Race Drivin' Panorama

About a year after Race Drivin' was released, Atari put out Race Drivin' Panorama, which uses 3 monitors to provide a 180 view. Panorama is identical to Race Drivin, but a 4th track was added to the game, the Stock Car track. Panorama has an impressive cabinet with great artwork which is of a completely different style from Hard or Race Drivin. Its very cool to be driving up the hill on the super stunt track, and glance over at the side monitor and see the jumps & loops off in the distance. Instant Replays are also really great looking as they are always shown from a very high camera angle, so a very large part of the course is shown. The game is large, but it breaks down into six or seven pieces so it is actually quite easy to move around. When broken down, the game is much easier to move around than a cockpit Drivin'.

The Panorama hardware is identical to Race Drivin', there is only a software change and the additional hardware for the side monitors. The side monitors each contain a "multisync" PCB, which is the same hardware as used in S.T.U.N. Runner. The Multisync hardware is standard resolution (15.7 Khz), unlike the main monitor which is medium resolution (24 Khz). The side monitors are completely passive, the only wires going to them are 120VAC, a single serial line and a logic ground. The main PCB just talks on it's "serial A" port, and tells the side monitor hardware what to display. The side monitors do not talk back to the main PCB and are all tied to the same serial line. Race Drivin' uses "serial A" for linking to another machine. "serial B" is left unused. The manual states that Panorama cannot be linked to another game, but there ARE linking options in the selt-test menus, and there is still that extra serial port left unused.. seems to me the game should have been linkable? If not, my guess is the hardware isn't fast enough to be able to link, or Atari just never implemented it because they thought nobody would use it.. After all, next to nobody linked Race Drivin's, and there sure aren't going to be nearly as many Panoramas made.

The side monitors display is divided up into 2 "windows" like the main monitor. In the place of the gauges, the side monitors have a "door panel" complete with door handle. The door panels change for each car. The speedster and sportster have different panels, and the roadster has no panel at all, so when driving the roadster the entire side monitor shows the road. The gauges on the main screen will move slightly from left to right as the car takes turns, and the door panels move in unison with the gauges.

What is really neat about the side monitor software is that they can display just about any position in space relative to the position of the main monitor. The only options under "operator screens" for the side monitors are the yaw and pitch display angles. The right monitor yaw angle is set for 53, the left for -53, but there are options for 0, -106, 80, 90, and 180. For some strange reason there is no 106 option. The pitch can be set for 0, 21, 41, 62, and 90. So basically if you had enough side monitors you could build a videowall 5 monitors wide by 3 to 5 monitors high, with another stack of monitors directly behind you and another row directly above you. Cool!

I got my hands on another Panorama so I could try the game with 4 side monitors. It works great, although there are a few bugs.. There is no 106 option for the right display so It has to be set for 90, because of this the monitor overlaps the inner monitor a little bit. The left monitors map correctly. The other oddity is that the door panels don't display correctly when set to any yaw angle other than "-53 left display" or "53 right display". When first powered up both the outermost monitors display a right side sportster door panel. They'll stay there unless the roadster is played a few times, after 2 to 4 plays they'll finally disappear. If one of the other cars is raced the outermost panels panels will fill in black, the inner panels show up as they should. Also, the outermost monitors will always display the same car that the left monitor is displaying in the attract mode. These are somewhat strange/disappointing bugs but the game wasn't planned to be shipped in this configuration so it's understandable. It does seem that it would be a simple matter of a couple software patches to straighten everything out.

The side monitors software probably isn't much different than the main PCB's.. when I first got a Panorama the battery-backed RAM (Zeropower and Timekeeper RAMs) that stores all the game settings and histograms were dead. The RAMs have a 10 year max lifespan so this is common to see on Race Drivin's, and when they are dead you have to run through the "set controls" routine every time you power up. The side monitors obviously have no controls, but it still makes you run through the setup. The side monitors have no switches to enter the selt-test menus either, so I had to make up my own panels with a test switch, abort switch, key switch, and coin switches.. all of which are needed to navigate the test menus..

The attract mode isn't any different than Race Drivin', with the addition of the Stock Car track map screen and some additional text. The Stock Car track does not have an attract mode replay like the other 3 tracks. When showing the track screens, the side monitors display the car's specs.
The Stock Car track is a hell of a lot of fun.. you race against 6 other cars, and all the turns are 90MPH, so you really don't ever go below 100MPH. If you don't wreck its pretty easy to get in 2 laps, I have yet to get a third (factory settings, medium). The track seems to borrow a couple sections from the original speed track, but has a bunch of buildings to look at and plenty of cows as well :) What is really cool about this track is it really lends itself well to Panorama, the other cars are usually always right in the pack with you so you can glance over at the side monitors and see where the other cars are. Qualifying on this track lets you race Phantom Photon.

There WAS a 5-monitor variation of Panorama on this hardware however, which was the police trainer. I don't know much about it, but it is a completely different "game", with a lot of new controls. The police trainer doesn't use the stick shift, but an automatic with the shifter behind the wheel. The police trainer has additional hardware so it can link up with several other police trainers, "review monitors", and other computers, one of which basically runs a laserdisc gun game to emulate what happens after the officer arrives on the scene. It seems to be a pretty impressive system.. I hope somebody can get thier hands on those ROMs someday.. I assume they should run normally on any Race Drivin' main board, other than the link functionality.

Here are some pics of the hardware. The main monitor uses the same metal case as the side monitors, through most of it is enclosed inside the cabinet anyway. The second row of pics are of the Wells-Gardner K8000 medium resolution monitor.. These are used as the main monitor in Panorama.. Both of mine were dead when I got them and both had the same problem, the solder joints on the flyback and the horizontal deflection yoke connector were bad. I didn't take pics of the other monitor's chassis, but it was far worse, burning a 1/2" hole around the horiz yoke connnector. Just a word of advice, if you own a Race Drivin with a K8000 and havn't looked at the monitor, pull the chassis and reflow the solder where necessary as soon as you can! The later k8000's with yellow PCBs don't seem to have this problem, these were used in games like Virtua Racing & Fighter, BOTSS and F-15 Strike Eagle.

rdp.wmv Video clip of attract mode, starting a game, and instant replay. Note the delay the side monitors have when changing screens. 4.2MB 1:36 running time.

I'm unsure of how many Panoramas were manufactured... But there weren't many, the two I own are S/N #11 and #17. Back when the game was new the only place I ever saw them was at Dave and Busters locations. I'll have to get the ROMs dumped, it would be cool to see the game supported in MAME.. or those with Race Drivin's could burn the ROMs and stick them on their board so they can play the Stock Car track like it's supposed to be played. Panorama's main and multisync boards use the 115 SLAPSTIC (security chip), Hard & Race Drivin (cockpit & compact) use the 117 slapstic. The side monitors do not need to be connected and I would think the Panorama ROMs would run on any Race Drivin board, as long as the correct SLAPSTIC is installed.

Atari SLAPSTIC list

Jed Margolin designed the hardware for Hard Drivin', Race Drivin' and Panorama, check out his site for some great tech info.