"Prey on your competition"
Last Update: 15:50 26-April-2010
It started when a close friend of mine spotted what he thought was a wooden blaster cabinet on ebay, converted to a game by Capcom called legendary wings. As I am a lucky owner of a Wooden Blaster, he asked me to compare the cabinet in the picture with my cabinet.
Immediately, you can tell this is a Williams Cabinet: The control panel is such a give away. The shape is most definitely that of Blaster, yet there are two differences. Very kindly, the previous owner took some more pictures for us that demonstrate them:
The first is the speaker section. Blaster is a Stereo game and as such has to cut-outs under the marquee attraction panel for two speakers, whereas this machine only has one in the centre. This style without a speaker grill covering the whole section is like blaster and you can tell this is a factory round hole and not just some replacement - especially as the marquee bulb seeps out at the back down the screen bezel.
Secondly, the coin door: On this machine it is a up and over, whereas Blaster and most other Williams cabs used a pinball style square door and separate cash box door lower down. It was only after scanning my other cabs that I noticed that Joust 2 uses a up and over door. Indeed at first we thought the control panel layout was the same as Joust 2, but is you look closely at the picture above you can see that the spacing between red and blue buttons on each joystick isn't the same distance.
Equally, one of the back shots shows the Williams trademark handle, vents and an original Wells Gardner 4900 vertical mounted monitor on its shelf, whereas if this had been a converted Blaster, this would have been modified from Horizontal. There aren't many vertical Williams games, after Sinistar and Joust 2, you'd be struggling it is possibly a factory version of 1942. So at this point when we bought the machine we expected it to be a weird proto Joust 2.
Ok, this is an interesting shot. Apart from the obvious official Williams documents envelope, we can categorically say its a Williams cab by the Blaster/Inferno/Joust 2 period power block. Interestingly, if you look at the larger image you can see that the original volume pot is still in the cabinet going to a 6-way molex connector. I have yet to check my Inferno or Joust 2, but I think they use a 4-way molex for the volume pot.
I see no marking near the coin door where the 3 game adjustment pots would have fitted and the coin counters are obviously a later edition. The only other thing that looks original is the monitor cable. But if you look VERY carefully middle top of the picture you will see a tiny grey label, on the bigger picture you can see it says Williams! This, my reader, is a serial sticker for the period of cab we're talking about!
Now that the cabinet is in our possession (I have yet to see it in the flesh), I can tell you that the label announces to the world that the machine is:
WHOA! I'd never heard of this game, and so the great hunt starts for more information on this game. Firstly, google tells me the games from 1986. Good old Google again rewards me with two spanking images from David Haynes' excellent www.bombjack.org site:
Having searched and asked about the game, so far I know that the game was designed to be run in four cabinets, one for each of the Predators, Falcon, Condor, Eagle and Hawk, which were apparently linked together.
In reply to my email Mark Jenison wrote:
What you've already stated is about all I know
about the games was
Steven Beall also added:
Yeah, I was at Dangerous Dann's place back in
the early 90's and he
So, having scoured the internet, I found DangerDann runs a House of Pinball website, so I wrote to him. Firstly, I was rewarded with this photo:
I'm going to send more info on what you requested but first wanted to send a small image of the two different Marquees I have. Gotta try and find those pix I took of the 'dual' game during one of the many tours of Williams I've been on... funny that they asked us not to take pix but of course I took some shots from my 'hip' whenever I saw something cool... Not the greatest photos as a result but still... I knew those games were special and years later lucked out and came into possession of some proto Williams stuff and these were part of the deal.
The only other person I know of who might have some additional proto info is Rick Schieve...
I await with interest what DangerDann will add. Unfortunately Rick upon contact has no more light to shed.
Jeff Anderson of Videotopia, has told us that the game was co-written by Joust Creator, James R. Newcomer and Pinball Legend, Steve Richie. At this time I have tracked down either the company they work for/with and asked them to forward an email from myself to them. Mr Richie has got in contact, and hence I thought I'd put up everything I've found out so far here and update it as/if I find out more information!
Searching Google, a very interesting Usenet post, by a chap Jeff Perlin, nickname Silverball, wrote on July 13, 1997:
Does anyone remember a game from Williams called Predators? When I managed an Arcade way back when, we were a test location for some Williams pieces. Anyway we had this game come in called Predators, it came in 4 separate cabinets, each one named after a war bird.(Falcon, Condor, Eagle,& I can't remember. All the cabinets were linked by cable and all 4 players could see what each other was doing. It was a space theme and your ship was just a circle w/ a turret on top.
After the test we had to send the boards and header glasses back
Williams. We got to keep the cabinets for conversion. I did keep the
The machines were located in Laurel, Md. I can't remember the year. Probably 84-86.
Just interested to see if anyone else had seen these since I have never seen or heard about them again since the test.
As yet, I've not been able to track down a valid email for this chap...
...but wow! A Space themed game? I'd started to imagine a 4 player "networked" version of Joust where you all attacked each other rather than bird knights versus player ostrich knights. I also wonder if Mr Perlin actually did the conversion to Legendary Wings. Hmm...
Another google search of Usenet posts revealed another person who had seen the game in the field, this time a G Peran. Way back in 1995 he'd posted a comment that said...
what ever happened to that four-cabinet Williams 'Predators'
>video game I used to play at the local arcade about nine years ago..
Fortunately, I managed to work out an email for him, and today he replied:
Wow it's been eleven years since I posted that and another ten since I last saw that game, so my memory's a bit fuzzy..
As you already know the game was in 4 upright linked cabinets, and it was some sort of outer-space seek and destroy overhead-shooter. Each cabinet was a different "bird of prey" character; two of which were Eagle and Condor. I remember that the game reminded me alot of Joust, I don't know if it was the graphics or perhaps similar sound effects, which was typical of Williams videos at the time. I do recall that nobody ever played this game, so obviously it must have failed Williams earnings test reports and not produced.
I see you're trying to find Jeff Perlin, he was the manager of this Time-Out arcade at the time. We mostly were into pinballs, but he did keep some promotional items from Predators when he sent the boards back. (I wouldn't be surprised if the cabinet you found was converted by him or Time-Out at one time). Unfortunately I've lost contact with Jeff over the years; he last resided in the Laurel MD area (not too far from the arcade, which closed many years ago).
Several years ago there were rumours floating around that someone had uncovered a non-working Predators boardset in Canada but I never heard anything more about this; you might want to check with other experts and collectors about this.
Yes, the cabinet you found was the same as I remember ; not Nintendo.
Wow! More info on the game, a few more details of Monsieur Perlin, but also... magic talk of a boardset out there! Mr. Peran added a footnote:
The hunt continues!
The original Predator designer, John Newcomer, knows
UK arcade collector and fellow game writer Archer Maclean, and apparently
donated a huge stash of old classic arcade parts to Archer. These included much
historical development material for many Williams games including prototypes,
and even all the original Joust artwork films, posters, hand
sketches of the original Joust logo used for the marquee bit
mapping, and even printed source code.
Turns out Archer has a set of all 4 Predators Control Panel Artwork overlays in this haul. But he had a deal with Archer not to sell them on. But in this case the need is unique because the Overlay is to be applied to an original prototype cab, so its only right that life goes full circle and the two meet, albeit 25 yrs later.
Thanks Arch !
So... For the first time I can reveal the four overlays together courtesy of Archer of course:
As mentioned before, Archer knows and appreciates the uniqueness of trying to get this prototype together and just to wet my appetite, this is close-up of "my" cabs panel:
To paraphrase a conversation I had with Archer, Arch has pointed out the uniqueness of something else with these overlays: Like normal control panels such as Robotron, the lexan is a rough sand-like finish, whilst these overlays are the same, they also have unique glossy areas:
11-May-06: Mr. Richie has sent me an email about the game! Wayhay! So here's what he has to say:
So it seems a four player only game? Perhaps it was the first real network game - I can' think of anything earlier...
15-May-06: Just got hold of Doug Jefferys, but all he said was that he didn't remember much about it and only had the PCB for a few days. God willing, he'll find who the "original owner" is for me!
Holy moley! John Newcomer has sent me an email! And hells teeth... this is unreal:
Even better, his last line was "feel free to give me a ring" ! Which naturally I'll be doing!!! Tell me this is right - a multi-player VECTOR Game? A 1000 questions just popped into my head!
16-May-06: (Well, 00:43AM!) Just spent half and hour on the phone to Mr Newcomer - great guy! He was amazed I think that anything at all had shown up of this game, to use his word he said it was obscure. h
Firstly, it was definitely a colour vector game! I asked which vector monitor but he wasn't sure, but surmised with me that the guys in Seattle must have worked with an existing monitor - i.e. Wells Gardner or Amp!
These chaps in Seattle, who he could only remember two first names as Randy and Craig (or Crag!) were doing this game in their spare time whilst working for Boeing in the daytime! He recalled that each ship was octagonal in shape, used a shield-type system (hence a normal fire and a super missile type attack). He couldn't recall what else you got to shoot at and thought maybe nothing else. he recalled that the vectors looked colour-filled or thick lined. Play also included various power-ups to be collected and that the asteroids you could hide behind varied in size. He remembered that the graphics were designed on an Atari ST!
Mr Newcomer also sounded very certain that the game didn't use Williams hardware and that the Seattle team developed their own kit - he was sure Williams would have dumped it. he knew nothing of Williams using Nintendo cabs too. He wouldn't commit to which type of joystick it used as he said they always tried to use the latest technology they had so being from '86 with Blaster and Inferno, I suspect a Blaster style stick - he definitely remembered it used a Spider underneath!
Mr Newcomer recalled that the whole life-cycle of the game was about 5 months with Williams and took $1500 in its first week but plateau'ed out around $800, but a game should be taking at least $2000 to be viable. He remembered that the Seattle guys got a bit excited after the first weeks takings. He thought that the fields tests totalled up to 15 sites including Crystal Lakes, Illinois , Chicago, one in/near Seattle for the programmers to see.
As a footnote - and as a true Williams nut would - I did ask him about other proto games. I dredged up Roller Aces and Devastator (Apparently a Steve Richie Game so I'll be asking him about that when I call him :) He said that Mr Richie was contractually obliged to supply Williams with 2 games, Devastator was one, the other was called "Chicken alla King" - apparently Mike Stroll saw/played this game!
We also spoke about Williams "Play Ball" which Mr Newcomer fondly recalled. Apparently written by a Joe Cadmancall (I wrote it down phonetically so could be terribly spelt wrong!) his 1st game. You controlled a character that looked like a baseball and had a pitchers glove you basically moved left or right on the screen catching balls or something falling from the top of the screen!
17-May-06: A post to the vectorlist has revealed an Eagle proto cab! A chap called Kirby Gowland says:
|I have a Predators: Eagle cabinet that was converted to a Ninth Inning baseball. I can get some pix next week (it's in storage). Back in 1999 or 2000 I tried to remove the black paint on one side, but it just did not want to cooperate. The underlying artwork that I could make out seemed to be orange in color similar to the Blaster wooden cabinet color. Unfortunately there was no other parts left in it. Even the control panel overlays were removed prior to conversion. Mine came from an Air Force base IIRC by way of Jim Overman at Gamemasters in Baton Rouge. I'll add more if I can help.|
27-May-06: Thanks to a fellow collector, Zube, we have a little more information on the game play. Kindly reproduced with permission from Jed Margolin's web site we have the two following comments:
There are two email messages from Linda Benzler, (a Project
Manager in the Marketing Dept of Atari) dated Aug 20, 1986:
"Probably the hottest item is the new Williams video, PREDATOR. This is a game that links four separate cabinets together. The distributor I spoke to referred to one cabinet being the "master" and the other three as being "slaves"; I'm not sure if this refers to the one master cabinet as being the brains that drives the others, or if it has something to do with the space-themed game play. I checking with some other sources to see if I can find out any further information.
Operator price is said to be $7000-8000 for the full four-game system."
...further information on Williams' PREDATOR: From two different sources, the game play looks OK only. One person said that it appears to be quite difficult, especially the concept of playing against another player who is on a different game (remember Subs?). Each of the four cabinets is named after a bird (Hawk, Eagle, etc.) and the spaceships are bird-like. There is a radar screen, similar to Defender, that players use to find the other players in the game. II assume from the descriptions that I have be given that it is a space dogfight type of game where you are supposed to seek out and destroy the other players.
One source said that it is a scrolling space game similar to Sinistar... the other source said that game play is different from Sinistar...
One game serves as the main frame and the others are slaves to the main (no relation to game play). A player can coin up on any of the four units (the main frame does not have to be in play to have the others work).
Apparently, Williams is in the early testing stages on this game. The distributor I spoke to did not give me a price on the unit, he said that Williams is trying to determine whether to build it as a whole unit or offer it as a kit. The price quoted by another operator is $6500-$7500.
28-May-06: Received some initial pictures of Kirby's Predators: Eagle cabinet:
07-June-06: DangerDann has sent me some more pictures.... Boy... These are hot (click the images for bigger versions as usual!)
Yep, bigger pictures of the marquees. Drool! So, we now can see Williams were calling it "Quadraplay system" wonder if more information exists on this.
But even bigger news - this picture has surfaced:
So... the Nintendo VS version did exist - here we see condor and Hawk together - and *two* lots of side-art! And also different marquees from DangerDann's that tie up with the control panels.
...oh And they sure look like Sinistar/Wicos to me not Blasters.... Hopefully I'll be able to tell button colours too! Thanks DangerDann!
A long time since I updated this page and so apologies to anyone whose written to me but I'm now putting everything back up-to-date....
31-May-07: Thanks to a chap called Stephen Mason, he wrote to tell me about his and his brothers experience playing the game at Time out:
* The anti-matter pod, IIRC, worked a lot like the Chenjesu main
weapon from Star Control. Essentially a big white ball you shot out
and then detonated on command. It would send "shots" out in 8
compass directions. Very handy as an indirect fire weapon against
opponents hiding behind asteroids.
* I *think* there may have been some resource gathering as well, but I may be confusing it with another game. I seem to remember collecting crystals, either for points or for more anti-matter pods.
* Rather than spend our money blasting each other, my brother and I would often wait for someone else to start playing, and then jump in and blast them instead. Now that I think about it, if Predators really was one of the first networked games, that may make us among the first people in history to team up on noobs. For that, I owe a tremendous apology to the video game community as a whole. I'd hate to think we started that.
06-Dec-09: John McAllister wrote to me with a very vivid description of the gameplay and also considers it raster:
I remember this from Arnold's on the ave in Seattle WA. They had the
four machines all next to each other.I believe that the joysticks
were 49 way much like sinistar.The control of the ship and firing
was just like sinistar.
Specials were found or had to destroy
something to get it.Some of the different types were speed, shields,
invisible, possibly regenerate and more fire power or rapid fire.
I'm pretty sure that it was raster based.
When you started your game you would start with time units. As you destroyed other opponents you would gain more time. As the game progressed the time you would receive from killing the other players would decrease and eventually killing youropponents wouldn't net you enough time to continue playing. Don't remember if there were any stats or points just time units.
24-April-10: I now own the 4 Predators Control Panel overlays after finally purchasing them from Archer :) Very excited!
As ever... If you know something not mentioned here, please DO get in contact - this page is designed to be a tribute to the entire Predators prototype game, not just my cabinet!
Naturally, If you know more. Do please get in contact : my email is firstname.lastname@example.org - It'd be great to hear and expand on this!