Monday, January 5, 2009

Remembering Retrocade

Over a decade ago as of this writing, an arcade emulator hit the "scene" and caused a splash with both its technical excellence... and its "splash screen." There were many arcade emulators at the time (for the uninitiated, an emulator is a computer program that mimics the functions of a given set of hardware, in this case, arcade games... essentially fooling your computer into thinking it's another machine and able to run old arcade software near-perfectly) including the famous MAME which I discovered in early 1997. Unlike MAME, Retrocade (the brainchild of Neil Bradley and Mike Cuddy) was written in 100 percent assembly language to maximize speed and performance, and it also featured some nifty game backdrops and specialized in vector games (games that featured objects made up only of bright lines; Asteroids, for example). So I happily downloaded it when it was made available that night in late 1998.

These days, though, what people will likely remember about Retrocade if you ask them about it is that splash screen (the screen that displayed when you first ran it from DOS.) Before I show it to you, I should explain that the team behind this software, like the vast majority of their audience, and indeed like most hardcore computer users until about the mid-90s at least, were young males. And what interests young males, besides games? Of course - young females. The artist behind the splash screen was Jae Passons, aka "Toon Goon", who was a member of computer art group ICE Advertisements and had done a lot of ANSI art in the BBS days (which had only wrapped up a couple years before this point.) If you look at his artwork you will see he is interested in figure studies of a sort. Which is all well and good, except not everyone who used the program was interested in seeing a sexy cartoon when it was time to play some arcade games. One poster to a forum called "Dave's Arcade Classics" posted, "I am introducing my kid to the old games, but I have no desire to sexualize my child's retrogaming experience." In the end, (or perhaps from the start) the team offered a "- splash off" command line option to suppress the intro screen. Which looked like this (RetroBabe[tm] featured two outfits!)

A footnote of note: Jae actually drew RetroBabe[tm] a la naturale first, then drew clothes onto her. And not one but two users wrote "patches" for the software, to restore her to her glory. You can see the original pixels here (not safe for work, depending where you work.)

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