Lost Cave v1.2 released!

12BB_LogoFukio “MTJ” Mitsuji, the creator of Bubble Bobble, died five years ago, on December 11th 2008, at 48. We want to remember his genius with a new release of Bubble Bobble Lost Cave, exactly one year after the original release of our 100 level ROM hack.

What’s new: 

Program optimization. The game should have much less slowdowns now (ie it should slow down only where the original Bubble Bobble slows down!)

Bootleg support. The game can now run also on most bootleg “Bobble Bobble” PCBs (or on emulated bootleg clones, should you want to do it). Forget the crappy bootleg behavior: Lost Cave works on bootleg boards just like on the originals.

Difficulty rebalancing. The game has been carefully rebalanced, based on one year of user feedback. It *should* now be possible to complete it with one credit. Greater contributors are even acknowledged in the end credits of the “Super” Mode!

Download it here.
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Note: if you want to play the game with an emulator, all you really need is the bublcave.zip file. The additional bootleg files are necessary only if you want to convert a real Bobble Bobble / Super Bobble Bobble bootleg board into a Bubble Bobble Lost Cave one. Please read the readme.txt file for full info, or email us.


One last thing… After one year, it’s ok to reveal this…

lastsecretHave fun!

Lost Cave (1.2) for the masses

From the beginning, we wanted to make Bubble Bobble: Lost Cave run on the original Bubble Bobble PCB. And we succeeded in doing it.
Then, we realized that the number of people who could benefit from this achievement was quite low. Bubble Bobble original PCBs are rare and expensive – so rare and expensive that even the Lost Cave team does not own one. And it’s not just that. Having an original Bubble Bobble PCB, would you put your hands on it, and ROM-swap the ROMs with the Lost Cave ones? Hmm, maybe yes, maybe not.
Some months after the release of Lost Cave, we started to think about running it on a bootleg Bobble Bobble PCB. Problem is, that the Bobble Bobble PCBs does not behave exactly in the same way Bubble Bobble does – there are some not so slight changes in gameplay and way more slowdowns than in the original game. So, the bootleg code from Bobble Bobble is not a good base for Lost Cave.
Then, we found that ArcadeOtaku forum user joaoljr did something wonderful – he rewrote the bootleg MCU emulation in order to obtain a faithful Bubble Bobble behaviour even on the Bobble Bobble board! Yay! That was an important inspiration for us. We could not use his so-called “Redux” version as a base, though, because Lost Cave, in turn, runs even more custom code over the regular Bubble Bobble code. We needed a super-optimized MCU emulation code, in order to perfectly transform Bobble Bobble in Bubble Bobble, and then, on top of that, inject the Lost Cave code into it. Feeling lost in a sea of bubbles? We felt the same way.
After studying the bootleg code, Aladar managed to squeeze everything onto the bootleg PCB. One of the important steps in doing it was to optimize the original Lost Cave code running on the original Bubble Bobble. That’s right – the soon-to-be-released Lost Cave 1.2 revision will work even better, with less slowdowns, even on an original PCB or in the MAME version of your choice. There are also some minor gameplay balance fixes, based upon one year of user feedback. Hopefully this will be the final Lost Cave version, so we can get on to Rainbow Islands Gaiden. Just kidding.

Bubble Bobble Lost Cave 1.2 will be released here on December the 11th, 2013.

Here’s how we made Lost Cave run on a bootleg Bubble Bobble PCB!

lc1. Buy a Bobble Bobble PCB on Ebay. Not the one with the 68705 microcontroller. The other one. The one which needs a separate JAMMA connector, typically.

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2. Buy a EPROM reader/writer. It’s something Chinese Ebay shops really want to sell to you. Be sure it’s compatible with the 27256 EPROM type. Which is most likely. Mak esure they send you the correct merchandise. I asked for a chip extractor thing and they gave me a rubber pencil. Really.

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3. Buy some EPROMS. More than you actually need. Because used EPROMS not always work. And it’s quite unlikely to find 27256 new EPROMS nowadays. On Ebay, you’ll find used ones.

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4. Buy an EPROM UV eraser. The good thing is that if nasty things happen while you try to burn EPROMS, you can (almost) always erase them in 15 minutes and try to rewrite them. IMG_20130921_014833

5. Once you’ve burned successfully all the EPROMS, mount them on the Bobble Bobble PCB. It’s a plain ROM swap, just as for the original PCB. Put them on the board in correct order, be careful, et cetera.

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6. Aww, I told you to be careful! Old, poorly made bootleg board sometimes have sloppy chip sockets…

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7. And that’s it! It works! Ehr, I notice that it still says 2012. Need to change that. Fast.

 

 

Showtime!

12/13 October 2013: Manchester, Play Expo. We weren’t there in person, but we were there with Bubble Bobble Lost Cave! Thanks to the great JAMMA+ community, and especially to Olly Cotton aka muddymusic, among dozens of coin-op legends in display there was also our little hack…hosted inside a real, original Bubble Bobble cab, no less!

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The nice thing is that we were not aware of it. Absolutely. We were browsing thru’ the Jamma+ forums when we read a post by user Webbo stating:
“Could you kind folks help me identify a game it was at play expo the other week it was a custom bubble bobble cab (…) it was playing a version if bubble bobble but not seeing the attract screen I’m not sure which one. Iv looked through all versions on mame but it isn’t any of them. The levels looked different to what I remember and there seemed to be more power up drops than normal. Was a great version and would love to put it on my mame cab. Hopefully some of you guys got to play it or may even own the cab I played it on? “
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At first we tought “hey! A Bubble Bobble proto? No way!” Then we understood that he was talking about Lost Cave! Muddymusic kindly provided the photos in this post. Isn’t his Bubble Bobble cab absolutely amazing, by the way?

Play2013_74Hey, that guy has the GTW t-shirt! We love that website, check it out if you don’t know it.

Ok, enough self-celebration for today. We have still so much to do – December 11th is approaching fast… It’s the 5th anniversary of Fukio Mitsuji‘s death, and we planned a new Lost-Cave related release. More info about that very, very soon.

Guidance?

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Dennis, a huge Lost Cave fan, just sent this picture of his son Diego trying the game for the first time! Dennis was able to complete the whole “normal game” and find out the Super Bubble Bobble Lost Cave code – all by himself, amazing! Maybe for younger generations playing Bubble Bobble is hard, tho. It’s an old, unforgiving coin-op, after all! But do not despair, kids! The full guide for Lost Cave is shaping along nicely. Enemy and item positions, invisible airflow patterns and, at last, a direct screen-to-screen comparison of each original home/handheld level and its counterpart in the Lost Cave. Plus, as usual, Bisboch’s verbose comments.

And there’s a even bigger surprise coming, dedicated to lovers of old PCBs…

Lost Cave running on the original coin-op hardware!?

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Here it is. On the real hardware. Photo – and Lost Cave running on a real Bubble Bobble – courtesy of Olly Cotton. You can do your comparisons with a plain emulated screenshot by checking one of the earlier posts.

Behind the curtain, the Bubble Bobble Lost Cave dev team was still holding breath. Yes, the patch has been released as intended. Yes, lots of Bubble Bobble fans around the world played it and appreciated it. Yes, feedback from media and forum communities had been flattering. But there was still an achievement to unlock – maybe the bigger one, maybe a trivial one, depending on how you look at it:

to run Lost Cave on the original coin-op hardware.
because, not having an original Bubble Bobble PCB, we could test in only under emulation.

And that’s wonderful, God bless MAME! We managed to make it run on iPodpadphone, on the Dreamcast, on Xbox, on the original Taito Legends package (where you can always get Bubble Bobble ROMs legally). Basically, If MAME runs on a device, you can play Lost Cave there. But the pride of seeing it running on the orignal hardware, well, that’s something else. Think of it – running a romhack on the original Bubble Bobble PCB from the Eighties. This may mean nothing to you, it’s perfectly fair, but to us it’s like linking together the alpha and the omega of our work.

In theory,  it’s a automatic consequence of the way we worked: we just heavily modified the original data, with no hack on the emulated hardware side: if it works on emulators, it must work on the real thing, via a simple ROM swap (made easy by the socketed ROMs on the board). Aladar, the one who understands the technical part, put a lot of effort in it. But sometimes practice defies the logic of theory. Especially when you don’t have a pricey, lovely original Bubble Bobble PCB to test it…

Luckily, just under the original release of Lost Cave, the greatest Bubble Bobble enthusiasts in the world spreaded the word, which eventually reached http://www.jammaplus.co.uk, one of the most important forums about coin-op. Among its members is Oliver Cotton aka muddymusic, which happens to be one of the strongest Bubble Bobble players in the world (if not the strongest). He owns an original Bubble Bobble PCB, mounted on what looks like a Egret II Taito cab. And he immediately said he wanted to try the ROM swap, even before the Lost Cave dev team said hello on the forum.

To cut the long story short (here’s the complete, unabridged forum thread) Olly finally managed to do it thanks to the invaluable help of andyman, another forum aficionado, against all odds, faulty EPROMs and postal madness:

You can also check his former attempts on his Youtube channel – I (Bisboch) was quite scared by those ones, but Aladar was reasonably confident that the problems were caused by a phisically defective ROM, and not because the hardware was detecting our hacked data as, well, hacked data. He triple-checked everything, anyway, and in the end he was totally right – when Olly got a fully functioning Lost Cave set… it just worked! And the one in the video is his FIRST coin on Lost Cave. Quite impressive. His feedback is quite surprising too: since he can play in a way we could never dream to achieve, he’s spotting some critical points thu’ the game which we really underestimated during beta test.

How to celebrate this? Well, let me see… you could try to write on the hi-score table “BUB”, start a new match and see what happens on round 1, for example! In the meantime, we’ll keep writing the huge documentation opus for the 100 levels. Slowly but surely.