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PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2017 2:34 am 
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Designing an '80s-style console that combines the best features of all those systems and still be designed to be easy to work with would be a really cool thing to do.

Sumez wrote:
NES is interesting because of the cultural icon it has become, and the nostalgia people have for it. PC Engine is, well, for nerds.

Well in Japan it started out as a very expensive alternative to Nintendo and Sega, but eventually it became number two after the Famicom. There was an official homebrew scene in both BASIC and Assembly thanks to the consumer level Develo Box. Magazine CDs for the PC Engine are floating around on internet that contains BASIC and Assembly homebrew, music and pictures that people made with it.

Sogona wrote:
Pokun wrote:
I think another system that is balanced well for homebrew is the PC Engine. It's more powerful than Nes and Master System but still doesn't have, unlike the Snes, tons of overcomplicated registers and memory mapping, also it has programmable waveforms and especially it has colorful RGB video! If it had been more successful outside Japan I think we would have seen lots of PC Engine homebrew.
From what I've looked at, PCE/Turbografxs range from around $80-$150 used. Doesn't seem too bad. I just bought a Master System, so I think I'm gonna wait a while before I consider buying another console.

And it's CPU is based off the 6502? That's really interesting. I've always kinda overlooked the turbografx; don't really know why.

I recommend a PC Engine Duo R or Duo RX as those two are the only way to get a reliable CD-unit. All PC-Engine models do cartridges (HuCards) but it was mainly designed with CD in mind (which is why it turned out to be so expensive and good for arcade ports) and there are far more CD games than HuCard games for it. Also Duo R and RX are the only CDs that reliably reads CD-R discs which you want if you want to make CD homebrew.
Yep Hudson designed the Hu6280 based on and improved 65C02 probably so that they could easily steal developers from Nintendo that was used to program for the Famicom. It is a really nice CPU although some of the improvements seems quite weird and very PC-Engine-specific. It's also much more flexible about vblank time than other consoles of the time, it can mix different sprite sizes and it's lightning fast (about the same as the Mega Drive). The biggest criticism is usually that there is only one background layer, which made it harder for parallax scrolling in arcade ports, but that is only an disadvantage if you compare it to 16-bit machines. Also that there are no smaller sprite size that 16x16 which is bad for danmaku games, and the fact that sprite patterns and character patterns are in two different formats (sprite patterns are interleaved while BG character patterns are straight).

The official development docs (from the American Turbo-Grafx 16 version) as well as the Develo Box Assembly Manual in Japanese (which contains parts of the official Japanese dev docs) are floating around on the internet. Both are quite easy to read (especially compared to Nintendo's dev docs).

Also I made a software/hardware mini guide for the PC Engine here.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2017 2:54 am 
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There's already homebrew for the PCE; just not that much. I'm fine with keeping it nerdy, for me the challenge is what i can do, graphics side. But the price point and unstable availability (mainly via ebay) makes it a luxury console. If there was a steady supply of clones, then those things aren't a hinder anymore.

There's a DIY kit for building an MSX2/ half-MSX2+ but it comes at a price double what you'd get a used MSX2 for and roughly the same as an imported MSX2+, and then you still need to buy/build a box to put it in. So that's more or less strictly for EE hobbyists or parents wanting to homeschool their children in computer science.

re: new consoles - there's ming mecca, which i've designed graphics for a user. It's completely in the luxury corner as it's very expensive, giving you capabilities somewhat roughly close to the 2600, and you still need to manually patch the game logic with non-included eurorack synth modules if you want to achieve something more advanced (actually, that's the whole point). Besides rewriting firmware and releasing data packs with new tiles and subpalettes, there's currently no way to distribute games other than in the form of patch instructions, so it's decidedly homebrew-unfriendly.

re: nesdev designs a console
I think the "make a new console" would work only if it's backwards compatible with the NES, like daisychaining two or three PPU:s and allowing ext audio and support for more buttons, while the software would mostly be designed to work on a standard NES but add extras on the "NES+" - like adding in pretty background sceneries, separate scrolling speeds for easy and impressive parallax effects, a non-scrolling big moon metasprite, layering sprites from two PPU:s to increase sprite colour depth, and the like. Things that aren't essential to gameplay but would allow for artistic extravaganza; gfx, sound and code side, while still keeping the scope of projects NES-like.

edit: there's a lot you can do with two PPU:s when you start to think about it. Like setting different emphasis bits to achieve a larger and more nuanced master palette range, do raster effects on one but not the other for water/underwater background elements (to name the most obvious use), have different subpalettes at different layers... It'd be great. But it's all optional to the dev. You could just go for something that works on both systems if you want to.

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Last edited by FrankenGraphics on Thu Jul 06, 2017 4:13 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2017 4:05 am 
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MSX2+ wasn't released outside Japan which is why it's so expensive I believe (so there's no PAL version either). The Sony ones are really expensive but the Panasonic FS-A1 WX might be more affordable. There's a successor called FS-A1 WSX but it has no tape recorder port for some reason.


Some kind of compatibility with a big console like Nes might be a good idea yeah.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2017 5:00 am 
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Another thing to consider: No need to write an emulator from scratch, no need to write too many new blocks either - for example: enabling another PPU instance won't require documenting and writing another PPU emulation, so emulators would already be upgrade-ready with a few tweaks. This would speed up work getting some test roms and graphical demos out, which in turn would help finalize the "new console" project. Lastly, the "+ version" should ship with a demo/game rom/multicart to demonstrate and popularize its capabilities, within and outside the homebrew scene.


re: msx2 - yeah, this would be why i think it would be most viable to aim for MSX2 rather than MSX2+ compability for homebrew projects

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2017 8:10 am 
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Sumez wrote:
In the thread I'm referring to, I was actually wishing for a hardware design that would be easy to distribute along with the game itself, similar to how arcade games or plug-n-play consoles work.

In the era of HDMI-only monitors without composite or RF input being sold in the TV section, each unit sold would require an HDMI source license.

Sumez wrote:
Just see how people are going nuts about that Skycurser game being distributed like a "real arcade board", and that's really just a Linux PC with a Jamma interface.

In the Groove was also a Linux PC designed to mate with the JAMMA interface in a Dance Dance Revolution machine. A lot of recent arcade games run Windows Embedded, such as Tetris the Grand Master 3: Terror-Instinct.

Pokun wrote:
There was an official homebrew scene in both BASIC and Assembly thanks to the consumer level Develo Box. Magazine CDs for the PC Engine are floating around on internet that contains BASIC and Assembly homebrew, music and pictures that people made with it.

So the PC Engine with a Develo Box is actually a PC in the sense of a device such that the person who owns it controls what computing is done on it.

Pokun wrote:
Yep Hudson designed the Hu6280 based on and improved 65C02 probably so that they could easily steal developers from Nintendo that was used to program for the Famicom.

As opposed to developers from the Atari, Commodore, or Apple scenes?

So perhaps at this point, the next step might be to replicate the TG16 and TGCD interface in Verilog and then see how to get a clone with HuCard and SD card slots manufactured. But again, one problem would be hooking it up to modern monitors misadvertised as TVs.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2017 10:54 am 
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tepples wrote:
In the Groove was also a Linux PC designed to mate with the JAMMA interface in a Dance Dance Revolution machine. A lot of recent arcade games run Windows Embedded, such as Tetris the Grand Master 3: Terror-Instinct.

TGM3 and other TypeX games are literally Windows XP games. I think that's the kind of stuff we're actively trying to avoid in this community, right? :D

tepples wrote:
As opposed to developers from the Atari, Commodore, or Apple scenes?

I think it's fair to say those weren't really a priority, no. The PC Engine was developed almost exclusively with the Japanese market in mind, which is obvious when you see how horribly the TurboGrafx was marketed (partly due to NOA's aggressive marketing strategies regarding licensing)


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2017 12:12 pm 
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Yeah and Nintendo with their Famicom was the biggest console competitor in both Japan and in the west at the time. Plus Hudson was a small company (which is why they needed NEC in the first place) so I don't think they thought about selling it overseas from the get go.

tepples wrote:
Pokun wrote:
There was an official homebrew scene in both BASIC and Assembly thanks to the consumer level Develo Box. Magazine CDs for the PC Engine are floating around on internet that contains BASIC and Assembly homebrew, music and pictures that people made with it.

So the PC Engine with a Develo Box is actually a PC in the sense of a device such that the person who owns it controls what computing is done on it.

Yes it plugs into the Pad port so that it can communicate with a PC (MSX or PC-98) in order to program the PC Engine.
Also NEC meant the "PC" part of the name to mean "Personal Computer" because it's a kind of home computer, although it's not programmable as is. A keyboard and BASIC intepretter meant to run on the PC Engine was developed but never released. "Engine" refers to it being the core of a family of systems and peripherals (which was a common business strategy by NEC at the time, although they were completely newbies in the console market).

Of course nowdays you can program the PC Engine as it is with just an Everdrive or other cheap flashcart.


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So perhaps at this point, the next step might be to replicate the TG16 and TGCD interface in Verilog and then see how to get a clone with HuCard and SD card slots manufactured. But again, one problem would be hooking it up to modern monitors misadvertised as TVs.

Yes HuCard port and expansion port. Controller port is a standard 8-pin mini DIN so that's not a problem.
Ugh I think one would have to ignore the monitor problem for now. Those unfortunate enough to be stuck with one of those worthless bricks of a "TV" would just have to pay for a composite or RGB to HDMI adapter for now.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2017 12:24 pm 
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Wouldn't there be three ports? HuCard, expansion, and cd substitute? or was the expansion a HuCard while running cd games?

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2017 2:03 pm 
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Yes the CD interface unit needs to be replicated in programmable logic as well and some way to connect a generic CD-ROM unit so that it can read real CD games without the expensive and unreliable (Super) CD-ROM2 peripheral. And an SD-card port of course.

No the HuCard port is occupied by the CD BIOS when running a CD game so it can't be used for anything on a real machine (on Duos the slot is unoccupied as the Super CD BIOS is built-in but if a HuCard is inserted it overrides the CD BIOS and boots the HuCard instead).

The expansion port is normally unusable if a CD unit (or other peripheral) is occupies it, and the Duos have no expansion port (because all peripherals that use it are already built-in), so with an expansion port and separate CD it would be possible to do things that's not intended on a real machine (but possible in Mednafen), including seeing some unique error messages and crashes in certain games.


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