Asteroids Multigame - Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, Lunar Lander

Asteroids Multigame Status

Check back here for Asteroid Multigame status updates. Thanks for hanging in there! Click notification list to ask me questions or get on the notification list.

Mar 16, 2016

At this point my very limited arcade time is spent mostly building, testing, and shipping existing products. I occasionally build up a few of the asteroids version of the multigame and sell them to people on my wait list. Keeping a working bench test fixture with these vector games is also no easy challenge. Knock on wood, my asteroids setup has been sufficient for testing kits.

I no longer have my linux development environment where much of the software work was being done. I'm in the process of creating a new environment in cygwin along with a new modified mame environment which will hopefully give me place where I can finish up the asteroids deluxe version of the kit. I do not plan any more changes to the asteroids version of the kit and once I run out of pokey chips I will no longer build that version.

As for an update on known issues and feature enhancements from the previous update.

May 07, 2011

Kits continue to trickle out a few at a time. The asteroids kit is stabalizing, so I'm focusing on the DLX version of the kit now. In the next few weeks I hope to get several more DLX kits out to testers. A brief list of issues being worked on in no particular order:

February 28, 2011

A few kits a week have made it out into the field since the last update. I plan to continue to work my way through the notification list. Since the software is still changing any early release testing requires access to an eprom programmer so updates can be applied.

Price is still not yet finalized. I'm trying to procure additional POKEY chips and depending on how that goes will directly impact the price of the kit. I may offer a pokey-less kit for those who want to save a little money and provide their own pokey chip. Stay tuned for updates.

On the technical side, I have done some low-level optimizing to lunar lander vector drawing of the main static fixed text. This speedup will free some valuable vector drawing time in LL allowing (I hope) for a word to be displayed indicating the current mission during gameplay. Lunar Lander already draws considerably more vectors than its Asteroids counter parts and this is one reason why LL has a slower effective "frame" rate than Asteroids. This optimization which is totally invisible will allow extra vectors be drawn without impacting the frame rate. For those geeks like me who are interested eventually I will post a tech article about what was done to achieve this.

January 14, 2011

A few early release kits are trickling out the door! I am slowly updating many of the asteroids multigame webpages so be aware there may be some out of date or inconsistent information during this transition period including missing photos and bad links. Hang in there!

November 15, 2010

First status page update (lengthly)

There are a quite a few things I'm juggling right now related to the multigame. Some people keep asking what is the hold up? Will it ever be released? Is it just vaporware? What about Lunar Lander? What is the plan? Is there a plan? Here is some info in no particular order to get things going.

What is the hold up? excuses excuses

The hold up has been almost entirely personal issues and lack of motivation. The technical issues have been small in nature with the exception of what to do about the external Lunar Lander analog thrust interface. I'm still coming back up to speed on where I left off and doing a bunch of testing and trying to figure out what it the best way moving forward. I'm revamping the software to better share and leverage the two versions of this product such that it is maintainable for the years to come. This has caused a bunch of churn in the software files I maintain and I'm slowly getting that under control. I also had started on several different diagnostic features and those have not yet been integrated fully.

I dont want to release this product before the software is totally ready and then be in a situation where I have to keep providing updates and bug fixes. This is further complicated because I share a bunch of common source code between the Asteroids version and the Deluxe version and the Deluxe version is staggered behind in software development. I need to weigh the risks and benefits of when it is a safe time to release the Asteroids version.

I also do not want to release this product until I understand better the "roadmap" of how a possible external Lunar Lander analog thrust circuit will fit into the product line and if there may be other add-on products or options. I'm currently experimenting with several different types of external Lunar Lander thrust interfaces using the Pokey chip. And the interfacing is different for the Asteroids kit versus the Deluxe kit. This is still work in progress to make sure the current design can handle some type of optional add-on thrust controller in the future.

The Lunar Lander debate

I know some people will say, I dont care about Lunar Lander, I wont even play it, I'm not going to hack up my control panel, I just want an A/AD kit, yada, yada, yada. While others will say you cant even play Lunar Lander without an analog thrust controller, it will suck just using buttons, the engine rumble sound will never be like the original, yada, yada, yada. Or how are you going to add mission lamps?

I wont say I have heard it all, but I have gotten some opinionated feedback over the last 5 years about it and the opinions are all over the map. In one sense it reminds me of a few naysayers when it came to the space invaders multigame that downplayed Lunar Rescue. Again saying they only wanted SI/SID. After it was released you dont know how many emails I got saying that Lunar Rescue was one of their favorite games in the set of eight games. The opinions remind me of what my old boss used to say. "Opinions are like butt holes, everybody has one, and they all stink."

I'm trying hard not to take sides on this debate. I have my own personal opinions and those who have known me for a while know I do not like multigames that require control panel changes or that require external reset switches. I'm a vocal advocate of, for example, P1+P2 start buttons for switching games/menus, high score save, improved freeplay, improved diagnostics, and setup/config menus for game settings.

So this is a tough one for me. Obviously my personal opinions do have some influence to my products and what products I make. Of course they do. I'm trying to stay open minded and flexible and hopefully and strike a balance with the options for an external Lunar Lander thrust interface while at the same time not burdening the people that have no interest in using it.

Parts, Supplies, Pokey chips

I have all the parts to build about 250 kits including pokeys, I have had these for years. I will be able to easily purchase more parts (except pokeys) and can order more blank PCBS. So parts should not be a big issue. I'm anticpating at some point pokey chips may become an issue. Speaking of pokey chips, click here for some pictures taken many years ago of the first 3 cases Ball Blazer carts I bought to remove pokeys from.

I made the mistake of having 500 blank pcbs produced for the vector daughter card for the Asteroids kit before I had finished designing the Deluxe kit. When I did the Deluxe kit I realized I could use a common vector daughter card for BOTH kits and and at the same time remove one of the wires that needed to be attached to the board. So at that point I made the hard decision to throw out the 500 blank asteroid vector pcbs and ordered 500 of the new common board that works for both. I bring this up only to emphasize my point that I'm trying to make sure I really understand the roadmap of these products before I invest in any more parts or PCBs.

Asteroids kits vs. Asteriods Deluxe kits

The Asteroids and Deluxe kits vary in some areas. The Asteroids version of the kit requires that two wires be soldered (attached) to the asteroids board. So the installation is a little more complex than my other products. The Deluxe version of this kit is plug-n-play just like my other products. The Asteroids kit contains an on kit Pokey chip, the Deluxe version uses the Pokey on the Deluxe boardset and that chip is left unpopulated on the Deluxe kit which should allow the price of the Deluxe kit to be sightly less than the Asteroids kit.

The Asteroids board has analog sound circuits on it to generate game sounds such as saucer, thrust, shots, explode, bonus, etc. The Deluxe board has a couple of analog sound circuits and instead uses a Pokey chip to generate most of the sounds. This works well for the Asteroids version of the kit, as that kit adds the pokey and the multigame then has the ability to use all of the Asteroids analog sounds and in addition use the on kit Pokey for the Deluxe sounds and the end result is an exact match for sounds between Asteroids and Deluxe.

The Deluxe version of the kit is not as lucky. For The Deluxe version the "missing" analog Asteroid sounds are produced by the new software to interface to the Pokey. So these sounds are not exact matches. I attempted to map the sounds as best as possible given the limitations of the Pokey chip. I also chose not to just copy the Deluxe sounds to Asteroids. For example, the Asteroids native analog saucer sound is a different sounding than the Deluxe Pokey generated saucer sound. Instead of just copying the Deluxe Pokey sound to Asteroids, I altered the sound to give it a pitch more like the original analog asteroids circuit generated. Again, this is not an exact match and because of Pokey limitations you will never be able to achieve a high quality sound like an analog circuit can generate.

What is the high level plan?

This hardware has the ability to support some type of analog thrust controller for Lunar Lander in the future, but no interface product has been produced and may never be. One of my beta testers successfully made a prototype circuit board that interfaced his Lunar Lander thruster to the kit. This prototype has not been productized, but did prove it is possible with this level of hardware. So think of this initial release of hardware as "capable" of interfacing to some type of analog thrust controller, but do not assume that anybody will ever make a product to interface to it.

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