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2016 Flashback speculation thread


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#126 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 8, 2016 1:47 PM

Any chance they've improved the emulator this year? It has been far from perfect so far, such as my favorite example with Battlezone where the radar is virtually broken. Granted I haven't been able to test that example out in recent Flashbacks, but you've spoken like there has been no emulator changes in recent releases so I'd imagine the bugged radar remains in the latest model were Battlezone able to be played on it.

 

Bill, how far does the compatibility / emulation go?  You state that special chips are not supported.  I take this mean that there will be no support for the DPC chip in Pitfall II.  What about things like the Super Chip used in some of the later Atari games, RAM+ used by CBS, the complex bankswitching used in BurgerTime, etc?  Are all of the various bankswitching methods (that don't use extra ram or hardware) supported?

 

In theory, all of the above should be possible because the handheld is just running an emulator.  Have certain capabilities (like DPC) been excluded on purpose to keep the original license holders happy?

 

 

 

I can't imagine a company spending the amount of time and effort needed to code all the extra niceties like DPC and DPC+, or all bank switch methods. That's a lot of work and testing. But yes in theory it could be done. Why not?

 

Personally I would go as high as $75 if they bumped up the featureset to include wireless controllers, paddles/driving/keyboard, external power, switchable on/off display. And of course all the extra things to round out the emulator capabilities.

 

Essentially we'd have a replacement console. As long as you don't mind "not original" hardware!

 



#127 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 8, 2016 1:49 PM

BTW: I like the color scheme of the buttons and the housing. The orangey-yellowish buttons in contrast with the dark casing screams 70's. Now all we need is a woodgrain sticker-decal!



#128 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 8, 2016 2:03 PM

BTW: I like the color scheme of the buttons and the housing. The orangey-yellowish buttons in contrast with the dark casing screams 70's. Now all we need is a woodgrain sticker-decal!

 

Woodgrain would be nice, but if it's just a sticker, it looks like it's just pandering to the retro crowd. There's such a thing as trying too hard.

Screen-Shot-2012-10-19-at-4.32.50-PM.jpg

 

 

The design in the leaked photos reminds me of Entex Space Invader, which is period-appropriate without being cliched. That was one of the first fun arcade-styled handhelds, and I have fond (if distant) memories of it!

 

Entex-SpaceInvaderBlack.jpg

 



#129 bcombee OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 8, 2016 2:27 PM

"59 Steeplechase" is a paddle game, so unless it was reworked or there was some sort of game pad -> paddle mode, it wouldn't work on the portable.



#130 Bill Loguidice OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 8, 2016 2:54 PM

I did suggest woodgrain to match the console, but we ended up going with just the coloring to match the Flashback console (and there were a lot of variations that led to the now final color scheme). A sticker would have probably been cheesy and not worth the extra cost on the handheld for the sliver it would have occupied on the top and/or bottom. I'm sure like with the sticker replacements for the Intellivision and ColecoVision Flashbacks, though, there may very well be a cool homebrew aftermarket of custom stickers to change things up.

 

There has actually been a good deal of criticism of the look of the thing, how it doesn't bring to mind the original system, etc., but I think more importantly it uses a proven handheld design that's comfortable and sturdy. The coloring is secondary at best, although I do agree the look can be polarizing. I think it does grow on you over time, though.

 

The emulator does allow for joysticks to work with paddle games, but it's not ideal, obviously.

 

As for adding extra features, etc., it all has to balance out with the target price point, which is something a lot of people fail to consider for obvious reasons. I can tell you that most, if not all, of the retailers wouldn't carry these products if they couldn't be sold in the $40 range. That doesn't give a lot of flexibility for some of the nicer features that those of us on this board would definitely appreciate, but almost certainly doesn't matter to the target customer. I've said it before and I'll say it again, we'll never get retro gamer perfection out of a company like AtGames, who works within the restrictions of their market. That's why it's so nice we also have homebrew creators and niche companies who can feasibly work in the thousands or even hundreds of units to turn to (albeit at sometimes many times the cost). With all of that in mind, I'd say the Flashback Portable is probably the closest we've come to a low cost product of its type that appeals to the broadest range of real retro gamers.



#131 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 8, 2016 4:09 PM

I was thinking a novelty sticker for a novelty device. Maybe someone will print up a series of stripes and the Atari logo and somehow make it not cheesy.



#132 Atariboy OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 8, 2016 6:18 PM

"59 Steeplechase" is a paddle game, so unless it was reworked or there was some sort of game pad -> paddle mode, it wouldn't work on the portable.

 

If my recollections are correct, Steeplechase plays just fine with the joystick on even stock 2600 hardware. It's a workaround that I suspect was deliberate back in the day (I recall the gambling titles similarly being fully playable with a joystick despite technically being paddle games). 

 

It has been years since I played it this way, but as I recall all that paddle controllers gain for you is opening it up from a maximum of two players with joysticks to the full four players. And since you're obviously limited to single player only on this handheld, it's a non-issue here. 

 

Even if paddle controllers are necessary for extra finesse if some of the jump settings are inaccessible with the joystick on genuine hardware (Like I said, it has been years since I did this and my memory isn't the greatest), past compilations have shown that it still makes the transition just fine to digital control like on the Nintendo DS with the d-pad standing in for the paddle.


Edited by Atariboy, Fri Jul 8, 2016 6:34 PM.


#133 onmode-ky OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 8, 2016 7:11 PM

Congratulations to Flojomojo on correctly guessing the identity of the new game!
 

Bill probably can't/won't say, but I'll bet it's the TITAN, or a slight variation


Bill's note that it's a new generation of what's powered AtGames' previous Flashbacks confirms the Titan lineage--but I've lately been wondering if the chip that has powered all the previous Flashbacks is, in fact, "the" Titan. In my data files, I list the Atari FB3-6 and INTV/CV FB systems as running on Titan for the following two reasons:

- a discussion I had a few years ago with someone who consulted on the Flashback 3 and 4 (2011-2012 releases) revealed that the word "Titan" was printed directly on the chip package in early, non-glob-top revisions of the hardware;

- the debug modes in all of the recent Flashbacks still have "Titan" displayed at the top of the screen.

But, the full name of the chip as written in the original 2005 press release is "Titan 1.0"; so, at this point, a decade later, maybe "Titan" is really just a family name, kind of like "Pentium"? And so the actual chip models would have their own names.
 

If any opportunity presents itself, the sucking up will be noted.  :grin:


I was thinking of going the "kidnap-waterboard Bill" route, but geez, sucking up is much easier! :P

onmode-ky

Edited by onmode-ky, Fri Jul 8, 2016 8:09 PM.


#134 phoenixdownita OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jul 9, 2016 12:35 AM

No HDMI?

Sub 40 $ streaming devices have HDMI these days ..... ChromeCast etc.... it's time these little "retro" consoles up their antes and make the transition.



#135 Atariboy OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jul 9, 2016 2:44 AM

I think Bill has said something about next-gen hardware for 2017 being in the works, so hopefully that's part of the gameplan. 


Edited by Atariboy, Sat Jul 9, 2016 2:45 AM.


#136 Kosmic Stardust ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Jul 9, 2016 3:58 AM

HDMI should come out before long, hopefully by 2017.

That said, the portable looks to be awesome sauce, although the fact that Space Rocks and several other homebrew will undoubtedly not work on it makes me a sad panda. :sad:

But the portable Atari is definitely on my wishlist this year! :D

#137 Bill Loguidice OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jul 9, 2016 11:51 AM

HDMI is not in the gameplan at this time. They are aware of the value in that, but there are technical limitations for now. I will continue to push for that and proper wireless (over infrared), but err on the side of it not happening for 2017.



#138 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jul 9, 2016 12:22 PM

I assume that when you say, "proper wireless (over infrared)" you mean

RF, which is better than infrared, will be used

(NOT wireless communication via infrared, which is limited by line of sight and can be impacted by ambient light)

#139 Bill Loguidice OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jul 9, 2016 12:28 PM

I assume that when you say, "proper wireless (over infrared)" you mean

RF, which is better than infrared, will be used

(NOT wireless communication via infrared, which is limited by line of sight and can be impacted by ambient light)

 

INSTEAD of infrared, right. I'd prefer Bluetooth, of course, but RF would be good too. The Atari and Sega consoles presently use infrared, which has the issues that you mentioned. Their existing chipsets won't support anything else.



#140 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jul 9, 2016 12:36 PM

Thanks, I just wanted to be sure (and needlessly pedantic)

#141 Kosmic Stardust ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Jul 9, 2016 8:25 PM

@Bill Loguidice Maybe you can chime in on this: Reliance on composite and IR instead of RF may have to do with regulatory fees.

 

Infrared communication is popular in these portable units because FCC regulations. When a device uses any kind of wireless RF for communications, for any licensed or unlicensed band, it gets classed as an "intentional radiator" and testing becomes far more stringent. The IR diodes do not release RF energy (although the invisible light they put out is technically just another form of electromagnetic radiation) so FCC testing is far cheaper.

 

That is also why composite is still cheaper and preferable to HDMI, not only due to lower bandwidth but because they don't pay a commision to a consortium for using the connector. I think low volume botique homebrew efforts like the AVS and HDMI upgrades skirt around paying these fees by just buying the 50 cent connector from a parts supplier in China and interfacing it directly to an expensive FPGA chipset. But a mass manufactured device like an HD Flashback would have to pay the HDMI consortium for the privilege of using the connector, and then you have the issue of various display devices supporting different resolutions like 480i/p, 720p, and 1080i/p. 480p over a Flashback would be sufficient for low power CPU emulation though, without deinterlace artifacts.



#142 Bill Loguidice OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jul 9, 2016 9:01 PM

@Bill Loguidice Maybe you can chime in on this: Reliance on composite and IR instead of RF may have to do with regulatory fees.

 

Infrared communication is popular in these portable units because FCC regulations. When a device uses any kind of wireless RF for communications, for any licensed or unlicensed band, it gets classed as an "intentional radiator" and testing becomes far more stringent. The IR diodes do not release RF energy (although the invisible light they put out is technically just another form of electromagnetic radiation) so FCC testing is far cheaper.

 

That is also why composite is still cheaper and preferable to HDMI, not only due to lower bandwidth but because they don't pay a commision to a consortium for using the connector. I think low volume botique homebrew efforts like the AVS and HDMI upgrades skirt around paying these fees by just buying the 50 cent connector from a parts supplier in China and interfacing it directly to an expensive FPGA chipset. But a mass manufactured device like an HD Flashback would have to pay the HDMI consortium for the privilege of using the connector, and then you have the issue of various display devices supporting different resolutions like 480i/p, 720p, and 1080i/p. 480p over a Flashback would be sufficient for low power CPU emulation though, without deinterlace artifacts.

 

This may very well be true, although I was specifically told it was a technical limitation in both instances rather than a procedural one. I do agree though that at the very least the quality of the composite can be improved.



#143 Kosmic Stardust ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Jul 9, 2016 9:09 PM

 

This may very well be true, although I was specifically told it was a technical limitation in both instances rather than a procedural one. I do agree though that at the very least the quality of the composite can be improved.

Is the Flashback composite interlaced (480i) or progressive (240p)?



#144 Atariboy OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jul 9, 2016 9:56 PM

I'm sure that Bill addressed this at least somewhat and that I've already read it over the past couple of days, but does the Atari Flashback 7 offer anything this year besides Frogger that last year's model didn't?

 

Other than the original Atari Flashback, I've been buying these each year (Even the FB2+). Almost feel obligated to continue at this point, but without something of significance, I think I should just be satisfied with the handheld for this year's round. But if there's something neat here over last year's iteration, I'll likely go for both...


Edited by Atariboy, Sat Jul 9, 2016 10:04 PM.


#145 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jul 9, 2016 9:57 PM

Kosmic -- surely one could work around FCC rules by simply using a previously-tested, off-the-shelf Bluetooth module nowadays, don't you think?

#146 1980gamer OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 10, 2016 3:01 PM

HDMI is not in the gameplan at this time. They are aware of the value in that, but there are technical limitations for now. I will continue to push for that and proper wireless (over infrared), but err on the side of it not happening for 2017.

Do these joysticks stink because of signal problems or are they just non-responsive?

 

The flashback 2 sticks were very good, I have had no luck with any of the newer versions :(

The Intellivision controllers are AMAZING!  Better than Mattel made :)   To bad the coleco controllers didn't get the same love.



#147 Bill Loguidice OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 10, 2016 4:04 PM

Do these joysticks stink because of signal problems or are they just non-responsive?

 

The flashback 2 sticks were very good, I have had no luck with any of the newer versions :(

The Intellivision controllers are AMAZING!  Better than Mattel made :)   To bad the coleco controllers didn't get the same love.

 

It's the infrared technology that requires line of sight. if you have good line of sight, you have no issue, but that's not always easy. The wired controllers that AtGames makes are excellent because obviously they don't have any connectivity issues.



#148 Raticon OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 10, 2016 5:48 PM

Very pleasant news. I will definetly try to get my hands on the handheld Atari unit as trying to get emulators to run on my Android Blaze Tab properly is a migraine inducing torture with 50/50 odds to work in the end anyway. Might grab the Flashback 7 too.

I also stumbled over a Sega unit with actual wired controllers bundled on the Atgames e-store. Havent seen it before so it was a pleasant surprise too.

#149 davidcalgary29 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 10, 2016 7:11 PM

Yes, you're right --- Dollar General is the one. I don't have that store within an hour's drive so I can never remember the name.
Atari sold off Battlezone in their last bankruptcy filing so it won't be on this thing -- problem "solved." I wonder how usable the radar will be on a small screen? I guess we will find out when we load the ROM. Maybe someone will be able to mod the ROM to make it work better. Until then, hopefully we can still play Robot Tank.


I'm an eleven-hour drive to the US border -- thirteen to the nearest town in Montana. It'll be mail-order for me. :)

#150 FifthPlayer OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 10, 2016 8:18 PM

 

It's the infrared technology that requires line of sight. if you have good line of sight, you have no issue, but that's not always easy. The wired controllers that AtGames makes are excellent because obviously they don't have any connectivity issues.

 

I've had problems with the infrared controllers by accidentally covering the infrared emitter with my hand during gameplay.

 

I use the wired controllers from AtGames, which are superior to the real CX-40 sticks from Atari.   The only thing about the wired controllers is that they lack a button to get back to the Flashback main menu. So you need to power-cycle to play a different game, or keep the wireless controller handy.

 

The paddle controllers are superior to the originals as well.   I use the wired joysticks with my Atari 8-bit computer and they work great.

 

And yes, the Intellivision Flashback controllers are also superior to the real thing from Mattel. 

 

So big thumbs-up to the AtGames reproduction controllers.  


Edited by FifthPlayer, Sun Jul 10, 2016 8:20 PM.





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