The Blog of Ryan Foss

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Minnetron 10,000 Arcade Viewer

I’ve made a Unity Web Player version of my Arcade Viewer for the Minnetron 10,000 Arcade Cabinet I’ve been building.  My intent was that this would both show how the cabinet goes together (since I built it digitally in Blender first, why not use it?) and to allow others to try out paint job concepts.

To see the “game” click on the image.  You may need to install the Unity Web Player, but it will be worth it!  Or just download the Windows executable.
FYI, the name “Minnetron 10,000″ is a play on the Minnesota nickname “Land of 10,000 Lakes”.

Arcade Wood Construction Almost Done

Construction continues as you can see in the image below.  I’m almost done with all the major cutting and nailing.  Just four more cuts on some plywood and I should be ready to sand and poly.  I was about to finish the control panel but I decided to take a step back and think about how I can build it so I can get at the controls and wires without a lot of trouble.

I learned from my controller experiment is that my wiring connections needed to be checked and rechecked.  Even though I was using the right connectors, I was fighting the contacts.  I think I know what to do right this time, but my test controller was open on the bottom which facilitated working on the button and IPac2 connections.  For this arcade, I want to make sure I can build and get at the buttons without too much trouble.

Blocks that Fall in Unity

If you’ve been to the IGDA Twin Cities meetings, or have seen any of the videos (here and here) where I presented the idea of collaborative game developing, you know that the group is off and running.  We’re moving forward with a Mr. Driller inspired climbing game of block destruction.

We’ve done a lot of development over the two months we’ve been at it.  However, at the last meeting a number of bugs showed up during the live demo.  Due to certain circumstances (my laptop fell to ground and quit working) I ran the game demo on a netbook.  Although the game still played well, a number of bugs appeared more often than in my play testing, probably related to framerate and physics calculations.

As a game developer, something I’ve always wanted to do was program a Tetris clone.  Why?  Well, because although its simple, its also a good exercise in programming for a novice game programmer.  Alas, its also one of those things I’ve never done (but always think about).  Given the troubles we’re experiencing with the existing block falling code in the game, I decided it was time to take a crack at it.

Acrade construction continues

I’m building my arcade cabinet in three parts: top, bottom and controls. These pictures show me putting the top and bottom together. It’s the right height and seems pretty stable.

Arcade cabinet in action

I’m getting ready for the IGDA meeting. I’m presenting again, this time with props.

I presented at IGDA Twin Cities

I presented at this month’s IGDA Twin Cities meeting.  I want to find others with similar interests in Arcade machines and video games and see if we can start something.  I would love to see a Winnitron in MN, and I’d love to make a game for it.

Anyway, check out my presentation.  I was awesome like usual.

Arcade Games and Independent Games on the Winnitron.

Arcade Design

I’ve made some interesting progress with my Arcade cabinet design.  I’ve experimented with the idea of it being more modern that typical arcade cabinets, and emphasizing the smaller depth that I can get using newer and smaller hardware, such as a flat screen monitor.  I built it in Blender to help me visualize it, as well as think about how to put it together.

I took it a step further and built an approximate 1/3 scale model using foam board.  I measured the thickness of the board and assumed it would be equivalent to 1/2 inch thick MDF and scaled from there.  It stands 27 inches tall, where the real design is 6 feet tall.  The “monitor” in this case is just black and blue construction paper the scale size of a 24 inch monitor.

Arcade Controller Progress

2 Player Controller

I finished my test game controller some time ago.  My intent was to build it both for function, as well as to see how the construction would go.  The general construction was fine, using MDF and shelving boards, however the painting was a learning experience.  I wanted it to be super smooth and glossy, so I spent a lot, I mean a lot of time sanding.

Stick and button configuration.

I started using a semi-glossy latex wall paint which went on well, but left a lot of texture.  It was also sticky, even after drying for weeks, such that if you rest your hands on the paint you had to peel them off.  I painted about 7 coats of the latex paint, each with a thorough sanding after drying.  The tackiness wasn’t right so I sanded again with a real rough grain and switched to an enamel gloss paint.  It turned out great!

The controls are pretty simple using the I-PAC 2 from Ultimarc.  It works great, acting like a keyboard plugged into the computer.

Arcade Controller

I’ve finally built and arcade controller. It was pretty easy, though I changed my mind about using a KE72 and decided to use I-PAC 2 from Ultimarc instead. It was brilliantly simple to assemble and has been a lot of fun.  I’ve also toyed with Hyperspin as a front end, but without many games and content, Hyperspin is a chore to find games that work.  However, it does come with a lot of documentation and helper programs to organize lists and everything, so I’m going to go forward with it.

Arcade Progress

MAME Arcade Progress

Got a TV off of craigslist, it is a real tight fit. I’ve got four wounded fingers to show for it but its in there.

My Next Project?

More like ongoing project…

Retro Evolved, 21st Century Arcade

No I don’t mean Geometry Wars 2, though I did beat a friend on the first game mode after like 5 hours trying, so I’m pretty pumped about that. I mean a legitimate evolution of the arcade machine. My friend sent me a link to an artist who took inspiration from the old 1971 Computer Space arcade cabinet (an ugly thing IMO) and made it into a modern version. It’s really quite cool looking, which means I’m going to have to modify my arcade design to match it.

Arcade Here I Come!

Since March I’ve been saving my dollars and cutting costs where I can. I’ve quit eating at the cafeteria at work due to its outrageous pricing, and I’m hording my money earned from freelance and ads on my website (thank you top 50 and top 80 text tutorials). I’ve almost raised $300!

I’ve decided to only buy some of parts I need, and get more once I learn more. I’m going to start with an external one player lap controller, six buttons and one joystick. My bill is $193.70 at Hagstrom Electronics and $46.40 at Happ, though I’m waiting for a check or two to clear first. I’m excited to take a step forward.

Yes, its almost 2 AM.

Freelance Guru, Special FX and Modeling

Every once in a while I’ll take a job on the side. I prefer paying gigs, but sometimes I pro-bono if I’m interested or the cause is good. I currently have three “gigs”.

The first is a special FX shot for a MN independent filmmaker. I took this job back in July of 07, didn’t get the footage until January, and I’m about to finish (April). It’s been a slow process, which is my fault to some (probably great) extent of course, but with family, school and other jobs, hobbies (the pumpkin movie) and interests (video games, beer, etc.), I’ve been less than available and less than motivated. Good news is its done. It was a special effects shot with fire as you can probably see from the image. I lit fire to my driveway three times and my garage five times to get the shot right. And that was after my attempts at “faking it” failed to yield results I was happy with. Hopefully the film turns out well for the director/writer barring my delays.

The second gig is a good one. It’s a Guru job. is a website for freelancers. I get e-mails about freelance jobs and I look but usually don’t apply. This one however was right up my alley. Some guy out there is modifying a Head On arcade cabinet with a SEGA baseball game and needs a custom control panel. I submitted a bid and he took it because I mentioned my current interests and motivations with classic arcade cabinets. Its going well I think, though I way underbid compared to the time it will take me. Course, I will take the money earned and apply it toward my own arcade.

The third gig is a free one. I’ve been unmotivated to produce any TurboSquid assets lately and needed some inspiration. It came in the form of an e-mail from someone who downloaded one of my free models, a pickle to be exact. This person had obviously read my e-mail asking for response if they use it, so I rewarded them with a reply and an offer for more free models. Turns out he’s working on a mod to Fable. To date, I’ve made him (I’m assuming a him) a low polygon hamburger with texture. Soon I’ll be completing a hot dog and additional food items. Should prove interesting in the least.

Pac Master Ryan

Pac Master, probably not. But Gail (wife) took it upon herself to buy me a book on mastering pac-man, ala 1981 baby! I was reading it when my son Aidan took this picture.

Arcade Cabinet, Paper Cutouts

I spent some time last night researching control schemes for a arcade cabinet. I came across a pretty detailed site that had almost exactly what I was planning. My intent is to make a four player arcade cabinet, similar to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle or X-Men arcades that were popular in my youth. I was considering just a two player, and I think that will be the primary use, but I want more than two to play if possible. Maybe I’m dreaming/fantasizing, but I want to play this thing with my three sons some day.

Anyway, a gentleman by the name of LuSid’s has some great designs, which turns out have proliferated quite weill on the internets. I took his design schematics, printed out a couple copies and built myself a paper arcade cabinet. I’ve learned a little in the process.

Regardless, my first step is to order and build a controller box. Then hook use that to play on the PC. Then design and build the cabinet and just mount the controller to it. Easy… ha, probably not.

Frustration Engine Rebuked

I finally got around to tearing the internals out of my expired Dell 420 and put them into a superior (note a degree of sarcasm here) Dell GX150. It took me most of the day, both because the OS freaked on being in new system, and because I was hold up sick, fighting runny noses and coughs across the house. I actually considered this part of my clean-up basement activities, getting these systems out of the way.

Anyway, in the end it equaled a working, Win 98, internet connected, 1.0 Gz 512 MB, MAME PC. I’m ready to rock some Donky Kong! Hopefully I’ll plan and order the parts for my custom controller soon.

Frustration Engine

About a month back my wife and kids went to Costco and I found this cool box. Inside the box was over 100 classic arcade games. I wanted one. But at over $2k, its out of my pocketbook. So I started a little research and found MAME Arcades. The do it yourself arcade construction. You just need some handyman skills, a computer and monitor or TV and time. So I’ve successfully made this one of my projects.

The first stage was done, get MAME and figure it out. Easy, tested, done.

Second stage is to resurrect an old PC to live inside the arcade cabinet and this is where everything goes sour. I’ve spent over 10 hours fixing and testing and rebooting this antiquated 733MHz bastard but I finally got it running. Its video and sound was working, two hard drives (a total whopping space of 30 GB) and CD drives working, with Win 98. No network, but whatever. My son even plays some Ninja Turtles on it, you know, the old arcade Ninja Turtles. The next day, the system is frozen and frozen hard. Reboot, reboot, reboot later and its back. Whew… right? Wrong! About 10 minutes into playing more TMNT the thing makes this pop-flash-pop and goes black. Reboot, reboot, reboot, nothing. I give up for the night. That leads me to tonight.

I go to the computer and press the on button ever so gently and what do I see but the tell-tale signs of a computer actually booting up. It gives some Windows choice which leads to BSOD. Reboot, safe-mode chosen and to Windows credit, it reports something nasty happened to the registry and it fixed it, reboot. Comes up, I get MAME running, grab the camera to take this picture with TMNT glory for the world to see. I house clean a little to spruce up this ugly space and whoosh, monitor goes black.

30 minutes later, dozens of things tried and the computer just doesn’t come back. So instead of victory, I’ve got what is probably a R.I.P. PC.