SIDEBAR
»
S
I
D
E
B
A
R
«
Our Visit to Arkadia Retrocade
Apr 10th, 2021 by Ice Cream Jonsey

Flack's former Commando game, yesterday

I’m not going to be able to do justice to the incredible experience that is Shea Mathis’s arcade, Arkadia Retrocade. My wife surprised me with a trip to Fayetteville, Arkansas this previous weekend and on Tuesday we were able to say hello and take in the wonder that is this place. I don’t know how the pandemic has been going for you, but I’ve had a substandard one, so this trip was much appreciated. I also got jabbed to hell a while ago because I donned a tiger costume and sat with my hiney in the air in the Bronx Zoo, awaiting my vaxx shot with Harvey Weinstein and O.J., and every other American criminal they were testing multiple times a year ago as the rest of us chumps obeyed the law and had to figure out if we had it or not by the science of “guessing.”

(But first! Wait, before anything else I’d like to recommend a couple articles that my friend Flack wrote so that you can get additional perspectives. Ok, then come back here.)

Flack is also important to this story because we got into Fayetteville and then drove to Oklahoma City to see Flack and his wife Susan. We were at an arcade in OKC called Up/Down and I can contrast these two arcades as follows: At Up/Down, a barcade, the pedal was constantly depressed for the blue driver in “Ironman” Ivan Stewart’s Offroad game and the girls in the game were in bikinis. At Arkadia Retrocade, a regular or “non-alcoholic” arcade, the setting was active to put the girls in dresses because it’s more of a family friendly place and the only thing depressed was me before I got inside.

It’s not possible to be depressed inside Arkadia Retrocade, and it’s the best arcade I’ve ever been to in my life.

I first met Shea in 2012 at the Oklahoma Video Game Expo and he was talking about the arcade that he was going to create. If ever one man was going to be a success in a difficult field through pure energy, enthusiasm and force of personality, it was Shea and this arcade of his. And I am delighted to say that — after getting a few hours to experience it — he did it. He realized the dream. I think every one that starts collecting games has an idle wish to one day open an arcade, but for most of us we get derailed. Not Shea and not here. In addition to games, the pure amount of retro items is almost overwhelming once you’re inside.

But yeah, as soon as you walk in you’ll see the full size cabinet of Donkey Kong! Donkey Kong Jr.! Pengo! Paperboy! Crystal Castles! A cocktail Popeye in one corner. Satan’s Hollow along a row of classics. I couldn’t decide what to play first. Tony Temple wrote a great book on Missile Command that is heavy with lunatics. MC was on my mind due to his book and I think that was the first game I had to try. It had been a little while since I played Missile Command and it holds up so well, unlike the descending nuclear missiles in every game manned by me of Missile Command.

There is interesting detail everywhere inside the building. A local artist created a huge mural along the back wall of the second area, but to even get to that point you’ll pass so many items that will make people in my generation go, “Ooh, I had that!” or if you grew up in my town something like, “Oh, I had that, but then that piece of trash in my grade stole it when I brought it to school!” There are mini handheld arcade games on walls (the ones that Coleco made, I think? You know the ones) and Shea also has the first trackball (“trak-ball”) that I had ever encountered, the Atari 2600 one. A lifelong obsession! These are a few items but there’s hundreds if not thousands of similar items everywhere on the walls and on shelves.

But I love this view as you look over the second area in Arkadia. I didn’t bring my camera because we were on a “Frontier” flight, the airline that enlists pictures of wild animals in dark patterns to try to get you to pay them hundreds of extra dollars for this new invention called “luggage” which I guess the CEO of Frontier thinks is a fad. So these are phone pics that don’t represent me as an artist. You walk past this doorway and you get to see dozens more arcade games, the weird and obscure stuff, all ready for you at the bottom of a long walkway. If the new area was the entire arcade it would be worth it. The space on both levels is used really well, too – at no point did my wife or I think we were cramped. (That would have changed if I had gotten her in the Environmental Discs of Tron at AK, but I already played that card years ago in Colorado. And, well, she’s not stupid. She’s not falling for that again. Even though to me the absolute height of comedy is having Sark chortle at a now-angry game player awkwardly trying to expunge themselves from Environmental Discs of Tron after playing it badly and failing, you don’t do that to someone when you get married. It showed up in our vows.)

I’ve been interested in arcade games for a long time and had many of them fall on me and Arkadia had games that I had never heard of. It would have been a delight to have them fall on me, crushing my bones to powder as I said, “I didn’t know about this game. This is incredibly painful.”

I got one wish. There’s one thing I wish! The only thing I wish is that I had some way to represent Arkadia out where I live with various forms of swag. Shirts, mugs, hats, that kind of thing. I know that small business owners get a zillion people telling them what they should do, so that’s not me here doing that, just reiterating that America wants to shows its love for the Arkadia Retrocade. We had a great time and I’m trying to figure out when we can return.

Shea, thanks for everything!

Invading Spaces by Rob O’Hara Review
Dec 8th, 2008 by Ice Cream Jonsey

ďHe can get the virus.Ē –†Bill Parcells, speaking of New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton’s pass-happy playcalling.†

Oh, I hear you there, Tuna. We all have those little, involuntary spasms of impulse, don’t we? Maybe it manifests itself in a former college quarterback calling his 47th pass of the day as a coach, his proxy All-Pro QB destroying defenses in a way he never could. Maybe we see it when we’re listening to a catchy song in our car, and we flick the “rewind” knob for the eighth straight time because the song’s so catchy.

Or, more appropriately for our discussion today, maybe we see†the virus as the silent protagonist in the new book from Rob O’Hara titled,†Invading Spaces: A Beginner’s Guide to Collecting Arcade Games. In this instance, the virus†takes control of our mind by having us click on the “reply” button to a guy on craigslist selling a three-hundred pound wooden joybox that plays a single game that can be emulated on a watch you could find for free after eating enough boxes of “Circus Fun.”

It’s got to be a virus. No healthy person would make it a habit to collect real arcade games. Right, ha ha? But hey, there’s good viruses and bad viruses. Bad ones make you lose STR, DEX and CON, while good ones have your team passing for 400 yards against the hated Niners, and put two Scrambles in your home.

Er, all right, onto the book! O’Hara begins by putting us into a situation that is not untypical for the type of person that is interested in collecting arcade games: he’s somewhere between Oklahoma City and Austin, completely lost. (In fact, the very first sentence of his book takes a shot at MapQuest, and there is no better way to get me, a reader, onboard, than to correctly paint MapQuest as a server of lies.) Rob and his buddy Justin are on their way to get a game called Heavy Barrel, which is just a great name for a full-size arcade game, like calling one Out of Space or Staircrusher. It isn’t even a game that O’Hara particularly likes, but he makes the decision to go get it anyway because he loves these goddamn things, and this one is a good deal.†

The pair ultimately find their destination, after an eleven hour journey, and meet one of the, ah, †ten types of people you meet when purchasing an arcade game. †They return home with a grim sense of satisfaction, and while reading this, I’m personally struck by how comforting is in knowing that there are other people making the same type of journeys that I have made, for these things. If there is a book out there that stands as a written testament to how maybe, just maybe, I haven’t been driven insane trying to recapture my favorite hobby as a child, then Invading Spaces is it.†

While the tales regarding ‘the hunt’ of an arcade machine make up a significant portion of the book, the other goal that Invading Spaces easily achieves is in describing how to maintain or fix them once they are home. It can be intimidating to find a problem with the monitor or joystick of a thirty-year old machine if it’s been years since your last course on electronics. I bought my first machine in 1999, and did not get another one until 2005 – not really because of space issues, but because I was scared to death to even work on my first game, much less a few others. I got over my fear at first by paying almost retail prices for nicely restored games, but things eventually did go wrong, and I had to scour the Usenet group rec.games.video.arcade.collecting for help, picking up whatever bits of knowledge I could from others. I can safely say that, almost literally, every single piece of information I picked up about this hobby over the first two years is in this book. I was almost smiling in anger seeing it all collected here. (The anger really stemmed from having to use Google Groups to search Usenet all those years, I should clarify.)

For instance, O’Hara explains that a common problem of PCBs is that they are not getting five volts from the +5v line – I cannot begin to explain the frustration I had with a couple of my games acting wonky, until that dawned on me a few months ago. When I read the chapter on Repairs(Electronics) and got to the bit about +5v, I held the book skyward and cursed, loudly. It was here. It was all here. Invading Spaces is an invaluable resource for the non-electrical engineer thinking of purchasing their first arcade game.†

More, O’Hara’s style is friendly and conversational. He doesn’t go off on a berserker’s rant about MAME, like Stuart Campbell or I would do, but does explain that, while it’s nice, it’s not the same. He describes why someone would be miffed to see one of the 26,000 Defender cabinets converted to, say, a 48-in-1 cab, without unfairly slagging the more, ah, extreme group of preservations. And the stories! The stories really are entertaining and well-written throughout – anytime somebody’s retarded brother (their words, not mine or O’Hara’s) mysteriously skulks around a game that may have once functioned before some retard strength saw to it, like some kind of luddite-touch BigFoot… well, I know I am in for a good time.

My absolute favorite part of the book is the last bit, where O’Hara talks about the games he has owned over the years, and how he acquired them. I can personally listen to that sort of stuff forever, and each little story has a photo of the cabinet associated with it. I have a theory that RoboCop games are unique like fingerprints, and sure enough, both of O’Hara’s RoboCops are different. (Once we assign all three hundred million Americans JAMMA RoboCop games, crime in this country is going to disappear overnight.)

I’ve had Rob’s book around the house for weeks now, and I still find myself going back to it, to re-read a chapter or passage here and there, just to stay sharp. I can’t recommend it strongly enough. If you find yourself with the arcade-purchasing virus, while I am sad to say that there is no cure, this book functions as a wonderful†protease inhibitor to let you live with the sickness and still maintain a happy and healthy existence, otherwise. I’ve found that chicks are more than willing to accept this hobby if all the games work, and as this book is a means to that end, it is worth its price four times over in couples therapy.†

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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 beaver@zombieworld.com.

2) I was recently made aware of the site www.polybiuslives.com. 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 polybiuslives.com 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. ÔŅĹFor the rest of the FAQ, I’ll see you after the jump!

Read the rest of this entry »

»  Substance:WordPress   »  Style:Ahren Ahimsa