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All Aglow!



 Some Galactic Defender You Are, Space Cadet!

    The GORF game came to me as an orphan…literally. It was one of two machines I got through a friend who saw them at an auction at the local orphans’ home! Neither would wake up, but they were prime real estate for a couple of sweet conversion cases.

       As for this one, what can you say about GORF? This was one of the first arcade machines to break the “speech barrier” back when it cost $5000 a WORD to have speech digitalized. It supposedly was originally conceptualized as a tie-in to the STAR TREK motion picture comeback, but after some programming they couldn’t make the graphics match enough, so GORF was born. Even so, the player's ship bears a passing resemblance to the Starship Enterprise viewed from above. GORF supposedly stands for "Galactic Orbiting Robot Force" according to the original brochure, but is also rumored to be an acronym for the nickname of one of the programmers spelled backwards (or "FROG".) It was one of the first to attempt multiple different games worked into one box, and when you had conquered all five, glowing indicator lights showed your “rank” all the way up to “Space Avenger”.

        The case is one of three manufactured to use the ultra-cool “cobra head” joystick. The original TRON multi-game used a translucent blue one, Satan's Hollow had a translucent red, and GORF had a plain black stick. When this case reached me, the stick onboard was, surprise, actually a converted TRON stick added at some point. The original stick mechanism was a hard-wired analog stick, meaning a direct replacement from Happs was out of the question (and REALLY expensive), so some clever engineering allowed me to mount the handle on a standard stick. I redesigned the Happs Universal stick to mate with the handle, and was even able to manage to use the original trigger switch by grinding a wire path up the side of the Happs stick inside the metal tube from the original stick. The real challenge lay with the metal control box beneath the flight stick itself. I had to keep it to make the upgraded stick work properly, but the big solid undercarriage took up a huge chunk of the panel's real estate, and made it hard to get the new buttons to fit. I ended up rotating the box 90 degrees and shifting the flight stick to the left slightly to make the panel work. The left stick is more comfortable to use, but for some flying games, the flightstick really brings back the original game experience.

          The front edge of the control panel remains the original brushed aluminum, although I had to rework the artwork to fit, and that meant that the metal further back had to go. The original GORF featured a silk-screen on metal controls surface, which means that the graphics were half worn off and hideous when I got it, in addition to the fact I had to rearrange and upgrade the controls configuration. In the end, because the controls are recessed back into the hood, there was just no way to make the game side-by-side two player. I settled for making it one player with two sticks. The cobra head stick sits in the middle just like the old days, with a second stick to the left. This mates up with three buttons on the right of the panel (one of which is the left-click for the trackball mouse.) You end up with a workable one-player, plus the glory of the cobra, and a workable trackball for games that need it. The two sticks are both Player One in most games, but work as tank controls for Robatron, Battlezone, and others of that type. You can use a plug-in game pad through the USB to play head-to-head, however. I had one last clear trackball mouse, so I lit that from underneath to invoke the neon coolness of the old days.

       One tough changeover lay in the need for a horizontal-mounted monitor. Since so many arcade games are in this format, I had to rework the original artwork on the bezel to allow for the way the computer monitor had to fit. It's funny, all those huge 20" tube displays that were thrown out when flatscreens became cheap are now migrating into the ancient dinosaurs that I rebuild, replacing the hopelessly dead thirty-year-old arcade monitors that once lived there. I guess it's just the Electronic Circle of Life!

      The case was a joy to work with because it is a first-string memory for gamers of my generation, and because of the lighting. Marquee, inner monitor hood and case front are all wired to glow, and with the modern compact squid bulbs, you have your glow with very little heat problem. (Which is maybe the ONLY thing I like about the poisonous mercury-vapor bastards, thank you very much.) The coinbox, like the other machines, opens to reveal the CD/DVD drive, power-on switch, boot button, volume control, and USB port for thumb-drive interface. The box can play two-player head-to-head games using a gamepad plugged into that port, and it can also be used with a USB keyboard as a user interface, in case you need to set up some additional software. And as an extra-special treat, I wired in some "nudge" buttons on the sides by the flippers so you can actually put virtual "English" on the silver ball in those classic pinball games.

      This is the most fully restored machine I have done, for sure. I bought expensive after-market vinyl side art replacements to mount after I repainted the outside of the machine, and the custom-redesigned artwork around the monitor was printed on thick, expensive glossy paper for that high quality look. (But the next machine I am doing the bezel on regular plotter paper...that glossy stuff was expensive!) I added in the Yestercade screensaver of dozens of classic arcade games, along with the buzzing, ringing, beeping background noise of an old-time arcade.

      This is certainly be the coolest machine I have done so far. The next machine should be the Up 'n Down I have in my old line classic, less fancy than this one, but still a beauty. Will have a page up soon as I work on it!

     Click on PacMan to go back to the main Arcade!

The Wizard.................. 


The page last gimmicked by Andy Bartmess, AKA The Wizard, on 01/17/12
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