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"Sinistar's voice was definitely recorded by a voice actor in a studio then effects were added, I think. I remember hearing the tape (that would be a collectors item!) before effects were added. The actor thought it was a really funny assignment, not the usual radio commercials that he was used to making.
I was trying to remember his name and "John Doremus" popped into my head. I could be completely wrong. Do any of you guys remember? It was 20 years ago! " - Sam Dicker
"Sam's right, that's quite a memory! I only remembered that the guy that did the voices was a Chicago radio personality, and a quick google on "John Doremus" and Chicago confirms it. Pretty impressive. I remember that Python Anghelo did the recording - I think he knew Doremus. He played the raw tape back for us and I remember that too. The funny part was when Python tried to get him to do the roars of anger and cries of pain. Doremus was hopeless, and he knew it, he sounded like someone gargling. He kept cracking up during the sound effects too. I think the actual Sinistar roar was a heavily processed recording of a lion. I believe Python also digitized the raw recordings, but Mike Metz was our sound guy and he might have worked on that." - Noah"In the wood cabinet games, sometimes you'll see the CCC stamp and date. The cabinets were made by Churchill Cabinet Company." - Warren
There was only one person who bid, and the winning bid was $35. Not sure if this was an original or a reproduction.
Power Requirements: 115/230 VAC Nominal, 50/60 Hz @ 1.7/0.85A 192W (20A
surge for one cycle at power turn on)
Nomal Line = 90-126VAC, 196-252VAC
High Line* = 113-145VAC, 226-290VAC
Low Line* = 88-113VAC, 176-226VAC
*Transformer jumpers required. See service manual.
Operating Temperature 0 degrees to +45 degrees C ambient (+32 to +113 degrees F)
Storage Temperature -40 to +65 degrees C ambient (-40 to +149 degrees F)
90% RH at 40 degrees C (104 F), non-condensing
19" Color Raster
UL, CSA &DHHS Approved
Video System (** Patent Pending)
256 Colors, 340x240 Pixel Resolution
Video and Scratch Ram: 50KB
CMOS RAM: 1K x 4
Special RAM: 2KB
ROM: 24KB (cockpit)
U.S. Patent No. 4272649
Speech System (**Patent Pending)
Digital to Analog
49 discrete directions and degrees of movement (6 separate speeds in 8 directions plus center off position)
Williams Electronics, Inc.
3401 N. California Ave., Chicago, IL 60618
(312) 267-2240, Telex 253095
THE INSIDE STORY ON SINISTAR
Sinistar wasn't designed to garner a rabid cult following, things just sort of happened that way. The Williams' video game development team continually worked towards one goal -- design the most creative and entertaining games in the arcade. Then, like now, the game industry was moving so quickly that even if they achieved their goal, no one expected anyone to remember a game 18 months after release. Thirteen years later, hardly a day goes by on the Internet Usenet newsgroups where someone doesn't post an inquiry about Sinistar. Whether it's uploading "Run coward!" sound files or asking for maintenance and programming information, Sinistar is still alive and well in the minds of classic game enthusiasts everywhere.
Sinistar being remembered so fondly is remarkable for two reasons. One, it's a very hard game to play, and two, it came later and shipped considerably less units than most of the other Williams classic games. The game was a complex, labor intensive creation that went through many incarnations, with many contributors. Most of the people who worked on it aren't the types who log on to the internet's "rec.games.video.arcade.collecting" newsgroup everyday, so when someone tells them people still play and enjoy Sinistar they are pleasantly surprised.
In the very beginning, the game was referred to as Sam's Game, after initial programmer Sam Dicker. One day the Williams video team left their Chicago offices to meet for an off-site brainstorming session to come up with a new game. John Newcomer was given the task of sifting through all the ideas and writing a story with game specs. He came up with a seven page treatment for a game called "Juggernaut." Emphasis of the game play is to have a player control an extremely smooth moving ship, to experience a variety of fast, exciting, pursue and be pursued chase sequences; and to quickly analyze combat priorities of whether to battle the enemy which poses an immediate threat, or battle the enemy which poses the greatest future threat. So read the wide-carriage dot matrix print out. The treatment also described the cast which included workers, escorts, miners, tridextron crystals and the fearsome Juggernaut.
At the time, Williams was attracting a unique strain of employee. People too weird for the computer industry and too smart to try to make a living as artists were going into video games. Jack Haeger had just graduated with a degree in painting from the Art Institute of Chicago when he came to the company. Haeger said the work atmosphere was intoxicating. "My first real job and I'm in this building with a bunch of college guys who aren't wearing shoes and are sleeping in sleeping bags in their offices," Haeger says. "We all went and saw movies in the afternoon, and, like, this was a real job."
R.J. Mical swept into Williams one day with long hair, a Dr. Who-type scarf and no semblance of the pocket protector image that typified much of the industry. Also a painter, when he decided to look for work in video games Mical went straight to Williams because he felt they were head and shoulders above all other game manufacturers. He kept hassling them until he got a job.
Jack Haeger and R.J. Mical joined Sam Dicker, Richard Witt and Noah Falstein as the core group working on the game. The name had been changed to Dark Star. A few marquees with the Dark Star logo were printed up, but it wasn't to be the final title. Chronic pun-ster Noah Falstein came up with the name Sinistar, which everyone liked immediately. The game's character was taking shape.
Haeger felt his sole purpose was to make really beautiful images with simple graphics. He did a full color oil painting of the Sinistar head and then reduced it to pixels. "One of the things I am most proud of is that I actually made a gray scale with my palette," says Haeger. "Sinistar actually looked three dimensional, whereas all games prior to that were flat."
The game needed to sound as good as it looked. Voice synthesis had hardly been tried previously in the arcades and Sinistar was to speak several sentences that would strike fear into the heart of the player. They could have done more accurate voice synthesis, but elected to go for an eerie low quality sound with more sentences instead. The office joke was that when the Sinistar said "Run Coward!" it actually sounded like "Ron Howard," which is where the game received its codename: "Opie-star."
Mical asserts that Sinistar was one of the most sophisticated programming jobs ever done. Sam Dicker had created a whole mini-multitasking operating system built into the core program. The basic Williams hardware system with Motorola 6809 chips (which Mical says is still one of his favorites) had to be augmented to accommodate the massive image manipulation necessary to animate the Sinistar. Solving these complex technical problems, while invisible to the arcade player, is what made the game a classic (clip #1).
Unfortunately, the game that made it to the arcades was not the one the programming crew thought was the best. When the game was first tested, arcade operators complained that players were taking three minutes to die instead of two. They wanted players to die quicker. "We said 'no,'" says Mical. "But our bosses said, 'You don't get to say no, you have to say yes.'" They were forced to alter what they thought was a perfect equilibrium of gameplay to make the game much more difficult. In the process, some of the animation like the Sinistar explosion didn't get a chance to get changed and didn't look as good. The whole crew burned their own ROM sets of the superior version of the game to keep. Mical vows that one day he'll dig his out and make his Sinistar perfect again.
The game has a couple of hidden program surprises. A special control sequence followed by inserting three quarters will cause a special screen with the Williams logo and the programmers names to appear. Good luck finding how to get to it (clip #2). A bug exists that either makes you die twice -- or gives you hundreds of free ships, although it's hard to exploit (clip #3). Mical didn't find out about this bug until years later when a kid in an arcade showed him how to rack up several hundred free ships using it (clip #4). That's one thing you can depend on. No matter how crazy or how hidden, kids will always find out everything a program can do.
From Williams, Mical went on to co-found Amiga computers, design the Atari Lynx system and create hardware for 3DO, a company he is now vice president of. "I've done a lot of things in my career, but Sinistar is one of the things of which I am most proud."
"I live!" screams the Sinistar. And live it does, in the
personal computers, and original arcade machines of proud classic game
Click the picture to download the Winamp Sinistar skin. This also works with XMMS under Linux. I would like to give credit to the person who created this, but I can't remember where I found it.
Here is a picture of the Joystik Magazine cover that had an article about Sinistar. I bought this magazine when it came out, but I can't find it now. I hope that I didn't throw it out.
Someone reported that a drawing of Sinistar is visible in the Williams laserdisc game Star Rider. If anyone has a copy of this game and can confirm this and possibly take a picture of it, please let me know.
According to this link, "Bizarre bike riding game - featured baby Sinistar on third race!"
The game came out in 1983, so having Sinistar in it would be very possible.
Here are a couple of screenshots that I found.