I’ve been a big fan of classic arcade games for ages – I mean, if you were a kid between 1975 and 1990, IMHO the ‘golden era’ of video games, how could you not? Starting with simple Pong-like games and graduating up through offerings from Williams, Atari, Sega, et al – there were some true gems in there.
For me, the top game has always been Robotron 2084, put out in 1982 by Williams Electronics (same folks who did Defender). It was the first dual-joystick vid (left hand controls motion, right hands controls firing – you could be moving in a totally different direction than you’re shooting). I could easily get into a comfortable groove and play the game on one quarter for 2 hours, racking up millions of points. The key was to relax, settle into it, and let the brain-hand interface run itself. It had some of the smoothest and simplest gameplay – a very simple concept (SHOOT EVERYTHING, SAVE THE HUMANS!) – and no extra fluff.
I’ve been using MAME to play old games, including Robotron for a while, but the joystick interface has always been a problem. Robotron just isn’t playable without 2 joysticks, no matter how you arrange the keys. With my recent successes with USB devices under Linux, I picked up a USB joystick in the same form factor as the playstation controllers – a 4 position ‘thumbpad’, plus 2 built-in joysticks about the size of a nickel.
Linux recognized it immediately, and after a little reconfiguring using GXMame, I was playing Robotron in dual joystick mode. The first game in the ‘proper’ configuration got me to level 12, 300,000 points or so. Woohoo! Ah still got it! The interface is seamless, and even with a slight twitch in the joystick (if you hold the left stick over -hard- to the left, sometimes you get a false ‘right’ motion. Easy to avoid – just relax :)… the gameplay is superb.
Off to game for a while. Whee!