Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Now With Joystick Action

It has take some months for me to really be able to understand, let alone enjoy 'iOS gaming', the games designed for Apple's various iDevices. My kids (naturally) had no problem at all. They've been Temple Running, Doodle Jumping, and Jetpack Joyriding pretty much since they got their Touch iPods last summer, and long before I had any experience with anything beyond my trusty/crusty click-wheel ipod (which I still use for music). But touchscreens and I have a really hellish history, so I held out as long as I could.

Future posts will include iOS game coverage to a degree, but my viewpoint will definitely be from the old dog learning new tricks angle... that is, a controller-user trying to get some enjoyment out of all the tapping, swiping and flicking you have to do to get anywhere with touchscreen gaming. Or ways around this.

Case in point, and serious nerd-gasm. My iCade.

This is kinda jumping ahead to more recent times... I've bought a lot of iOS games before getting this thing... but the iCade is probably what I'm most excited about. And wouldn't you know it? It turns my newfangled touchscreen based device into an old-fashioned controller-, uh, 'controlled' mini arcade cabinet. Yes, I have wasted little time literally turning back cutting edge tech and reducing it to the same controls used on my favorite games from the 80s and 90s.

But even more uber-nerdy: I ripped the stock stick and buttons out and replaced them all with Sanwa parts. To be honest, the default hardware was okay, but really unbelievably noisy. And the buttons had a really deep push range to them. I'd modified sticks on my console games to Seimitsu parts, but I went Sanwa (the go-to buttons for most fighting games) this time just to see how they were different.

I really like 'em. Not better than the Seimitsu parts but definitely an improvement over what shipped. My kids thought my choice in button colors was crazy when I ordered 'em, but now that they are installed I win the friggin' tasteful mod competition.
The iCade really isn't compatible with that many games available in the Apple store. And the freebie Atari package that you can download with the iCade is kinda crap. Fortunately there is an awesome option available that more than justifies the cost of the iCade and any mods I might've done. An iOS version of Mame (MultiArcadeMachineEmulator).

I never really dug Mame all that much in the past. Mame is largely grounded in the PC, and I've always thumbed my nose at PC gaming because of all the hassle with the tech and the catchup you had to do if you wanted to play the latest games as intended. Mame didn't push PC graphics technology but it had its own set of rules, updates, versions, workarounds blah blah blah. I like consoles because I just want to put the damn game in and go. No fucking around.

But Mame is also controversial. You have to download game images (ROMs) of games that frequently still have a copyright owner... and you aren't paying them for it.

To quickly push past my personal view on whether Mame is piracy or not (because that is mostly beside the point of this post), my feeling is that I'm willing to download and play a ROM for any arcade game that doesn't exist for a console... ie, a viable platform for most gamers (not many people can and do afford a JAMMA setup not to mention buying a PCB for each game). If a company releases a version of the arcade game for a console I am more than happy to buy it. So yes, that IS Truxton II, a pretty rare Toaplan game, showing on the screen of those pics. If someone were to somehow manage to procure rights to publish Toaplan's games I'd be the first in line to shell out for those official releases. In the scheme of things, current video game publishers are not losing money from me because I'm using Mame instead of their products.  Mame (and the game ROMs) is free so that isn't money going towards Mame that could be going to legit game releases either. I follow this model with DVDs too. I'll buy a 'fansub', but happily get the legit one as soon as it becomes available. I can't think of a time I've failed to this. I used to have an all fansub Godzilla film collection, but since four different companies have made USA releases of Japanese Godzilla films, there are only two fansubs left Godzilla vs Megalon, and Godzilla vs Biollante. If the suits will let these out officially, they'll get my money

So the version of Mame I currently have loaded on my iOS device supports a library of almost 2300 games. Yep. 2300 games. Instant justification for an iCade, since compatibility for the thing was evidently important to the iMame4all developers. The jailbroken version also supports wiimotes, but I've found since getting the iCade the wiimote with a Classic Controller is best used for dual-stick games like Smash TV or Robotron 2084.

Of course of that 2300 games a lot are crap. Or clones. Or boring. Or a product of their time and unplayable by today's standards. Or require a one-off controller that came on the arcade cabinet, like a trackball or dial. Also every iteration of Mame had ROMs in their libraries that the guys working on Mame never got around to making work before a new version of Mame came out. So about 10% of the games don't work or have issues that cripple them running. But at the end of it, if I only include games that run, that I like, or that I've always wanted to try that still lists out at hundreds and hundreds of titles. I couldn't give them each serious attention of I was awake 24 hours a day. And at the time of this writing a followup version of Mame for iOS is in beta with an even bigger library. I can barely wrap my head around all the games I've gotten already.

And talk about an awesome way for my kids to discover so may of the classic games and genres from my formative video game years AND the golden age of the arcades in the late 80s and early 90s! They already have favaorites. And they can see where a lot of the titles they play on Xbox 360 or their iPods got their start.

1 comment:

  1. Now officially three months since you posted - again!