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The lost Williams Vector unearthed!

Back in July some schematics surfaced showing that Williams at one time had a vector in development. I poked around a little bit and got some of the back story on what happened to the project and why it never saw the light of day.

Williams Color Vector Schematic

A Williams vector, wedged between Robotron & Blaster

The story goes that in early 1981 Eugene Jarvis left Williams after the smash hit Defender to form Vid Kidz with Larry Demar. Together they developed Stargate, then Robotron, then Blaster. Somewhere in that time they were rehired as the developed team at Williams and between Robotron and Blaster the Whiz Kidz began work on the first Williams Color vector arcade game;

Between Robotron and Blaster, Eugene and I spent a great deal of time working on what was going to be Williams’ first color vector game. There was a hardware system designed around the 68000 CPU. We built up a home-brew development system to work with the Gimix boxes and worked on the beginning of a space game.

Name of the lost Williams color vector?

As I started to poke around and do some research, my first find / thought was maybe this game was Predators. Dominic E. (Retrokade in UK) has a dedicated page of great information just for his research into Predators and the rumors surrounding it. (The page is currently down as of this writing) The game concept was to have four stations linked together, each station being a different bird of prey. Rav got an email from John Newcomer and according to him, Predators was a vector game.

But the details didn’t line up, the developers were based in Seattle and their identities weren’t easily recalled. We knew that Larry and Eugene were involved with the game and were still back here in Illinois. I also think Dominic ended up determining that Predators was a raster game, so I ruled out that possibility.

Second Williams discarded game

Then I came across the ‘Atari Gaming Headquarters‘ website. This Dan Boris who runs this site must have purchased the Gimix system that Duncan Brown sold on eBay a few years back;

Duncan Brown's Gimix Station

Dan went through all the contents of the system and has documented them on his website. During that preservation he came across a game in development called ‘Conquest‘. I emailed Larry to ask him if this might have been the game that matches these schematics. He said no.

Conquest was a game which we started at around the same time as Robotron. Probably late 1981. It had an asteroids type ship which stayed roughly in the center while flying in a larger Defender-like world with scanner. The rotate function was done through a Tempest type of knob in the left hand while the right hand had the traditional thrust and fire buttons.

While we were working on this game we got word that Williams was working on a similarly styled game which would become Sinistar. We didn’t know at the time how different the games and controls were. We didn’t imagine that Williams would accept our game for production when they had a game of that type internally.

Bummer. That rules out those two games.

Williams Vector – What we do know.

Fortunately, we’ve got a close up photo showing the signature of the programmer who worked on the vector – R Van Ollefen. I did a quick Google search and didn’t turn up much.

Williams Color Vector Schematic - R Van OllefenWilliams Color Vector Schematic - 68000 Hardware

The summarized story is that Mr. Ollefen worked for a very short time at Williams. Larry’s memory is foggy about the details surrounding this project from many years ago, so none of this information is hard and fast factual;

The hardware design (which was done by a classmate of mine that had a very short employment at Williams) was flawed and the images that were produced were fuzzy. I think he used an analog design for something that everyone else did digitally (or maybe the other way around) and had a problem with noise getting amplified that he could never solve.

In the middle of it all the hardware designer had differences with the management and left the company. At that point the project died.

The Google search didn’t unearth much, so if you know anything about Mr. Van Ollenfen and his short employement at Williams and his involvement with this vector arcade game, please contact me.

Other Information?

Realistically, prototype means that the game is still in concept form, and many companies had games that never made it to market, some more further developed than others. It sounds like this vector game never made it far at all, so even if it was found on another Gimix system that Duncan may have, it would on be of real interest to a developer like Jess Askey (Major Havoc level editor), who could finish the game and bring it to life.

If you have details, or links to any other websites concerning the Williams color vector that might be able to shed some light or piece together other details, please send them to me. At this point, this is all we know, and until James of Pinball Inc. starts to share some of this old Williams video game documentation, it will probably stay that way.

Special thanks to Chris M. for letting me run with this story.

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Comments
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Nice write-up Jeff. Cross-fingers with James and his plethora of Williams docs!! ๐Ÿ™‚

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I haven’t checked back on your Aussie thread, I assume he’s still digging into the Williams history from the 40’s yes?

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Yup. He’s around 1946-50 and still finding history about Gordon Horlick and the early machines.

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Is there an RSS feed for that forum Sprig?

@Chris. I don’t think that headed over seas. I think he just picked the Aussie forum randomly to start a lengthy thread, possibly because of the large body of pinball guys there vs. BYOAC or Klov. He said he didn’t want it to get buried like it would in a newsgroup like RGP. I think those docs are still down south with him, correct me if I’m wrong.

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Hi Jeff
Thanks for the email – interesting read indeed! yes my web server had a hardware issue over Christmas and I’m running on a backup box.. but I’m getting the web site up asap.

Predator is indeed a 68000 game, although the board its located in is labelled CPU PCB whears the picture says 68000 RAID Board (surely not the disc IO??)

Ive tried blowing up the picture to try and read whats tantalisingly written onthat chip… 1440 U44? The Predators set has each chip labelled with a U number beside them – do you have a better copy of this picture to relay me those numbers?

Would lvoe to know more abotu the Gimix system too – very intriguing indeed! Keep up the good work
Regards, Rav

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My research showed that Duncan sold that Gimix box on eBay, but Larry also alluded to another one possibly that they still had. It might be worth following up if you are interested to know what is on the old arcade development system.

Your site was great, we all really hope its back online soon.

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JR

I’m a noob when it comes to RSS m8. But I don’t think it does .. no. Definately can’t find the RSS shortcut on threads.

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If you ever want to chat about RSS, which isn’t too hard to pick up and can save a lot of time visiting different sites (if available), shoot me an email.

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Just wanted to drop you a line. Williams had a 68000 based color vector system in development. I don’t know if it was the same system as Larry and Eugene’s or if the Vid Kids picked the hardware up after the 2003 AMOA massacre at Williams. The programmer in Chicago that was working on the prototype system was John Miesner (spelling might be off, it’s almost 30 years ago now). John had it up and running and was working on an art system and some simple animation routines. It was an extremely fast system thanks to the 68000. At the time, I don’t know if there were any games that were looking to use it until Star Rider, Sinistar and Bubbles went into production.

John was among the batch of programmers and hardware people that were let go (along with myself) after the 1983 AMOA show when Williams made a failed bid to be acquired by Bally/Midway. When I last talked with John he was working for Lattice Software working on their 68000 C compiler.

ken graham
(programmer at William’s 1982-1983)

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Just stumbled across this thread, yes I do have a bit of Williams video documents. Being more into the Pinball business I don’t know when I’ll get to sorting through the video stuff. If anyone is in the Atlanta area and would like to stop in and have a peek at some of it I’d be happy to accommodate. If I recall I have a few more schematic drawings of the vector game.

James Loflin
Pinball Inc.

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Whilst I can shed no new light on this mystery, can I say that I have had a few emails with Mr Graham and have ratified his Wms employee he spoke of circa 1983-84, intitials JM.

Although not good news for this thread, JM replied:

Sorry, but I don’t know anything about any vector games, or anything that might have been called Predators, from back then. When I was there we were still using 6502-era technology (M6809). I worked on Star Rider, which was a laser-disc based raster game. I didn’t get into the M68000 until I worked at Lattice, Inc., after getting laid off from Williams.

So a lead closed sorry…

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I bought the rest of the WMS vector schems from Pinballinc a few months ago. They didn’t include a page with DAC ICs so there are probably more sheets buried in the warehouse. That also leaves the mystery of what kind of vector monitor it used but my gut says they hit up Wells Gardner for a K6100. The interface to the sound PCB is a nine pin connector so its probably Joust/Robotron/Stargate hardware.

As for Mr Ollefen, I managed to track him down but he doesn’t remember much from back then and he’s no longer in the electronics field. FWIW he did not work on Predators.

Here are some better pics of the RAID PCB schems.

http://img153.imageshack.us/img153/9720/cpuraidrt.jpg
http://img13.imageshack.us/img13/805/cpuraidlft.jpg

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Most of my Fav games are Vector games, those that aren’t are mostly Williams games. I would have been great to see Williams make a vector based game. I always wonder why they never went into the vector graphics with all the other progressive things they ended up doing.

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Minor update – Eugene Jarvis is going to speak at this year’s Midwest Gaming Conference so I’m going to ask him about the vector game and if time permits Predators as well.

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weirdal1968 ยป Did you get to ask Eugene about Predators?

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The schedule for the MWC changed and Jarvis didn’t come. Maybe next year.

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Found this tidbit on AndysArcade’s vector page

Raid (Williams) 1982 Prototype (investigating)

This would make sense as the CPU board in my schems is labeled 68000 RAID. I initially thought RAID was an acronym but it could be the game’s title given Williams preference for one word titles like Defender/Stargate/Joust/Bubbles/Splat/Blaster/etc.

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regarding William’s vector graphics video game prototype: I am one of the two hardware designers on the game. I did the digital side of the design, which was basically everything but the video controller, which was being designed by Greg Wepner (If my memory is correct). The video portion never did work correctly, the biggest problems was at the end of lines. The project was terminated before it was solved. This was very near the end of the arcade game era, I don’t know if the project was cancelled due to market conditions or because the graphics hardware didn’t work. From a time reference, it was while Eugene and Larry were still at Vid Kidz

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Big thanks to Richard for chiming in on this thread. Do you recall if it used a standard Williams (ie Joust/Robotron) sound PCB? The schematics I own don’t have the vector analog output section but I think it probably would have used a Wells-Gardner K6100/K6400 color vector monitor. Can you confirm or deny this?

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More info on the prototype vector game “Devastator”
http://www.coinopspace.com/forum/topics/steve-ritchie-devastators?xg_source=activity

Promotional flyer
http://flyers.arcade-museum.com/?page=flyer&db=videodb&id=299&image=1

Youtube video of the Devastator prototype from a Williams promotional video (!)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2ZSCQockuU&feature=player_embedded#t=715

Finally – a short article about various prototype games
http://arcadeheroes.com/2013/05/27/midways-arcade-prototypes-of-the-past/

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Eugene spoke at this year’s Midwest Gaming Classic and I was able to ask a few questions about the vector prototype.

He said he worked on it for over a year trying to make it work and then the Great Videogame Crash killed it dead.

It didn’t have an official name and Devastators was Ritchie’s raster project so we’re back to “Raid” as mentioned on the drawings.

He said it never got past the dev system stage but they probably would have used a WG K6100 monitor.

When I showed EJ the schems he jokingly accused me of dumpster-diving Williams trash. Considering that most of my collection including all my 2nd gen hardware (Inferno/Turkey Shoot/Joust 2) came out of an operator’s dumpster he wasn’t far off.

EJ wanted to talk about modern gaming but when he raved about a modern take on Joust with networked play I had to chime in about Predators. Sadly he didn’t seem interested in talking about the hardware.

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