Aug 28th, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Today’s update is just me pointing to the new Arkanoid page.

jrok’s Williams FPGA… in development!
Aug 27th, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

If you are like me, you acquire arcade games. Let’s just stop with that. You are probably not like me, going forward from here, but we’ll try to keep things interesting and geeky from here.

If you are like me, and acquire arcade games, you do so while praying to a deity that the circuit boards won’t die. In my own case, I have ensured that this IS the case because I only recently learned how to check voltages. (+5 getting to the game’s printed circuit board fixed my issues with Mr. Do!, Arkanoid and Zoo Keeper – that’s a 30% fix in my arcade right there.)

The circuit boards are the real treasure in an arcade game, because almost everything else can be — or is! — getting reproductions. Scratch up the side art on a game? Stencils or giant “stickers” exist. Mess up the monitor? You can put a brand-new one in, most likely. But yeah, if the circuit board develops problems the average collector is at the mercy of others.

So that’s why FPGA boards like what jrok is developing are so cool – he’s putting Defender, Stargate, Joust, Robotron, Bubbles, Splat, Sinistar and Blaster onto a single board. It uses real hardware, so nothing is emulated (more on that in a sec). This is going to give people the chance to avoid circuit board issues and still have a great multi-game kit. It’s also going to have a JAMMA interface, which will be really convienent for, er, people like me who have a JAMMA cab.

I don’t even know if Williams (the manufacturer of all those games) are particularly troublesome to live with – for all I know, they could be rock-solid. But it would definitely cost me a lot more in space and, er, cost a lot in money to get access to those games. And I am completely out of space. jrok also has the things saving high scores, so at $150 for the board, this will be perfect.

(OK, a note about emulation: it’s fine, it’s cool, and I have emulated games on my 48-in-1, which I love. But yeah, emulation through MAME can get you close, but something genuinely running the game is always going to be ideal. That being said, I’d like to get a Robotron cab, and having the controls for Robotron (two joysticks) on the same panel as Stargate (a two-way joystick and like six buttons) always looks like a mess, so I am not sure how I am going to personally work this.)

jrok is sending the board out to testers soon, and I’ll report back when I purchase one.






Introducing my 48-in-1 cabinet
Jul 1st, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

The 48-in-1 is a Chinese-made, copyright-violating circuit board that plays 48 games, an embarrasingly lot of which I already had in dedicated form. I’m adding pages for all my arcade game through WordPress, and you can get the rundown by clicking on the “48-in-1” link over to the left. It describes how the thing came to be. There’s one photo up right now, but I knew if I waited until I took more, I’d never get the article up. But if I put the article up, it would motivate me to take more photos, which I’ll do soon.

Tomb of the Hardcore Casual Gamer
Jun 26th, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

we wantssssz our blood

In this, a new ongoing feature, we introduce the Forgotten Tomb of the Hardcore Casual Gamer. Seeing how last night I installed a high score kit into my Asteroids (hardcore!) and played some Team Fortress 2 on a server selected because of how terrible the other players were (casual!).


I get the feeling that they are made “to order,” as there was about a month’s delay in ordering them from Mike’s Arcade. I touched base with them halfway through and they responded promptly, letting me know that they hadn’t forgotten about me. I was quite pleased, and recommend everyone involved.

Taking the back off an arcade game makes it instantly the most interesting thing in Kitty World, and four of our five cats immediately descended down the stairs when they sensed that the back of Asteroids was coming off. (Frobozz was going to jump inside but got down when I asked him, Spock just meandered from front to back, Reggie poked his head in to see inside and began to chase Spock, and Boggit bolted inside and sat down to take a nap, leaving only when yelled at.)

Installing it was very easy – the PCB for Asteroids is between two rectangular pieces of wood, with a nice and pleasant groove cut for easy removal. Asteroids as a whole seems very easy to work on – lots of room, an easily-followed layout of the wiring, a nicely-separated monitor shelf.

I gently jiggled the 6502 chip loose with one of those small computer screwdrivers, and plugged it into the board of the Braze kit. The kit itself has sturdy gold (brass?) legs and dropped right into where the 6502 used to be.

The board that I bought came with a rapid-fire mod, and the two work together without it being necessary to do anything to the rapid-fire board. (I am interested in any documentation for the rapid-fire mod – I’d like to take off, I guess, but the one text file I found indicated that one needed to bend chip legs to install, and I really don’t trust myself bending things back.)

Anyway, everything came up great, and already my horrible Asteroids scores are being saved for all time. Big props to Braze and Mike’s Arcade.


Let’s… go… casual! OK, I used to be okay at first person shooters, but now I’m like a golfer in his sixties coming to grips with the fact that he can play nine holes if he’s having a particularly good day.

I immediately turn voice chat off – no offense to anyone else playing TF2, but you are all a bunch of goddamn contemptible nerds, and I can’t bear to listen to your easily-excitable nasal drones for a second. The fact that you are all sitting there with headgear for speakers and a microphone don’t help the mental picture of you animals.

Valve’s big thing in getting people to play has been:

1) The new videos, for the various characters. These are great. What a cockslap to everything id has ever made, too, by the way: Valve got more personality injected into the “characters” of a deathmatch shooter in a few months than id had managed in their entire history. Valve could make a TF2 adventure game at this point if they wished. They’ve done a great job massaging this IP and making it valuable.

2) Adding new shit to the classes nobody wants to play. The medic and the pyro are the first two, and Christ, every tweaking fucker on the Internet is playing a pyro now.

The achievements seem pretty easy to get (the two classes I play the most were the soldier and pyro, although they are not my favorite classes by any means, I just try to fill in what the teams have lacked) but that hasn’t stopped “achievement farm servers” from existing. Fucking amazing to me, we have had one gorgeous day after another out here in Colorado, and some people have time to farm in TF2. (A casual gamer gone too far??)

But playing in a deathmatch game where people have weapons you don’t have access to is retarded. I know Valve doesn’t care, because they are getting more people playing the game, but it’s a clear violation of the integrity of gaming. Which I understand doesn’t make any money, but still.

The kind of server I am looking for is one where there are terrible players, and I guess I define that by how long I manage to last on a given level. Last week I was playing on a team with Worm and I couldn’t fuck around for even a second, or I’d get a shot in the face. That contrasted nicely with a couple days ago, where I wandered into a room with a scout and two pyros, fucked up trying to reverse direction, ended up killing one pyro and the scout, and survived long enough to get healing. I need more servers like that. Because while it’s OK to feel like a casual gamer, feeling like a handicapped one is not.

Alpha One: The Major Havoc Prototype
May 16th, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

I recently went to the Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown and played a lot of pinball. I don’t know how the industry is doing as a whole, but when there is a convention center with a bunch of games, I’ll be there.

The newest machine was Wheel of Fortune, which I did not play, because it’s a pinball game themed after the Wheel of fucking Fortune. However, there were some arcade games there as well, including the prototype for Major Havoc, which is called “Alpha One.”

Major Havoc was the last color vector arcade game released, to the best of my knowledge. Vector monitors were never correctly debugged – they remain a pain in the ass this day for games like Star Wars, Tempest and Gravitar. If yours dies, well, good luck – nobody will ever spin them again. In fact, making some is one of the things I would do if I ever became moon-laser rich and crazy. They are rare enough that people will take a game completely infested in maggots to save it. So somebody bringing his Alpha One game (a prototype) to a public event like the Pinball Showdown was amazing and generous.

Naturally, I left my fiancé’s camera at home. And even more naturally, the showdown was nowhere near either my home or work. So I had to rely on the Milker’s cellphone for some photos.

The first one is of the control panel. I have never seen a real Major Havoc machine, but I did buy the reproduction roller, you know, just in case. The roller on the protype was definitely smaller, and not translucent:

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And then here are a couple photos of the cab itself (again, apologies for the poor quality):

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Even though I never shut up about it, I was still amazed at how different the game was in the flesh, as opposed to how Major Havoc plays through MAME. MAME really is a wonderful and amazing tool, and I am very grateful it exists, but the differences on the real hardware are obvious during the first play.

There is an extra mode in the prototype – a section somewhat like Star Castle. Major Havoc was released with just three (the Galaxian-like shooting stages, docking, and then the maze level), which was pretty advanced back then. All right, it wasn’t really that advanced, Donkey Kong had four, but still.

It’s a shame that vector monitors never really took off, as there were rumors of a color Vectrex unit in development at some point, which obviously never materialized because of the hundreds of advantages of raster (shakes fist) (flips keyboard).

Fuck eBay:
May 7th, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

One of the funniest examples of contempt for the consumer was given to us, like God’s only Son, by someone who used to work on one of Sony’s on-line role playing games. He described his base of customers as something like “walking cash registers” or “talking dollar signs” or something like that. I’m not trying to start shit here, so I don’t have a proper cite.

However, new eBay CEO John Donahoe did refer to talk of a boycott as “nothing but noise” while discussing the changes he was implementing. There’s a bunch of crazy shit over there now, apparently fees are down at first glance, but up when you really look in detail, and sellers can’t leave negative feedback and so on and so forth. And of course, Yahoo Auctions is dead in the US, so there really aren’t a lot of other options. Personally, I don’t care if a company goes out of its way to make every last buck, but sure, I’ll bristle at condescending arrogance under any circumstance.

Mike Kennedy actually did something about it – he created, which is an auction site dedicated to video games. He’s got quite a few sections on arcade games (which is how I discovered it) but you can pick up old Atari 2600 cartridges and stuff for your Nintendo as well.

The main thing that will hit you when you visit the site is just how clean it is. Seriously, eBay is a desperate, pathetic mess. Every square inch of the screen is used by eBay to beg for more money. In-house ads. Promotions. Featured items. I don’t think enough gets made of how sick people are to be advertised to constantly – there’s no option, because eBay is the biggest at what they do, but people don’t naturally become accustomed to it. It’s ugly each and every time.

(And I will never understand how marketing wins out when it comes to where customers go after a login. The engineers would recommend that, should you click on a login for “My eBay,” you should be headed in that general direction after you enter a password and hit “submit.” Not so, says the marketing department! We should direct their eyeballs to a bulletin, or some more ads, or a notice board, or anywhere fucking else! Furthermore, we should ensure that users be forced to log in every fucking time they access the site! Think of the page impressions!

Alright, enough bitching about eBay. I don’t have to extinguish their candle to make ChaseTheChuckWagon’s burn brighter. It really is pleasing to head over there. Obviously, some more work needs to be done – when someone posts that all elusive Warlords poster, I want it pushed to my e-mail when I wake up and are most prone to impulse buying and reckless decision making. So that needs to be developed. And surely, the site should partner up with a non-FDIC-insured cartel to handle the cash transactions and, ah Christ, I’m doing it again.

There’s obviously not nearly as many items over there as there is eBay, but give it a shot. You get $5 in free seller credit when you sign up. I know that I’ll be selling copies of Cryptozookeeper there, and not on eBay, when it’s finished, as more money is going to me, which lets me ask for less. Additionally, since the site is just getting started, there are less of the truly reprehensible eBay zombies and more people who can successfully complete a transaction without drama. It’s like a movie theatre that has banned cell phones.

Family Guy Pinball
May 2nd, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Rather than sit in traffic today, as it’s ridiculously fucking snowing on May 1st out here, I broke ranks and headed over to Jason’s Billiards in order to play some Family Guy pinball. It is one of the newest pinball machines in the world, from Stern. I had heard that it was a lot of fun from regular people, and heard that it did not cause the heads of posters to combust with rage (a solid 8.5 on their scale, then). I had five bucks on me, so what the hell.

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Shit Games You Like Anyway: Arch Rivals
Apr 25th, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

I know Arch Rivals is a poor game, but I don’t care. I can’t discuss it rationally. I think it’s fantastic. The night I got the replacement ROM from Andy at Ultimarc, so the Frankenstein-inspired control panel I slobbed together worked, I did nothing. NOTHING! Except play Arch Rivals.

You start off by picking your player out of a pool of, frankly, ridiculous losers. Everyone has tight shorts. There are even white people available, and it’s hilarious to see them segregated into the “rangy shooter” category (pretty much like real basketball). You’ll probably want to punch each of them in the mouth. You might think, when seeing the roster, that there is nothing for you there. But press on! You’ll grow to love one or two of them.

One button is shoot (or have your teammate shoot) and the other is “give me the fucking basketball” / “throw a punch.” It depends on whether you are on offense or defense. There’s only one other game of its era that did that (that I can remember). That was the hockey game “Faceoff.” One button was shoot and the other was “slug somebody with your elbow.”

My teammate almost never drives to the basket. So when he does and I feed him the ball and tell him to dunk its very rewarding. The computer will start hitting you as well, which makes attempts to dunk over the computer a lot of fun due to the revenge factor. The game doesn’t always let you dunk, and will sometimes force an awkward jump shot a foot from the basket. I think, in my heart, I know that this is a bad game because of the dodgy controls, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be in front of a jury defending it, but when you do pull off a good move (even though it’s at random) it’s still exhiliarating. 

After each score there is a cut scene. Sometimes it’s of a cheerleader, but it could also be one of the coaches. Or the crowd. There’s certainly no more than three dozen people who came to the game you’re playing in. There’s even shit on the court like popcorn boxes and other assorted garbage that leads to falls if you touch one of them. If they ever remake this game they should set it in the Superdome during Katrina so that they can depict some distracting murders and rapes. The detritus on the floor does lead to a little strategy: should you “set off” the trash so that you don’t run into it late in the game, when you may need a crucial possession? Or do you leave it there and hope the computer players run across it? I know it’s not like trying to decide when to use the A-bomb in Civilization IV*, but for a basketball game it’s not so bad.

Plus, the coach of my team looks like my dad:

* I know the answer to that one is “immediately,” but give me a free pass, I am new at this blog thing.

Polybius Lives / Polybius Font
Apr 18th, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Just a quick note – I updated the Polybius Home Page with info on the following things:

1) The font. I was given this by a gentleman that contacted me through the JC BBS. I have received some e-mail from people asking for the font, and while I love that sort of contact, it’s not fair to not have it available for everyone. But please – you wanna talk some Polybius, just send me an e-mail at

2) I was recently made aware of the site They have a screenshot of what Polybius might have looked like if it was on a color X/Y monitor. Good stuff – not sure if there is more stuff at the site that is not obvious to get to, but when I know more I’ll update. I also noticed that there was a mention of on Shawn Struck’s blog, so perhaps this is making the rounds.

I Wrote This JAMMA 48-in-1 FAQ
Apr 16th, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

“There is… this machine!” — Nick Montfort

The machine we’re talking about today is a circuit board that lets you make your JAMMA-compatible arcade cabinet capable of playing 48 games instantly and easily. It really is an amazing piece of work, and I am going to hotlink a picture of it from Lizard Lick Amusements.

It’s a cute little guy that I’ve had the pleasure of installing and running the last couple of nights.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of JAMMA, it basically allowed arcade operators to swap circuit boards and have themselves a brand new game in a cabinet they already owned, to generate more CASH. Ops love CASH. (Usually, when swapping a board in this manner, they’d swap the marquee and control panel at the same time, but hey, not always.) JAMMA eventually had some extensions to account for the extra buttons in a Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat machine, but for the purposes of the 48-in-1 you just need three buttons wired up, a joystick, and then some for service and starting the game and so forth.

If you’d like to buy one of your own, check out the KLOV forum here, or just leave me a comment in this post. This post over at Engadget shows you how to get JAMMA going if you don’t happen to have a full-size arcade cabinet, y’know, just hangin’ around not doing anything. �For the rest of the FAQ, I’ll see you after the jump!

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