If you have a question for me, feel free to send it to owen-at-orubin-dot-com. I can't promise that EVERY question will be put on these pages, but I'll post as many as possible!
All letters are pasted exactly as I get them. Newest letters show up on higher numbered pages. (I will fix that soon, I promise.)
From Francis Mariani:
Francis: Hi Owen!
Owen I hope I’m not bothering you with this email, but I’m happy to be writing to you, and from me to you: THANK YOU for all of the creativity and hard work that you put into the games that you’ve created and/or worked on! I’m the proud owner of Major Havoc #00003. I did a lot of restoration to it this summer and it’s the gem of my collection. I feel pretty lucky to own it. Please know that you’ll always be a welcome guest in my game room if you’re ever in Los Angeles.
I’m writing to you because I’m working on a website for my small collection of games and I wanted to link your website. I didn’t think you would mind but I wanted to make sure anyway.
Here’s the link to home page:
At the bottom of the Odds & Ends page is where your site is linked. I’ve included the story of the Battlezone volcano there too. :) Please let me know if there’s any problem with any of this ok? And I hope you and your family are all in good health and that everything’s going well for you.
Owen: Great collection and great site. By all means link to my site, and I will get a link back to yours as well on my site as soon as possible.
You have some great games. I always loved Food Fight, and I use to have Quantum but had to get rid of it when I moved. Believe it or not, I gave it away as the monitor was dead. Little did I know 20 year ago what it would be worth. SIGH!
Anyway, thanks for the message. Good luck with your collection. By the way, excellent job on the restores. I may call you when I am ready to or need to fix mine. I have a prototype which has a graphics free panel. Would love to get a real panel, so if you find one....
No bother at all, and I wish I could help you. But I am sorry, I do not know where one is. Unfortunately, when I got married almost 20 years ago, I GAVE mine away. SIGH! My wife needed some room in the house! :-) It was in perfect shape, as was the Cannonball prototype I had as well. I really enjoyed making that game. It was simple, but with some cool advanced features (like the SKYDIVER light up feature.) Glad you enjoyed it. I will do my best to be at the Extreme this year (just added it to my calendar.) Happy to speak if asked, I like doing that.. I missed it last year, and I was sorry to have missed it. If they do an old farts panel again, I am happy to join it as well. Cheers, and good luck finding it. If you do, please send me some pictures. Would love to see them.
Francis: Owen thanks so much! And I really appreciate you linking to my site that’s so great of you. I love Food Fight too, and darn you gave away your Quantum?! I wish I had known you back then I would have fixed your monitor and would have convinced you to keep it forever. :) And I know…I wish we ALL knew 20 years ago what we know now. We would all be pretty well off!
Thank you so much for the compliments. And please always feel free to call I would be more than happy to help if I can. The best number day or night for me is my cell (310) xxx-xxxx.
A small run of silk-screened Major Havoc control panel overlays were reproduced from the actual film by Phoenix Arcade. That is where I got mine. Here’s the link: http://www.phoenixarcade.com/art.htm. They also did a run of the side art. Classic Arcade Graphix also has reproduction control panel overlays, both dedicated and conversion, but they are not of good quality (inkjet) and their link is here: http://www.classicarcadegrafix.com/sunshop/index.php/action/item/id/280/prevaction/search/previd//prevstart/0/. As you can see, there’s quite a price difference…but in this instance, you definitely get what you pay for.
If you also want the actual control panel too let me know and I’ll definitely keep an eye out. I did see one on eBay 3 months ago and I was going to buy it just to have in case I ran across a stripped Major Havoc cabinet, but I didn’t…probably because the odds of finding a stripped Major Havoc cabinet are slim to none. :)
Q: Hi Owen, I hope you're doing well.
Owen: I am doing well, thanks.
Just wanted to say a quick hello from Chicago, and thanks for your works with Atari. Major Havoc & Space Duel were my most favorite games- both are definitely on my top 10 of all time and favorite Atari games- hands down. I do give it both a whirl now and again with mame and my logitech cordless trackman trackball... Space Duel does ok- but its just not the same with MH- level 14 is hard enough (never got out alive) but 15 still has me stumped with those cannons- upright version or emulated... ouch!
Owen: To be honest, the last 4 waves were created by Mark Cerny, and I too have never made it out of 15 alive. It is very difficult indeed, and I have seen Mark do it, but I suck at 15! :-)
I've got some questions about the MH conversions- I'm wondering about the possibility of a FAQ section on such items in the future- seeing that the original MH is very hard to come by.
Owen: Ok, lets start one here.
Regarding the conversions- I've never seen one or played one in person- only the original cabaret type cabinet. Something about that knob vs the roller... and twisting the wrist. Its very difficult to find the original MH- if anything it will probably be a conversion I'd consider one day... I am considering a tempest cabinet down the road, but want to play both, wondering if wiring is similar between the two boardsets. Or of some type of pcb work can be done where both romsets can be switched between? If not a Grivatar would do, something about that Space Duel style cab... one of the best!
Owen: There is a major issue with conversion that you need to know. The vector generator on MH was faster than on the other, older vector games that you convert. That leads to some serious flickering when played on a conversion, especially in later waves when many vectors are drawn. So a conversion plays slower than on the original. It is not a large change, but it is there, and I for one, did not like the way it played.
I was not aware space duel was available in cocktail! How many were made? And this finding has lead to another idea regarding above+ tempest cocktail! The MH boardset doesn't support cocktail mode according to MAME anyway... these would make for some neat modifications regardless, and possible cabinet builds.
Owen: I have one of the Space Duel cocktail cabinets, but how many were made, I do not know. But it is large, and VERY heavy, and takes up more space than a regular upright. And remember, that people need to be able to sit on both sides. I have often thought of trading mine for an upright at times because it needs less space and can hug a wall. And no, Major Havoc will not work in a cocktail. For one thing, the controls are on the side and the monitor is in landscape mode on Space Duel. But remember, MH has the monitor turned the long way, which means you would have to play from the side. Sorry, but it would require some serious mods.
I have limited space where I'm living... and the cocktail has a certain appeal. My first acquisition is a Stargate cocktail table (no disrespect - went with the hometown Williams/Midway folks and much to my surprise- it was available. :) I'd love to see photos of the Space Duel cocktail... very nice!
Owen: I can send a shot or two. They are attached. I took them with my cell phone, so not great resolution, but enough to give you a good idea. That is a 1 foot ruler in one shot on the top to give you an idea of its size.
As to owning other games, never a problem with me, I have a lot of respect for a great deal of other games, and Stargate IS one of them. And since I worked for Bally, even less of an issue! ;-) )
In any event, thanks again for your time and creativity- I've enjoyed your games since I was a youngster. Feel free to write or post any of this if you wish.
Owen: Thanks Jim, feel free to ask some specific questions as well. Will do what I can.
From Scott Stilphen from Digital Press:
Q: Hey Owen,
I just read the new interview with you at Way of the Rodent. I saw where you mentioned working with Rob Fulop at Interactive Productions (which later became PF. Magic). Were you involved with the (unreleased) Hasbro project, "NEMO"? From my interview with Rob Fulop (years ago - http://www.digitpress.com/library/interviews/interview_rob_fulop.html), I.P. initially worked on 3(?) games for it (with Nolan Bushnell's company, Axlon) - Tech Force, Sewer Shark, and Scene of the Crime (which later became Night Trap). Tech Force was never released, but the latter 2 were later released for the Sega CD and 3DO.
Did you do any work with their CD-I games as well - Third Degree and Max Magic?
Regarding your game, Cannon Ball, do you know who programmed the home version for the Atari VCS (Human Cannonball)?
How did you get the perfect screenshots for your site? I'm using MAME32 (v 0.96) and it still doesn't emulate this properly (see attached screenshot). I don't know if newer versions do, or if a better ROMset has been archived.
Lastly, regarding unreleased Atari laserdisc coin-op games, I happen to have a Malibu Grand Prix laserdisc (which I recently transferred to DVD - I can send you a copy if you'd like) and noticed a lot of 'extra' footage on it (I'm attaching a zip file of some screenshots. Unfortunately I don't recognize most of the people who appear...). I'm guessing this was a test footage disc, and not the final version since the game was never completed. You mentioned (in another interview) working with Ed Logg on the software for this, possibly to include graphics (score counters, etc), to be displayed on top of the footage? Were you involved in putting together the laserdisc as well? Also, I'd *love* to archive your test discs for Golf and Battlestar Galactica.
Owen: Yes, I was there for Nemo, and did some editing on Night Trap (Scene of the Crime), but only a small amount, mostly on editing, and consulted on the MTV title which I do not see you mentioning, but I believe Ed Norton’s Sewer Race, later called Sewer Shark was already done. I do not recall Tech Force. Did you know that NEMO stood for Never Ever Mention Outside?
I do not know who did the home version of Cannon Ball, sorry. Been way too long.
As for the screen shot, an early version of the port did not have this problem. The Mame version now suffers from a bad graphics ROM, which should be easy to fix. But I think my screen shot came from an early photo I had of the game, but I do not recall. Feel free to use it if you like.
NOTE FROM BRIAN: Actually, the romset used in the screenshot has a reconstructed graphics PROM that the MAME driver programmer worked on. I got ahold of it while I was still a member of MAMEDEV, and I think it is now widely available from the usual places.
Great pics and yes, I would love a copy, and I will pay postage and costs. Looking through the pics, I recognize a few people:
DVD-19 is Paul Mancuso. He was a tech for me and others at Atari. DVD-23 is John Ray. I will have to take some time to recall the others. But what a fun look back!
The Malibu I worked on with Ed Logg was a vector generator game. I believe I left before this disc game was started.
As for my test discs, I guess I could copy the footage, but I am reluctant to send them anywhere. How could we make it happen?
Scott: Thanks for the info. I never knew NEMO was an acronym! (I just realized that Wikipedia mentions that). I've heard that the early digitized video ran on a modified Colecovision(!). A few years ago I talked with former Imagic artist Michael Becker, who did some work for it (and also referred to it as the "Isix" VHS Interactive Movie video system. He mentioned it had several different names. Wikipedia also refers to it as "Control-Vision".) and described it as such:
"By the way, I believe Michael Becker was [one of] our artists at Interactive Productions if I recall correctly.
The Isix was a VCR-like box that attached to your VHS player. Think of a second VHS unit with a board filled with RAM that sat on top of the VHS and cabled into it with a controller port. You inserted a videotape with interleaved video (4 tracks) and 16 interleaved tracks of audio (or still images). It worked a lot like railroad switching; if you pressed a controller button at an edit point it could jump to another track (never backward!). It was this technology that we originally designed Sewer Shark and Night Trap for. That was essentially what they envisioned. I thought it interesting they only ever stress tested-the interactive video with ONE Panasonic player and that after about 100 playings the data began to rub off the tapes." This is correct. Basically, all games had to be in real time as the input was a VHS tape playing real time. In a nutshell, the system had frames encodes with a “video channel number.” The box would hold a frame until that channel numbered frame came by again. So, for example, you could have two frames 1 2 1 2 1 2 going by, and switch the channel in real time. That gave you two channels to do interactive. Or you could do 1 2 3 1 2 4 1 2 5 1 2 6 1 2 3 ... Which is what Night Trap did. So, if you tuned to channel 3, it would only change occasionally, basically, an empty room. We had the “snow” screen effect to mask the channel while changing if you had to wait for the channel to come around. Then sounds were added by the system to make the channel seem active. Unfortunately, when you wanted to play again, you had to replay the tape. As mentioned, tapes start to ware out after 75 or less plays, and the first thing to go was the vertical blank signal which contained the encoding for the “channel number.”"
What was the MTV title you mentioned? Never heard of that one.
Owen: They got the MTV VJ Martha Quinn to record some video. You were given the job of creating a music video. On the screen we could show ALL channels at the time time as small pictures, and this would have 4 or 5 channels and a bunch of special effects. You would press buttons to select the video channels and effects. At the end we would replay the video, and Martha would rate your video at the end. Either she got fired, or she gave a virtual kiss, or something in between. I am not sure who did the whole title, but I recall working with some people on ideas.
Scott: Rob Fulop also mentioned the original version of Night Trap done for Hasbro featured a hidden scene with a topless Dana Plato, but he didn't know if it was added into the Digital Pictures version that came out on the Sega and PC. I asked Michael about this but he didn't know about it. Do you remember anything about that trick?
Owen: Not exactly topless. In the original game, a few of the major game points where you HAD to trap a few monsters to win took place at the same time Dana was in the bathroom getting ready for bed. In that scene, she took off her top and stood looking at herself in the mirror, where the camera was “hidden”, wearing only a bra (you could not see below her waist.). The idea was that typical young guy would stop and watch that camera hoping she would go further, but I never recall her going completely topless. If there was a topless version, I did not know about it But it was THIS scene that got Night Trap into such trouble and caused the start of the video game rating issues with Congress.
Scott: Speaking of Easter eggs (I created and maintain the EE section at Digital Press: http://www.digitpress.com/eastereggs/), I was digging through your email section and saw a letter from Stephan Jokisch about finding your initials in Orbit! Did either you or him ever figure out which key presses trigger them to appear on the screen? I looked through the MAME roms I have, and the only interesting thing I found was this small graphic that shows what appears to be the letters "OIL" (picture attached) in rom labeled "033711.a7".
Owen: That is funny. The OIL is a left over graphic from SPRINT, which is probably what hardware I think we used. I suspect that this was just never removed. I believe what he speaks of was never released, but I do not recall exactly what we did. I think I simply wrote it out in program, so it would not be in the ROM directly as initials. There was a table in the game code that had initials, but do not ask me where. They would be as ASCII bytes most likely.
Scott: I used a program called Romhack to look at the graphics, but I had to use a digital camera to get a screenshot (picture attached) since there's no option to save one directly. Are these the initials in question? (though IIRC you've used "ORR" on the high score tables in several other games).
Owen: That is not them.
Scott: This was a real surprise to me, because up until now, Warren Robinett has always been credited with being the first person to put an Easter egg in a game (he created a secret room in his 1980 VCS Adventure game that displays his name). A few people have mentioned that a 1978 Channel F game, Video Whizball, was first, but in speaking with the programmer, he mentioned he got the idea from hearing about programmers at Atari doing it. I know Rick Maurer came to Atari from Fairchild around that time, so I figured that's possibly how the Channel F guys hear about them. Where did you get the idea to put on in Orbit?
Owen: We wanted to put names in games for a long time, and as a long time Hacker, it was obvious. I did several. In an EARLY release of Orbit, entering a special code at the right time in attract would give you free time on the game. I though I could play it when in an Arcade for free. I when the field test location one day, and even though they would have given me free tokens, I decided to enter my very long code. I looked around, no one was watching, and bang, I had free time. A week later, I went back to see a bunch of kids hanging around the game, and watched one kid, about 14, enter the code and start playing. I walked up to him and asked him how he knew how to do that, and he just shrugged. My guess, he saw me do it, or did it by pure accident and had a good memory for what he pressed. It was removed from the game obviously.
There were a few Easter Eggs in a game I did called Sebring. This was a racing game based on the mechanical game called F1. It was beautiful, and sadly never released because of the cost, but imagine a first person driving game LONG before any others. Well, you drove only on a circle track and always turning left, passing cars as they approached when you could. There were billboards along the road with phony advertisements, but when you went fast, I would change one billboard to have my name and the name of the hardware engineer go by. It went by fast, and unless you knew where to hit the breaks to make it stop, you would never see it. Or so I thought. Now remember, names in games, a bad thing at the time. Well, Gene Lipkin, our VP of Sales, was playing the game, and all of a sudden I hear him yell out, “Owen, did I just see your name go by?” I played dumb. He then slams on the breaks and RIGHT in front of his face is a bill board with my name and the electrical engineer’s name on it, VERY large, in the center of the screen. Needless to say, he was not amused. Sebring was a late 70’s game I believe. This game also only used two ROM chips for the game on the board, and if you put them in the wrong sockets on the board and turned it on, the machine makes an explosion sound, and the screen says, “The ROMS are in backwards, dummy.’ But if you hit the self test switch, it still runs correctly, but says ROMS: KO instead of the usual message ROMS: OK. Mike Albaugh and I worked long and hard on creating this position independent self-test which HAD to work correctly. No other game ever did this.
In Major Havoc, at one time you could jump through the corner of a wall in a maze (a bug, not a feature) but on one of the mazes, if you did this you would fall for a long time through nonsense and then see our names in vectors. I think this too was released from the later version. If you can still jump though the wall and touch the clock you see in a few mazes, all the objects in the maze slow WAY down for a period of time. It was going to be a game play, but it made the waves too long, so we moved the clock outside the maze. But I believe the code is still in there. There is also a large robot like from Disney’s The Black Hole (Max) and we never got to use that. It would have been used in the game final on the planet which we never created.
I am sure there are others, it will come to me.
Scott: Did you have Easter eggs in any of your other games? And do you know of any other coin-op games that had them during that time?
Owen: As for others, no, I do not know.
Scott: Cannonball/Human Cannonball - Ah well. This is the only early (70s) VCS title that I don't have a name for (one of my other "jobs" at DP is maintaining the VCS section of the database. Btw, I can't thank you enough for saving the original Stella proto...). I don't know if you'd recognize the programmer's name if you saw it, but I attached a current listing of all the released VCS titles, along with the programmer(s) for each. If not, no problem.
Owen: OK, looking at the list. It might have been Bob Polaro, but I am not sure. Sorry.
Scott: Malibu Grand Prix - Thanks for identifying some of the Atari coin-op people from the laserdisc. I wish there was more lab footage like that :) There's actually very little of it (time-wise) on the disc I have, and I had to step through it frame-by-frame to capture most of them. It's possible a few others still slipped by me. Some of it is obviously there as an in-joke. The pic of the girl (#8) appears in the beginning and says something like "this is the future" and then it cuts to flashing images of money (#9) and someone dialing a (meaningful?) sequence of numbers on a keypad (#11). Near the end some footage of Pole Position appears, so I guess this is what the laserdisc game was trying to emulate(?). The whole video is actually sandwiched between the beginning and ending of an Atari commercial (one of those that featured Jack Palance's narration).
From some of the comments of yours in regards to Malibu (in your article for SigGraph), it sounded like you might have been working on a different Malibu, but I wasn't sure. So there was a vector version, which you and Ed Logg were working on (and predates the laserdisc one), correct?
Owen: Correct. It was based on Battlezone hardware and was a true first person driver. You could drive anywhere. The problem is, you could drive anywhere, so if you left the track, all those lines and things became very confusing. It was WAY before the Laser Disc. Funny thing, I was sent to graduate classes at MIT by Atari to study laser disc technology, and then only worked on a few pieces of the games. Battlestar Galactica, Golf Trainer, and Knight Rider, none of which went very far. Probably Golf went further than others for me, and then I left Atari.
Scott: You mentioned on your site about a tape someone sent you from another test disc that featured video for the game, Playland, which also included footage meant for a racing course game that sounds very similar to MGP. You stated:
"We wanted to do a real driving game, and I recall someone on the same team I was on doing this at Sears Point in California near Napa. Doug Phol kind of did what he wanted. Even though I was supposed to be in charge of VD games, he took a team out and started shooting all this stuff (I mean crap!) without talking to anyone. Can you imagine trying to make a game out of that footage? I do not know what they were thinking. I do remember him getting laid off finally."
Owen: Yea, he liked the idea, and just did what he wanted for sure. He spent a LOT of money on video, and it was all crap. I have a funny feeling so was the Malibu footage for what it really needed to be.
The real sad part of this was when I came back from MIT, I said, “DO NOT DO VIDEO DISC GAMES. BAD IDEA.” No one listened, and they let others do the games after that.
Playland was VERY cool footage, and was going to use, if I recall, the Laser Disc much like the disc in Cube Quest, mainly as backgrounds. I wish I knew what happened to that tape, it was amazing stuff. If I find it, I will digitize it and send you a copy. I do not recall there ever being a game for it though.
Scott: According to the person I purchased the disc from, the race course footage I have was done at the Malibu Grand Prix driving center in Redwood City, CA, so I'm not sure if there were 2 different games that were based on actual footage, or if they're both the same game.
Owen: I think they tried a few times to get good footage, and did Malibu because the other footage was crap and Malibu was nearby. For our Malibu we went to the real one in Redwood City and filmed a bunch of stuff so the vector game would look better too, but not with all that equipment they show. But remember, this was a LONG time ago, and also around the time I left Atari.
Scott: As for the DVD, just lmk the address to send it to. Regarding the test discs you have, if you can transfer them to VHS that would be fine. I'd be reluctant to send the original discs out as well. I'll gladly cover the costs both ways (let me know if you need any blank tapes). It's the *least* I can do, considering how much I've enjoyed some of your games over the years :). Besides, if the DP guys heard I let you pay for anything, I'd never hear the end of it.
Owen: No worries, I will be happy to. Would you prefer it on a DVD? Might be easier for me. I have a Pioneer DVD recorder connected to my laser disk, so I am willing to do that.
I am copying this to my website, so other can read the questions and answers, so I will send an address in a separate message.
I first played Major Havoc in 1985 at Dudley's draw at Texas A&M as a student and have been looking for a machine for a long time.
Do you have any idea where I can get one or how to get a copy to play on my PC?
Owen: As for getting a real Major Havoc, watch Ebay and talk to local arcades if any exist. They are VERY hard to find these days.
As for playing on your PC, I have posted this info on the site. Follow the links to MAME. You can also Google for “Mame” and then spend some time searching the net for game ROMS. Again, they are hard to find, and if you get stuck, let me know and I will see what I can do to get you a copy of the ROMS for MAME for Major Havoc.
MAME is an emulator that plays the REAL game, not a copy or knock off of the game. The emulator executes the code in the ROMS and plays it EXACTLY as the arcade machine.
From John Greve:
Hello.....just wanted to take a moment to say hello and tell you how much I enjoy your old arcade games Space Duel and Major Havoc.I own both of these arcade games among roughly 20 others. My Major Havoc is a Space Duel conversion....(.sorry about that particular Space Duel but I do own and play another! :) Also own a Battlezone which is alot of fun but gets to hard to fast for me anyway so I don't get much higher than 50,000 points or so.
Owen: No worries about the conversion. It happened to a LOT of Space Duels actually way back when. At least it was converted to another game of mine! :-)
I've never been able to figure out how the warping thing works when your in the Breakout screen on MH.I've searched online for an answer as well but have been unsuccessful as well so I thought that I'd go to the "horses mouth" as it were....Can you enlighten me on this?
Owen: As you play through the game, messages appear on the tactical screen (where you enter the warp code) that will tell you the codes. I believe (I am not sure) that when you reach level 4, you will see a message that says something like "Intercepted message, Warp code for level 3 is 23" in bright flashing letters at the top of the tactical screen (what you call the break out screen).
There are 4 codes all together, unless you are playing the "Return to Vax" version created by a fan, which I think has 6 codes.
Each warp code also has a color to help you know which one you are entering.
If you have not died, you can enter a warp code on the "breakout" screen while the screen is being displayed. You need to be fast though, and entering the correct number will give you a bit more time to enter the next. The first two warp codes are only two digits each, so you can take 100 guesses if you like as well. The second 2 warp codes are 3 digits each, so guessing will not be so easy.
Anyway, when you enter the breakout screen, spinning the roller will change a digit. Pressing FIRE will lock in the number displayed, and move to the next digit. Spin the wheel again, pick the next digit, and press fire again (come to think of it, it might be the shield button, I do not recall...but one of the buttons will lock it in). If you get the right code, you will IMMEDIATELY jump to the "breakout" screen of that level, where you can again enter the next warp code, and continue to warp to level 12 (again, I think), the highest place you can warp to.
As I said, as long as you have not lost a life, the warp entry will be available to the NEXT highest location. For example, if you make it through the first 3 waves to level 4 and have not lost a life, for the first waves, you will be given then opportunity to enter the first warp. If you make as far as the first warp would have taken you and have not died, then you can enter the second warp, etc, etc.
The first warp code is 23. Give it a try. You need to be fairly fast though, as a timer starts when you enter that "breakout" screen, and you only have a small time to enter the proper code.
The reason for warps was to give a good player the ability to skip waves they no longer wanted to play, and get straight to the higher levels. I believe it also awards you points for each warp, an "average" score for someone who would have played the previously skipped waves so that you are not playing level 13 with not points.
Hope this helps.
MH is a absolute blast to play....I have a coupla boardsets cause the audio is dead on one but I do notice some different video on one of the boards.Some of the enemy shots are different shapes and have more color in them.I also noticed that on this particular board when the spaceship explodes there are wireframe shaped pieces that come towards you similar to what you'd see in Space Duel.My other board just has the sparkly effect when the ship explodes.I've never looked at the revision # on the chips yet as it's a huge pain getting to the back of the machine.At any rate I was surprised to see the differences.Oh...and it seems that there is a starfield in the background as well.The other game just has a black empty space background.So all those changes are neat to see!
Owen: Strange! I wonder if you have an old board? Does the game play the same?
If you are not seeing the star field, maybe that board requires the brightness to be turned up? The pieces that come towards you when the ship explodes are always there. Usually green pieces. Is it possible that the green output is dead on that board? Do you see the small maze at the top and other "green" items. Do you see white, is is everything yellow, red and purple?
I do not recall any major changes in released boards. We did ONE fix on a higher up level where the automatic hand turns the reactor back to safe and closes the exit door. Seems you could get out before the door closed, and then play that same level over and over this way for large points, as everything destroyed in the maze stayed destroyed! We did make a minor release to fix that. So, could the older board be a prototype? And if so, how could I get a copy of the ROM images?
Well that's it for now don't want to take up to much of your time.Thanks again for the inspiration that became Major Havoc and I look forward to hearing from you.
Owen: Thanks John. It was a fun game to do. A lot of the ideas and inspiration credit also must go to Lyle Rains, who created the art for the game, especially Havoc, and thus gave him his character, and Mark Cerny for designing the flying fish space wave, and the last 4 or so space waves, and a LOT of work on making the whole thing come together as well. Both are very creative people who put a lot of their time, creativity, and energy into this game as well. Part of me wishes we did it as a raster game, it probably would have been SO much more successful.
No problem in questions, feel free to ask any at any time.
From Peter Sealy:
Owen: Thanks for jogging my mind on the motion simulator.
Many thanks for putting up all that information on your site, it's a fascinating read - the glowing magic of the video games were really the heralds of a new age and I guess the people who wrote those early games are living legends to a lot of us.
I'd love to ask you a bit more about SAC-II if you don't mind? I know you've got the Shrike Avenger page up there, and apart from that, the MAME driver, and what I can barely make out on a scanned flyer, I think that's probably all the documentation that there is publicly available.
Owen: You have what I have seen...but I will try to help...
There's some general information that would be really intesting, I guess it might be hard to clarify as there was apparently only the one game produced on the hardware, so SAC-II is virtually synonymous with Shrike. I'd be curious as to whether the motion controlled cockpit actually an integral part of the SAC-II hardware, or was it an add-on specifically for Shrike? Were there any other features that distinguished it from SAC-I? Did Bally Sente retain all the prototypes, or is it possible that there is one or more in private ownership? I would suspect that if they were all protos there is then no published/printed documentation available for SAC-II?
Owen: There were two systems in that motion control unit. The regular SAC system which played the game, and a 68000 based motion control computer. The game played like any SAC game, but we may have had extra pages in the ROM cartridge for the graphics.
I did not write the software for the motion control computer. My game simply sent commands to that system via a mapped address and that computer moved the simulator. I recall some of the info, but not a lot. We had several methods on that machine to keep the simulator from running off the end.
The simulator was two "ball screws" on one end driven by stepper motors and a "u-joint" JUST like the one you would find in a Corvette for the game cabinet to pivot about. I could drive each screw up and down independently to achieve the motion I wanted. Not exactly 3D motion, but I got some good effects.
The motion computer would initialize the box by first slowly testing the limits of the motion. We had 2 switches on each end of each actuator. The design was to stop the motion of the first switch closed, and reverse the motion if the second switch closed, meaning you ran too far past the first switch. To test the limits, we would move the actuators to the low limit until it hit the first switch and stop. We would then slowly move to the other limit, counting the number of steps to the motors needed to hit the limit switch on the "up" end. The software would use these counts to never ask the simulator to go beyond these positions. If I recall, my software in the SAC let me know control the simulator by requesting a "numbered" position from 0 (all the way down) to "n", all the way up for each actuator. The idea was that we would never run one of the motion actuators off the end, thus dumping the game cabinet on the floor. (Sad news was that when it was first worked on before I started my work on it, that actually happened EVEN with all these protections. The damn thing moved fast and even the auto reverse was not fast enough to stop it from going over once. We later added steel cables as well JUST in case it happened again, which it did not.)
Did SAC-II disappear purely because of the cost? The best I can make out is that Shrike was Copyright 1986, and I think you mentioned the place was closed around 1987 - did SAC-II disappear because of the closure?
Owen: It was WAY too expensive for the day, I think around $10k. For that time, that was VERY costly. The other problem was that it was expensive to build, move, and ship. Lastly, it was VERY costly to maintain. With all those moving parts, it broke a lot. I am sure the closure of Sente was part of the issue, but Bally continued and if successful, it could have been made there.
I was asked about two years later by one of Bally's customers in Italy to build another game for the simulator. Had I still had access to the source and development environment, I would have, but alas, that never happened. In reality, the Shrike Avenger program was never finished either. The game was started by Jim Turner, who left Bally Sente. The game was not very far along, and I was only given about 6 weeks to turn it into something. The graphics were done, and I had to make something work. I chose to model the game after Last Starfighter actually, but never got to finish it. The game was to be a practice round shooting at small targets, then a long round of shooting at attacking ship (the game you play now) and then you were going to have to go against the "mother ship" and shoot out 4 engines and then the target array to win the round. Given the time, I tried to do something fun, but the actual play never really developed. There was going to be a "death blossom" shot you could use once that would have been a wild ride as well, but that motion was VERY tough in the simulator, do I did not complete it.
I find it hard to visualise the hardware - as you probably do too 20 years later! I assumed from the description on the flyer that the two motor drives were x,y drives for yaw and pitch, however the diagnostics screens refer to "l motor" and "r motor", does this mean that the cockipt rotated about the vertical axis and did not pitch? Or maybe rocked from side to side?
Owen: Very close. The two actuators were in the back in the left and right, with a U-joint in the front. If I moved the two actuators at the same time, the cabinet rocked forward and backward, basically pitch. If I went up on 'l' and down on 'r,' then the cabinet essentially went "roll" right, with an obvious backward pitch since the rotation point was always around the u-joint in the front. The opposite direction "rolled" left. Marketing could call them what they wanted, and we got some very cool motions by playing with the timing of the motors, including a circular motion which felt like yaw.
I hope you don't mind me asking all this stuff? There's plenty more I can think of, but I'll try and figure some out from the motor controller ROM :)
Owen: Ask away! I'll do my best to answer. I do not know the hardware of the motion side, but I did work on it for a while. Hope these answers are of some help.
Thanks again for taking the time to organise a website, and for answering all those questions on the mail page.
Owen: Thank Brian, the person who put it all together for me. I appreciate his efforts to keep it running.
(Brian: Well, I try :))
From Mitch Rohde:
I don't believe I've ever emailed you, but my name is Mitch Rohde and I am an engineer and arcade game collector that lives in Ann Arbor, MI. I was scanning your webpage and noticed you had worked on Triple Hunt back in the day.
I wanted to question one of the notes you have on the page. I have been restoring an upright Triple Hunt on and off for a couple years -- the one-piece dedicated version. From what I can tell it supports all three games, not just Witch Hunt. The machine came with all the art inserts (control panel, backgrounds, etc) and several 8-track tapes. SO - I was surprised with your comment that the one-piece was only Witch Hunt.
Owen: Very cool, please send us pictures.
Did I really say that, or did someone quote me wrong? (looking...)
I think the upright was only originally supposed to be a Witch Hunt. It is possible that someone took the graphics from a two piece when it died and put them in this game. But it was so long ago, I do not recall any more.
I would love to get a CD copy of the audio on the 8-track tapes as well. If you are so inclined, please take pics and audio capture and email them to me please.
Thanks for the message, and the correction. It is possible it was a changeable unit, and I never knew.
Good to hear from you. You may be right on the leached graphics, etc from another machine -- very hard to tell. I haven't been able to find ANY original Atari docs covering the upright one-piece, which is a little odd. In terms of the audio, I actually did digitize it last year but have yet to clean it up. You can d/l them from this guy: http://arcadearchive.com/em/sound/index.htm and someone else is using these to make repro 8-tracks for the machines.
I actually had my sister-in-law (graphic artist) recreate the control panel art in illustrator so I could print a new overlay for my rusted one. They came out excellently, and I am in the process of rebuilding the rest of the control panel...
I'm pretty into collecting the older stuff - 70s, etc., and have a few of your games (the Triple, Major Havoc, etc). Ah, your those were the days..
Please let me know if you find anything more definitive out about the one-piece. I'd love to know. (Also love to get a 2-piece sometime!)
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