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ARM based/enhanced Atari development, MISTer FPGA, and preservation

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15 hours ago, Yurkie said:

Stella emulates Atari 2600 hardware and since we can't update the original hardware, why does Stella require updates?

 

Stella emulates many things:

  • The console
  • The controllers (such as you can play paddle games using your keyboard)
  • The display (position of electron beam, jitter, PAL colour loss)
  • The cartridge

 

As covered in my blog entry extra hardware! many cartridges include additional hardware to allow for ROM that exceeds the Atari's 4K limit, extra RAM, and even coprocessors. Stella needs to emulate the cartridge's hardware to be able to run those games accurately. Stella has been updated over the years as new cartridge hardware is found or created.

 

An example of new hardware that was found, the Pursuit of the Pink Panther prototype (more info here and here) uses unique hardware in the cartridge for 8K ROM (using eight 1K banks) and 64 bytes of extra RAM.

 

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23 hours ago, splendidnut said:

Oh man, things are going to get crazy now!  Here come the buses to run over the people...

Circle the wagons and arm the missiles, someone's got an opinion.

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3 hours ago, hizzy said:

Someone attached a card reader to a Mister. That would work with ARM games, no?

Without seeing the project in question, my guess is it's a non-realtime dumper. i.e. it doesn't keep reading the device, but just dumps it once. The de10 nano doesn't have enough free gpios to connect to the cart pins directly.

 

17 hours ago, MrMaddog said:

Forgive me if this sounds naive to experts but doesn't the DC-10 Nano that MISTer runs on have an ARM processor to run the game's ARM based code?

While this sort of hybrid approach has been explored recently, I get the feeling there's some resistance in putting any emulation onto the ARM, or leveraging it any more than it currently is utilised. (see the public arguments against graphical front-ends, or even the ability to launch a core with rom enabled from command-line) 

 

There's also a hurdle in the melody/harmony cart firmware being closed. Even if source was provided openly, the firmware would be twiddling GPIOs for the data and address bus, which isn't how the Mister cores work. Someone would need to implement and maintain a hybrid firmware that did equivalent stuff. Then there's the matter of different ARM memory maps, instructions, and such, which is what threw a big wrench into Unocart support for Melody-arm games. (not sure where that's at right now)

 

IMO Mister FPGA running the melody firmware on the ARM is technically possible, but just very unlikely to happen. It would require someone with access to that firmware source, and an insider knowledge of Melody and MiSTer FPGA development, to also be interested in doing this work. (with the added hurdle that the work may never be part of the main MiSTer distribution)

 

Answers to OP...

 

- Is there a danger for enhanced games, by their nature, to not be preserved or playable?

 

There's no danger in terms of playability, with Stella containing a GPL licensed implementation. One could certainly argue about cycle-accurate preservation here, or hardware-reference preservation, both of which are a big focus of MiSTer. if the principals behind melody have moved on in XX years, will anyone be able to make a melody compatible cart based on publicly documented info? My best guess here is "no".

 

- Is the lack of support in MiSTER and possibly other hardware based approaches for these enhanced games a concern?

 

I doubt those making the enhanced games are concerned with any modern console implementation not running them, so long as the games run on the original hardware.

 

- Is the use of enhanced games lazy and a lazy approach (compared to a Mapper)?

 

I think Kitrinx's choice of calling it "lazy" is unfortunate... the word choice seems to stem from the mistaken idea that an alternate, more period-silicon-correct abstraction could have been made, that could give similar benefits as the ARM enhanced games. That approach was actually tried with DPC+, but the ARM-enhanced game devs found that having the less-abstracted power of a modern cpu (with the 6507 acting as an IO co-processor) to be more alluring than staying period-accurate. It's unsurprising that someone involved in archiving hardware doesn't value, or even intuit, this motivation immediately.


- What are the primary reasons for using ARM based enhancements?

 

To create games that aren't possible on the 2600 otherwise.

 

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Sorry, RevEng, but:  All those questions were pretty much answered.  I feel like your post was composed entirely as a vessel for damage control on your friend's behalf.  The answered questions feel like filler to me; designed to sandwich a carefully worded statement to contain the discussion.  It's wooden and it's calculated.

 

Look, if she thinks the games are shitty, fine.  There's definitely no shortage of shitty games.  I hate Undertale.  (A failure of game design and poor presentation on every level.)  Everyone has an opinion.

 

But, calling Spiceware and Champ Games lazy crosses a line.  It's not really "unfortunate".  It's bullshit.  It's the same thing as MrSQL.  It's not different.  Sorry.

 

She isn't Carol Shaw or Rebecca Heineman.  You have to be a great individual game software developer to start talking shit at other devs.  What has she done?  MiSTer cores aren't video games. 

 

Roger Ebert had quite a prolific career.  Didn't make his dumbass opinion on games okay.  Come to think of it, outside of the lovely technical production values, Citizen Kane is a shit movie, Roger.  It's boring.  If you're going to put that much effort into the raw production (top notch), you need to present a great story.  At its core, the film is empty and boring.  So, maybe he wasn't a great critic after all.  Rise of the Robots had great graphics, but there wasn't a game behind it. 

 

Miyamoto privately seethed that Donkey Kong Country was boring and lazy.  Compared to Yoshi's Island, it is.  Miyamoto can get away with it, because he did something better.  Is DKC really lazy?  No.

 

What is lazy?  I can't think of too many examples of lazy game devs.  Can you?  I think Custer's Revenge qualifies. Jewel swiping clone games on mobile are pretty lazy.  Champ Games and Spiceware?  Not so much. 

 

Even Superman 64 had a team of people working hard behind the scenes; there were a lot of reasons it failed--and it wasn't because nobody cared.  ET is regularly bashed as lazy, but that's a lazy shitty meme; ET sparkles with polish and craftsmanship--despite the polarizing game mechanics.

 

Everyone has worked on a stinker.  Doesn't make us lazy.  Although, I can't think of any substandard shitty Spiceware or Champ Games releases.  There's nobody forcing the game out the door or creating havok with those Atari devs.  There's no clueless boss, politics, or budget hammering the new Atari games into oblivion.

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3 hours ago, orange808 said:

Sorry, RevEng, but:  All those questions were pretty much answered.  I feel like your post was composed entirely as a vessel for damage control on your friend's behalf.  The answered questions feel like filler to me; designed to sandwich a carefully worded statement to contain the discussion.  It's wooden and it's calculated.

Nope. I just see someone else's perspective on the matter, and how they might have been led astray, or have a different opinion without the facts. I don't assume bad faith or intent, like you have. For sure "lazy" was insulting, and I didn't defend it.

 

My preference is always debate, discussion, and education, unless someone has historically proven themselves to argue in bad faith. It seems that you don't feel the same, or you've already put me in that latter category. Either way, not much point to further discussion, then.

 

As for questions being "pretty much answered", sorry, but I don't recall OP asking people to stop answering the open questions posed. I do think my replies added to the conversation. Apologies they were too wooden for your taste.

 

 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, RevEng said:

While this sort of hybrid approach has been explored recently, I get the feeling there's some resistance in putting any emulation onto the ARM, or leveraging it any more than it currently is utilised.

This is not necessarily true; if you check the link in the first post of the thread you referenced, you'll find it was in fact Sorgelig himself who made the initial suggestion to combine ARM emulation with the FPGA:

 

"I want to bring attention to one interesting thing which can be achieved on MiSTer. It's hybrid emulation. It's where both emulation worlds can meet each other."

 

I think what is discouraged is porting projects directly to the ARM (i.e. Retroarch, etc.), essentially treating the DE-10 Nano as a very underpowered Pi.  This type of use seems like strictly an academic exercise to me, and not of much value to the end user.

 

Edited by Jstick

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1 hour ago, Jstick said:

This is not necessarily true; if you check the link in the first post of the thread you referenced, you'll find it was in fact Sorgelig himself who made the initial suggestion to combine ARM emulation with the FPGA:

 

"I want to bring attention to one interesting thing which can be achieved on MiSTer. It's hybrid emulation. It's where both emulation worlds can meet each other."

Fair point. :thumbsup: I guess I let the infamous laughing shoes post, and historic resistance to opening things up to front-ends, incorrectly colour my perception on the general ARM-for-emulation point here.

 

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I am reading that the MiSTer supports GBA which has the same ARM core as Melody. Would this core run at 70 Mhz? And in the "laughing shoes" thread someone says the MiSTer already has not one, but two ARM cores already.

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FPGA reproductions of hardware are lazy. Using modern HDLs with zillions of macrocells that were not available in the day and not designing chips at the transistor level is cheating! 😛

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A while back someone talked about putting a MiSTer-like configuration on a PCIe card for PCs. And we know i7/i9 machines are potent emulation rigs. What's not to like?

 

Wonder if the concept will be revived? And it doesn't need to be on an internal card. Use one of the high-speed interfaces like Thunderbolt3. Good enough for eGPU, good enough for FPGA simulations.

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18 hours ago, orange808 said:

But, calling Spiceware and Champ Games lazy crosses a line.  It's not really "unfortunate".  It's bullshit.  It's the same thing as MrSQL.  It's not different.  Sorry.

Orange I don't always agree with @RevEng, but I think you may be upset for not understanding his perspective.

 

Regarding "lazy programmers" Assembly takes a long time so writing in a high level languages like BASIC or c (particularly the new variants of c) that make it easier to manage and minimize complexity, which you can never get away from because it gets complex anyway hence the initiative to not get complex. I think RevEng understands this pretty well from building tools for programmers to use.    

 

My standpoint is similar to the Audacity team wanting to do the most possible with legacy technology so I wrote a cross compiler for CBS RAM and the SuperCharger format  which was really interesting to explore as part of the nostalgia for me as a programmer is learning more about technology from bitd. With the Atari's flexible architecture there is so much room to learn.

 

Why not try writing in Assembly without MACRO's if you want maximum difficulty as a programming exercise? I think this holds true for the ARM as well; I'd be curious what programmers have written games in pure asm regardless of the chip used.   

 

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Meh.  I look in the toolbox and try to find the right tool for the job at hand.  I dislike BASIC and always will; it's buried at the bottom of my skull case.  Maybe I'm doing it wrong, because I've never found anything worth doing to be particularly easy.  And...like any other language, I have winding complex love/hate relationship with everything C. 

 

I must be doing it wrong, though.  :-)  Even C# stubbornly refuses to write itself--and I still have to know a lot more about the linker and compiler than I would like.  *shrug*

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1 hour ago, orange808 said:

Meh.  I look in the toolbox and try to find the right tool for the job at hand.  I dislike BASIC and always will; it's buried at the bottom of my skull case.  Maybe I'm doing it wrong, because I've never found anything worth doing to be particularly easy.  And...like any other language, I have winding complex love/hate relationship with everything C. 

 

I must be doing it wrong, though.  :-)  Even C# stubbornly refuses to write itself--and I still have to know a lot more about the linker and compiler than I would like.  *shrug*

I feel the same way about C# but I like it better than C. PowerShell without c# seems a more intuitive c variant to me, but it has a lot of features reminiscent of BASIC including immediate mode which I really like.

 

I think whichever tools allow us focus more abstractly help make programming projects "relatively easier" to complete.  

 

 

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