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Midway’s “Thunder” Arcade Games August 7, 2006

Posted by samwyse in Interactive Fiction.
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Let me start by saying that, IMHO, Hydro Thunder is one of the all-time great arcade games. Even though it’s over seven years old (I believe it came out in 1998 or ’99), I still love playing whenever I can find it. Unfortunately, that seems to be getting harder and harder to do, so frequently I have to make do with Arctic Thunder, which is in some ways even better.

Once upon a time, the best place to look for information about Hydro Thunder was Steve Ranck’s homepage. Being one of the game’s designers, his site had lots of insider information. Steve has since moved to a new ISP and his original homepage can only be found within the Internet Archive. Likewise, the Fan Page of Hydro Thunder only resides within the Wayback Machine but it provides more information useful for day-to-day playing. Finally, there’s the Hydro Thunder FAQ, which doesn’t have any pictures, but summarizes the preceeding pages and others.

Midway also released a game called Off-Road Thunder, where you got to drive an ATV or something, but I only had a couple of opportunities to play it. Also, all of the Thuder series of arcade games are available for various consoles, but I much prefer the side-down arcade versions. This is mostly due to the presence of a large “thumper” speaker under the seat that gives the sensation of skimming across wake, waves and ripples in the water. It’s hard to reproduce that at home, although in recent years I’ve seen special gamer seats in the stores that might get the job done.

What I’d really like to do is recreate an OSS version of the game. To that end, I’m investigating Allegro, a multi-platform game programming library. Most of the games written with Allegro are ports of arcade and console side-scrollers, although there are a couple of driving simulators and FPS. Thomas Harte seems to pushing the envelope the most, but his games are a bit simpler than what I want. There is an OpenGL interface for Allegro, which I need to investigare.

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