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Poly Play
this page contains all you didn't know about this game and more besides...

last update February 10, 2008


June 2004 : Poly Play loaned to The Museum of Computing in Swindon, UK for their exhibition.
July 14th, 2004 : I've been slashdotted, and everyone seems obsessed with my typo of 'sheissbude' :-) (now fixed)
July 22nd 2004 : Wow! poly play makes it onto BBC WORLD TV!

July 23rd 2004 : added a section for the 2 'other' known machines
December 12th 2004: Poly Play gets added to the Wikipedia!
December 14th 2004 : Added another photo of the poly play machine in the Berlin computer museum. (thanks to Michael Davidson)
January 2005
: Poly Play goes on tour!! I have loaned the machine to the 'Game On' exhibition, its been crated and shipped off.

February 2005 : With Game On at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, IL, USA
November 2005 : With Game On at The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, CA, USA
March 2006 : With Game On at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, IL, USA
June 2006 : With Game On at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, WA, USA
October 2006 : With Game On at the Science Museum in London, England

July 2007 : With Game On at Cyberport, in Hong Kong, China
March 2008 : Set to appear with Game On at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne, Australia


Press coverage :
BBC Wiltshire



Ever wanted to know how the commie bastards spent their youth? Well, unlike you western Coca-Cola drinking, mcdonalds burger munching bastards, they didn't spend their times in the arcades... because arcades weren't allowed... and hence so was arcade equipment.

However, in one sector of the communist territory, there was a mild blip, where coin operated videogames had a small market.. and thus was born, the only coin-operated communist party approved video game.. With styling 30 years out of date, and technology perhaps 10 years aout of date, the Poly Play came into being!

The previous owner of this machine in Germany knows of only one more machine still in Germany. There is a page listed in the links section that shows a picture of another machine, but it differs from my machine. I was told that because the machines were hand built, and things were not always readily available, they used anything they could lay their hands on, and so the machines did differ from one to another. If approximately 1000 machines were built, all but 40 were collectively dismantled. And as such, today, there only appears to be 2, possibly 3 machines left... a wonderful example of communist oppression and/or style!!

stuff I own relating to Poly Play:

- whole machine (this is also the same machine as seen on Obtained in December 2003, shipped over from Germany.
- 3 PPI Tokens needed to play it :-)



Background :

Poly Play was made by Machine: VEB Polytechnik Karl-Marx-Stadt Box: VEB Raumkunst Moselt between approximately 1986 to 1989, in East Germany. Coin Operated videogames were seen as a bit of a capitalist icon in the Communist world, and so coin operated amusement devices were banned in the GDR. I would imagine that the majority of the communist world weren't even aware of coin operated videogames, or if they were, the brain washing was just as good in preventing them from demanding them. East Germany was a little different, and one could imagine that people there were a little more enlightened as to the existence of coin-op videogames. It may well have been that the upper echelons of the communist 'class' would have probably fealt hard done by, without their videogames. There shouldn't be a 'class' distinction under communism by definition, but you of course had public servants, and party members who were getting paid a lot more than the mud farmers and therefore had some disposable income to spend on entertainment. This probably created the demand for coin-operated video games. Now, being Communism, not just anyone could start this up, it had to be an organisation that the local government could ultimately control.. Hence, what was produced was with the blessing of the communist party. This would explain the deer hunting game in the selection menu, it was said to be included because Erich Honneker (eastern dictator, um, I mean... Chancellor) liked to hunt in his free time. He also had the worlds largest porn collection, but thats another story :-) The machines also did not take regular currency, but tokens instead. I'm not sure how this would have worked on a site, but from other sources, it sounds like leisure centres had them installed, so I guess you could buy the tokens from the reception and stuff...

Anyway, I don't know a great deal about this machine, other than a brief smattering of info, but what I do know is that this machine was developed in complete isolation from the west, therefore every little 'component' was completely re-engineered, and in some instances they came up with methods that western games never did employ.

The cabinet :

The interior of the cabinet is foil lined, quite why I'm not sure, but it probably has something to do with preventing the machine from emitting RF interference.. Maybe the electronics could jam up listening devices within a mile radius :)

The cabinet is extremely well engineered, designed and built, as you might expect from anything German. The beech veneered chipboard cabinet is very solidly put together, but put together like a piece of furniture. Nicely joined, and constructed.



Front views.
You will notice the animated marquee is on different phases when the pics were taken
Screen/control panel view
I especially like the crafted wooden frame around the monitor screen. The panel to the right is metal silk screened, and has got a few scratches. 'ET' the initials are scratched into it. Damn that little alien bastard.
opening the front access panel
you can see the main pcb/computer here, you will also notice the welded box section frame in which all the important bits mount onto.

the coin mechanism
another ingenious bit of engineering when you don't have any example to go by. The coin switch is an optical or infrared diode gate, not a microswitch. The coin box is an amazing bit of mechanical trickery. There is a lock on the side, which turns a shaft which transfers 90 degrees to screw a shaft through the rear of the box and thereby securing it to the bracket in the cabinet. The lid has a latch to padlock it shut also. As well as that, the lid has a spring loaded mechanism that shuts off the three coin entry windows. In my opinion, hideously over-engineered, considering Atari used a cake tin for their first coin box :)

opening the control panel
you can see the underside of the joystick and the button. Both are good examples of solutions to a problem when you don't have off-the-shelf parts to install, or copy, you have to make your own. Notice also how the silver foil lining goes everywhere.
Another over-egineered piece, looks pretty robust, but is not the most precise, or ergonomic of devices. The joystick has huge 'swing' needed to activate a direction. Its ok for the poly play games, but probably cack for anything else.
Opened front panels
Once the control panel catch is released, the screenbezel can be lifted up, where it has a catch to keep it in the upright position. I assume for facilitating cleaning of the TV screen and bezel glass. No cheap design here, everything uses full length piano hinges. You can also see the front of the 'off the shelf' colour TV set.
TV Set
Here is a nice closeup of the colour TV set. Looks like something from about 1981. It is an east German make.. a 'Peter Engles Colourmat 4606' or something like that..
The game board
Or more accurately, the bus computer card rack. Apparently based on a Russian minicomputer/PC of the day. Its a bit bigger than your average desktop PC though, and a lot more unwieldy. You can see like old mainframes/PDP's that the bus card connectors have tonnes of wire-wrapping on the back to link up all the cards. Obviously hand-assembled. The thick cable and large connector on the far left, feeds the light organ in the marquee above. It plugs onto a parasite pcb that bolts onto the side of the computer card rack. A picture of the front of the computer can be seen in the photos above..

The actual bus cards
This is the brains of the system, pictured here removed from the rack, and its all Russian. All of the IC's have Russian script on them, so I just hope I never have to try fix it. The machine works most of the time, but occasionally plays up, but frankly it scares me just looking at his lot. There are two of PCB1.JPG, and one of all the others in the cage.

Interestingly, the date code system is the same as in the west, and the date codes are from 1987 and 1988.

Rear Views:
The serial number (1492) is scrawled on the back door in pencil, the TV set can be seen from here, and they've drilled extra ventilation slots in the top of it. The metal box section frame can be seen here. The TV set is bolted on brackets which sortof swivel on this frame I guess for servicing. The TV in this cabinet gives a perfect picture, hope I wont need to be doing that anytime soon.

Back door off view

The back door is a very thin (4mm) sheet of plywood, screwed in with about 14 screws with metal washer type things on them. Once again, the foil coating is everywhere. The serial number plate, hard to make out, I will get transcription of this soon. Serial number 1492.


The 'Light Organ'
Ok, now ignore the big black thing in the background, thats a spare control panel I needed to use to prop the lid up. Two screws either side releases the lid to be lifted up where you can see the marquee sits in front of the light organ. The marquee is that horrid 1960's door glass that has a bumpy, angular surface to refract and diffuse the light. The poly play logo is screened onto the back of the very thin and fragile glass. The light organ itself is nothing more than a bunch of 240v lamps that fire sequentially, reds then blues, then yellows, then greens. Very fast too, not sure why this is intrinsically linked to the computer rack when it could be done with basic electronics instead. All the bulbs (bar one or two) are made by Osram, Slovakia.



here is a view of the rear of the marquee, and the light organ in action.. (But see the video link below for the best effect!!.)

this is it!!! a movie file of the marquee in action!!

you will need THIS codec installed to view this file



Ok, its 8 in 1 fun. Well, I say fun. I probably mean endurance. Or pain.. yeh, painful.. That sounds right.

If you have mame, then you might want the ROMS, just click HERE.
I will take my chances if the KGB want to pursue the copyright infringement.

The menu screen, this is the attract mode. thats about as fancy as it gets. You can select a game by moving the joystick up and down, then pressing the button to select the game. You can then read the instructions and decide whether you want to play it or not. If you don't like it, you press the button. You hear a clunk, as if there's some kind of relay kicking in, then it returns you to the main menu.

A play is selected by up and Abbewegung of the play lever. After pressures of the play button the play selected by you appears.

Hirschjagd (Deer Hunt)
yep, shoot that evil deer right in the face, Ned, Quick!! its coming right at us!

Hase und Wulf (Hare and Wolf)
This is an infuriatingly crap game based on pacman I'd assume. The movement of your character is so 'sticky' its virtually unplayable. I can't see what I'm supposed to do on it anyway, the carrot looking things which I would assume are power pills don't seem to do shit. You're not missing much.

UPDATE 23/07/04: this is apparently based on a Russian kids TV series

Abfahrtslauf (Departure Run)
Weird title... this ones quite fun, there appears to be 2 game modes when you start it, neither of which I can work out what the difference is. The game is hard as hell, gets very fast very quick.. I find that if you wiggle left and right, the computer spends its time trying to animate your character, and it doesn't move the bollards as quick, giving you more time to react... limited fun..

Schmetterlinge (Butterflies)
How weird is this? you appear to play a black man in dungarees who catches different colour/patterned butterflies for a living. The net action is so appallingly animated, that is very hard to judge how to catch them. Its an easy game though. I'm still scared by the notion of an overweight gay black man catching butterflies. Creepy.

update : This character in dungarees was apparently another kids TV character from Czechoslovakia at the time. He was known for catching butterflies and wearing dungarees. Known as "the little mole".

Schiessbude (Shooting Gallery)
Carnival!! yaya! a game that looks fairly close to the original.. This is fun to play, you can shoot the multipliers in the top right of the screen, to increase their value, so when you shoot the items on the line, thats how many points you get.. Quite nifty, although the diving bird that eats your bullets has a mind of its own and can seemingly jump a few inches to eat your bullets, doesn't seem to need to get anywhere near the bottom :) Oh yeh, and the bonus bullet thing on the top left only appears to give you +bullets, its never +points, or -bullets.. Its always +bullets, its all good.. We shall never punish you for your actions!! ya!! fun to play, and has cool noises and music :-)
Autorennen (Motor Race)
Now this, my learned friends, is the strangest racing game ever. You just push the joystick in the direction you want the car to go, and press the button to increase your speed. There is no slick movement here, because the system is totally character based it jumps around like mad. Another glitch that makes this game no challenge is that the opposing car can easily be prevented from overtaking by simply staying in the middle of the track, it wont/can't pass you. You can even leave it stationary and the opponent will sit behind you, while you go off and do something more interesting instead.
Merkspiel (Noticing Play)
some kinda puzzle game.. Now, not sure whats going on here, but this game does not appear in my main menu screen selection as can be seen in the pictures above.. so whys it here? hmm...
Wasserrohrbruch (Burst Water Pipe)
Catch the drips. When your bucket is full, climb the stair and empty it out. If you miss enough drops, you eventually drown, or you stay on the stairs till the last minute. Rubbish. Pure Rubbish.



Other Poly Play Machines
So far i have ascertained that there are definately 3 machines surviving. Others may exist, but have not been found yet, or confirmed to exist at the present day. If you know of a machine, or have heard of a machine in the last couple of years then get in touch so that I may keep track of them. Any other pictures or info would be greatly appreciated.
Sascha Scheuermann's machine : (Still in Germany)
Dates written on the inside of the door, maybe service dates, or collection dates?
The front of the machine, as you can see, as Sascha put it, my machine looks like it is much more styled for the home, where as this machine is much more suited for the kitchen with all that formica hehe. I much prefer the marquee on this machine though, a cool digital font is used for 'Poly Play'.
The insides, similar looking to mine, a bit dirtier maybe hehe. It all looks very similar with the foil lining etc.. There doesn't appear to be the metal box-frame holding the card cage and TV set in place though.
Here's the interesting bit, this is nearly completely different. Notice how there is a sort of shelf above the screen, the black screen cowling encompasses the interior, the coloured bar strip, and the 8 buttons. The machine doesn't currently work, and we are guessing the 8 buttons must be for game selection.
This is the plate on the back, showing a serial number of 0135 or 0185, unconfirmed, as the pic isn't too clear. Either way, if the serial numbers are to be believed, this is a much earlier model than mine. The dates on the coin door also indicate a machine made much earlier than mine too.
The side... dig that light beige formica... they really did make these things out of whatever they could find :)
Poly Play at the "Computer und Videospielemuseum" in Berlin.
Here we can see that this machine matches Sascha's machine, with the exception of the 8 yellow buttons on the control panel. I can't seem to get hold of this museum to ask them for more pictures or info in person, but somebody kindly forwarded the following picture to me recently :
This photo was taken in November 2004, This is the owner with the Poly Play in the Berlin Computer Museum.


Polyplay Links :

KLOV Description (this description was entered by the previous owner of my machine)
translated verrsion of above page


THANKS : to the following people for helping with info for this page, and other stuff relating to the poly play.

- Michael Davidson - for sending me a much better photo of the machine owned by the Berlin Computer museum.
- Simon Webb - for giving the Poly Play a home at The Museum of Computing for a number of months in 2004.
- Andre Rothe - for pointing out the characters in some of the games are based on kids cartoon characters

- Star Bohn - also for pointing out a cartoon character and providing a link showing the litte mole in dungarees :-)
- Sascha Scheuermann - A German collector, for providing pictures of the machine in their posession, and more details.
- Oliver Moazezzi - For abandoning the machine (now mine) outside under a sheet, enabling me to purchase it on the cheap!


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