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!