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16 Bit Gaming Console

Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by Billybobmoscow, Nov 21, 2012.

  1. Billybobmoscow

    Billybobmoscow

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    Nov 21, 2012
    This may not be the right forum for posting, but because this will be more an electronics project than anything else, I'm sure I'll get plenty of help here.

    I've got an idea for a (likely large) project of which the goal is to create a fairly simple game console. It will have at least 16 bits, and pinouts to handle different types of cartridges (or alternatively usb ports to handle ROM images... but this is probably just a complication.) What I'm focusing is SNES, but if it's not too much of a problem, I may also adapt it to lower bit games like NES, Genesis, and even A2600 cartridges as well. I know that things like this can be bought much more easily, but I'm sure that 90% of the people on this forum appreciate the value of making something sweet with your own hands.

    As to the somewhat more technical aspects, I've looked at the arduino, but it quickly became obvious that no version is anywhere near powerful enough to run graphics and sound alongside being the main CPU, and using separate arduinos for these functions would be something of a minor nightmare in making them communicate well. So: does anyone have any idea as to how to get this kind of thing to work? I know enough about working with analogue electronics and technique, but this is my first real CPU-powered project. Schematics (and my own prodding) reveal that the analogue circuitry in these original consoles is a little complex to work with, but if it turns out that the pre-made board option is worse, I guess it's time for a little (read: TONS) of soldering...

    Am I getting in over my head here? Or is this a manageable project, and if so, some ideas? Thanks, and sorry for the word-wall...
     
  2. CocaCola

    CocaCola

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    Apr 7, 2012
    Google 'Raspberry Pi SNES emulator'
     
  3. Billybobmoscow

    Billybobmoscow

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    Nov 21, 2012
    Thanks! I'd heard of the Pi before, but hadn't even considered it for this project; seems like it could work perfectly! People who've used it for game emulation before say it has horrible audio, but that could probably be fixed by running that with a simpler separate chip or some sort of filter (like the arduino...) The only if on this one is translating the controller input (reading the cartridges would be very simple indeed if I'm running an emulator.) It might even be easier to load it with a small version of linux just for running the emulator... that would also come with the benefit of basically having a tiny computer. The possibilities really open up here.

    But still, I say... keep the suggestions coming! Anything you have to say on this will probably help, as in some areas I'm still completely in the dark.
     
  4. CocaCola

    CocaCola

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    Apr 7, 2012
    Since the SNES sound was almost completely removed to itself in the original hardware emulating it outside the main emulator is not a far fetched idea... And it's easy enough to find base sound emulators for just that purpose...

    http://www.slack.net/~ant/libs/audio.html

    Heck it probably wouldn't be all that hard to source the original sound chip out of a junk unit and recreate that portion of the emulator with real hardware...

    I guess it all depends upon how much you want to put into it... There are so many well written emulators out there that at least for me a small desktop PC packed with emulators is a better option... I get the entire catalog of vintage home game systems emulated as well as arcade emulation with a couple of hundred dollar PC... I know there is still a coolness to building your own unit, but for the most part it's not all that practical in the end to reinvent the wheel...
     
  5. Billybobmoscow

    Billybobmoscow

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    Nov 21, 2012
    It's true. I've even already got an original SNES and a lot of cartridges (plus ones for NES that I currently have no way of playing.) But the main points for me are:

    1. Coolness factor
    2. The fact that I can say I built something like that.
    3. Portability- when you think about it, having a small, fairly light box that can play just about any mainstream console game up the last of the 90's (the Raspberry Pi would allow even more capability given RAM increases) seems a whole lot better then a PC... for this purpose anyway! You could really wonder why anyone still uses consoles, and some people do, but they do have some advantages. Plus... thinking ahead... I could sell this junk, if there's a market for it.
     
  6. CocaCola

    CocaCola

    3,635
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    Apr 7, 2012
    In the end the Raspberry Pi is a computer, it's just a mini one... Cheap ARM processors have opened up a big market for small portable single board computers...

    There is a huge market for vintage game systems, even big enough to support new bootleg game consoles being made now... There is a dual NES and SNES game console that can be had for about $40 with two controllers, fully compatible with the real cartridges... People love the classics, it's the reason I have always had a working MAME system on at least one computer in my house for many many years now... Some day I will actually get off my lazy butt and build a dedicated cabinet, I even have a work vintage change door already set aside so I get the vintage 25cent play look...
     
  7. Billybobmoscow

    Billybobmoscow

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    Nov 21, 2012
    I think a cabinet would actually be quite an easy build. I really am better at woodworking then I am electronics, but either side of the project would probably be simple enough- especially considering they run in the high 3 figures!

    Back onto the original topic, I may have a programmer to help me sort out the controller inputs once it's all soldered (I don't know that garbage!) I may just set up a Raspberry Pi system with a couple drives I have lying around, bump up the VM so it runs faster, and then figure out how to make the controllers/carts talk to it. At that, I'd also have a new PC for browsing the web. An awesome goal for this would be to make it PC game compatible (or at least let it run the more trivial simcity 3000) as well...
     
  8. CocaCola

    CocaCola

    3,635
    4
    Apr 7, 2012
    The old controllers were just a bunch of momentary switches, not hard at all to interface... If you can't figure that out I can't for the life of me figure out how you plan to write an emulator...

    You will need a bunch of CPU overhead if you are going to attempt to emulate Windows so that you can run a Windows based games...
     
  9. Billybobmoscow

    Billybobmoscow

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    Nov 21, 2012
    Well, if I get an emulator running on the Pi, the control interfacing for the games would obviously be extremely easy. The problem (that I might have stated a little better) is more like extending the controller's capability. On a normal SNES, of course, only the game's concerns matter. But on a small computer, there needs to be a separate interface for keyboard and mouse replacement, which is a little tougher. The mouse could be done with directional plus L and R, with the only challenge being getting the sensitivity just right, but the keys could be a bit more. My general idea right now is to steal the code from a simple onscreen keyboard and have a hot button (probably A/B/Y/X) to open it up. The cartridges probably won't present a problem, as ROM images speak in the same way as they do- meaning that any emulator I happen to use will read them without trouble. I certainly don't plan to write my own emulator- I'll probably just find one that's small and simple, then, if necessary, just have an auto open function.

    As to possible PC games, I'll probably have to run linux no matter how I shop this thing up, so I'll just be going through the sloppy process of getting PC games to run well on linux. It's hard and probably not worth it, but eh, why not... I guess I could in theory strip windows to its needed components and just have a PC game boot, but that would also be a little complex, plus, as you pointed out, need a whole lot more CPU and RAM than the Pi alone has to offer.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2012
  10. CocaCola

    CocaCola

    3,635
    4
    Apr 7, 2012
    Why an interface board? They can be connected directly to the micro, the old controllers are simple digital on/off logic any general purpose input/output pin will be able to interface them... If they are analog joysticks then you will need to use and analog input pin, again built into most micros...

    A ROM dump is resident memory is not that same as accessing external memory like cartridges... The emulator just like every native call converts it to what will work on the virtual machine...
     
  11. Billybobmoscow

    Billybobmoscow

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    Nov 21, 2012
    Well, let's see... you seem to have caught my post before I edited it for a lot more
    clarification about what I'm trying to use the controller for. Silly ol' me. And as well, I ought to have mentioned I already have a pinout board for the purpose of cart reading, basically for the purpose of what I'm trying to do now. I managed to wed it to a 9-pin serial plug (soldering high-speed USB cables is worse than using ancient cords) and read cartridge info using my PC. Most of my cartridges worked with ZSNES (I'll likely be using a much simpler emulator for the actual project,) and the ones that didn't I think I can attribute to the actual copies, which seem to work poorly on the actual SNES.
     
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