Nintendo Famicom

Hello again…

I’ve been busy with work – a lot – but have found time to mod the old Nintendo Famicom to give a composite video output, for use on TVs with an AV input.

I’d read a *lot* of guides on how to go about doing this, with the writers having a range of successes, but a lot of modders kept getting ‘jail bars’. Jail bars are the vertical lines that run the full height of the screen at repeated intervals, that are caused by the clock/processor interfering with the video signal. My first mod had jail bars, but I thought they weren’t bad. The jail bars on my stock Twin Famicom were worse! Continue reading “Nintendo Famicom”

Modding Game Boys

Hello all, I know I haven’t updated this blog in a long time – like over a year – but I will try harder this year, I promise.

Anyway, one of the more fun bits that I’ve been up to last year was modding original Game Boys. I saw some back light mods by Joe, a friend on twitter, and did a bit of digging. It’s not a terribly difficult mod, only needing to solder two wires for the basic effort, going up to adding a hex inversion chip for biverting the display. Continue reading “Modding Game Boys”

So you wanna play MAME on OSX?

Sadly for us retro fans, playing MAME on later versions of OSX with recent rom sets isn’t quite as simple as it sounds. It’s not difficult, just not “double click an app to play” simple.

For me, to play the latest versions of MAME, I use three things. SDLmame, SDL Libraries, and a front-end app like QMC2.

The SDLmame binary is an up-to-update compiled version of MAME that you can download and drop in any folder. Mine sits in /Applications/Games/<latest SDLmame version> If you’re using a recent Mac, and I mean like back to 2008 or something, you can grab the 64-bit binary, as OSX and Macs have been 64-bit happy for a while.

But the SDLmame alone is not enough. SDL Libraries are the key to making the above binary work, as they provide a layer that handles all the joystick, video and audio at the hardware level. This is just a folder that you install by dragging it into /Library/Frameworks in the root of your drive, so it’s available to all users. You can put it in ~/Library/Frameworks if you so desire. This may interfere with compiling Xcode stuff if you dev, so beware.

With the SDL frameworks you can use pretty much any joystick, so I use my PS3 Mad Catz fight sticks for me and the boy.

And finally, if you’re not a terminal happy cmd-line geek, and I’m not, you’ll need a front-end app. All a front-end app does is allow you to check buttons and select options, which is then written as the config file and variables are passed to the MAME app when launching a game. Personally, I’d go with QMC2 as it’s as nice as it gets, regularly updated, and works cross platform too, so I’ve had it running on Ubuntu just as well.

Download the disk image, install the package. You’ll need to dig around in the config to enable joysticks and tweak a few options if you need, but it’s ready to go off the bat. Select the location of your SDLmame folder, select your roms folder, off you go.

I have found that I need to trash the qmc2 folder in ~/Library/Application Support/ after some updates, so if you do have a problem, bin that and start again.

That’s it really. Not difficult to get set up, and you can stay up-to-date with the latest MAME versions.

Oh, and you’re on your own for roms…

MD001 Poster

Finally. Eleven months since the first ideas for posters were discussed with my mate Dan Clarke, they’re up for sale on the MegaDrive.me site, and selling nicely.

If you know me, you’ll have seen me tweeting about it all, and will have seen pics put up as we got the silkscreen printing done and all, but it’s a really great feeling to be able to put something out, back to the video gaming community, of which I feel very involved, and have it well received. Dan’s illustration work is an excellent piece of graphic design, and the quality of the printing and paper set this out as a premium piece of art. So much so it’s got coverage on design blogs as well as gaming sites.

Generally, this has been noted and understood by most people who’ve seen the prints. Those who say they’ve ran a 1,000 prints at a local copyshop for their band that are “way more intricate” miss the whole fucking point, so I haven’t wasted any bytes arguing on forums. The forums and gamers that matter to me “get it”.

What’s particularly pleasing about the silkscreen process, is that the overlay and translucency of the inks is almost *exactly* the same as Dan’s visuals. Which is pretty good, since neither of us do much, if any, printwork! The silkscreen process also introduces an element of individuality to each print, as while it’s all aligned correctly, the run of inks and such add little idiosyncrasies to the edges. I really like this.

We will be doing more, and not just confined to Sega/Mega Drive stuff. Dan’s a big SNES-boi, and I have to admit to being partial to a few SNES classics, and we both specifically love the Japanese SNES console box art, so expect something along those lines next. Maybe even a Neo Geo print, as that yellow and blue is very, very iconic.

Anyway, if you haven’t seen anything about these posters (what, really?!) then take a look at this video. Thanks!

#bigSWIG — megadrive.me — Liverpool 24.01.12

My friend Rob has been kickstarting the Liverpool geek talk scene, with the guys at his place of work, organising and hosting SWIG. It’s grown from a small meeting discussing WordPress at InterconnectIT‘s office, to taking the upstairs at Leaf Tea Shop in Bold Street.

Rob had been on at me for a while to do something at a SWIG event, and upping the ante, he said they were doing a bigSWIG, and would I like to talk about one of my projects, MegaDrive.me. I’d asked Rob a hundred questions about WordPress – which MegaDrive.me is built in – so I did feel obliged to return the favour!

MegaDrive.me was a project I’d started to catalogue Japanese Mega Drive games, write reviews and comments, and learn WordPress on the way. I also stressed something which as an employer I think is very important.

The talk went well, I was up after my mate Dan Donald, and it was great to see loads of familiar faces from the Speak the Web event and Naconf the week before. You can find the slides from the talk on SlideShare.net.

Good things are happening in Liverpool, and it makes me proud to be part of it. Keep it going, Rob!

Scanlines

Scanlines. If you hear someone talking about scanlines when discussing video games, you know they’re a dork. I talk about scanlines a lot. Mostly with @damienmcferran and @michaelheald.

What’s the deal then? Well, when we played video games on CRT televisions, there would be faint horizontal lines between the rows of pixels. Kinda didn’t notice back in the day, but when you play an old Mega Drive through a modern HDTV, you will instantly see something is missing.

Modern TVs have built in picture scalers, so a 320×240 picture gets blown up to fit your gloriously large display. You’ll notice the pixels look big and slightly smudgy, edges bleed and the picture just looks a little… smoothed. All arcade games used to have scanlines. I swear a scanline generator/emphasiser was built into the Hanatrex monitors! Adding scanlines makes an arcade game feel even more authentic. I still play all my retro games on a 14″ Sony CRT portable TV because of this effect.

Continue reading “Scanlines”

New project: MegaDrive.me

Most of you know I’m a gaming nut. Most of you know I collect Japanese Mega Drive games.

I was browsing through the ace pcengine.co.uk site, watching videos, reading reviews, planning on buying a few more shmups, when I thought “why don’t we have something like this?”. The “we” being Mega Drive gamers.

Obviously, there are a lot of sites out there that details release dates, genres, covers etc. like the great SegaRetro.org, but there was something… complete about the PCE site. It had factual information, it had visual information, it had opinion. You could relate to the authors and what they were saying, and it did make me reassess my opinion on a game or two, and go and physically play R-Type again after browsing.

For me, the Japanese Mega Drive’s biggest charm was the box art. Glorious, explosive, full colour illustrations set the scene before picking up the box and looking at screenshots. Box art is where it’s at! When you stack them all together, there’s something really mesmerising about the colourful spines with Japanese type, topped with the red, green and black MD logo. Continue reading “New project: MegaDrive.me”

Dreamcast battery mod

Hello again, been a while…

Me and the boy had a weekend of Dreamcast gaming, and after a few power-ons, having to reset the date and time – every time – due to the dead battery was beginning to annoy.

I’ve been here before. Less than 3 months ago, I’m sure, after I got my SLG3000 and tried out the scanlines, realised the internal rechargeable battery was dead. No problem, I have about 30 CR2032s kicking around. A quick google soon but that plan to bed. The internal Dreamcast battery is a rechargeable coin battery. A CR2032 is no good, as the DC will output a charge to the battery, and terrible things could happen. I don’t know what, exactly, but didn’t fancy finding out. Continue reading “Dreamcast battery mod”

Sonic the Hedgehog’s 20th Birthday

Sonic the Hedgehog. For many of us retro games an icon. A trailblazer and true competitor to that ever-present and overly-competent plumber.

To many of the younger generations, well, I don’t know. The subject of many random game outings and IP tie-ins, of which very few are done well. An object of ridicule.

When Sonic first got a few column inches in gaming mags, the news fresh from America (way before we had internet) made the excitement palpable. The screen shots looked cool. He had bags of attitude, and because all the shots were stills, word on the street was the guy was rapid. Faster than any scrolling platformer you’d ever seen before. Eat that, plumber! Continue reading “Sonic the Hedgehog’s 20th Birthday”