12th September - Vector Gaming Forums' 10 year anniversary
When I first started my Vectrex website, there weren't many places you could communicate with like minded Vectrex fans. A couple of years later in 2010, I had
been in contact alot with a US based fan by the name of Darrylb aka VectorX when he was creating the Vectrex Wiki. When he told me he was going to
launch a new Vectrex forum on Proboards, I was one of the first to join (Darryl was I the second?). Some 10 years later, his Vector Gaming forum is still going strong.
Sure, now there are competing information sources(see my links page), e.g. Vectrex Fan's Unite on FaceBook, Vectrex on Reddit, an official subforum on Atari Age for Vectrex,
but actually, the quality posts can be generally found on the Vector Gaming Forum. I give a big shoutout here to DarrylB for keeping his forum going. It's deifinitely a
place to go if you like Vectrex.
Darrylb reached out to me today to let me know it's the 10th Anniversary of the Vector Gaming Forum and he sent a write-up which I repeat here:
"On September 9, 2011, I created the Vector gaming forums. Two days later, I decided they were ready, so I (along with several other people, which I thank for,
along with their support) announced them to the gaming world.
With several like-minded individuals that appreciated, if not loved the unique arcade and Vectrex games (along with home raster ports of such, then
later online, tablet and cell games), we all brought forth many a discussion over, news, mysteries, gaming days and/or contests and even a few fights
over (ack!). Of course, there have also been discussions in regards to all kinds of non-vector games, systems, general talk, entertainment and world news
as well in the non-gaming sub-forums, but those aren't part of the main theme for the site, but all talk is appreciated, as long as it's civil.
I never thought it was good PR for those that ran forums to announce that, with their occasional forum news, that postings were down, as the site was
getting 4-5,000 posts a year for a while, but they have been down quite a bit due to Atari Age adding the Vectrex sub-forums and the Vectrex Fans Unite!
Facebook page being created a few years back. I have put this forum in my sig on most of the non-gaming forums I frequent, along with printing
and passing out business cards to gaming expo attendees to hardly anyone new coming on board and posting. However, in a way this is still good since I'd
like to thank the regulars that we have on here often still, if not every single day, plus I hope people keep on returning.
However few or many we have on here, though, I feel it's been a good 10 years and it will be an interesting next 10, Iím sure."
Do you already have Vectorblade? If so, how have you got on with it? With more than 200 levels, this 256K cart "bottom up shooter" is a challenging game to complete.
But with its many features, built in shop to buy various weapons, and save options, its a game I guarante you'll keep coming back to as there is
quite a lot of strategy involved. However, If you are a bit ham-fisted like me, you'll won't get to a high level, even if you just play in easy mode.
So I welome Vectorblade author, Malban's release of a walk through video on YouTube, where he explains strategy, shows tricks, and secrets. He
goes through 191 levels in real time until his camera stops.
Of course, if you want to find the secrets yourself, it goes without saying don't watch the video. But to me, Malbans walkthrough has just given the
game a new lease of life.
If you don't alraedy have the game I strongly recommend it. If you are in the US you can get it from Packrat.
If you are in the UK, you can get the cart for a very reasonable amount of pounds from playntradeonline.
Friday 30th July - Vectrex arcade control panel
This video shows the latest state of my Vectrex control panel. It now incorporates "intelligent" buttons with flashing lights.
Basically, a small PICAXE microcontroller
is incorporated to light the LEDs in the buttons in different patterns. If the PICAXE detects that the player hasn't pressed a button for while (around 35 secs),
the buttons start flashing, to entice the player back to press a button. If the player presses a button then all the buttons remain lit.
Not really much more than a gimmick for a standard Vectrex. But I am building a Caberet Vectrex cabinet (calling it VecCab) and am building it as
I would imagine it would be if it were available in the 80s.
Just imagine, the VecCab standing in a darkened corner of the arcade, button 4 flashing, enticing the player to step forth and initiate a game.
This is not an original thought. Walk into any casino or sea-side arcade today and you'll see all manner of machines with lights flashing in
various patterns and accompanied with weird electronic sounds just enticing you to part with your money.
This control panel developmen thas been one of many steps to make my dream Vectrex arcade cabinet. I have been documenting as I go along and more info
can be gleened by hiting the VecCab tab above or by clicking here.
Saturday 5th June - Chess on the Vectrex? - Nearly!
Chess on the Vectrex? I hear you say. Well, you know what? Peer Johannsen has almost gone and done it! Having tried to write a chess program many
years in the past (in BASIC for a Sony PS2) and ending up with a weak solution, I can really appreciate the complexities of trying to fit
any sort of game resembling chess into the Vectrex. Recently, thereís been a Vectrex chess game demonstrated but using an external CPU (Pitrex)
to do all the grunt work.
So it is remarkable to see a version of chess that is currently just 13K ROM in size. Considering the Vectrex has less than 1K of useable
RAM available, I can really appreciate the limitations imposed on the programmer.
On the Vectrex, there is always a struggle to be had by the programmer in how much to display on the screen and how much to compute in the
background. On my Vectrex consoles, the board tended to wave a bit although the chess pieces themselves appeared very static. Maybe Peer can
make life easier for himself, and just dispplay the pieces on the screen and use an overlay to prsented the checqured board.
Out of all the times, I played Kingslayer Chess I was able to beat it (admittedly I did not play the hardest mode). I think this is understandable because of the limitations of the Vectrex.
The limited memory does not allow the Vectrex to have a big look forward at all the possible permutations. There are four modes currently available:
Random Move, AI 1 - WOPR, AI 2 - Hal 9000 and Deep Thought modes. The random move mode is not very entertaining but Iím guessing Peers implemented this first
to test out his chessboard input and output engine. I played mostly "AI 2" mode so far as that was a good compromise between game
intelligence and speed of moves. "Deep Thought" mode took a really long time for each move, even against a simple pawn move at the start.
Maybe, when I have more time I will try this mode as the title infers the gameplay is likely to be more challenging.
Overall, a very good effort for version 0.2! I suspect what appears on the surface is hiding a lot of complex programming aspects underneath.
I really enjoyed testing this game.
Get the game binary from here and give it a try. Peers is interested to hear your comments.
Sunday 30th May - World War vi ported to Vectrex (via VecFever)
Thomas Sontowski, the creator of the Vectrex VecFever, has been busy again. Together with a new VecFever firmware update (v2.30)
updating many things "under the hood", Thomas has taken the opportunity to include a few X windows ports.
Included was the World War vi teaser binary. The version you see is a later version with the teaser disabled, which allows you
to actually play the game. It's still a work in progress, the obvious omission being that there is no sound yet. Nevertheless, it
looks like a very promising game, and this port suits the Vectrex very well.
World War vi was originally written and released in 2007 by Stephen
Cameron for Linux, the game is a cross between Scramble and Defender.
Thereís a bit of back story behind the game: Itís about the vi and emacs text editors (each editor
has their own fan base in the real world and there was a real rivalry on Usenet groups) but imagined as a battle between two different factions across a core memory
inside a computer world. If you've been brought up with Unix/Linux you will no doubt find the reference to the editors apt.
However, there is no need to know this background as basically itís a fast action side-scrolling shoot 'em up '80s style
arcade game. Thereís so much going on the screen, that the Vectrex would never have achieved this through its own efforts.
Thatís where VecFever with its modern day built in processor steps in.
Thursday 1st April - YouTube proof that Dark vectors are really possible on the Vectrex!!!
Thanks to the technical wizardry of Robin Jubber of Jubberbaut.com,
he has managed through an extras demo included in his excellent Player 2 game, to demonstrate that black vectors are not only possible on the
Vectrex but you can actually visualise them on the screen!
Displaying black Vectors on a black and white CRT screen such as that used in a Vectrex has always been challenge. The issue being that
the default background on Vectrex screen is dark and drawing dark vectors is just not possible to see them. However, through some
magic code, Robin has managed to pull this off, - a fete never captured on YouTube before. It shouldn't be posssible, but check the video
and you can definitely see black Vector shapes.
This opens up all sorts of possibilities for exciting new games. Imagine being able to play Mine Storm with all the vectors shown in black!
It would be well worth to contact Robin to give him ideas for new games that would work well with black vectors.
Do you have the Player 2 game already and want to try for yourself? On Art 2, in EXTRAS, use button 2 instead of 4 to see the
Black Vector demo. Button 3 has a variation.
Sunday 22nd March - The Minskytron tapes on the PDP-1 emulator for VecFever
Now Thomas Sontowski is always busy adding new software functionality to his VecFever creation. So he is always suprising us with new (and unsual) things.
Recently he has developed a PDP-1 Emulator to run on the
VecFever and made the new firmware available to VecFever owners. Specifically, it allows you to play the original Spacewar! game. This game was the
first known video game to be played at a multiple computer installation and this was in 1962 on the DEC PDP-1 mini computer. This game was later spawned into the 1972 Vector
arcade game called Space Wars by Vectorbeam/Cinematronics.
You can now play the original Spacewar! on the Vectrex. However, it needs two players and I am more fascinated by another function of the PDP-1 emulator
that Thomas has included.
This is something called the Minskytron tapes or "Three Position Display" and comprises a range of graphics demos that run on the PDP-1.
It is not immediately obvious how to select this, but you do in it in the setup menu for the emulator.
Pressing button 4 cycles between pre-selected test switch settings. You could just imagine these animated images filling
XY scopes used in a Sci-Fi B movie. The algorithmic nature of the repeating images seem to cycle in increments and become more and
more unstable over time until a regular cyclic pattern is reached.
There is no sound from the Vectrex speaker as these are graphics demos only. However, I was a little bit alarmed to hear the high
pitch monitor neckboard chatter when running these demos. Iíve never heard so much Vectrex screaming noises other than I think in the Vectrex game Protector
(which is known to push the Vectrex screen to its limits) Ė but of course, here the chatter pitch is cyclic and continuous. I did check
with Thomas about what these PDP-1 emulator graphics demos were doing to health of my Vectrex but he assured me that no Vectrex would come
to any harm from running this emulator.
Saturday 13th March - Vectrex Whack-A-Mole on the big screen
Here we have an early video showing my Vectrex driving an old Asteroids 19" Vector Monitor (from Jason Kopp) and me trying out Chris
Binarystar's light gun operated Whack-A-Mole.
Whack-A-Mole has been available as downloadable binary for quite a while now. You can play it with
the Vectrex controller, but far better is to use the Sega light gun option.
When I made this video I was curious to see if this light gun game would work on the big screen without any issues. And I can confirm yes,
absolutely no problem at all. The bigger screen allows you to play even further away from the screen (I managed to reliably shoot moles
to a maximum distance of 2 meters). I did have to incease the monitor brightness though.
Chris Binarystar will eventually being releasing a cart containing a compendium of light gun controllable games. You can get the Whack-A-Mole
binary from his web site.
Saturday 20th February - Missing your pads?
There's a very common problem with my Vectrex consoles and I suspect other Vectrex owners have this issue too; - I have a few controllers and
most are missing their feet.I decided to address this recently in an early Spring cleaning excercise.
The controllers lose their rubber feet pads over time.
It's not surprising since the glue holding those pads no doubt has perished considering that the Vectrex is now more than 37 years old.
Actually, upon closer investigation, for some of the pads they are still present but it looks like their
thickness has shrunk or rubbed down over time.
Measuring existing pad dimensions
Lose more than one pad and if you are using the controller as intended on a flat surface, the whole controller can end up skidding across
the table during frantic game playing activity. Even worse though, the skidding action will put more stress on any remaining pads, and
eventually the bottom of the controller surface will rub and get scratched from the surface it is on.
I took out my trusty callipers and measured an existing orphan pad: diameter 6.9 mm and thickness 1.3 mm. There is some tolerance to be accounted for
the measurements as being rubber there is some movement when closing the calliper jaws.
What can one do? Finding the exact flat rubber feet replacement appears nigh on possible. You could punch your own feet out from a rubber sticker
pad but of course you need the tools. Searching on eBay there seem to be no flat rubber pads with the right size but there do seem to be a
lot of pads called "small silicon self adhesive stick on pads" or ďbump onsĒ (the type often used on kitchen cabinet doors) with near enough
the right dimensions (I ordered 7 mm diameter, 1 mm thickness).
So I ordered a set (take care to order black and not translucent) and they are
perfect. With 1 mm thick pads the controller bottom just clears the surface it is on. Obviously, when applying the new feet, take care to clean
away any of the old glue residues and old rubber gunk so the pad recesses in the controller appear empty.
With my next purchase of pads I think I'll go for 2 mm thickness to get slightly more clearance. The result is a very stable positioned
controller on a table and with no risk of the controller getting jettisoned when Iím frantically hitting button 4!
Removing old pad residue
New Bump-on rubber pad stickers
Sunday 3rd January - Happy New Year !!!
Another year gone, and boy what a year. Any sort of reflection on last year and one has to mention the ďCĒ word.
All our personal lives aside, the COVID19 pandemic even impacted on our Vectrex hobby; Vectrex homebrews come from
all over the world, and we all experienced delays for international purchases, slow updates from the Vectrex
community in general and even a COVID19 virus inspired Vectrex music demo
that played tinkly music-box tones from
the DNA code of the COVID-19 virus was released.
From my own experience, I know I was late in shipping out overlays to many customer because I would often arrive at the post office in lock down,
to see a queue of 20 persons, and decide to go back home and try on another day.
Vectrex highlights for me last year were the release of Malbanís Vector Blade game, Malban's release of Vectrex Berzerk Ultimate.
and the announcement of the finding
of a couple of unknown hardware and software prototypes.
The hardware prototype foud was yet another Vectrex case design that was never released, and the software prototype was an unknown game called
ďA crush of LucifierĒ.
This game is still not in the public yet, but the discoverer Steven Salter, is attempting to
extract the binary and promises he will share with the Vectrex community. The game itself is an unreleased prototype but the
gaming mechanics presenting you in a 3D space envrionment look quite advanced for a 1983 game.
In the background Thomas Sontowski continues to update and improve his VecFever offering and shortly before the end of last year
he released a ďChristmasĒ firmware update with completely new menu software, new games and new Vector MAME emulators.
The first thing to note is that the the VecFever is truely international, with its menus and many of the included games available in English, French and German.
New to the VecFever are also ports of the RPG games Akalabeth and Dungeons of Daggorath.
If your are into shoot-em-up type games, these are definitely not for you, but these slower role playing games do offer a different genre to the Vectrex platfrom.
Thomas, has also included VecFever optimised versions of some of the original GCE games including a faster, smoother
graphics version of Web Warp. You can now even run Jereon Domburgís 2015 tech demo which he calls
Voom. This binary allows you to roam around
in a Doom like 3D environment on the Vectrex.
For the latest VecFever firmware (V2.22 at time of writing) you either have to go to
his website, or contact Thomas direct if you donít have the website login details.
The only criticism made about the VecFever cart is that it is so good that everyone wants one and there are not enough to go around.
Currently there isnít any sign if more will be made. There have been other carts released such as Brett Walachís Vextreme
and Graham Toal and teamís PiTrex, but they all offer different functionality, and itís the VecFever thats at the forefront for me.
Last year, due to work pressures, I did not have too much time for my Vectrex hobby and indeed even updates to this website were
slow. But a big thank you to all those Vectrex fans who have contacted me with comments about the website and offered Vectrex news
Ė this helps to keep me going. Having dialogue and feedback with like minded Vectrex fans makes the hobby even more of a pleasure.
I would love to hear from you if you have any Vectrex related news. Happy New Year!