PDF Level 2 status report

Phosphor Dot Fossils Level 2

Some of the latest screen shots from PDF Level 2 (I fritzed the text because, jeez, there’s gotta be some kind of a surprise that makes you want to buy the thing… If you’re wondering why it looks like the Emperor is having a go at 1987: the original PDF DVD only went up to 1986. So it’s kind of a big deal for this one to stretch into that extra year. That, and I was just showing off. Also, don’t assume that the 1987 animation means that the whole thing is nearly done; it just means that the year intro animations are done!)

Toward the end of 2008, I managed to square away some technical stuff on both the production end and on the gaming end which will benefit this next DVD tremendously, widening the spread of systems it’ll cover (something which bugged me a bit about the first DVD) and hopefully making it look better too. On the arcade end, I’m not necessarily letting the lack of emulation for some games slow me down – games such as Winner and Tank II will be represented by honest-to-God footage of actual machines in action, rather than the substitution of similar/later games in the same series. However, this line of thinking led me briefly into a bit of a cul-de-sac with one 1970s arcade game.

When I was growing up in Fort Smith, there was an arcade at Central Mall called Fun City. Where the other local arcades like Aladdin’s Castle, Games R Fun and Fantasy Station were maintained with the idea that parents needed to have some confidence in dropping their kids off there, Fun City had just a little bit more of a dangerous edge to it. Older kids hung out there, and not necessarily the ones you’d want mixing with the younger crowd that gravitated toward the arcades with the advent of kid-friendly games like Pac-Man. Fun City had two prominent “collections” on display: pirate/bootleg games (i.e. plenty of cabinets playing Crazy Kong, “Popeye” Pac-Man, “Gallag” and other obvious knockoffs), and games that had never been pulled after their heyday ended. I distinctly remember seeing Monaco GP and Fire Truck there well into the mid 1980s. Though it didn’t last quite as long there, I also remember Indy 800, that huge, 8-player Atari racing game which seemed like it was a cross between a cocktail table arcade machine, a pool table, and a four-poster bed. Indy 800?  not really...I remembered that game fondly – not from playing it, but from watching it being played and thinking how much awesome fun that would be if I actually had seven friends. 😆 I wanted to include it in PDF Level 2, but it’s not emulated. Here’s where I briefly detoured off the rails: I decided that I was going to simulate it by recreating and animating the screen by hand. I managed to meticulously recreate the actual playing field, dot for dot, by carefully studying a very hazy photo of a working machine’s screen posted at KLOV.com, and as for the animation side of things…that was going to be from memory, how the cars moved and so on. I actually sunk a heap of time into what was becoming known as “the Indy 800 project,” to the point where it was its own epic edit job separate from PDF itself.

The real problem here was two-fold. One, I woke up and looked at the time spent vs. finished product ratio, and it was wildly uneven. I was trying to generate a 35-second animation for the DVD, and maybe a one-minute loop for the web site’s video section, but I was spending hours on those 35/60 seconds. What’s more, the further I got with it, the more uncertain I was that I was generating an accurate representation of this arcade game that came out in 1975. Ultimately, I decided to put Indy 800 on the back burner and have removed it from PDF Level 2 for now. It may make a showing at some point on the site, with signficant caveats that a simulation/recreation is being viewed, but when I’m striving so hard for historical accuracy – both factually and audiovisually – on the DVDs, I’m not sure it belongs there. At the very least, I’m confident that I could write an article/review of the game, and represent it with still shots, but the video is still very much an “up in the air” thing. In any case, I won’t bother delaying the entire DVD on account of 35 seconds of animation.

If anyone out there is working on a simulator or emulator, you’re more than welcome to the work I’ve already done on recreating the Indy 800 playfield – just give me a shout. That much of it is pretty solidly on-target.

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