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Working emulators for the Bally Astrocade

emulation astrocade emulators

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#1 Prosystemsearch OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jan 16, 2017 10:17 PM

The only working one that I know of as of now is MESS. List others for any Platform/OS, be it Android, Mac, PSP, Or Linux.


Edited by Prosystemsearch, Mon Jan 16, 2017 10:17 PM.


#2 Prosystemsearch OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Jan 18, 2017 9:15 AM

Hello? any ideas?



#3 Prosystemsearch OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 19, 2017 3:57 PM

Alright, however long it may take to develop and code a working stand-alone Bally Astrocade emulator, it will be WORTH THE WAIT!! 

 

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#4 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 20, 2017 3:08 PM

Alright, however long it may take to develop and code a working stand-alone Bally Astrocade emulator, it will be WORTH THE WAIT!! 

 

 

I'm curious, why do you feel there needs to be a stand-alone Astrocade emulator?  Have you used the emulator in MESS yet?

 

Adam



#5 Prosystemsearch OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 20, 2017 5:12 PM

 

I'm curious, why do you feel there needs to be a stand-alone Astrocade emulator?  Have you used the emulator in MESS yet?

 

Adam

 

Well, I honestly think its a shame that only MESS has been shown to emulate the Astrocade hardware with success. Also, no I have not used MESS yet. I need to go through it and maybe also a tutorial.



#6 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 22, 2017 12:29 AM

Currently MESS is all that we need for Astrocade. I suggest you try it out and if it does not meet your needs or you find issues with it; then express your concerns and bug reports to the developers. There's a chance they'll listen.

 

There is no shame in having one single emulator cover a platform. It's covered! There are several emulators for each the ColecoVision and Atari 400/800, but yet only 1 of them is worth using. The others miss obvious features or are klutzy to work with.



#7 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 22, 2017 2:52 PM

Currently MESS is all that we need for Astrocade.

 

All of the functions of MESS are now built into MAME.  Plus, I don't think that MESS is updated anymore.  This means that all of the computers and game systems that were emulated as part of MESS are now built into MAME.

 

If you want to use the latest version of the Astrocade emulation, then you need to be using the MAME emulator.  Some updates to the Astrocade emulation in MAME have made it more compatible (for instance, now the 280 ZZZap/Dodgem cartridge works properly now).  If you're using MESS for Astrocade emulation, than I suggest that you upgrade to MAME.

 

Adam



#8 Prosystemsearch OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 22, 2017 3:26 PM

Adam=ballyalley's real name?



#9 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 22, 2017 3:38 PM

All of the functions of MESS are now built into MAME. 

 

Of course, MESS=MAME one and the same.



#10 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 22, 2017 4:01 PM

Adam=ballyalley's real name?

 

Yup, Adam: that's me.  I started the Bally Alley website in 2000.  I am also a co-host of the Bally Alley Astrocast (along with Paul and Michael).  In fact, we'll be recording part of an episode tonight when we review the Blast Droids cartridge and a BASIC game called Haunted House.  Paul and I will also be reviewing two Arcadian newsletters as well as several letters that we sent to the Arcadian (but those will probably be recorded at a separate time).

 

Many people presume that the Astrocade is my favorite game machine, but it's not (the Atari 8-bit computer takes that spot).  However, the Astrocade is quite unusual (i.e. is it a computer or console?) and hardly anyone seems to remember it.  In the late 90s, I received lots of material that I could archive.  I figured that I could concentrate my archiving energies on all the much-better-known systems (i.e. Atari, Coleco, or Intellivision), places where I couldn't make a dent.  Or, I could archive for the Astrocade, and perhaps help dig it out of its forgotten place in the 70s.  I really don't think that more people now know about the Astrocade since I started BallyAlley.com, but surely if someone does hear about the system, then at least now they can find all the information that they want about it on my website.

 

Getting back to Astrocade emulation. This thread has, once again, made me ponder writing an article on how to get Astrocade emulation setup running under MAME for Windows.  It's not complicated, but some people don't like the bother of MAME, which (I presume) is why "Prosystemsearch" would prefer an Astrocade stand-alone emulator. 

 

Adam



#11 Major_Tom_coming_home OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Feb 14, 2017 6:19 PM

Just wanted to say:

 

I never heard of the Astrocade until recently but it seems quite awesome. VERY powerful for it's time, great controllers, and in my opinion it's the best looking game console out there. If it wasn't so difficult and expensive to get a working console and games to go with it, I would get one in a heartbeat. That said, emulation is the only way I'll be able to play the system and resources such as ballyalley are much appreciated. Even though I'll probably never own quite a few obscure old video game consoles, it's nice to have a way to get a taste of what they are all about.

 

 

 

Yup, Adam: that's me.  I started the Bally Alley website in 2000.  I am also a co-host of the Bally Alley Astrocast (along with Paul and Michael).  In fact, we'll be recording part of an episode tonight when we review the Blast Droids cartridge and a BASIC game called Haunted House.  Paul and I will also be reviewing two Arcadian newsletters as well as several letters that we sent to the Arcadian (but those will probably be recorded at a separate time).

 

Many people presume that the Astrocade is my favorite game machine, but it's not (the Atari 8-bit computer takes that spot).  However, the Astrocade is quite unusual (i.e. is it a computer or console?) and hardly anyone seems to remember it.  In the late 90s, I received lots of material that I could archive.  I figured that I could concentrate my archiving energies on all the much-better-known systems (i.e. Atari, Coleco, or Intellivision), places where I couldn't make a dent.  Or, I could archive for the Astrocade, and perhaps help dig it out of its forgotten place in the 70s.  I really don't think that more people now know about the Astrocade since I started BallyAlley.com, but surely if someone does hear about the system, then at least now they can find all the information that they want about it on my website.

 

Getting back to Astrocade emulation. This thread has, once again, made me ponder writing an article on how to get Astrocade emulation setup running under MAME for Windows.  It's not complicated, but some people don't like the bother of MAME, which (I presume) is why "Prosystemsearch" would prefer an Astrocade stand-alone emulator. 

 

Adam



#12 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Feb 14, 2017 8:23 PM

That said, emulation is the only way I'll be able to play the system and resources such as ballyalley are much appreciated.

Emulation of the Astrocade is pretty good. Especially the sound. So you're not missing much, unless "cartridges!".. In fact you'd be gaining good reliability and stability and convenience.

I too would like a stand alone emulator. But can't complain..

Edited by Keatah, Tue Feb 14, 2017 8:24 PM.


#13 youxia ONLINE  

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Posted Sat May 19, 2018 11:21 PM

Is there any way to play the games archived in the prg/wav formats?



#14 R.Cade OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun May 20, 2018 8:45 AM

The MiST FPGA box has a very good Astrocade core, and the Mess version for the original XBOX (MessOxtras) does a pretty good job.



#15 youxia ONLINE  

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Posted Sun May 20, 2018 8:27 PM

Okay, but does that mean these can handle prg/wav?

 

I've just read this topic: http://atariage.com/...trocade-videos/ where OP says the only way to experience these games is to watch the vids, because MESS won't work. So there's no way to do this, at least not on PC?



#16 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon May 21, 2018 8:22 AM

Okay, but does that mean these can handle prg/wav?

 

I've just read this topic: http://atariage.com/...trocade-videos/ where OP says the only way to experience these games is to watch the vids, because MESS won't work. So there's no way to do this, at least not on PC?

 

There is no way to load BASIC WAV files into the Astrocade emulator in MAME (previously MESS).  I've never heard of any FPGA system that can do it either.  There have been some BASIC programs that have been converted to run as cartridges, some of which can be used under emulation.  MAME does support additional memory, but not any I/O that these units provided.  So, while you can run expanded BASICs such as Blue Ram BASIC, you run into the same problem as you do with Bally BASIC (no 300-baud interface) and AstroBASIC (no 2000-baud interface).

 

Another important feature missing from Astrocade emulation (and, I'm pretty sure, FPGA Astrocade systems) is support for "hot" cartridge swapping.  Real Astrocades support swapping-out a cartridge while the system is turned on.  Many BASIC programs that have been converted to cartridge require this method to run.

 

Adam



#17 youxia ONLINE  

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Posted Tue May 22, 2018 5:42 AM

:(

 

This paints a rather bleak picture. There is quite a few of them! For some reason I thought every (or at least 99% of) old syste with some sizeable library is properly emulated.

 

Is it because of some insurmountable technical difficulties or just because it's a niche machine and nobody got around sorting it out?


Edited by youxia, Tue May 22, 2018 5:42 AM.


#18 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue May 22, 2018 6:42 AM

No. It's niche and not a popular system.

 

Other computers/consoles' emulators are able to handle analog tapes or have utilities to convert an analog tape into a bitstream the emulator can work with.



#19 youxia ONLINE  

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Posted Tue May 22, 2018 7:58 PM

I would've thought that the more unpopular the system the more incentive there would be to "rescue" it these days, since most of the other stuff has already been covered.

 

It really bugs me that I can't access this library...yet another one of those "goddamn, wish I could code" moments. At least it's archived and propagated, so hopefully one day somebody will come across and make it work.



#20 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue May 22, 2018 9:24 PM

You'd think.. But life doesn't work that way.

#21 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed May 23, 2018 9:43 AM

I would've thought that the more unpopular the system the more incentive there would be to "rescue" it these days, since most of the other stuff has already been covered.

 

The Astrocade chipset was included early in MAME's history because some of the early arcade classics (namely, Gorf and Wizard of Wor) use most of the same custom chips as the Astrocade home system.  Also, it isn't that developers are not interested in adding support for certain features (like tape support) that are lacking for the Astrocade emulation; it's just that MAME developers probably don't even know these features are missing.

 

When I've had trouble with the Astrocade emulation, I've posted to the MAME Tester forum and MAME has been updated promptly.  You can visit that forum here:

 

http://mametesters.org/
 

Perhaps if enough people say that they would like, at minimum, 2000-baud and 300-baud tape support for the Astrocade, then it might be added in future versions of MAME.  If this gets added, then emulation of the I/O of Blue Ram could be added too.  With I/O emulation, then support keyboard and printer support could be added too.

 

It should be noted that the tools for archiving the 2000-baud and 300-baud tapes do support files that MAME can work with easily.  The archive tools are not limited to just making WAV files.  For instance, the 300-baud files that Bally BASIC uses are KCS (Kansas City Standard).  This format is already supported in MAME, so adding this feature to the Astrocade emulator may be trivial for a programmer familiar with MAME.

 

At least it's archived and propagated, so hopefully one day somebody will come across and make it work.

I have always thought that archiving the Astrocade software was much more important than getting it running under MAME.  My mentality has been that if the software is there, then someone will eventually become interested in getting it running under emulation.

 

In the 1990s, before Vic-20 emulation existed, my friend Ward Shrake helped archive the Vic-20 cartridges.  When he was doing this, the only way to run the cartridge images was to burn them to EPROM and make your own Vic-20 cartridge.  Eventually, Commodore emulation came along and suddenly obscure Vic-20 games could be played on a modern computer; you didn't even need to own the original hardware anymore.  Over time, the emulation of the Vic-20 became better.  Hopefully the same thing will happen with the Astrocade.  It probably will just take people working as a group to get the word out to the MAME developers that Astrocade emulation is missing features.

 

Adam



#22 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed May 23, 2018 9:52 AM

So would you say emulation (in general) came about because people were archiving carts first, and emu was a way to test them without real hardware?

#23 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed May 23, 2018 10:25 AM

So would you say emulation (in general) came about because people were archiving carts first, and emu was a way to test them without real hardware?

 

Emulation's history is quite complicated and goes back long before the personal computer even arrived on the scene.  I think that some of the first emulators were written in the late 1950s or early 1960 (no, that's not a typo).  These emulators were slow, but they did allow companies such as IBM to develop new mainframe platforms that allowed their customers to continue to use old software.  Usually the customers software was written in high-level languages at that time (COBOL or FORTRAN, for instance) which allowed the programs to be re-compiled for the new systems, but anything written in assembly language (or, ugh, machine code!) would have had to be completely re-written.  Apple did something similar to this in the 1990s when they shifted from the Motorola 68K series of CPUs to the PowerPC chips.  The new Macintosh computers emulated the 68000 series of chips, which allowed some software to still run on a system with an entirely new CPU.  However, people who upgraded were shocked to discover that their new computer ran their old software significantly slower than the computer they just replaced.

 

This, of course, doesn't really answer the question of why emulation came about for classic game systems and computers.  Was it to test dumped software?  Probably not, at least not originally, as newly dumped software can always be tested on real hardware.  My guess is that people wrote game emulators because access to the original hardware wasn't easy to get anymore.  People don't seem think about it often, but there are many legitimate emulators out there used to make money.  The popular compilations that contained arcade games for the PS1 and PS2 are too easy examples to point out.

 

This has exhausted my knowledge of emulation.  I'd love to read a fact-filled history of the entire subject.  Even better, I'd love to hear from someone who could explain how to get the Astrocade emulation in MAME updated.

 

Adam



#24 hxlnt OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue May 29, 2018 5:55 PM

 

For instance, the 300-baud files that Bally BASIC uses are KCS (Kansas City Standard).

 

 

I coincidentally cracked open the WAV file for the Color Organ cassette today. Although Color Organ is 300-baud Bally BASIC compatible, it doesn't look like 300-baud KCS to me. For instance, the Color Organ signal is AM rather than FM. I'm working on decoding it now and seeing if it maps to some other existing protocol.



#25 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue May 29, 2018 6:21 PM

 

I coincidentally cracked open the WAV file for the Color Organ cassette today. Although Color Organ is 300-baud Bally BASIC compatible, it doesn't look like 300-baud KCS to me. For instance, the Color Organ signal is AM rather than FM. I'm working on decoding it now and seeing if it maps to some other existing protocol.

 

I think that Color Organ works with a piece of hardware-- but I'm not sure how.

 

The Bally BASIC 300-baud tapes use the KCS.  Standard KCS tools for other platforms work fine for Bally tapes.  All of the tape archive tools to work with the various formats of Astrocade "tapes" (i.e. WAV files) are here:

 

http://www.ballyalle...hive_tools.html

 

Some of these archiving tools are pretty old.  I can use them under a 64-bit Windows 7 environment, but I have to use the DOSBox emulator to make them work.  I think that most of the 300-baud "tapes" on BallyAlley.com have all been digitally archived, but you may find a few of them that are still in RAW format.  By RAW, I just mean that the files are as-is; they were simply recorded from tape.  If for some reason you're interested in clean, but not digitally archived 300-baud or 2000-baud WAV recording, then I can create one from my Astrocade.  This would avoid any of the hiss and noise that was recorded from those now 30-plus year-old tapes.

 

The 2000-baud "AstroBASIC" and Blue Ram BASIC files are not KCS, but the format is described in the tools (Ballybin and AstroWAV) that archive these programs.  Be aware that "AstroBASIC" programs interweave data with the program, while the extended BASICs don't do this (as programs load into expansion RAM, not to screen RAM).

 

MAME doesn't support tape I/O, but by coincidence, I posted a thread about called "Best Way to Report Missing Vital Features?" about this subject to the MAME Testers website this afternoon.  You can view the post here (but I think that you have to be a member to read it, or, at the very least, to reply to it):

 

http://mametesters.o...iew.php?id=6987

 

If you're not already a member of the testing site, then be aware that it took me quite a while before I was approved (I think it was about a week or so).  I hope that at least posting about the missing features of the Astrocade emulator in MAME gets someone to notice that some work is needed in that area.

 

One last thing, the Astrocade is a weird animal.  Writing this post made me realize just how foreign it must seem to the outside world.

 

Adam







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