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The Ultimate Arcade Machine

PartyOn! -- The Front End For Parties
by Andrew "Just a Flesh Wound" Burt
(Sept.1999)
(Where does Mr. Hankey live?
On Kickapoo Road!)

Before I describe my PartyOn! program, I hope you don't mind if I bend your ear for a moment on another subject.

South Park. You watch South Park, right? Rhetorical question. We know you do! And what would be cooler than if you could actually own land in South Park? Nothing! So here's your chance. No kidding — we're lucky enough to own a piece of land in the real South Park, appropriately located on Kickapoo Road. So we're selling square inches of it. Dude, seriously, anyone can afford it, and it's ONLY HERE, this is the ONLY PLACE IN THE UNIVERSE (yup, we checked, the only place in the universe), where you can buy a square inch of South Park. People think the FAQ is pretty cool too. So buy one now so you don't have a bad time.

Besides writing software for a living, I'm also a professional science fiction / techno-thriller writer. Since you obviously enjoy gaming and have a computer, you might say you're in the crosshairs of the target audience for my fiction, and chances are high that you'll enjoy it tremendously. There are various stories there for various tastes.

While I make PartyOn available for free, I do charge to read some of my stories. Others are readable for free, and you can make a voluntary donation if you like them. Or if you'd like to make a donation for PartyOn, I sure won't stop you. :-)

Okay, thanks for listening -- now on to that PartyOn program you wanted to read about!

What the heck is PartyOn? Well, when my wife and I purchased our wonderful HanaHo ArcadePC HanaHo ArcadePC (see review here), we wanted to set it up so guests at parties could use it as simply as possible, without having to use a keyboard, mouse, or struggle with computer geek stuff like mame options, windows clicking, etc. (In fact, we wanted to lock the keyboard/mouse away during parties.) We didn't want it to look anything like a computer, but a fancy arcade game, and be as simple to use.

So I wrote a small front end, PartyOn!, a windows program that uses solely the ArcadePC's joysticks and buttons (same as their HotRod joystick, which is very mame-compatible). Here are the salient features:

  • Create as many screen lists as you like, cycle through them (e.g., a list of favorites, a list of two player games, a list of racing games...)
    Sample screens Sample screens Sample screens

  • Joysticks (or arrow keys) select which item to run, one button to start

  • Runs any programs (mame, other emulators, PC games, MS Word, whatever) at the touch of a button
    Other programs

  • Displays screen shots (or other graphics) for each item (.png, .pcx, .jpg, etc.)

  • Easily add sound effects to any navigation step (e.g. 'fire' sounds on movement, explosions on start game, klaxons on screen change, etc.) -- some guests have said it's fun just to play with the front end :-)

  • Choose any mix of colors, fonts, and sizes
    Setting options

  • Options like colors/fonts/sounds are both global and can be selected for each screen

  • Can display a help file for each program (e.g. for instructions) -- shown right before program starts
    Help file

  • Screen-saver mode -- cycles through screen shot graphics for items that have them; you control how soon screen saver kicks in and how long it pauses on each shot
    Screensaver mode Screensaver mode Screensaver mode

  • Easily add/edit list entries, screens, or options
    Sample screens

  • Can set mame or other program options for each list item

  • Needs no keyboard or mouse when used with a HotRod or kin

Now, here's what it doesn't do, and who won't want it:

  • If you don't have an ArcadePC or HotRod joystick, I'm not exactly sure why you'd want this, but... :-)

  • Only runs under windows; much as I love Linux (been a Unix kernel hacker for a couple decades), the box this was written for runs windows for other reasons, so that's that. And as much as I despise DOS, don't even think of asking for a pure DOS version. :-)

  • No support; I wrote this for us, and it does what we want. But other folks asked for it when they saw it on our review of the ArcadePC, so I'm tossing it out there, but unsupported. I'm willing to entertain requests for other features, but please bear in mind my limited time. (And sorry, source wouldn't do you any good, since it uses libraries I'm not licensed to give out.) I will probably release new versions, but no promises on what/when! Thanks for understanding.

  • If you want to set it up perfectly for HotRod use with programs other than mame36 or later, you have to address the 'how to quit the program' issue. Mame36 now lets you map a key to that (we mapped the HotRod's "second" credit button, which sends '4'), so that's easy. Other programs (Netscape, say) need keys to quit that aren't on the HotRod's panel (like ALT-F4). Several ways to work around that are here.

  • You probably won't want this if you're the only one playing with your system. Well, I dunno. I rather like it since it's much simpler than other front ends and doesn't look like a windows program, but it doesn't have all the features of other front ends that hard core mamers might want.

  • You probably wouldn't need it if you use a keyboard to play. I suppose if you wanted to use mainly your joystick this might be somewhat useful. Of course, it kind of aggregates the games nicely... so, heck, whatever. Use it if you like it!
And dude, don't forget to buy your square inch of South Park. (Not kidding. You don't want to forget.)

Still interested? Great! Download partyon.zip (563K). read the readme, and as Bill & Ted would say, Party On!

If you have questions, comments, etc., about PartyOn! (or that book of mine that I'm pretty sure you'll like...), drop me a line. I'd love to hear from you.

That should about cover it. Be excellent to each other!