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 Post subject: Re: FPGA project
PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2010 8:00 am 
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teaguecl wrote:
kevtris wrote:
Actually this time I *do* plan on trying to get it manufactured, and to open the hardware and some code as a development system aimed at making FPGA consoles.

If I sold it, cost would be around $180 or so (possibly cheaper), along with my bitstreams for the various FPGA stuff I designed (like the NES core) and a set of developer documents/files that have pre-made interfaces for SDRAM and stuff.


If you're doing market research, I'll take one of those at nearly any price. If you're taking reservations, I'll take serial number 0001 :)
This is actually very much what I was imagining for this project, looks like once again Kev is ahead of the game! The important things (to me) are:
- the core NES pieces and mappers can be viewed/modified. This allows the community to find bugs and fix them. It also becomes permanent documentation on the behavior of the original system.



I wouldn't release the source code for the NES part until X units sold, then I would open source the entire thing. That was the main plan anywayz. Without an installed userbase it's not so wise to open source it I don't think. 'course this gets into the whole chicken and egg problem a bit maybe.

Quote:

- cheap enough for any moderately serious console collector to purchase
- compatibility with modern TV's and displays. HDMI anyone?
- allows for use of original controllers (using RetroZone style connectors), or anything else. I can see wireless NES controllers being desirable.
- The "ugly stuff" can remain proprietary, allowing the vendor some ability to protect their investment. This includes all the glue that takes the CPU/APU/PPU/mappers and connects them to the outside world. Bugs in this area would have to be fixed by the vendor (aka Kevin)



I think it's pretty much bug free now. I spent a stupid amount of time getting the accuracy as high as possible. It's pretty much 100% accurate as far as every game I can run on it. I will be testing the entire goodnes set on it again (yes I did this before) soon to shake out the remaining bugs.

Right now, I am using SNES controllers plugged into the expansion port. I made the adapter using cheap-o SNES extension cables I bought on ebay. But yeah I figured people would use retroports if they wanted a "turnkey" solution and just plug 'em into the USB. Incidentally, I made an NES controller adapter along with the SNES one which is fully compatible with all NES peripherals too.

Quote:
Given this new information, I'd like to suspend my original message. This might be the shortest time ever for me to abandon a project! Of course, if the FPGANes never makes it to market then we'll have to re-open this discussion :(


This time I am really trying hard to get this manufactureable. I cost-reduced it alot without sacrificing functionality. I guess I can explain my longer-term plans for it :-)

I designed it with the SSRAM chip (which is kinda expensive) so that there is a frame buffer and some fast RAM for other systems. This will allow PAL NES on NTSC/VGA, or vice-versa. Also, this gives me enough fast RAM to do full blown SNES and genesis. I really, really want to get SNES going on an FPGA, so this hardware is designed to meet that goal.

I figure this is the best shot I have at making some kind of "FPGA thing" to sell. The hard part about it is the FPGA alone costs $42 on it, and there's not much I can do about getting that lowered. There might be a quantity discount but there doesn't seem to be.

As for HDMI, this is impossible (as is HDCP of course) unless someone wants to give me buckets of money for licenses. Though, DVI is easy to do (and DVI to HDMI cables exist. It's up to the receiver (TV) to support straight DVI over HDMI. My flat screen on my PC does this for example.)

I can't wait to get that DVI port lit up though. It's there mocking me until I turn it on and see if my PCB design is good enough! I've got a separate RGB analog DAC hooked up to it also, and have been using a DVI to RGB adapter to view the output. The idea was to allow this thing to connect to literally any display device that exists pretty much, be it RGB, composite, s-video, component, or DVI.

Tonight I will add VRC7 audio (I have a complete verilog FM core all ready to go from my synth) and that will finish off the NES mappers I think. Then it's time for alot of testing.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2010 8:03 am 
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blargg wrote:
I'd much rather see the limited resources people have put to use improving the NES situation, rather than being spread thin in an attempt to emulate everything.


I dunno, I think spending 6 years on FPGA NES is plenty long enough. I'm ready to move to FPGA SNES and gameboy and stuff now. I started with NES because I figured it was the hardest, due to all the mappers, and the sheer quantity of games that utilize quirks in the hardware to function properly. I figure say, an FPGA coleco would take maybe 2-3 weeks to finish at this point.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2010 2:01 pm 
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Sounding awesome. Battletoads, Castlevania 3, and MMC4/6 games working with the usual MMC3? If so, that should be enough to work with every game out there! :P Especially since it will run real cart hardware so it shouldn't be too bad. Unless it is all on a cart, but then it'd be a NES Powerpak with NES included inside the cart....with a screen. And buttons. XD



Never heard of FPGA before this and now, it's like the best thing ever. Even better then PIC's and stuff! :D


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2010 2:25 pm 
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65024U wrote:
but then it'd be a NES Powerpak with NES included inside the cart

If I understand correctly, this is exactly what kevtris is making.

It would be cool if it could take carts though, otherwise homebrewers might slowly lose the will to make games as original NES consoles fail, since there will be no point in releasing carts.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2010 2:36 pm 
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tokumaru wrote:
65024U wrote:
but then it'd be a NES Powerpak with NES included inside the cart

If I understand correctly, this is exactly what kevtris is making.

It would be cool if it could take carts though, otherwise homebrewers might slowly lose the will to make games as original NES consoles fail, since there will be no point in releasing carts.


I agree it would be nice to be able to plug in real carts, though I know from experience that dealing with that stupid 72 pin connector is a nightmare. Maybe some kind of expansion port that brought out those 72 signals, and leave it up to someone else to actually hook a connector to it? Personally I view this feature as a nice-to-have, I don't own (or plan to own) any carts which I don't also have dumps of.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2010 2:58 pm 
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Maybe make an adapter that looks like the NES connector inside that's just basically a square with a chunk taken out that can be used to connect games, and just make it thicker, not extend it.


Or just make a whole case new, which would be even better IMO. Include a cart slow and a CF slot if it's easy enough. Holy crap this is just sounding awesome. :D


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2010 3:06 pm 
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Something like this would be nice.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2010 3:26 pm 
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Go big, or go home? :lol:


http://www.techepics.com/files/nes_hand_built_7.jpg


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2010 6:56 pm 
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It is a USB host, I suppose with the right software, one could plug a CopyNES into it and download the ROM to play it. :lol:


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 05, 2010 7:01 am 
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tokumaru wrote:
65024U wrote:
but then it'd be a NES Powerpak with NES included inside the cart

If I understand correctly, this is exactly what kevtris is making.

It would be cool if it could take carts though, otherwise homebrewers might slowly lose the will to make games as original NES consoles fail, since there will be no point in releasing carts.


Correct, that's exactly what it is. It's an FPGA NES + mappers combo. There are a few reasons it doesn't take cartridges. The main one being you need alot of space and level translation logic, along with the fact that I want to do alot more than NES. Adding an NES connector would sorely limit my options.

As for an earlier question, it runs castlevania 3 perfectly, along with every other MMC5 game. All MMC3 games work flawlessly, even the most difficult ones like Klax (japanese ver). That fires 10 or 12 IRQs per frame to adjust the scrolling so that each row of tiles gets its own attributes.

Marble Madness works fine too along with Pirates and their mid-scanline bankswitching. Micromachines and its insane Hblank palette rewriting and sprite fetch pattern checking also.

Last night, I added VRC7 so now Lagrange point is 100%. Fortunately I had done it previously on my synthesizer so I could just drop in the verilog for it. So, it officially supports all expansion audio chips finally.

I was thinking that due to its small size, it'd be a prime target for making into a hand held portable system, too. Current draw shouldn't be TOO bad, and it runs on 9VDC and has switching power supplies on it which are quite efficient (there's no power wasting heatsinks). The connectors can be removed or replaced with headers for wiring it into something.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 05, 2010 7:24 am 
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kevtris wrote:
I was thinking that due to its small size, it'd be a prime target for making into a hand held portable system, too.

And by that time, it could almost be turned into a product. But how would one add ROMs? Retrode doesn't support NES yet. Everyone who buys the system and wants to run something other than homebrew would need to buy a front-loading NES and a CopyNES board and pay someone to solder them together.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 05, 2010 8:27 am 
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tepples wrote:
kevtris wrote:
I was thinking that due to its small size, it'd be a prime target for making into a hand held portable system, too.

And by that time, it could almost be turned into a product. But how would one add ROMs? Retrode doesn't support NES yet. Everyone who buys the system and wants to run something other than homebrew would need to buy a front-loading NES and a CopyNES board and pay someone to solder them together.


Is it really that hard to make a NES cartridge dumper? Maybe not Famicom given the huge amount of mappers, but for NES it shouldn't be a huge deal. Though the Retrode is horribly expensive itself.


Last edited by MottZilla on Fri Nov 05, 2010 10:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 05, 2010 8:45 am 
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Lose the sarcasm; tepples simply meant that those people following the law in the US will be limited to what he described. It's entirely reasonable to consider what legal uses a hardware device will have when considering making it into a product and opening oneself to lawsuits. You may look down on people who consider the laws, but not everyone wants to have their lives ruined. Those who don't care about the laws can easily ignore discussion of how to stay within the law, rather than making fun of it.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 05, 2010 9:59 am 
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Although Kevin's clone is cool and all, personally I'd rather own a console that used cartridges. Then, if I wanted to play ROMs I'd use a PowerPak with it, but I would still have the option to use original cartridges if I wanted to.

I believe that many of us are into old consoles because of Nostalgia, and when you get rid of the cartridge-console interaction a lot of that classic feeling is lost, and that console will have little more to offer over a PC plugged to a TV running an emulator. All the charm is gone.

So if anyone out there has plans for a more traditional FPGA console, I suggest you don't give up just because of Kevin's console. I'm sure there's a market for both kinds of consoles.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 05, 2010 10:36 am 
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tokumaru wrote:
Although Kevin's clone is cool and all, personally I'd rather own a console that used cartridges. Then, if I wanted to play ROMs I'd use a PowerPak with it, but I would still have the option to use original cartridges if I wanted to.

I believe that many of us are into old consoles because of Nostalgia, and when you get rid of the cartridge-console interaction a lot of that classic feeling is lost, and that console will have little more to offer over a PC plugged to a TV running an emulator. All the charm is gone.

So if anyone out there has plans for a more traditional FPGA console, I suggest you don't give up just because of Kevin's console. I'm sure there's a market for both kinds of consoles.


Yeah I kinda agree that some of the charm so to speak is the complete experience, with dirty carts and blinking screens and blowing into the connector and all. That and physically grabbing a game to play instead of just selecting it off a menu or whatever.

Though, for me personally it's also about using a real controller too. Friend and I been playing the hell out of it using regular real controllers on an NTSC monitor and it sure seems realistic enough. Maybe if you put a shoebox over the console with wires snaking out to the TV and controllers you could convince someone there was a real NES under there.

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