Norbert's Emulators

My MAME driver for Super Tank

The Game Super Tank

The arcade game "Super Tank" was made in 1981 by the German company Video Games GmbH. It is a shooter where you control a tank and have to clear a field of mines and bushes. You are chased by enemy tanks, which fire at you. After wiping out all the mines and bushes, you reach the second level. It is kind of a "boss" level, where you have to fight a big enemy tank, the Super Tank. You can destroy it by a direct hit into its gun. As far as I know, Super Tank was sold in Germany, Austria, and other European countries, and it was licensed to the company Computran for distribution in the US market.

The Company Video Games GmbH

Video Games GmbH (located in the town of Lich in Germany) started as an unauthorized bootleg manufacturer. One example for this is the game Tornado, a bootleg of Defender. When the European countries changed their laws to protect the original creators, they started to develop their own arcade games. However, only two original games from Video Games GmbH are known to exist: Looping (licensed for the US market to Venture Line) and Super Tank. Video Games GmbH worked in partnership with Amtec, a manufacturer located in Parma (Italy). Super Tank was licensed in the USA, because in Germany the reproduction of war in a simulation product was forbidden. Thanks to Deb from Italy for all this background information (web site www.tilt.it/deb/).

I would be interested in more background information on the companies Video Games GmbH and Computran. I would also like to know, in which other countries Super Tank machines were in the arcades. If you know something about this, please send me an email.

My MAME Driver for Super Tank

On December 14, 2003 I finished my first and preliminary version of a MAME driver for Super Tank. It was very hard to figure out, how all the hardware works. This reverse-engineering process took me many days. I had practically no information about the hardware, no memory map, and not even schematics. I ended up in writing my own stand-alone emulator for the game to do my testing, before I could convert it to MAME.

Now, after I finally found out, how the video hardware really works, I see, that compared to other machines it is rather simple! My respect to all the MAME developers, who wrote so many drivers for previously unemulated systems, has become even bigger.

After I knew, how most of the things in Super Tank worked, it was really easy to make a MAME driver. The MAME source code is so well-organized, that it is big fun to code a driver for it. Well, "coding" is the wrong word. It is more like making only declarations on the machine hardware, and all the ugly procedural semantics are hidden from you and solved in the huge macro and function libraries of the MAME programming framework. Thanks to the MAME team for this great software.

On December 17, 2003 I got an email from Pierpaolo Prazzoli. He fixed a problem with the coinage DIP switches. Thank you, Pierpaolo! After this, I had a closer look at my DIP switch definitions, and found another bug. The bit for the extra tank and the one for the number of tanks were wrong. I corrected it and submitted the new driver version again.

On December 24, 2003 there was an update to the official MAME WIP site announcing my Super Tank driver. It read: "Norbert Kehrer submitted a fully working driver for Super Tank". There were also 4 screenshots added. Nice to be on the official MAME WIP page :-) Thanks!

On December 25, 2003 version 0.78 of the world's best arcade game emulator MAME was released. And it contains my Super Tank driver :-) I made my first contribution to this great open source project. Looking back, this project was a lot of fun for me. Thanks to the MAME core team for their excellent work and support.

The First Super Tank Screen Shots

Now let's have a look at the first screen shots from my Super Tank driver :-)

The title screen and the "insert coins" screen:

Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH

The game start screen:

Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH

Some screen shots from the running game (first level):

Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH

More screen shots from the running game (level 2):

Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH

The "Super Tank" in action:

Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH

The Super Tank is destroyed:

Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH

Game over (but I still have some quarters left :-):

Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH Super Tank (c) 1981 Video Games GmbH