Monday, July 26, 2010

Short Vacation

Those of you who are good enough to keep up with what's going on with CC may have noticed that things have been quiet the last couple of weeks. The reason for that is simple: we were on vacation. Shouldn't I have said something before we went? Yes, of course, I should have. However, I was exhausted and I just didn't get it done before it was time to take a break.

Now we're back at work. We have a number of little things that we are going to be taking care of, but most of them aren't very interesting. That having been said you guys have probably seen that we have put up some more N64 games. Expect more of those as well as new TG-16 games.

That's enough for the moment. I just wanted to let you guys know that we're back on the job!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Carousel of Progress

This week went fairly well. You guys may have noticed that we got the TG-16 up and running at last. I reworked the adapter and got it fixed well enough for the moment. We still need to get a more permanent one put together. I also need to get the wiring map sent over to Matthias so he can share the wealth with all Retrode users. I would like to see him offer PCBs that you could solder you own TG-16 connector into. Still, we'll see what happens.

In other news Paper Mario doesn't work right. We did more testing after we got it to read and the data is there, but it won't play on our current build of the emulator. I need to grab the latest build and see what I can get it to do. I wish we had more manpower so we could try to tackle a few of these issues ourselves. Time and money...

I managed to find Urbs this week. It was tossed in a drawer. I'll try to get it up next week along with a few more GBA games. The week after that I want to put a few N64 games up. I know I've said this before, but we want to get in a pattern. Something like GBA/N64/GBA/TG16 for the moment.

That all for this week!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Some Good News

The prototype adapter for the Retrode arrived this week. We used it to read most of the GBA games we put up Wednesday. That is to say that it read three out of five. The other two we had to use our original equipment to read. Still, I feel certain that the problem with the other two was just a software issue. I've contacted Matthias about and I feel certain he'll come up with a fix soon.

While I had it hooked up I decided to do a little more testing. I tried to read both Ogre Battle 64 and Paper Mario. I am happy to say that both read flawlessly. Now, you may be asking yourselves we we didn't already put them up. The only answer is: because we didn't. We're planing to do that next week. I want to get three more N64 games to put up with them and I am going to take a crack at Resident Evil 2. We'll see how it goes I guess.

In any event, it's all good news. I just thought I would let you guys know. Everyday we make a little more progress.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Little Slack

Ok. So, I forgot to do a post last week and haven't done one this week until now. I know I probably should have done a post just to let you guys know I wasn't going to do a post, but I guess I'm a little a lazy about such things. I'll do my best to sum up what has been going on for the past couple of weeks.

The TG-16 games came in and the new build is ready for launch. However, I broke the TG-16 reader before I got the last five games read so we've put off the launch until we can fix it. We worked on it some this week, but ran into some aggravating problems. We are going to try to make the new adapter more robust.

Matthias has mailed us a prototype GB/GBC/GBA/N64 adapter for the Retrode. It should be here in the next few days. Once it comes in we are hoping to be able to put more games up for each of those systems. I'll try to include an update in my next post to let you guys know how it is going.

Today we bought some more GBA games. We can't find Urbz and they may not upset most of you, but I have to tell Brian that I am sorry. I know we had it, I think we lost it when we changed offices. It is probably in a box somewhere. I am going to keep looking and just buy a new one when I run into it. Of course, we may do a complete inventory over the next few months, so I may just find it.

One last note for those of you who don't know. I also do another weekly blog about my childhood. It may be of no interest to most of you, but it's a bunch of funny stories about me and some of the other guys involved in CC. If you're interested you can read it here:

Have a great weekend!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Automotive Week

Yes, I took this week off to work on my car. Well, my minivan. I'm married with five children. It was a lot of hard work and I got basically no Console Classix work done, but the van is still broken... Still, I suppose it builds character. After the week I've had I'm not sure I needed that much more character, but there you have it.

I am still awating the arival of one more game for the TG-16 launch. Lord willing, we will be able to kick it off early next week. I am going to try and get a good rotation going with the GBA, N64 and TG-16. Once I can buy a couple more adapters for the Retrode I plan to start putting up more GB and GBC games as well. We may even be able to work in the occasional batch of Atari 2600 games.

That's all for this week. Have a great weekend!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Almost There

We have the last of the games for the TG-16 launched purchased and they should be here soon. The last five games we intend to put up before launch are: Aero Blasters, Air Zonk, Devil's Crush, Neutopia 2 and Parasol Stars. That will bring the total up to twenty. It's a small launch, but the original TG-16 only had a little over one hundred titles in the US, so it's still a good percentage of the total. I hope to have everything put together and launch the first Monday in June. That being the 7th.

Once it's out there I want to start putting up TG-16 and N64 games at least once a month. We have got to get ourselves in a position where we can start adding more games more quickly. We ran into some unexpected expenses this month and it put us back a bit. Lord willing, June will be different.

There wasn't much news this week I admit. I ended up out of the office most of the week. Hopefully I will have more news next week, lol.

Everyone have a great weekend!

Friday, May 21, 2010

More Games

This was an exciting week game-wise. We added five new titles to the TG-16 Beta. They were as follows: Dungeon Explorer, Galaga 90, Neutopia, Ninja Spirit and Vigilante. We are getting closer and closer to an actual launch. I want to have twenty titles and enough copies to go around before we make it public. Lord willing, we'll have gotten what we need together by the end of the month.

We also put up our first new N64 games since launch. I plan to start putting them up a little more regularly. We may have to slow down on the GBA for a while. We're going to do our best to increase the total number of games we're putting up. Like so many things in life we have to priorities. Still, inch by inch we're getting better and better.

Mathias sent me a few new revisions of the firmware for the Retrode this week. He has greatly improved his TG-16 support. It works as is, but he keeps making it better and better. Any of you serious collectors out there need to check the Retrode out. He has only made a limited number so far. On top of working great they are going to be serious collectors items in time.

So much for this week! Everyone have a great weekend!

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Change of Pace

I've decided that I am probably going to just start posting on Fridays for a while. The things we are working on at the moment don't generate enough to talk about three times a week. The plain truth is that Console Classix is having to dig in and let a little time pass. We just launched the N64 and, Lord willing, the TG-16 is right around the corner. We have got to get our game purchasing up to full speed and start getting more new games up.

I know this might seem like a no brainier, but it takes a little more planning that you might imagine. It's something I hope to have all worked out by next month. After we're getting games up like we should we are going to wait until we've filled these systems out before we launch another one. I was hoping we could get rolling a little faster, but it's just not feasible at the moment.

Still, patience is a virtue. We're all going to have a chance to work on it because time is the main solution here. So, until we get the ball rolling a little faster I am probably going to just stick with an end of the week wrap up on Fridays.

Monday, May 10, 2010

More on the TG-16

The good news is that we have more games on the way. So far we've got the following: Galaga 90, Neutopia, Neutopia 2, Vigilante and Ninja Spirit. It's not a long list, but every step is another step. I plan on placing a few more bids this week. I admit that I'm waiting for deals. I want to get as much bang for our buck as we can. Lord willing, we will get enough up to kick the TG-16 off early next month. Also, I've gotten one complaint that the control setup is backwards. I want to know if any of you other beta testers are getting that problem.

Speaking of the N64, (well we weren't, but let's do) I hope to get some more games up for it soon. We've had a lot going on and it's been hard to get into a good rhythm. I want to put games up for it once a month kinda like we do with the GBA once a week. I want to put up more obviously, still, you get the idea. We'll be playing it by ear, but hopefully we'll get things moving along and get some more games up soon.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Art of Emulation – Part 3

In my last couple of posts I briefly explained that emulation is simply taking code written for one platform and making it run on another. This is done by translating the input to the native format, completing the correct processing and then translating the output. This explanation is necessarily lacking in details. If it wasn't it would be a book not a blog post. All this is just a very cursory overview.

To wrap this all up I decided to talk a bit about my personal method of coding an emulator. To start with I consider it best to bring the emulation down to the lowest possible level. For instance, I don't think about how I would emulate an Atari 2600 I think about how I would emulate the 6502 processor. Each piece of the Atari 2600 can be emulated separately. Once each of these pieces is complete they can be “assembled” into a working Atari 2600 emulator. For those of you who are familiar with Object Oriented Programming you understand the concept.

Doing things this way has several benefits. First, it allows you to test each component and do you best to bang out bugs while the situation is less complicated. Second, as each of the pieces are completely separately, several coders can work on the same emulator with very little communication. Once a standard I/O is agreed on each programmer can work on their section independently. Lastly, once a particular chip has been successfully emulated it can be used in other projects. For instance both the Atari 2600 and the NES use a 6502 processor (there are slight differences... but still...). Many systems used the Z80 processor. Once these chips have been developed they can be used across multiple emulators.

Keep in mind all these ideas are being presented by a man who has never successfully completed an emulator, but the theories are sound. Console Classix plans to begin pursuing it's own emulation project in the future. We just have to line up more help. I hope this post has got a few people out there considering the idea.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Art of Emulation – Part 2

In my last post I was using the NES as my example system. I'm now switching to the Atari 2600. I didn't give any real details on the NES and I know a bit more about the Atari 2600. So, changing gears shouldn't throw any of you off the scent. I'm going to go into a little more detail here so that when I wrap all this up by explaining what Console Classix plans to do in the future it will all make sense.

The CPU is the Central Processing Unit within a computer system. It has a limited number of instructions that it can complete. These instructions are known as Op Codes. If you take a look at the 6502 processor that was in the Atari 2600 and compare them with a modern PC you will find, in many cases, identical Op Codes. For instance, ADC is used to add two numbers with carry. Both the Atari 2600 and a modern PC have to be able to this. The trick is that Op Codes are actually accessed by using a one byte number (for the 2600) to represent the code's location in the CPU. The numbers within the two CPUs are not going to match. (The following numbers are arbitrary guys, so if you're a 6502 expert ignore them, I'm not explaining this to you...) So, say ADC is 0x65 on the Atari 2600 and 0x3E on your home PC. If you just tried to run an Atari game on your PC it would run into 0x65 and instead of running ADC would do something totally different. The result being that it wouldn't work!

Now, some emulation authors have simply remapped the Op Codes in order to emulate the CPU. They create a kind of go between that takes the Atari 2600 codes and translates them for the PC. So when it runs into 0x65 in Atari software it translates to 0x3E and does it's thing. This is an elegantly simple method and is very fast. However, it comes with a number of limitations that I won't go into now. (Just run with the idea that rewriting the functionality of the Op Code in something like C++ is more flexible.) Whatever method the emulator uses it has to give the same results as ADC would when it runs into that Op Code. In the case of the CPU core I wrote for our Atari 2600 emulator (that may be released one day) I used C++ and provided the same results as the expected Op Code.

This has been a very long way of explaining that you have to grab the data that is destined for an Atari 2600 CPU then process it and return the same results. It's a complicated subject, but I am honestly trying to keep it simple. When you look at the data on an Atari 2600 cart a large portion of it is just calls to Op Codes one byte at a time. So you grab the data read off the cartridge and start with the first Op Code (0x65 or what have you) and then step through one at a time doing what each one is requesting to be done.

More before long...

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Art of Emulation – Part 1

So, how does emulation work? What exactly is emulation? This subject may or may not be of much interest to the few readers of this blog, but it is of interest to us here at Console Classix. Because of this I've decided to discuss it. At least, I've decide to give a cursory overview here. Many of our fans are programmers and we are always looking for people to help us do what we do. I hope that some of these coding fans may take a look at this and think to themselves “That sounds easy! I could help with that!” Still, my motivations aren't entirely selfish. Anyone who is interested in the subject needs a place to start. The small amount of information I put up here may help them get the ball rolling. I will warn you guys that this may get a bit long. There are some interesting things in it, you just have to plow through and try to keep your brain from going numb.

To start with, emulation is the process of making one computer system act like another (at least for the sake of this explanation). When you consider a modern PC you have several elements that make the machine useful to people. A computer allows input, processes data and then provides output. These are the first three elements we have to look at when we begin to plan an emulator. The forth element is software. The magic of software is that it takes the three hardware elements and makes the machine do something useful. So, for an emulator to do anything it has to be able to read software for one platform and make the hardware of a different platform act the correct way.

We have to start by looking at each of the three elements.

Input: The NES has two controllers that have a D-Pad and four buttons. The modern PC has a least a keyboard and mouse and possibly has a number of controllers plugged into it as well. The NES controls place input at a certain memory block. So, when you push the A button it updates a memory location that the game programmer can read. In order to use PC control to represent this an emulation coder has to catch the input and translate it into the form the NES uses. We'll come back to this, for now you just need to understand that you catch the PC input and translate it.

Processing: The NES has a CPU just like the PCs our clients use. I am going to give some detailed information on the CPU so we'll skip it for now. The NES also has video and sound processors. They take the data coming from the game and prepare it to be displayed on a TV and played on TV speakers respectively. The emulator has to make the PC process data in exactly the same way as the system being emulated.

Output: Here the emulation author has to take the data output by the NES and translate it in order to display the video and play the sound. As I said, this is just a cursory glance. I plan to add some detail before I'm done.

More Soon...

Friday, April 30, 2010

Blogging, Blogging

Obviously I didn't do a post Wednesday. What can I say? It's been a wild busy week. Plus the truth of the matter is that although a lot has been happening not a lot of it is particularly interesting. At the moment we are building upon the recent progress we've made. So a lot of what's going on revolves around what bids we are winning or loosing on eBay. It's very important stuff, but it doesn't make good press...

Also, everyone may have noticed that we didn't put up any new games Wednesday. Again, a general busyness was to blame. We should be back to normal next week. I'm hoping that we are also going to be able to put up some more N64 games. We've got to finish testing what we've read. Normally it doesn't take this long and I hope we can do better next month.

Sadly we are not going to be able to officially launch the TG-16 until June. Everything is working fine I'm just having trouble getting the games we want while not paying a fortune for them. Little by little we're increasing our number of titles, we just don't have enough yet. We really didn't spend the amount of time we should have on it this month. We had a few bugs to chase and what not. It slowed us down a bit.

In other news I am going to try to start doing more with this blog. As interesting as it may be to read the weekly play by play of exactly what little problems I am having doing this or that I think I'm going to do a bit more. I'm not sure how much technical information you guys will be interested in, but there are some things that I think are interesting that I want to talk about. How do emulators do what they do? How do ROM chips work? Etc.

I don't plan to flood you guys with a lot of techno babble. I just want to open up some of these mysteries in an easy to understand format. I have no idea if it will interest anyone but me. Still, you guys can feel free to cheer or boo. That way I'll know if I'm holding you spellbound or just taking up blog space.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Retrode Update

Matthias sent me another firmware update for the Retrode over the weekend. He made a few more changes to make the TG-16 adapter work even better. We are still working to refine it. It works well enough for us, but we want others to be able to make use of it as well. It was my hope that after the prototype was built we would be able to have a small batch made for sale to the public. In that way the work that we did wouldn't just help CC, but would also help the retro community a bit.

However, there was a snag I didn't see. The TG-16 edge connector is hard to come by. In fact, we pulled ours out of a TG-16. Needless to say we can't go around destroying perfectly good consoles just to make adapters. We have some ideas, but I'm not sure how they will work out. We'll probably build a prototype 2 at some point and run from there.

Before too long we plan to start working on an N64 adapter. Most of the leg work has already been done for that so it should be much easier. Once it's done we'll be able read N64 games more efficiently. That should allow us to get more games up more quickly. Time will tell.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Step By Step

I don't have a lot to post about for the wrap up of the week. To be honest I took a little time off. Things have been hectic and I felt I needed a rest. However, we have made some little baby steps. I did manage to get a hold of Neutopia, so it should be here next week. I haven't gotten much feedback on the TG-16, but I'm running with the idea that no news is good news.

I have made some progress on those two 1964 bugs. We're waiting for feedback at the moment. I'm am very hopeful that we are getting close to fixes. I am afraid we are going to have to face up to the fact that 1964 is too heavy for some of the machines out there. I was afraid of that when we we started, but I had hopped that I was over reacting. Still, the fact that most people can use it is good. It's a lot better than nothing.

In other news it looks like we are going to be taking part in the intern program at USC. Daryl has conducted a number of interviews and selected three interns. The project is going to be a redesign of the website. Depending on what happens and what interns we have available we may try and start the open source Atari emulator. It's a project we're very interested in, but we don't have the man power to get it off the ground in house. At least, not yet.

All in all things are going well even if I don't have some ground breaking thing to talk about for the week, lol.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Little More TG-16

Yesterday I put a few more games up for beta testing. They are: Bonk's Adventure, Bonk's Revenge, D&D: Order of the Griffon, Falcon and Legendary Axe. They are a nice addition if I do say so myself. I hope to get some more games in next week. Now that we can read HuCards with the Retrode getting them up and running is a piece of cake. I could wish that we had a little more investment capital at the moment. The games for TG-16 are not as cheap as they could be. The system has a very definite “collector” type status.

Either way, I'm working on acquiring a few more titles at the moment. We are currently trying to get our hands on: Galaga 90, Neutopia, Neutopia II, Ninja Spirit and Vigilante. This certainly isn't all we hope to get before launch, but it's what I am trying to get right now. Our resources are a bit stretched by trying to launch two systems so closely together, but I think it's going to be worth it. Both of them have so many good games to offer. We are trying to get kind of a “best-of” up and then build on top of that.

If any of you run into any problems with the games I just added please let me know. The Beta period is for seeking and destroying bugs. That's all for the moment!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Running Behind

Again, here I am a day behind. Unlike last time this time I don't have a good excuse. I got a bit done over the weekend and I had to make a games run first thing yesterday morning. I got home around noon and thought I had gotten enough done for a bit of a break. I started gaming, got sucked in and forgot to blog. Still, what do you expect from the president of a gaming company? I'll try to do better in the future... lol.

In any event, I have good news. Matthias got back with me over the weekend. He built a firmware version that works with our TG-16 adapter. I read all but one of the games we had to read in roughly ten minutes. You may be asking yourself why they aren't up for beta testing yet. It's like I said, I got sucked it. They should be up later today.

We hope to take the prototype and build a more permanent adapter in the next few weeks. For now the prototype will allow us to read most of the games we might run into. Because of that I plan to purchase a number of new games this week. I may do a post tomorrow to let you guys know what's on the way.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Stomping on Bugs

For those of you who are good enough to keep up with this blog you will no doubt have noticed that I didn't post yesterday. Well, it's been an odd week. Crazy hours, sickness, insomnia and tax deadlines. Still, I did get a bit done even considering all that. (The TG-16 adapter still isn't done, but you can't have everything.)

The end of the week was occupied by two tenacious and annoying bugs. Both are problems with the N64. The first turned out to be a matter of video hardware. At least, I think that's what it is. We haven't exactly fixed it yet, but we're at the point where upgrading hardware seems to be the next logical step. If we can prove that the issue was indeed hardware we may have to put minimum video requirements up. At least it's mainly a self fixing issue in the long run. Everyday the base video hardware gets better and better. In a year or so the most cost effective PC will come with video hardware that works fine with 1964.

The other bug is with 1964's input plugin. For some reason it won't load for some users. The really crazy thing is that I haven't been able to get any meaningful error messages out of the thing. It won't load, but the reason is a mystery. We are going to have to get more feedback before we can crush this one. If any of you guys have run into it please let me know. The more info we get the faster we can fix it.

Either way, have a great weekend guys! I plan to myself.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Getting Closer

It's been long week up to this point, but it's been worth it. The TG-16 adapter for the Retrode is coming along well. Matthias has begun working on the firmware update for it. I am hoping that we'll have it done before the end of the week. We've gotten a couple mores game in and we plan to order more before the end of the week. If I can find the time anyway.

We have also been fighting a short list of small problems with the N64. It seems that for the most part it is working well, it's just that a few users have run into a few problems. Unlike most of the emulators we offer the N64 uses a number of plugins to process the sound, video and input. In a lot of ways this is good because users can use different plugins to get better output for different games. However, one of the shortcomings is that not all the plugins we include in our install seem to work for everyone.

Obviously, we only included open-source plugins with the install. That did limit the number we could offer, but they do seem to work well for most people. The difficulty has been in finding bugs that only a few users have run into. Still, we'll keep working at it and, lord willing, we'll get the bugs crushed before too long. Again, this is another reason we need to begin our own emulation development.

There never seems to be enough time. I guess that's the same for everyone.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Working Weekend

Yea... It was a long weekend, but it ended with some good news. I decided Friday that I needed to start on the new TG-16 reader. I've got some games on the way and we have a few that were too big for the old rig. We need to get the new one up as fast as possible, so we got started. We had made enough progress that I decided to work on it Saturday for a couple of hours. Those hours stretched out into a full working day and we still didn't have it up and running.

In the past we have been able to throw these things together really quickly. This time it's been different. After Saturday's failure I decided to give it a go Sunday. I got closer, but still no cigar as the saying goes. It also turned into a full working day and since I didn't get started until after church service I didn't finish until almost bedtime.

Why has it been this difficult? I have no idea. We had the thing pinned out within a few minutes Friday. The rest of this battle has been against electrical noise. At least I think that's what's causing it. The data gets random errors in it. Given time I can pull good data off the hucards, but it's very time consuming. I think we're close. That's good news. I hope to have even better news later this week.

Friday, April 9, 2010

TG-16 Beta

Well, I'm glad to say we have the TG-16 up for beta testing. We only have a few games, but it's enough to start with. I have more games on order and we are working on a new cart reader for the system. We hope to make an adapter for the Retrode. This should speed up the process and make things a bit smoother. I have four games right now that our current setup won't read. Lord willing, we'll get it worked out next week.

That's all for now. If you want to be a beta tester and aren't at the moment e-mail here:

Put “Beta Tester” in the subject line. Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Incremental Updates

Last week I mentioned that we had to make some changes to our update system in order to roll out the N64. I decided to explain what we changed. Why? Well, I think it's cool. I guess that will have to be a good enough reason.

Our first auto-update system was actually put together by another company. When a new version came out it would download the new setup executable and run it. This did have some advantages, but the install had to be rerun each time a change was made. The user was also downloading much more data than they needed to. Admittedly with all the bandwidth we have at our disposal it may not seem like it was worth troubling with. Still, I don't like the idea of having to download a 5meg setup in order to update a 5k file.

With our first attempt we decided to have the updater only download and install the files it needed. We wanted the changes to be automatically put in place and the browser to restart itself. We got all that in the first pass. However, we did overlook a few things. First, the auto-updater can't update itself. That was a bad oversight on my part. It a simple little program, but if it needs to be changed it's not easy to roll out those changes.

Another shortcoming is the fact that we had one update location. So if we updated one file and then decided to update another we had to give the first one time to get pushed out or put both in the current update. The problem with this is obvious. If we just keep putting in files before long it would be so big that we might as well have kept the setup download system. If we only put in the latest files someone who hasn't logged in for months might get a half-updated version.

What was the solution? Incremental updates! With the system we rolled out last Friday the updates go in order. You start from whatever version you currently have and then update one after the other until you are current. This will allow us to make minor changes in very small steps. Because of this we can roll little changes out more quickly instead of waiting for group of changes to pile up. If we only have to change one file that's fine. We change it and go on to the next version.

This is a good step for our updating process, but I'm not done. We still need the ability to append files, update the updater itself and possibly make small changes to Console Classix registry settings. A good example of this is with the n64 ini file. We are going to have to makes changes to it, but we don't want our changes to overwrite any custom settings our users have put in place.

All in all it's progress, but we still need to do more.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Another Month Another Beta

Things went well enough with the N64 Beta that we have decided that we are going to try to do the same thing for the TG-16. We will only have a limited selection of games to start with, but it should be enough to get the ball rolling. I really want to thank all the beta testers that helped out with the last test. We intend to offer them the opportunity of helping us test again.

The entire process really gives everyone a little extra. We get to see how the new system is going to preform on a much larger range of PCs than we normally could. Our testers get first crack at the new games. All the way around it's a win win situation. Now that we've started doing it I wish we had done something of the kind long ago.

In the long run I need to develop some kind of beta web page. A place where users can see known issues and fixes and give us a little more live feedback on what is or isn't working. The better the tools we can provide to the testers, the better the feedback we can get. For this next test I probably won't have time, but it's another little thing to add to the list.

Little by little we are producing a more refined product. I really appreciate the feedback and interaction we get from our fans. Lord willing, as time progresses we will get better and better systems in place to accept, process and act on this feedback.

So, the long and the short of it is this: Be expecting a TG-16 beta launch soon.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Up and running

Well, it's been a long morning, but it's finally done. The N64 is now available to the public. I had to make a few changes to our updating software. I also had to rebuild the install several time because of minor mistakes. Still, all's well that ends well I guess.

This may set a record for my shortest post ever, but it's been a rough day so far. I was sick with a stomach bug all day yesterday so things have piled up on me a bit. I have a bit more news, but it will wait until Monday. You guys have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A few updates

Over the next few weeks we plan to roll out a couple of updated emulators. We're looking at Gens-GS to replace our current version of Gens and VBA-M to replace VBA. Now, for the most part they are just like the older versions. However, one large difference is that they are still alive as projects. Because of this bugs are addressed and fixed. This is something we can't handle with our own staff for the moment.

Gens-GS works a lot better with Windows Vista for instance. We also plan to take out a few of the games that we couldn't get working with Gens to see if the issues we ran into have been fixed. Since it's still under development we may actually be able to have a little back and forth with the developers. Because it's based on Gens we shouldn't run into any problems with what works now. It also supports 32x and Sega-CD, so we are also good to go there. I still have to do some testing, but it's probably a go.

With VBA-M I am hoping we will see some dead bugs. At the moment a number of Pokemon games don't work with VBA. Again, we simply don't have the time and manpower to fix these issues ourselves yet. In time we hope to really offer something more than just games, but for the moment games is what we've got. Even if we have the same bugs as before there is at least the chance of improvement with a living project. Again, since it almost certainly won't introduce any new bugs it's almost a no brainer.

This may not seem as exciting as new systems, but it's important. We want to offer perfect emulation for every game ever sold to the public. We're not there yet and that is why minor updates are actually a major deal.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Wrapping it up

I know my last few posts have been related to the N64, but it's what's happening right now. The final test install had a few little problems, but they seem to be worked out now. Lord willing, Thursday morning we will wrap the beta up. Things have gone very well. We are going to have to pull a few of the games down, but in time we may be able to get them back up again.

In order to move from beta to live I have to do a few things. I need to update the N64 system from TEST to N64 in the database. I need to pull down those games that don't work just right. I've got to update the version number and test the auto update to make sure everything is working in that regard. I also have to put together the pages for the website to display the N64 selection. (We still need a writeup and screen shot for that.) That should tie up most of the loose ends.

So, hopefully my next post concerning the N64 will be about the launch and a few other little details. On the Wednesday post I actually plan on touching some updates we are considering. There are a few updates for the emulators we use and what have you.

That's it for the moment!

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Final Test

Well... The second test... I hope that it is the final one, however. I just put up the second version of our N64 Beta install. It includes what should be the correct default settings for the games. It also allows the user to change the controller settings from within the CC Browser. Lord willing, with the feedback we get we should be able to put together the real install by next Friday.

Should we manage to do that we will launch the N64 officially next Friday, April 2nd. We are very excited about this. It's been something that we have wanted to do for years and now it's so close we can reach out and touch it. As soon as we get it up and running we'll be looking at adding more games.

Matthias over at is already working on adding N64 support for the Retrode. In point of fact he has made major progress already. If we have the ability to read N64 games with the Retrode it will greatly simplify the process of getting new games up. The easier it is the faster we can do it.

Of course, there are still the monetary considerations, but we plan to invest what we can into new N64 games. We know there are a lot of games people want that we don't have yet, but you have to take these things one step at a time. Either way, progress is progress. I hope to be announcing the launch of the N64 next Friday!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

More And More

I am hoping that we are going to be able to start adding games to the site at a little higher rate. Those of you that have been with us since the beginning know that we're a bit off from our “Golden Period”. At one time we were putting up so many new games is was hard to keep track. Then we hit out slow point. For around a year we put up very little and even now we only manage to add five new games a week. So, what's the hold up?

Money... Big surprise eh? Money seems to be a very common problem at the moment. However, I am very happy to say that things are looking up for us again. Lord willing, in the next couple of months things should really begin moving forward again. I would like to add at least as many N64 games a month as we are adding GBA games now. Five a week adds up to over two hundred and fifty a year. That would mean in about a year and half we would fill out the N64.

There are so many games we have to add. When you look at our list is seems very complete at first glace, but it needs so much more. It's true that the SNES and Genesis are very close to complete. However, you might say we only have a sample of the Atari 2600 games that were produced. The GB, GBC and GBA need a good many titles before they are complete. (Some of the games will actually need updates made to the emulators before they will run, but that is not true of most of the games we don't have.) We have a little over half of the NES games released in the US. (I know it's hard to believe when you look at our list, but there were a lot of NES games!)

Really I am hoping to kick off a new golden period next month. I hope to get a load of N64 games and start putting them up along with the GBA games we add. I also want to start getting the TG-16 games we need in order to launch that system. That's all we're waiting on at the moment. The TG-16 stuff is actually commented out of the current CC browser code. All I need to do is un-comment it and it's ready to go. Of course there isn't much point when you only have a couple of games. Still, that's what I hope to work on in April.

So many games, so little time...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Some New Hardware

We got a new toy last week that I haven't had time to try out yet. It's a neat little device that allows you to connect SNES and Genesis cartridges to your USB port pretty much like a thumb drive. The game actually pops up under My Computer in windows. So you can play your games on an emulator directly off the cart. It's called a Retrode and you can get one here:

Now, you may be wondering why we would want one since we already have our own hardware for reading carts. First, it's awesome! That's a good reason to support any small business like this. The Retrode is actually produced by one guy. We love to support small businesses because we like to see things like this grow. It's a good product and we want to support it. Second, our hardware for the SNES and Genesis is getting older. It still uses a LTP port. USB is a nice upgrade. The Retrode is also much more compact and can be thrown into a desk drawer. Plus, there were some games we had a lot of trouble with using our old setup. As we are considering adding some Super Famicom and Megadrive games getting a Retrode seemed like a good idea.

I've actually talked with (e-mailed back and forth...) with the creator of the thing. I am trying to convince him to make an N64 adapter for it. As I said before our N64 hardware is a real mess. I would love to replace it with something like this. Just being able to plug it up to the USB port and read the data off the cart... The idea almost brings tears to my eyes.

We are actually going to try to build a TG-16 adapter for it. I feel certain that we will be able to. That will make launching the TG-16 a little easier. Well, it will make it less bulky anyway. It's a fairly strait forward system really. The HuCards are fairly easy to read. Still, never overlook being able to throw the hardware in a drawer when you are done!

Either way, I thought it was something you guys would be interested in.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Little Progress

Well it was a busy week, but I'm happy to say I've made some progress. I am a little later than usual getting this post up, like I said... busy.

I got the N64 reading hardware up and running, thank the Lord. It was a pain, but it's done now. I am going to wait until after launch to put up any new games. We've got enough to deal with at the moment. I'm considering adding N64 games once a month rather than once a week. The INI file that 1964 uses may have to be updated for certain games. I don't want to do that more than once a month.

I also made some progress on the N64 controller settings. It's not done, but it's moving along. I hope to finish it this week. If all goes well we should have the new Beta build up next Friday. I would probably have gotten it done already, but I had some personal things I had to take care of this week. (The weather turned warm and so I had to finish some things I had been putting off all winter.)

That's it for this post.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Opening Up - Part 2

Really I feel like we need to develop our own emulators from scratch. Why? It's a long story and I'll go into it later. For the moment just believe that I have good reasons. I actually started several years ago. I developed a CPU core for the Sally 6502. That is the CPU of the Atari 2600. I actually designed it to be a completely stand alone piece of software. You can not only use it for an Atari 2600 emulator but for any system that used a 6502, the NES for example. It would actually need a bit of tweaking to work for the NES, but the changes could be implemented with a series of “switches” that way the same CPU core could be used for the Atari 2600 and NES.

The idea is to develop each piece separately and then assemble those pieces together into a working emulator. Once we have a perfected 6502 it shouldn't need to be redeveloped ever again. It may need to be updated in time and translated from one language to another, but most of the work would only need to be done once. Another advantage of developing this way is that all the core development can be cross platform. The CPU core itself doesn't need anything that isn't standard C++. Since it's standard it's cross platform.

The input and output could also be developed with porting in mind. I actually have a very full idea of how I want it all to work. I'll lay out here later. The real point of all this is that we need developers to help us get this off the ground. We intend to open the source code for the CPU core I've already developed and then start a number of other open source projects to complete our own series of emulators. That way anyone who helps us is also helping the emulation community. It's another way that Console Classix will be giving to the classic gaming community. Even if our actual code contributions are small we should be able to help orchestrate something awesome.

One top of any emulator projects we may have I might open the source code for the browser itself. I would like to see what additions the community could come up with. It might also be interesting if we provided potential developers with the software library we use to allow emulators to connect to our server and retrieve games. I would love to see a NES emulator loading games from CC on an iPhone!

As you can see, we have a lot to do. This isn't really a complete list. This is just a look at a few things we need help with. There is just too much for us to do. We need more help. Lord willing, we'll get it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Opening Up - Part 1

This week, being very busy, with all kinds of things going on, I decided to talk about something I'm not working on at the moment. I am loaded down with N64 stuff everywhere I look. This post gives me a quick change of subject so I don't go N64 crazy...

Most of you probably know that we started taking resume's recently. Now, you may be wondering what we want volunteer help for. There are actually a number of projects we are looking at taking on. There is always so much to do with CC that we often feel like we are working on the never ending todo list. Because of this we have finally decided to open up some of our projects to the public. (I was actually the one to drag my feet on this. Many of the people involved with CC have wanted us to do this for a long time.)

I present these in no particular order:

First, we need to convert our game info pages over to a Wiki page. There are so many games with so much information that we simply can't handle it all. In fact we can't even start to handle it all. The game info pages have fallen further and further behind. At the moment we don't even have screen shots up for all the games. (That was something we managed to stay on top of for years.) There is simply to much to be done. Especially since, Lord willing, we are about to start adding games like crazy again. If we can get a Wiki setup to handle that then the fan base can help us maintain that information. We all love classic gaming, that's why we're here. Wiki game info pages would allow fans to publish info about the games they love.

Second, the website needs redone. That is something that has to be done every few years. In truth it is long overdue. The site works, but it could be so much more. Again, we just don't have the manpower to do it totally in house right now. The full time staff is working on getting more systems and games out there. We only have so much time. That means the website redesign is going to have to be handled by a third party or by a combination of in house and volunteer help. There are a lot of very artistic web savvy people out there. We want to give fans that have the know how the chance to help us improve the site.

Third, the software we use needs a little work. The emulators we use generally works great, but we need to add features for our fans. For instance, we need to add a multi-player option for all our users. Most of the emulators have some kind of multi-player mode, but we don't have a good way for our fans to get together to play. We would also like to develop some kind of “competition client” where fans could complete head to head while others were watching. If we could manage that we could have our own video game Olympics.

More soon...

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Long Week

Not this week... Next week. I've got a number of things I've got to try to get in place over the course of next week. What's going on? Well, first Jonathan is almost done putting together the first Beta update. Although I handle the programming issues Jonathan takes care of the “is this setting any better” work. The N64 emulator uses an INI file to keep custom settings for each game. He's almost got that file ready to add to our Beta install. He also found another open source video plugin that should fix a few of the issues we've run into. Once Jonathan gets the INI file to me I have to build the new install, put it up and let all our testers know they need to grab it.

Once that's done (or while it's in the works) I have to pull out our equipment for reading N64 carts and get it setup. That equipment is a mess. Of all the equipment we use the N64 stuff is some of the worst to work on. It has to be done, however. We have a few games that never got read or the read wasn't good. We've also gotten some game donations recently. (Thanks Brian!) On top of all that we are going to have to add new N64 games each month. All in all, we need that equipment working before we launch the N64...

I also have to start working on the controller page for the N64. I haven't done much of it yet... On top of the normal amount of work that would take I had to add the Z Axis to my own controller software. I had left it out up to this point just because not all the systems can use it and none of them need it. The N64 obviously does need it so I had to add it to my control setup. Fortunately I got some time this week and got that done already.

To make sure I stay busy I need to order a few of the controllers that fans are having trouble with. Officially we only support the Logitech USB controllers, but I want to make sure the browser works with as many different controllers as possible. There does seem to be some limitation I have overlooked. I want to find it and fix it...

On top of that I have some personal work to take care of. I won't bore you with it here. Either way... I have a fair amount to do next week.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Another one bites the dust. Part 2

What can be done about it? Well, the systems themselves read the data from the CD in chunks. That is why you run into loading screens as you play. I am hoping we can download the data in pieces just as the system would have done from the disk. Again, this would require a bit of reworking. The server wouldn't be sending an entire ROM file. Instead it would be sending the chuck that the system was about to need.

At the moment it seems plausible, but this is all currently theory. I have yet to see how the emulators load CD games. I can tell you that they don't load the 640 Meg image into RAM, just by looking at it logically. However, I don't know exactly what it is they actually do at the moment. Before I can be sure that we can do this I've got look inside the code for each emulator.

So, as you can see there are two distinct hurdles we have to jump before we can offer CD system games. We have to be able to send a BIOS file and we have to be able to chunk the data up.

With things like this I like to move slowly. I prefer to roll out one change and see how it works before I roll out another. Because of this I am looking at launching the 32X. Now at first you may reject that idea. It wasn't a very popular system and some would even question it's quality. However, it is a classic and it is going to end up on CC some time or the other.

The advantage is that it also requires a BIOS image. So I should be able to get that up and working. We can test it in both beta and real world environments. After we know the BIOS system is working we can look into the CD systems and add data chunks. It's a way of reaching the goal one step at a time while adding an additional system.

While we are all musing that over a bit I though I would mention the fact that there are a few more systems we could add easily. First, the Super Famicom and Mega Drive spring to mind. I know, I know, that's just the SNES and Genesis... Still, are you saying you don't want us to offer any of the games for them? Are there no Japanese only releases that interest you?

If our fan base wanted those two we could start adding games for them in the next few months. Running along those same lines we could add the Famicom Disk System. (I least I think we could. I have a pretty cool idea for getting it working.) The real point is that we could add more games that would play in the emulators we have up and running.

Considering all of the above, what do you guys think?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Another one bites the dust. Part 1

Well, it hasn't really bitten the dust quite yet. Plus, of course, it's really more like another one un-bites the dust... Still, one could say that when a system comes off our todo list it's list item bites the dust... Come to think of it that might not have been much of a title for this post... Moving on...

The N64 is getting closer and closer to finished. If all continues to go well our fans should see it up and running in the beginning of April. After that we intend to launch the TG-16. We may even have it out by May. So then, what's next you ask? There are several things we are looking at.

Any of the CD systems would be a big winner. The Sega-CD or TG-16 Duo would be great. Playstation goes without saying. Each of these has certain limitations and problems. For the Playstation for instance we haven't found an open-source emulator that we like yet. (If you have a suggestion feel free to make it.) However, there is a more common limitation with these systems.

First, each of the emulators we are looking at requires a BIOS image file from the CD system itself. So, for instance, the Sega-CD requires a BIOS image from an actual Sega-CD system. The TG-16 Duo... well, you get the idea. All of them need a BIOS image. Now this BIOS image is actually copyrighted software just like any of the game software we offer.

So what? Well, that means that for each Sega-CD game we let a customer play we actually have to own a Sega-CD system. If ten Sega-CD games are in play we have to own ten Sega-CD systems, etc. Now, this isn't really a big problem. We will just have to buy enough of them to go around just as we do with the games themselves. It will cost a little more at first, but we would earn that money back over time.

However, we also have to change our file transfer protocol a little. At the moment it is only geared up to dish out one file at a time. Again, this isn't a big deal, it's just something we have to consider. With a small amount of tweaking we could have the server dish out the game image and the BIOS image. In fact, as each game type would use only one BIOS image it would be very easy to pull the right image for each game. We would also have to set the server up to track the number of systems we owned as well as game, but again that's no big deal.

So the BIOS really aren't a problem so much as they are a little more work for me. I don't mind the work so they aren't an issue. There is another issue I have to consider however, and that is the game size. At the top end one of these CD systems can hold around 640 Megs of data. That's a lot to download every time you want to play a game. It's just not realistic.

More soon...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Congratulations Nikitas784!

We have our first winner! Nikitas784 made me laugh with the most vigor and so has won a $10 gift card from Amazon. I want to thank the other submitters, who were also worth a laugh. Pat Benatar is a favorite musician of mine so Brian gets 10 points! I also love Jerry Lewis so 10 points to Charles. Sadly the points aren't worth anything.... Neither are the points in Space Invaders, but the more you have the cooler you are, so there you go.

Either way, I enjoyed this and got a good laugh, so we'll probably do it again in a couple of weeks. There are a lot of crazy screen shots on the site. Considering there are around 12,000 screen shots there would have to be some funny ones really...

I would like to expand the whole contest idea. I think it gives us a bit of social interaction. As this year progresses we may add a few more contests and some bigger prizes. It all depends on how much interest we see.

Nikitas I can't find your e-mail address. I need that to send you your prize. E-mail me at:

That way I can get it out to you.

Thanks again everyone for participating!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Another Day, Another Test

I would like to open today's post by thanking all the people that are participating in the N64 Beta. All of you are helping us get a system up and running that our fans have been crying for since we opened our doors. We here at CC really appreciate all of you taking the time to help us improve our product. Admittedly, you guys do get to take a crack at a number of great games before anyone else, so that is a bit of a reward, lol. Still, the point is that we want to thank you all.

That having been said... We've still got a fair amount of testing to do. We are slowly getting all the settings we need straightened out. One game after another gets put in the “good enough” pile. However, we could always use more feedback. There are so many options for each of these games that it can be almost overwhelming to try and figure each one out with our small staff.

What we really need is more fixes from our testers. If a game doesn't work just right there are number of options that can be changed. As fixes are found they'll be worked into the current install. Slowly, but surely we should get the games up and working. The more help we have the faster it will go.

If any of you beta testers find a fix for a bug, please let us know. The more feedback we get the faster this is going to go.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Thousand Words

Don't worry, there aren't really a thousand words in this post. The title concerns the old saying “A picture's worth a thousand words.” You see we've decided to have a little contest. Why? Why not? It will be something we can look back on and feel “Well, that was a bit of fun!” If everyone gets into the spirit of the thing we may start doing it fairly regularly.

This first one is simply a “Caption the Screen Shot” contest. We want everyone to be able to compete and I want to laugh until I cry. So, that having been said take a look at the screen shot below. Now, it's important to note that we didn't take this shot just for the contest. No, that beauty has been on our site for years. Who took it? I don't know... Oh, I have some suspicions, but so many people have taken screen shots for the site that I can't be sure.

It says a lot about fair play and what not doesn't it. In any event, all you guys have to do is caption it. We, the humble, but official, CC Staff will vote on the one that we laughed at the most. Whoever manages to get us closest to crying wins.

Now, I've left something out... Oh yes, the prize. Well, it's a small contest. Shouldn't be too hard to walk away with the prize. Still, it should be something that anyone could use. How about a ten dollar gift card from Yea, that sounds good to me. Kind of a “Picture's Worth a Thousand Pennies” kind of thing. I plan to wrap it up and announce a winner this Friday.

So in short:

Give the screen shot a funny caption

$10 Amazon gift card

Simple enough. Come on guys, make me laugh!

Friday, February 26, 2010

A console-ation prize. Part 2

The problem goes back to that cost versus profit thing I mentioned in an earlier post. If we make a product like this we have to be sure there will be enough consumer interest to merit the thing. I don't want you to think that we here at CC are a bunch of penny pinching profiteers, but money does enter into it. We keep things as low price as we can, but there are a lot of costs to consider, not to mention the fact that we have to make a living.

So, let's say that we could throw the box together for around $150. The software would add no additional cost, but we would still need to charge for the service. We could potentially put the things out there for around $200 with one year of full service.

That is a chunk of change for the Retro-gaming experience. I'm certainly not saying it isn't worth it, I'm just saying it's more than I would want to charge. Now, our free systems would be playable for as long as you had the console, but the full service would need to be paid for each year. That adds another cost consideration.

We also have to think about the fact that in a few years time the console would be outdated and wouldn't be able to play the latest games on CC. That would mean buying the newest version of our console. You could probably count on doing that every three years.

That's the problem in a nutshell. I'm just not sure enough people would be interested in it to make it viable right now. In the long run I am sure we could get enough interest. Especially if we did manage to add a cartridge adapter port where different cartridge ports could be plugged in.

Like so many things it's a matter of time and money. At this point you may be asking yourselves “Why do you do posts like this? You dangle something in front of us just to slap it out of our hands! What's wrong with you?” Well, it's not really like that at all. I'm just sharing the things I think about with you. Lord willing, one day, we will have a CC console. We can't right now, but we have to work toward it. Without the idea you don't get the product. The idea comes first and that is what I am sharing with you guys.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A console-ation prize. Part 1

I mentioned two things while discussing the Atari Flashback. One was home-brewing which has been pretty well covered. The other was that we might consider making our very own Console Classix Console. It an interesting idea, but there are a few things that have to be considered.

First, is it feasible? I think it is. A number of small, low power PC-on-a-board type products are out there. (Embedded systems as they are known.) We could buy a unit that had all the things we needed in it. A good CPU, plenty of RAM, a solid state drive, wired and wireless network connections and a TV out port.

Hardware-wise it's really not that big of a deal. Get the system you need, wrap it in a molded plastic case and include a power supply to support it. Throw in a couple of low cost USB controllers and you are really rolling. We might even be able to do something really awesome like include a cartridge adapter module where you could put the right adapter in it and play your own carts.

Software also shouldn't be a problem. First off we could throw Linux on the thing. Provide our own splash screen and load directly into the browser app. Then we would only load X windows for the browser and the emulators as needed. It should be fairly thin and run relatively fast. (We would need to put a button on the front on the thing to take you back to the menu... a little thought would be required for that.)

The emulators themselves shouldn't prove any great difficulty. Most of the emulators we use now already have Linux builds ready to go. There would be a system or two that we would have to change out, but it would just be a matter of finding a good Linux emulator for that system. Once we had our list of emulators we would just need to get them working with our service.

The last piece of the software puzzle would be the CC Browser itself. Fortunately this last build was done with portability in mind. It is almost cross-platform ready. All told the software work shouldn't take more than a few weeks. It would also give us the added bonus of having a Linux version of the client up and running.

So, it seems simple enough. Get the hardware together, setup the software and get it out there for the public to buy. What's the big deal?

More soon...

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Art of Home Brewing. Part 2

Up to this point I've only talked about the Atari 2600, but don't think that's the only system that still has games being developed for it. The Genesis is still alive and kicking. In recent years we've seen a few new releases. You can take a look:

The NES is still out there:

I could go on, but you get the idea. The classic systems are still alive and well. Each of them offers something unique. People see that, which is why development continues.

Most of these developers have a few things in common. First, they love the systems they are coding on. Second they want to make a bit of money from their hobby. Third, none of their games have ever showed up at Console Classix. Why is this?

Well to start with Console Classix wants to make sure that the original authors of the games have made the money they are going to make before we pick up their games. I admit that we may offer the Wii virtual console a little competition, but I can talk about that later. For the moment just run with the idea that we don't want to cost any developers any sales. These guys have spent months (sometimes years) developing a game. We don't want them to loose sales because we offer it to the public.

In time we certainly plan to offer these games, but when and how is still very much up in the air. We need a way to offer the games and still encourage people to buy a copy for themselves. I think Console Classix could bring attention to these games as well as letting our fans play them. It's simply a matter of working out something that is fair to the developer and Console Classix and, of course, the gamers themselves.

Up to this point we've done very little on this front. We tried to contact one group (I'll leave out the specifics) and were shut down. They didn't like the idea of emulation. This was very shortsighted, of course, because we can offer the games with or without their blessing. We just wanted to work out a system that was beneficial to everyone. As they were so opposed to the idea we let it sit for the moment.

I'm not sure how to go about this. I'm not certain how we should start. For the moment I am going to put it back on the shelf. In a few months I may pull it out again. We have so much we are working on I can quickly get overloaded.

However, if any of you are home brewers or know a home brewer or feel driven to contact the author of some favorite home brew, Console Classix is ready to talk. We want to offer these games in a way that satisfies everyone. I'm certain we can work something out.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Art of Home Brewing. Part 1

In my last post I mentioned home brew Atari 2600 games. Now, I know that most of you probably already know about these, but I feel I should explain before I go on.

For those of you who don't already know it, Atari 2600 development is alive and well. A number of new games come out for the 2600 each and every year. Most, if not all of them, are developed by home coding hobbyists. These hobby coders are known as home brewers. There are several remarkable things about this. The first is that the 2600 was released in October 1977 (Meaning I could have played it at the ripe old age of six months.) The system is thirty two years old and people are still writing games for it. The second, and perhaps more amazing thing, is that some of these games are really good. In point of fact, some of them are better than the games released during the 2600's height. Third, you can buy some of the really good ones in cartridge form!

Can't believe it's true? Take a look at Atari Age:

How can this be with a system that's as old as this? Well, most of you are retro-fans and you get it. However, again I'll take a moment to explain. The Atari 2600 represents an age in gaming. Although it is very limited as a system by today's standards it still has the ability to do one very important thing: It can still run fun games. Take Space Invaders as an example. The game play is very simple and the graphics are extremely limited. However, if you like that style of game then the Wii can't do it any better. Pitfall is an awesome side scroller. Adventure arguably represents the beginning of the adventure genre.

What all systems have in common is that all have their limitations. It is up to developers to work within the confines of the system they are working on. What this does is gives each system a very definite “Feel”. The 2600 was a good system and it still is. To this day I love playing Warlords with a few friends. The games for the 2600 are simple, they have to be. However, if that simplicity is worked into the game you get something that is not only fun, it's easy to play.

More soon...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Back to the Flashback. Part 2

I am sure not all Atari executives love the old 2600. In fact most of them may not, but they could at least look around and see what's going on. Here are a few points for the cartridges:

First, cartridges may very well last until the end of the earth. We haven't reached it yet, but since those games were first sold very few of the carts have ever worn out. You can go to almost any flee market anywhere in the country and there are Atari games that still work just fine. (In truth it's also easy to find a working Atari 2600, but it would be worth buying the new model just to get a better TV connector.) Second, new games come out for the Atari every year. True, they are developed by home brewers and hobbyists and only people that are into the scene know about them. However, who do they think was going to buy the Flashback? The same people that bought a Flashback are likely to be interested in buying new Atari 2600 games! Third, Atari could have released several more compilation cartridges. If they were marketed correctly they could have been sold online and produced in micro batches.

I honestly don't believe that Atari had considered the bigger picture on this one. Why mention all this now? A couple of reasons! The Flashback 2+ is suppose to come out later this month. Again, no cartridge port! (How can Atari keep seeing that there is a market for this thing and not see that there is a market for new carts... this is nuts!) Also, I've been looking at Console Classix own collection of Atari games. We need more. I need to try to work on this in the coming months.

It also makes me consider all the home brewers out there. Console Classix needs to find a way to work with them. I'll have to consider that a bit more. I may even do a post all about that. It also makes me think that a Console Classix Console might not be a bad idea. I wonder how the public would react to that.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Back to the Flashback. Part 1

You may remember that a few years back Atari released a product known as the Flashback. It was an Atari 2600/7800 type console thing. (For lack of a better description.) It came with twenty built in classic Atari games. I was very interested when it came out. However, when I went to buy one I noticed that it didn't have a cartridge port. What came with it was what you got. I was very disappointed. It went right back on the shelf and I went away thinking “So close, but not close enough.”

As it turns out there was a good reason it didn't have a cartridge port. The entire system was built around a Nes-on-a-chip. The games were actually emulated on the system. Obviously I don't have a problem with that in general, but in this case it just didn't make much sense. The game play wasn't true to the Atari and, of course, no Atari cartridges would work in it. End result: A slightly larger version of the joystick compilations that were out there already. It was an ok product, but it could have been great.

A little time passed and Atari released the Flashback 2. This was a great improvement over the first one. The console was based on an Atari-on-a-chip and the games played just like they had on the original. An added bonus was that it could theoretically play Atari cartridges! Atari even went to the trouble to include some of the newer, more popular home brew games out there. This was certainly to tip their caps to the very much alive classic Atari market. This was certainly a good sign. Atari seemed to recognize that it's old system was still alive and kicking. However, low and behold, no cartridge port...

To add to the frustration they actually designed the mother board of the thing where it would be easy to modify yourself. You can add your own cartridge port with very little effort. So, Atari seemed to know that people were going to want the port, they just didn't add it! You see, this is how close companies come and still drop the ball. They knew people would be interested, they just weren't willing to go the extra mile.

To be continued...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sweet TG-16! Part 2

I strayed off my real point in the first post. The question was “Is Console Classix ever going to add the TG-16?” I am happy to say that the answer is yes. In time we hope to offer every system ever sold to the public. No matter what the system's success was someone is going to want to play it. We plan to preserve that experience for them. I myself am looking forward to the TG-16. I never got one as a child and I have a lot of catching up to do.

To add to this good news I have even better news. The TG-16 is, Lord willing, going to be one of our next systems. (It may be the very next one depending on how this work on the N64 goes.) Want better news than that? It's ready! Yep, the software is all there just waiting to launch. It's all done. 100% complete. Yes sir, ready to roll out the door. Any second now... Wait for it....

Ok, now the bad news part. We've got to buy games. We have Pac-Land and it works great, but one copy of Pac-Land isn't going to fill demand. We hope to have the games we need together by April. As soon as we've got the games the TG-16 is going up. We really want to get it out there. We hoped to do it in January, but we've had to push it back to April. (As I said in an earlier post, we are a small company, we've had a few financial hiccups, but we're working on it.)

Want to help get it out faster? Send us a donation! Send us some TG-16 games! If you send a game donation to us we will even give you free service for the amount of the value of the games along with your shipping cost. It's the perfect way to support Console Classix while making sure your investment goes right where you want it. If you are interested in sending us a game donation e-mail me here:

You want the TG-16 up faster? You can help make it happen.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sweet TG-16! Part 1

I decided to go ahead and post this because I got a comment asking about the TG-16. It truly was an excellent system. In many ways it was a very over looked system. Nintendo and Sega ruled supreme in the market that it hoped to fight it's way into. Sadly, as a system, it failed. (At least in America) Why? In my humble opinion it was a mater of games. Not that the games for the TG-16 aren't good, but there simply aren't enough of them. The system never got enough developers behind it to produce the quantity of games that people expected to see.

Many might argue that quality matters more than quantity. Although in theory that makes sense it doesn't work in real life. Let's look at the facts. First, believe it or not, some people actually like Hillsfar for the NES. Now, by making that statement I have drawn a line in the sand. One side is saying “You lie! No one no where no how ever liked that game!” the other side is saying “What do you mean 'some people'?!?!? It's a classic! It may be THE classic!”. Quality is a very subjective term. If you like it then it must be quality.

I would agree that most TG-16 games are quality products and I think that is a generally popular view among people who have played many of them. However, quantity is not so subjective a matter. Nintendo and Sega cranked out three news games for every one new TG-16 game. When considering buying a new system I looked at the games. I loved the TG-16, my brother and I had actually picked one up and were headed for the checkout. Then we talked about it, my Dad weighed in on it. When all was said and done the TG-16 went back on the shelf and we walked out with a Genesis. Why? Sega seemed to be more alive as a company. They had more games. We thought we could expect new games for years to come. We were right.

More on Friday...

Monday, February 8, 2010

N64 Where Are You? Part 3

The truth is that there is a good N64 emulator out there. It's called 1964 and the guys that developed it have done a very good job. The problem is that it is a little on the slow side. If we put it up now there would be many computers (my home computer being one of them) that would not run 1964 well. What I am trying to decide is whether the demand is so great as to excuse this limitation.

Nothing is perfect, I know that. Often it is better to get something out there as soon as it is usable then to work toward perfection. Many people would disagree with me, but look at Console Classix current track record. We started with roughly one hundred NES games. Our server app was a small application written to use an Access database. It locked up around three times a week and was desperately slow. We put it out there anyway and people began to play. They liked the idea enough to look past all the problems. They believed in what we were doing enough to invest their money in it. Now we have thousands of games and the service is much better. We were able to reach this point because we launched an unfinished product.

In point of fact, Console Classix is still “unfinished” and will be for a long time to come. I will consider it complete when we have every game ever offered for every system ever sold up to what is out at the moment. (We won't offer games for systems that are currently on the shelves. The companies that developed them need to realize the profits from all their work. We're here to preserve the past at a low cost, not hurt other companies financially.) So we offered a unfinished product, we are offering an unfinished product and we will continue to offer an unfinished product for a long time to come. So, what's the holdup on the N64?

The thing is that even though our service isn't “finished” it's still good. All the systems we offer are playable and enjoyable. I'm afraid to launch a system that only twenty percent of the current PCs will run right now. I don't want to tell people they can play the N64 for the low cost of $5.99 a month, oh, and the cost of a new PC. This is my dilemma!

We're a small company and we listen to our fans. So... What do you guys think?

Friday, February 5, 2010

N64 Where Are You? Part 2

To pick up where we left off, the N64 is certainly worth doing, but we have to consider another facet of Console Classix. We are a very small company. We only have one full-time developer and he's not the world's greatest. I can say that freely, because I am our full-time developer. This limitation means that we can't develop all the software that we use in-house.

Fortunately there are a large number of developers that are just as interested in game preservation as we are. They have given their time, effort and abilities to make classic console games playable on modern PCs. There are a large number of quality open-source emulators out there. (I'll go into more detail about “open-source” and “emulators” later. For now just run with the idea that it's software other developers wrote that Console Classix can use.) We have added support for the Console Classix service to the emulators that we use.

Basically, Console Classix just offers the game to the user. The software that allows the user to play the game on their PC was developer by other programmers. Although that has allowed us to grow quickly and add system after system by making use of software that other developers generously donated to retro-gaming, it also has a severe limitation. What if there isn't an emulator out there for the system we want to offer? We don't have the man power to develop one on our own. So, what happens? Nothing...

That has been the limiting factor with the N64. We own a large number of N64 games. We have dumped the data off of them and they are ready to work with the Console Classix server. What we haven't had is a solid, open-source, N64 emulator. For those of you that would criticize me for not developing my own I would simply say “Try it sometime.” It is very complex and my programming skills, although in some ways impressive, aren't good enough to undertake something like that on my own. (Well, not and finish it in any reasonable amount of time while, at the same time, maintaining CC.)

However, the time has come when we may have something that is “good enough”. The question that bothers me is this: How good is good enough? Well, I warned you when I started this that it might be three chunks. Looks like that is the case.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

N64 Where Are You? Part 1

This is a question that has been asked since we opened our doors in 2001. It's a valid question, a good question. It deserves a good answer. I think it's best to fully explain the situation so our fans can finally understand exactly why it is we do or don't have a certain system. This explanation may be a little long so I plan to break this into two parts (It may even end up being three parts). That is the reason I'm posting this on Wednesday.

First, I need to explain how Console Classix works legally. Many fans may already understand this, but bear with me. It's usually best to start at the beginning. Console Classix works like any other video game rental place. We can only ever have as many people playing a game as we own physical copies of. So, for instance, if we want to allow ten people to play Super Mario Brothers we have to own ten physical copies. That is why certain games can't be played at certain times. All the copies we own may be in use by other players.

As one can imagine this can cost a great deal of money. We currently offer over three thousand games and have over seven thousand physical cartridges. As large as these numbers may seem we still need more. Since our launch we have had to add more and more copies of games we already own just to fill demand. Even with that we still don't always have enough to go around. We try very hard to make sure that our fans never have to wait for a game, but with our current income we can only buy so much.

Whenever we are considering launching a new system we have to look at the cost of the games involved. How long will it take us to regain the money we've invested in that system? How long will it be before we have to buy extra copies to fill demand? Is the system going to be popular enough to merit the investment at this time? These are the questions we have to consider when we are looking at a new system. (The popularity doesn't matter in the long run. We want to offer every game ever sold to the public. Don't worry if you're the only person you know that ever liked that game. We still intend to get it when we can afford to.)

With the N64 the answers to these questions are obvious. It won't take long to regain our money. We will have to buy extra games quickly, but the increased income should cover the cost. The N64 would be hugely popular and it certainly merits the investment. So why haven't we added it? More on that Friday.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Oh Server, My Server

I know that in my last post I said I planned to do these every Friday, but I may have changed my mind a bit. I decided it would be good to do a post anytime anything unusual is going on. This weekend we had such an issue arise. Our server had a few lockups over the weekend. I tracked the problem to a lack of hard drive space (We uploaded a good deal of data Friday morning). I fixed it well enough to get us through the weekend, but I'll be working on a more permanent solution this week.

As many of our fans may have noticed we've done a lot to improve server stability. Over the course of 2009 we rewrote our server application from scratch, moved to improved hardware and updated all the client software including the Console Classix browser. Many of our former stability issues have been completely resolved. However, it's still a work in progress. Lord willing, after I make the changes this week it will make the service even more stable.

Friday, January 29, 2010

What's all this then?

For those of you who may not know I am the president of Console Classix. If you don't know what Console Classix is I am surprised you're reading this. Still, I'll take a moment to explain. Console Classix is an online company that focuses on offering classic console games for play on home computers across the Internet. I would suggest going to and taking a look. I any event, we'll get started now.

I've been under pressure by a number of friends for a number of years to start blogging about what's happening with Console Classix. It may seem hard to believe that a person as involved as I am in cutting edge technology would constantly resist what's hip and new and now. However, it's easy to understand when you think about the fact that I am the president of what is possibly now (and I feel certain will be in the future) the greatest classic gaming preservation company in the world.

I don't live in the past, but I do love it. As I sit here writing this I am listening to music from the 80s as I do almost every work day. (In truth I also listen to music from the 70s, 60s and 50s, and select modern music, but the 80s is my big deal.) I'm a classic kind of guy really. I read old books, I watch old TV, etc. It's not that I feel being old gives something value it's that I live a “classic” life. I consider myself a collector of the best the ages have to offer. Video games are actually only a small part of that. A very dear part, but a small one none the less.

Classics are created all the time and only the effects of time can show us what is truly classic. When you look over a certain period of time and pull out the best that age had to offer you are always going to come up with something awesome. The Iliad is unarguably a classic and so is The Lord of the Rings. There is no age that can claim it was more “classic” than any other. Every day has it's own classics. The passage of time shows us where they are.

I have been asked many times why I started Console Classix. This is the answer in short: I saw a need and decided to fill it. I wanted to play many of the NES games I had once owned, but had since lost. I was grown, married and had two children before I felt the longing to play The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy again. However, once I felt that draw it pulled at me a great deal. These games were connections to my childhood. I wanted to enjoy them and offer them to my children to enjoy.

Now many of you reading this (If there are many of you...) are probably asking yourselves why I didn't just play what was out there rather than starting my own company. The legal issue was what bothered me. I didn't feel it was right to illegally copy a game. Although many would laugh because it seems to be a victim-less crime, I felt it was wrong and I still do. Plus, of course, you can look at the results. Few, if any, of the illegal ROM sites that were up when Console Classix opened are still around. We have weathered the years well and, Lord willing, will be here for years to come.

I wanted to offer the games of the past to the public at a reasonable price in a legal format. That is just what we have done. Because of the way we went about it we are still here and still growing. That's a good thing, because as I mentioned before classics are being born everyday. We are here to preserve them now and I hope we will be here to preserve them in twenty years time. That is what Console Classix is all about, saving the great games of the past for the enjoyment of the future. The latest LOZ is great, but we keep the memory of where it all began alive. We even manage to do it at a very low cost! (In fact you can play the original LOZ for free.)

I supposed that's enough for a first blog. Although I may have rambled a bit I have, at least, explained why Console Classix is here. I plan to start updating this blog every Friday, so if you're interested in what is currently going on with Console Classix come check it out.