Mounted To Blast! – The Resurgence of Mounted Light Gun Games

arcadehero September 6, 2012 10
Mounted To Blast! – The Resurgence of Mounted Light Gun Games

(We’ve been seeing more mounted light-gun games appear in recent times so contributor Kevin Williams has penned this feature about this trend – AP)

– Mounted to Blast!

Some of you may have noticed that we are due a number of new shooting games that migrate from the more familiar ‘light gun’ approach to an arcade shooter – and are using the more traditional (old-school) mounted gun assembly. Games such as the previous Deadstorm Pirates and Let’s Go Island have marked a resurgence of the approach, we have also seen Global VR and Play Mechanix release their own mounted gun game systems – and 2013 looks to be filled with at least four mounted shooters!

I thought I would take some time for a brief run-down on the history of the mounted system, and a little explanation why we have seen a resurgence of this technology of late in the amusement scene.

 

– The System

The mounded gun assembly is one of the oldest ways for the players aiming of his ‘weapon’ to be represented on screen. The assembly using pots to track the X/Y axis of movement (left/right(X) – up/down(Y)). This simplistic system fundamentally works on a similar principle to the PC mouse. In the early period of the video arcade sector, the ability to have a ‘light gun’ system was expensive since it was first used on the Atari game Qwak in 1974. The deployment of the mounted alternative seen with games such as Exidy’s 1983 title Crossbow (pictured above).

– Past Application

Though there are many mounted gun games to chart over the history of amusement, I have attempted to point out some of the driving forces of the genre. The ability to represent the X/Y placement of the players movement on screen (building on the trackball/mouse foundation originated in the 1960’s) fuels this development.

Taito’s Operation Wolf in 1987 is one of the mega hit titles of the period, and a real international success story. The game would go on to create a series of emulators and sequels – such as the fun SEGA title ‘Line of Fire’ in 1989. But while charting ground breaking systems – the Namco Galaxian 3 Theater in 1990 has to be seen as a fundamental approach to the mounted gun game – the six player Mid-scale Attraction amusement system built off of the Namco WonderEgg theme park (24-seat) attraction that used the same approach.

‘Galaxian 3’ would go on to fuel its own catalog of sequels and emulators – Namco would reprieves the concept a year later with the popular and innovative Starblade, which also integrated curved glass to distort the screen for a desired depth effect.  It is interesting to observe that the mounted gun system deployed for these games has fundamentally stayed the same to the current Dark Escape 4D application, a generation later… if it isn’t broke don’t fix it!

 

Namco’s next shooter uses mounted guns

SEGA would create their own interpretation of the Namco original with their short-lived ‘Mid-Scale Attraction’ release Cyber Dome Super Shooting in 1992 – it is interesting to realize that this eight-player space blaster had its own unique features – including a AR style reflective sighting system on each gun.  The company would go on to use versions of their mounted shooting systems on their ‘Ghost Hunters’ JOYPOLIS attraction.

(Sega Cyber Dome Attraction – System16.org)

Though it would be SEGA that would start the modern approach of the mounted gun game in the amusement scene with ‘Let’s Go Jungle’ in 2006 – and the floodgates would be opened to the approach of mounted shooters – American amusement manufacture PlayMechanix would be retained by Global VR to create the mounted shooter Aliens Extermination in 2006 – a cabinet configuration that would be used by both companies in a number of releases. Namco and SEGA going head to head with their respective Let’s Go Island and Deadstorm Pirates (sources speaking that both games shared development teams!)

(Note – I have obviously only skimmed the most notable mounted gun games, but I would be interested to hear of readers favorites and other noteworthy titles in comments below).

– Modern Application

To answer one question, “why is the mounted gun concept so popular now”?

For AM R&D the ability to use current ‘light gun’ tracking technology has been in a bit of limbo – the main issues have been a patent battle over rights of ownership for certain ‘light-gun’ tracking systems previously deployed in amusement. Also there is a level of ‘expense’ in using alternative systems, and with cost cutting being employed by manufacturers, anything to reduce the pain is welcomed.

But some sources close to the AM R&D groups in Japan and America also say there may be a third issue – that being that the new LED / LCD hi-def flat-screen displays have shown an alarming difficulty to be hooked-up effectively to current ‘light-gun’ tracking systems (especially two-players). Suggestions that the latest screen fabrication tolerances making traditional tracking systems perform badly – though details on this issue are still wrapped in secrecy!

So what can we expect from the mounted gun game scene in 2013?

Global VR has revealed that they have the game The Swarm, planned for launch at the end of the year using the Aliens Extermination cabinet updated with a unique 47’’ screen running 2D and 3D (glasses) as well as the mounted guns. Namco has been heavily testing their Japanese Theater Enclosures Dark Escape 4D – employing a unique new element to the mounted gun game, with a heart monitor grips charting the players panic through the game (along with supporting 3D). Finally, there is the SEGA Europe project that has been receiving tantalizing glimpses on Facebook – ‘Sidearm’ is speculated to be another mounted gun game, but taking the genre in a brand new direction (latest picture below) – we look forward to reporting about all these games in our coming IAAPA exhibition coverage in November.

Finally, the mounted gun game is yet another example of a playing experience extremely difficult for the consumer sector to replicate on a console – but is a popular and enjoyable exclusive for the out-of-home entertainment scene, and soon to be making inroads in the scene again!

END

***

Mr. Kevin Williams runs The Stinger Report, a free e-mail newsletter that comes the Out-Of-Home Entertainment Industry. His next major endeavor is running the upcoming Digital Out-Of-Home Interactive Entertainment Network Association Conference that takes place in LA this October. You can download the most recent press release for that here: DNA Conference USA – PressRelease (7)a


10 Comments »

  1. Arcades4ever September 6, 2012 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    I brought namco’s razing storm time crisis for PS3 move that has dead storm pirates but the arcade game is way better than the console version but ok if there’s no DSP near enough to you as it’s feels better and add to that the rudder controller and moving seats which again is something the home console market lacks. That is just one of the few things that consoles can’t do with the mounted gun and by making more games like this that have controllers that are more better in an arcade than at home e.g. Trackball, duck pedal (time crisis) and mounted light gun then it’s just one of the few things the arcades will always have an advantage of.

  2. CD ageS September 7, 2012 at 1:53 am - Reply

    Gunblade and LA Machine Guns on the Wii platform play pretty damn well with proper Gun Shells. I still prefer the Arcade equivalents of both games. I always get the opportunity to play Gunblade at a local Round Table Pizza near a relatives place and LA Machine Guns via a great setup over at a Gameworks I visit every once in a while. I just love these 2 games very much even after all these years! 😀

  3. editor September 7, 2012 at 6:52 am - Reply

    @CD, L.A. Machineguns was a great shooter – SEGA AM at it best – love that they even had their Las Vegas facility in the game. GunBlade was a little too repetitive for my liking and Jet Squadron was just flawed.

    I am not sure how SEGA JP will treat the new SEGA Europe game, but I have to say that I am stoked to see it. Good job by the UK team in building interest – even the consumer media has started to talk about it.

  4. naplam991 September 8, 2012 at 11:53 am - Reply

    I remember those kind of games, ah, good times. BECOME THE LIVING TURRET!!

  5. FieldHD September 8, 2012 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    Man, I used to love StarBlade, these games are fun but too simple.

  6. Ryan September 9, 2012 at 7:08 am - Reply

    I wish Sega would make Ocean Hunter 2.

    • editor September 9, 2012 at 4:49 pm - Reply

      @Ryan, I think the Ocean Hunter team were part of the ‘Lets Go Jungle’ team that left SEGA for Namco. I remember meeting the producer at SEGA JP that though there was no interest in another Lets Go title… wonder what happened to him!

      • 60Hz September 11, 2012 at 10:44 am - Reply

        no more “let’s go”??? is that true… if so major fail on SEGA.

  7. Nick September 9, 2012 at 6:41 pm - Reply

    I said this before, but the people who made those terrible Air Raid Multiplayer Theater kits should be taken out into the backyard and beaten with a shovel. How they thought that game was more fun then Galaxian 3 is beyond me. It’s so dull. Same goes for Paradise Lost. It’s just waves and waves of dumb enemies that just line up to be shot. I’ve seen tons of people get up and leave the game at Dave and Busters.

    I really like what Sega and Namco are doing with Let’s Go (blank) and Deadstorm Pirates where they encourage you to play with a friend to deal more damage to enemies. It’s alright if you’re solo, but you gotta play them with a friend.

  8. editor September 12, 2012 at 7:59 am - Reply

    @Nick, I understand your frustration of the Chinese mounted gun games mentioned – I played a number of them at DEAL’12 and found them lacking in the more traditional amusement sense – but time will tell on better development in the future.

    The Namco ans SEGA deployment of the ‘partnering’ game feature (cooperative play) is a great element – specifically established by Namco following research into the ‘date’ (girlfriend) playing style seen in Japanese venues. If you look at the DarkEscape4D video you see the same style – the concept was first attempted with the 1997 RapidRiver.

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