BREAKING: Marble Madness II now in MAME, video on YouTube

This is not some fan game made to play like Marble Madness, but the real deal, a legendary lost prototype from the Silver Age of Atari Games! Cancelled because of the great arcade fervor at the time around fighting games, meaning little Atari released in that era performed well on test.

Word is that the rom has been released somewhere on the internet, although I do not know where. It had been known that all the surviving Marble Madness II cabinets were owned by old Atari staff or collectors who were averse to allowing the rom images to be released. Whether one of them had a change of heart or, as has been speculated with Akka Arrh, another legendary prototype, they may have been obtained through nefarious means.

Technically the rights are still owned by Warner Media, I believe. I’ve long been amazed that the current rights holders haven’t seeked out the owners of these prototypes and offered them a big payday to dump the roms and release something like a Midway Arcade Treasures 4. Sure, it’d only be a matter of time before someone broke the roms out of such a package, but they’d still sell a ton of units and the prototype owners would be properly rewarded for both maintaining their machines and for lost collector value, and importantly, the games would be out there among people who would enjoy them and be protected against further loss and obscurity.

YouTube: Marble Madness II (Atari prototype arcade game) is now playable in MAME

Memory Machine 57: Preserving 70s Arcade Machines

The Memory Machine podcast has a new episode talking about the preservation of 70s arcade machines. Guests include Ethan Johnson, Kate Willaert, Dale Geddis, and Kevin Bunch of Atari Archive.

Games from the classic (Space Invaders onwards) and later eras of arcade machines tend to be preserved fairly well, or at least have MAME watching their backs, but there was a whole era of arcades before that time, that pose special challenges for preservation. Atari/Kee’s early release The Quiz Game Show, for instance, their first game using a processor, read questions off of special data tapes that may not even exist nowadays. Many games from that era had no processor, and were constructed out of discrete logic components.

When I wrote part one of We Love Atari Games, I was surprised by how many games from this era are so little known now. Atari’s Football, for example, sold extremely well, even keeping up with Space Invaders for a little while (until Super Bowl season that year ended), but I barely even heard of it before I started working on the book.

These games are important to preserve too, but the difficulty in emulating them, their great rarity, and the inescapable arrows of time and entropy present huge challenges. Please listen to the podcast for more information, from people who know much more about them than me.