Bell-fruit - Question of Sport

Question of Sport - Bell-fruit

The Flare One chipset (also know as the AVP when being targeted at OEM manufacturers) was sold to arcade gambling machine manufacturer Bell-fruit.

Jon Dean's softography website mentions that he was involved in working on both the Konix Multi-system and the Dave Lee Travis (an eccentric UK Radio DJ) arcade game "Treble Top".

Looking for information for a fruit machine (one of the euphemistic names we give these gambling machines in the UK) that's between 15 and 20 years old wasn't quite as easy as say a classic arcade game such as Street Fighter for example. Still, in the end I soon started finding little snippets of info here and there that lead to a better understanding of the use of the chipsets, and which machine's games were utilising the Flare chipset.

As I've progressed and started talking to people and sharing information, a better picture is building.

QOS Flyer 1
Question of Sport Advert Page 1
QOS Flyer 2
Question of Sport Advert Page 2
QOS Flyer 3
Question of Sport Advert Page 3

Technical Details

An image of a Bell-fruit Cobra SWP (Skill With Prizes) arcade machine PCB - hover over (if possible on your browser) to see the Flare One components highlighted

The Cobra arcade PCB featuring the 4 custom chips from the Flare One design and a Z80 Processor - Note the Chips at that stage had been mass produced by Texas Instruments. Click for a larger image

A sample of the state of Bell-fruit / Flare AVP emulation from the MAME driver page.

    1  /******************************************************************************
    3      Bell-Fruit Cobra I/II and Viper Hardware
    5      driver by Phil Bennett and Anonymous
    7      Games supported:
    8          * A Question of Sport [2 sets]
    9          * Beeline (non-working - missing disk)
   10          * Every Second Counts
   11          * Inquizitor (Viper hardware, non-working - missing disk)
   12          * Quizvaders
   13          * Treble Top
   15      Other games on this hardware:
   16          * Brain Box
   17          * Quintoon alt. version (Cobra II/Cyclone hardware)
   19      Notes:
   21      The hardware is based on a chipset known as 'Flare One', developed
   22      by Flare Technology. It consists of a 16-bit DSP (intended for sound
   23      synthesis and 3D maths), an 8bpp blitter and a video controller, driven
   24      by a Z80.
   26      Flare One would evolve to become 'Slipstream', used by the unreleased
   27      Konix Multi-system console.
   29      The Flare One chipset is implemented as four Texas Instruments ASICs,
   30      each an 84 pin PLCC package:
   32      CF30204, CF30205, CF30206 (DSP) and CF30207.
   34      The hardware using this chipset is as follows:
   36      Viper
   37      =====
   39      A video expansion PCB for Scorpion I?
   40      On some PCB revisions there is audio output circuitry connected to the DSP.
   41      Viper uses a WD1772 type floppy disk controller.
   43      Cobra I
   44      =======
   46      A combination of Viper and Scorpion I hardware on a single PCB.
   47      Cobra uses an NEC '765 type FDC. Later revisions have no DSP.
   49      Cobra II (Cyclone)
   50      ==================
   52      A compact video expansion board for Scorpion II.
   53      The Z80 is replaced by a Z180 and there is no Flare DSP or FDC
   56      To do:
   58      * Complete blitter emulation
   59      * Cobra II support
   60      * Hook up additional inputs, EM meters, lamps etc
   62      Known issues:
   64      * All games bar qos: NVRAM not saved
   66      * Viper does not have a colour palette - the Flare chipset drives RGB direct.
   67        To fix this I set default values in the palette when the machine is initialised
   68      * CPU execution rate is wrong, the hardware adds 1 TCycle to each access which is unaccounted for.
   69      * Plane priority is probably wrong but it's only used in Treble Top.
   70      * Blitter loop counts and step are wrong - they are 9 bit counts, not 8.
   71      * Blitter emulation doesn't support hi-res mode (needed for Inquizitor)

The Cobra 3 boards however don't use any Flare technology - they have standard off the shelf parts such as the MC68340FE16E variant of the Motorola 68000 processor running at 25Mhz, an Analog Devices ADV476KN35 CMOS Monolithic 256x18 Colour Palette RAM-DAC, A dedicated MPEG decoder chip presumably for playing back video clips from it's SCSI CD-ROM in the form of a ST Microelectronics STI3400 Video Decoder-Encoder Circuit - MPEG/H.261 VIDEO DECODER, a SCC66470CAB Video Output Graphics Controller - Video And System Controller(VSC) Philips Semiconductors and finally a Yamaha 8 channel PSG sound chip YMZ280B-F.

I don't know to what extent the Slipstream chipset was used in the Cobra boards, but I do believe that they used a floppy disk drive which kind of indicates that it's possibly near enough the complete Konix board in the arcade machine. As far as I've been told, the chip is the same as was used in the Multi-system - so it wouldn't take much to get Multi-system code running on it if someone found some.

It does look very similar to a Flare One Architecture - the board even has MIDI inputs an outputs.

Bell-fruit Emulation

The arcade machine preservation project known as MAME has a spin off called AGEMAME which concentrates on the gaming machines that have been shunned by the MAME project because of their gambling nature but utilizes the MAME system of emulating multiple hardware. AGEMAME is a project where the interactive pub quiz games get a chance to be preserved through emulation - Some of the ROMS for these Bell-fruit games have been dumped, but not everything was known by the project about the machines and how they worked as they used the custom Flare chipset. I posted a link to the Slipstream technical reference guide I had to the AGEMAME forum, and not long after a Programmer called Phil Bennett responded and found them useful enough to take a stab at emulating the games.

Here are some screen grabs from Phil's Bell-fruit Slipstream/Flare One emulator and they are beautifully clear. Remember - these are the actual graphics from the emulated arcade machine not a photo or magazine scan.

Question of Sport Image 1 Question of Sport Image 2 Question of Sport Image 3

Question of Sport is actually a very simple game and doesn't tax the hardware too much. It also doesn't make too much use of the custom hardware from the Flare chipset such as the DSP. Phil is now taking a crack at Inquizitor which is actually the first Bell-fruit Flare machine running on a PCB code named Viper. The attract sequence for this game was written by Attention to Detail, so there may be some chance that it does some more interesting things using the DSP that Phil can get his teeth into.

Other Bell-fruit Flare One based machines being emulated


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Every Second Counts (Strange colours a known issue with the emulation at the moment)

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