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MiSTer: the thread of cycle accuracy

Yimothy

Red Plane
(he/him)
When I got my mister I made a daemonbite mega drive controller adapter with an arduino pro micro board. It was always a little dicky and I’ve since switched to a Bluetooth MD controller, so I thought I might repurpose the board and make a spinner. I don’t really need one, but all I’d need to buy was a cheap rotary encoder, the rest I had already, so why not?

In the process of trying to cram the components into the top-small case I already had, I managed to break the USB port off the pro micro. So now I’m buying another one of those, probably a bigger case too, and my cheap and quick why-not project has at least quadrupled in cost. And once I get it working I’ll probably play arkanoid for about five minutes and then leave it alone.
 

Klatrymadon

Rei BENSER PLUS
(he/him)
Excited by how well Akumajou Dracula and Mad Stalker are running here:


I never expected the MiSTer to lay so many nagging "I wish I could own [x system]" longings to rest, but it's doing so at an alarming rate.

Edit: someone is working on a Raizing core, too! Batrider and Bakraid have never been ported, so this will be the closest most people will come to the real thing.
 
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John

(he/him)
I think it's funny how nonchalant he is on the speed of it. All he had to do was write his own software emulator from scratch, and that made porting simple. I still remember when bleem! and Connectix Video Game Station were slowly getting released, and how much of an undertaking those were. I know it's been 20 years since those products broke ground, but I still think of PSX emulation as Next-Gen.
 

John

(he/him)
The PlayStation core’s moving along, a ton more games are loading now. What’s a bit concerning is that it apparently requires two memory sticks? I don’t know if my current setup can use that. I’ve got a v6.0 I/O board according to my purchase email, and the MiSTer Addons PCB case, and I have no clue if that even has two ram slots.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
The analog IO board uses the extra pins that a 2nd memory stick would require, but I think the digital IO board leaves them free. Anyway, the final core isn't necessarily going to require double memory, I think it's being used as a shortcut during development. And if you DO end up needing it, well, have I told you the good news about Second MiSTer?

On another subject, this weekend I acquired a CRT television with component inputs and I'm pretty excited to test it out with my MiSTer. I've been using a CRT computer monitor for about a year to play kaizo hacks and it looks nice, but it's not quite the aesthetic that I want. The pixel density on a computer monitor is so high that it ends up looking a little too clean, almost like a flat-panel display. There's something about the chunkier look of a 240p set that just speaks to me, you know? I have the cable that I need to hook everything up, but I'll have to spend a few minutes reconfiguring my ini files before I can give it a test. Does anyone else here use a CRT television with their MiSTer?
 

Phantoon

I cuss you bad
The PlayStation core’s moving along, a ton more games are loading now. What’s a bit concerning is that it apparently requires two memory sticks? I don’t know if my current setup can use that. I’ve got a v6.0 I/O board according to my purchase email, and the MiSTer Addons PCB case, and I have no clue if that even has two ram slots.
From his tweet it sounds like the second board is not going to be a requirement in the future.

Meanwhile he's got Gex, Crash Team Racing, Moto Racer 2 and Croc working, the absolute madman
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
Yes, I'm rocking a CRT for my MiSTer. It looks fantastic. About as clean as you could ever hope. I don't remember my exact configuration options, but it's not too hard to get up and running.
 

Phantoon

I cuss you bad
There are now save states on NES games. That's a huge deal, and makes a bunch of stuff more beatable.

The new shadow masks are on there now. What settings should I be using with them, because shadow masks alone look pants.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
I was fiddling with them a little bit last night. Not sure I liked anything more than my current CRT setup, but I liked Shadow Mask 1X, Thin RGB Lines combined with Soft scanlines. And after a bit of testing, the Magenta-Green option produces something that looks a bit Trinitron-like.
 
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Phantoon

I cuss you bad
I was fiddling with them a little bit last night. Not sure I liked anything more than my current CRT setup, but I liked Shadow Mask 1X, Thin RGB Lines combined with Soft scanlines. And after a bit of testing, the Magenta-Green option produces something that looks a bit Trinitron-like.
Thanks Sarge, I suspected I needed to combine them with other things to look right
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
I tested out that newly-acquired CRT TV with my MiSTer and everything seems to work! Just had to make a few small tweaks to the ini file and I was off to the races. I only had a few minutes to mess with it, and it seemed like the colors might have been a bit too intense, but I haven't tried adjusting the settings on the TV yet. I'd like to do an A/B comparison between my 27" Trinitron + SNES (s-video) and the new Toshiba 24" TV + MiSTer (component video), which should give me a better idea what to aim for with the Toshiba.

The only real problem is that now, I find myself wanting to buy a bunch more MiSTer parts. I have two MiSTers: one that is dedicated to streaming/kaizo hacks, and a "naked" MiSTer that's hooked up to my living room HDTV. The former has RAM, an IO board and a 3D-printed case, whereas the latter just has the RAM and a leftover fan board to keep it cool. But digging the one that I use for streaming out from behind my computer is a colossal pain, so I'm starting to think about how nice it would be to have a second IO board for the caseless MiSTer, which could then be easily hooked up to the CRT. And I've always wanted one of the aluminum brick cases, but to use that you also need the USB hub, too. And there are 2 or 3 new case form factors in the works (or recently released), some of which come with built-in expansion boards. There are too many options!
 

John

(he/him)
There's a couple JAMMA compatible add-ons I've seen (MiSTercade from MiSTerAddons, and JAMMIX from jammix.io/Zerohimself), which aren't my bag because I don't have a JAMMA compatible cabinet. The JAMMIX is a little more interesting that it's also based on the Mini-ITX standard, so you can install a MiSTer in pretty much any small PC case.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
It is a DAMN good thing that nobody sells candy cabs around here, otherwise this would very quickly turn into a three-MiSTer household.
 

John

(he/him)

I like the option to make the PSX core look slightly worse, for "accuracy". I know composite would soften and blend the image, and dithering helped with that, but I used S-Video on my PS1 even though it made a ton of games look worse. The dithering on stuff like Gran Turismo really stood out once you upgraded the video cables.

The future isn't just accurate emulation/simulation of the consoles themselves, but the environment that they lived in. I need my college dorm room replicated to properly play Final Fantasy 8, including the dread of all the classes I'm skipping in order to draw all my spells to 100.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
I finally took the plunge and ordered one of Porkchop's aluminum cases, during the brief window when that was possible today. It's still my favorite form-factor for the MiSTer, and the fact that it's fanless is a huge plus. Unfortunately, I won't be able to use it until I get another IO board and USB hub, and right now Pork isn't selling those individually. That makes the case a pretty pricey splurge, since it's being shipped internationally all on its lonesome. I really wish I could have gotten the other parts at the same time, but I wanted one of these sleek metal bricks and I don't know how long it will be before another batch comes in*.

*I believe that more cases from this current batch will be listed on different days in the future, in case you wanted one and missed out.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
It's very exciting! From what I've read, FPGAzumSpass is pretty hopeful he can get the core working with a single RAM module, albeit with some imperceptible timing differences for games that have very demanding sound. That's a compromise I'm 100% willing to live with, since the analog IO board doesn't allow use of dual RAM and I'm not willing to give up my VGA ports.

In other good news (for me), I was able to complete my parts order at MisterAddons, and my stuff should ship pretty soon! Once I've put everything together, I'll have one fully-kitted out MiSTer in the aluminum case and another with just the IO board and a 3D-printed case for streaming and playing kaizo hacks. It's a bit of a splurge to own two, but the MiSTer has become far and away my favorite way to play old games and I know I'll be using these things for a long, long time.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
My package arrived yesterday, so I spent the evening disassembling and reassembling my MiSTer to get it into its aluminum case. The process was a little more stressful than I was expecting, in part because I had an issue with my USB hub. The official installation video says to shorten the pins that the USB hub uses to connect with the DE-10, but when I tried to do that, my tools weren't sharp enough to get a nice cut. I wound up just kind of mangling one of the pins, then decided I would try to install it and see how things went together without the modification. The boards and the case lined up fairly well (with the exception of the secondary SD card slot, which I'm not sure is currently usable), but the USB hub itself didn't work! I took it apart and realized that I had just misaligned the pins, so I fixed that, put it back together, and happily the result works just fine.

The aluminum case is really god damn sexy. It's quite small, only a little bulkier than the boards themselves, but it feels nice and solid once it's all put together. Putting it together it is a little tricky, there are a bunch of small fiddly pieces and you're definitely going to want good lighting for the process. Aside from the secondary SD card slot, which seems to be a bit misaligned (despite everything else being in the right place), it's a great fit. The primary SD card slot is super narrow, though, so if you want to insert or remove it, you'll need something small to push the card. I won't be pulling it very often, since I usually update my files over the network anyway. This is the first time I've actually felt like my MiSTer was well-protected, and if I ever get the chance to travel with it, I'll be pretty secure that it will survive the trip. If I had endless money, I'd get another one for my original MiSTer, but it doesn't really need this level of protection for what I do with it. Can't argue with the complete silence, though, that's an extremely nice benefit.

One thing to note is that the aluminum case is not, as far as I'm aware, compatible with the dual-RAM setup that some people are moving towards. The PlayStation core seems like it won't really need dual RAM, but I'm not sure whether the Saturn core might down the road. For me, having analog-out is a core feature of the MiSTer, so I really hope the PSX and Saturn cores will function properly off a single RAM module.
 

John

(he/him)
I saw good updates all around for a bunch of stuff. The PSX core now has SPU audio mostly done for a single RAM stick, now needs the CD streaming. AzumFPG gave some good details about how he's working around some of the issues by adding miniscule delay if he runs out of resources per clock cycle, or could add a 1ms buffer across the board. Wouldn't quite be frame perfect, but close enough.

SRG320's got more fixes going in the Saturn core, and dropped a 30 minute video showing different progress in a ton of games.

Finally, Furrtek says they have traced out all the chips on TMNT, and are going to create the MiSTer core themselves! They say this could lead to a whole bevy of cores, once it's fully debugged out. List from his Patreon: Aliens, Block Hole, Cue Brick, Gang Busters, Gradius 3, Missing in Action, Punk Shot, and Super Contra.
 

Yimothy

Red Plane
(he/him)
CxzqzeM.jpg


I made myself a spinner. Used the mr.Spinner code. I was going to do this ages ago, but I managed to break my first arduino pro micro. Anyways, it was a pretty simple project. Two major components: the arduino pro micro and a rotary encoder. I got an arduino one:

EQpu8I9.jpg


Which is pretty low resolution (20 pulses per rotation), but also cheap and readily available. When you purchase it there's a little bump inside that makes it click while rotating which is undesirable, so I opened it up (unbend the bits of metal holding the top part on and then pull the knob off - a bit terrifying but again it's not an expensive part), flattened the bump, and put it back together and now it rotates smoothly. Didn't get any photos of that process because I did it ages ago before I broke the other board. There are five pins: CLK and DT are the rotary encoder signals (basically as you turn the knob they each alternate between 1 and 0 at different points, and the change between them tells the device you connect to how fast it's turning and in which direction. I think it goes 00-01-11-10 in one direction and 00-10-11-01 in the other, so if you know the previous state and the current state then you know which direction it's going). SW is the button - if you press on the knob it works as a button. VCC and GND are the current supply and ground.

sKHaQOU.jpg


Here are the connections to the pro micro. I did a pretty quick and dirty job on it. There are instructions on the github I linked to earlier, but basically you connect GND and VCC to GND and VCC on the board, the button goes to pin 6, and CLK and DT go to TX0 and RX1. Very sharp eyed readers might notice that the purple and blue wires have switched spots on the rotary encoder board - it wasn't obvious to me whether CLK went to TX0 and DT to RX1 or the other way around, so I took a guess and got it wrong, meaning when I tested the spinner it worked but backwards. You can't really tell which way I have it in this pic, so here's another:

ZOv55kh.jpg


So yeah: CLK goes to RX1, DT goes to TX0. Fortunately I'm using little pin to socket jumper leads, so while I've soldered on the pro micro the connections to the encoder could just be pulled off and switched. Now, as I predicted earlier in the thread:

once I get it working I’ll probably play arkanoid for about five minutes and then leave it alone.

It turns out even with a spinner I'm terrible at Arkanoid. Maybe if I had a higher resolution one I'd do better?

I may fiddle with this a bit more - install a socket rather than having a cable hanging out of the box, maybe some more buttons. For now though, it's working.
 

Yimothy

Red Plane
(he/him)
I decided to try the work in progress PSX core, so I grabbed the latest unstable nightly build and copied my disc images over. And none of them worked - I could get into the system menu, but no discs would boot. I couldn’t even get them to play as audio CDs. So I had a look at the readme on github - apparently it takes CUE/BIN images, and mine were CUE/ISO. That shouldn’t make any difference, since my .ISO files are binary images anyway, but I tried changing the extension of one of the games (and the reference to it in the CUE) anyway. Still nothing. I thought maybe the problem was I was using a multitrack image (one with the data and audio files in different CD tracks), so I tried again with a single track game. No good. Maybe the region? My images are all dumped from my own copies, so they’re mostly PAL, but I have a few US imports, so I tried one of those - again no good. Maybe I was misremembering about the ISOs being the same as the BINs? I checked my single-track US import image’s md5 against the one on redump: identical. Was it that I’d made the images on a windows computer and so their line ending character didn’t match the Linux one MiSTer uses? I went through the CUE and redid the line breaks. Still no good.

Eventually I checked the forums, where a bunch of people were complaining that their discs weren’t loading with the latest version. Turns out it changes the way CD images are handled and you also need to use the unstable nightly build of the main mister for it to work. So I downloaded the version of the core from a few days ago, before this change, and now it’s all working.

It’s a work in progress core, so you can’t expect it to work right all the time, but I gotta say it was a bit of bad luck trying to start using it today. If I’d done it two days ago I would have had no problems. I might just stick with the version I have now until it’s released properly.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
I've been holding off on trying it so far. I'm impressed by the work, though. I'll really be impressed if it ends up being extremely accurate - I feel like there may end up being concessions with both it and the Saturn core, but I'll happily be wrong on that front!
 

Phantoon

I cuss you bad
Something truly horrible happened today. I got my TV back from my wife who'd been using it. Put it in game mode, fired up the MiSTer and got Sonic 2 on. Immediately I knew something was wrong. I went into settings and realised I hadn't in fact put it in Game Mode.

I've become a lag guy.

This is how it starts. Next thing you know I'll be foaming at the mouth about how 119 FPS is literally unplayable
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
Just to mention them, but Sergey Dvodnenko, the author of the Saturn core (as well as the SNES core) is in Ukraine, as is KRIKzz, the EverDrive creator, so they could use prayers, positive energy, or whatever you do when thinking about folks in bad situations.

@Phantoon: You'll be fine. I'm not a stickler for 120 Hz yet, but I'm definitely an input lag guy. It's incredibly important for older games.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
Lately I've had a hankering to revisit some old Sierra adventures, and that then lead me down the dark path of Roland MT-32 emulation. For those that don't know, the MT-32 was the Cadillac of MIDI synths back in the late 80s, costing a whopping $700 in 1987. I'm not sure why game developers back then though it was worth supporting, but a lot of old DOS games do, and they sound phenomenal:


I've never messed with getting old PCs to work on the MiSTer, but I've been aware of the MT-32 Pi hat project for a while and it looks so freaking cool. You convert a Raspberry Pi into a standalone MT-32 emulator, then hook it up to your MiSTer, running the computer core of your choice. It even works with the Pi Zero 2 W, which retails for something like $10USD - pretty cheap for a fun little project like this. Unfortunately, it seems like Pis are a little hard to come by these days, because I can't seem to find any available at list price for purchase. Since I didn't want to spend a bunch of money on something I wasn't sure that I would use, I decided to go the easier route ("easier") and configure ScummVM to work with the Munt MT-32 emulator. It involved a couple of hours of hunting for ROM files, watching tutorial videos in German, and tweaking various settings. I'm still not 100% sure how I got it to work, but it does, and the results are glorious. Games from the late 80s simply should not sound as good as these do. I'm planning on revisiting the Quest for Glory series soon and I'm looking forward to hearing the music in a new light.

Has anybody done much computer emulation with their MiSTer? How hard is it to get something like the 486 core up and running? I've got to admit, I'm a little intimidated by the whole thing.
 
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