Arcades: Don’t Call it a Comeback

nothing2Video arcades may be a thing of the past, but they’re still alive, well and were ready to play at this year’s World Maker Faire. The offerings weren’t old favorites, all were brand new games many being shown for the first time like the long-awaited VEC9. The Hall of Science building was filled with cabinets and no quarters were necessary, all were free-play.

Death By Audio Arcade was there in force with games like Particle Mace and Powerboat Italia ’88. Our personal favorite was Nothing Good Can Come of This. [Michael P. Consoli] devised a simple game: Two players in an empty room. A bullet drops from a hole in the ceiling, followed by a gun shortly thereafter. What happens next is up to the players. The simple graphics and gameplay give this title its charm. [Michael] was showing off a new stand-up cabinet for the game this year. He built the entire thing himself, working until the wee hours before load-in at Maker Faire.

[Batsly Adams], [Todd Bailey], and [Mike Dooley] teamed up to create what may be the first new vector arcade in decades. VEC9 has been teased for over 2 years. They’ve finally wrapped this game up and showed it off at the faire. VEC9 started with an old
Asteroids vector monitor found by [Batsly].

Vvec9ector monitors are closer to oscilloscopes than raster scan TV’s. Digital to analog converters create drive voltages which steer an electron beam where it needs to go. The result is a high-resolution display that is very good at drawing straight lines – and lots of them. The video system was created using a Xilinx Spartan-3E FPGA coded in VHDL. The game logic itself is coded in good old-fashioned C. The vector monitor isn’t the only display on this game though – there is also a monochrome raster CRT, which displays status information to the game player. A display system this epic would need a control system to match. The team delivered with an authentic tank control yoke, complete with working wing switches.

If you can’t tell from the images, VEC9 is all about Mother Russia. The premise is that VEC9 is a dead hand system created in 1984. Since it can no longer contact controllers, the system has assumed the USSR was destroyed by a strike from the USA. It’s up to the player to take revenge. Check out the release trailer for a real taste of this game.

sem[NYC Resistor] didn’t sit this Maker Faire out either. Their arcade project was a full body-immersive game called Semaphore Hero. Much like Guitar Hero, this game requires the player to follow an on-screen pattern, this time with semaphore flags rather than guitar notes.

Players wear a life vest festooned with a blue LED. Semaphore flags complete with green and red LEDs are used to spell out the semaphore alphabet. A camera hidden behind a dark filter analyzed the position of the LEDs and determined if the player was in the correct position for each letter. The game was coded in C# using the Unity engine. The NYC Resistor team was running it on an older MAC mini using Mono. This game was tough! Our best score was only 11 out of 26.

14 thoughts on “Arcades: Don’t Call it a Comeback

  1. I know people now refer to game cabinets as (an) arcade but that’s incorrect. An arcade is a group of videogames/pinballs/etc. VEC9 is an “arcade game”.

    While not coin-op, a few people have recently written homebrew games for the Vectrex vector game console. The new vector hardware of VEC9 looks interesting but I’d like to see how it compares to the Star Wars Mathbox/AVG.

      1. From the video I can see you’ve implemented constant intensity vectors and object scaling/rotation both of which are much easier to do with today’s hardware. Can you do curves/circles? I’d like to see a video of the attract mode and a full game. Ten second clips just don’t cut it.

    1. Also one of the oldest and most famous still surviving arcades. You are just lucky. To say even Funspot is not a thing of the past, simply because it still exists, is a bit of a stretch. There are a couple of arcades in the city I live in, that doesn’t mean they are few and far between, nor a dwindling business model. High cost of ownership/setup/maintenance, you need to roll a lot of quarters to recoup. The tie in these days seems to be adding alcohol.

      1. Great point about the alcohol not that it is a bad thing just a movement towards something different. It is always interesting when younger family comes over when they come inside instead of hitting up a console they always hit the games or pinballs I have. Having recently picked up my dream pinball Indiana Jones The Pinball Adventure they went crazy over that game. Kids these days have little clue about these items and it pretty much always puts a smile on my face to see the consoles sit there turned off along with the big screen and yet the background noise of galaga, digdug, other arcade classics and pinballs fills the air.

  2. How many readers here own arcade games I wonder, I have a centipede, Asteroids Deluxe, space dual, vs. Mario Bros, and a couple mutt pacman conversions. A great hobby if you love old school micros.

    1. We build our own at Ultimaker, even made our own game on it (where you should red M symbols in an space-invaders fashion. Totally not related to Makerbot in any way)

      Does that count?

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