Archive for the ‘Blog Post’ Category

Competitive Gaming scandals, and the need for an overhaul of the system


Sunday, February 11th, 2018

This article contains multiple embedded videos and hyperlinks to prove the statements made within.

In the past month, a couple of prominent members of the gaming high score community have been caught falsifying information and results in their top gaming scores.  Both Todd Rogers and Billy Mitchell have undisputable evidence against their claims in Dragster and Donkey Kong, respectively.

 

Let’s start with Todd Rogers.  The man has made claim that his fastest record in Dragster is 5.51.  In Dragster, you play as a drag racer, and the lower the time, the better the score.  Unfortunately, a 5.51 is literally impossible to achieve.  Using a tool-assisted setup which allows a computer to enter every possible controller and button combination, the fastest time one can make is actually a 5.57.  The prolific hardware expert Ben Heck actually built a setup specifically for testing this game.  The best score was 5.57.  Even worse, any proof of the original score has already been destroyed, and people who have seen the original evidence before it was destroyed claim that the score was smudged.

However, it’s not just one score that he has falsely reported.  In the above video, Pat and Ian from the CUPodcast find evidence of Rogers scores being higher than the second place holder by a factor of over 100.  Posts were made months ago on the Twin Galaxies official forums, but in many cases were denied as being valid.  One of the few that were proven even before the scandal was in Barnstorming on the Atari 2600, a flying game where obstacles on the course affect your speed, and hence your score.  In Barnstorming, it was proven that even removing all obstacles and flying straight would result in a lower score than the score that Rogers posted, proving it was impossible.  That one score was removed, but none of the others were even investigated.  He claimed a score of 99,999,990 on JJ and Jeff on the Turbografx-16, a score that would literally require 80 hours of gameplay in order to accomplish.  Other scores (that Twin Galaxies tried to claim were confirmed legitimate) were found impossible due to the digits end in a 8, when the game only scores in segments of 5 or 10.  A large (but not complete) list of games where Rogers score was either impossible or incredibly unlikely can be found here.  What is scary is that in the case of Dragster, Twin Galaxies actually ran a front page article stating the games creator (David Crane) said he has no doubts that Rogers score is legit.  It seems that the site was attempting to manipulate public opinion and discredit legitimate claims and concerns.

 

If it were only one person, it might be able to be written off as a coincidence, but even one of the “rock stars” of Twin Galaxies, one who many recognize immediately along with Walter Day, was proven that at a minimum, he misrepresented the hardware he was playing on.  While Mitchell has many legitimate records (his play in Pac-Man is bar none some of the best seen), and his Donkey Kong play is also incredible, it would seem that competition pushed him to lie about how he was playing.  In a pivotal moment in the King of Kong documentary, Steve Wiebe takes the high score for Donkey Kong (after having previous high scores rejected due to claims his hardware might be subject to tampering).  Hours after this, Mitchell sends a pre-recorded tape in that beats Wiebes score.  The tape was subject to much controversy due to looking like it could have been sliced in some areas, and was later rejected a few days after being accepted.

 

Mitchell claimed that he recorded using a direct feed from the machine, which at the time only a few machines even had set up since it is incredibly difficult to capture a live video feed from a DK machine.  However, the way the arcade game loads screens is different from how Mame (a popular arcade game emulator) loaded games during that time era.  A post at the Donkey Kong Forum shows the differences in how Mame loads, how an arcade machine loads, and also has a sample of a direct feed capture.  Mitchells tape loads in the same fashion a copy of Mame of that era would have loaded the game.  Not only would this make video capture significantly easier, it would also make cheating much more easier either by savestate or by altering the games code to allow more blue barrel drops, which give more points when busted by a hammer than a brown barrel.

When Mitchell claimed innocence, claiming the video proof of his game should be at Twin Galaxies and the tape whistleblower Jeremy Yonng used as evidence was an altered version of the game he played.  Jeremy fired back, giving multiple reasons why Mitchells claim was preposterous.

In closing, it would appear that many of our “gaming heroes” of the 80’s have been holding on to their spots by false scores and having friends in judges places.  It throws the entirety of the judging community of Twin Galaxies into question, since two of their “golden boys” are now proven frauds.  There either needs to be a changing of the guard over at Twin Galaxies, or a new community needs to rise using legitimate methodology to confirm scores.  In closing, I have one more video.

Above is a player who is very good at a number of games, and wanted to document his scores.  At the 9:30 time in the video, he brings out that not only did Twin Galaxies want to charge him in order to look at his score, they STILL would not consider it until he had participated in their forums on a regular basis.  A score is a score, no matter what the financial or social status of a player is.

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RaspiBoy vs Android + Bluetooth controller


Sunday, December 31st, 2017

A while back I posted an article on how to build your own handheld retro emulation setup, using a budget Android phone and an 8BitDo controller.  You have also seen my look at the RaspiBoy.  I would now like to compare and contrast the two so that you can look at strengths and weaknesses of each to determine which setup would best suit your needs.

 

Raspiboy offers an all-in-one setup powered by a Pi Zero.  It runs off the robust Emulation Station/Retro Pie software, which is tried and tested for reliability.  The front end is aesthetically pleasing, more so than most front ends available on Android.  That being said, RetroPie is really your only option for a decent looking front end.  You are also limited to games from the 16 bit era and below due to the Pi Zero being powered by a single core 600 MHZ chip.  Also, I have personally found reliability issues in the hardware of the Raspiboy, having to replace both the custom 8BCraft board due to an error in the first run board not allowing the unit to charge and play at the same time, and having to replace the LCD as well due to a screw going all the way through the plastic and shorting out a transistor.  However, the benefits of having an all-in-one unit that you can repair on your own cannot be ignored.

 

If you were to choose the Android phone/Bluetooth controller route, you have a choice of numerous front ends (RetroX, Gamesome, ARC Browser, and Nostalgia being the leading four).  However, none of these front ends are as robust as Emulation Station.  Both units use RetroArch as the primary emulation source, but the higher power from the phones means that you are able to emulate newer systems.  PS1 is almost guarenteed to work, along with PSP, some N64, DS, and even some Dreamcast games.  Also, my initial build had the Blu R1 HD paired with an NES30 Pro (with XTander clamp), which is still a great, functional setup.  I have since upgraded to the Blu Life X2 Mini for a faster CPU, more RAM, and more storage, and switched controllers to the SN30 Pro (with Xtander).  This setup is slightly more expensive at 150 dollars for everything, but offers an even more comfortable controller and much more storage.  64 gigs internal plus another 128 gigs in Micro SD gives you plenty of room for all the ROM based games you want, plus a decent selection of disc based titles.  However, the setup is still a little clunky, with two pieces being held together by a clamping system, and the front end not being as aesthetically pleasing.

 

If you are looking at primarily 16 bit and below gaming, I would recommend RaspiBoy for being an all in one unit that you can configure however you wish.  Those who wish to play some PS1 and newer games, or those that want the benefit of having access to some Android games plus emulators, are better off looking at the phone plus bluetooth controller solution.  I would push that using the phone gives you access to some great ports of older PC games that are out there as well.  Either way, both solutions make for a nice way of being able to game on the go.

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The Ultimate case for your Pi based emulation setup


Monday, October 23rd, 2017

The Raspberry Pi 3 has become incredibly popular among retro game enthusiasts for it’s low price and versatility in emulating many classic gaming systems using the RetroPie software.  Many companies have released different cases which all have different price points, features, and extras.  However, one of the cases that offers the best value for what you get has been the NesPi case manufactured by Retroflag.

 

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As pictured above, this case is identical to the classic NES case, however it is smaller than the NES Classic case.  The front features a fully functional power button (with red LED light beside it) along with a working reset button.  Your controller ports now house two USB ports, and under the cartridge flap you will find an additional 2 USB ports as well as an ethernet jack.  The rear features HDMI output, power input, and 3.5 headphone jack output, and your SD card is on the side.

 

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This setup is achieved by using a daughterboard in the front of the case.  The pi sits behind the daughterboard, and you plug a few short cables from the daughterboard to the Pi as pictured above.  There is also room on the top of the case for a cooling fan if you choose to install one.  At an MSRP of 25 dollars, this case is an absolute steal for all the extras it offers.  Also, the case is made of molded plastic instead of being 3D Printed, giving it a very solid feel.

 

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Pictured above is my corner table gaming setup.  Using the NesPi case as the centerpiece, I have added a 19 inch flatpanel monitor, an 8BitDo NES Cube speaker, and an 8BitDo NES30 Pro controller along with a 128 GB SD card running HyperPie for a huge emulation setup.  The underside of the case has a storage compartment for SD cards, and I use mine to hold a 4 GB SD card that copies the user interface of the NES Classic, yet has the complete NES Library.

 

For those of you that want to build your own retro gaming setup, or wish to have something like the NES Classic but with a much larger game selection, the NesPi case is one of the best choices you can make.  Keep in mind some assembly is required, so if you want to just plug and play, an NES Classic is still a better option.  But for a complete customizable experience, this case is a great start for constructing a tiny, yet powerful, retro gaming console.

 

The case can be ordered here.

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RasPiBoy preview


Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

Disclaimer:  Originally, I had planned to do a full review on the RasPiBoy by now, but the unit I received has a defect, which has delayed the full review.  Until then, here is a quick preview.

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The RasPiBoy is a kit created by 8BCraft, a small company working out of France.  The kit allows you to take a Raspberry Pi Zero and turn it into a portable handheld, as pictured above.  The controls are reminiscent of the SNES controller, including the shoulder triggers on the back.  You get both sets of buttons to either use the colors from the Super Famicom or Super Nintendo versions of the SNES (Japan or USA).  It also features a similar D-pad to that of the SNES.

The handheld0 takes the standard Pi Zero and uses an addon board to add full sized USB ports, a headphone jack, and a volume dial.  The onboard Pi provides TV Out using mini HDMI, and it gives audio out with a small mono speaker if you don’t wish to use the headphone jack.  Four blue LEDs below the screen act as a battery indicator, and screen contrast/brightness adjustments are on the back of the unit, as well as the main power switch.

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In my time using the unit, it is constructed very nicely, and the controls feel great in most games.  There are a few flaws in the design though, the most major one being the fact that the unit cannot be charged while it is turned on, and attempting to charge it while powered on will shut down the unit.  Also, after assembly, RetroPie requires some addition configuration to get the screen and audio working, in both a config.txt file as well as settings in the OS itself.  Some of these changes are not well documented, like increasing the gain in the audio section of RetroPie in order to get the maximum volume higher than a whisper.

On top of that, there are a few defective boards that have caused a black screen.  My board was one of the defective boards, and only functioned a few hours before the screen suffered this issue.  The dev is getting me a new board, so I am delaying the full review until I can do more comprehensive testing on it.

Once they iron out the black screen, it will be a solid device I would highly recommend for anyone wanting Pi based emulation on the go, with the only major issue being the inability to charge while being turned on.  I would assume this could be fixed with a PCB revision, and am waiting on the project creator to get back with me to see if there will be a board revision that will allow this.  Even if this doesn’t happen though, battery life is exceptional, and the battery is accessible for the user to change in the future if the battery does finally give out.  On my unit, I ordered a 6000 mah battery which lasts about 8 to 10 hours (while my screen is black, TV out still works).  For around 100 US dollars and the cost of a Pi Zero (around 10 to 15 shipped), you get a handheld that can easily handle anything from the 2600 to the 16 bit era, and some 32 bit stuff as well (32X and some PS1 games run great).  The jury is still out, but I am hoping a board revision squashes the charging bug, and I am hoping the black screen issue I ran into is only on a few select units.  I will update once the new board comes in.

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UK Mike’s Charity Trek


Monday, July 10th, 2017

You may have heard it mentioned in the show but I am doing a trek to Machu Picchu in November to raise money for the Children’s Adventure Farm Trust (a registered charity).

To go on the trek I need to raise £3,300 and you can help.

i will be running some email auctions for some cool prizes and you can donate to my Just Giving Page.

Information about the trek is here.

The charity auctions will go here.

My Just Giving page is here.

Thank you

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