Star Trek is ColorDMD's 66th supported title! Thought to do something different with this release and share a little of the backstory. Hope it's worth the read! -Randy
Captain's Log: Stardate 2015.003
I fear the crew is preparing mutiny. Despite overcoming many challenges during this five year mission, this may be the the first time we find ourselves wholly unprepared. In our attempt to adhere to the prime directive, we have been unable to harness the energy of the red star. We have sent mission after mission, after mission, after (listen... there's really far too many damned missions here) mission. Our best crew. Smart, brave crew. Anyone we can ask... I've asked all of them. It's too daunting. We are overcome. <End Transmission>
Flash back a little more than two years ago and that's what the situation regarding ST looked like. I had foolishly said at the beginning of 2015... hey, we plan on working on Star Trek this year. There were several other games mentioned too, all of which progressed as expected. But the technical challenges in Star Trek turned out to be a surprise. And now I was on the hook.
To be fair, a lot of the fundamental elements needed to tackle Star Trek had already been developed... but we had no formal editor for the new advanced processing features. A lot of this was still being done with pen, paper, and hex editors. Furthermore, the sequences themselves were wholly uncooperative. Very little in the game could simply be colorized offline because the animations were responsive to what was happening beneath the glass on the playfield... That’s pinball!
Factor into that 3-D rendered spaceships and explosions, 18 different gameplay modes, 3 different wizard modes, Vengeance fights, warps, spins, galactic away teams, and on and on. Without realizing the difficulties, I asked Dave Timmer, an experienced ColorDMD developer, to take it on and he was excited to get going. By the middle of the year, after running into endless obstacles with the tools, Dave had managed to color all he could do. We did the only thing we could at the time... take a break and regroup.
The theory was that if tackled games with smaller incremental challenges, in the end that would probably help toward completing Star Trek. Dave (and the rest of the development team) moved on to a number of games that provided new challenges, and I tried to keep up. Over the next two years, we would complete many titles and the coloring engine evolve significantly to the point we thought we could take another stab at Star Trek.
I picked at different sections whenever I could squeeze time between helping to solve issues on other projects. There was progress but slower than I hoped [and I still felt on the hook to find a way to get ST done]. I asked Chris Enright to take over as lead, and I would focus on the remaining technical issues.
Chris started stitching together the foundation that Dave had created along with the pieces I added. I continuously nudged Eric Priepke to help out where he could. Eric had recently completed coloring TWD which was a feat in and of itself. He wanted (or needed) some less daunting challenges and took off on a tear working through WPC games, while filling in some labor intensive bits on ST. Chris asked for help with reference coloring and so I jumped in to provide some anchor points while he controlled the engine to animate the sequences and flag the places where the coloring engine was still falling short.
And this is how it went... we quadruple-teamed ST over a period of 2.5 years to get it done. The heart of it belongs to Chris as he spent the better part of this year pounding through animation after animation in time to show it off for the Chicago Pinball Expo. And it's glorious.
There's really too much animation in this game to show it off in a single preview or even a short video. The crew at Stern did an amazing job with this game. We've never seen anything like it or so difficult to color (although Walking Dead is a close second). We hope we did the team justice, and that you take some time to discover (or rediscover) it all for yourself.
The ColorDMD for Star Trek pinball machines shares the same easy-to-install hardware platform as previous ColorDMD releases. All displays ship with the factory installed SIGMA ROM that supports WPC, WPC95, SAM, Whitestar, and SPIKE platforms. Multicolor operation is enabled through download and installation of a game-specific color ROM file, available from our site. ROMs can be changed at any time, allowing use with any of our supported titles.
Displays are shipping now from our store site or through our distributors. The color ROM for Star Trek pinball machines is targeted for preview at Chicago Expo this week and for public release by Friday, October 13!
For more information, please visit us at www.colordmd.com.
Friday the 13th?! sound ominous. USB stick at the ready!
I'm actually very happy that I've seen some of these screens - That Khan color is awesome ... and the saga behind the development.