Thursday, April 10, 2008

Prototyping REALLY BIG games

As I may have mentioned here before, in my previous work-life, I worked at Williams/Bally/Midway, doing, among other things, working in the coin-operated games business, working in the pinball industry. Due to the marvels of modern IRC technology, even though various people have gone their separate paths, I'm still in daily contact with many of these people. And quite a few of them are still in the coin-op industry.

As the arcade market has continued to shrink (for various reasons), most of the big names have dropped out, focusing their efforts on home games, redemption pieces, or other things.

A friend of mine works for Raw Thrills, who, for all practical purposes, is the only major player in the United States still producing "pure" video games for the coin-op market. And, in some respects, one of the last few big video game manufacturers in the world. They've done this by (rather smartly), not concentrating their efforts of trying to create the next expensive hardware set to push more polygons or more realistic bump shadings, but instead on leveraging cheaper technology with a more focused attention to making the games fun. So, while their games may not be as technically impressive when it comes to technology bullet-points, their arcade units are much more cost effective with a better ROI to the operator who buys the units, as their games will typically out-earn the more expensive, more technologically advanced Japanese cousins.

Anyway, for those who are interested in the world of game prototyping, Cameron has put up a pretty extensive photo gallery of what it took to prototype the project he's currently working on: A coin-op American Idol Karaoke Booth. It's a good example of using prototypes to solve important issues; notably, trying to do green screen effects within a tiny space.

The other cool feature of the booth is that it produces a DVD of your performance (for a few bucks more), complete with American Idol judging, all done mechanically by the booth itself.

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