If can’t read, this article is read out here, feel free to listen to it in the background or watch it as I go through the links!
Here is my analysis about the unfortunate turn of events of the Retro VGS/Coleco Chameleon
Here are my thoughts, not about what happened with the fake prototypes etc but about the hardware and game cartridges.
My background: I was excited about the Ouya when it was kickstarted, but decided to wait for the retail units, I’ve glad I did because the hardware was disappointing, I eventually got a Madcatz Mojo and was excited about it, now the ShieldTV is taking the glory from the hard work of former microconsoles.
I am also an original Net Yaroze Member since 1998.
I’m not some much a game player these days, instead I enjoy the craft of good gamedev, and I don’t mean AAA, stunning graphics.
The Retro League Podcast EP:328 @9:55 has a good and logical explanation about it.
Basically, it’s a canceled cartridge based game console which used the Coleco brand name.
The hardware was to use FPGA) which allowed games programmed for any retro gaming hardware ie (Coleco, NES, SNES, atari 2600, etc) to run via HDL, this is explained well in their RetroVGS FAQ:
“If a developer wants to make a Neo Geo game, they would include an HDL (Hardware Description Language) file that configures the FPGA to operate like a Neo Geo.
The developer would code their game to run against the Neo Geo platform.
This HDL code along with the actual Neo Geo game will be on the cartridge.
Once that cartridge is placed in the RETRO VGS, it will become a Neo Geo and play that game.
So in this case, the language is: 68000 and Z80 code.
If you wanted to do a new Atari 2600 styled game, you’d include a 2600 HDL file that configures the FPGA to replicate the logic of the original 2600 hardware and then you’d include your new 2600 game on that cartridge too.
These two files are then paired up on the cartridge and when plugged into the RETRO VGS, will turn the console into a 2600.
So the language that would be used in this case is: 6507 (6502 with less address space). “
They didn’t mention old 8bit micros (Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Apple II), nor PC-DOS, Linux, OpenGL, DirectX, PS-X, N64, etc but I imagine it would have worked as all these systems are well emulated and reverse engineered.
So, basically game developers didn’t have to make much effort to convert their existing game (and working on original hardware (NES, SNES,etc)) to the Coleco Chameleon/RetroVGS.
Not only is the hardware ‘configurable’ it also has an ARM chip, if it’s a System On a Chip (SoC) chip it opens up even more possibilities.
“Oh and we’ll have a nice little ARM chip for some more fun stuff.”
So I’m working on a Net Yaroze game now (abbreviated to NY or Yaroze for short).
And as a Net Yaroze member, I have access to the old Sony newsgroups which I search when I get stuck in the hope of finding answers, which I normally do.. and sometimes it’s even my past self! lol! :/ doh!
Well… today I came across something worth sharing, see newsgroup post below.
Here’s a Commodore 64 intro I coded up on the Net Yaroze:
To the un-aficionados, The Net Yaroze, was the only game console, hobbyist development system, with an official retail release.
Now, If you look even closer at that list, the only other “true” 3D console in the same era/generation was the Nintendo 64! - 3D console games were still very new in the mid 90s.
Not only that, but it didn’t require assembly! (programming directly to the hardware)
It was programmed in higher level languages such as C/C++, Lisp and I’m sure others.
This was very important, as it allowed for easy porting (portability) from other non-assembly platforms ie DOS/Mac/other 32bit machines because it didn’t talk natively to any hardware.
It’s also a lot easier to read and write code and develop for and at that time C/C++ was being taught in universities anyway (before Java).
10 Years prior, when the 8-bit computers were in homes, their manuals included an explanation on how to develop for it, most commonly in basic.
But people taught themselves assembly and coded games and released them to the public.
Wikipedia says that the Develo PC Engine development accessory predates it, but it’s not a development kit.
A development kit includes a target device to run the actual target builds on, commonly a PC daughter board or a seperate unit.
So the idea wasn’t completely new, except it was the first gaming console to do it and the last unfortunately (XNA/PSVita aren’t retail hardware kits and the HYDRA kit isn’t a console, it’s a kit), .
But I still find it strange because at the time (mid 90’s) the idea of the ‘bedroom indie game developer’ was fading fast in popularity with the 16-bit micros and PC computers.
Mostly because games required better art assets and more complex logic, which one person couldn’t do as a hobby in a timely manner (a few weeks).
Links Net Yaroze & PSXDEV related material.
The Net Yaroze (which means, Let’s do it in Japanese) is was an official hobbyist programmable Playstation from Sony (SCEE).
It was launch in 1997, and I remember reading about it in a Playstation magazine, it was $750 US about $1400 AUD.
At that time I just started programming part-time, and I wasn’t sure I could do it.
In 1998 I started a Diploma in programming and in March 1999, I had a Net Yaroze! (I still have my acceptance letter in my CV!)