Monday 6th May 2013 - Interview with Vectrex Regeneration App creator
Four days ago TUAW (The unofficial apple weblog) posted an interview with Anton Faulconbridge about his
company’s "Vectrex Regeneration" app.
For those of you who don’t know, this is a fantastic Vectrex emulator
app for the iOS (especially when it is run on an iPad and used in conjunction with an iCade).
In the YouTube video Anton recounts his childhood love for the Vectrex and explains how seeing an
iCade for the iPad inspired him through
his company Rantmedia Games to develop the "Vectrex Regeneration" app.
Of course the emulator can never be as good as the real thing, but it does get very close. My opinion of the app?
Vectrex purists will still prefer the original Vectrex, but the app is a good ambassador for those wanting
to get a taste/reminder of the Vectrex world - this can only lead to more popular interest in the Vectrex.
Well done to Anton and his colleagues.
Saturday 27th April - 3D printing: the saviour of the Vectrex?
I’ve been meaning to upload this news item for a couple of months now, after receiving two separate 3D printed items for the Vectrex in the space of a few weeks in January.
3D printing seems to be all the rage these days and what can be produced with this technique never ceases to amaze me.
Indeed it seems there are no limits, even a complete bicycle has been additive printed (including the internal ball bearings on the wheel hub).
Click here to see the proof!
These printers work by laying down accumulating thin layers of nylon plastic to form a resultant 3D object.
Software on the PC converts CAD designs and the printer prints the object layer by layer. Finalised designs may be sent
to a 3D printing house for production or a hobbyist can print using their own 3D printer.
Smaller printers based on the same idea are coming down in price and are now affordable to the hobbyist.
This is good news for retro gamers. It means that hard to find spare parts for their beloved consoles can be
recreated using a 3D printer. Perhaps they are missing an on/off switch, or want to replace a specific shaped
plastic part in a joystick. Well with 3D printing, identical replacement parts can be created.
3D printing can certainly benefit the 30 year old Vectrex to help keep it going a bit longer.
As a first example
Richard H, homebrewer of various Vectrex Multicarts has been dabbling with his 3D printer and has experimented with
producing the joystick thumb tip reproductions for the Vectrex controller.
He used a MakerBot Replicator 2
3D printer to produce them. He sent me a sample and other than the material of the part being plastic rather than the original
metal I must say it really is a like for like substitute. The surface was also very smooth. I thought he had maybe sandpapered
it or machined it but when I asked him he told me it was straight out of the machine. He told me he had printed it at
the highest resolution setting of 0.1mm. These small parts can be printed in multiples, so small scale production is
By coincidence at the same time I was communicating with Richard I also was contacted by an Australian Vectrex fan
who goes by the tag of Computer Nerd Kev (CNK). He has a 3D printer called the Cupcake. It was the first kit sold by Makerbot and
they no longer make the model, but he's tweaked and improved it to give quite respectable results.
Producers of games and multi carts for the Vectrex have been provided for in the past when a few years
ago Sean Kelly arranged for production of a large batch of reproduction cartridge cases from a mould.
This means that most homebrewers are able to house their creations in professional looking game cartridge cases.
However, the supply to the homebrewers hasn't always been readily available which has sometimes resulted in a
delay in the supply of new Vectrex hardware and software in the past. And the question is always, once the
supply has run out, will there be another production run of cartridge cases?
As an experiment CNK has produced Vectrex cartridge cases on his 3D printer. CNK took an original Vectrex cartridge
and measured its dimensions with a ruler. It took just two iterations of printing to reach the current design which shows he made very good measurements!
The resulting cartridge comprises two halves each having been printed separately and each taking around
forty minutes to print.
CNK kindly sent me an example of a 3D printed cartridge. On first impressions of the surface finish you definitely won't
mistake the cartridge to be injection moulded especially when you look at the top and bottom
surfaces of the cartridge.
CNK told me that the finish was not completely smooth because when putting down the first layer of plastic on the
build surface (in his case a non-standard lump of aluminium with painter's tape on top), the plastic has
difficulty sticking and the individual strands like to curl up as they cool and shrink.
On the subsequent plastic layers (i.e. the inside of the cartrdige, the plastic layers have previous plastic
layers to bond to) which gives a better surface.
However, I really like the resulting finish! The texturing of the surface reminds me of a bar of soap and seems
to imply it is organic. The other obvious difference from the original is there isn’t a slightly recessed area on
the top surface for holding the cartridge sticker. Like the original Vectrex cartridge the two halves of the case
are held together by a screw. Undo the screw and you can see the mounts for holding the PCB. I put an old game PCB
in the case and it fitted perfectly. Likewise the cartridge slots into the Vectrex perfectly.
This cartridge is truly a limited edition and I am very happy to be the owner of it. These cases
although not an identical replacement for the original would be handy for anyone with an uncased multi-cart.
CNK has uploaded the 3D models of the Vectrex cartridge to the Thingiverse
website for free download so that other owners of 3D printers can also have a go at printing.
There is no better cause for 3D printing then preserving our beloved 30 year old Vectrex consoles. No longer
do we have to consider to cannibalise a less fortunate Vectrex and reduce the number of working Vectrex consoles
further - 3D printing is our Vectrex saviour!
Friday 19th April - Another Sulake created demo for the Vectrex - tidying my binaries (part 2)
Following on from the vow I made in this site's March 6th news entry, I'm continuing in my quest to share
relatively unknown Vectrex demos via YouTube. Today I present Sulake's other demo called slides.
The demo was made by Sampo Karjalainen, co-inventor of Habbo and with involvement from Mikko Köykkä (who wrote the Vectrex Lumisade snowflake demo - see 3rd February 2013 news entry).
The demo being a demonstration of Vector art slides was also used as an internal teaser for Sulake company events.
This demo was released in 2002.
Monday 8th April - High scores page updated
Time is my enemy! Just a quick note to all who have sent in high scores in the last few months.
The high scores page is now finally up to date...
Sunday 17th March - AtariVox+, Release imminent, get on the waiting list now!
A few years ago there were products designed by Richard H
called VecVoice and VecVox which were homebrew
speech synthesizers that plug in the second joystick port of the Vectrex. VecVox was the later of the two
and replaced the VecVoice. The VecVox offered two modes, a mode to emulate the VecVoice, and a mode which offered
extra functionality including greater control of speech as well as sound effects. A few homebrew games are available
that make use of these speech synthesizers, such as Verzerk and Debris. Debris used the VecVox for speech, explosions
and other sound effects.
The VecVox had a limited run and as such there were never enough to go around. Then came AtariVox which worked
in the same way as VecVox but was for the Atari 2600 & 7800 only. This was also a a limited run.
At the end of 2008, AtariVox+ was proposed on the Atariage.com forum. This would be a single device that combined all three products
with specific operating mode selectable by DIP switches. Richard H designed the AtariVox and handed over production to
another Atariage.com member. Unfortunately due to various reasons the project never progressed to the end until now.
A new member has taken over production and the release of the AtariVox+ is imminent. Prospective purchasers
are asked to express their interest on this
forum thread at Atariage.com.
Wednesday 6th March - Habbo demo for Vectrex - tidying my binaries
Having been collecting everything to do with Vectrex for more than five years I've ended up with
folders and folders of Vectrex ROM binaries. Anyway, I'm making it a mission to film some of the binaries running on my Vectrex
and for which I know haven't already shown on YouTube. Last month it was a Snow demo coming from Finland. This month is another demo
hailing from Finland.
The "movie" you see here is a Vectrex demo which was on display at the Computer Games and Digital Cultures Conference (CGDC 2002)
in Tampere in Finland. It was also used as an internal teaser for Sulake company events. The graphics were made by Sampo Karjalainen,
co-inventor of Habbo. You can download the binary here.
Sunday 3rd February - Snow
Given the snow that seemed to be experienced in much of Europe these last few weeks, it reminded me to dig out an
old 2006 demo written for the Vectrex by programmer Mikko Köykkä, and load it into my Vectrex via the VecMulti.
This demo is called Lumisade in Finnish and is called Snow flake animation in English.
I first reported on this demo when I got the binary file from Mikko in 16th September 2010. Go to the news
item for that date in my news blog
and you will find the binary for download. The program is only 2K in size but captures the way snow flakes can fall
through space very well. This demo does not have sound on the Vectrex but I accepted the offer of music from YouTube
when I uploaded the video and you hear a song called Snow from the band Continental Drifters.
Sunday 20th January - Mine Storm (Euro Version) High score world records
In the last couple of months I have received a number of high scores for submission on the high scores page.
In particular for the built in Vectrex game:- Mine Storm. I am only now just catching up with all the submissions.
After digesting all the results I see some incredible achievements and as an aside I am also a little more educated regarding the
different Mine Storm game versions.
At the end of November a player with the tag of RetroVicio-JAL submitted a Mine Storm best score of
1,010,540! If one were not to see it with their own eyes or from a video, one would treat the news with some
suspicion. Mine Storm only goes up to 999,999 points. After that it starts again from zero. However, the proof
was there because RetroVicio-JAL included two photos: the first for Level 63 with a score of 991.985 points and the second for
level 64 for 10,540 points. It is well known that the early versions of the Vectrex Mine Storm can behave a bit
strangely after level 13 (i.e. space dust and skipping levels). RetroVicio-JAL has a Vectrex with the serial number
starting with the digits "31 1". It is a fact that these consoles were the last of the production and the built in ROMs included a corrected
version of the Mine Storm game (The other fix is that the consoles did not buzz). RetroVicio-JAL confirmed that all the
levels worked correctly and that it took him 1 hour to get to level 64!
Then some days later I got an email from another player by the tag of NONIK (RETROVICIO). He also sent multiple
photos and he had scored 1,133,929! It turns out these two players were friends competing with each other and
were members of a Spanish forum called
www.retrovicio.org. Not to be out done RetroVicio-JAL submitted another
score two days later with the whopping score of 1,700,121 achieved at level 94! This is the world record (for Mine Storm II)! More
information and a video can be seen over at his
Just before the last day of December I received two Mine Storm high scores from father and son Sven and Siebert.
Sven informed that it had been raining a lot in Belgium and that his son had practised for many hours and achieved
a best score of 436,535. Not to be outdone, Sven who has owned his Vectrex since childhood went and scored 541,963.
However, in January Siebert beat his previous Mine Storm record, and he did it with the monster score of 1,010,961 and
then again with an even higher score of 2,169,881!
The serial number of their Vectrex starts with the digits "30 5" and Siebert did confirm that whilst playing the game some strange
behaviour is sometimes exhibited e.g. Suddenly the game decides to end and displays 'game over' even when some lives
are left. Sometimes the numbering of the levels is strange. Sometimes the game jumps some levels and there is no
logic in the difficulties. Sometimes game player gets easier as the levels go up. Nevertheless, well done to Sven as being of the age of 12, he is
currently the youngest Mine Storm (Euro version with bug) champion in Europe!
Considering the corrected version of Mine Storm is harder than the bugged version built into the earlier Vectrex consoles and in the interest of fairness, I'm splitting the Mine Storm
high scores into "Mine Storm Euro version" and "Mine Storm II" catagories. The Mine Storm II catagory covers scores achieved on the seperately available debugged Mine Storm II
cartridge and the built in version that exists on the final version of Vectrex consoles.
Also for all future submissions if a score is "rolled over" in Mine Storm (e.g. score is higher than 999,999) multiple photos must be supplied.
One photo should show the pre 999,999 score and level. The subsequent photos should show the last score and level, with the final photo showing the last score.
Sunday 13th January - Website house keeping
Just reporting on some house keeping. Inevitably nothing lasts forever, and some Vectrex website links no longer
work. I've removed these. For the remaining general links I have reordered into most active.
Also just to note I added a link to a new website called
www.vectrex.de that has came online end of last year. This is a German fan site.
As a result it's not written in English, but for non German speakers don't let that stop you as you can always use an online translator.
here to see the
website translated to English.
Wednesday 2nd January - Happy New Year !
This is the first news post for 2013:- As everyone knows, the start of a new year is the
usual time for a nostalgic look at the past year and brave predications about the future.
Not to miss this time honoured tradition I herewith present the following:
I eagerly awaited Warrior
from Fury last year and had hoped to make a mini review of the game for this website.
The first games began to ship in September. Despite a tantalising YouTube video and news of the arrival
of the game to some lucky owners I still didn’t receive mine. I understand there have been some issues
with the availability of cartridge PCBs and overlays and this has caused some delay. Fury recently emailed
to say that delivery of the game should be expected in January this year - so hopefully the saying
"good things come to those that wait" will be realised. I beleive Fury is going to be very busy in this new year, as
he has released new hardware (various controllers) and is promising new games. A new Tempest like game called
Hellhole is expected early this
year and it will be shipped with a custom made Spinner controller. Fury also
announced another future game called
Tail Gunner and like Warrior it
is based on an original Cinematronics game.
The biggest news last year concerning the Vectrex was the release of RantMedia Games’
Vectrex Regeneration app for the iPhone and iPad.
Ok it’s portraying Vector scan graphics in a pixel display, but for those gamers
wanting to reincarnate the Vectrex, the app actually does a very good job. For me I find the on-screen Vectrex game
controls a bit clumsy but when an iPad running the app is paired with the
iCade controller the concept of the
Vectrex is very convincing. Vectrex purists will still prefer the original Vectrex, but the app is a good ambassador
for those wanting to get a taste of the Vectrex world - this can only lead to more interest in the Vectrex.
It’s always a pleasure to receive an email from a Vectrex fan concerning this website and I received more
than a few in 2012. Once again, as in 2011, this website achieved over 10,000 hits in 2012. The Vectrex
high scores page is continuing to generate competition between Vectrex game players and this page helps to
improve the popularity of this website. Implemented in simple html code, there have been some subtle improvements
in the layout of the high scores page and I thank hcmffm and Lady Eklipse for their help in improving it.
My apologies to those who have sent scores and for which I have not updated yet- I will upload them I promise!
And what about my own endeavours relating to the Vectrex? Last year I stated I would restart my Vectrex
programming and finish my first game. Well due to time restraints as a result of my job this never happened,
perhaps this year I can update the progress. I did initiate another project though and which is still on-going.
That is the development of a full size upright arcade cabinet based on the Vectrex. There is still much to do
but you can see my ideas and progress in a special blog that I created. This is accessible from the tab above
titled [VecCab] or from here.
Build progress is ahead of the blog so I’ll try and make some blog updates in the very near future.
The vectrex.co.uk website is now in its sixth year. The aim is to help keep the Vectrex alive by generating interest in it.
If you have any news relating to the Vectrex that you think would be of interest to other Vectrex fans I would gladly present it here in this news blog. Happy new year to all Vectrex fans!