Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Blog at 400 Posts

400 blog posts?   Have I really written so many?  Blogger says I have, so I'll have to accept that.  I suppose its time for one of those meta-blog entries where I talk about stuff that doesn't fit into a traditional blog post.  So let's start with a revisit of one of the only useful parts of the previous "Blog at xxx Posts" posts, the Youtube channel recommendations list.  I subscribe to many more channels these days than I used to, so let me tell you why you may want to take a look at them as well.  The channels I recommended (LGR, Pixelmusement and PushingUpRoses) in my early blog post remain recommended of course, but let's add some fresh blood to the list.  I will be using categories to help organize recommended channels, but just because a channel falls into one category does not mean it holds no value outside that pigeonhole. 


Traveling/Commentary

There are times when you need to listen more than look.  Times such as when you are trying to fall asleep, are trapped in a car for a long car ride or are taking a shower.  These channels tend to fit the bill for me.

Pat the NES Punk - While Pat does an occasional Pat the NES Punk in the vein of The Angry Video Game Nerd, the main reason why I subscribe to the channel is the chopped-up Completely Unnecessary Podcast (CU Podcast).  In the Podcast, Pat Contri and Ian Ferguson discuss various topics related to retro and modern gaming and sometimes tangentially related subjects like professional wrestling.  The two hosts have excellent chemistry and for Youtube, Pat posts separate videos for each topic.  This is very helpful if you only have ten minutes to listen.  The full podcast is available as an audio download for those times when you have nothing but time to listen.

This Does Not Compute - I originally found Colin's This Does Not Compute channel when viewing videos on a favorite topic of mine, Game Boy (Mono, Color & Advance) mods.  His channel brought a really high quality presentation to performing these mods.  When he isn't reviewing retro gaming products and mods, he has a commentary series that I find really insightful.  Even if you may believe that he is not ideologically in line with your own views, he presents his case well and can still sound like a reasonable person.

StopDrop&Retro - StopDrop&Retro is a "hands only" kind of channel, one of those channels where you don't see the host's face and mainly only his or her hands.  That's okay for this channel because the commentary is usually pretty funny.  SDR's biggest hits come when calls out crowdfunding scams.  There are far too many half-baked ideas and ill-conceived products looking to waste your donation money on kickstarter, and SDR identifies them, reveals as much information about the people behind these pie-in-the-sky ideas and demonstrates how ridiculous some of the claimed product features are.  And his videos do sometimes catch the attention of those whom he criticizes, so he is being heard.

Modding

As our retro consoles become older, they are liable to break down and their video isn't very friendly toward modern displays.

Game-Tech.us - Game Tech has been putting up mod videos for what seems like forever.  Jason Rauch helped establish a cottage industry of modders who can be trusted to perform quality mods on retro consoles.  Jason's channel shows how he installs mods, fixes bad mods and repairs issues with consoles.  He also talks about products he is helping to produce and bring to market.

The Retro Roundtable - The Retro Roundtable runs a bi-monthly live stream consisting of five participants, Ste Kulov and Nick Mueller of HD Retrovision, Rene of db Electronics, Lord Voultar and Bob Neal of RetroRGB.com.  All except Bob are hardware engineers and know what they are doing.  They often talk about their upcoming projects, critique existing products and mods and will take questions from the chat participants.

Voultar - Zach, Lord Voultar has his own channel where he shows off his hugely impressive modding skills.  Fortunately he just doesn't show off, he shows how it should be done.  If you have a fear of surface mount soldering, watch his videos and then you will have the blueprint to be able to conquer that particular dragon.  Between his channel and Game Tech's, you should find a video that will tell you how to install your mod safely with a minimum likelihood of you destroying your console.

Gaming History

Digital Foundry - Digital Foundry is a channel that focuses heavily on analyzing modern games and they do an excellent job analyzing game performance.  The channel also has a recurring series called DF Retro, which is why it is on the list of this blog.  DF Retro analyzes retro games and products like the Super Nt.  John Linneman usually hosts the series and does a fantastic job analyzing why games work as well as they do and why retro products succeed like the Super Nt or fail like the Playstation Classic.

Gaijilionaire - Having lived through the crash and the console wars and the home computer boom, the history of video games in the United States is well-known to me.  However, a lot of that history, namely anything released by Nintendo and Sega, has a history of its own.  Gaijilionaire is one of the few channels currently focusing on Japanese gaming history with fairly regular high-quality videos.

Gaming Historian - Norman Caruso, the Gaming Historian, has had a Youtube presence for a long time.  However, it was not until he put out a very lengthy and detailed video about the development and release of the Power Glove was I impressed enough to subscribe.  His videos often use quotes from contemporary sources, showing that real research has been done.

Jeremy Parish - Jeremy Parish not only writes for online news sites like Polygon but also offers detailed game commentary and critiques on his Youtube channel.  He has series chronologically following the U.S. releases for the NES, SNES and worldwide releases for the Game Boy.  If you wish to hear from a relaxing source, watch his videos.

Larry Bundy Jr. - Larry has the best British Youtube gaming channel around, in my opinion.  While his main videos have admittedly very clickbaity titles, the content in them is far from shallow.  Like the others here, Larry has done his research and presents in a very entertaining way.  His buddy Stuart Ashens has a channel that is a bit hit and miss, but his presentations on the Nowich Games Festival's page are very entertaining.

Retro Computing & Old Tech

The 8-bit Guy - Dave Murray used to be known as the iBookGuy, but I suppose he found that focusing on retro computing would lead to more Youtube subscribers than just talking about how to fix Apple laptops.  Three years ago he changed his channel's identity to The 8-bit Guy and that is about when I discovered him.  His channel covers a variety of retro computing topics and when it comes to Commodore computers, he knows his stuff and can present it very well.  He has also programmed a series of homebrew games, the Planet X series, for the Commodore VIC-20, 64 and IBM PC.  He has a sister channel called 8-bit Keys which demonstrates old, "junky" keyboards and synthesizers and tries to get some good sound out of them.

Techmoan - Mat from Techmoan loves vintage electronics and isn't shy about sharing his passion.  He talks about any kind of audio format and some video formats you can think of, vinyl records, magnetic tape recording mechanisms of every variety and other obscure devices that never quite made it in the market place.  He will tear down devices and will try to fix some of them and demonstrate others the best he can without incurring the wrath of the Youtube content ID system.  He also uses muppets in skits.

News

RetroRGB - Bob Neal runs a site called RetroRGB.com, and if you don't know that site, you need to really get out of your cave more.  His site is devoted to getting the best video quality out of each console, covering revisions, fixes, mods and upgrades.  His Youtube channel functions as a weekly news and commentary channel where you can hear him talk about the latest news in the retro gaming world and discuss upcoming products and mods.  If you don't have time to listen to his (sometimes opinionated) commentary, then now you can click on the links in the video description to be able to read a short news article about each topic covered.

Console Video Quality

My Life in Gaming - Coury Carlson and Tr4ce/Marc Duddleson not only have very impressive video editing skills but also know their stuff when it comes to RGB signals, console mods and high quality clones.  They do their research before making videos, and the quality of there videos is second-to-none.  If you have vintage gaming consoles and you want to get the best video quality from them, start with to their RGB 2xx dedicated to the console and go from there.  They also know their game history and will feature very watchable videos, some of which run to documentary length.

FPGA

kevtris - Kevin Horton is the patron saint of FPGA console recreation.  He made his first FPGA NES nearly fifteen years ago and has been making cores for systems famous like the Atari 2600 to the obscure like the Game King.  He also designed the Hi-Def NES mod, the first high-quality HDMI upscaling modification for a retro video game console which also uses an FPGA to recreate a good deal of the NES's PPU and all of its APU.  He designed the hardware for the FPGA-based Analogue Nt Mini, Super Nt and the upcoming Mega Sg.  His videos show off his various creations and other technological wonders that interest him, and he can explain their inner workings in an understandable way.

While I watch many Youtube channels, the above channels represent some of the best and highest quality content related to video games around.  I am always open to suggestions for other channels, maybe I'll add them here, maybe I'll wait for the next "The Blog at xxx Posts".

Stuff I "Publish"

I have made certain contributions which I do not believe warrant a full blog entry, so I'll talk about them here.  The first is my "Unofficial" Super Nt Manual.  The Super Nt did not really come with a large manual, it came with a quick-start guide.  That guide was about three pages, although it is fairer to say it was a small strip of paper folded into three sections.  I did not think that was adequate given all the options provided and not really documented anywhere.  I felt even moreso once the unofficial firmware was released.  So I started a project, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, to write an unofficial manual for the console.  I waited until the initial flurry of firmware updates was over so I would not have to constantly be rewriting the document. I posted it at AtariAge, I think some Super Nt owners liked it.  I updated it recently mainly to address the firmware that the Analogue x Ghostly Super Nt Edition uses : http://atariage.com/forums/topic/242970-fpga-based-videogame-system/?p=4176667

The next thing I have published recently is a list of Apple II games which use the Mockingboard Sound Card.  I believed that the number of games supporting the Mockingboard was not large, so I went on a days-long audit of the Asimov FTP, where almost all preserved Apple II software can be found, last year.  I was able to find disk images for most of the games and some of the software, but there were a few games that I could not find their Mockingboard versions or get the existing images to work with Applewin's Mockingboard support.  When I found a game I identified whether it supported music, sound effects or speech in a spreadsheet, whether it auto-detected a card or allowed a user to select a slot, and instructions for getting the game to work if the game did not make it immediately obvious.  This year I revisited the list and have been able to find all games reputed to work with the Mockingboard but one : http://atariage.com/forums/topic/228710-games-with-mockingboard-support/?p=4164136

The final thing I have published recently is my definitive List of NES and Famicom Cartridge Hardware.  This spreadsheet covers the canon of NES ROMs.  The idea is to have an easy to reference document containing current and accurate information for every licensed NES and Famicom game as well as the unlicensed games released in the US and Europe and Japan (to the extent dumps are available).  The list gives sufficient information to fix headers and update headers to the NES 2.0 standard where appropriate, but it does more than that.  The intent is to document what hardware is inside each cartridge, whether the game has a battery, SRAM or EEPROM and if so, how much, what the proper setting for bankswitching should be for games that use hardwired bankswitching, whether the cartridge has CHR-ROM or CHR-RAM and if there is anything missing from the current dumps (sample data for speech chip games) : http://forums.nesdev.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=17809

Our Future Lies Ahead

"Greetings my friends.  We are all interested in the future for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.  And remember my friends, future events such as these . . . will affect you in the future.  You are interested in the unknown, the mysterious, the unexplainable, that is why you are here." - Criswell, Plan 9 from Outer Space

In the eight years since I started this blog, I have had many challenges.  I always ask myself "what can I say that has not already been said elsewhere?"  Sometimes I have scrapped a blog post that simply was not working.  When I look back at some of the blog posts, I have felt the urge to purge some of what I believe to be the weaker entries.  Regular visitors to the blog may have noticed a shift over the years from a blog primarily covering retro computers to one covering retro consoles.  However, I still publish retro computing articles from time to time, but my house can only store so much!

As some of you know, I do have a Youtube channel and I post to it intermittently when the fancy suits me.  Now that my capture setup has improved, the only barrier to me for producing high quality HDMI captures is the enormous hard drive space required to store such captures in lossless format and the time it takes to upload them.  The USB3HDCAP can do justice to HDMI output.  Capturing analog formats is a trickier proposition.  My capture card can capture VGA and 480p Component adequately.  240p RGB is also possible, but the results are not the best.  I prefer to handle S-Video and composite captures via the I-O Data GV-USB2.  I have never done a full review of this device.  Expect one to come. 

Other stuff in the works is an article on GameCube video and the solutions available for it.  I also plan to cover the Mega Sg when it is released.  I find it extremely difficult to talk about hardware that I do not have in my possession, so if you'd like to donate something for me to discuss, please contact me via the Contact box on the right side of the page. 

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

*woot!* [flowers thrown] & thank you oh-so-much for this jewel of solid information. 'Happy 400th.' --pewpewpew

gffffffffffffffffff said...

I like your FPGA entries. Have you heard of MiSTer? Really interesting open source FPGA project, most cores are already working really well.

Great Hierophant said...

I am a member of the Classic Gaming discord server, that should answer your question :)

Zelkian said...

I can't remember exactly how I found your blog, but ever since I did I regularly check your site for new posts. You write fascinating articles and I hope you keep on going!