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Metal Jesus

First Review of RetroN 77

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...it's kind of disheartening to see repeated mention that it would be so much better if it were using an FPGA (especially in the comments on the Youtube page). Really makes me kind of demotivated to see a lot of people basically saying that all the hard work that went into the emulation is wasted effort, and we should move to FPGA. There's still a lot of "emulation, so it must be crap" people around, it seems.

 

I don't think anybody is saying Stella isn't great (it is)... but will it ever be as good as true 1:1 hardware re-creation (FPGA) when it comes to speed and compatibility, especially at a lower price point? Forgive me if that seems ignorant or combative... I'm really curious, especially since the Analogue devices turned out so amazing.

Edited by Metal Jesus
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That would be a GREAT stunt for all the classic-gaming YouTubers out there. Give us a blind taste test!

 

Under the table is

 

1. Retro hardware

2. FPGA simulated hardware

3. Software emulation

 

In your hand, a wired controller that looks like the old thing. Is it? Or is it a nice simulation?

In front of you, a nice low-latency screen. Could be a CRT, could be modern.

 

Go for your high score on your favorite game. Repeat with the other setups.

 

There's so much FUD about emulation, much of which seems to be generated by people running shitty cheap LCD panels, and so little evidence-based analysis. The benchmark guys only work on modern hardware. Seems to me smart people could generate some interesting results, or at the very least, a provocative blog feature.

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That would be a GREAT stunt for all the classic-gaming YouTubers out there. Give us a blind taste test!

 

That would be interesting!! I will say that my Vizio HDTV is in Game Mode...but still that's not 100% perfect either... And for gameplay capture it's running through an external Elgato GameCapture HD60. Lots of variables. That's why I wanted to mention that the average gamer probably won't notice. Hell, I'm willing to bet most gamers don't even know about Game Modes on their fancy new HDTVs...

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I don't think anybody is saying Stella isn't great (it is)... but will it ever be as good as true 1:1 hardware re-creation (FPGA) when it comes to speed and compatibility, especially at a lower price point? Forgive me if that seems ignorant or combative... I'm really curious, especially since the Analogue devices turned out so amazing.

 

That's just it. Many are under the impression that FPGA is hardware re-creation. It is not. It's actually emulation or simulation (choose your semantics). Ask any FPGA developer.

 

FPGA, like SE, is simply the canvas upon which the developer paints the system.

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Only 18 roms? That's a deal breaker.

 

I can understand how that would be for some folks.

 

Personally for me it's not a big deal, I prefer to have something like this first and foremost to play my real carts on. (my AV modded PAL Jr died).

 

Secondly, my thinking on the limit not being a big deal goes back to my experience on my RPI - Retro Pie and also My C64 with SD2IEC and my ZX Spectrum with DIVMMC Future :

 

If you have every game at your fingertips, you basically end up playing none of them for more than a few minutes. Kind of defeats the object of playing and appreciating the older games.

 

I prefer to have 10 maybe 15 games on an SD card and play them, change em up regularly for sure, but I find that works for me.

 

Each to their own :)

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Secondly, my thinking on the limit not being a big deal goes back to my experience on my RPI - Retro Pie and also My C64 with SD2IEC and my ZX Spectrum with DIVMMC Future :

 

If you have every game at your fingertips, you basically end up playing none of them for more than a few minutes. Kind of defeats the object of playing and appreciating the older games.

 

I prefer to have 10 maybe 15 games on an SD card and play them, change em up regularly for sure, but I find that works for me.

 

Each to their own :)

 

I agree, a limited, curated, all-killer-no-filler "playlist" is better than a scrolling list of noise. But I wonder what drove the decision to make it just 18? Legal concerns? UI design? Technical limitations? Designer's focus on cartridges?

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It seems to me that I would likely fill the rom slots with stuff that won't run on cartridge, rely on the rest of my actual collection and call it good until some clever cat shows us the way forward.

 

Once they get the controller ironed out and sell this thru, let's say Amazon or whatever, I'll probably get one.

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It seems to me that I would likely fill the rom slots with stuff that won't run on cartridge, rely on the rest of my actual collection and call it good until some clever cat shows us the way forward.

 

This is exactly what I did. If you watch the part of the video where I'm showing the main menu, you'll notice the games shown are things like Pitfall II, Space Rocks, Omega Race and others that wouldn't download from the cartridge.

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I agree, a limited, curated, all-killer-no-filler "playlist" is better than a scrolling list of noise. But I wonder what drove the decision to make it just 18? Legal concerns? UI design? Technical limitations? Designer's focus on cartridges?

 

Do both. Have a list of everything, and then your killer no-filler list.

 

As far as 18 goes? It's probably some arbitrary low random number, inspired by legalities. Perhaps guided by the UI. There is no technical practical limitation of how many roms stella can access.

Edited by Keatah
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Only way they would fully get rid of any lag is to go full FPGA, but would consumers be willing to pay for it?! People bitch about the Analogue Super NT mini at $190...

 

I know that it would be totally unlike Retron to release a pricey high end product.

 

The average consumer who just wants to play a quick game of Space Invaders or Pac-Man for nostalgia sake won't notice the lag, and that's who Retron's products are geared to. On the other hand, the average consumer would be happy with the Flashbacks and don't really need something that plays carts. So they might as well aim for something higher end that will appeal to those who collect 2600 carts.

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What about 7800 games via the micro sd card slot? Doesnt 7800 work under Stella? Just curious; sorry if it is a dumb question.

 

No.

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That would be a GREAT stunt for all the classic-gaming YouTubers out there. Give us a blind taste test!

 

Under the table is

 

1. Retro hardware

2. FPGA simulated hardware

3. Software emulation

 

In your hand, a wired controller that looks like the old thing. Is it? Or is it a nice simulation?

In front of you, a nice low-latency screen. Could be a CRT, could be modern.

 

Go for your high score on your favorite game. Repeat with the other setups.

 

There's so much FUD about emulation, much of which seems to be generated by people running shitty cheap LCD panels, and so little evidence-based analysis. The benchmark guys only work on modern hardware. Seems to me smart people could generate some interesting results, or at the very least, a provocative blog feature.

 

I could see this becoming a new retro reality game show. ;-)

Each week, new contestants, new game, same hidden consoles. I'd watch it!

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I could see this becoming a new retro reality game show. ;-)

Each week, new contestants, new game, same hidden consoles. I'd watch it!

Me too! I have never been impressed with the "t shirt guy rants in front of shelves of games" genre, personally.
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I could see this becoming a new retro reality game show. ;-)

Each week, new contestants, new game, same hidden consoles. I'd watch it!

 

I'd buy that for a dollar!

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Only way they would fully get rid of any lag is to go full FPGA, but would consumers be willing to pay for it?! People bitch about the Analogue Super NT mini at $190...

 

You said it's nominal though right? As in it doesn't effect gameplay at all? If so, I think I can go for that. I just don't want to be pressing fire on a game and have it not register in time to keep up with the flow of the game.

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I'll throw out that I don't believe your FPGA walkman is zero lag, but there's no point in arguing that. The high score challenge proposed would be convincing. Good games to test would be Kaboom and Cosmic Ark.

 

I've still not played a 2600 FPGA that is better than Stella on adequate hardware. I think the that Super NES NT thing lets you hack the 2600 core onto it, but I haven't really heard anyone go to any depth testing the lag on that thing.

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Me too! I have never been impressed with the "t shirt guy rants in front of shelves of games" genre, personally.

 

 

Whew...I don't rant on my videos. That was a close one! ;)

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BTW: Another shoutout to fellow AtariAge user:@Crispy who created this awesome FPGA Atari clone last year. This thing is AMAZING and has zero lag and 100% compatibility.

 

 

Problem with these one-off FPGA simulations is their funky formfactor. Either that or they never go beyond the devboard stage.

 

I would not want my VCS looking like that. And I see no vintage "VCS experience" here.

Edited by Keatah

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I know that it would be totally unlike Retron to release a pricey high end product.

 

The average consumer who just wants to play a quick game of Space Invaders or Pac-Man for nostalgia sake won't notice the lag, and that's who Retron's products are geared to. On the other hand, the average consumer would be happy with the Flashbacks and don't really need something that plays carts. So they might as well aim for something higher end that will appeal to those who collect 2600 carts.

 

Not only that, but, cost! Sure. You could make a nice VCS replica with quality materials like the original H-Sixer.

 

And you could fit a good FPGA simulation keep the original hardware in there (with cart slot, 6 switches, original RF modulator out).. What to do with all that extra space? Put a totally separate Celeron-class SoC mini-PC in there, with room to spare still. And you hard-switch between the both of them.

 

On the back of the real VCS there is plenty of real-estate to mount additional ports and connectors without disturbing the original layout, or mucking up the design from the front. And the original 6-switches would function exactly like they should.

 

Total cost of this exercise comes to just under $900, at $891.

 

It's been done before, but so sloppily and ill-conceived I was gagging.

Edited by Keatah

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BTW: Another shoutout to fellow AtariAge user:@Crispy who created this awesome FPGA Atari clone last year. This thing is AMAZING and has zero lag and 100% compatibility.

 

I'm not privy to the exact precise electrical characteristics of this simulated console here.

 

But, would it be compatible with Harmony/Melody and Bus Stuffing? How about things like SaveKey and AtariVOX?

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Paddles use a Potentiometer, AKA variable resistor. They vary an analog signal that the console reads as position in this case. They travel about 270 degrees between stops.

Driving controllers use a digital encoder. The encoder sends pulses to the console which depending on the order the two signals come in, determines direction. There is no stop.

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Looks aside, paddles and the driving controllers are completely different internally. They don't even use the same pins for the most part.

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I'll throw out that I don't believe your FPGA walkman is zero lag, but there's no point in arguing that. The high score challenge proposed would be convincing. Good games to test would be Kaboom and Cosmic Ark.

I've still not played a 2600 FPGA that is better than Stella on adequate hardware. I think the that Super NES NT thing lets you hack the 2600 core onto it, but I haven't really heard anyone go to any depth testing the lag on that thing.

Mmm.. Maybe.. But to test the lag correctly you need to use a timer, camera, photo sensor/transistor, and led light. It's a process that's been described before. And, besides, with faster processors there is enough computational power to produce ZERO lag in software emulation. That means less lag than the original console exhibits.

 

I am NOT a programmer by trade, so, I leave it up to articles and other devs to explain how it's done.

Edited by Keatah
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Whew...I don't rant on my videos. That was a close one! ;)

:lol: no I think you're more of a list maker/cataloguer than a ranter. :lol:

I confess I didn't watch it .., not sure when/if I will, but I appreciate the pros/cons list you posted alongside the video link.

 

It's not you, it's just my preference for text. :-)

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