December 12th, 2015

Orbital

Coin Toss

So last night, I had a killer case of insomnia.  With all my work caught up, I was free to pick something goofy to do.  So I went back to working on Orbital, my electronic arcade game.

Unfortunately, I was still stuck in the same spot I was last time -- in order for me to have that AUTHENTIC ARCADE EXPERIENCE, I want the machine to take coins.  And the coin comparitor was becoming a problem.  You can find them easily, but they cost $60.  While the price isn't going to break my budget (goal -- bring the machine in for under $500.  Current money spent -- $145), it does require a 12V power supply, and the game is going to run on 6-9V.  It looked like I was going to have to put in a separate circuit with power just for the coin comparitor.

I thought that maybe I could design a coin acceptor that wouldn't need power, just a trigger mechanism.  Originally, I was going to just use a photoelectric eye that would register when the coin dropped past it in the chute, but that was becoming complicated to program.  I was frustrated.  I see kids banks and tabletop electronic games that take coins, and those cost $20.  There had to be a way to do it cheap.  But how?

I had acquired some hobbyist plywood, like they use for making doll houses.  The idea was to make a coin acceptor and attack the coin wire to it.  The wire would trip when a coin went past it, and no extra power was needed.  But I couldn't figure out a way to implement it.

Defeated, I accepted that I was going to need to buy a coin comparitor and power it separately.  I went online to ask how to set it up, and one of the guys connected me with a friend of his who builds MAME cabinets in his spare time.  He would have all the answers I needed.

I told him what I was trying to do, and he asked, "Why don't you just use a microswitch?"

Because I haven't figured out how to engineer it.

"Just buy one."

....they make those?

"Oh, yeah.  You are shopping for an electronic coin comparitor.  What you need is a mechanical coin mechanism."

He sent me a picture of the comparitor.  No electronics, just gravity and physics.  I asked, Where does the sensor go?

"Oh, you put this in a standard holder to attach it to the machine.  At the bottom of the holder is the back channel assembly.  You put the microswitch in there, and the coin wire inside.  It does all the work for you."

...how much does this cost?

"$20 for the mechanism, $15 for the holder and assembly.  I have some extra rolldown assemblies from the local DisneyQuest before it closed.  Free if you want one."

Yes, please.

It's going out in the mail today.  The only catch is, being a rolldown, it has to go on the front of the machine, not on top of the control panel.  But that's a small price to pay, and makes it look more like an arcade game.

But when I build my next one, I know what to look for.  Construction on Orbital resumes soon.

Peter G

The Last Of The Last Unicorn

I am a fan of Peter S. Beagle.  He is the creator of The Last Unicorn, an amazing fantasy novel and movie.  Beagle partnered with a man named Connor Cochran to help manage his business affairs.  And Cochran knew what to do.  Beagle has toured regarding The Last Unicorn, and even came to Chicago twice, once to C2E2 when the comic book series came out, and later to Wizard World Chicago.  Beagle is a very kind, very generous man.  We spoke for a long time, and he regarded me as a fellow author.  I'm a nobody, and he treated me like an equal.  We talked long and long and long.  He came back to Chicago as part of The Last Unicorn movie tour, stopping last year at the Marcus Theater in Orland Park.  It took him a while to recognize me, but he did, and he said he very much enjoyed my Hannah Singer book.

Emails regarding the tour and progress on the new Last Unicorn movie had dried up.  No surprise, things had always been sporadic.  But I did find myself wondering if he'd ever make the local scene again.

...well, that might not happen.

And to anyone looking to get into any kind of business arrangement, a harsh lesson in reading those contracts and having contingency plans.

Last year, an anonymous website called Fans Against Fraud started cataloging complaints against Conlan Press, owned by Connor Cochran and responsible for the movie tour and selling fan items (http://fansagainstfraud.com).  Complaints on the site go back ten years, citing orders never delivered, refunds not given, and more.  Cochran always had an explanation, but as the saying goes, shit gets old, and people were speaking out.  A few days after Bleeding Cool ran a report about it, Cochran offered full refunds to anyone who wanted them.  That was December 2014.  Except for Cochran filing a lawsuit against Patrick Lake, who he alledged to be the one behind Fans Against Fraud, all was quiet.  Until now.

Peter S. Beagle is suing Cochran for $52 mil, possibly more determined at trial.  Kathleen Hunt is Beagle's lawyer, and she has been contacting media outlets like BC to let everyone know that Beagle is alleging fraud and elder abuse.  According to the suit, Cochran created a sham corporation to take a controlling share of Beagle's intellectual rights.  Allegedly, Cochran is saying he wrote a lot of Beagle's recent work and sent out messages to people about mental conditions that hurt his relations with family and shut down new deals for his work.  Beagle not only alleges he has been exposed to tax legislation because of misuse of funds, but he has been overworked and kept in poverty -- the touring schedule had no breaks and no hotel rooms, so Beagle had to rely on the hospitality of fans.  Allegedly, when Cochran found out Beagle was looking into legal action against him, he cancelled The Last Unicorn tour.

Cochran denies everything, and even has Beagle's children in his corner.  They are moving to take control of Beagle's estate and medical decisions.  Cochran is also talking counter claims against Hunt for the procedures she has taken.  And now that the napalm has been hurled by both sides, they are keeping quiet because they don't want this tried in the court of public opinion.

Beagle never did seem to catch a break.  It could be argued that all this started at a time when no one knew the changes to the entertainment industry that were coming, so no one prepared for it.  Although that is belied by things like Eastman and Laird, who for decades simply licensed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles instead of selling them until relatively recently.  Either way, make sure your contract has some sort of out clause (I rejected one publishing contract because I saw a clause that, once you sorted through the red tape, meant that I gave them right of first refusal to any and all books I write for the rest of my life), and make sure you have backups looking over your stuff.  Even best friends can be sneaky, and you won't question your friends until it is way too late.