There’s something special about arcade cabinets. I’m not sure if its just nostalgia, but gaming, for me, is really perfect when its 4 people, huddled around together, yelling about some meaningless game but having a great time doing it. Arcade cabinets embody that, they give an option for couch multiplayer but at an event, off the couch, and sometimes with total strangers.
Today, as an adult, I am less likely to gather 4 of my friends together to play a local multiplayer game. We sometimes can get a group online, which is great but not the same. I still find it easier to connect with new people when there is something direct to connect over. Arcades accomplish that in a fun way out at events!
The Phillytron’s origins
I have been in the Philadelphia area for what is approaching 10 years now (holy crap!). Basically right after we moved here I had found the local gamedev group called PhillyGameMechanics, making games, doing jams, sharing info & being geuine nice people. I have never been super involved with the group, just because we are in the burbs and they meet in the city (getting into/out of the city on Thursdays is just not that fun), but have been making it to jams & some of the larger events when I can for some time. My favorite events are the in-person jams (I have to miss GGJ this year 😔) and the yearly arcade event. The peak of the indie arcade, for me, is the Phillytron. An incredible piece of local gamedev, it’s an arcade cabinet loaded with games made in Philadelphia. From big games like Jamestown to jam games.
The Phillytron used to stay at the meetup venue, but post-COVID its basically been locked up outside of big events. One of those big events however is MAGfest, a festival not local to philly, but also not too far away. MAGfest sees thousands of people come through and the current keeper of the ‘tron, Steph brings this full-sized arcade cabinet with them. In the lead-up to this year’s MAGfest, Steph hosted a two-week
Phillytron Jam pushing to get more multiplayer games for the ‘tron & the festival! I had made one game previously for the Phillytron called Shinobi Underworld and it’s still my most complete project and one that I am most proud of, so why not take another shot at it? So I came up with a simple idea, a sports game riffing on local-dev-studio PHLcollective’s game Clusterpuck99, loaded up Godot 4 (a game engine I had always wanted to try but never got around too – smart timing to crunch with an engine I have never used right?), and set forth!
My previous Phillytron game
Finger Gun Face-Off
The project started as
GunBall but late on changed for the better to
Finger Gun Face-Off, but really it went about as well as I could have expected. The jam was two weeks, which for me basically boiled down to a few longer sessions on weekends and maybe an hour or two weekday evenings when I wasn’t too burn out from work/life to jump back in. All things considered, I’m really happy with the game. It hit the main points I wanted: its incredibly simple, it works, and its fun in a group. I basically nailed the scope for a 2 week jam with a new engine and it definitely gave me that gamedev spark back. There were some things that didn’t quite hit for me though. I don’t love the
gdscript language in comparison to C# and there are some things I wanted to do organizationally that I either couldn’t do simply in Godot or just couldn’t figure out the right way to do with the time crunch. I also think the game looks okay and definitely has some juice but could have looked much better if I just put some actual time into the art rather than just being stuck with whatever I did first. It also ended up basically being a worse version of Videoball which was not the inital intention. I also could not attend MAGfest and have not gotten to play my game on the arcade yet 😭.
Finger Gun Face-Off Trailer
All that said, I am really happy with the project. I have laid out what I would need to do to make it available on itch, but I kind of like the idea of having it be fully unique to the Phillytron. I am also really excited to get to see the game played in the wild at the next event. A chance to get back to that special feeling of the old arcades, but I might get to see a group of strangers or friends having that connection over my game this time.