Retro AV |OT| RGB, CRTs, Upscalers, and more


#804

I was under the impression that the FPGA was solely used for interfacing with the cart, and the actual gaming was all handled by emulation. I thought I had read something along those lines somewhere.

EDIT: Here it is, same interview Mega linked.

So hybrid emulation at its core is - we are running traditional emulation and that is the way that you would play games that are not inserted into the console. But what hybrid emulation is there’s an FPGA that’s also on the board and we have a custom memory controller that sits in between the FPGA and the CPU and what that does is it interprets cartridge data directly from the cartridge when it’s inserted. So if you have a game that has a special chip on it, like a Super FX chip, rather than trying to emulate that part of the cartridge, we are actually reading that chip directly off of the cartridge itself so that way we’re going to get a more accurate reproduction. You’re getting wider compatibility and all that sort of thing.

So it looks like the FPGA acts as an interpreter for the cartridge slot (and CD drive maybe?) to the CPU which is running a software emulator.

That said, I’m not against emulation at all (I use emulation as my main method of playing games at the moment), but I do doubt the claim about totally original, high quality emulation for over half a dozen systems in 3 years. I hope I’m wrong, but I just don’t see how it’s is possible without filching some existing code.

Then again, I have always wondered how great emulation would be if a company with real money invested in high-accuracy, full-featured emulators. Most existing projects have been done by minuscule teams (Higan), or in the devs’ spare time (Dolphin). With those projects being as great as they are, imagine if someone put real resources behind it.


#805

I don’t believe anything about this thing. lol


#806

This was always software emulation, the FPGA just interfaced with the controller ports (to improve latency) and carts to get round them not having software support for the special chips and mappers in SNES and NES games. FPGA has just become a marketing buzzword which doesn’t mean a thing anymore because instead of looking into how it is actually being used people just assume Kevtris style reverse engineering of consoles.

Anyway, that is completely out of the window now because they couldn’t get it working properly (which explains why they were so evasive to even the simplest technical questions), they are using a desktop CPU and open source emulators, namely working with the main Mednafen developer. It’s nothing but a tarted up PC and a stupidly expensive one at that.

“The team at Playmaji has spent a good amount of effort on a piece of technology called Active Cartridge Reading, an experimental subset of Hybrid Emulation that allows you to use any games or peripherals that work on a real classic console using a live blend of software-based emulation and memory mapped hardware. This technology, while it exists, is not yet fast enough for some of Polymega’s supported systems, and would result in a degraded overall experience if launched prematurely.”

“First, we’ve licensed standard DSP-compatible emulators for systems with those types of cartridges,”

“This decision / change overall has freed up our team to focus on matters that more factually push the needle in terms of overall system compatibility, as evidenced by our recently-announced support for the Sega Saturn, adding over one thousand new compatible games to Polymega™. What made this possible is that by removing the larger size FPGA from the base unit, we were able to opt for a higher clock-speed dual core chip rather than a slower quad-core chip for the main CPU, which now opens up the door to more demanding systems like Saturn, N64, Dreamcast, and more — which is what many people have expressed to us that they want.”

Dolphin has a absolutely huge team of developers and play testers relative to other emulators, it didn’t get as good as it is today by accident.


#807

Wow, that’s a lot of good info. So it’s just pure software emulation now in a specialized (sexy) case. It’s also interesting to hear them change their tune on their emulation being original. If they’re licensing emulators now, I doubt they already had their own developed and trashed them. Unless they’re only licensing a few.

Aside from the marketing hyperbole, which is about par for the course with things like this, I can definitely see this device succeeding. I would bet for the majority of people the case design and modular nature is a lot ‘cooler’ and appealing than a cheap PC under their TV, the interface looks fantastic, and Mednafen is the gold standard for PS1 emulation, with other great cores as well.

You brought up a good point about FPGA being a hot buzzword right now. Props to Analouge and Kevtris for utilizing the tech in such an amazing way, but it’s pretty lame to see others latching onto it purely for a marketing boost.

But it’s understandable seeing how the community has latched onto FPGAs these days. Every time you see a new clone console announcement there is the inevitable “But will it have FPGA??” and “I hope this is FPGA and not emulation trash” (I’m exaggerating here a bit) type posts. It’s odd because with either emulation or FPGA, it’s all in the execution rather than the technology (or so I gather). The Atari flashback units used ASICs (the CD-R to the FPGAs CD-RW as far as I know), and their quality varies widely.

And it’s true that Dolphin has had a huge team of people working on it over the years, I just think the progress could have been made sooner if they had been paid well and were able to work on it full time.


#808

To be fair by having a far more capable CPU you are going to have emulation that is of a MASSIVELY higher quality then if they had stuck with that shitty ARM + FPGA combo.

Oh I don’t doubt it, just look at how Patreon is transforming the scene.


#809

So it’s a custom desktop computer with software emulators and a slick frontend/UI (which is okay, that’s what some want). At least they’re finally being forthcoming. But where is this new information coming from? Their forum?

Agreed on “FPGA” being used as an annoying buzzword that automatically means flawless results. I believe Byuu in particular has expressed disdain about how it’s used by casual retro gamers to make ignorant blanket statements trashing all emulation. Few FPGA cores, namely Kevtris’ work, are as good as the best emulators. And from experience some (such as certain MiST cores) are really quite bad compared to the emulator alternatives.


#810

The information came from the faq on their site which is currently inaccessible due to the DDOS attacks. And they tweeted about Ryphecha’s involvement before promptly deleting it, probably because they don’t want people to know that they using open source emulators.

And the below tweet is exactly what I am talking about in regards to FPGAs. You have a guy who is pretty prominent and well known in the scene, who saw the word and attached that to all the hardware emulation being FPGA based when Polymega make no such claims and clearly said it was software based. No wonder people have trouble cutting through all the bullshit when even people like him don’t have a clue what they are talking about. I’m getting really cranky about this aren’t I lol!


#811

I can’t wait for the gluten free fpga consoles


#812

Your irritable disposition towards this is understandable! FWIW I don’t think anyone here thought it was a FPGA console. I myself wanted to know if “hybrid emulation” with a FPGA component was meaningless technobabble or a real, tangible thing with a measurable benefit to the overall software emulation.

Honestly if this all works really well and is decently priced I may look into it. At a point where I won’t automatically turn my nose up at anything if it allows me to play games with as little fuss as possible.


#813

You will still always be bound to the inherent limitations of a software based emulator even if it interfaces with an FPGA in some manner. And I’m yet to read or see anything to the contrary.

It will work well, the CPU is good and it seems as if they have got the right emu devs on board at least (not that we have solid clarification as to which are in house and which are not). But I can’t look at the price of equivalent PC hardware that will run everything under to sun compared to 4 emulator modules and call it decently priced, it’s very expensive for what it is.


#814

Wow, Smokemonster is a big name in the upper reaches of retro-dom. His saying something dismissive like “just standard emulation” could influence a lot (well, relatively) of hardcore gamers who don’t care to look further into it.

I can see why someone would think it uses FPGA simulations based on their early marketing, and no one is infallible (or has time to look into everything that well), but it is still surprising for someone that is such a big creator of ROM packs to dismiss a machine like this without looking into it properly.

Even though I’m not personally interested in this machine, and I wish it were an Analogue/Kevtris version with the same capabilities, there are worse options out there than a dual-core Pentium machine with a slick custom case/cart reader and great UI. if the emulation is solid it’s a cool option for playing old games. It’s always good to have options.


#815

And I don’t really get why. In my eyes the guys is just a bootlegger, no better than people running rom sites who decided to become a youtuber when he started to worry about the potential legal ramifications of what he was doing. No idea why he has such weight and people follow him, watch his streams etc.

Did I mention how cranky I have become lately?


#816

Quite the ramp up after the basic tier, but some are willing to pay up for an entirely pre-configured box, all the work figured out for 'em, and if it has a visually appealing look (controllers, modules and UI).

I’m curious about the games available with each module. Assuming they’re not trying to run afoul of any IP laws, my guess is they’re working with like Piko Interactive or something.


#817

Personally that isn’t a plus point for me because as soon as you display these games on an LCD then so many factors come into play, many of which are personal preferences and how you want to use your CPU / GPU budget.

Like options to play with integer scaling, adding interpolation to either axis, shaders, selecting between a pixel or display aspect ratios, setting frame delay on a per console basis to mitigate latency, vsync on/ off, dynamic rate control to sync the emulation to a standard 60hz, hard gpu sync, adjustable audio latency buffer etc etc etc. As it stands we have no clue what options are available, and it is highly unlikely that they will be better than what is available on PC already.

All these things and more are really important for optimising both the look and feel of a game and making emulation a decent alternative to real hardware. Knowing what I know now having used Retroarch and emulation in general for the last 18 months or so means there is no way I would blindly trust someone else to set that stuff up for me. Sure it is a learning curve and takes time to set up but you will have a better experience by doing it yourself.

This was my guess too.


#818

I’m reminded now of the NES/SNES classic launch.

If you are well versed in emulation of course you will want to tweak options yourself, and will want as much control as possible. For this, a PC is the way to go. I’m in this camp myself and I would never personally want to limit my emulation experience.

But many others are just looking for something plug and play that provides a decent experience. With all the marketing hype around this thing I would say many are also ignorant of what it actually does under the hood, or don’t care. There are plenty of people with more money than time that will watch the MJR review (no offense) and upgrade from a Retron5 to this without a second thought.

Of course, for someone willing to invest $600 into a system like this, it does seem to make more sense to buy an OSSC and original hardware, or even a $2-300 emulation PC, but again those things involve time spent on research and assembly/tweaking many are not willing to give.

It’s also possible that it will offer a good range of options, or that they could be easily added by firmware later, who knows?


#819

I meant pre-configured in terms of a functional, attractive UI with inserted media that auto-installs with art and game info into a visual library. Some don’t have the time, patience, know-how or basic desire to bother doing any of that themselves. There are many out there that find Retroarch plain annoying to look at and use, or have no interest in getting a Retropie – even if they can figure it out. That’s why the Nintendo minis are so popular. Or why folks clamor for a new Virtual Console on Switch. Pay, quick install, play instantly, not an ounce of extra fuss.

I hear you on the rest. I personally always want as much customization as possible. There’s really no going back after Retroarch. Figuring it out isn’t that hard and the level of customization on a per core, per game basis is unparalleled. Something as simple as installing and picking a CRT shader adds to the experience. On the commercial side, I wish retro indie devs would pay attention and add basic features like simple scanlines/shaders, 4:3 mode, etc. I got The Messenger and visuals-wise there’s literally nothing in the options menu.


#820

What can I say, I’m quite a perfectionist and if I cannot use real hardware then I want my emulated experience to be a close as I can possibly make it to the real thing. But that’s just me and I completely respect that others do not have the time, patience or inclination to do the same.

Which is why I am curious to your potentially being interested in purchasing one when you know what PC based emulation can do for you? And frontends like Launchbox and Attract Mode mean you can use Retroarch without ever seeing its UI.

I know you have a load of CRT’s and real hardware (pretty sure I have seen some cool set up pictures from you in the past) so curious to why a product geared towards a more casual, non enthusiast user appeals to you?


#821

“No going back” was in regard to limited, standalone emulators on a PC or Android portable.

I’m cautiously optimistic there is a decent level of options for tweaking the visuals… I believe they mentioned shaders somewhere. I also keep an eye out for options and alternate ways to play if they seem worthwhile. For example I have multiple ways to play NES, SNES and N64 games but would keep an eye out for a possible N64 Mini or any new hardware that piqued my interest. It’s not either/or. If it runs well and has some distinct purpose in my setup, I’m not going to entirely rule it out because it isn’t as deep as Retroarch. The Super NT doesn’t let you do much to the visuals running on modern displays (iffy and paltry scanline options last I checked), but it was still a no brainier for me due to other factors.


#822

Looks like in the end there was a relatively short window between professional production places clearing out their CRT monitors, and the retro game market catching on.

I got a PVM for AU$50 a few years ago but now they’re all $500 on ebay etc.


#823

That’s about right, although there was a quiet stretch between the mid 00s to early 10s when those who knew about them could haul away a bunch for literally nothing. They were just being tossed out after all the production houses were upgrading to pro-grade flat panels. I think most of us were fortunate to grab what we needed around 2014-2015, when things were just starting to get a little crazy.

Looking back at 2015 emails, I narrowly lost out on an HD BVM-D20F1 at $322… which was approaching “too high” for me. Picked up a SD 20G1 for $150. Later got a 20F1 with low hours, negotiating from $299 to $265, finally $215 after some shipping damage to the shell. Finding them this low is almost impossible now.

The cheaper brands are still around but maybe not as abundantly and in higher prices than a few years ago. Every CRT of course has a 16-bit game running on it and “RETRO/GAMING” in the title. Thankfully one can avoid all of this now since we have excellent alternatives like the OSSC.