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Topics - Sliver X

#1
Gaming Discussion / Adventures in RetroPie
December 16, 2021, 05:59:41 PM
A couple of months ago I ran across an article about something called the "GPi Case" made by a company called Retroflag: It's a DMG clone with four face buttons, two "shoulder" buttons on the back above the battery compartment and a nice (But low resolution, 320x240) LCD for a Raspberry Pi Zero board. It uses three AAA batteries, though I eventually soldered in a small NiMH charging circuit that allows recharging them in the device itself when connected to a DC power adapter: Paired with good (I use Eneloop Pro) batteries this actually isn't that bad of a setup.

I bought one for $80 and a Zero for $15, got it set up and basically threw it in a drawer since the Pi Zero's performance was so anemic it made even SNES emulation difficult with any emulator that had reasonably decent accuracy.

About a month ago, though, the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 was released with over twice the performance and multiple cores: Basically it's a Pi 3 shrunk down to the Zero's form factor. So I got a Zero 2 and installed it, but support for the board was sketchy due to how new it was: I ultimately downloaded RetroPie and started working on making it function properly. This then resulted in making a full blown image for it (Including themes) after about a month of work.

https://retropie.org.uk/forum/topic/31708/gpi-zero-2-v1-2-retroflag-gpi-image-for-pi-zero-2-w

I'd never used RetroPie before, but due to being based on Linux I was able to start doing a lot of things immediately, like writing bash scripts to fill in gaps for functions I wanted that don't normally exist in the system. Overall I was pleased with how customizable it is, and it's absolutely minimal on resource usage despite having a fairly nice frontend (EmulationStation).

At the end of the day, this case with a Zero 2 is a really neat handheld that can run a lot of systems really well: PSX and down is great, but N64 is hit or miss and Saturn is unusable. After modifying the case to expose the HDMI port (And getting a couple of Gameboy themed 8bitdo Pro 2s to pair via Bluetooth) it can also act as a console when connected to a TV. For the approximately $150 I ended up dumping into it (And about 120 hours of my life developing the OS install, lol) I'm pretty pleased with the result



#2
Gaming Discussion / 8bitdo Pro 2
April 13, 2021, 12:55:39 PM
I've been using Switch Pro controllers with my media PC for a little over a year now: I use a program called reWASD to make them act like Xbox controllers and to bind the Share button to a keyboard key so as to make it a functional button.

But lately I've become infuriated by just how shitty the dpad is on these things (How the company that literally invented the dpad could fuck that up is beyond me), even the newer revision that made some marginal improvements to the design.

I saw a review of a controller 8bitdo was coming out with called the Pro 2, which is compatible with PC, Android, OSX and Switch: I've only ever owned one of their controllers (The ridiculously tiny Zero 2 that I keep on my keychain to use with my phone) but it's decent enough that I bothered to preorder two of the black models, which arrived this morning.

I'm kind of blown away by this thing. It's basically a mutant SNES pad with analog sticks, and the dpad is just as good as on them. Shmups, fighting games and side scrolling platformers are so much easier to play VS the Switch Pro controller I'm having a hard time thinking of how to describe it. Putting it in Switch mode made it a drop in replacement on my media PC, so once I paired it reWASD picked it up and off it went.

The analog sticks are also really good: Not too tight or loose, and decently clicky when pressed (and at the risk of starting a holy war I actually prefer symmetrical stick placement). Rumble is also supported and feels really strong, especially compared to what the Switch Pro controller's feels like.

The face buttons and L1/R1 feels like a SNES pad, but the L2 and R2 triggers feel a little mushy to me: Since it's running in Switch mode (Which has digital L2/R2 triggers) it's not that big of a deal for me, but it may be if you're running it in XInput mode. The "Heart" and "Star" buttons are level with the face of the controller, so they're not easy to hit by accident (Since I bind these to Exit Game and Fast Forward, respectively, that's a big deal for my particular use case). It also has two bottom triggers that can be assigned via a program 8bitdo makes.

Said software allows you to do several things: You can remap buttons, adjust sensitivity/deadzones for the analog stick and even bind macros. What's neat is that the profile settings are written to the controller itself: Up to three different profiles can be stored, and can be toggled by hitting the button between the analog sticks. A nice touch is that it remembers the last used profile when turned back on: I ended up making both map L3 and R3 to the bottom triggers which makes a lot of games much easier to play.

It has about 20 hours of battery life with the included battery pack: It's accessible via a door on the back, so no having to unscrew the outer layers of the controller like with the Swich Pro Controller. The pack actually fits into two standard AA slots, so you can even use normal batteries if you want.

They appear to be out of stock most places right now, but for $50 they're pretty amazing controllers. I highly recommend them if you want something that has both a good dpad and analog sticks.

#3
Gaming Discussion / Rogue-Like Router
March 19, 2021, 12:53:37 AM
I recently had a problem with an ASUS wireless router's port dropping to 100Mb at random. When I discovered I couldn't lock the port speed down using the factory firmware I looked for alternatives and discovered OpenWRT had a build for it.

After flashing it I realized it was just Linux under the hood, so I couldn't help but start tinkering with it. After adding a 32GB USB flash drive and moving the paltry 64MB of internal storage to it and creating a 1GB swap file to supplement the 128MB of RAM, the thought crossed my mind... Why not get some games running on it?

Using OpenWRT's excellent packaging system, I got GCC set up and hunted down the source code for Rogue and Zork. With minimal modification I got them to compile: they ran beautifully.

I tried to compile Nethack but I haven't had any luck yet. Amazingly, though, the binary for ARM off ADOM's page worked with zero effort at all.

This video shows how it works, compiling and playing Rogue and doing quick runs of Zork and ADOM. I'm tempted to actually package Rogue and Zork as legitimate OpenWRT packages but I doubt anyone else on earth but me would want to do this, lol.

Video Link
#4
Gaming Discussion / GG Aleste 3
March 11, 2021, 01:39:23 PM
As a whole, I've never been particularly crazy about the Aleste/Power Strike series of shmups, but GG Aleste 2 on Game Gear is one of my favorites for any system.

Last year the company that bought Compile's IP (M2) put out a release for PS4 and Switch containing most of the series called Aleste Collection. What makes it interesting is that they created a brand new sequel running on the Game Gear called GG Aleste 3, so I really wanted to buy it just for that alone.

Despite having both a Switch and PSNow, Aleste Collection isn't available outside of Japan currently. And while the Game Gear ROM has been extracted from the game already, it uses various layers of protections to prevent it from running on a real unit or any emulator aside from the one built into the compilation.

Undeterred by this, I finally hunted down a Switch dump of the game and, after a bit of screwing around to find optimal settings, got it running flawlessly in the Switch emulator Ryujinx.

I'm fairly impressed: It's definitely one of the most graphically impressive Game Gear games (The birds flying out of the trees on the ground at the beginning of Stage 2 in particular impressed me), and it also has a really good sound track. There's no bomb type weapon like in GG Aleste 2 and the overall difficulty is much higher than the previous GG games (The boss fights in particular make you think a hell of a lot more than in 1 and 2), but all the subweapons have been adjusted to where each is a truly viable choice for going through any section of the game (Whereas I would stick with the Neo Napalm gun in part 2 due to how overpowered it was compared to anything else). Number of lives is also adjustable up to 9. The built in emulator also has a bunch of scaling options as well as variable blur and scanline modes.

The only real downside is that it's really demanding every last bit of power from the Game Gear and comes up short most of the time: Slowdown can get excruciating at times, particularily when firing most of the fully powered up subweapons. Well, and the lack of a US release. If they bother localizing it for the western market I'll probably buy it for Switch (And continue to play the bootleg copy I have now) just to thank M2 for making a new Game Gear game in the 21st century.

I highly recommend trying it if you like Shmups or the Game Gear in general.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3A24esOJ90I
#5
Gaming Discussion / Prodeus
November 15, 2020, 10:46:07 AM
My SO was asking if I knew where to find some old Xbox 360 era games (Overlord I and II). I figured they would be cheap on GoG, and they were, but while I was there getting them I noticed a game called "Prodeus" was featured.

Initially I was going to pass since I saw it was in Early Access but GoG will let you do a no-questions-asked refund within 14 days for a game in that status, so I figured what the hell.

It's kind of amazing. This feels more like what the follow up to Doom (2016) should have been rather than the cartoonish and laden with stupid/boring/unneeded "lore" game Doom Eternal turned out to be.

It's presented as a "retro" FPS but makes use of lighting effects that have only really been around for the past 12 years or so. Textures are unfiltered and objects/enemies are sprites but you can toggle monsters to use decent looking 3D models instead. You can also emulate the old VGA Mode 13h (320x200) and Mode X (320x240) with scanlines or a CRT effect if desired. While the graphics are chunky the lighting and such looks really good: With all the rendering settings on maximum it brought my machine running a GeForce 750 Ti to a crawl.

The level design is interesting: Each level manages to feel distinctly memorable and there's thankfully not many key hunts from what I've seen so far. I'm not really sure what the story is really about, and to be honest I don't care: The places you go through feel genuinely disquieting at points: Almost like Quake 4 if Strogoss was sucked into Hell. Also your character's face doesn't look rather... pleasant on the HUD. I get the feeling I may not necessarily be a good person?
The music is decent thrash/death metal sounding guitar riffs coupled with moody ambient sounds in between fights. Not bad if you're into that sort of thing.

Gameplay-wise it feels like a hybrid of Painkiller, Doom 1/2, Doom 2016 and Quake 4. Tons of ammo, tons of weapons and hordes of things constantly attacking you. On normal difficulty it seems too easy at first but it rapidly starts increasing in difficulty. My only real gripe is that I can't find a way to manually save, though the game uses a checkpoint system that basically lets you respawn indefinitely (At least on normal difficulty?).

Apparently the devs released the same level editor that was used in the game's development and people have already made dozens of maps that can be downloaded through the game (Though you have to make an account, which sucks). Some of them are incredibly impressive giving how recent the game is. Makes you wonder what Doom 2016 or Eternal could have had produced by the map making communities if Bethesda hadn't decided to limit map design to the abominable Snap-Map.

I guess more episodes are going to come out, but I'm about 3 hours into it and haven't gotten halfway through the one that's there yet, so I guess it may be around an 8-10 experience so far? Not counting all the other maps, of course.

I highly recommend giving it a try if you like FPS games, modern or retro. Though it is $25. Totally worth that in my opinion and I typically pirate the everloving shit out of games.

#6
Gaming Discussion / How do you emulate?
October 05, 2020, 05:20:47 PM
I run emulators on basically every device I own capable of doing so, even going so far as to design my own x86 based "consoles" over the years that I primarily use for such things.

I built a new one of those recently, and I think I'm finally happy with how it turned out for once. I've named it "Oberon":


Demo video of it running (Youtube.com)

Does anyone else go through ridiculous lengths making crap like this? Do you prefer pre-built things like a Retron-5 or even hacked consoles like a PSP? Or is anything but using a keyboard on a standard desktop heresy to you?
#7
Gaming Discussion / Playstation Now
September 02, 2020, 05:19:05 PM
So I found out this exists for PC and not just PS4 the other day and signed up for a week trial.

It has a fairly big selection of games, but the thing to keep in mind is they are all streamed 100% from a dataserver cluster somewhere. I have a fairly crappy internet connection (50Mb/5Mb cable in a rural part of the US) but am surprised at how minor input lag is even in FPS games, though.

I mainly wanted to try it for a handful of PS3 games I always wanted to play, but never enough to justify actually buying a console (Red Dead Redemption and The Last of Us, both of which are on PS Now). I'm really torn about it, though: Streaming will eventually be a way to completely seize control of programs and that's really bad for preservation. It will also be the death knell for modding or ownership of software in general.

On the other hand, I'm surprised at how minimal the PS Now client is so far as digging hooks in the OS: I'd much rather play Doom 2016 online via it than having to put Bethesda's horseshit launcher on my system. And even though RCPS3 is making great strides it's going to be years before emulating the PS3 is really feasible for general playing.
#8
Gaming Discussion / G-SYNC/FreeSync
December 22, 2019, 01:08:34 PM
I bought a relatively cheap 27" monitor last year. I mainly got it due to its 144Hz refresh rate and 2ms response time; it also advertised support for FreeSync but since I haven't bought an AMD GPU since they were still ATI it didn't even register as an afterthought. Until last week.

I ran across the release notes for nVidia 417.71 when manually grabbing a newer driver for my GPU than what this distro I run's repositories have. One line in particular stood out:

G-SYNC Compatible Support

G-SYNC was released a hell of a lot earlier than v417.71, so that struck me as odd. I looked into it and found it means nVidia GPUs can now do variable refresh rates with FreeSync capable monitors (With several caveats, of course).

So I did a manual install of nVidia 430.50 and enabled FreeSync in my monitor's OSD. At first I couldn't find any way to set G-SYNC, then realized I'd forgotten one of the aforementioned caveats is that it only works over Display Port, not HDMI.

Connecting it via Display Port made a new option appear in the nvidia-settings console (X Server Display Configuration > Advanced): "Allow G-SYNC on monitor not validated as G-SYNC Compatible". I enabled this, manually set the resolution and refresh rate the the maximum the monitor supports and also made a few changes under the "OpenGL Settings" menu: Unchecked "Sync to VBlank" and checked "Allow Flipping", "Allow G-SYNC/G-SYNC Compatible" and "Enable G-SYNC-G-SYNC Compatible Visual Indicator".

The last one will overlay text on the upper right part of the screen showing if G-SYNC is actually running or not, which helped at first.



I tested initially on some FPS games (Quake II under the KMQuake2 engine, The Outer Worlds and Skyrim)... I've been playing FPS games since 1996 and have never had motion sickness from it. Until now. So long as I was hitting 144FPS the motion was uncannily smooth, as if I were actually moving my head around in the game's space. It took a bit to get used to, but now that I have I really don't want to ever use a fixed rate display again.

My second test was with emulation. Despite enabling G-SYNC, Mednafen's scrolling was still oddly choppy with mild tearing at times. So I bit the bullet and downloaded Retroarch (The build from Ubuntu Xenial works fine if you're on Debian Stretch, like me). Just like nvidia-settings, there are a few things that need enabled to make it work on its end:

Config > Video > Video Driver To Use > gl1
Config > Video > Start In Fullscreen Mode
Config > Video > Output > Set Display-Reported Refresh Rate (This should be very close to the highest refresh rate your monitor can support. If it isn't, check nvidia-settings!)
Config > Frame Throttle > Sync To Exact Content Refresh Rate

I initially tried Super Mario Bros. via the NEStopia core. Scrolling was absolutely perfect, just like it was on a CRT. Again, the motion seemed unnaturally smooth after decades of using emulators.

But that's kind of subjective even though I could tell a difference. Next I tried some games that had rendering problems due to refresh rate mismatches...

Bio Metal (SNES): The first stage has fast scrolling background layers with transparencies. Typically the movement is very choppy, even with traditional v-sync enabled. Scrolling is virtually perfect with G-SYNC, with no detectable stuttering or tearing.

Belmont's Revenge (Gameboy / Gameboy Color): The beginning of the Cloud Castle level has a flickering effect on the mountains outside the windows that displays various artifacts on most emulators: They flicker as they should with G-SYNC.

Overall, I'm fairly impressed with this, and the fact that it can be done on FreeSync displays instead of only (ridiculously overpriced) G-SYNC monitors is great.

If you have all the bits needed for using this, I highly recommend at least giving it a try. You may be surprised.

#9
I vaguely remember hearing about this being on Kickstarter years ago but didn't think much of it until I happened to run across some screenshots of it the other day. I ended up watching some Youtube videos, and for the first time in over three years, paid for a video game by getting a copy from GoG.

I've been extremely impressed with it so far (I'm about 75% through, I think). I liked the GBA Igavanias but struggled to get through the DS ones due to how repetetive they felt; The "seal" mechanic from Dawn of Sorrow and the dual player crap from Portrait of Ruin just felt like gimmicks rather than innovation to me, and while I like the atmosphere in Order of Ecclessia the Glyph system and combat in general felt clunky and unrefined.

Somehow they managed to make something that feels like a true sequel to Symphony of The Night with this one (It practically is, just with the Konami serial numbers filed off). However, they also managed to take all the best bits from the portable games and incorporate them, as well as improve them, in ways that feel both natural and fun.

Overall it feels like a fusion of Symphony of the Night's RPG elements with Aria of Sorrow's Soul system and Dawn of Sorrow's combat. It also has some crafting type stuff if you're in to that, but it can be mostly ignored unless you're trying to get powerful gear earlier than you can typically find it via exploration.

The soundtrack is also exceptional, which isn't all that surprising considering the composer was Michiru Yamane, who also did Symphony of The Night's score.

I'm not overly found of the cell shading for entity models: It sort of clashes with the more realistic graphics style of the environments, but it's a minor thing. The NPC models could have also been done a little better, but Miriam's design is fairly good. There's also portraits all over the castle with seriously bad looking and immersion breaking images of what I assume are backers from Kickstarter. Fortunately a bunch of mods have already sprung up for the game, one being replacements of these with artwork by Ayami Kojima.

Highly worth the $30 I paid for it. I typically don't care enough about video games at this point in my life to bother making a post like this but I felt, in this case, it's a somewhat exceptional game.

#10
Gaming Discussion / Your (PC) Controller Preferences
January 27, 2019, 01:48:14 AM
Currently, I use Dualshock 3s with my mini ITX media PC and Dualshock 1s with my desktop machine.

The former I use via a newer(ish) version of SCP Toolkit, which provides Bluetooth and USB connectivity. For the latter I use an older version of SCP Toolkit with a PS2 to PS3 USB adapter.

Since SCP Toolkit presents the controllers as XInput (read, Xbox) controllers to Windows they just work with most games and such. I also got rumble support working, even for old DirectInput games via
a wrapper I found on a japanese website.

Sealed in the box PSOne controllers can be found for around $60 currently, so I ended up buying two: I used to run a Dualshock 2 as a DirectInput gamepad for ages on my desktop (Since like 2003 or so) but
really like having digital "triggers" with the Dualshock 1. It also appears the DS1's analog sticks have 10 bits of precision VS 8 bits for the DS2, which explains why they feel different (in a good way).

I bought a Dualshock 4 last year and used it with both machines briefly but it kind of sucks and doesn't get much use now.

What do you use?
#11
It recently came to my attention that the Valis transation satsu and I did in 2007 has a game breaking bug that I never encountered during the process of testing it.

This bugged the shit out of me: There are a lot of things in every hack I've done I've not been happy with but something this bad compelled me to do something about it.

So despite having lost all my notes years ago I dug into the game and managed to fix it after figuring out what I did and how the text engine works again.

I suppose I'll be putting out new patches for the standard translation and the "Valis++" hack that also adds a bunch of game play and assembly hacks sometime. I'm wanting to do a few more things to Valis++ before I do though:

1) Figure out a way to mitigate the fact that you have to leave the area where the final boss of Stage 1 then come back to be able to exit the level and progress.
2) Hack the level data to move the Valis Sword and the ledge it sits on down a tile or two. It's fucking hard to get to it even when you're supposed to be able to.
3) Change the generic question mark indicator I made for Up/Down exit notifications to up and down arrows.
4) Alter some of the text to give better hints to navigate the absolute clusterfuck of a game this is from a design perspective.

Having done this, it felt kind of good cracking open a debugger. I'm debating on whether I should go back to some of my other hacks and make UTTERLY FINAL FINAL OMEGA HYPER FIGHTING EX revisions for some of them.

To anyone familiar with what I've done: What would you like to see me do before I lose the desire to ROM hack for another decade or two?


#12
Gaming Discussion / Project Exa Drive
November 13, 2016, 04:17:05 PM
After first having access to a PS3 in 2008 and being intrigued by what it could do and infuriated by what it couldn't, I've designed several homebrew "consoles" since then that could do media playback and more importantly play tons of ROMs.

It's been four years or so since I had touched the last one; Someone gave me an old HP laptop from 2008 a few months ago and I decided to design a new one, this time using Linux as the base. ~200 hours or so later I'm finished:

"Exa Drive" v1.81

I know Gideon Zhi also does this kind of thing, but does anyone else here? I'd love to see what you've made if so!
#13
I just noticed these patches on the front page and was somewhat surprised somebody bothered to do them.

I tried playing through both of the originals not too long ago and was frustratingly pissed off at how much grinding they involve, so I'll definitely be trying the addendum patches soon.

My big concern is in regards to how much you went through DXOII after modifying it in FFHackster, as there are two significant problems that can arise editing the game in that editor.

Some of what it considers "KAB" (Known Available Bytes) aren't actually available, and this isn't a problem typically, but we pushed the map data's total size so much that any additional changes to it that would increase the total map data size would start overwriting areas of the gear/player statistical tables since Hackster thought it was writing to free space.

The major one was also due to the size of the map data and a bug in the way FFH handles RLE compression. If map recompression is triggered at any point in the editor you'll run into a problem where entering a door/town/dungeon will hard lock the game (A black screen of silence). This is due to the RLE length specified in decoding the level data being oversized by one byte.

Any change to the map towards the end of the project, whether this increased or decreased total KAB (Hell, sometimes even just opening the map editor and looking at something), would require me to go through every exit in the game sequentially to trigger the crash, note what value was stored in the X register at the time then tracing where it loaded that value in ROM (It was always the last byte in the map data of the level being loaded) and subtracting 1 to fix it.
#14
Gaming Discussion / Sad begging for translation.
November 02, 2014, 09:30:15 PM
So I'm at a place in Lagrange Point where I really need higher level weapons to make battles not 2 year ordeals.

I found a chart showing how to combine the various weapons into higher R ranks, but unfortunately it's not english:

http://www.h-empire.com/retro/lagrange/lagrange_wepon_mix.htm

Would anyone care to translate this?