Banned Donkey Kong champ promises proof in emulator scandal

Billy Mitchell is an infamous game champion whose Donkey King high score was long the record. But video of his current best time was apparently recorded using an emulator rather than real arcade hardware, making it easier to cheat and ultimately losing him his place in the record books. Now he's speaking out, promising to show that everything was done according to the rules: "witnesses, documents, everything will be made available."

It's amazing how they caught Mitchell, by spotting subtle discrepancies in how MAME emulation software and original hardware refresh the screen. The top image (below) is video of a bona-fide Donkey Kong cabinet, and the bottom image is Mitchell's provided video, now thought to be recorded by connecting an emulator to an arcade CRT monitor. Each GIF covers 1/60th of a second or thereabouts, and is slowed to show the game's girders being drawn out of the usual order.

Another famous game champ, Todd Rogers, was likewise put to pasture recently. Modern hardware analysis made his claimed times and scores too incredible to believe, and he could not produce evidence of having made them. Read the rest

Video tour of VR World NYC

This video report looks at the current state of consumer arcade VR with VR World’s Head of Content Tommy Goodkin. Read the rest

The sad slow death of cathode ray tubes

Most of us want rid of heavy old TV sets: they're piled high in warehouses, a dangerous waste mountain resulting from a huge recycling scam. But some of us are desperate to keep their old CRTs going.

The CRT’s slow extinction is also becoming a pressing problem for arcades, especially with the rise of arcade bars over the past decade. Establishments like San Francisco’s Brewcade, Portland’s Ground Kontrol, and Chicago’s Emporium Arcade Bar all line their walls with dozens of nostalgia-inspiring cabinets and by extension, dozens of CRT displays. ... Arcades generally have in-house teams of employees with varying levels of expertise. Ground Kontrol, which describes itself as a “hands-on museum,” is owned by two electrical engineers and two software specialists. They initially repaired machines themselves, until finally hiring a full-time technician. Barcade employs two dedicated repair specialists, and a number of other staff can do some work on the machines.

The only remaining manufacturer of CRTs left the business just last year. Read the rest

A visit to Europe's biggest retro-arcade

Arcade Club, near Manchester in England, is Europe's biggest collection of classic games. Retromash went for a visit.

Let’s cut to the chase. This place has over 250 arcade machines. Just take that in for a second. It’s the biggest arcade in Europe. I don’t know even know how many arcades in the UK had that many machines back in the 80s! Funspot and Galloping Ghosts in the US are definitely much bigger but this is still pretty massive for the UK. I obviously won’t list all the machines here but what I will do is list all the ones I can think of off the top of my head without taking a breath…

It looks amazing: in addition to the 250 cabinets, there's a newly-opened floor for pinball machines, Japanese-language games that never saw the light of day in the UK, and even a restaurant!

See also Retromash's collection of old Argos catalogs. Read the rest

Profile of a whimsical arcade machine maker

I got to know cartoonist/engineer Tim Hunkin while I was editor-in-chief of Make magazine (here are some of the articles he wrote for me there). Tim has a great sense of humor, and one of the ways he expresses it is by building funny coin-operated amusements with names like “Pet or Meat,” “Autofrisk,” and “My Nuke - Personal Nuclear Reactor”. He has two arcades in England and I would love to visit them sometime.

Here's a longer profile of Tim's work:

Here' the video for "My Nuke": Read the rest

The Lost Arcade: documentary about Manhattan's last arcade

The Lost Arcade, a documentary about the encroachment of gentrficiation upon the last real video arcade in Manhattan, is now available to watch online.

Directed by Kurt P. Vincent, the story is as much about the Chinatown Fair's community as the games, celebrating the final years of a pop culture phenomenon that moved into our homes so slowly we never realized what we were losing.

"I wanted to create a film that would capture the spirit that hit me the first time I walked through those doors," writes Vincent. "There was a melting pot of a community that congregated there, where all walks of life came together and shared one common interest: video games. It was a microcosm of what New York was all about. Not the overpriced New York we've come to accept, but what this city originally stood for and still does when you look deep enough."

The Lost Arcade sheds a behind-the-scenes light into the demise of arcade culture, as it coincided with the rise of home console and online gaming, and showcases the dichotomy of how gamers connected then vs. now. But more importantly, it highlights the diversity and camaraderie among the competitive gamer community that arcades like Chinatown Fair were so uniquely able to foster.

View links: iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, VHX, Vimeo, and Vudu.

Previously: The Lost Arcade: doc about rebirth of legendary NYC arcade Read the rest

Supply of old-fashioned CRT arcade monitors dries up

The last manufacturer of arcade-sized cathode ray tubes is out of the business, with one supplier having only 30 or so in stock and no chance of ordering more. The manufacturing process is difficult enough that it's unlikely anyone will step into the breach; Venturebeat's Jeff Grubb reports that times will be good for skilled repairers.

“I have a feeling that — y’know how there are those guys doing pinball repair on the side — there will probably be some guy you can send your monitor to and have him rewind the bulb,” says Ware. “I think it’s going to be really expensive.” A CRT tube is very heavy, so shipping costs alone would be costly. “Right now, I don’t know of anyone who does [the winding].”

To fill the void, Day suggests that new companies will emerge to reproduce those old machines using only modern-day technology. An LCD screen connected to a PC running a piece of software that approximates the original experience will be adequate for most people.

CRT emulation is amazing, but still obviously such to me. But I bet using curved OLED panels embedded in thick CRT-style glass would fool my eye in darkness. There's yer Kickstarter. Read the rest

Raspberry Pi revolutionized arcade game emulation, here's how to get started

Jeff Atwood (coincidentally the cocaine-dusted, AK-toting godfather of our comment system) writes at length about the absolutely fabulous things that the tiny, supremely adaptable Raspberry Pi computers have done for the emulation scene. His posting doubles as a useful how-to for those unfamiliar with the drill.

1. The ascendance of Raspberry Pi has single-handedly revolutionized the emulation scene. 2. Chinese all-in-one JAMMA cards are available everywhere for about $90. 3. Cheap, quality arcade size IPS LCDs of 18-23".

This is most definitely the funnest and cheapest way to get into arcade emulation when you want to step beyond apps. If you're not into messing around with linux and configuration files and whatnot, an Intel Compute Stick (which comes with Windows) is a more expensive but easier path than a Pi. But you'll still have to deal with the hardware. Read the rest

King of Kong also the Prince of Pac-Man

Remember Billy Mitchell, the star of excellent videogame documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters? In 1999, the Donkey Kong champ was also the first person confirmed to attain a perfect score on Pac-Man.

Read the rest

MAME is now free as well as free of charge

MAME, the arcade emulator originally created by Nicola Salmoria 19 years ago, is now comprised entirely of free and open-source software. It's taken a lot of wrangling, reports MAMEDev.org, due to the large number of contributors and interlinked components.

After 19 years, MAME is now available under an OSI-compliant and FSF-approved license! Many thanks to all of the contributors who helped this to go as smoothly as possible!

We have spent the last 10 months trying to contact all people that contributed to MAME as developers and external contributors and get information about desired license. We had limited choice to 3 that people already had dual-license MAME code with.

As a result, a great majority of files (over 90% including core files) are available under the 3-Clause BSD License but project as a whole is distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License, version 2 or later (GPL-2.0+), since it contains code made available under multiple GPL-compatible licenses.

I still remember building a MAME cabinet, someone asking "which game is that?" and having the pleasure of saying "all of them."

Correction: Nicola Salmoria's name was originally misspelled "Salmora." Read the rest

Meet the inventor of Whac-A-Mole and The Rock-afire Explosion

Aaron Fechter is the creator of the Rock-afire Explosion, the animatronic band that made greasy memories at Showbiz Pizza throughout the 1980s. He also insists he's the inventor of Whac-A-Mole, based on a similar Japanese game that he saw in 1976, although the company that popularized it call bullshit on that claim. Now, Fechter has a new game in the works, Bashy Bug, and he's banking on its success to save his career, and his legacy. From Popular Mechanics:

Day two of the (International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions Convention) finds Fechter on the floor but with a non-working game. This is the first public debut of Bashy Bug.

As Fechter promised, the game is mechanical. The player operates a giant rubber flip-flop while a mutated cockroach skitters underfoot. If you can step on the bug, you earn a point. If the bug escapes when you bring your foot down, the bug earns a point. I know from experience that the system has been wired with a jerking intelligence to randomly stop the bug's run just short of the target that makes this harder than it sounds, and after the bug has scored a few points against you, you'll find yourself sucked in. But nobody here will have that opportunity.

"I haven't slept," Fechter tells me, standing in front of this monument of a purple machine with an animatronic roach face hovering above the scoreboard and Billy Bob painted on the cabinet. There is a mania in his voice that I would blame on fatigue if I hadn't interviewed him before.

Read the rest

The Lost Arcade: doc about rebirth of legendary NYC arcade

Changing technology made it a legend, then gentrification killed it. But Chinatown Fair, Manhattan's legendary video arcade, is open to players again in a new location. The Lost Arcade is a forthcoming documentary about a place best summed up in the line: "of course the best players went there. It was the only place still open."

Chinatown Fair opened as a penny arcade on Mott Street in 1944. Over the decades, the dimly lit gathering place, known for its tic-tac-toe playing chicken, became an institution, surviving turf wars between rival gangs, changing tastes and the explosive growth of home gaming systems like Xbox and Playstation that shuttered most other arcades in the city. But as the neighborhood gentrified, this haven for a diverse, unlikely community faced its strongest challenge, inspiring its biggest devotees to next-level greatness.

The premiere showings are on Nov. 14 and 18th, 2015, in New York City at IFC Center.

More from the description:

The story focuses on three members of the Chinatown Fair community: Akuma, a young man who found refuge in the arcade after running away from foster care; Henry Cen, a kid who grew up in Chinatown and became one of the best Street Fighter players in the world; and Sam Palmer, father figure and longtime owner of Chinatown Fair.

When Sam is forced to close Chinatown Fair, Henry and Akuma refuse to let the arcade community die and create Next Level, a modern incarnation of the classic arcade located in the Chinatown neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Read the rest

The last arcades

Polygon's Willie Clark finds out what it's like to operate a video arcade in an age of pocket supercomputers, of Dave and Buster, of booming rents.

"There really is an obsolescence factor with these things," Horne says. "There's going to come a point where they're just going to get more and more rare."

That just reinforces one of the most important points Horne stresses when it comes to opening an arcade bar.

"It's very important to have a very good video game repairman," Horne says. "It's very important. Probably the number one thing. And bring your patience when it comes to sourcing the games."

Read the rest

See the original notebook sketches for Pac-Man

Pac-Man's creator Toru Iwatani shows his original notebook sketches from the iconic arcade game that turned 35 this year. Read the rest

Methodically train your child to be an arcade whiz

Photo: Andy Baio

When writer and technologist Andy Baio had a son, he thought it would be a good opportunity for an experiment (as you do):

I love games, and I genuinely wanted Eliot to love and appreciate them too. So, here was my experiment:

What happens when a 21st-century kid plays through video game history in chronological order?

Start with the arcade classics and Atari 2600, from Asteroids to Zaxxon. After a year, move on to the 8-bit era with the NES and Sega classics. The next year, the SNES, Game Boy, and classic PC adventure games. Then the PlayStation and N64, Xbox and GBA, and so on until we’re caught up with the modern era of gaming.

It's a great bit of writing on nostalgia and games, but on a practical level, Baio's son Eliot is the envy of any score-chaser, finishing The Legend of Zelda entirely on his own by age six. Now eight, he could be the youngest person ever to completely beat Mossmouth's popular, punishing roguelike Spelunky.

Given that many people think esports as college athletics could actually become A Thing, start training your kids young, one supposes. Read the rest

Video: montage of arcades in movies

Arcades in movies, 1975-1994. Read the rest

When finishing Dragon's Lair was awesome

Steven Frank looks back on a triumphant 1980s childhood moment, when he beat the laserdisc arcade game Dragon's Lair to the astonishment of onlookers. Read the rest

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