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OdysseyNow. It's a...project?

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I'd like to say more about all this but the problem is I'm not quite sure what it actually is (or does). It's kinda cool though. Or, has a potential to be. Or maybe it's just bunch of students moping about. Hard to say, really. But they do have a cute Toshiba CRT TV, so there's that :)

 

What they say:

 

A trailblazing effort is happening in the University of Pittsburgh Vibrant Media Lab: the OdysseyNow Project.

 

The goal is to recreate the world’s first-ever video game console — the Magnavox Odyssey, released in 1972 — and reconnect it to its original hardware. The project will also create new games and controllers, as well as launch a comprehensive website on the console. On April 5, the lab plans to hold an Odyssey Expo, a one-day event full of competitions and project showcases, and of course, the chance for the public to experience the Odyssey.

[...]

The Vibrant Media Lab’s project will allow people to play the game console online, something that, to the best of Horton’s knowledge, has never been accomplished anywhere in the world.

 

 

https://www.pittwire.pitt.edu/news/vibrant-media-lab-taking-world-s-first-game-console-47-year-old-odyssey-online

 

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Posted (edited)

It looks like they are making an emulator? But hey if it's free and open source, the more the merrier.

Edited by Newsdee

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It looks like they are making an emulator? But hey if it's free and open source, the more the merrier.

 

Hmm, not sure, I thought it's more of a hardware thingy - like, they would allow the original machine to be somehow playable online?

I might just tune in on that day to have a looksee.

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Well good luck trying to emulate a bunch of analog circuits...

 

Seriously though it would be nice to experience how the Odyessey or any 1st generation console was. Shame there was no one player games for them.

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Hi folks, I'm the director of the OdysseyNow project, and was pleasantly surprised to see someone post about it here! I started this project about 2.5 years ago here at Pitt, and we migrated to the Vibrant Media Lab (which I also direct) last year. You are all correct about the project: it is both an emulator and a hardware thingy, and a game design project, and an archiving and digitization project! We have collected and scanned all elements of all of the original games, and will make those available when we launch our website very soon. We've also filmed Let's Play videos of all of the games, to give people a much better understanding of why the Odyssey was unique and what it is actually like to play. As part of our project, we have reversed engineered the system, and are creating new accessory controllers and various updated circuitry to make the Odyssey do some fun things. This is in concert with a fair amount of game development. We'll be debuting some of the games we've created very soon as well. Finally, we are also developing an emulator that will be very faithful to the system and, if everything goes well, will actually interface with the 1972 console to realize (among other things), MrMaddog's dream of one-player games (vs. the computer). There's a lot to the project, and I'm happy to answer any questions anyone may have!

 

A lot will be announced at our first big public event, Odyssey Expo, on April 5. After that point, many details will go online.

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There are many inexpensive FPGA boards popular for retro systems (e.g. MiSTer, MiST, ZxUno, etc). Are you considering creating a core for an FPGA system?

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Posted (edited)

Well good luck trying to emulate a bunch of analog circuits...

 

Seriously though it would be nice to experience how the Odyessey or any 1st generation console was. Shame there was no one player games for them.

The circuits are digital. It lacks a cpu and programming which makes emulating it more work.

 

Here's a project emulating the ay-3-8500, which has practice/squash for one player.

https://nerdstuffbycole.blogspot.com/2019/03/febuary-progress-update.html?m=1

 

And the DICE emulator for discrete logic arcade games, including one player games like stunt cycle.

http://adamulation.blogspot.com

 

The original Breakout is another example of a one player discrete logic game. It's emulated in Mame. If you want to play pong against the computer there's video olympics on the atari 2600.

 

The other thing with the original odyssey is that some of the games had physical play pieces like board games, which can be simulated on a computer.

Edited by mr_me

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We have talked about implementing some sort of low-level logic emulator for the Odyssey, but it doesn't really lend itself to an FPGA core because it is a fully analog system. It does implement some digital logic, but that is really simple, and wouldn't benefit from FPGA. Basically, the system functions more like an analog computer than a digital one. Our emulator cheats by simply simulating the behavior of the Odyssey. What it does not try to do--and this is important to the philosophy of the project--is try to emulate the analog components outside of the console: the overlays, cards, gameboards, analog controllers, etc. Our goal with OdysseyNow is to bring the experience of Odyssey gaming to more people, and digital graphics are not part of that experience. Besides, other projects have already attempted that in the past. Our emulator is fully compatible with all Odyssey analog components. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, it is meant to interface with the console itself, enabling some very cool possibilities.

 

Of course, our emulator (Odyssey HAL) is only one part of the OdysseyNow project. Our new games, controllers, console upgrades, and future website are core to the project of conveying and further exploring how this unique system is played. We are taking great care not to dilute or bastardize the experience, a real danger when the digital starts to enter the picture! ;-)

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You could essentially sell this as an iPhone app with a kit for the various trinkets. As silly as it sounds, there's a nonzero possibility I'd buy that.

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Is this the Oddisey 1 or 2? I thought the 1 had everything baked in the circuit and the "games" are just jumpers inside a card. That must limit what one can do with the system.

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Posted (edited)

If you want to play pong against the computer there's video olympics on the atari 2600.

 

The French made Pizon Bros Visiomat 101/Alcatel Visiomatic 11 is a Pong and the engineers at Alcatel added a "robot" player at Pizon-Bros demand, making it a one-player Pong (you can deactivate the robot player).

 

ob_d58937_dscn3515.JPG

 

It isn't some massive AI of course. It's basically, from what I would guess, a circuit that try to keep the paddle it controls facing the ball. If playing the console at low speed and shallow angle, the "robot" can never lose. with fast speed and/or wide angle, the circuit can't keep up and will lose.

 

It would probably be possible to do that on the original Odyssey.... If the console pass the right infos through the cart port.

Edited by CatPix
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Yes, an iPhone version of our emulator would be cool; we'll look into that possibility! But I have good news for you godslabrat: if we do, you won't have to pay a dime. Our efforts are open source, and always will be. We are only interested in bringing the Odyssey to more people, and helping folks understand the system better.

 

Newsdee, this is the Odyssey 1. Yes, all logic is "baked" into the hardware, and you are right that game cards just interconnect circuits. However, there are over 40 different circuits that flow through the game card interface, which allows for a lot of different possibilities! Of course, not all produce interesting behavior. The original designers believed that they had exhausted all of the possibilities for machine behavior with their twelve card designs. But I've been able to design several new game cards that produce unique system behavior, which our game designers have used to great effect. And game cards do not equal games. Many very different Odyssey games use the same game card (basic system behavior). Overlays, cards, gameboards, etc. are all equally important to the Odyssey experience, and interact with the same system behavior in very different ways. And some games use multiple game cards. But yes, there are some pretty big barriers as to what's possible on screen. We have broken through some of those barriers by introducing add-on boards to the console. More on that soon!

 

Thanks for that info, CatPix--very cool! On the Atari, the AI was similar to what you describe, but the tracking protocol was written such that certain cycles didn't track and the AI would just interpolate. So if you played a fancy game against the computer, it wouldn't be able to predict all of your moves, making it a pretty effective AI. We'll likely implement something similar for Tennis on the Odyssey. Other games will be more difficult. And of course, many Odyssey games are too complex for any reasonable AI to play (think Invasion, Interplanetary Voyage, Football, Brain Wave, etc.). If anyone wants to take a stab at those games, please join our team! :-)

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Hi folks,

 

I should have linked it here sooner, but I've now started a thread in the Homebrew section about our first public release, a game pack including three new games for the Odyssey, as well as a new game card (the first one designed from the scratch) and new accessory controllers. You can read about it here!

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Very cool. When I first heard about this, I thought that you were recreating the Odyssey itself, so that people could purchase one at a lower cost. This is one of the projects that I'd had in mind, since the schematic is so easy to obtain. Basically rebuild the Odyssey with components on-hand. It looks like you're just looking at new ways of creating accessories and other features for the system.

 

I will say that there's also more potential than just jumpers with the game cards, which I think your card #13 does. Even Ralph Baer mentions that instead of just jumpers they could have added circuitry to the game cards to change the system's behavior. He developed two prototypes of these "active cards". The first one was connected to a speaker and just added sound. The second one actually caused the walls to move during gameplay. Magnavox didn't want to run with those since they increased the cost of the cards, but there's definitely untapped potential for the system in addition to the ability to add different controllers and external game elements.

 

@Zhorton, you may have thought of these before but two ideas that I have right off the bat:

 

1.) How about creating the putting accessory that apparently was created for the original brown box but never got released by Magnavox?

 

2.) I had this idea for creating a multi-card with circuitry to allow you to select the operation of any of the 12 original cards by setting dip switches. That'd certainly save time and effort if switching between games or playing a game that uses more than one card. That's another one of those "one day when I have time" projects that you could get to first.

 

Other than that, could you let us know if your website is up yet.

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Very cool. When I first heard about this, I thought that you were recreating the Odyssey itself, so that people could purchase one at a lower cost. This is one of the projects that I'd had in mind, since the schematic is so easy to obtain. Basically rebuild the Odyssey with components on-hand. It looks like you're just looking at new ways of creating accessories and other features for the system.

 

I will say that there's also more potential than just jumpers with the game cards, which I think your card #13 does. Even Ralph Baer mentions that instead of just jumpers they could have added circuitry to the game cards to change the system's behavior. He developed two prototypes of these "active cards". The first one was connected to a speaker and just added sound. The second one actually caused the walls to move during gameplay. Magnavox didn't want to run with those since they increased the cost of the cards, but there's definitely untapped potential for the system in addition to the ability to add different controllers and external game elements.

 

@Zhorton, you may have thought of these before but two ideas that I have right off the bat:

 

1.) How about creating the putting accessory that apparently was created for the original brown box but never got released by Magnavox?

 

2.) I had this idea for creating a multi-card with circuitry to allow you to select the operation of any of the 12 original cards by setting dip switches. That'd certainly save time and effort if switching between games or playing a game that uses more than one card. That's another one of those "one day when I have time" projects that you could get to first.

 

Other than that, could you let us know if your website is up yet.

 

Actually, you were correct originally: we are re-creating the Odyssey from scratch! We're just doing a lot of other things as well. I'm not sure if the rebuild will actually be cheaper, though we will release the plans for folks to build it if they like. There are so many components in an Odyssey--it is much more expensive to build today than it was in 1972! The cool think about our rebuild, however, is that it will incorporate all of our Odyssey upgrades. More on those soon...

 

Active and multi game cards: We have been working on several new card designs, and some of them have onboard switches to change certain features. However, we've found that in most cases, switching a bunch of switches is a lot more tedious and slow than actually swapping cards. I think the Magnavox engineers got this one perfect: it's better to have multiple cards than a bunch of switches. I'm aware of the active cards Ralph Baer created, and maybe at some point someone in my lab, or someone elsewhere, will go ahead and re-create those or create new ones-- you should do it! We've been focusing on direct modifications to the daughter cards inside the console, because it can lead to more radical upgrades. There are only so many functions you can control from the card. But I definitely think that making a card that moves the line around would be a cool project!

 

It's interesting that you mention the putting controller, because we are experimenting with exactly that! You must have read my mind! (Actually, you are full of ideas. Let me know if you'd like to collaborate with us.)

 

The website hasn't launched yet. We are still working on a number of the gameplay videos for it. I'll definitely post here when it goes live, though!

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"Putting accessory" as in golf? That would be adorable, like caveman Wii Sports!

 

Yes, @Flowmojo, that is exactly it! The putting controller was developed in 1967 during the prototyping of what was to later become the Odyssey, and the development team liked it enough to keep it around through all of the prototypes. They delivered it to Magnavox, but the Magnavox team decided not to produce it.

 

The controller sat on the floor and basically had a golf ball on a short stick. Players would use a real putting iron to tap the ball, which would direct it around the screen. 1967 Wii Sports, indeed!

 

We are exploring ways to bring this to life now.

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I think the key is the replacement console. I'd love to do some work on the Odyssey, but like most people, I don't have one and can't afford one.

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