The arcade game "El Fin del Tiempo" (The End of Time), a Spanish video game which had disappeared for 35 years, has been preserved
2 Jun 2018
Niemer's El fin del Tiempo (1981), a Spanish arcade video game, had disappeared for several years.
Niemer's "El Fin del Tiempo" has been preserved
After years of searching and more than 35 years after its release, some people have managed to rescue from oblivion a Spanish video game that could have disappeared forever.
El Fin del Tiempo was one of the biggest mysteries of Spanish arcade games. Designed by the company Niemer, it was limited in production and as a consequence was all but forgotten. For years the only evidence of the game's existence was a simple flyer belonging to a foreign collector. The screencaps in the flyer led to much conjecture about the concept and development of the game and of the hardware used to implement it.
Recreativas.org made the first serious investigations into dicovering more information about the game and its designers. (http://www.recreativas.org/empresas/niemer-311/).
The game was one of the primary objectives of its mission to preserve Spanish arcade hardware. Not merely a caprice to satisfy the curiosity of gamers, it was essential to the history of video games designed in Spain.
The preservation process began with Esther, the owner of the only El Fin del Tiempo machine located during the search, contacting Asociación ARPA seeking assistance in repairing the game. Together with
Juegos 2.0 they offered to repair it, reaching an agreement where the main objective was the repair of the machine, which had been in a corner not working for many years.
But there was also the only opportunity for the overturning and preservation of the game and to prevent it from disappearing forever. This is where all the members of Team Recreativas.org entered, which since the edition of Arcade Con last year, organized by Arcade Vintage, gathered efforts in preserving the Spanish videogame plates, whose progress can be consulted here: Spanish plates preservation project .
The main objective was the repair of the machine. But this also may be the only opportunity for the discovery and preservation of the game and to prevent it from disappearing forever."
Both the repair and the preservation of El Fin del Tiempo has been a titanic effort, since the board had been damaged. In fact it was necessary to send the board to Barcelona for repair, and afterwards bring it back to the city of Zaragoza, where the owner of the machine resides. Initially the game did not even start, and later during the repair process synchronism, resetting and problems with corrupt graphics were encountered, these took about a week overcome and complete repairs.
Once the main objective was met, the repair of the machine for the owner, there were also problems encountered in the dumping of the ROMs, since some gave failures, resulting in unstable readings, and it was necessary to enlist the aid of the specialized team of Eduardo Cruz to get some readings 100% verified.
Now we can finally announce and confirm the preservation of The End of Time, which will also facilitate the emulation of the game so that it can be available in the MAME emulation project.
All this has been possible thanks to a great collaborative work, starting with Oscar Marín (Juegos 2.0, ARPA) and continuing with the various members of Team Recreativas.org: Eduardo
Lázaro (ARPA), Ricardo Fernández-Vega, Pere
Vicién, Eduardo Cruz, who have made possible the recovery of data and dump of the games ROMs as well as the repair of the board for the enjoyment of Esther, the owner of the original machine, to whom we owe gratitude for having allowed this work of preservation, in addition to Elsemi (ARPA) y Roberto Fresca
(MAMEdev), both also members of Team
Recreativas.org, who have done the necessary work for the emulation in MAME to become a reality.
History of Niemer's El Fin del Tiempo
Niemer, enterprise of Enrique Zarco and
Jose Mª Arribas, was started in 1977 as a manufacturer of arcade games, just in time for the video game boom of late 70's and early 80's.
In 1981 they designed two original video games: 4 en
Línea (Four in a Row) and El
Fin del Tiempo (The End of Time). The first advertisements in the industry press appear and the machines are presented at SADA 81 and later at international shows, such as ATE 82 (held in Birmingham, England in January 1982).
Niemer announces its new machine (Type B) for
1982. In it they represent El Fin
del Tiempo and 4 en línea as games of the previous year.
gone, Jose Mª Arribas continues his career without Enrique Zarco and starts CIC Play in
In 1991 he presented a new game called 4 en
Línea (1991), which was actually a remake of the original game of 1981. As
Arribas stated in his presentation:
"This is something that I had already done ten years ago, but at the time war themes in games prevailed. It was the time when killing Martians became obsessive, and strategy games were not appreciated." Jose
María Arribas about 4 en Línea (1991).
In effect it was a "remake" or relaunch of the game, in an era where simple games like Tetris revolutionized not only the world of video games, but the world in general, where it was much more popular than other games more complex or spectacular. Arribas thought that maybe it was time for
4 en Línea.
The hardware used a CGA video chip (which in graphics mode maintained 320x200 resolution with two palettes to choose with 4 colors each). The 1991 board was recovered by Rockman (Team Recreativas.org) and a driver was added thanks to Roberto Fresca (MAMEDev, Team Recreativas.org). Unfortunately some of the ROMs on the board are damaged, so for now it is not possible to fully emulate them, despite the efforts of Rockman and Roberto Fresca, and that at least they have allowed, together with the documentation work of Recreativas.org, to confirm the relationship between 4 in line of 1991 with that of 1981.
Regarding The End of Time, the first reference that appears on the Internet is the publication of a flyer in TAFA (The Arcade Flyer Archive), whose game and company of Niemer were completely unknown even to Spanish hobbyists, without which knowledge apparently no one could find any further information.
In the CEZ (Computeremuzone) forums a response appears, supposedly from one of the designers of the game, which gives clues about the origin of the game:
“The game was conceived mainly by Enrique Zarco and Jose Maria Arribas,
owners of Niemer. Mainly the latter. The design of the software and hardware was made by DIP S.A.”.
Unfortunately this user did not give more answers to allow verification of the information,
but at least for the first time possible names appeared.
Through the Recreativas.org, project, research is begun into Niemer and its games. First, an identification plate on an
Invasión Espacial (Space Invaders) machine from Quico Brugueras
(Factory Arcade) confirmed the relationship between
Arribas, Zarco, and Niemer. Next, registry records of El
Fin del Tiempo and 4 en Línea are found by
Recreativas.org and material located by Asociación
A.R.C.A.D.E., begin to form a library of documentation and images concerning the company.
The owner of an El Fin del Tiempo machine in Zaragoza appears in several forums asking for help in
repairing the game. The ensuing commotion caused the owner to back off, delaying any recovery attempts, but providing real images of the
machine. From the photos it could be determined that it used an 8-way joystick and 2 action buttons. Also, a manufacturing date of 1982
was given, which could confirm the latest time the game was marketed.
Esther gets in touch with Asociación
ARPA to see if they can repair the machine, as the association is not dedicated to hardware repair, they enlisted the aid others, Juegos 2.0. Access is granted to the machine because the owner wishes to get it repaired. After the restoration was completed as the owner wished, the Team
Recreativas.org proceeds to dump, preserve, and emulate the game.
The discovery of the machine has confirmed DIP SA as developer of the game, the name appears when starting the game.
El Fin del Tiempo follows the theme of space games or "Martians" that were popular at that time, dividing the game into 5 screens:
We begin the first phase attacking an enemy planet in a horizontal scrolling shooter resembling Scramble,
containers are shot for additional fuel like in Scramble.
This phase continues on the surface but as a static screen, where we are faced with meteorites
flying at us, as well as missiles that arise from the enemy base to try to
destroy us . The phase is completed simply by surviving for a certain time (we have a counter at the top of the screen).
The next phase is a subaquatic scenario where we have to recover three pieces to take them to a ship,
here the counter plays against us, since we must complete our task before it runs out. We have an enemy with a trajectory similar to the
meteorite of the second phase, although it can shoot us horizontally and vertically, in addition to the marine animals that we must avoid
when recovering the pieces that are located in the background.
Next, we find a screen similar to Namco's Galaxian, with a background reminiscent of other titles of the genre
such as Nintendo's Radar Scope. The "Martians" attack in waves and next to them appears a ship that can be shot for 5000 points. Its movement
from right to left on the horizon of the screen seems to have inspired (or coincides at least) with the later Activision's Beamrider (released in 1983).
If we reach the last screen we will find ourselves located in a futuristic city that we
must defend, destroying the minions that escort the mothership, which remains stationary but is dedicated to throwing bombs
randomly against the city, in which case we will have to destroy them before they hit and leave the city in ruin.
After finishing the last screen, as was the norm at the time, the first screen starts again with some added enemies and greater difficulty.
Historic moment in the preservation of the history of Spanish video games
The preservation of the arcade game El Fin del
Tiempo was a historic moment in the preservation of Spanish video games.
After more than 35 years of existence and many of search, that one of the great lost titles of the Spanish arcade games is finally
preserved is magnificent news to complete a little more our own history of video games, so abused at times, and allows anyone from
now on to study, know the game and enjoy it. All this confirms what we were looking for from this blog and the Recreativas.org
project, to try to document and preserve the lost history of videogame design in Spain, and to do justice to the productions that
were made for arcade games and their creators, who were really pioneers, before the advent of the Spectrum, and that until now these were completely ignored.
Unfortunately the game would not reach the success desired by its creators at the time, also those who have been contacted by members of Recreativas.org have refused to talk about the matter, but here we still want to recognize their merits, and particularly within the limitations of the hardware of the time, the game's retro-futuristic spatial fantasy graphic design is a delight.
The announcement of the preservation of El fin del Tiempo was made at the fourth conference of ArcadeCon 2018 , organized by the association
Arcade Vintage, the most important event for fans of arcade games in the country, which we want to thank for making it all possible, and especially to Jose Litarte,
faitful defender of the Recreativas.org project and the spread of the arcade culture.
We also want to take the opportunity to highlight the collaborative and selfless effort of various individuals and associations, such as Asociación
ARPA, Juegos 2.0, the aforementioned Arcade
Vintage and Asociación A.R.C.A.D.E., and that shows that when you do things for love, without monetary interest, the community benefeits and we all win.
Photos of the preservation of the arcade game El Fin del Tiempo, by Niemer
Comparison of Screens from the Flyer and the Real Game
Video footage of El Fin del Tiempo
Here is a video with gameplay from the board to see how the game was in action:
Proyecto de preservación de la historia de las máquinas recreativas
españolas. Muebles dedicados y genéricos, placas de vídeo, recreativas
electromecánicas y mecánicas, imágenes, manuales y documentación de recreativas
españolas de los años 60, 70, 80 y 90.