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Pac-Man Collection (ColecoVision) completed. Going beta test

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Eduardo can do it, he can do anything!

 

Donkey Kong 3 is possibly one of the worst games ever made and I wouldn't ask anybody to waste their time porting it to any system. Donkey Kong Jr. is on the other had a stellar game and if you're gonna bother with Donkey Kong you might as well do Jr. as well. ;)

I agree with you that DKJr with better graphics (and platforming physics closer to the arcade version) would make a wonderful addition to Opcode Games' library. In fact, I even did some graphic work to that end roughly two years ago, while I was working on the graphics for Donkey Kong Deluxe. It was sort of a graphic R&D side-project. :)

 

However, even if Eduardo wanted to do DKJr (which I'm pretty sure he doesn't - Do correct me if I'm wrong, Eduardo), the game wouldn't fit into our release plans very well. You see, the release of Donkey Kong Arcade implies the release of the Memory Pack (the 16K RAM cart that goes into the CV's expansion slot) because the original DK arcade game requires more than 1K of RAM. Once the Memory Pack is a reality, Eduardo will be in a good position to release a string of titles, namely Goonies, King's Valley, Yie Ar Kung-Fu 2, Knightmare and Zanac. All of these games are already ported and working on the CV (I tried them all during my visit to Eduardo's place last year, so I can personally confirm this) and each game only has a few minor issues to resolve before they are ready to be put on cartridges. A lot of effort will have to be put into producing the boxes and manuals for all those games, so really, where does DKJr fit into all this?

 

Of course, all of the above is based on the premise that Eduardo will eventually get around to finishing Donkey Kong Arcade in the forseeable future, and that hasn't been confirmed just yet. :)

 

 

In all honesty if I had my choice of any one game port for the ColecoVision it would be Sega's Flicky. I never played the game in an arcade as a kid, in fact I never even remember seeing one. I found the game through Mame some years back and I love it. I've got it for the Genesis, and I also know it was released for the SG-1000. And since the Telegames Personal Arcade can play CV and SG-1000 games I would think that it would be able to be ported somewhat easily. I can honestly say that I haven't played the SG-1000 version so as far as I know it sucks compared to the original arcade or Genesis port, but the game is fun as hell.

I've played the SG-1000 game with Meka, and it's a fine game worthy of a CV port, but I find there's a problem: Jumping around platforms is frustrating because more often than not, you end up bumping your head on a ceiling when you try to jump up to a higher platform, falling down, and then falling prey to a roaming cat soon after. And that's with a PC joypad, imagine the aggravation of using a standard ColecoVision controller with such a game! I have hand cramps just thinking about it! :P

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Why all the DK3 hate ? I actually find the game very nice. It's just different.

In the other hand, I never really got into DK Jr, not a favourite of mine, but that isn't really a problem... you see, a game like PMC takes a bunch of years to complete. Taking into account that I am almost 40 now, and supposing I stay in the hobby for the next decade, I would like to have more than a single game released when all is said and done. Being optimistic I would expect to be able to complete some four or five more arcade ports before I am done. What I am trying to say is that I need to be very selective about what I am doing next, because there are many, many games out there, but finite time to port them.

So if you ask me now, I would say that I want to finish DK Arcade next. I am kind of 30% done with it, I love the game, it was a game that had a big impact on me. Even though the game is already available for the CV, even though it was the pack-in game, I believe that I can produce something that is much more faithful to the original and that would make CV fans proud. I want it to be the best port of DK for a classic system out there. But I am not promising anything yet, after all the problems I had last year. For now I am happy that I am done with PMC. :)

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I guess in all fairness DK3 isn't the worst game ever made. But with "Donkey Kong" in the name and its not anything like DK or Jr., is where the major let down lies. What is the current status of the Memory Pack if that indeed is required for your Donkey Kong port? Last I remember hearing was that the enclosure was a big thing.

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What is the current status of the Memory Pack if that indeed is required for your Donkey Kong port? Last I remember hearing was that the enclosure was a big thing.

All efforts have been put into PMC these last few months, so the MP and all games associated with it were put on hold. After PMC is done, we'll re-evaluate everything and come up with a new plan for 2009, if Eduardo is up to it.

 

And yes, the MP enclosure is still a major issue to resolve. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. :)

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What is the current status of the Memory Pack if that indeed is required for your Donkey Kong port? Last I remember hearing was that the enclosure was a big thing.

All efforts have been put into PMC these last few months, so the MP and all games associated with it were put on hold. After PMC is done, we'll re-evaluate everything and come up with a new plan for 2009, if Eduardo is up to it.

 

And yes, the MP enclosure is still a major issue to resolve. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. :)

 

Another problem with the memory pack is that we never reached a consensus about its capabilities (actually we kept changing our minds all the time). We though of 4 distinct solutions, each one a superset of the previous solution:

1) 16KB of RAM memory

2) 16KB of RAM + 32KB of NVRAM (for saving games)

3) 16KB of RAM + 32KB of NVRAM + sound system (CPU and sound IC, probably extra Z80 and OPM or SCC)

4) 16KB of RAM + 32KB of NVRAM + sound system + video system (V9958)

 

You start with solution 1, simple and cheap. Then you think, why not to include some non-volatile RAM? It is still cheap and then you can save game progress, high-scores, custom levels, etc. Then you start to think that it would be nice if you could replace or remove the NVRAM memory inside your module, because this way you would interchange saved data between different CV systems.

Then we start to get a little controversial... From my experience with the MSX, sound makes a big difference, even when your graphics aren't that great (Luc played Gofer no Yabou on a MSX1 when he visited me last year. I am sure he would agree). Then we start to think about an extra sound chip, like one of the many FM generators from Yamaha (the SMS used one in Japan, MSX used many). Ok, so we add an extra sound chip. Things start to get a little more expensive now, but not that much; probably we are in the $30 range at this point. But also from my experience with the MSX, an extra sound chip is usually a burden for the poor Z80, so it is a good idea to add a second CPU, only for sound. But then you need a second bus, extra memory. We are in the $50 vicinity now.

Finally you think the CV video isn't that good, and here we reached very controversial ground, but please keep reading. There is a backward compatible alternative for the TMS9928 (the CV video chip) that offers many improvements. It's called the V9958, and it was created for the MSX2+. First major improvement is hardware scroll, even with legacy video modes. Second major improvement is selectable color palette, (16 colors from 512 colors in legacy modes). Third improvement is more sprites per scanline. Forth improvement is scanline interruptions, something missing in the TMS9928 but very useful. And of course you still get extra screen modes, bit mapped graphics, a blitter, a lot more VRAM (which means more screen pages, or more area to store graphic data), etc. But what that really means for games? Here is a video from Space Manbow, a MSX game. This particular game is very interesting because it uses the same screen mode as the CV, but with added hardware scroll, custom color palette, more sprites per scanline and a static score area (produced with scanline interrupts). However, and that is the interesting part, some of the same limitations found in the CV video are still there: the two colors per tile line, the number of tiles per screen third, the total number of sprites on screen, etc. So it is basically a glorified Graphics Mode 2 used by almost all CV games.

 

http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=_axJXPZAI_8&...feature=related

http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=dVc3i3owLiE&...feature=related

 

Even if you hate the idea of a new VDP, you still can get something good from it: excellent video output quality. Not only the V9958 is a more modern IC, with better outputs, but it also offer better colors in legacy modes.

So after all components added we ended in the $80 vicinity.

 

See, so many choices...

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I guess the biggest issue, especially when talking about a new VDP is, is it still a "ColecoVision?" You talk about legacy mode, and I assume you're refering to playing previously programmed/published games. Would the V9958 actually improve the appearance of the graphics from a game coded for the TMS9928? I assume it would make the existing choppy scrolling appear a lot smoother, but what about other factors?

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I guess the biggest issue, especially when talking about a new VDP is, is it still a "ColecoVision?" You talk about legacy mode, and I assume you're refering to playing previously programmed/published games. Would the V9958 actually improve the appearance of the graphics from a game coded for the TMS9928? I assume it would make the existing choppy scrolling appear a lot smoother, but what about other factors?

 

You can, for example, create a loader that replaces the color palette before starting a game. I remember that I produced custom versions of Sky Jaguar and Magical Tree using improved color palettes. I need to check if I can find screenshots...

Then you would produce new games that take advantage of the extra colors, like set a custom color palette if a V9958 is used. The same can be done with hardware scroll, new games can take advantage of that, but still run in "course" mode when played in a CV with no MP.

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But I agree, a new VDP is really controversial stuff. But better sound would still be nice. For example, listen to the two video below. The first one is from Gradius (MSX) using PSG sound (similar to the CV PSG). The second one (and you need to jump to time 2:00 to listen to the same tunes), is also from Gradius, but now using a Konami SCC sound chip:

 

http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=G_BjWRtlsnc

http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=o1ZRc6r4BzQ

 

The PSG version isn't bad but the sound in the 2nd version is even better than the arcade version. :)

 

The beauty of the CV is that Coleco planned everything; you have all the necessary bus lines in the expansion port. You can implement all the enhancements above without opening your CV. You can even route the internal PSG sound output to the expansion module and have it mixed with the sound of the extra sound chip! Can you think of any other console where you can do the same? :)

Edited by opcode

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I guess what I'm asking is, can the V9958 provide any benefit for games programmed back in the 80s as they are? Also the sound difference is incredible!

Edited by doubledown

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I guess what I'm asking is, can the V9958 provide any benefit for games programmed back in the 80s as they are? Also the sound difference is incredible!

 

Well, as I said, you can customize the color palette for any game. But you would need to replace the CV BIOS for that, what it isn't a big problem if you have an expansion module.

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I guess what I'm asking is, can the V9958 provide any benefit for games programmed back in the 80s as they are?

Not really, aside perhaps for modifying the color palette before you start to play, and how many people out there will really bother to do that more than a few times, just to give it a try?

 

Personally, since I've begun investing a lot of my hard-earned money into Opcode Games, I've kinda lost interest in the idea of upgrading the Memory Pack with all sorts of bells and whistles. Just making a basic 16K RAM upgrade with a nice plastic shell and cover label will be expensive enough, I think. I'm willing to entertain the idea of a savegame chip, but not much more than that. It's true that the Memory Pack would sell at any price point if Donkey Kong Arcade was the pack-in game, but still, does the CV homebrew community (homebrew authors as well as players) need a super-advanced gizmo just to play a few extra games on their beloved console? Pac-Man Collection doesn't require anything aside from the MegaCart, and look at how much hype it's generating now!

 

The existing MP-dependent games I outlined in my other post above (Knightmare, Zanac, etc.) require nothing more than 16K of extra RAM and the MegaCart, and they are fine as they are (this can also apply to Donkey Kong Arcade, BTW). Also, porting any one of the later-generation MSX games such as Gradius, Penguin Adventure, Maze of Galious, Space Manbow, etc. would be great, but they would take a LOT more time to port to the CV, especially if you're looking to spruce them up with better music and/or better graphics. If you look at Opcode Games' track record, we've only been able to release one game per year on average, and those were all 32K games (aside from PMC, of course). How much time do you think it would take to disassemble, port, debug and fully test all those bigger games on the CV? We'd wait so long that Opcode Games would become synonymous with vaporware. And that's definately not an enticing prospect from my point of view.

 

I believe a cheap 16K Memory Pack would sell well enough, and we could already release a lot of good games for it. That alone is good enough for me. And if enough people buy Memory Packs, some other homebrew authors could possibly be interested in making games for it. I'd sure like to see a large original RPG on the CV... :)

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Good news! I just received all the components I needed to assemble the MegaCarts that we will use for beta testing. That means beta testing should start next week. Then, unless something very bad happens, Luc should have the final build of PMC by mid November. Yeah! :D

Actually I have been doing preliminary testing for a while now, and so far no problems. But the real test starts next week...

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Good news! I just received all the components I needed to assemble the MegaCarts that we will use for beta testing. That means beta testing should start next week. Then, unless something very bad happens, Luc should have the final build of PMC by mid November. Yeah! :D

Actually I have been doing preliminary testing for a while now, and so far no problems. But the real test starts next week...

Excellent! :D :D :D I'm looking forward to testing this game inside and out!

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Good news! I just received all the components I needed to assemble the MegaCarts that we will use for beta testing. That means beta testing should start next week. Then, unless something very bad happens, Luc should have the final build of PMC by mid November. Yeah! :D

Actually I have been doing preliminary testing for a while now, and so far no problems. But the real test starts next week...

 

Cool! :cool:

 

Yeah! Can't wait to play this baby! :D

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Not sure if I should discuss it here, but maybe we could get a few good suggestions...

Have you (Luc) even considered the case below? As you can see you can get it in black if you want. And it is good big enough to house the extra RAM and NVRAM. And you can even create a nice sticker for the top of the case (if you look closely there is a space for that). Then you would have a cartridge to manage save games and copy data between modules, so no need for a movable NVRAM. I believe 32KB would be enough for the foreseeable future too. You could have 32 blocks of 1KB or better yet, 64 blocks of 512 bytes. Maybe 128 blocks of 256 bytes. Hm, if we consider that most of the saved data would be high-scores, then maybe smaller blocks would be better.

post-1432-1222307781_thumb.jpg

post-1432-1222308321_thumb.jpg

Edited by opcode

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The way I see it:

 

An expansion module, ala Memory Pack, that offers more Ram or whatnot for bigger more expansive games, fits in with the ColecoVision "expansion" scheme.

 

An expansion module with Ram, sound chip, VDP and all the other bells and whistles is better off sold as a new console ala ColecoVision 2, that would happen to be backwards compatible with ColecoVision games.

 

Just my two cents., but what the hell do I know about ColecoVision hardware mods!?! ;)

 

Also if something like this was made, I would prefer it as an internal mod myself. I realize you would be trying to sell the module for people to just plug into their console, but I guarantee I'd be the first one to stuff one into the console case itself!

Edited by doubledown

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Not sure if I should discuss it here, but maybe we could get a few good suggestions...

Have you (Luc) even considered the case below? As you can see you can get it in black if you want. And it is good big enough to house the extra RAM and NVRAM. And you can even create a nice sticker for the top of the case (if you look closely there is a space for that). Then you would have a cartridge to manage save games and copy data between modules, so no need for a movable NVRAM. I believe 32KB would be enough for the foreseeable future too. You could have 32 blocks of 1KB or better yet, 64 blocks of 512 bytes. Maybe 128 blocks of 256 bytes. Hm, if we consider that most of the saved data would be high-scores, then maybe smaller blocks would be better.

I was hoping for something more like doubledown's Add-a-Halt (see the first post here for a picture). It's compact and doesn't take up a lot of room in front of the console.

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I was hoping for something more like doubledown's Add-a-Halt (see the first post here for a picture). It's compact and doesn't take up a lot of room in front of the console.

 

It would really all depend on how large the PCB for the Memory Pack turns out.

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I was hoping for something more like doubledown's Add-a-Halt (see the first post here for a picture). It's compact and doesn't take up a lot of room in front of the console.

It would really all depend on how large the PCB for the Memory Pack turns out.

From what I've been told, just the 16K of RAM is pretty simple electronics. It should fit on a small PCB. I don't know if an additional savegame chip would imply the use of a bigger PCB...

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...I can honestly say that I haven't played the SG-1000 version so as far as I know it sucks compared to the original arcade or Genesis port, but the game is fun as hell.

 

I have it. It's pretty fun but like pixelboy mentioned, the jump dynamics can get irritating at times. The Genesis version corrected that. The graphics on the SG-1000 version, of coarse, are much more basic but it's still colorful and pleasant to look at. I would very much like to see what a CV port would look and play like.

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I was hoping for something more like doubledown's Add-a-Halt (see the first post here for a picture). It's compact and doesn't take up a lot of room in front of the console.

It would really all depend on how large the PCB for the Memory Pack turns out.

From what I've been told, just the 16K of RAM is pretty simple electronics. It should fit on a small PCB. I don't know if an additional savegame chip would imply the use of a bigger PCB...

 

NVRAM would require the NVRAM IC (of course), as well as some deconding logic. But that I mean you would need a new I/O decoder as well as a simple memory mapper. Not more than a half dozen ICs, but probably it wouldn't fit inside that Add-a-Halt anyway.

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Not sure if I should discuss it here, but maybe we could get a few good suggestions...

I'm no hardware expert, but I thought I'd chime in:

 

What about a pass through port so another expansion could be connected?

 

What about using a SD card or Compact Flash memory for the NVRAM (making it easier to backup and trade with friends)? or a USB port that a memory stick could be plugged in?

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I was hoping for something more like doubledown's Add-a-Halt (see the first post here for a picture). It's compact and doesn't take up a lot of room in front of the console.

It would really all depend on how large the PCB for the Memory Pack turns out.

From what I've been told, just the 16K of RAM is pretty simple electronics. It should fit on a small PCB. I don't know if an additional savegame chip would imply the use of a bigger PCB...

NVRAM would require the NVRAM IC (of course), as well as some deconding logic. But that I mean you would need a new I/O decoder as well as a simple memory mapper. Not more than a half dozen ICs, but probably it wouldn't fit inside that Add-a-Halt anyway.

Okay then, the cart could stick out a little more (to make more room inside for a bigger PCB), which is good because it would make it easier to pull out of the expansion port.

 

IMO, the real problem is not the size of the casing, but the shape of the connector. Have you seen the connector on the Expansion Module #1 (a.k.a. the Atari 2600 module) or the Expansion Module #3 (the ADAM)? It's built like a tank, so you can push it in and yank it out of the expansion port a thousand times without any risk of breaking it. We need something like that for the Memory Pack, because I definately don't want the female edge connector to break away from the cart and stay stuck inside the CV's expansion port. The connector also needs to be of a specific shape so the metal holders inside the expansion port don't get in the way.

 

When I come visit you in October, I'll bring along my Atari 2600 module, and we can discuss it further, you and I.

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Not sure if I should discuss it here, but maybe we could get a few good suggestions...

I'm no hardware expert, but I thought I'd chime in:

 

What about a pass through port so another expansion could be connected?

 

What about using a SD card or Compact Flash memory for the NVRAM (making it easier to backup and trade with friends)? or a USB port that a memory stick could be plugged in?

 

I'd say with the pass through it makes it harder to find a useable case, and harder to make in general. Not to mention the Atari 2600 module cannot remain plugged in if you intend on using the ColecoVision portion. Unless of course you added a switch to the module to be able to turn on or off the Atari Expansion. I personally never use the Atari Expansion, if I want to play an Atari game I'll pull out the modded 7800!

 

I don't see the big deal for the push for the Memory Pack to have "removable memory". If its going to be used for high score data and game save data, great, but do I need to take my high score chip over to a friends house so if I beat my score I'll have it saved on my chip. What I'd really love is some sort of memory that can save high scores for any and all games used with it even old existing games. That would be nice.

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