The Arcade Internet of Things
The Fall has been a busy but fairly productive time here, so it's about high time I got off my ass and blogged some of that magic. Jim has an epic post about his trip to the states here that dovetails nicely with some of the work I was doing at the same time (well when I wasn't cracking the whip that is). A few months back (weeks? months? what is time anymore?) Jim and I were brainstorming how we might expose some of the fun of Reclaim Arcade to an audience that can't step through the doors. We've played with telepresence robots already and connecting smart lights and plugs to let Jim control Reclaim Video remotely. What would that look like for the arcade? In fact there's a Reclaim Today episode all about just that!
As luck would have it one of the projects I've kept an eye on for the past year is Surrogate.tv and they just recently began accepting applications for creators to make use of their SDK and put physical machines on the web for others to play with. They have two pinball machines already online, a Batman 66 and an Octoberfest. These machines have cameras in front of them and a low latency communication that allows you to control the flippers and plunger with your keyboard.
Jim and I had a chat with one of the cofounders and we were stoked to get started. The Surrogate team were gracious enough to lend some equipment including a custom Raspberry Pi hat they had developed to interact with pinball machines. I decided to hook up my latest personal pinball purchase, a limited edition Avengers Infinity Quest, given most people likely have not been able to play that one yet at all and this would be a great opportunity to let people see what it was all about.
In many ways I was able to hit the ground running on this project because of the few streams that I've done on Twitch. I had some of the necessary hardware to capture the LCD screen of the pinball machine for example and get a direct audio feed from the game, neither of which are easy with a Stern pinball machine yet. The Raspberry Pi hat in use makes use of quick wire splicing connectors that let you tap into the existing wiring of the pinball flippers, plunger, etc without using a soldering iron or leaving any permanent changes in the machine. Once the various inputs and outputs are wired in it's a matter of using their SDK to connect the game to their website. In this sense I had a head start as well because the code had already been written for their two previous pins and would function the same for this game.
You can see this in action and in fact play the game at https://www.surrogate.tv/game/avengers. It's been incredible to see the response from folks already with over 3k views and plays in 1 weeks time from people all over the world. It has me itching to get started on our next game for sure. And while I don't think this method of playing games is a perfect replacement for the in person experience by any means, it's the exact kind of experimentation I want to be doing when we can't safely open the doors just yet. Give people a sense of what we are about and marry the arcade love with the love of the web in a really interesting way.