A few early PDF II tech notes

Get your butt to the game grid in styleFor the 1.7 people interested, a few tech notes on PDF II – well, not really so much tech notes as stylistic descriptions. I was accosted in #vbender about a couple of these issues and thought maybe I’d elaborate on why the first DVD was the way it was in places, and why the second one may not be the same. More after the jump (to be merciful to the folks who just aren’t interested, which I completely understand).

I don’t know if it’s a good thing to fess up to or not, but one thing that colored a lot of PDF I was that it was a “baby needs a new pair of shoes” project – i.e. get it done, get it done fast, and make some money, because we need some. If the speed of getting it out there for sale hadn’t factored into it, I would’ve spent most of this year on it (and maybe gotten the CGE DVDs done first), redoing it from scratch. As it is, I already had the vast majority of the screens pre-rendered on a handful of miniDV tapes, from the original not-for-sale incarnation of the PDF DVD that was shown at OVGE in Tulsa for several years. That work had been done in 2004 and 2006, and as such was bound to some hardware limitations on my end at those times.

Music over games – there are several games whose audio was covered up by music. For the most part, this was done to cover a lack of audio from those games as played in MAME circa 2004. For whatever reason, the hardware I had at the time (a Pentium I laptop running through a VGA-to-NTSC scan converter) didn’t output audio on games such as Buck Rogers: Planet Of Zoom, Zaxxon, and so on. Some of these games used sampled audio, and while I had the samples on hand, they didn’t quite work. I can safely say that this will probably only recur with only one arcade game in PDF II, whose emulation, again, has no sound.

We’re talking about this, but showing that. In a couple of places on PDF I – I think they’re Breakout and Tank! – a screen describes one game but shows another. That won’t be happening again. Put simply, it happened because the games in question were un-emulated, pre-ROM-chip games that couldn’t be played or filmed unless one has an arcade cabinet. I’ve got some video of an actual Breakout machine from CGE, but it’s not what I’d describe as “ready for prime time”. The substitutions will not happen again on volume 2.

Wacky typefaces. I don’t think anyone’s complained about this but me, but I’ve made a decision, very early on, to not try to ape any packaging typestyles on volume 2’s game screens. In 2004 I thought that was a dandy idea, but in 2008 I think the end result looks schizophrenic and disorganized. The title of the games will be shown in a unified typeface this time around, and in a single color too.

Other than that, it’ll look a lot like volume 1, but hopefully just that extra little bit better. Volume 1 wasn’t just a rush job, but a learning experience; however, because it was a rush job (one month), I was stuck with stylistic decisions I had made four years earlier. I’m giving myself 4-5 months for the second volume, and I’ve also studied the first volume with an extremely harsh critical eye (until I’m sick of it, if I’m to be honest – trust me, I can pick it apart more viciously than you can) and am learning from some of my mistakes – both of the 2004 and 2008 variety.

Hopefully PDF Level 2 will be out in April 2009, right around the first anniversary of the original.

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