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Classic Games (Games) Entertainment Games Hardware

XGameStation Designer Talks Specifics 31

Thanks to GameZone for their interview with Andre LaMothe about the XGameStation, the DIY, programmable game console theoretically due this December, but likely somewhat delayed. Although details of the XGameStation are still being finalized, LaMothe describes the specific technical details: "I think the ARM7 is going to be my choice as the final main CPU at 33-66 MIPS, and an FPGA GPU that does basic sprite, character, and bitmap graphics in 4-256 colors, with 1-4 Megs of RAM", and goes on to evangelize the software: "We will surely encourage people to port as many games and emulators as possible to the XGS. I am mainly concerned with getting MAME, Intellivision, Atari 2600, etc. ported ASAP."
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XGameStation Designer Talks Specifics

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  • MAME Port? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ianpatt ( 52996 ) on Friday November 14, 2003 @05:41AM (#7472561)
    He's going to have some trouble getting a MAME port with only 1-4MB of RAM to work with. Even games with relatively simple hardware go over that easily: pacman needs about 6MB just for the emulator core.

    On the other hand, if the graphics chip is thoroughly customizable, we might see some dedicated single-system emulators that use the built-in graphics and are designed with low-memory situation in mind. Could be pretty cool.
    • 6 MB? Not quite. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Thedalek ( 473015 ) on Friday November 14, 2003 @10:48AM (#7473627)
      That's only if you have all the MAME drivers loaded into memory at once, which is something you'll never do.

      The main executable can be as small as a few hundred kilobytes, and then load the proper game driver from a datfile full of drivers (as is the case with some current distributions of MAME, like MAMEplus). There's no reason for Pac Man to require 6 MB, unless you were using some incredibly inefficent form of dynamic recompilation.

      Of course, with 4 MB of ram, you can never run anything more complex than Capcom CPS1 games.
    • Re:MAME Port? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by edwdig ( 47888 )
      One thing you're forgetting. This is a cartridge based system. All your read-only data can be accessed directly from the cartridge, without need for RAM.

      1-4 megs is a lot of RAM for 2D gaming when you've got most of your data stored in ROM.

      The N64 had 4 megs of RAM (8 with the upgrade). The PS1 only had 2 megs. Putting 4 into this system would be overkill, considering it won't be powerful enough for real 3D. (Yes, it can run Doom type stuff fine, but you don't wanna try Quake on it).
    • another thing to consider is that the XGameStation will have the CPU (hardware) of most of the games Andre is interested in running i.e. 6502 & Z80 so it will not have to be emulated.
  • Why would anyone want to buy this? Any desktop PC can become a powerful, programmable game console that runs just about every emulator out there.
    • To learn how to develop a game console or games for said console. Read the web site, it's an educational toy, for use in the class room.
    • Yeah right. Why would anyone want to buy stuff to cook his own meal, if you can go to McDonald's?
      The fun't in creating something, not using it.

      Finagle's First Law: If an experiment works, something has gone wrong
      • Why would anyone want to buy stuff to cook his own meal, if you can go to McDonald's? The fun't in creating something, not using it.

        Eating the result is fun, too. For programming, the best I've found is peanut butter on punch cards.
    • Re:What's the point? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by wickedj ( 652189 )
      One of the Computer Architecture projects I did for college consisted of using a programmable Xylinx board (~$1000), hooking it up to a monitor and then hooking two orginal NES controllers and playing pong on it. It was one of the most incredible learning experiences I ever encountered. We wrote our own processor, uploaded it to the board, wrote our own compiler and assembler and then wrote our own version of pong. We also had to program a chip for our video controller and NES controllers. Needless to s
  • I mean, the guy hasn't even decided on things like the main CPU, how much RAM it's going to have, whether it will be PAL compatible or not and whether or not it will have a 9-pin ATARI compatible joystic port and he's thinking of ports of MAME? I mean, at this stage I'm sure it is not even realistic to say whether said ports will even RUN on that box! And yet, he's quick to give a price point (he's pinned it down to $100-$200, excellent, at least he's not vague)!

    I'm sorry, but I think I'll see bitboys vide

    • He's decided on the all the main aspects and is currently building the final prototype. After that's complete in the next few weeks, everything hardware will be frozen. I've been a member of the sites boards for a while now, and I've seen all the work he's put into it. It will be a finished product.
    • "I mean, at this stage I'm sure it is not even realistic to say whether said ports will even RUN on that box!"

      They will if that's his goal.
  • I'm not sure what the real selling point of this is. I have a lot of respect for Andre LaMothe, I think he's a pretty decent author, and he has about 5 college degrees. But if you're really interested in learning to do game programming, why spend the money? Just pick up the FREE DirectX or OpenGL SDK and crank out the code yourself for PC.
    • Re:Why? (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I think I'd have more respect for Andre LaMothe if he wrote fewer books and more games. But, like all the other industry hangers on (Ernest Adams, Andrew Rollings, Chris Crawford) he hasn't done a game in years, yet writes books and gives seminars about how to do it. A dollar spent on these books is a dollar wasted. All the facts you need are online, and if you don't have the drive to find them online you don't have the drive to be a games programmer. His market is wannabe losers. He's only doing this
    • You said the point perfectly - "for PC"! This isn't to learn how to program for a PC, it's to learn how to program for a CONSOLE where your programming options are severely limited.
    • Re:Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

      The point of this one is learning Hardware compared to Software. I'm not sure about Andre's goals, but it looks to me like it's being designed for the enthusiast. If the project sounds interesting to you, then you're part of the intended audience. If you're curious why you would ever want something like this, then you may well be happier with a "normal" console or PC.

      Personally, I'm probably going to pick one up if only for the enjoyment of self-challenge - with the limited power of it (cpu/ram) what e

  • a cheap console (Score:3, Insightful)

    by theMerovingian ( 722983 ) on Friday November 14, 2003 @10:57AM (#7473697) Journal
    A cheap console, that you can burn any game for, run emulators on, control the operating system, and totally hack apart..... Console, thy name is DreamCast.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well, As much as i would like to buy this thing i just think the system spects are too low to make any thing worthy of showing off

    "Hey Guys Look at my Game i Made..
    What do u mean it looks Old School...

    I just think they should bump the system spects up.. and replace the Rom Chips with a CDR DVDR and the processor speed to 700mz with a SDL tutorial .. i mean making neet games would be much better on a system like that... it would beat the Dream cast where thier system specs are
    • the project is intended _mainly_ to teach hardware design and tinkering for consoles. if you start too complex only hardcore elctronic engineers will be able to do anything with it. it's more of an introduction to console design rather than another platform to code for but i am sure many will do just that, which is fine but not its primary purpose.
  • The point of the xgamestation isn't making games, its a learning tool to help you make a videogame system. Andre is making this system so you can hack it. He's including a ebook that teaches you the entire process, from boolean logic to programming FGPAs. I know I wished for something like this when I was young. I mean I took art classes so I could learn to make videogame graphics. But remember, this isn't just a game player, you can make it do anything, the sky is the limit.


How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."