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Discovering Q*bert 7-11 Version by Mike Doyle

About a week ago I got some insight from Mike into how he discovered the 7-Eleven version of Q-bert. It’s a weird little story if you haven’t heard it already, there was a lot of luck involved, some might even say it was divine intervention that this rare game version even made it onto the multi Q*bert game that was mailed out yesterday.

The best discoveries are made when you’re punchy

Back in late 2006 Dave Widel and I were working on the first Multi Q*bert which was the 6 in 1, at the time I was also working full time so my time to assemble boards was pretty much confined to the wee hours of the night when it was nice and quiet. Like the 96 in 1 Multi Pac, the Multi Q*bert relied on sub-ribbon cables to send the bits between boards except on the Multi Q*bert there was a small network of them.

Suffice to say I always test what I build because like everyone else, I make mistakes too. One night around 2 am I was doing the final assembly which involved stringing the Q*bert boards together, testing them, then pulling the 6502, and adding strain relief glue at each wire to board joint. I was getting tired and after playing regular Q*bert, then Curveball each time I tested a board, I decided to try “FHMC” Q*bert on the next board. The boot sequence finished and the menu came up, I hopped Q*bert down to select FHMC and what came up next genuinely shocked me.

There was a title screen with the 7-Eleven logo presenting Q*bert. I really thought just for a moment I’d fallen asleep or something and had started dreaming. Then I played the game, still wondering exactly how it had happened and then there was the bonus screen. Similar in layout to the one in Mello Yello but with different graphics for 7-Eleven.

Was this a Q-bert game everyone else knew about; had I somehow missed all the newsgroup discussions about it? I remember the debate over the Mello Yello ROMs when those were initially discovered, could this be a new game? Since it was the middle of the night, I didn’t spend much time documenting anything but I did stop working for the night since we had a long car ride to Central Kansas the next morning.

On the trip out West the next morning I called Dave and told him what happened, I remember him laughing and then silence. I said, “Dave, I’m serious, it really said 7-Eleven and there was this different bonus screen”. He said I’d probably been breathing too many solder fumes, but added, “send me a picture when you get back home”. In the meantime, he started going through the code and discovered the source, it turns out 7-Eleven has been laying dormant in the FHMC code all these years. I had swapped a pair of address lines during the final stringing of that single board and the Multi Q*bert selected a different graphics bank that just happened to be 7-Eleven on the backside of FHMC.

When you consider the odds of that happening, it’s staggering that it even displayed and ran, much less was there in the first place to run. For me as a collector, it was a moment I’ll never forget.

When we started talking about doing another run of boards, the decision was made to double the size of the memory with a new layout so 7-Eleven Qbert could be included as a full game. There was one issue with the bonus screen in that the drink pictured had a flat top with one errant tile. It turns out the same code is used for Mello Yello to define the shape of the flat top of the can, so for 7-Eleven it’s been restored to the original domed configuration for the Slurpee Style cup.

What it means for collectors is another variation of Q*bert to enjoy, and on a personal note, it’s satisfying to contribute something to the community, even if the discovery was the result of my own wiring error 🙂

~Mike Doyle

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Comments
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That’s a great story….very cool discovery.

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Surely there have to be more easter eggs likes this in some of the most popular arcade games….and if there were more custom coded projects people might find them…

Thanks Mike for letting me post this here at Rotheblog.

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Were 7-Eleven roms for mame ever released?

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Luke, I’ll be honest, I don’t know. I would guess that you can find them somewhere in cyberspace, but you may not find them with the most simplistic Google search.

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