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MiSTer: the thread of cycle accuracy

muteKi

say "fish don't exist" to my face, motherfucker
Yeah the addition of cache really is a massive breakthrough. In my original tables I included a "cache off" setting and all the entries are just -"oh god". I can definitely see why the core used to have a meager reputation.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
I bought a 400GB micro SD card during the Black Friday sales and I've finally started setting it up to be the primary card on my MiSTer. I decided to go the MiSTer Fusion route, where you download a small disk image and flash it to the card, then it unpacks itself when you put it into the MiSTer and power it on. It seemed to work pretty well, but it does involve a bit of back-and-forth with the memory card, because you have to put it back in your PC to install the updater scripts, then put it in the MiSTer to run those, then put it back in your PC to transfer games over, etc. Not difficult, but it doesn't feel super streamlined. I'm in the process of transferring over about 150GB worth of stuff over a USB 2.0 port, so you can imagine that's taking a bit of time. Thankfully, the old card works just fine for when I want to actually play something. All this extra space is mostly earmarked for various CD games (expanding the Sega CD and PC-Engine CD, but even more so for eventual PSX games), but I'm also going to save some for a few PC cores. I had to delete the 15GB Amiga HD image from my old card, but now I'll try to leave it on so I can play around with it some. I'm also tempted to try playing some of my old 486 games, although whether it ends up being more satisfying than just running them on DOSBox remains to be seen.
 

muteKi

say "fish don't exist" to my face, motherfucker
I'm quite fond of the retrodriven scripts, though they have some fairly obvious limitations (i.e., end-of-life imminent).
 

Yimothy

Red Plane
(he/him)
My Mega Drive’s sound is giving out and I suspect it’s a capacitor issue. Although I’ve opened it up before and done some simple mods, recapping it is a bit daunting for me, so I’ve started looking at replacements. Getting another original console would be a temporary fix because of the impending death of its capacitors unless I got one that had already been recapped, in which case it would be expensive. I had decided to get an Analogue Mega SG, which until a few days ago was still in stock on their online store. Unfortunately, while I was coming to the decision to buy it the thing sold out. My initial reaction to this outrage was to insist that it was the only device for me and I had to have it, but a few days have passed now and I’m pretty sure I’m going to make a MiSTer instead.

I’ve been trying to decide what components to get, and I think I’m going to start relatively simple and work my way up. The main goal is to replace my Mega Drive, so I’m mostly looking at things that will support that, but I’m sure I’ll be running other cores too. I’m currently looking at getting the de10 nano, obviously, a heat sink, a fan, and a 32MB ram board. I know everyone says you should get the 128, but the 32 is a fair bit cheaper and runs almost everything. Plus there’s some kind of issue at present with ram for cps1.5, so it might be wiser to see how that shakes out before getting the expensive version.

I’m also thinking of getting the USB board. An external hub would be a lot cheaper, but I like the idea of having it all contained and I’ve read that the micro USB port on the de10 is a bit delicate. It’d be a shame to render the board unusable by damaging it, so making a permanent connection to the USB board sounds preferable. Dunno.

I’ve also looked at the IO boards. I’m not sure I really need either one, but I’m leaning digital if I do get one. It’d be nice to have the buttons and the on/off switch. I don’t think I’ll be using analogue video with it. I probably won’t get one initially.

Not having the IO board raises the question of how to mount the fan. I’m thinking of making a hole or holes in the clear cover plate that comes with the de10 and just sticking the fan on that. So far as I can tell though nobody online has done that, so there must be some reason I’m not seeing why it’s a dumb thing to do.

For inputs I’ve got a rii i8 2.4ghz mini keyboard that I got for my old raspberry Pi lying around. I’ll probably also get a Bluetooth dongle for my SN30 pro+ and/or whatever other Bluetooth devices I have lying around. What I’d really like though is some way to connect my M30 2.4ghz mega drive controller, since I’m mainly looking to replace the MD. I could of course plug it in through USB, but it’s a wireless device and I’d rather use it as such, but the receiver fits into a mega drive controller port. There’s a SNAC mega drive adapter, but it seems pretty expensive. There’s also the daemonbite sega adapter, which looks perfect and specifically says that it can connect the m30 to a mister, so I very nearly placed an order for one before remembering that I have a retrode. I use that mainly to dump carts, but it also has controller ports on it. If I’m lucky, I can run the M30 through that. Plus, if I had it plugged in for the controller then I could put whatever game cart I wanted to play in it. Apparently that won’t actually work for running the games, I’d have to load the ROM from the sd card, but it might make it feel more like playing on an original console.

I’m finding it a bit hard to get a good sense of the MiSTer user interface online. Maybe it’s my aversion to watching videos, along with the fact that it’s a rapidly developing system with a lot of information found only on old message board threads. Am I correct in understanding that it doesn’t allow you to set the resolution directly? From what I can gather, you have the option of setting it to integer vertical scaling, which upsizes to the largest integer multiple that will fit in whatever video mode you’re running, and then the horizontal resolution is set by the aspect ratio. Apparently you can set custom aspect ratios though, so I could set the aspect ratio to <whatever horizontal resolution I want> : <the vertical resolution>. So 1280:960 for integer scaled 4:3 mega drive, for example (or just 4:3, since that’s what that works out to). I’m interested in having a picture in an original aspect ratio, but not at the expense of non-integer pixels. I guess once I get the thing I’ll be able to play with it and figure out how it works.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
Woo, lots to address here. First off, you can totally start with a minimalist MiSTer setup. Initially, I just got the DE-10, the RAM module and a USB hub (which is pretty essential and very cheap). You are correct that a fan can be added to a dummy PCB plate - PorkChopExpress (AKA MiSTer Addons) even sells one in his shop. But you could certainly put one together by hand if you like. The fan can be run from a 5V or 3.3V header, I found it to be a little noisy at 5 and bumped mine down to the lower voltage. As for other boards, they should be fairly easy to come by as the designs are all open source, so don't feel like you need to rush to buy them. I waited almost a year to pick up my IO board (which I love), and I still don't have a USB hub.

In terms of resolution, the MiSTer gives you quite a few options. First you'll need to define your output resolution, which for most people will be either 1080p or 720p, depending on the screen they are using. Then you can choose whether you want to do integer pixel scaling, half-pixel increments or quarter-pixel increments. I believe the system will always try to match the oroginal aspect ratio as best it can, but with integer scaling on you might get some slightly different widths, since it doesn't have as many options to choose from. If you use sub-integer scaling, there are numerous filters you can choose from to minimize the pixel shimmering (and we can probably get you a test suite if you really want to dive into your video settings). Video settings are set in the ini file, not the user interface, but you can have multiple ini files and switch between them on the fly if you want different settings for different consoles. Do you have a 4k TV? If so, you can set the MiSTer resolution to 720p and then integer scale your way up to a glorious full screen for any 240p console. Otherwise, in 1080p most people use 1.5x scaling so that games fill the screen vertically, but if you go integer then you will indeed end up at 1280x960.

The menu system for the MiSTer is extremely spartan - maybe a little too much so for my tastes. It's just a series of text menus with no frills, but at least it runs very quickly. Personally, I wish that it at least had a recently-played section, and I can't say I would mind if there was box art. But for now, it's just lists lists lists. The board doesn't come with wifi, so you'll need to plug in an ethernet cable to update your cores, or else you can pull the micro SD card and update it on your PC.

As for your controller, I'm pretty sure 8BitDo makes a USB 2.4GHz dongle for their stuff and it should work well. Input lag won't be too bad unless you're an absolute purist. I have the SNAC adapter and I really like it for SNES, but it's not a necessity by any means.

Anyway, welcome to the club! You're arriving at a time when the platform is starting to be quite mature, but there are still some major cores right around the corner. CPS2 could be out in a month or two, knowing how fast Jotego works, and PlayStation seems to be advancing very nicely. I'm actually going to be a little sad once those cores are done, because I don't expect we'll see any other Cambrian explosions of new games until a better FPGA becomes more affordable. But there's a ton of stuff to play today, and it all plays really well.
 

Yimothy

Red Plane
(he/him)
Well, I've ordered the board, along with a heat sink and fan. Apparently the shipping should get it here in 2-3 days, which I'll believe when I see given the international borders involved and the pandemic. Doesn't give me much time to find a USB hub if so. I've also ordered the 32 meg RAM, which is coming from someone in my city and so will probably arrive after the board. I also tried out the M30 with the retrode and it works on my PC, so hopefully that will be the same on the MiSTer. There is a USB version of the 2.4GHz dongle, but their website says it's not compatible with the M30 that comes with the original console 2.4Ghz dongle.

I don't have a 4K TV, so I'm planning to run 1080p. I'm not a fan of non-integer scaling, so I expect I'll be doing 1280x960. On the other hand, from the couch I might not be able to tell the difference, so I'll probably try scaling to the full screen and see how it looks.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
I'm still waiting for the rest of my stuff to come in. :( Kinda bummed out that I haven't been able to get this up and running, but at least I spend some time last night setting up more on my SD card.
 

Phantoon

I cuss you bad
For the time being you'll probably be OK with just the heatsink fitted to be honest. The IO card isn't essential, I run the video off the DE-10 Nano HDMI and my IO board mainly runs the fan. The USB PCB is really worth getting, but a USB hub (a cheap one from Amazon, even) will work just fine with everything in the mean time. It's just not aesthetically pleasing. A USB Wi-Fi adaptor will work fine with the MiSTer, I did my updating through it a couple of days ago and didn't need to use an ethernet cable.

I've come up against a funny problem on the CPS 1.5 core - I can't seem to get the "insert coin" button to work. I get the Muscle Bomber Duo attract sequence (albeit with what looks like errors, so uh-oh on that) but I can't start the games. Really odd. I can't see anything on Github that mentions this...
 

John

(he/him)
I haven't messed with my MiSTer recently, but I saw the builder of my RAM (zerohimself) tweet that he would rework modules of his customers having problems for free. I haven't tried any of the CPS 1.5 stuff myself, but if it becomes an issue, it may be worth contacting whoever you bought the memory from.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
I think perhaps jotego needs to work with someone else on the SDRAM controller, too. I think with some help he could get it working more stably with most modules.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
Jotego is already working on correcting some of the issues that the larger RAM modules are causing. From what I understand, the issue is that you can't make a 128MB module that functions at peak capacity without using more pin headers from the DE-10 - a compromise was made in order to leave some pins free for other things.
 
Upgraded my setup over the Holiday break.

Previously I had just the base board, a 128 MB RAM module, a cheap USB hub off Amazon and a top and bottom PCB plate from MisterAddons.

I've now got a 'complete' setup in a very nice passively cooled aluminum case, having also added the USB Board and an Analog IO Board. I even installed the mostly superfluous RTC and ADC Input boards.

Pictures below.




I also migrated from a 128GB card to a 400GB in anticipation of PSX support being added.

I should take another picture of it with all my controller adapters plugged. At first 7 USB Ports seemed like way more than anyone would need but I'm actually using them all now, mostly various 2.4 GHz controllers from 8Bitdo.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
Wow, that looks sharp. I might go that route myself if I'm not pleased with my setup, which sounds like it will be quite a bit similar to how yours was.
 

Phantoon

I cuss you bad
That looks really nice. I have a feeling that as I replace boards I'll just end up with a second MiSTer.

How's the PlayStation work going?
 
That looks really nice. I have a feeling that as I replace boards I'll just end up with a second MiSTer.

How's the PlayStation work going?
Based upon the last Patreon post from the core developer progress is coming along nicely. The system boots on real hardware, though it doesn't do much yet. It sounds like it may be a bit still though until the core is ready for MiSTer as it currently runs on a different development board that's similar, but not exactly the same.

Here's some shots of all my 8bitdo 2.4 Ghz controllers, which I've accumulated over the years. The joystick was a Christmas addition. The NES and SNES ones are ones I originally bought for the NES and SNES Classis, so they required some Raphnet adapters to convert the Wii Nunchuck plugs to USB.



 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
Uggghh I just can't get an NES controller to work using my SNAC adapter. I bought the kit from MiSTerAddons that uses adapters from Bliss Box and it works perfectly for my SNES controller, but for some reason I can't get NES working at all. Strangely, the SNES controller can be used in the NES core via SNAC and it works great! That's because, aside from the shape of the ports, SNES controllers are actually backwards-compatible with the NES (and canonically, Y maps to B and B maps to A!). But for some reason, when I switch adapters to use the NES controller, it registers all the buttons as being pressed at the same time and nothing functions. Since everything else works, it seems like the culprit should be the NES controller adapter, but the guy from Bliss Box had me try about 5 different tests on it and everything seemed OK. He even sent me a replacement, but it behaves the same as the old one did. It's frustrating, because the whole kit was a little pricey and I can only get half of it to work. But the half that functions is also the half that's way more important to me, so I don't want to send it all back to PorkChop so he can test it. Sure wish I had some idea what the problem was.
 
But for some reason, when I switch adapters to use the NES controller, it registers all the buttons as being pressed at the same time and nothing functions. Since everything else works, it seems like the culprit should be the NES controller adapter, but the guy from Bliss Box had me try about 5 different tests on it and everything seemed OK.

Have you had a chance to try other NES controllers with the same adapter? I've made use of the #mister-help room on the Classic Gaming Discord several times to get issues sorted out. I know there is a couple of rooms also dedicated to the Bliss Box on the server as well, including a #bliss-help
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
I have two NES controllers, and I tried both of them with my first adapter, but I admit I didn't try them both with the new one. I should do that, just for the sake of thoroughness, although both of my NES controllers work just fine with the original console. I'm on the Classic Gaming Discord and was in contact with somebody there named twotone (they're the one who got me the controller testing ROM that I've been using), but I'm not sure they have any more advice for me. If I really want answers, I'll have to send my SNAC adapter and NES controller adapter back to PorkChop, but I don't want to stop using it for playing games on the SNES.
 

Yimothy

Red Plane
(he/him)
My de10 hasn’t shipped yet. It’s only been a couple of days, so I need to just cool my jets and wait a bit, but the site claims to ship most orders on the same day and the rest on the next, so it’s kind of annoying.

Meantime I’m spending too much time reading about MiSTer stuff. I’ve been trying to figure out if I’m going to be able to get integer scaling on SMS. It just got custom aspect ratios, which I should be able to use to control the horizontal resolution, but the SMS has two horizontal resolutions, 256 pixels and 248 pixels (whenever there’s horizontal scrolling one row of tiles is used to process it and not drawn onscreen). If it just always outputs 256 and sometimes the left column is blank then I’m all set. If the resolution changes between 248 and 256 then I’ll wind up with uneven scaling from one or the other. I’m probably overthinking it.
 

Phantoon

I cuss you bad
My de10 hasn’t shipped yet. It’s only been a couple of days, so I need to just cool my jets and wait a bit, but the site claims to ship most orders on the same day and the rest on the next, so it’s kind of annoying.

Meantime I’m spending too much time reading about MiSTer stuff. I’ve been trying to figure out if I’m going to be able to get integer scaling on SMS. It just got custom aspect ratios, which I should be able to use to control the horizontal resolution, but the SMS has two horizontal resolutions, 256 pixels and 248 pixels (whenever there’s horizontal scrolling one row of tiles is used to process it and not drawn onscreen). If it just always outputs 256 and sometimes the left column is blank then I’m all set. If the resolution changes between 248 and 256 then I’ll wind up with uneven scaling from one or the other. I’m probably overthinking it.
I'd recommend waiting for it to arrive and tinkering then with us to help. It's just going to sound overwhelming, but when you have it it's much easier.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
My parts came in today! Learned I didn't set my SD card up quite right, so I had to take some extra time getting things fixed. So far, I like what I see, but I suspect I'm going to end up splurging on the USB board and case - it's pretty ungainly right now. I'll figure out somewhere to put it eventually.

At any rate, I've gotten it working correctly on my VGA monitor as well as my HDTV. Next step will likely be testing component... but not yet.
 

Yimothy

Red Plane
(he/him)
I'd recommend waiting for it to arrive and tinkering then with us to help. It's just going to sound overwhelming, but when you have it it's much easier.

I know this is good advice but at the same time I’m looking at various components and planning how I’ll make an enclosure and checking out arcade sticks and reading about connecting an iPad screen and looking at the source code on GitHub to try and figure out how the scalers work (I have not used a programming language in almost two decades) and freaking out about electrostatic discharge. I should probably calm down.

Anyway, I got my shipping notification. Estimated delivery Monday.
 
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Phantoon

I cuss you bad
I know this is good advice but at the same time I’m looking at various components and planning how I’ll make an enclosure and checking out arcade sticks and reading about connecting an iPad screen and looking at the source code on GitHub to try and figure out how the scalers work (I have not used a programming language in almost two decades) and freaking out about electrostatic discharge. I should probably calm down.

Anyway, I got my shipping notification. Estimated delivery Monday.
This was me a year ago!

The iPad screen wasn't, but now you've mentioned it 🤔
 
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