California Extreme

It’s that time of year again when hundreds of classic arcade games and pinball machines congregate at California Extreme.  If you’re a fan and you’re in the Bay Area this weekend (July 9 and 10, 2011),  you should definitely check it out.  I’ll even be there on the “Tips and Tricks” panel giving tips on how to play Xevious.  Then I’ll try to live up to my expert status by participating in the Xevious tournament.  I’m not expecting to win,  but maybe I can win back my entry fee…

I’ve attended this great event for many years now and it never fails to bring a wave of nostalgia,  not to mention good old fashioned arcade action.  Where else can you go to play Quantum,  Crazy Climber and Major Havok?  There’s even my very own Crystal Castles there or two.

The weird thing about the old arcade games is that they’re very similar to today’s $0.99 iPhone games.   Even the cost is similar,  except that you get to own the iPhone games and play them over and over again for free,  whereas those old arcade games needed a continuous stream of quarters (about a dollar of today’s money).

The truly great classic arcade games and today’s iPhone hits have another thing in common:  they grab you right away.   You’d better be having fun within a minute or two,  because you’ll be seeing “Game Over”  after three minutes.  There’s just no time for messing around with complicated instructions on how to play,  memorizing what all the buttons do, etc.

The reason today’s iPhone games are quick is that people just don’t have the time play some long game while waiting for a bus,  but the resulting game designs are similar.  So if you’re a mobile game designer,  take another look at the classic arcade games,  you might learn a thing or two.

Hope to see you at CAX this weekend.   And if you see the initials FXL on some machine there,  well,  that’s me,  still playing games and entering my initials after all these years.


About Franz Lanzinger

Franz Lanzinger is a classic video game developer with video game credits for Atari's coin-op Crystal Castles, Tengen Ms. Pacman, SNES Rampart, and the Gubble series. He has a degree in mathematics, wrote "Classic Game Design", a book about how to make classic video games, and is a professional pianist, accompanist and piano teacher.
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