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Gimme Another Quarter!
October 6th, 1998

Randy: Hey, Gary, what's this new game over by the Battle Zone machine?

Gary: Oh, man! Check it out. It's new and it kicks butt! It's called Defender!!

Randy: Wow, this is unbelievable, and it's in color! This is the best game ever!

Gary: (Turning to the audience and breaking character.)

What you are witnessing is not a wrinkle in time or a psychedelic flashback induced by too much pineapple pizza and Fresca. You have just crossed over into the Emulation Zone.

(Creepy theme music fades to cheesy 8-bit sounds.)

Randy: Who are you talking to?

Gary: Our past, buddy, our distant past. Back when the cutting edge of technology lived and died at the drop of a quarter. I am speaking of course of the old arcade games we used to love so much. Defender, Joust, Tempest, Robotron, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Tron -- the list just goes on and on.

Randy: Boy, I remember pumping my life savings one quarter at a time in to those old machines. I just couldn't get enough of them. I wish there were a way we could play those old classics on our Macs.

Gary: Well, as fate would have it, that is just what this week column is all about. Emulating those old arcade games on a modern day Macintosh. Thanks to Michael Larue from Lacarin, Spain for this great idea.

Randy: Come now, Gary. I think about everybody has played Ambrosia's Amperion, (can you say Centipede?) and Arashi. (pronounced "Tempest").

There are a few nice mockups of some old favorites, but I want the real thing. Just like it was in the old days. Back when mankind was happier on all fours.

Gary: That's exactly what I'm talking about. The actual games just as they were. It's now possible through emulation on the Mac.

Not only can you get emulators for the arcade classics but you can even emulate console games such as the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, Intellivision and Atari.

Randy: Give me change for a dollar and tell me more.

Gary: Well let's start with the stand-alone games of yesteryear's arcades. There's a brilliant emulator by John Butler, Aaron Giles, and Brad Oliver called MacMAME. MAME stands for Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator.

Which is way cool, because this wondrous piece of programming can pretend to be almost all of the very same machines that we played as the last vestiges of disco faded away forever.

Randy: Dude, disco is popular again.

Gary: AAUUGGHH!!!! How? How?

Randy: Guess you gotta take the good with the bad.

Gary: Well, anyway, MacMAME is so good at emulating the old machines, you actually have to put a virtual quarter in to play. You can save your games, and when you start a favorite game, it actually runs the same diagnostic tests that the old machines ran when they got plugged in every morning.

Randy: Those were the good old days. Then we hit college, and we were too poor to spend our quarters on video games. Not when a quarter was a whole Top Ramen feast. And then, that fateful moment: we were approved for our very first credit card. What did you buy first, Gary?

Gary: A Nintendo. I'm not ashamed. Ahh, the memories. Just Zelda and me.

Randy: I was just playing with Zelda the other day on my Mac.

Gary: Don't lie to me!

Randy: There is a killer Super Nintendo emulator available free on the Internet. It's by the good people at SNES9x.com and it is called oddly enough, SNES 9x. It supports stereo sound, transparency effects that were so incredible when we first saw them, and plays hundreds of games. And SNES 9x goes one step further by adding nice RAVE enhanced graphics support. Those chunky pixels you used to get on your TV screen are smoothed and anti-aliased to look fantabulous on your computer monitor.

Gary: So all I have to do is download the emulator, and hundreds of games and I am ready to go!

Randy: Whoa there, camperino! You can't just download every Nintendo game and go crazy. You have to own the original game cartridge before you can legally play these games. You can get an inexpensive copier that will copy those old cartridges to floppy disks. That's the best way of knowing that you playing by the rules. While there are literally thousands of games that have been converted to ROM images to play on these emulators, it is illegal to use them. Unless, of course, you own the original cartridge.

Gary: What about MacMAME? You can't buy cartridges for those games. Do I have to have the arcade machine to play those on my Mac? And those console makers are expecting me to hunt around pawn shops to find old cartridges?

Randy: Aye, there's the rub. Because all of those games are copyrighted, technically, you must own either the original cartridges, or the original boards from arcade games.

Gary: It sure would be great if companies like Midway, Nintendo, Activision, and Sega would bundle these games into a CD-ROM and sell them as a game packs. Many of these old console games and the arcade stand-alone machines are no longer available. Price it around $30 a volume and people would buy these golden oldies just for the nostalgia alone, let alone the chance to play these games without quarters. It would be a brilliant move by these great game companies to rekindle a few sales out of their past glories by making them available again in this form.

Randy: (Are you listening Midway…Sega…Activision…Nintendo...)

Gary: I am so down for this. Where can I get one of these emulator things?

Randy: The first place I'd look is the excellent website entitled, appropriately enough, Emulation on the Mac. There is also a great emulation page on MacKiDo's site with links to every emulator known to Macdom. For instance, did you know the Mac can emulate a TI/81 programmable calculator?

Not that I would… but I can. Think about it.

Gary: Yeah, that's real exciting. How about you just tell everyone where they can get more information. A calculator. What's fun about that?

Randy: Be sure to stop by Everything Mac's emulation page. It's filled with links to everything emulated from the Apple ][e to a Mac Plus emulator for Windows. But don't stop there. Be sure and check out Pete's Computer & Video Game Emulator Page. This guy is a hardcore, old-school gamer. Have you been looking for a ColecoVision emulator? Or perhaps you always wanted your own Vectrex machine but couldn't get enough for that extra kidney to afford one. Pete has got links to these emulators too!

Gary: Wow, that certainly does open up a whole new bag of games for the Mac. I gotta go dig out my old Nintendo cartridges and get the ROMs.

Zelda! I'm coming to get you, baby!

Gary Randazzo and Randy Soare are the co-founders of IWS Interactive, a New York based game developer for Macintosh. The IWS in IWS Interactive stands for Idiots With Sticks. How that came about is a long and boring story, but suffice it to say that at four in the morning, it seemed like a good idea.

The demo for IWS Interactive's upcoming mystery-adventure game, Manhattan Apartment Hunter, has recently been released to rave reviews. The Idiots have been into gaming on Apple computers even before the Mac was around. Does anyone remember Choplifter on the Apple IIe? (Boy, we know we do.) Now, they are committed to help ensure that the Mac remains the premiere gaming platform on the planet.

You can email your comment and suggestions to Randy at , and Gary at .


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