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FPGA 2D Video Game Console

FPGA Video Game Console 2D Games Consoles

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Poll: FPGA 2D Video Game Console (15 member(s) have cast votes)

Do you play video games?

  1. yes (15 votes [100.00%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 100.00%

  2. no (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

How old are you?

  1. under 18 (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  2. 18 - 20 (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  3. 20 - 25 (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  4. 25 - 30 (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  5. 30 - 35 (3 votes [20.00%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 20.00%

  6. 35 - 40 (4 votes [26.67%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 26.67%

  7. over 40 (8 votes [53.33%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 53.33%

Do you like or would you like to play on a video game console?

  1. yes (14 votes [93.33%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 93.33%

  2. no (1 votes [6.67%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 6.67%

would you like to play on a video game console that is running in the FPGA?

  1. yes (14 votes [93.33%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 93.33%

  2. no (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  3. I do not know the FPGA (1 votes [6.67%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 6.67%

How interested would you be?

  1. not interested at all (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  2. somewhat interested (3 votes [20.00%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 20.00%

  3. interested (3 votes [20.00%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 20.00%

  4. very interested (9 votes [60.00%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 60.00%

how would you like the games to be inserted on the console?

  1. On a Micro SD (14 votes [93.33%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 93.33%

  2. Using a USB cable to the PC (1 votes [6.67%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 6.67%

how much would you like a console that only supports 2d?

  1. not interested at all (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  2. somewhat interested (2 votes [13.33%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 13.33%

  3. interested (8 votes [53.33%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 53.33%

  4. very interested (5 votes [33.33%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 33.33%

How much will you be willing to pay?

  1. 50 - 100 Dollars (4 votes [26.67%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 26.67%

  2. 100 - 150 Dollars (4 votes [26.67%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 26.67%

  3. 150 - 200 Dollars (2 votes [13.33%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 13.33%

  4. Over 200 Dollars (4 votes [26.67%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 26.67%

  5. Under 50 Dollars (1 votes [6.67%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 6.67%

how many buttons, besides the D pad, would you like the gamepad to have?

  1. 4 (5 votes [33.33%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 33.33%

  2. 6 (2 votes [13.33%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 13.33%

  3. 8 (3 votes [20.00%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 20.00%

  4. 10 (1 votes [6.67%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 6.67%

  5. 12 (4 votes [26.67%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 26.67%

What resolution would you like the console to have?

  1. 256x224 (2 votes [13.33%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 13.33%

  2. 320x224 (3 votes [20.00%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 20.00%

  3. 512x448 (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  4. 640x480 (10 votes [66.67%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 66.67%

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#1 Gilberetsu OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Oct 1, 2017 7:33 AM

Hey,
 

I am an electronics engineer student and as my final career project I want to create a game console in an FPGA. It is going to be a 2D video game console, the maximun amount of colors is 256 and is going to be developed in a Spartan6. I want to know your thoughts or any question you have. And if you can, please fill in the survey.



#2 Pixelboy OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Oct 1, 2017 10:01 AM

Reading your survey, I just had to take a few minutes to write a few custom answers, given that the selection of choices for each question is a little lacking.
 

Do you play video games?


This is the forum section of a web site called AtariAge. You will not find any video gaming enthusiasts here, obviously. When we're not posting messages on these forums, we're all busy playing a friendly game of Go.

 

How old are you?


I think Dracula said it best: "What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets!"

 

Do you like or would you like to play on a video game console?


Absolutely not. I find Pac-Man to be a much more satisfying experience when played on an abacus. By the way, if I answer "yes" to the very first question of your survey, but "no" to this question, does that make me a masochist? I'm excluding PC gamers from this equation, of course.

 

Would you like to play on a video game console that is running in the FPGA?


a-AH! I see what you did there! The inclusion of the word "on" makes this a trick question! Since an FPGA runs a virtual game console, such a console has no physical presence, and therefore, it's impossible to stand, sit, or "play" on it! Shame on you for pursuing such chicanery!

 

How interested would you be?


I find this question rather puzzling. Are we still talking about video games, FPGAs and whatnot? Because that's already been covered by the question just above this one.

 

How would you like the games to be inserted on the console?


I'd like to use a single hand, if possible. Doing it with toes is no fun at all, because you need both feet to do it, and you have to take off your shoes every single time and that's always annoying, even if you do it for the purpose of a funny YouTube video.

 

How much would you like a console that only supports 2d?


Well, a 1D console is essentially a carnival high striker, and that's only mildly entertaining for a little while. And a true 3D console would actually be the home version of the Star Trek holodeck, which I think is a little beyond the scope of your proposed project. Same goes for 4D, which is actually time travel. So I'm going to go with the probable majority and say 2D should do fine... As long as there's no sprite flicker.

 

How much will you be willing to pay?


That's the wrong question to ask. The correct question is "Kickstarter or Indigogo?".

 

How many buttons, besides the D pad, would you like the gamepad to have?


This is probably the most profound philosophical question of our time. Two buttons or not two buttons, that is the question. I could recycle Douglas Adams' probable answer, but that would be lame.

 

What resolution would you like the console to have?


I've got your resolution right here (feel free to adjust it to your liking): "I, currently unnamed FPGA gaming console, vow to always display a maximum of 256 colors, to disallow purchasable/downloadable extra content in any of the games I run, to only run bug-free software, and to never allow myself to be placed inside a Jaguar console shell, for as long as I shall exist."


Seriously, if you want some interesting specs to ponder about for your FPGA gaming console, have a look here. ;)

#3 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Sun Oct 1, 2017 1:15 PM

That was an amusing response to counter the other bad news I read about earlier.

I want to add some stuff, but I'm not sure exactly what.

#4 Gilberetsu OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Oct 2, 2017 6:35 AM

That is the best response I've seen on the internet Pixelboy, It made me laugh so hard  :lol:  :lol: . But it makes sense, I guess XD.

 

 

This is probably the most profound philosophical question of our time. Two buttons or not two buttons, that is the question. I could recycle Douglas Adams' probable answer, but that would be lame.

That was the best part.

 

And thanks for the tip.  :thumbsup:



#5 Pixelboy OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Oct 2, 2017 4:23 PM

I'm glad you liked my response, because I wasn't trying to be snarky. I was just in a silly mood. :)

#6 grips03 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Oct 4, 2017 4:02 PM

FPGA Intellivision / Tutorvision would be great.



#7 matthew180 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Oct 22, 2017 7:49 PM

The questions were too binary or did not offer options that worked for me.  It also sounds like you are trying to create a project that will make money, however you also state that you are a student doing this as a final project.  Which is it?  IMO you should do it because you want to, you think you can pull it off, and you will have fun.  As soon as you start making decisions based on requirements to satisfy an imaginary set of "gamers", you can guarantee it will never get done.

 

Make up a set of realistic set of goals for yourself and implement that.  I would also recommend doing an SoC of a system that already exists, that way you will have a code-base of software that you can test with without having to write your own.  If you do make a custom system, guaranteed no one will buy it since there will be exactly zero software for it, and no nostalgic attachment to coerce people into spending money on it.



#8 Gilberetsu OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Oct 22, 2017 8:08 PM

I agree with you matthew180. But I did the poll just because my final project report requires that I put some sort of "reason" behind my decisions. As you said I wont be able to finish the console if I want to satisfy someone else, I agree with that, but I will try my best to do some of those things, at least in the time I have. But if I see it would take too much time I am going to do it the way I see it can be done.
 
I told my professor that the console wouldn't sell, and he told me that I have to do a poll anyway, so I did it. I have to do a financial plan too, and thats why I asked how much money you are willing to pay for a console you dont know anything about.
 
I am just doing the console because it's interesting and fun. I dont have any plans to sell the console, if the university doesnt want anything to do with the console (for some reason they have the right to do something with it), I am going to put the source code on github.


#9 Kosmic Stardust OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Oct 22, 2017 8:47 PM

For inserting games, you left out the cart slot. :P

 

I all seriousness, SD card would be preferable because it future-proofs the system. Look at all the useless hardware out that would still work fine but used parallel / serial ports, USB, ect that drivers are no longer supported.

 

Also will the output be analog or digital? Pretty much all game consoles with analog video output are 240p by default, so the resolution question is somewhat redundant. I chose 640x480p because this scales better to HDMI. 240p 2D consoles should be line-doubled, not scaled. 3D consoles need a fast bilinear scalar though for optimum results.



#10 Gilberetsu OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Oct 22, 2017 8:58 PM

Also will the output be analog or digital? Pretty much all game consoles with analog video output are 240p by default, so the resolution question is somewhat redundant. I chose 640x480p because this scales better to HDMI. 240p 2D consoles should be line-doubled, not scaled. 3D consoles need a fast bilinear scalar though for optimum results.

It's going to be digital output, and I am going to scale ir to 1024x768, it's going to have black spaces or some sort of frame, because I dont want to strech the image.

 

And yes, the SD card reader is the best option, and the one that i am going to implement first.



#11 Kosmic Stardust OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Oct 22, 2017 9:15 PM

It's going to be digital output, and I am going to scale ir to 1024x768, it's going to have black spaces or some sort of frame, because I dont want to strech the image.

 

And yes, the SD card reader is the best option, and the one that i am going to implement first.

You may want to consider support for 1280x720 as this is better supported by widescreen displays and scales better from 240p.



#12 Gilberetsu OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Oct 22, 2017 9:30 PM

Are you sure about that? I think most monitors support 1024x768. yea I could use 240p and scale it to 1280 x 720, so there is no black space.


Edited by Gilberetsu, Sun Oct 22, 2017 9:30 PM.


#13 matthew180 OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Oct 24, 2017 12:18 PM

I manged to vote. ;-)

 

I'm unclear how much you have to implement yourself, and how much you can use any existing HDL cores?  If you have to implement a CPU yourself, and if you have not done it before, I would suggest you limit the project to only making the CPU work.  That is a big enough task all by itself.  You also do not mention your skill level in HDL and getting circuit working.  If you are learning during this process, everything will take longer.  If you can use existing HDL cores, then I would suggest a list like this:

 

CPU: existing Z80 or 6502 core.  Reason: Proven cores, tools and software already available.  If you go with the Z80 and pick the T80 core, make sure you hunt down the latest mash-up of fixes since the version on opencores has bugs.

 

Audio: existing core, or roll your own.  Reason: Audio is pretty simple, so you can do it yourself or find something already proven.

 

Memory: FPGA Block RAM.  Reason: the Spartan 6 should have enough BRAM for a basic system, and BRAM is fast and easy to work with.  If you feel you have to use SDRAM, use an existing proven core and understand it will be slower than BRAM/SRAM.

 

Video: Roll your own VGA.  Reason: VGA is convenient and easy.  You can roll your own in a few hours and have graphics on the screen.  If you are going to use a digital interface (i.e. HDMI), use an existing core.

 

 

For the ROM you can use FPGA resources or SD.  If you use SD keep in mind that you will need some sort of CPU core and software stack to read data from the FAT file system.  Otherwise you can go the quick-and-dirty way and store binary data raw on the SD card, but you will need to write software on a PC to take the binary files and write them to the raw unformatted SD card.



#14 Gilberetsu OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Oct 24, 2017 1:36 PM

I manged to vote. ;-)

 

I'm unclear how much you have to implement yourself, and how much you can use any existing HDL cores?  If you have to implement a CPU yourself, and if you have not done it before, I would suggest you limit the project to only making the CPU work.  That is a big enough task all by itself.  You also do not mention your skill level in HDL and getting circuit working.  If you are learning during this process, everything will take longer.  If you can use existing HDL cores, then I would suggest a list like this:

 

CPU: existing Z80 or 6502 core.  Reason: Proven cores, tools and software already available.  If you go with the Z80 and pick the T80 core, make sure you hunt down the latest mash-up of fixes since the version on opencores has bugs.

 

Audio: existing core, or roll your own.  Reason: Audio is pretty simple, so you can do it yourself or find something already proven.

 

Memory: FPGA Block RAM.  Reason: the Spartan 6 should have enough BRAM for a basic system, and BRAM is fast and easy to work with.  If you feel you have to use SDRAM, use an existing proven core and understand it will be slower than BRAM/SRAM.

 

Video: Roll your own VGA.  Reason: VGA is convenient and easy.  You can roll your own in a few hours and have graphics on the screen.  If you are going to use a digital interface (i.e. HDMI), use an existing core.

 

 

For the ROM you can use FPGA resources or SD.  If you use SD keep in mind that you will need some sort of CPU core and software stack to read data from the FAT file system.  Otherwise you can go the quick-and-dirty way and store binary data raw on the SD card, but you will need to write software on a PC to take the binary files and write them to the raw unformatted SD card.

 

I have to use the external memory, I know is slower than the BRAM, but I will think about something like a cache and see if i can manage with that or talk to my professor.

I have to create my own CPU, I think that if I can change the memory where the screen data is stored, if I can do arithmetic operations and jump from and instruction tu another I well be fine. But I now creating a good microprocessor is not an easy task, I am learning about it. 

I have a video system working, so not a big problem. Abou the SD card I am going the quick and dirty way for now.

 

And I am going to work with the audio when I get the microprocessor working.

I know VHDL (well, maybe), like 3 months ago a did a video game, but with no processor just 
a couple of FSMs, a video system and a RS 232 port to connect it to the pc and control it with a keyboard (it was because in the class that i took they told us we had to use the serial port for our final project of that class). I did it in a Spartan 3. Its not finished is just a level and a coin.

 

This is a video showing the game https://drive.google...T3Z0Z1IwZW5xU0k

 

Thanks for the suggestions. :grin:


Edited by Gilberetsu, Tue Oct 24, 2017 1:45 PM.


#15 matthew180 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Oct 25, 2017 12:14 PM

I did a 9900 core for my F18A project, and I used dedicated control logic instead of a microcoded control (the real CPU is microcoded).  I have since gone back to implement it as a microcoded CPU and found that it is actually much more difficult than dedicated control.  I have also started a Z80 and 6502 a few times and found that the control logic on the 8-CPUs is *very* complex compared to the orthogonal 16-bit 9900.  I managed to get my first 9900 core working in about 3 weeks.  I do *not* recommend trying to do a Z80 or 6502 for this project, you may never finish (or you are a far better HDL programmer than me! ;-) )

 

The project you did sounds like the Pong game from Chu's VHDL by Examples book.  That is a very good book and was the book that opened the door to HDL for me.



#16 Gilberetsu OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Oct 25, 2017 12:37 PM

I did a 9900 core for my F18A project, and I used dedicated control logic instead of a microcoded control (the real CPU is microcoded).  I have since gone back to implement it as a microcoded CPU and found that it is actually much more difficult than dedicated control.  I have also started a Z80 and 6502 a few times and found that the control logic on the 8-CPUs is *very* complex compared to the orthogonal 16-bit 9900.  I managed to get my first 9900 core working in about 3 weeks.  I do *not* recommend trying to do a Z80 or 6502 for this project, you may never finish (or you are a far better HDL programmer than me! ;-) )

 

The project you did sounds like the Pong game from Chu's VHDL by Examples book.  That is a very good book and was the book that opened the door to HDL for me.

The book that teach me how to describe hardware in VHDL was Free range VHDL. I am going to check the VHDL by example book.

I am not a better HDL programmer than you!, or at least I don't think so. I am going to see the 9900 core architecture to see what I can take from it. I am going to see what seems to be the quickest way and then I am going to add complexity. 

Thanks for the recomendation  :)



#17 matthew180 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Oct 25, 2017 2:44 PM

I have passed on Free Range VHDL a few times, I'll have to go give it another look.  As for Chu's books, I can't recommend them enough.  The "by Examples" book (he has the same book for both VHDL and Verilog) is very approachable and introduces a lot of working projects without bogging down in a ton of theory.  By the end of the book he brings everything together in a dedicated-hardware version of Pong.  His other book "RTL Hardware Design Using VHDL" is also really good, but that one a much heavier read and more towards analysis and deeper understanding.

 

I picked the 9900 because it is the CPU in my Classic computer of choice (the TI-99/4A), and because I wanted it as the "GPU" in my video board.  It is easy to understand, it is very orthogonal, the opcodes are easy to decode, and it seems to borrow a lot from the PDP-11 line of minicomputers.  It has a RAM-based register-file though, which is odd compared to many of the CPUs of the same era.  Also, if you have to use external RAM, try to have it be SRAM.  SDRAM is a pain in the ass to use, and has horrible performance for random access.  And no matter what RAM you use, I'm not sure if a cache would be worth the effort and complexity.  I would say to get it working without a cache, then add it later if you have time and a need for it.  There are a few simple VHDL controllers out there, Hamster has one, and his work inspired me to write one.  Both are available on our respective websites.
 
FPGA discussions are few and far between, so if you have questions or things you want to discuss, please post (maybe in a different area, since this is a very strange place for this thread).  If you have a project website please post the link, it would be fun to watch your progress and decisions.

 

Edit: Ah yes, Free Range VHDL, the free book.  I have it, I just have not had time to read it yet. ;-)


Edited by matthew180, Wed Oct 25, 2017 2:46 PM.


#18 Gilberetsu OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Oct 25, 2017 4:19 PM

I think Free Range VHDL is a good book. I was reading about the MIPS architecture that is described in the book Digital Design and Computer Architecture by David Money Harris and Sarah Harris and the Game Boy CPU Manual for ideas. 
 
I am using a development board, the Mimas V2 Spartan 6, and it has an LPDDR memory as the external RAM, so I am stuck with that (for now), to use it I created a Memory Controller core using the MIG of Xilinx, and I can write and read from memory so it's working, the latency depends heavily on the amount of commands I issue and the amount of ports I have, that's why I wanted to create something like a cache, at least for the video controller I am going to use a BRAM to store what is going to be on the screen, I am going to have 2 buffers, 1 is going to be what is currently on the screen and the other is going to be the next frame. 
 
I am going to create a post on WordPress (so I don't waste too much time creating a website), I don't have one right now because I didn't think someone would be interested in the project or helping me, so thanks for offering your help. When I get it ready I am going to post the link here.
 
Thanks!


#19 matthew180 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Oct 25, 2017 11:55 PM

I would recommend making the video system tile-based and generate the image on-the-fly using a single line buffer.  This method was used by many coin-op games from the early 80's (the golden era), as well as many home computers and consoles.
 
If you go with a 100% pixel-addressable display, then you will need a lot of memory bandwidth, and a CPU that can update the off-screen buffer in less than 16.6ms.  At 640x480 the pixel scan-out is 40ns per-pixel, and you will need to multiplex CPU access that can write just as fast.  This is where SDRAM sucks, since writing to a frame-buffer by the CPU is random, but pixel scan-out can be very linear (depending on how the pixel data is laid out).
 
Using a MIG-generated memory controller you can probably use a burst-mode for reads and writes.  In that case, you can probably get something like 8-bytes in 100ns or so, which is the same as 1-byte about every 12.5ns.  With a pixel-rate of 40ns (assuming 640x480), 8 pixels is 320ns worth of time, which will give you 220ns (320ns - 100ns to read 8-pixel) before you need another 8-bytes.  That should give you enough time to allow full-speed CPU access.  A 640x480 display is 307,200 pixels, and if you run your CPU at 100MHz and can update a pixel every cycle (10ns), you could update the whole display in about 3ms.  But, your CPU instructions will not execute every 10ns for sure (that would be a very efficient CPU!), and you have to clear the buffer too (a dedicated hardware loop could clear the back buffer in about 3ms though).
 
For all those reasons, a tile-based solution with hardware sprites makes a nice system that is easy to program and gives good results.  Or reduce the resolution.  There is a reason DOOM on a 486 was only 320x200 pixels. ;-)
 
There are lots of options, but don't fall into the trap of doing what modern computers do just because, well, modern computers can do it.  Modern computers are running at GHz speeds with graphic cards that have extreme memory bandwidth and really wide (128-bit or more) data paths.  The classic consoles and computers (mid 80's) are good examples of systems that would be a good fit, IMO.
 

... I don't have one right now because I didn't think someone would be interested in the project or helping me, so thanks for offering your help. ...


It is always interesting to see a project when the person doing the work is serious and actually producing something.  However, most of the time people are just talking and nothing comes of it, thus the conversation gets exhausting. I'm always glad to talk about concepts, ideas, implementation specifics, etc. but you are the one who will have to figure out the details and do the work. ;-)

 

If you don't know about Hamster's wiki, you should do a search (you will know when you find it).  Also, Radical Brad's Vulcan-74 project on the 6502.org forum is unbelievable and a must-read:

 

http://forum.6502.or....php?f=4&t=3329



#20 Gilberetsu OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Oct 26, 2017 7:20 AM

 

 

But, your CPU instructions will not execute every 10ns for sure (that would be a very efficient CPU!), and you have to clear the buffer too (a dedicated hardware loop could clear the back buffer in about 3ms though).

Yes, I know, just with the read and write latency of the memory controller I get way over that number. I was thinking about doind a dedicated hardware to do that.

 

 

 

I would recommend making the video system tile-based and generate the image on-the-fly using a single line buffer.

Well if I have a dedicated video system I could do a frame buffer, not just a single line. If i could update every pixel on the screen in 3ms I thinkg is posible, becase using a 640x480 it is going to take the VGA system 12.3 ms to put every pixel on the screen (without considering the Vsync and Hsync zones), so I have a lot of time left, so the system cold.

 

 

 

For all those reasons, a tile-based solution with hardware sprites makes a nice system that is easy to program and gives good results.  Or reduce the resolution.  There is a reason DOOM on a 486 was only 320x200 pixels.

Yes, I could do that too.

 

 

 

There are lots of options, but don't fall into the trap of doing what modern computers do just because, well, modern computers can do it.  Modern computers are running at GHz speeds with graphic cards that have extreme memory bandwidth and really wide (128-bit or more) data paths.  The classic consoles and computers (mid 80's) are good examples of systems that would be a good fit, IMO.

Yeah, thats why I was reading the GBA CPU manual and the snes one too, so I at least get an Idea of what I should do.

 

 

 

It is always interesting to see a project when the person doing the work is serious and actually producing something.  However, most of the time people are just talking and nothing comes of it, thus the conversation gets exhausting. I'm always glad to talk about concepts, ideas, implementation specifics, etc. but you are the one who will have to figure out the details and do the work.

  

At least in my case, it is not an option, not to do it.

 

 

 

If you don't know about Hamster's wiki, you should do a search (you will know when you find it).  Also, Radical Brad's Vulcan-74 project on the 6502.org forum is unbelievable and a must-read

yep, I think I found it. Radical Brad does magic with a breadboard WOW  :-o 

 

Thanks!







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