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 Post subject: Streemerz bundle
PostPosted: Fri Oct 12, 2012 6:35 pm 
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I proposed making a huge bundle of homebrew games called Action 53 as a spiritual sequel to Action 52, a notorious multicart by Active Enterprises. The board I initially chose for it (oversize BNROM, iNES #34) would not hold the game I really wanted to include on it (an impressive takeoff on an Action 52 game) because it was implemented around the fixed bank of UNROM. So I got a proposal from infiniteneslives to manufacture Action 53-so-far with a custom mapper designed for multicarts, as a way to build up the capital needed to release Action 53 once it's finished.

I set out to design a multicart mapper capable of simulating several discrete boards, essentially a runtime reconfigurable ReproPak with a game select register on a CPLD. It can simulate NROM (#0), CNROM (#3), AOROM (#7), UNROM (#2 or #180), BNROM, or any combination of features thereof (e.g. UNROM with 1-screen mirroring, or even UNROM with four 8K CHR RAM banks). INL contributed draft Verilog code, and he told me implementations for PowerPak and an emulator are coming.

This is the Streemerz bundle, filled with 15 games spanning 4 megabits.

  1. Concentration Room
  2. Driar
  3. Forehead Block Guy (NESdev Compo 2011)
  4. LAN Master (NESdev Compo 2011)
  5. Lawn Mower (NESdev Compo 2011)
  6. MineShaft
  7. Munchie Attack
  8. NES15
  9. NES Virus Cleaner
  10. Russian Roulette (tech demo)
  11. Slappin' (NESdev Compo 2011)
  12. Streemerz
  13. Thwaite (NESdev Compo 2011)
  14. ZapPing
  15. Zooming Secretary


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 Post subject: Re: Streemerz bundle
PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2012 12:40 am 
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So there are some things that we could use some help with on making this all happen.

We're sorting out the details of the mapper right now, namely the start up values of the registers/modes. Once we solidify that in the next couple days hopefully we'll need some emulation support. Which means we also need a mapper designation. I don't really care what happens here and I'm not looking to start a big messy mapper number debate... But looking though the mapper table and some emulator sources it appears the first available mapper numbers are 28-31. So unless someone sees something significantly wrong with that I'd suggest we just use the first available number #28.

Once the above is ironed out we'll be ready for emulator support. FCEUX is the likely choice, but anyone willing/able to add support for this mapper to an emulator in the near future would be greatly appreciated. I tried to look at the sources for a few emulators and I know if it's up to me alone I won't have emulator support for a several months if ever ;)

We'll work on a powerpak mapper update as well. At the moment it looks like it'll be in the next version of thefox's savestate mappers.

Most of what I need to do for set up is done for the boards using my INL-ROM PCBs. Once I've got a test rom in my hands I'll drop in some EPROMs and test everything out. From there assuming all is complete with Jim's Cool CIC (TENNIS) project I'll be ready to start assembling the first batch. Not sure how many that'll be right now, kinda depends on what the demand is from you guys.

Sorry no 60 pin versions in this batch, so you 60pin guys are going to have to break out your converter... If someone can come up with a solution to acquiring *NEW* cases for 60 pin carts, I'll make PCBs to support. But until there is a case to put them in there isn't much we can do... I don't have $5-10K to invest in injection molds to make that happen.


Some other things we could use input help on:
-The name??? I kinda like Tepples' idea of it featuring Streemerz, that's really what's sparked this into happening right now. But there is obviously other note worthy work included. Maybe something like "Streemerz Action Pak"? IDK... What do you guys think?

-Label art. Perhaps anyone interested in taking this on can post their work and we can vote?


I know people are probably curious as to what the price will be. We haven't really decided on this yet. I'm volunteering my time to make a batch of ~50 or so. If things go crazy with this we'll have to re-evaluate what we want to do on another batch. But the goal of this is to raise funds firstly pay the awards for the compo from last year (and no that's not coming from the winner, it's my goal ;) How can we really expect to have people participate in another compo if we never make good on the first one??? From there we'd like to use the funds to do other projects like Action 53 which Tepples brought up. Maybe even pay the next compo's winner at the time the winner is announced... Basically all I'm trying to say is your purchase of a copy isn't going into the pockets of anyone who's worked on this community project (except compo winners). It's going back into the community for future projects! At this point all I'll say is that my hope is that they'd be sold for more than $20 and less than $50.

My goal is to have these available for purchase before the end of the year. If everything goes as planned that should be reasonable. Delays or problems will be communicated here.

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 Post subject: Re: Streemerz bundle
PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2012 4:33 am 
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infiniteneslives wrote:
Once the above is ironed out we'll be ready for emulator support. FCEUX is the likely choice, but anyone willing/able to add support for this mapper to an emulator in the near future would be greatly appreciated. I tried to look at the sources for a few emulators and I know if it's up to me alone I won't have emulator support for a several months if ever ;)

I could probably whip up a mapper for Nintendulator.

Quote:
We'll work on a powerpak mapper update as well. At the moment it looks like it'll be in the next version of thefox's savestate mappers.

Should be pretty easy to slap it on there, if Verilog already exists. Or you can try to get it working with loopy's mapper source, it's all in Verilog. In any case, I think emulator support is more important than PowerPak support, truthfully.

Quote:
Some other things we could use input help on:
-The name??? I kinda like Tepples' idea of it featuring Streemerz, that's really what's sparked this into happening right now. But there is obviously other note worthy work included. Maybe something like "Streemerz Action Pak"? IDK... What do you guys think?

Hmm, not sure. If/when Streemerz is released separately on a cart at some point, that naming could get confusing.

Quote:
But the goal of this is to raise funds firstly pay the awards for the compo from last year (and no that's not coming from the winner, it's my goal ;) How can we really expect to have people participate in another compo if we never make good on the first one??? From there we'd like to use the funds to do other projects like Action 53 which Tepples brought up. Maybe even pay the next compo's winner at the time the winner is announced... Basically all I'm trying to say is your purchase of a copy isn't going into the pockets of anyone who's worked on this community project (except compo winners). It's going back into the community for future projects! At this point all I'll say is that my hope is that they'd be sold for more than $20 and less than $50.

Since this is basically charity, you should try to be as transparent as possible about how much the manufacturing costs, how much profit is made etc, and how the profits are used. So please post all of these figures when you know them.

Also, if profits are used for Action 53, are the profits from Action 53 also used for compo prizes, etc? I wouldn't want to see any of the profits being funneled into for-profit projects.

Now, don't take this as me accusing you of anything, I just want transparency.

BTW, I also have to make sure everything Streemerz related is OK with Arthur Lee, but since this is a not-for-profit project that supports the community, I don't think he'll have any problem with it.

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 Post subject: Re: Streemerz bundle
PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2012 8:50 am 
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What about including that ROM ripper that uses audio? I'd love to have a way to back up my games. or, is the cart swapping technique so sketchy it may end up frying the bundle cart?


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 Post subject: Re: Streemerz bundle
PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2012 9:41 am 
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infiniteneslives wrote:
Once the above is ironed out we'll be ready for emulator support. FCEUX is the likely choice, but anyone willing/able to add support for this mapper to an emulator in the near future would be greatly appreciated. I tried to look at the sources for a few emulators and I know if it's up to me alone I won't have emulator support for a several months if ever ;)

I need an excuse to finish off my Map[per]Quest in NESICIDE. I added support for NROM-368 but that seems to have fallen out of favor.


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 Post subject: Re: Streemerz bundle
PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2012 9:55 am 
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NROM-368 is not out of favor, I just don't have time for NES projects currently, so they are all put on hold.


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 Post subject: Re: Streemerz bundle
PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2012 11:32 pm 
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thefox wrote:
Or you can try to get it working with loopy's mapper source, it's all in Verilog. In any case, I think emulator support is more important than PowerPak support, truthfully.


Are loopy's mappers open source? I can only find the synthesized mapper config files. I never asked him though...
I agree emu is more important than powerpak, but it would be helpful for development verification/debugging by Tepples. The games can always be played individually by the powerpak.

Quote:
Hmm, not sure. If/when Streemerz is released separately on a cart at some point, that naming could get confusing.


Good point, Maybe something to the effect of '2012 compo multicart featuring streemerz and others.' Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue... I'm at a loss on this one. Maybe Action15 streemerz bundle? IDK...

Quote:
Since this is basically charity, you should try to be as transparent as possible about how much the manufacturing costs, how much profit is made etc, and how the profits are used. So please post all of these figures when you know them.

Also, if profits are used for Action 53, are the profits from Action 53 also used for compo prizes, etc? I wouldn't want to see any of the profits being funneled into for-profit projects.

Now, don't take this as me accusing you of anything, I just want transparency.


I agree with the transparency. I thought about posting some of the details of costs in my original post but didn't expect people to want those details at this point. I'll work on putting this info together and sharing it here. The only thing I'd ask is that people don't take my plan/budget as set in stone. We still don't have the final product prototyped out yet so things can change. And I don't have all the parts in hand yet either, so at the moment I can only provide an estimate. I'll be as transparent as possible throughout the process.

I don't think the future projects Tepples was speaking of were for-profit. But yes we'll be sure the funds will stay reserved for non-profit projects. If there is debate on whether or how the funds should be spent we can always vote on it.

Quote:
BTW, I also have to make sure everything Streemerz related is OK with Arthur Lee, but since this is a not-for-profit project that supports the community, I don't think he'll have any problem with it.

Alright thanks, let us know how he responds.

As for the emulators the more the merrier IMO, everyone is welcome to start implementing the mapper. Tepples and I have sorted out the detail of start up. Basically the ONLY requirement is that the last 16KB of the ROM are located at $C000-FFFF upon startup. The multicart menu will handle the rest of the setup from there.

slobu wrote:
What about including that ROM ripper that uses audio? I'd love to have a way to back up my games. or, is the cart swapping technique so sketchy it may end up frying the bundle cart?

Good question, I can't really see it being an issue from a cartridge/hardware perspective, I dunno about space though. My only concern about this would be people expecting me to provide support for a tool I know next to nothing about...


Here's the current transparency I have to offer:
$1.20 1x XC9536XL CPLD (mapper)
$0.30 1x 3.3V LDO voltage reg
~$2 1x 512KB EPROM (PRG ROM)
$1.30 1x 32KB SRAM (CHR RAM)
$0.50 1x attiny13 (CIC)
~$0.20 5x power/noise caps
~0.50 sales tax and shipping of above

~$2 PCB
$4.15 Case with shipping (perhaps retrozone will sell these to us at discount???)

$??? Labels (I don't have a great solution for these, perhaps retrozone has something to offer?)
$? Shipping supplies
$? Do we want sleeves assuming retrozone will sell them to us?

TOTAL ~$12-13 + paypal fees and shipping to customer

As for what we charge it's kinda open for debate. There are some things to figure out consider here. Is this going to officially be the compo multi-cart? I know Memblers already had some supplies for 30-40 boards, last I heard he didn't have cases though. I don't want to put him out on the money he's already invested for the dedicated compo multicarts. We owe ~$175 in prizes to the winners of the NROM competition.

So for supplies and compo prizes we're looking at ~$825. So the goal would be that the quantity we're fairly certain we can sell would cover that expense. If we only sold 20 carts that would be ~$40 or so. If we sell 30 carts would be around $30.

Assuming we sold all 50, after covering expenses prizes we'd have:
@$20 ~$175 earned
@$30 ~$675 earned
@$40 ~$1175 earned

Personally $30-40 sounds pretty reasonable and puts us at a pretty decent spot. Some may be wondering how that money would actually be spent in the future. Well that's really up to all of us especially if you're buying the carts I'd think. Here are some things I could see it getting spent on:

*Handing over sizable compo prizes at the time of announcing winners. Having that money already set aside would hopefully entice more entries and give people confidence that we're going to give prizes that we promise.

*Web hosting costs? IDK how these are being handled currently but I think it would be nice to support ourselves as a community.

*Supply investments for future compo multicarts. I'm willing to make the financial investment personally to make this happen this time around. But it would be nice to have reserve funds to buy parts/pcbs possibly before a future compo ends. Then we'd only have production/assembly time to wait before holding fresh carts in our hands. Additionally the funds we have on reserve would justify buying larger quantities of parts to get a better deal for ourselves. We may also have to consider labor costs for assembly of future releases. It's not a big deal for one person to make 50 of these, but a few hundred is quite a chore, and is probably worth having done by a professional assembler.

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 Post subject: Re: Streemerz bundle
PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2012 4:17 am 
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Are you taking into account the cost it takes to put it all together? Especially if it's done by hand (which is likely to be the case for putting the PCB into the cartridge itself).


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 Post subject: Re: Streemerz bundle
PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2012 10:13 am 
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Sik wrote:
Are you taking into account the cost it takes to put it all together? Especially if it's done by hand (which is likely to be the case for putting the PCB into the cartridge itself).


Yes, it's free. I'm donating my time to make the first set of 50 or so. I'm handling the assembly, and the putting the assembled board inside the case is nothing compared to soldering up the actual board ;)

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 Post subject: Re: Streemerz bundle
PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2012 11:22 am 
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infiniteneslives wrote:
Good point, Maybe something to the effect of '2012 compo multicart featuring streemerz and others.' Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue... I'm at a loss on this one. Maybe Action15 streemerz bundle? IDK...

Regardless of the actual name ("Action 15" or "Action 53 15", or whatever), you could still prominently display the names of the games on the label, with different font sizes. If you want to put emphasis on some of the games, that would be one way. You know, similar to how they do it on festival posters.

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 Post subject: Re: Streemerz bundle
PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2012 11:08 pm 
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The mapper is working in NESICIDE, FCEUX, and the PowerPak mapper by thefox based on Verilog by kevtris. (Quietust is working on getting it into Nintendulator.) The menu is working. I'll need these next:
  • 4-color 64x56 pixel image of Streemerz Done
  • 4-color 64x56 pixel image of Driar Done
  • 4-color 64x56 pixel image of NES Virus Cleaner Done
  • Logo for the title screen to replace Action 53 logo
  • A plan to beta test (might want to involve NintendoAge, because I'd bet a lot of NAers would be interested in this release)
  • Label art
  • Box art?
  • I think I can fit one more NROM-256 game

Just putting this out there: If each flash chip is individually programmed, as opposed to being gang programmed, it's possible to put the cart's serial number in the flash. Is this a good or bad idea?


EDIT: Do these represent the games adequately?
Attachment:
Streemerz.png
Streemerz.png [ 493 Bytes | Viewed 11394 times ]
Attachment:
Driar.png
Driar.png [ 424 Bytes | Viewed 11394 times ]
Attachment:
NES Virus Cleaner.png
NES Virus Cleaner.png [ 299 Bytes | Viewed 11394 times ]


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 Post subject: Re: Streemerz bundle
PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2012 2:33 am 
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tepples wrote:
[*]A plan to beta test (might want to involve NintendoAge, because I'd bet a lot of NAers would be interested in this release)

What do you mean exactly? Do you mean send a pre-release of the ROM so people can play/test with powerpak and emus? Or cartridge hard copies? I think a download beta should be good for most people of concern. I figured I'd send you the first hard copy for your approval/verification/testing then mass produce the rest.

Quote:
Just putting this out there: If each flash chip is individually programmed, as opposed to being gang programmed, it's possible to put the cart's serial number in the flash. Is this a good or bad idea?
It's a little less work to have the same image for all ROMs, since you wouldn't have to load each image and make sure things are kept straight. If it weren't encoded/encrypted it would be super easy though, I can just modify the byte in the programmer software by hand before clicking 'program'.

Since we're planning to release the ROM I don't really see the point of 'signaturizing' each hard copy. One thing that would be super easy is to have a 'release number' in the first 50 or whatever. If they were viewed as collectors items that might be of some value to someone I guess.


Quote:
EDIT: Do these represent the games adequately?

I think so...

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 Post subject: Re: Streemerz bundle
PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2012 8:00 am 
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infiniteneslives wrote:
If it weren't encoded/encrypted it would be super easy though, I can just modify the byte in the programmer software by hand before clicking 'program'.

Since we're planning to release the ROM I don't really see the point of 'signaturizing' each hard copy. One thing that would be super easy is to have a 'release number' in the first 50 or whatever. If they were viewed as collectors items that might be of some value to someone I guess.

Yeah, I had collectors in mind. I guess I could have it print a string on the title screen and give you the byte offset, and then you could modify that string before programming the chip.


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 Post subject: Re: Streemerz bundle
PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2012 12:35 pm 
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tepples wrote:
Yeah, I had collectors in mind. I guess I could have it print a string on the title screen and give you the byte offset, and then you could modify that string before programming the chip.

I think that would be pretty manageable and a neat bonus/feature. If there was just a byte that I incremented for each rom it would be negligible amount of work.

On thought, I like to dump the cart after assembly and verify the checksum with my kazzo. If there were two bytes one incremented one decremented would it be able to keep the same check sum reguardless? I guess if the checksum incremented with each cart it should be simple enough to make sure things were proper while leaving less room for manual error when inc/dec the cart number.

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 Post subject: Re: Streemerz bundle
PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 4:33 pm 
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Would it be too hard if I made a Python program that filled in the serial number and made SHA-1 hashes of each build?

Also, there is a request to add I Wanna Flip the Sky as #16. I can add it now if the author clarifies whether he needs royalties, but it can always go in volume 2.


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