don't click here

Tangentially related Sega stories

Discussion in 'General Sega Discussion' started by Black Squirrel, Oct 2, 2022.

  1. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    no reverse gear Wiki Sysop
    8,829
    2,674
    93
    Northumberland, UK
    steamboat wiki
    aka I occasionally find things that are (partially) outside the scope of Sega Retro, but ought to be written down so it doesn't get lost.

    Disclaimer: much of this is only partially researched. Facts might be wrong.


    So every 6-12 months (or whenever I feel like it), I scavenge ebay for Sega-related things. In the absense of scans or people wanting to document their stuff, it can often be the best way to get details (or at the very least, replacement photographs). And then you find something, discover our coverage kinda sucks, and spend the next day getting stuck down rabbit holes. So here's a question nobody asked:

    [​IMG]

    ~Mysterious~ Dreamcast controller, DC-6. We don't even know the year it was made... and we still don't. But we do know the branding: Competition Pro.


    But if you look up "Competition Pro" on the internet, you get... a Competition Pro:

    [​IMG]

    It's one of the most iconic line of computer joysticks ever made. In fact... they're still made today, albeit as USB devices, and with a fraction of the build quality. People collect these things - there's so many little variants and off-shoots, and yet when you put the term into Wikipedia, you get... a sub-heading of a defunct electronics company. So if Kempston Micro Electronics died in 1993, why I can I buy Competition Pros today?

    ...because the German company Speedlink got the rights a few years ago. But what about 1999/2000 for this Dreamcast pad? Well uh yeah Wikipedia is probably wrong.


    So Kempston, based in Kempston, was a company most famous for the ZX Spectrum add-ons. Or specifically the "Kempston Joystick Interface", which let you plug joysticks into the machine, because Sinclair didn't offer that as an option straight away. It was a big deal, and a big faff because other companies had similar ideas but didn't talk to each other. As such, the Spectrum games often ask you which type of joystick "standard" you're using - you never had this issue with Commodores and Amstrads because they had joystick ports from the get go.

    [​IMG]

    Sell an interface, and you might as well sell a joystick. And that's where Wikipedia's research stopped - Kempston made things, so they must have made joysticks, the end.

    [​IMG]

    Not quite.

    I think Kempston just distributed Competition Pros - they were manufacturered by this company, Coin Controls Ltd.. Usually you can trace a (recent) British company through Companies House, but this isn't a recent company, and their business is... unusual.

    That address is an old cotton mill:
    https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@53.5...174.19713&pitch=0&thumbfov=100!7i16384!8i8192

    "Grape Mill" was turned into a factory and produced "controls". My vague understanding is this is literally the control panels of say, vending machines or telephone booths. In 1982/1983 they got into the business of producing computer joysticks, and the first in the line, the "Competition Pro 5000" was born. People liked it because it had proper arcade microswitches in it. Coin Controls didn't have a full distribution network in place, however, so it was up to companies like Kempston to sell the things. But they weren't doing this for very long:

    [​IMG]
    The bods in charge set up their own distribution firm in the same building. And for the rest of the 1980s you got Competition Pros in many different colours and some with extra buttons.

    The Sega bit - the Master System and Mega Drive got the third iteration of the controller, the Competition Pro Star but there's an obvious problem - the Mega Drive has 4 buttons, the SNES has 8 - it's not a good enough design for console gaming. But rather than make something new, Coin Controls rebadged some products from the far East

    [​IMG]
    They also had a US branch by then, and the "controls" division was spun off and became "Happ Controls Inc." in 1986. Meanwhile in the UK, "Powerplay Ltd." was set up for distribution in UK. Eventually they stop talking about Coin Controls - I can only assume the business of selling video game accessories was transferred to these two distributors (given they weren't manufacturing them in-house anymore). Competition Pro is literally just a brand at this point.

    [​IMG]

    It goes away in the 2010s though, probably around the point Speedlink obtained the license and actually started making "proper" joysticks again. It's probably fair to say the average console owner doesn't, and perhaps has never, given a damn about the Competition Pro brand, so it's no great loss.

    Where are they now?

    https://www.speedlink.com/en/COMPETITION-PRO-EXTRA-USB-Joystick-black-red/SL-650212-BKRD
    Speedlink still exist, and will happily sell you a Competition Pro USB joystick. I've heard mixed reviews, but that was ages ago - maybe they've got better.

    https://na.suzohapp.com/
    Happ Controls merged with a rival company, Suzo and became Suzohapp. They're still in games... kinda - they'll sell you parts for arcade machines and the like.

    https://www.powerplaybrands.com/
    Powerplay gave up on the video game accessories dream and now sells... clothes. And they're still based in Grape Mill. Perhaps they should pave that road.

    Kempston Micro Electronics's headquarters probably still exists, but the company has been dead for years.

    [​IMG]

    Competition Pro joysticks remain a perfectly valid way to play games designed for 8 and 16-bit home computers.
     
    • Informative Informative x 6
    • List
  2. Yeah, I've been out of the "Build Your Own Arcade Cabinet" scene for... quite awhile now, but when I was lurking and looking at ideas for builds the name Happ came up frequently. I thought I'd just been out of it for a bit until that mention that Suzo and Happ had merged, I looked it up and that was in 2004 so apparently I'm way out of the loop on that scene now.
     
  3. Overlord

    Overlord

    Now playable in Smash Bros Ultimate Moderator
    19,318
    1,013
    93
    Long-term happiness
    I actually have one of the MD controllers shown on that flier =P
     
  4. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    no reverse gear Wiki Sysop
    8,829
    2,674
    93
    Northumberland, UK
    steamboat wiki
    This is a semi-mystery in itself, but not much of one, because the creators are credited on the box.

    Most Competition Pro products of the 1990s were actually produced by Hong Kong-based Honey Bee, which still exists. Honey Bee found fame and possibly fortune by producing region converter cartridges that looked like this:

    [​IMG]

    (after stealing Hudson Soft's logo, they kind-of stole Nintendo's but it was different enough for people not to notice)

    Asian knock-off quality chart:

    Japan > Hong Kong > Taiwan > China

    so not super terrible from what I gather.


    The semi-mystery comes from this noise:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Honey Bee licensed their designs to two UK companies, which would have sold them at the same time. I don't know why this is a thing.
     
  5. LockOnRommy11

    LockOnRommy11

    Member
    2,713
    227
    43
    Two words: maximum profits.

    This is a fascinating history of a company that I didn’t think had a one. In any event, not one I thought anyone would care about.

    I had some Competition Pro GBA and GameCube stuff back in the day. In fact, I think I still have some of it.

    The GCN one was a controller and a memory card. The controller broke after less than a year, and the memory card failed not long afterward. The GBA one was a starter pack with a case and random stuff. It had a slide on controller that turned the SP d-pad into a joystick.

    It scratched the fuck out of my console :colbert:
     
  6. Overlord

    Overlord

    Now playable in Smash Bros Ultimate Moderator
    19,318
    1,013
    93
    Long-term happiness
    I have one of those HoneyBee carts as well, wow =P
     
  7. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    no reverse gear Wiki Sysop
    8,829
    2,674
    93
    Northumberland, UK
    steamboat wiki
    it confused me, so it can confuse you too:


    [​IMG]

    According to the internet, this is the first "ergonomic joystick": the "QuickShot" by "Spectravision", introduced in 1982. Spectravision was a games company set up in 1981; they made some Atari 2600 games, and then made this joystick. Was it really the first ergonomic stick? Probably not, but I haven't looked it up. What I do know is the company had a legal problem so changed their name to Spectravideo.

    [​IMG]

    Spectravideo is probably one of the most important names in gaming of the time, but you'd be hard-pressed to know, because they weren't as "front facing" as say, Atari or Coleco or Nintendo. They designed products in the US and had it manufactured by partner in Hong Kong, a company known as "Bondwell". Business was good and they started making computers nobody remembers:

    [​IMG]
    (that's the Camputers Lynx btw, not the popular one you're thinking of)

    Spectravideo later became "Spectravideo International" (SVI), and pretty much all of their products would have codenames prefixed with "SV" or "SVI"... so you knew where they came from.

    Spoilers: Nobody bought their computers, so in 1985 the US business was shut down and Bondwell took control of everything (although having been co-developed by ASCII, the SV-318 and SV-328 became the basis of the MSX standard, so ended up being important in other ways). At this point the Spectravideo business, now based out of Hong Kong(?) was producing MSX (and later IBM)-compatible computers, while and continuing with their QuickShot range.

    [​IMG]
    We certainly know they weren't completely dead by 1985 because the QuickShot XV came out in 1987 and still credits SVI.


    But according to Wikipedia, the brand was dead in the water by 1988. So quiz me this:

    [​IMG]

    Why does the SG Fighter, a joystick from 1990, have a Spectravideo code name? And why is it Quickjoy instead of QuickShot? Because Wikipedia is wrong. Kinda.


    I don't know the history of Quickjoy - I suspect it's a line of German products originally conceived by "Jöllenbeck GmbH" (which if you're paying attention, own Speedlink, of Competition Pro fame), but they were sold, at least in the UK, by... Spectravideo, the apparently dead brand. And the reason for this is fairly simple - the US operations died in a fire, but the UK subsidiary, "Spectravideo Ltd." kept going... to the point where it was competiting against its former owner:

    [​IMG]

    Bondwell would seemingly rename itself QuickShot Ltd. at some point in the 1990s, since by this point only the joysticks were selling. "Quickjoy" became "QJ" (or "quality joystick") and got picked up in the US by "STD Entertainment" (later InterAct)... and STD continued the code naming scheme:

    [​IMG]

    The UK Spectravideo meanwhile, got messy:

    [​IMG]

    Word on the street is that the Spectravideo name was sold to "Ash & Newman" in 1988 - I'm not sure how true that was, or whether the whole company was absorbed, but whatever - the name lived on and a new brand, Logic 3.


    So to put this in perspective, in 1993, three accessory companies were continuing the Spectravideo legacy:
    - Bondwell/QuickShot which absorbed the original company
    - STD/InterAct that adopted Spectravideo's naming scheme for some reason
    - Ash & Newman/Logic 3, which bought the company name for some reason

    They're all dead now. The last to go was Logic 3 in 2014.
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
    • List
  8. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    no reverse gear Wiki Sysop
    8,829
    2,674
    93
    Northumberland, UK
    steamboat wiki
    [​IMG]

    Doki Doki Penguin Land is an SG-1000 game designed by future Sega president Hisao Oguchi in 1985. You're a penguin delivering an egg to your girlfriend - there were sequels on the Master System and Mega Drive.

    Apparently the use of penguins was inspired by "Suntory commercials".



    It's something I've been vaguely interested in for years - why are Japanese penguins blue? Probably because of this line of adverts.

    Starting in 1983, Japanese brewer Suntory started using these penguins in their adverts for SUNTORY CAN BEER. "Beer so good it'll make you cry", apparently.


    It's properly depressing. These days the "franchise" is known as Papipu Penguins and is a little more child friendly, but for the first few yars it was "sad penguins drinking", culminating in a movie in 1985, "Penguin's Memory: Shiawase Monogatari" (ペンギンズ・メモリー 幸福物語):


    (ignore the kids pretending this is Club Penguin for the lulz)

    The movie stars a main character, "Mike" riddled with PTSD after his penguin buddies are killed in the DELTA WAR (not that one, honest).




    On the other side of the fence, the apparent "Penguin craze" that came from these adverts probably inspired Konami to make Antactic Adventure, which led to their new pseudo Penguin mascot, Pentarou turning up in the Parodius games:
    [​IMG]
    Oh, that's why they gave him a gun.


    Where are the Papipu Penguins now? Well they sold some mobile phones for a bit in the mid-2000s, and you can still buy merchandise today. They haven't sold beer in a while though.
     
    • Informative Informative x 7
    • List
  9. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    no reverse gear Wiki Sysop
    8,829
    2,674
    93
    Northumberland, UK
    steamboat wiki
    [​IMG]
    These lifts in Shenmue II annoy me (except the nixie tubes - I like nixie tubes). They're a problem because despite having CLEARLY VISIBLE DOORS, they only stop on certain floors, but whatever, gameplay etc.

    But the numbering system is wrong. The assumption Yu Suzuki and friends made is that everyone uses the Japanese system (based on the American one), i.e. on a typical buidling enter at 1F, then go up to 2F, 3F, 4F, 5F etc..

    But Hong Kong was a British colony in 1987, and isn't Japan. That means you should enter on a ground floor (G), then go up to the first floor (1), 2, 3, etc.. That's how it is in Europe and by extension, most of the world that Europe conquered, and while yeah, sometimes you get little stars or they translate the "G" to the language of choice, the fact is, the "first floor" is the floor above the entrance (on a typical building). Fun fact: they regulate on button placements and lighting these days - the ground floor button has to stick out a bit more, or something.

    Also there's no floor 13 because ooooh that's unlucky. And there's no 14th floor because the name for that that sounds like death in Chinese. In fact many floors with 4s in them are often omitted for the same reason (which means there aren't floors 40-49 either).

    Someone on the internet handily drew a diagram:
    [​IMG]
    http://www.alaricstephen.com/main-featured/2017/2/21/hotel-floor-numbering

    There's probably an issue with "lift" vs. "elevator" too, but Shenmue II isn't exactly known for good English translations.


    Also did you know there's a dedicated Elevator Wiki:
    https://elevation.fandom.com/wiki/Floor_numbering

    I hear it's on the up
     
  10. DigitalDuck

    DigitalDuck

    Arriving four years late. Member
    5,377
    466
    63
    Lincs, UK
    TurBoa, S1RL
    It's not uncommon in larger buildings to have lifts that don't stop on every floor; this is because if you're on floor 462 and want to get back to the ground it's going to take a while if lots of people also want to use the elevator. A building with 12 floors might have one lift for ground-6 and one for ground+7-12, to reduce load and get people between top and bottom faster. The doors remain for maintenance purposes, and because loads might change in the future.

    Of course, most of the lifts in Shenmue II aren't actually structured like this and have completely arbitrary numbering, especially when every floor except 1 and 6 in every building is almost exclusively residential, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
     
  11. Andeh

    Andeh

    Derp herp. Oldbie
    That segment of the game also takes place in the Kowloon Walled City, not Hong Kong. The buildings were built illegally by the residents who were mostly homeless and criminals, or just people looking to run businesses without dealing with regulation. I believe few of the buildings actually had elevators at all, and the ones that did seldom worked all the time.

    The Strange Saga of Kowloon Walled City - Atlas Obscura <-- A really cool article about the city. Some really rare photos in there, There's even one where there's a traditional temple *within* one of the buildings built around it.
     
    • Like Like x 2
    • Informative Informative x 1
    • List
  12. DigitalDuck

    DigitalDuck

    Arriving four years late. Member
    5,377
    466
    63
    Lincs, UK
    TurBoa, S1RL
    Kowloon is in Hong Kong.
     
  13. *was in Hong Kong, it was demolished in the mid-90s. It's probably for the best given its reputation, but I only found out that this cyberpunk-ish setting from several games and shows was based on a real place within the last few years and part of me wishes I could have seen it in person.
     
  14. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    no reverse gear Wiki Sysop
    8,829
    2,674
    93
    Northumberland, UK
    steamboat wiki

    Convoy is a 1978 film based on a 1975... song.

    Had this film been set in the UK, they would have broken the law in the first 10 seconds... not just because they'd be driving on the wrong side of the road in vehicles clearly not designed for our infrastructure (or the bar fights or confrontations with the police and whatever), but because they're using CB radios!

    Cost-effective "citizens band radio", i.e. radio frequencies that can be used by "citizens" for two-way communication, was not something the UK had until 1981. The US had theirs since 1958, and it was a technology that only rose in popularity during the 1960s and 70s. Naturally UK consumers wanted a bit of the action, so many devices were imported from the US (in bits, which were then assembled locally) but their usage was very much illegal. Thing is, 27MHz, which class D CB radio used in the US... wasn't really at risk of interfering with anything in the UK save for model aircraft, so there was a good business case for ignoring the law, especially when it was a struggle to police it.


    Anyway one of the firms that made big money on CB radios after their legalisation (and probably before) was Datel, future creators of the Action Replay line. We had a cleanup tag on Sega Retro as much of their history was unsourced, probably been copy-pasted from Wikipedia, and didn't have much to do with Sega. Convoy was a big-ish deal when it was released and the use of CB radios peaked around 1980s, so you could say that without that film, you wouldn't have had video game cheat devices.

    I mean it's a massive stretch, and you have to ignore the Game Genie, but you could say that.

    Incidentally Datel helped the UK games market a few times:
    [​IMG]
    Like probably inventing the very first Mega Drive region adapter, the "Universal Adapter" in 1991. In the early days of the Mega Drive, imported games weren't uncommon because Sega were slow to get the console off the ground. Region locking would become a thing during 1991, Datel solved the problem within months (if not weeks). Apparently the Hong Kong and Taiwanese companies copied this design - it's a British invention.

    (as are most Action Replays. The Amiga one was invented in Germany but was inspired by the original Commodore 64 cartridge.)

    [​IMG]

    My favourite one might be this though: memory cards for the Nintendo 64.

    Wait what? Well yeah okay, obviously Nintendo invented the N64's memory cards, or "Controller Paks", which could store 256kB of save data. Datel's could store 1MB or 4MB, but that's not the reason why they matter - it's because for its UK launch, no official Controller Paks were available. This wasn't an issue at first, as all the launch games saved to cartridge, but when Turok: Dinosaur Hunter arrived, you could not save your game... unless you bought a memory card from Datel. It was literally the only way until Nintendo got their act together, and was still probably the better way because 1MB > 256kB.

    Even though Action Replays aren't viable anymore, Datel still exist.
    https://www.datel.co.uk/
    I have no idea how they keep the lights on.
     
    • Informative Informative x 3
    • List
  15. Pirate Dragon

    Pirate Dragon

    Member
    646
    139
    43
    Turok only missed the launch by 3 days (March 4th vs March 1st), so that was a pretty big omission by Nintendo's UK distributor "THE". I think they air shipped those initial consoles in thus releasing it ahead of other European markets, which probably explains the lack of Controller Paks.

    Edit: I misremembered, it was just France where the N64 release was delayed, it didn't launch there until September 97.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2023
  16. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    no reverse gear Wiki Sysop
    8,829
    2,674
    93
    Northumberland, UK
    steamboat wiki
    [​IMG]

    If you were a child of the late 80s or early 90s, and your parents hated the idea of video game consoles being on show, maybe you were given a plastic or wooden box to put your console and games in. Many got official licenses from Atari, Sega or Nintendo, and for roughly about 10 or 15 years, nobody realised that unplugging the system every time you weren't using it was tedious and stupid.

    There's a couple of names behind these, one of them is A.L.S. Industries. Proudly made in the USA, because nothing says "America" like injection-moulded plastic sold at an extortionate price.


    I assumed this business model was based entirely on managers being annoyed with their kids. "I wish there was a way to move this stuff that isn't mine out of view", back when owning two televisions was still a luxary. This was all ALS were producing 30 years ago - but was there ever a point where they were fun?

    [​IMG]
    DISCO DISCO DISCO DISCO

    RANDOM FUN LITE

    ALS stands for "American Lighting Specialities". They made consumer disco balls and strobe lights back in the 1970s, and then...

    [​IMG]

    ...one of the first commercially successful skateboards, as well as spearheading professional competition with the California "Free Former".



    look at him go

    Some of this pre-dates the concept of quarter pipes, or sorry, "vert skating". Tony Hawk's Pro Skater would have been a very different game if you were twiddling around on one of these.

    Anyway ALS gave it all up to make boxes and bags. Looks like they were last seen making things for the Wii.
     
  17. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    no reverse gear Wiki Sysop
    8,829
    2,674
    93
    Northumberland, UK
    steamboat wiki
    I've been doing this Sega Retro gig for 13 years. I make it my job to tackle the second, third, fourth, hundredth-rate topics that probably wouldn't be covered otherwise. It should be dull.

    [​IMG]

    This is the Per4mer Turbo Wheel. Or at least, the Sega Saturn version - there were a few, and they're all quite rare. Distribution of this thing fell into the hands of a company called "SC&T International". Their wheels steadily improved, with pedals and force feedback and whatever, and they were into PC audio equipment too. They must have been doing fairly alright - they had a brief partnership with Mattel, were on the Nasdaq stock exchange for a bit, and their old website was happy to disclose financial details. It all looks fine and boring.

    But the company disappears around 2000. There was an announcement that it was going into video game development, specifically to target the Nuon platform (great idea), but the rest of the SC&T-related news from that time is about lawsuits.

    Specifically, SC&T wanted to sue their old accounting firm, Sovereign Equity Management Corp. for weird mismanagement of the company's public offering. I don't really understand the specifics (which might be the point), but it was discovered that... Sovereign was in league with DeCavalcante crime family (specifically this happy chappy) and stock fraud.

    Basically they got screwed over by the Mafia.


    Even better, I discovered all this from records of a 1998 congressional hearing in the United States senate, presumably to better combat racketeering, in which a "Mr. Biden" puts forward this story from Business Week.

    https://www.congress.gov/congressio...c-t-international-inc/1731492?s=1&r=296&q="S"

    Plastic steering wheels.
     
    • Like Like x 3
    • Informative Informative x 1
    • List
  18. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    no reverse gear Wiki Sysop
    8,829
    2,674
    93
    Northumberland, UK
    steamboat wiki
    [​IMG]
    This has been sitting in the unsorted pile on Sega Retro for nine years. I think I came across it while searching ebay or Ruten or something - information was scarce so nothing got done.

    Well apparently this is the Super Jo-Jo, and despite its appearance, is very much compatible with the Mega Drive as well as the SNES. There have been more sightings since I last looked into this, and now I know it was distributed in the US by a company called Alston Entertainment. Proper bottom of the barrel stuff.


    There were several companies in the US (as with the rest of the world) which repackaged tat sourced from Taiwan, but Alston is different from most. It is tat repackaging royalty:

    [​IMG]

    Alston's greatest gift to America: the Gamate, the Game Boy's horrific cousin. Many tried to sell this handheld, all failed, but yes, technically Alston was a console platform holder in the US for x months of 1991/1992.

    $69.95 for a Gamate in the US.
     
  19. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    no reverse gear Wiki Sysop
    8,829
    2,674
    93
    Northumberland, UK
    steamboat wiki
    Ah yes, there is a topic.

    I was catching up on Technology Connections videos yesterday when I learnt that the arcade version of Q*Bert has one of these:

    [​IMG]

    This is a "knocker". It's an invention of the pinball world, used to indicate that you've won an extra ball (although it's apparently less of a thing in modern machines). Q*Bert uses one for when characters fall off the playfield:



    Not a single home version of the game attempts to emulate this sound. Some play a bit of white noise, but no attempts are made to emulate the loud thuds you'd hear in a real arcade.

    But also... I can't find a single other arcade game that featured one of these. You'd kind-of expect companies like Sega to be all over this sort of thing (seeing as they were "all over" everything else), but even Q*Bert kit conversions don't make use of it... unless you know differently??

    Other than motion-controlled seats or fancy controllers, you don't usually have traditional video games trigger "physical" parts of an arcade machine. Best you usually get are games like Monaco GP, where the "HUD" is represented by seven-segment LEDs off-screen (meaning if you emulate just the monitor, you don't know the full state of the game).
     
  20. Chimes

    Chimes

    The One SSG-EG Maniac Member
    755
    547
    93
    After Burner has a odd feature. Allegedly, there's a sensor where the mat is placed that's only used for cheat codes. I have tried for ages to find info on it, but no luck
    I also half remember Pole Position by Namco having four speakers for back and front sound
    And something about Marble Madness having peculiar stereo usage? Can't remember much but thats as far as my video elemecha knowledge goes.