. Confused? Don't be — check out the new L.A.M.E. Arcade site, which is documenting the development of a really exciting new piece of hardware for MAME cabinets: game-specific lighted buttons! Load a game, and only those buttons used in that game will light up on your control panel. It will even have an "attract" mode! (Oh, and If you can't tell, I'm really excited about this "cab mod"!)

Site Upgrade
Okay, I've finished laying the new groundwork for the reviews section of RetroBlast, breaking up the previously monolithic reviews page into categories: Hardware, Software, Pinball, Video, and Everything Else. Hopefully that should cover, um, everything. ;-)

2/7/04

Discovery Channel MAME SegmentThe Discovery Channel Covers MAME
I just ran across a post online mentioning a Discovery Channel video segment on MAME. It's a few months old (it seems to have been aired originally on 11/26/03), but it's great to see mainstream coverage of retrogaming.

Screenshot Archive Site
I just wanted to point out what a great site the Screenshot Archive is, especially if you're a fan of retro-console gaming (the screenshots are for console games). While I'm not a big console gamer, I really appreciate the MAMEWAH section on the site.

The Screenshot Archive has a lot of resources for MAMEWAH users, with extra "skins," a MAMEWAH help section — even a tutorial on MAMEWAH. Good stuff (and I finally got a good collection of Visual Pinball screen snaps from there as well!) Thanks to Stuzza for this great resource!

 

2/6/04

Eugene Jarvis, the Father of RobotronInterview with Eugene Jarvis!
Okay, you may be thinking "Eugene who?," but let me explain why this is exciting news: Eugene Jarvis and Larry DeMar were the two creators of a number of classic Williams arcade games, such as Defender, Stargate, and (drum roll please) Robotron: 2084, my all-time favorite game. The interview is available over on the "Way of the Rodent" site. (Strange name, but you can tell the site's run by retrogaming fans! ;-)

2/5/04

Pinball Slingshot PlasticReproduction Pinball Plastics Review
A new review, this time of reproduction pinball plastics. Yes, this is the new "expanded scope" for the site, as I'm sure many of you had suspected. I'm going to be adding pinball (and Visual Pinball) related news and reviews to the RetroBlast site. I'm still planning on keeping up with MAME-related reviews as well, so don't worry — it all falls under the "Retrogaming" umbrella.

This does mean some site reorganization will be necessary, but I had been planning on that for a while. I especially plan on revamping the Product Reviews page, so that reviews can be organized by categories for easy location.

2/4/04

And Now For Something Completely Different...
I'm going to have a new type of review finished up tomorrow, one that is going to expand the "scope" of the RetroBlast site a bit. Don't worry — it's still about retrogaming! ;-)

2/3/04

It's Good to Be Back!
Man, I love the first day after you recover from a bad bug. I've got a lot of backlogged household chores to get taken care of, but I sure do have the energy for it!

"Director's Cut" Coin Door Video Released
First on my site to-do's was to update the Coin Door/Super Bright LEDs video with some narration. The new version is now available over on the Video Reviews page.

2/1/04

"Narration Free" Coin Door Video Released
Well, I still don't have any voice, so I'm going ahead and releasing a preliminary Coin Door/Super Bright LED video in a "narration free" version over on the Video Reviews page. Who knows, if you like this type of "music-informative" video better than me droning on, please let me know!

Totally Gratuitious Kids Photo
No excuses, and only a marginal attempt to make sure it's arcade related — a composite shot of my boys (Christopher, age 6, and Brendan, age 3) deeply immersed in a game of Caveman Ninja:

Kids at Play (Click for a Larger Image)
(Click image for a larger view)

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