Time Lapse Tempest

My dad stopped by again and we tweaked settings for the vector monitor. It looked like it had be serviced by someone who didn't have much experience with these fairly unique monitors, and once they had confirmed it was 'working' as well as typical arcade monitor they walked away. We made some huge improvements and now the game really pops.

Time lapse photos of Tempest are interesting. Here are a few with my crappy snapshot camera. I'll post some better ones later when I can borrow a better camera.

Atari Tempest: What's So Cool About It?

It works! My dad fixed my Tempest Machine!

...Continuing my previous post, let me first say that if you have tried Tempest in MAME, XBox, Playstation, or any other emulator or remakes, you have not had an adequate Tempest experience. On many versions the sound effects are horrible approximations, but the big omission is the knob controller. No mouse, stick, game pad, or trackball comes close to the feel, precision, and speed of a knob spinning a hefty little fly-wheel.

I sucked at arcade games when I was a teen in the early eighties. The irresistible draw was quickly overcome by frustration and lack of quarters. My attempts at Asteroids, Defender, Pac-man, Donkey Kong, and many others including Tempest, were always short-lived. Joust and Centipede were the only games I could survive long enough to enjoy. So I don't really have nostalgia for my youth in the arcade. Commodore 64 games like Lode Runner, Boulderdash, Jumpman, and Space Taxi have that honor.

Something about Tempest appealed to me though. The abstract, vanishing-point, vector graphics and the pulsing sounds created a psychedelic aesthetic that drew me to finally buy one, and now another one.

I made an important discovery with Tempest. You cannot excel by deliberate effort. You have to relax, adhere to the game's rhythm, watch with a broad perspective, and allow you mind to react involuntarily to the events in the periphery. It's a meditative state. This is exactly the same way I derive maximum enjoyment from biking, snowboarding, and other recreational pursuits. I have know idea weather this was intent of the designers but I have yet to see another game achieve this as effectively.

Tempest is as good as any milestone marking the end of the analog era and the dawn of the digital age. From the beginning of electronic technology until then, analog signals and wave forms were manipulated to model and record shapes and sounds. Forward from that point, the images and sounds our machines will be grids of pixels and streams of samples, all digital reproductions. Tempest sounds are synthesized. The graphics are drawn lines which only a few very early games can claim.

Tempest also marks a unique era in game design. The primitive technology did not allow any realism or much complexity. Games were necessarily abstract, concept driven, and required more imagination to design than today's games which generally model reality as closely as technology allows. Even though I think it's a blast to race cars in Gran Tourismo, and thrilling to play a soldier in Call Of Duty, I get more excited about doing something truly unreal like rolling skyscrapers into a giant ball in Katamari Damaci.

Video Game Weekend

(10pm: Can I really get to be before 11 if I start this entry?)

I have a cold so I couldn't snowboard. I got in a few hours of gaming this weekend, which is a lot for me. I used to be a game junky on the id Software track, depriving myself of sleep and nutrients for Wolfeinstein, Doom and Quake, with a generous helping of Parallax Software's Descent. At some point I burned out and games are an occasional recreation now instead of a full-time addiction.

Games just aren't as imaginative as the used to be. Clever, creative, unique games still get my attention.

I spent some time playing Katamari on the PSP. I love the Katamari games.

Some old friends came over bearing an XBox 360, on which we played some classic Doom, a mile-stone in game history and a favorite to this day. Halo 3 was really good looking but just another FPS to me. I don't know how anyone plays FPS games without a mouse.

(10:25 damn I'm slow.)

Then was noticed Rez HD was available for download. This fact may sell me on XBox. I LOVE Rez and it was one of the games that pushed me to buy a PS2. The HD XBox version was gorgeous with improved resolution and frame-rate. The rhythmic pulsing controllers are an essential part of the original though and I don't know if that feature is included in the XBox version.

But the big game-geek time-sink this weekend was my purchase of a 1981 vintage upright Tempest Machine.I owned one for a few years in my early 20's. Bought it for $200 and sold it for $275 a few years later when I was married. They became highly sought in the in the late nineties and I saw them ebaying for $1600. I still see some asking that high, but they seem to sell for around $600.

On a sort of long term whim, I exchanged emails with a seller for a couple weeks, drove about 45 minutes north yesterday, play tested for a few minutes, then handed over $600 and loaded up. Once I had it in my basement I got a bout 5 minutes into the first game and it started crashing. After a few resets it was dead.


My dad was an electrical engineer for 20 years, designing oscilloscopes and signal generators for Hewlett Packard. He stopped by this afternoon, took a look at the diagrams that had been stashed in the machine's cabinet, and after probing with his meter for about 10 minutes he had ID'ed a failed component, had online suppliers and prices on my computer, and handed me a note with local suppliers that should have the widgets in stock during business tomorrow.


(11:04. I'll blather more about how cool this game is later.)
SUMOTORI DREAMS is a BRILLIANT game! I laughed my asses off. Everyone must try it.

Music Move

Under pressure of friends I've decided to begin pursuing my DJ hobby more actively. I've created a separate blog for my alias DJ Derivative. All music related posting will be done there and I've moved my music recommendations there.