I missed the last part of the panel discussion because of a crisis at work. But I did get to talk with Billy for a few minutes one on one Sunday. I got Billy’s take on the question I was going to ask in the seminar, so I would like to hear your opinion Mark and if you could get Joel to answer, that would be awesome. I have discussed this several times with David Gomez as well.

The question is basically this, What is your opinion of all the people patching the bugs in video games and at what point is the game no longer the same game?

Billy’s response (and I wish I had a voice recorder) to the best that I can remember it was “I’d hate it. If somebody took the kill screen out of Donkey Kong I would have to play for hours more. It just wouldn’t be the same game. It is like the guy that posted that he was the Donkey Kong “No Hammer” World Record Holder. That is not even playing the same game.”



Is the context of your question specifically Robotron, I presume since you reference David?

my answer is simple and there are no judgments anyone can make as video gaming has been progressing since bagatelle up to every new day in the multi-billion dollar industry (spelling on bagattele?)


Billy isn’t involved in the player community beyond the Kong Off live events, so he is unaware that indeed they have patched DK romsets, but the player community centered around hasn’t embraced it, yet.


So here is a factual walk-through which is in no way intended to side-track this Houston celebration, just answering your question as continuation of panel….


phase 1-

In 1982 VidKidz put out that first romset in games the orange/red one. it had some defects and no cocktail support.

first field reports and finishing production saw the blue version which fixed some bugs and added bozo mode on wave 1 and cocktail support. The original romset is deemed too hard at default difficulty 5, so they drop the default to 3 on the blue romset.

The players were playing long games.

Twin Galaxies specifically allowed restarted games due to the reset bug which no one understood, they just knew games got reset and the goal was how long you could stay awake at a machine, not how long on one credit, called marathoning and it was the flavor of day. Players were in public so couldn’t alter game settings, they had to play on the defaults of 3 or 5 difficulty settings with no way to know which was in use.


phase 2- robotron inspired every game programmer on the planet but the act of playing robotron was selectively dead through the late 80s and 90s. the marathoners grew up, got educated and had families and real life issues. the idea of getting your name in a magazine was long since gone and REALLY gone as Teh Internets hit us full on, what 94ish with America Online marketing?


KEY MOMENT- the Christian Gingras story where he reverse engineered the source code from a rom dump and found a dozen or so bugs including the famous angled forcer explosion bug that triggers the watchdog reset by trying to access a bad code number. Larry DeMar put all the fixes in the ongoing romset they maintained (think of it like a dynamic encyclopedia or photo album you’d maintain at home)


phase 3- Digital Eclipse came knocking at the door of Williams and Eugene released to them what they considered the finalized romset for robotron, the one sean riddle extracted from the windows 95 CD and made legendary. This romset is what you find on all the official midway releases and what is played on xbox. The reset bug FIX is in place.


Around what 95ish, MAME also came to light and used the old arcade romdumps (they knew nothing of the insider vidkidz history that had happened since in the industry) just hobby dumpers/devvers. And they also had no clue how to code for the mysterious blitter/special chips in relation to the CPU coding. So robo was F’d up in gameplay beyond wave 5…..


Phase 4- Twin Galaxies is resurrected online at turn of 2000’s and tournament games which were shorter were necessary for public events. The 5 man game on default settings became the flavor of day and pinnacled in 2010 when RedElf (Johnny Mac) topped the game at 1.2million points. A piece of gameplay artwork his YT vid is, too. That mountain got conquered and the interest waned in pursuing the challenge for the general population of players, even the 30 year masters can’t top it thus far.


Phase 5- Robotron becomes chic again. JROK does the MW with superb reproduction of the gameplay experience. KLOV talks the heck out of loving Robotron. The game devs talk the heck out of loving robotron in inspiring designs. the guidebook is created at the time of the 30th anniversary in June 2012. Larry/Eugene get very active in sharing insights about the game after some arcade parties draw them into the world of the players/fans. And folks start learning and playing the game. Even dissecting the source code or analyzing gameplay strategies.  sean riddle fixes the MAME emulation issues after extensive research and benchtesting and rewriting of mame code.


Phase 6- a worldwide group of robotron masters and enthusiasts begins grouping around a facebook page called williams defender players unite. Intense daily discussion ensues which includes the suite of original williams devs. Eugene references the group to me as, throwing gasoline on a fire….funny enough he doesn’t do social media but his wife is in the group and keeps him updated on discussions…. J New players explore the game on difficulty 5, the 30 year masters focus on difficulty 10. We learn that Eugene has been playing Robo on difficulty 10 for many years and still actively plays recreationally.


Phase 7- the game play challenges. Steve Ritchie renames marathons as Enduros. The masters become extreme masters by playing difficulty 10 challenges like reaching 10 million points, or trying to reach 750k to 1million on difficulty10/50K bonus lives. New players attempt to reach 1million or 10million on difficulty 5. The 100million point gauntlet challenge has players attempting to play almost 24hours and reach 100million points on difficulty 5.   The VidKidz endorse the challenges and the VK tracks emerge like VKE, Vid Kidz Extreme which is playing as long as you can on difficulty 10 at 50k bonuses starting with 3 lives.


The epiphany- Some attempts are made at reaching 100million for the gauntlet but the reset bug ends the games with the longest being 60mil effort. The gauntlet is conquered by 2 players using the later romset. Larry DeMar is in attendance during the efforts and it is learned for the first time in 30plus years that Robotron has the same extra life bonanza as defender and stargate, at 99,975,000 up to 100mil where the score resets to 0 internally.


Reflection- It is discovered that Robotron has such a rich range of skills to conquer that one single scoring challenge doesn’t reflect the full skill set of any one player. Many different phases of growth and many scoring challenges sharpen the players skills to an elite level never before seen in robotron gameplay.


Answer for Yellowdog- the point of playing robotron is to find enjoyment and hopefully embrace the friendships found in the community of players. What is “fun” is a community driven flow for challenge and comradery building. Which romset on a historical context of preserving a 30 year old gameplay experience is low on the list of priorities of playing the game. A view from the VidKidz, the intent of robotron is for man to verse the robots of 2084, not for man to battle an unforseen glitch in the game which resets the machine.


At time of writing, the current player community is actively engaged in pursuing challenges using the latest vidkidz romset which contains the reset patch.


Future- Larry DeMar was so inspired watching Ken H and David G stream their live enduro/marathons that he employed Duncan to resurrect the VidKidz programming environment and he is developing a NEW romset with the reset patch inplace, 10millions digit available on screen (internal score rolls at 100mil) and a life counter onscreen (lives roll at 256). The player community will fully embrace this when it comes out in 2015ish.

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