George Pelonis is the founder of Fury Unlimited, a company that creates homebrew titles for the GCE Vectrex home console. George currently resides in Southern California, and programs Vectrex games in his spare time. You can check out his website and purchase his games and controllers at: http://www.furyunlimited.com
(In reference to the glasses, he writes, "[I'm] not trying to look cool. Those are just off-the-shelf 3D LCD glasses, like the kind used for home 3D television setups and PC 3D gaming. They were made useful to Vectrex fans by Kevin Horton (creator of the game KevTris) who marketed an adapter which made these glasses work with Vectrex 3D games. An interesting part of this is that it obviously couldn't create the color 3D illusion like GCE's 3D Imager, so you played in 3D monochrome. As long as I wasn't doing anything color-specific, I preferred using this to program 3D Sector-X because it produced less eyestrain.")
Regardless, you still look pretty cool George. Thanks for your time and for agreeing to do an interview with me. Thank you!
Just so that we know a little about your background, tell us a little about your history with video gaming. At what age did you get into it and what was your first home console?I started playing video games as a kid in the 70's, right when they started becoming popular. My first console was the Vectrex, Christmas '82.
Wow, I don't think there are too many people out there that can say that a Vectrex was their first console. No wonder you chose to create games specifically for this console. Do you own any current consoles, or are you more into retro gaming?Aside from Vectrex, all I have right now is my Dreamcast and my Zodiac.
I certainly don't have a Zodiac in my collection and from what I understand, it's a fairly rare handheld with only around 200,00 sold. (For more information on the Tapwave Zodiac: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tapwave_Zodiac
.) As you may know, RFGeneration.com is a discussion forum and database for video game collectors of all systems (and yes, the Zodiac and it's software are in our database). Are you a collector, and if so, what is the approximate size of your collection and what systems do you primarily collect for?I'm not a collector so, aside from Vectrex stuff, not a whole lot.
What is your all-time favorite gaming title (home console or arcade)? What is your favorite Vectrex game?This one's easy. Cosmic Chasm and Cosmic Chasm.
Cosmic Chasm offered an extra dimension to the game play when compared to other games of that era, and I still can get
lost in a game of Cosmic Chasm today. It's got everything really...action, adventure, strategy. Super fun!
And some of your readers might already know that the Vectrex version preceded the arcade version! This was some type of deal made between Cinematronics and GCE. Since several Cinematronics titles were ported to the Vectrex, Cinematronics was able to pickup an original GCE title from the Vectrex library and remake it for the arcade. Pretty cool. Ultimately I think that the Vectrex version is better, but they're both excellent.
Cosmic Chasm is a great game and that's a great little piece of Vectrex history. I can see some elements of Cosmic Chasm, such as multiple screens/boards, in your homebrew Sectis.
What made you decide to start developing homebrew titles for the Vectrex?I always dreamed of doing it. Then I saw that John Dondzila had made a couple of games and I bought them immediately. John has made several excellent games, and my all-time favorites from Classic Game Creations are Patriots (the remix) and Wormhole. http://www.classicgamecreations.com
John certainly has made some great games for the Vectrex and I own a few myself. I'm sure he appreciates the recognition and he is certainly next on my list if he's willing to participate.
Do your games typically require the addition of more software space, or do you restrict yourself to the amount of space allowed by the original system? Many people have opinions as to what is acceptable on their own terms. What are your thoughts?This came up recently on a forum. So far, I've done all my games under 32k. This is the max size without doing anything fancy. The original GCE games almost always were 4k or 8k, with the rare exception of 12k. I guess I'm just blown away when I look at games like Cosmic Chasm and Web Wars, knowing how great those games are, and that the programs are so much smaller than the 32k that we utilize today for the homebrews.
**gameplay of one of George's more recent releases, Zantis -- copies still available**
(courtesy of TimeSplitterChimp)
From what I have gathered in looking at other Vectrex homebrew developers websites, you seem to be one of the more prolific in terms of releasing titles. How are you able to get these games out so quickly, and how far out are idea/projects typically planned out in advance of their release?Yeah, I get that a lot.
Well, I stay focused and try not to set a current project aside and then start another one. That's not to say that I don't work on multiple games at once, but I try to continue working on anything that I start.
I can't imagine how tough it is to stay on task, and not jump from project to project with such tedious work. Kudos to you for doing it and pushing to release a few games a year.
Tell us a little about some of your past projects. Are they currently available for sale on your website?As of this writing Sectis, Zantis, War of the Worlds, and Sundance are currently available, along with the Overdrive Controller. Sectis will probably be sold out by the time this review is published, as only a handful of games remain. Warrior is my latest release, and it is currently sold out. I also have available for pre-order Hellhole: Sector-X IV and the Vectrosis Controller.
What are the differences between the Vectrosis and Overdrive controllers? Will the same games be compatible for both? Vectrosis is a spinner controller and Overdrive is a paddle controller. Both utilize different methods for functionality, so games specifically made for one controller will not be compatible with the other controller. In order for a game to work with both controllers, it would have to be made possible by the programmer. But I don't think that every spinner game would work well as a paddle game and vice-versa. Some would. Paddles also stop turning when they hit their left/right limits, spinners rotate continuously. Hyperchase needs a paddle controller, while a game like Hellhole needs a spinner.
Yeah, that makes sense. A similar and more common example for many of our readers might be the Atari 2600's paddle controllers vs. its driving controllers.
The Vectrosis & The Overdrive
I'm happy to say that I have a copy of Warrior coming my way soon. Hellhole reminds me a lot of Tempest (probably my favorite cabinet of all time), so I probably need to go ahead and jump on that pre-order soon. Tell us a little about some of the other current/future projects you are working on.Hellhole will be the next release, continuing the Sector-X series of games. It is my first spinner-compatible game, being jointly released with the Vectrosis Controller. Tail Gunner 2012, Purgatory (Overdrive-compatible), Night Trucker (Overdrive-compatible), I Cyborg II, and a soon-to-be-announced Vectrosis-compatible game are all in the works. (George recently announced the release of Temporal Lobe, the referenced Vectrosis-compatible game, a few days after this interview)
Again, it's amazing that you have all of these games and hardware mapped out and scheduled for future release. Good luck, as I am looking forward to several of these titles.
What factors influence your decision on the titles you create?Lots of things really. I have to be interested, because getting bored halfway through programming a game is very bad. Additionally, what I think will interest Vectrex fans, and whether or not something will work well on the Vectrex. Basically you want to avoid the hardware limitations. I know that we push these limitations at times, and there are tricks to extend things a bit, but ultimately there is a limit. Slowdowns and screen flicker are things that you want to try to avoid as best as possible.
Two of your most recent releases, Sundance and Warrior (and a future release, Tailgunner), are titles which were originally vector arcade classics. Are most of your games an attempt to port former vector titles to the home console, or do you have plans to create more original Vectrex titles, like the Sector-X series?Mostly not, actually. I only recently started doing some remakes. War of the Worlds, Sundance, Warrior, and Tail Gunner might be the only four remakes you see from me. I'm wanting to move back to original ideas again.
Though I love to see new, creative titles for the Vectrex, it's also nice to see and play some good ports of the classic arcade cabinets since you don't see many around these days.
I have copies of Zantis, Sundance, and War of the Worlds, which are all great titles. For these games, I was late to the game and missed out on pre-ordering them. As a result, I feel that I might have missed out some special packaging, overlays, etc. Do you typically do packaging/overlays for your initial releases or do you only do it for some games?Thank you. Aside from Warrior, which has special packaging and an overlay, I usually use small plastic boxes for my games, and do not include an overlay. The upside to this is the lower prices when compared to games that include an overlay.
I have done several special editions of my games in the past, which have included larger, hand-crafted packaging and usually some bonus item. With War of the Worlds, for example, I sold 10 boxed sets. These were beautifully crafted, glossy-finished boxes that displayed the original cabinet art from the arcade. I included a metal wristwatch that was double-engraved with the WOTW mothership on the upper section, and the year 2011 on the lower section ( see photo of WOTW boxset and watch below).
Do you mainly work alone, or do you have a team of developers/designers who help you with your games and packaging/overlays?I work alone on the programming, but my children help me prepare the orders now...thank God!
For Warrior, the game boxes were done by The Game Crafter, which I find to be one of the best online companies of its kind. https://www.thegamecrafter.com
That's right man, put those kids to work! How cool is it to have to tell your friends that you can't come over right now because you have to help your Dad package his new video game?
Do they enjoying playing the Vectrex as well? Do they help beta test your games?Yes, the two-player games are the most fun for us, and that's a big reason why I started making two-player games! As was true in 1982, there is a timeless, unique quality to vector gaming that, 30 years later, still captivates the newest generation of video game players (and hopefully generations to come).
It's great that you are making some two-player games for the Vectrex, since there weren't many originally released. Man, you are going to make me have to drop some cash on another control panel, and those don't come cheap these days.
It seems that there are only a few homebrew designers for the Vectrex out there. What keeps you going in terms of developing new titles and do you see yourself ever retiring from making these games at some point?The Vectrex is the only existing portal for new vector games. Being a vector game fanatic, I will continue to create new games. I don't plan to stop because it's something that I enjoy doing.
Darryl Hall or John Oates? That's a tough one. I'm a metalhead
Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. Anything that we did not cover that you would like to add or say to our members?I'd just like to say that the one thing that really keeps me going are the Vectrex fans!!! Fury Unlimited will be celebrating 10 years of Vectrex gaming next year, and it wouldn't have happened without the dedication of Vectrex fans, new and old, worldwide!
Congratulations on 10 years Fury Unlimited! Thanks again for your time George. We hope that you will take some time to visit our site and please let us know of any upcoming release dates.
**Gameplay of Sectis, a George Peloinis original from the Sector-X series**
(video courtesy of cinefury)