Friday 6th October - Free puzzle game for the Vectrex
Thomas Sontowski (originator of Robot Arena, Head On and VecFever) has recently released a small puzzle game ROM binary for the
Vectrex called 2048.
Itís a version of the single player sliding block puzzle game already going by the same name and available
on a variety of different computer platforms since 2014.
In the game you must use the joystick controller to slide numbered tiles around
on a board comprising a 4 x 4 grid. When two tiles of the same number collide, a tile with a combined number is formed. The game is won when a tile
with a value of 2048 appears on the board.
The game binary occupies just 4K of ROM and really is retro programming harking back to the days when ROM size was limited to 4K or 8K.
Amazing what can be squeezed in such a small size given the bloated apps for modern day computers/tablets. Thomas, even managed to include
true curves on the vector display (not many existing games show vector curves).
In an AtariAge post, Thomas, even gave full details on how to modify an original GCE pcb and cart to accept a 2732 EPROM with the
code burned in. 2048 can be downloaded direct from AtariAge.com.
Saturday 30th September - Make believe with the Vectrex?
A few months back I bought an empty Vectrex case via eBay with the intention of one day assembling the various spare Vectrex bits I
have lying around to make another working Vectrex.
However, in the short term, Iíve been having some fun. This would have been an ideal April fools joke but I couldnít wait that long :)
Using Gaffer tape I stuck my iPad 2 in behind the empty space that would normally hold the Vectrex CRT. Itís not a perfect fit - as there
is some plastic protruding on the inside of the Vectrex which would require cutting which I didn't want to do - as a result thereís a few millimeters separating the front and rear parts
of the case.
For the first video I made of the setup I considered how a colour Vectrex would have looked had Jay Smith and Co. developed
their colour Vectrex prototype into commercial reality.
I selected a YouTube video showing the arcade game Major Havoc and played it whilst the iPad was inside the Vectrex case.
Not content with making a colour Vectrex fake, I then proceeded to download the RantMedia Games Vectrex Regeneration App for the iPad.
Putting a real Vectrex and this fake Vetrex side by side itís actually quite hard to see which one is the real one particularly when
both have physical overlays. I donít have a Bluetooth controller for the iPad, so the controls are visible onscreen in the iPad version.
For the purpose of the video, I simply blacked out the area showing the controls with some insulation tape. Guess whether it is
the left or right Vectrex that is the fake.
The RantMedia Games Vectrex Regeneration app is really first class
and gives a convincing feeling of a Vectrex. If you donít have the real thing this app is
going to be the closest you will ever get (particularly if you play with a Blue tooth controller).
Would the real Vectrex please reveal itself?
Thursday 28th September - Return of the Sean Kelly Multicart
Hot on the heels of the 72 in one cart reviewed in the previous news post is the latest release of the Sean Kelly Muitcart vesion 3.0.
Sean has been selling his multicarts since the 1990ís. You wouldnít hear from him some time and then on eBay you would see he had made
another small batch of carts, and the version has steadily incremented from 1.0, 1.5, 2 and 2.5. For a while Sean stopped selling the
carts, and on eBay the resale price was going for silly high amounts. So itís great to see Sean has a brand new Multicart available and with
newly developed software and hardware. Its quite interesting to read the history leading to the version 3.0 muticart.
These multicarts like the 72 in one cart are pre-programmed with a selection of games and applications including the entire original
library (with the exception of the program that required RAM e.g. Animaction). The Sean Kelly cart includes
101 games, which is nearly
double the games available in the previous versions of his multicart. Included are some new homebrew titles too. Unlike the 72 in one cart, the Sean Kelly cart includes the cartridge shells.
You can order a multicart direct from his website www.vectrexmulti.com. There are a number of options. Option 1 is the cart only and
this costs $64 (48GBP) USD. Option 2, costs $78 USD (58GBP) and in addition to the cart includes a box that is made to look in the same
style as an original game box. On the whole, these prices are very reasonable (considering the number of games and a cart shell is
provided) but there are additional shipping costs too, and if outside the US this might mean the 72 in one cart is still a contender.
Also if you already own an earlier version of the Sean Kelly mulicart you can send it back and he will give a credit towards a new one.
Tuesday 22nd August - New version of the 72 in one cart
Old timers in the Vectrex scene will be well aware of Andrew Colemanís 72 in one multicart. This is a cart that "does exactly what it
says on the tin" and is a menu accessible pre-programmed cartridge with 72 games/demos. This has been around for quite a few years now.
It contained a variety of prototypes, homebrew games and demos. It also contained Andyís home brew games City bomber and Hangman.
Well, the cart has just undergone a new revision and is at version 2. This cart still contains all the original games and prototypes,
but in addition includes a number of the new homebrews (Veccy Bird, Whack a Mole, Space Race, Vecdrum, Canina band demo, Mail Plane
Prototype. In addition there is a brand new demo called Splutís Bells which is a preview of a his new Hunchback inspired Vectrex game).
Sure many of the games on the cart can be downloaded from various websites, but you have them here all together on one cart. Itís
ideal for the Vectrex user who doesnít have a means to copy game binaries on to a reprogrammable cart. Just plug the cart in and
through a simple menu system there is no need to scroll through 50 games to get to the one you want.
In addition, unlike the previous version of the 72 in one multicart, version 2 works on the later Vectrex consoles which have the
later BIOS ROM.
Priced at £39.99, it can be purchased direct from Andyís website.Priced at £39.99, it can be purchased via Andyís
Monday 17th July - Another Vectrex demoscene program released
Hot on the heels of the Nova 17 Demoscene party and the release of "Raiding" for the Vectrex (see previous post) is the release
of yet another Vectrex demoscene program. This new one is called "Jarkki Rikkoi Vektorit". This was released on the 15th July in
Pirkanmaa, Finland at the Vannaka Party 2017 and won 1st prize
in the Vannaka Party 23 Combined demo competition.
The YouTube descripton for the video of the demo reads -The theme of the party was "Jarkko broke his own stuff", so in this demo, he "broke the vectors".
This looks and sounds way better/weirder on the real thing, but is a little cruel to the Vectrex since it just reads some random
memory when it "breaks".
Produced by members of the Fit crew, some author names listed in the credits are recognisable as contributing previous Vectrex
code (either knowingly or not): Malban, Marq, Yzi (Music) and programmed together by Manu.
Saturday 8th July - New Vectrex demoscene program!
From the early 80ís, competing crews produced home computer demo programs which squeezed out fantastic effects to show off the
graphical and musical prowess of the programmer(s). The demoscene first became popular on the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum.
The demo scene lives on, and in recent years the Vectrex has been the recipient of a fair few demoscene programs.
Typically, the new demoscene programs result from demoscene parties where groups and individual artists compete against each
other for technical and artistic excellence.
A new Vectrex demoscene program called "Raiding Party" has been released at the
Nova 17 party held on 23rd-25th June in theUK.
This program just 32KB in size, squeezes a lot out of the Vectrex hardware and features music and smooth curved
vector graphics (the likes of which have not seen before). Programmed by the "Rift" crew (code: Fell, music: Bex), watch out
for them in the future!
You need to watch this on a real Vectrex to truly appreciate. You can find the binary to download at
Sunday 25th June - Playing with Vector frogs in Karl Quappe
More than 18 years ago Malban aka Chris Salomon made a very nice Vectrex game called V-Frogger, which
was a Vectrex interpretation of the well known arcade game called Frogger. This was a very good Vector interpretation
squeezed into a 16K binary. This game can still be purchased from Packrat Video Games.
Malban went on to do different things but lately he came back into the Vectrex world with various projects e.g.
VIDE and Release. In November 2016, Malban initiated a revised edition of Frogger called Karl Quappe. In this version, he made
many improvements compared to his previous game, including smoother graphics and background arcade music. The final package is still work in
progress but the video to the right shows my testing of an early beta. The game is running in demo mode together with the prototype overlay.
Friday 28th April - New homebrew: 3D Vector Space Cab
Thereís a noticeable amount of Vectrex home brew activity this year. Fresh to the party is a game called 3D Vector Space Cab by
Fell^DSS . The player flies a Space cab/taxi and has to pick up passengers and drop them at their destinations. The controls
are simple, joystick left/right to spin the planet and any button for rocket thrust. There is a time limit because you run out
of fuel unless you refuel at a fuel depot.
This game was a competition entry to the
Ludum Dare #38 game jam event.
In this weekend event, developers create games from scratch based on a theme suggested by the Ludum Dare online community.
Despite this game being written in just 48 hours, it is a nice distraction and is quite playable. To download the free ROM binary visit this
Sunday 9th April - New public beta release from Malban
Iím currently playing Release which is a new game by Malban offered as a public beta release. The game is a Vectrex
version of the game of the same name that is playable on the iOS and Android.
Gimo Games, author of the original game, gave
Malban permission to make a version for the Vectrex. Itís a simple game in concept and by that virtue converts very well
to the Vectrex.
The player uses just one button to play. The playerís ship is in the middle of the screen and various enemy objects follow a
path towards the ship. The player must press a button to cast out a shield that grows until the player releases the button.
At that point if the approaching objects are at the shield they are destroyed and points are accrued. The game ends when an
object collides with the playerís ship.
The game is still missing final music and some sound effects but is still nevertheless very playable. The game is very addictive
and once finished will be a must have for Vectrex fans. To download the beta 5 release visit Malbanís
blog post for the game binary.
My video shows the game using the excellent Vector Pilot overlay- the pseudo colour offered by the overlay matches well with
the game play.Usual caveats apply when filming a Vectrex display - its always best to view on an actual Vectrex.
Saturday 11th March - Vectrex thermometer
Thomas Sontowski, of RobotArena and VecFever Vectrex fame, has recently directed his home brew talents to a mini project called the
thermometer cartridge. Thomas, describes his new project as "Not really useful, except as a curiosity or to complain at retro
meetings in Vectrex-style, if it should be too cold/hot."..."Measurements are valid from 0-85 deg C in 0.5C intervals (measured
roughly once a second)".
The project centres around the use of a DS18S20
1-wire chip. This is a high-precision 1-wire digital thermometer. The term 1-wire
is because you communicate with the chip by sending and receiving serial data using a single data line plus a "ground" reference.
Already for many years now, Vectrex home brewers have been using an 1-wire serially controlled 32-byte EEPROM for saving high scores.
Available games such as Protector, YASI, Vectrexians and Vector Pilots or make use of such a device. Well, Thomas as substituted the
EEPROM with the DS18S20 digital thermometer chip and has written a small accompanying Vectrex program that is just over 2KB.
This program communicates with the 1-wire chip and displays the temperature on the Vectrex screen. Temperature is displayed in
degrees Centigrade, but any button on the Vectrex controller toggles between Centigrade and Fahrenheit.
Thomas has provided some instructions for building your own. You need a cart PCB which supports 1-wire chip capability.
If you contact BinaryStar Software or
they should be able to sell you one. You will also need a 1k or 2.2k resistor and of
course a DS18S20 chip. Of course you also need the capability to burn an EEPROM with the Vectrex program. The following photo
shows where each component must go. The Vectrex binary can be downloaded from here.
Sunday 5th March - New Screen printed repro Mine Storm overlays in production
The screen printers have just let me know the Mine Storm overlays are nearly ready and have kindly sent me an image of the 125(ish)
Mine Storm overlays drying on the rack.
The next stage is sending to the die-cutters so they can be cut to shape.
Once these are finished you will find it very difficult to tell the difference from the original Mine Storm overlay. The only give away
is the small copyright text on the right side of the reproduction overlay.
Watch this space for more news, but the expectation is that the overlays will be ready for shipping soon. As soon as I receive them, I
will then take orders. For pricing and shipping details please visit the Shop page on this website.
Friday 3rd March - Look what arrived just in time for spring!
I just purchased these replacement joystick centering springs from GauzeSoft. The Vectrex console is quite a robust beast, but for a
system that is approaching 35 years old, things do go wrong/break. Typically, the first thing that goes is anything mechanical. As such, a common
problem is the joystick on the Vectrex controller no longer centering. This is due to the springs snapping. Unfortunately, you canít just
buy replacement springs for the controller off-the-shelf. There are thousands of different springs which are not an exact match. There
are various fixes given on the net, from replacing the broken spring with a spring taken from an Atari 2600 cartridge, using "spring" wire
and reshaping it, to using piano wire.
On the Vector Gaming Forums, proboards member Gauze, recently got a
batch of new springs manufactured which are one to one replacements for the originals. These are made in the US. You can purchase four for $5
inside US and territories (use this link) or $6 international
(use this link).
Now, all I have to do is set aside some time to install in my faulty controller. The most difficult part will be peeling off the top
overlay in order to access the four screws holding the controller together. Fortunately, there are YouTube videos showing how to do this.
Sunday 15th January - Juno First - a new game demo for the Vectrex
A member on the German forum "Forum 64" going by the handle of Peiselulli
quietly released a demo for the Vectrex in November last year. A recent YouTube video has brought his activities into the limelight.
Peiselulli has released a playable demo Vectrex version of the
arcade game Juno First. Titled "Hera Primera", this
vertical scrolling game is quite remarkable considering it is just 20KB in size.
Itís a shoot Ďem up game with fast paced graphics. The player must negotiate and shoot several waves of aliens.
The game is unusual for a Vectrex in that the overall graphics occupy the whole width of the screen giving the sense of a much bigger
playing field compared to other Vectrex games.
In addition throughout the game, music plays in the background and throughout the play.
Sound effects are still present when shooting and killing the enemy - all this with a stable and non flickering display - no mean feat
on a Vectrex. Itís also impressive that Peiselulli says that this is his first Vectrex game.
As mentioned the game is currently a demo but it is nevertheless still enjoyable to play. You can download this game from Peiselulli's 16th November
post on "Forum 64" but if
you are not already a member you will have to register your details.
Sunday 1st January - Happy New Year!
Wow, what a time to be into Vectrex last year -the heart beat of the Vectrex community is approaching high BPM! In 2016 there
was not only new homebrew software but also hardware.
The established homebrewers from the first Vectrex renaissance came back and
were active (Christopher Tumber , Chris Salomon aka Malban
with his VIDE Vectrex development suite and George Pelonis from Fury Unlimited
with the completion of his delivery of Warrior). Christoper Tumber provided a few demos and concept at the beginning of 2016 and at the
end announced his intention to get back in to writing and releasing Vectrex games this year. Kristof Tuts was refining his
Vector Patrol game throughout last year and has recently
announced that he expects it to be ready for release Q1 this year.
Then there were the new Vectrex kids on the block. This included Sascha aka Luch-soft with
Dead of Knight and MITNAL (to name but two of his recent Vectrex releases),
Andreas Gustafsson with Vectrexagon, Chris Malcom of Binary Star Software with
Death Chase and NOX (James Watt), Chris Parsons aka Vector Republic with
his Big Blue game, and Thomas Sontowski most notably for his Robot Arena. And
what I outlined so far was just the software! Some of the names above come up again for new hardware.
Most of the hardware was demoed last year but is to be released this year. One exception was the announcement and release of
Vectrex32 by Bob Alexander. This is a new cartridge for the Vectrex that
allows you to write Vectrex games in interactive interpreted BASIC. The cart contains a 32 bit PIC micro controller which takes care of
all the algorithmic aspects of a game, leaving the Vectrex to act as a dummy and maximize its time for displaying Vector graphics.
The result, is that purchasers of the Vectrex32 games will be able to write some slick Vector games in a relatively simple programming language (as opposed to writing in 6809 assembler).
What am I looking forward to this year? Well the release of Vector Patrol, Mail Plane, a homebrew project by Federico Salerno, for
Vectrex collectors "recreating" the original GCE packaging -box, manual and cart style and Fury Unlimitedís
Hell Hole. Chris of Binarystar software will be releasing his Vectrex light-pen and light-gun games. Hopefully, Thomas,
will be officially releasing his Robot Arena game, plus the other projects he has in his pipe line. Of particular interest is
his VecFever cart. This is more than just a multi cart with 16MB of memory. The cart is able to take all original games titles and
substitute their high score routines with a high scores top eight for each game (and game mode). This is possible for 30+ games and
includes homebrews too. There are many other tricks this cart will allow too.
And my activities? Demand for Vectrex screen overlays has been high. Last year I commissioned and sold another batch of YASI and Mine Storm
overlays. After repeated requests from vectrex fans I'm currently selling a batch of generic green overlays. These overlays hark back to that era (for those
of us who admit to remember) of CRT monitors with green phosphors. For me this simple overlay works well with all games. It is also useful
for program development. Speaking of which, my Veczogs game has advanced another 10% and is now 70% complete. Will this be the year for
its release? - I hope so!
As before, I would just like to finish this first entry for 2017 by saying thanks to all who have contacted me with comments about the website, scores and Vectrex news.
I look forward to sharing my Vectrex enthusiasm with you in the near future.