Hyperwar, My Homemade Arcade Game

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Last year, while attending the California Extreme Arcade and Pinball Exposition, I had a flash of inspiration that eventually led to the construction and coding of my very own cocktail-style arcade game.  While playing with the variety of machines on display at the expo, I came to the realization that I was having a ton of fun with the cocktail games, possibly because of the greater social interaction between players who are physically facing each other.  While I had considered building a general MAME machine for quite a while, it was then that I decided to go all out and create my own game specifically designed for the cocktail form-factor with custom controls.  And so Hyperwar was born.

I was still at the expo when the basic ideas for the game design started to form in my mind.  I wanted to create a competitive or cooperative game that takes elements from a couple of my favorite classic arcade games, Gravitar and Missile Command.  After consulting with a few friends, including Armchair Arcade’s own Chris Kennedy, I got started with a conceptual drawing of what the playfield would look like.  From there, I coded up the game using C++ and OpenGL with OpenAL for positional stereo sound.  I enlisted the help of some friends for a little bit of the code and all the music.  There is lots of info over at the Google Code project page.


I have uploaded a few videos of varying quality to Youtube:

This videos give a good idea of what the game is about.  Here are the basics:
-In two player mode, each player has 4 cities, 2 missile launchers, and 1 defense cannon.  The goal is to wipe out your opponent's cities while defending your own.
-Each planet has a gravity field that affects all objects in the game.
-In single player mode, the player faces an endless barrage of incoming missiles and attack ships from the computer.  The attack ships carry death beams that can sweep a path of destruction across your planet.
-Players receive ammunition for Superweapons as they accumulate points.  The Superweapons are the Death Beam (for instantly destroying enemies) and the Singularity Launcher (which flings a black hole across the screen and sucks stuff in).
-The game supports up to four players, where two players control planetary defense and the other two pilot Gravitar-style ships.  The ships are able to shoot down missiles, each other, and can blow up ground targets with enough effort.

Construction of the physical cabinet was much more of a challenge for me than the software portion.  I’m definitely less proficient with physical tools than code.  Also, I don’t have that many tools.  I opted to buy an arcade cabinet kit that is put together like Ikea furniture and then modify that to suit my needs.  I bought one of the kits from Mameroom.com.   My cabinet was originally set up for four control consoles:  two in the front and one on each opposing side.  This configuration would be great for many classic games via MAME and the controls on opposite sides would be used for my game.  The main modification I had to make was to build trackball controls for my game.  I actually had to get help from a machinist at work to cut some aluminum mounts to the right size.  (Thank you, taxpayers!)  If interested, you can check out the more detailed build log that I made for Maker Faire.

From the outset of this little project, I had in mind a goal of displaying Hyperwar at the Bay Area Maker Faire.  For this to work out for me, I had to elevate the quality level beyond just what some nerd did by himself in his spare time.  To that end, I got a real artist (my wife) to do the logo and decal art, and I got a real musician (Jonathan Meek) to write the music.  The final product turned out to be a pretty good hit at Maker Faire, however my primary demographic turned out to be junior high boys with chocolate and/or cotton candy all over hands and faces.  When the game wasn’t too crowded with kids, some adults enjoyed the game, too, and it was nice talking about the technical details of the implementation with them.  It was also fun when my boss showed up and I totally crushed her in the game.

Now that the game is “done”, I have it proudly placed in the living room where I can always turn it on for a quick game versus the computer or one of the hundreds of other games loaded on the machine.  It always grabs lots of attention when we have guests over, and I always show them who the king of Hyperwar is.  I’m continually thinking about what I can do to improve the game or include in Hyperwar 2.  Maybe I’ll just make something completely different next.  This is the kind of thing one can just keep messing with.

Hyperwar is available for download from the Google Code site.  Currently, only the single player mode is set up for use on a regular Windows computer.  More info and source code is also available there.  More pictures are on Picasa.


Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Joined: 12/31/1969
Amazing story and amazing

Amazing story and amazing results, Aaron. Congratulations! Thanks for posting this to AA.

Chris Kennedy
Chris Kennedy's picture
Joined: 08/31/2008

Thanks for posting this, man! I wish we didn't live so far apart...

Mark Vergeer
Mark Vergeer's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006

Thanks for sharing this. Amazing info. Would love to be able to check it out for real but alas I am on the other side of the world.

Debbie Gamel (not verified)
Love this page! I hope to

Love this page! I hope to share with students if it;s bit blocked at school.

Rowdy Rob
Rowdy Rob's picture
Joined: 09/04/2006
Aaron Wegner, the new hero on the scene!

Let see: you not only programmed a videogame, you also built a freakin' arcade coctail cabinet for it?!?!? That's about as cool as it gets by my gamer standards!

Jannis (not verified)

you are the man. i did a mame cab in the past but this one here rocks bottom! respect! There is a control unit for single player games and joystick controls. wow again!

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