Outrunning Out Run - John Monkus

Running A Retrocade Means Outrunning Out Run Technical Issues

Friends, a couple of weeks back I had the opportunity to watch John Monkus repair Sega’s Out Run. If you are familiar with the Diary podcast or have visited the Facebook page. You already know John is one of two techs that keep the almost 137 vintage arcade cabinets in working order. Adam Jenkins as I’ve shared on the Facebook and Instagram posts is our newest technician. The arcade is thankfully popular enough to require the necessity of two such talented individuals. After all it’s not like 32 years ago when Sega released Out Run to the arcades that they thought it would still be used on a daily basis, right?

Out Run is a favorite at the arcade to say the least. It is in almost constant use from our younger Players. One of the reasons of course is that Sega designed this particular model to basically make you feel you were in an actual vehicle. While not quite like the Ferrari Testarossa Spider you drive in the game itself, it’s a nice design. Furthermore there were four different versions of the arcade game produced. Two of them were upright models with two others being sit-down cabinets.

Outrunning Out Run - Segabits

Image courtesy of Segabits.

A Popular Game Means It Will Finally Break Down.

Outrunning Out Run - Out of Order
Nothing quite as sad as seeing an out of order sheet stuck to any of the games. Like I mentioned though, with Out Run being so popular, the techs work fast. Now the truth of the matter is that John and Adam have lives outside the arcade. So for John it’s easier for him to drop in after the arcade closes. Did I mention that he just so happens to be the guy keeping the pinball tables operational at Pinpoint?

Yeah, not only is NW Arkansas lucky enough to have Arkadia but we also have an amazing pinball bar. It happens to be owned and operated by a former tech of the arcade, the esteemed Bo Counts.
Outrunning Outrun - Bo Counts - Arkadia Retrocade

Back to Out Run. We have the simpler version of the Sit-Down cabinet. Meaning while the game has the benefits of hydraulics to move the ‘car’ around. We do not have the molded plastic race car model. In addition as the arcade is Family friendly the hydraulics are disabled…no one wants a younger Player getting hurt.
Outrunning Outrun - Boot Up

Power To The Players…And John!

John had to pull out the beast of a machine a bit to get to the insides of the cabinet. Which prompted a couple of photos. One being what I believe is certainly a “Why are you just taking photos instead of helping?” look.
Outrunning Out Run - Checking Power Supply

Rightfully so I might add. It also allowed us to see within the ‘cabinet’ itself. The game as you might imagine puts off a bit of heat which is why a fan is necessary to cool things off.
Outrunning Out Run - Fan

Or a behind the scenes look at the CRT monitor…that I am deadly afraid of. If you’ve not heard of my experiences with them in the past. You might want to check out the Space Invaders podcast.
Outrunning Out Run - Monitor

John also pointed out some special mask ROMS he created for the game. Using the arcade’s ROM burner he was able to tweak what you might think is a minor detail. Such as listening to the exceptional music options at the beginning of the game.
Outrunning Out Run - Mods

Out Run is pretty well known not just for it’s gameplay but the music by Hiroshi Kawaguchi. My personal favorite is Splash Wave!

[Via] VintaGamers Paradise

In the end it turned out the issue with the game was a low power supply. Kids climbing up and over probably jostled things. It took John a couple of minutes with his multimeter to locate the issue. Increasing the power was all it needed to get the game back in working order. Although while he was under the hood so to speak it allowed him to check out the game’s wiring connection, etc.
Outrunning Outrun - Game On

WithOut Run Operational It Was Time For John To Take It For A Test Spin!

Hey, I don’t think it will suprise anyone that one of the best things about working at the arcade…is the arcade games, right? I think it’s safe to say that John Monkus is also incredibly great at the game. Especially considering he has the high score on it at the arcade. Which is how he was able to beat the game by following Course C – giving him the genie ending.
Outrunning Outrun - Game Over

Bit Brigade

Bit Brigade Powered Up At The Arkadia Retrocade!

I am sure for most of you it might feel like I’ve gone on ad nauseam about how wonderful it is working at a retro arcade. The simple fact of the matter is however that is 100% the truth. Constantly being around not just the shining and warm glow of the arcade games of the Golden Age. But seeing happy Players outweighs the few times it might start to feel like work.

In particular though there are those moments when the bar of awesomeness is raised even higher. Like last evening when we had very special musical guests drop into the arcade. Thanks to local musician Robert Baldomero aka LucioPro who performed at MagFest last year. He was able to get the ball rolling to have none other than the Bit Brigade perform at the arcade this year.
Bit Brigade - Title Screen

LucioPro has been a guest performer at the arcade in the past but last evening was the first time he actually revealed he was also secretly Soundwave of the Decepticons!

Now Bit Brigade as well as LucioPro had also just performed at PAX South four days previously. But they totally brought their A game to say the very least. One of the mind-blowing aspects of Bit Brigade is a member of the group is actually playing the game live. The band is playing the music for the level that is being projected behind them. In the case of this video for the opening level of the classic Castlevania!

Bit Brigade

I do apologize about my tablet’s inability to truly get a great image. I was standing on a chair holding it up over Sinistar while Bit Brigade was rocking out.

Now for those of you that have been or are now rightfully swayed by the power of the Bit Brigade. I have some very good news. They totally have an incredible amount of merchandise that you can purchase from their official store. Items include not just CD’s but Vinyl, T-Shirts, and digital downloads.

Now that you’ve seen the Bit Brigade entertain at the smaller venue that was the arcade. Check out this video from the 2012 MagFest to see some glorious Mega Man 2 action and music!

There is a bit of salty language from the legions enjoying the concert – just a heads up.

[Via] Infinite Bacon’s Channel

Diary Of An Arcade Employee – My Time At The Arkadia Retrocade Pt. 6

In the five previous installments of the Diary of an Arcade Employee I have revealed the beginnings of the Arkadia Retrocade, from the announcement by Shea Mathis of his intention to bring an arcade back to Northwest Arkansas for the first time in 15 years to the obstacles of getting things up to Code so the doors could be opened to the public. With the last installment I left off with it being the day before the grand opening. Many obstacles were overcome by Shea to bring the Arkadia Retrocade to life, lots of sacrifices to his original vision of what the arcade would look like and thousands of hours of hard work and planning brought to fruition thanks to his dedication and the help of family and friends.

The first four chapters may be found by following the links below:
Diary of an Arcade Employee Pt. 1 – The Announcement
Diary of an Arcade Employee Pt. 2 – The Work Begins
Diary of an Arcade Employee Pt. 3 – The Construction Continues
Diary of an Arcade Employee Pt. 4 – All Hands On Deck
Diary of an Arcade Employee Pt. 5 – Crunch Time

On November 10th, 2012 the doors to the arcade were finally opened to the Players of Northwest Arkansas…and they came in droves to experience the thrill of once again being surrounded by other players while attempting the High Score on Donkey Kong and Galaga and so many others. Of course for some this was the first time to experience that electronic magic that can thankfully still ensorcell Players of all ages today.

Now as I said in the last diary entry, I had to work the day of the opening so I couldn’t fully attend and bask in the joy of seeing the Players appreciate the hard work that was put in to bring it to life. But I did make sure to stop by for about five minutes to just snap a few photos before heading to work. Just those few minutes made me feel not only proud for what little I did to help but relieved that Shea’s vision was already being embraced by the community. It was a stellar first day when it was all said and done with a Player count of just a little below 300.

Arkadia Retrocade 45

Arkadia Retrocade - Players 3

Arkadia Retrocade - Players 4

This diary entry is going to be a little different as I plan on showing you how some of the things that have changed from the opening of Arkadia last year, as well as share some of the aspects of the arcade I’m most fond of. In the last diary entry I mentioned that we have a vintage TV and Atari 2600 setup with a wonderful old sofa that would fit right in with the decor of any basement from the late 70s!

Arkadia Retrocade - Atari 2600

The collection has grown quite a bit over the last year in no small part to the generosity of the community as well as Flack and the Retroist himself, I believe at last count we offer 110 Atari cartridges for the Players to enjoy.
Arkadia Retrocade - Atari 2600 2

When the Arkadia Retrocade first opened its doors this was the basic layout for the machines. Shea had the arcade wired up so there would be a ‘Showcase’ row of games for the Players to see when they passed by the windows. In the beginning as you can see in the photo we had Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr, Mario Bros., Galaga, Centipede, and Ms. Pac-Man.
Arkadia Retrocade - Showcase

This photo was taken from outside through the window but you can see we had Sinistar, Gorf, and Phoenix in the corner.
Arkadia Retrocade - Showcase 2

On the opposite side of where we had Donkey Kong, etc. was Pac-Man, Dig-Dug, Mr. Do!, Milipede, and Burgertime. In this photo you can see Tempest in the background as well as Time Pilot and Pengo.
Arkadia Retrocade - Showcase 3

The machines continued along the wall until it reached the Snack Bar, with games like Tiger-Heli, Operation Thunderbolt, Jungle King, and Battletoads to name a few.
Arkadia Retrocade - Games Row 2

The opposite row from the wall included titles like Shooting Master, Street Fighter II, Double Dragon, Willow, and Astynax.
Arkadia Retrocade - Games Row 1

Then of course we had our cocktail games on the deck. At the beginning we had Crazy Kong, Pong (A four player model), Popeye, Centipede, and Frogger.
Arkadia Retrocade - Deck Games

A view from the office would have showed you this. You can see Shea Mathis with his back to the camera as well as his right hand man, the esteemed Andy Pickle leaning against Final Blow, and one of our regulars to the arcade, John M. who is probably looking to see if he still had the high score on most of the machines.
Arkadia Retrocade - Game Floor

This is how the main floor of the Arkadia Retrocade looks today.
Arkadia Retrocade - 111013

Arkadia Retrocade - 11102013 B

One of the first things Players requested at Arkadia was a Foosball table as well as an air hockey table. Shea was too happy to oblige them. In fact we’ve gone through two Foosball tables and three Air Hockey tables since the doors have been opened.
Arkadia Retrocade - Foosball

Arkadia Retrocade - Air Hockey

Does the ‘brick wall’ behind the air hockey table look familiar to you? That would be because Shea had selected that section of the building to showcase a machine he had hoped to obtain before the doors opened, but a month late is all well and good when the Arkadia Retrocade could offer this…
Arkadia Retrocade - Tron

…as well as this.
Arkadia Retrocade - Discs of Tron

I’m going to end this diary entry here for now, this is not the end of the series though, I hope I’ve given you a glimpse behind the scenes of what it took to bring such a wonderful place to life through these first 6 entries. With the next entry I will begin to share what it is like to be an employee in a fully functioning arcade!

Thank you all so very much for reading these diaries and I hope you will hop on over to the Arkadia Retrocade Facebook Page today and give Shea and the arcade a mighty congrats on its first year anniversary.

I will leave you with what is my favorite photo…this was taken just a few days after Shea’s announcement and you can see myself flanked by Shea on my right and Shannon on my left. It was the beginning of a time where the arcade held so many promises…and thankfully delivered on them.

Arkadia Retrocade - Promises

Diary Of An Arcade Employee – My Time At The Arkadia Retrocade Pt. 5

In the four previous installments of the Diary of an Arcade Employee I have revealed the beginnings of the Arkadia Retrocade, from the announcement by Shea Mathis of his intention to bring an arcade back to Northwest Arkansas for the first time in 15 years to the obstacles of getting things up to Code so the doors could be opened to the public. With the last installment I left off with it truly being crunch time, we had been fortunate enough to get the deck for the cocktail games up and ready as well as the walls for the party room and the basic layout for the arcade machines that would greet the Players when the doors to the Arkadia Retrocade were finally open to the public.

The first four chapters may be found by following the links below:
Diary of an Arcade Employee Pt. 1 – The Announcement
Diary of an Arcade Employee Pt. 2 – The Work Begins
Diary of an Arcade Employee Pt. 3 – The Construction Continues
Diary of an Arcade Employee Pt. 4 – All Hands On Deck

So the brass ring was within reach at this point for Shea Mathis and the Arkadia Retrocade…there was just a whole ton of sanding and painting left to accomplish. At this point in the construction I learned that on November 1st, 2012 the arcade had truly reached a point of no return. Shea had exhausted all of his available finances with the purchasing of paint and various pieces of furniture, such as tables and chairs for the Players to sit and relax while looking out across the shopping center, as well as the vintage TV and couch for the Players who wanted to give the Atari 2600 a spin. If we didn’t open in nine days…all of our hard work would be for naught.

So I immediately requested my vacation days from my day job, which I’m lucky enough to work at a place that would allow that, and Shea with our friends and family got down to brass tacks. For Shea and I that meant 12 hour days filled with one monotonous chore, sanding down drywall. For those of you that have worked with the accursed stuff you know how it finds a way to get into and onto everything…on top of the arcade games and inside them…on the people working with it and sadly inside their noses, ears, and lungs.

Arkadia Retrocade - Drywall Dust

I would go home at night and take a long shower and it felt like I had a pound of the stuff inside me. Thankfully Shea was smarter than I was and took the precaution of wearing a mask while working on the walls…not that he didn’t feel like Q*Bert now and again while doing so.
Arkadia Retrocade - Drywall Dust 2

To be honest it wasn’t all backbreaking labor even if I might have felt it was at the time. It especially helped when we would get awesome artwork to hang on the 1980s Memory Wall from fellow Retroist writer and artist, Christopher Tupa!

Arkadia Retrocade - Mario - Christopher Tupa

During the early stages of building, Shea and his older brother Shannon, when he wasn’t helping with the construction, was giving a lot of help in regards to finding even more machines than the 50+ Shea originally started with. So before the task of painting began the arcade machines that would be ready to play grew in number in a matter of a few weeks. There wasn’t a point in the workday that the arcade now didn’t have 3 to 5 people at the very least doing something to get the Arkadia Retrocade up and running.

Jeremy Bright would be working on installing free play buttons on the machines, you can see that gosh darned drywall dust on the machines in this pic by the way.
Arkadia Retrocade - More Games

Arkadia Retrocade - Free Play buttons

Now Jeremy could have easily drilled holes in the machines but Shea rightfully wanted to make sure that everything was done to be unobtrusive and limit any true damage to the original cabinets. Most of the time that involved removing the locks on the coin door of the machines and replacing it with the free play buttons and a backing so that they couldn’t be pushed too hard and drop into the coin box. Though I can tell you that does happen from time to time no matter how hard we tried to stop it.

It was also time to begin the painting process, earlier in the construction it had been planned to be a multiple color scheme but those budget cuts that I’ve talked about meant Shea had to go with one color and he decided on a Nintendo Entertainment System gray. I had burned through all of my vacation days so I reluctantly had to go back to work, 2PM until 6AM, so Shea put out a call to pretty much all of his friends and family for one evening of everyone gathering and painting the arcade. I was working of course so I didn’t get an awesome shot of everyone pitching in, but early that afternoon I did snap this photo of John Hillier and his family getting a start on the painting.

Arkadia Retrocade - Painting 2

Arkadia Retrocade - Painting 1

When I got back to the arcade it looked totally different. Almost all of the painting had been finished but thanks to a friend of Jeremy there was a sign to be constructed at the back of Arkadia. It started out looking like this…
Arkadia Retrocade - Sign 1

…and by the end of that night it looked like this!
Arkadia Retrocade - Sign 3

That wasn’t the only sign work to be unveiled that night. Shannon had obtained the Arkadia Retrocade banner to hang on the outside of the building so the Players could find us, which by the way was destroyed many months later due to a massive storm. Their is a permanent sign on the outside of the building now I am happy to report, still this banner was the first and that makes it special…which is why we’ve kept it in the back room even if it is in tatters.

Arkadia Retrocade Banner

The black paper you see on the inside of the windows in this pic is what Shea and his brother came up with to combat the setting sun making all of the games on the showcase row unplayable because of the glare.
Arkadia Retrocade - Outside 1

The Snack Bar got a sign from an old diner that we were happy to accept, that helped to let the Players know what snacking and beverage options the Arkadia Retrocade offered.

Arkadia Retrocade - Snack Bar 1

To give you a sneak peek the Snack Bar like the arcade continues to go through improvements, so when the doors were open you just had the diner sign, it quickly gained decorations of its own however…
Arkadia Retrocade - Snack Bar

…and then more decorations.
Arkadia Retrocade - Snack Bar 2

My friends, we had reached November 9th, 2012 and Shea had declared the doors would open the next day…they absolutely had to…now sadly I had to work that following day so I was only able to drop in for about five minutes to celebrate the Arkadia Retrocade opening…but that I will save for the sixth chapter of the diary.