(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!
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!
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