Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Retro Achievements on the Pi



With some time on my hands lately, my desire to play with my Raspberry Pi continues. Since my last post, I've been tweaking, customizing, trimming and improving the install of RetroPie on my living room bound Pi (that's housed in a SNES mini-like case from RetroFlag).

I've got a nice theme applied to the PI, giving the ES software a pixeled retro look, loaded with a ton of retro roms and I've even got an extra PS4 Dualshock controller connected to it for wireless play (where as before I was using a USB SNES style controller... and a long USB extension cable). But the coolest thing I was able to enable (fairly easily) was something called Retro Achievements.

Retro Achievements is a site and passion project by a community of very talented people where they spend a lot of blood, sweat and tears creating and implementing Achievements into retro system games for you to unlock as you play them in supported software.

Achievements, if you're not in the know, are little goal based rewards given to the player for completing certain tasks within a title. The tasks could be as simple as finishing a level, beating a boss or collecting the maximum amount of currency in a particular game. The idea of a system wide implementation to reward and track these was, as far as I know, introduced by Microsoft on their XBOX 360 console and has been implemented pretty much everywhere else since (Microsoft and Sony consoles, as well as on Steam and Gog on PC at least. I think Nintendo has been the only reluctant one to jump in).

Retro Achievements is a site you must create an account with first and then sign into on a supported emulator or collection such as Retro Arch. As long as you're running a supported software set and either add the functionality to it or simply enable and sign in, you're ready to go.

Not all titles have achievements made for them yet, but the list is very quickly  growing with an amazing community behind the growth of the project. All you have to do once set up is to play your games.

I've ripped through Doom on the GBA, earning all of its achievements, have dabbled in Yoshi's Island (SNES) and Zelda: Minish Cap (GBA) to name a few, but have really started sinking time into one of my all time faves, Zelda: A link to the Past. I've played this title huge amount of times, but it really just adds something new to see achievements pop up as I'm playing.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Pi-ing around



The Raspberry Pi is an incredibly interesting little board the likes of which makes me giddy because of how open, inexpensive and flexible it is. For anyone who doesn't know the board by it's name, it's a single board mini computer complete with CPU, RAM and lots of ports that starts at $5 and rolls up as you get better models and higher specs. These little boards are completely open for anyone to program for and tinker with, and a large group of creative people are using them for projects like retro gaming console emulation, security cameras, network attached storage, media streamers and the list goes on and on.

I myself, got into playing with the board (the raspberry Pi3b in particular) and after tinkering with it for a bit decided that it would be THE PERFECT base in a gift for my groomsmen at my upcoming wedding. It turned out to be a bit hit! I scoured the internet to learn enough to get the system up and running with RetroPie (an OS for retro console emulation), got a colleague to help me print a SNES case and game cart with the 3D printers at work, got a few cheap SNES style USB controllers, designed some SNES style boxes to put it all in and ended up with the below end result.

These were a big hit and were a lot of fun putting together!

That was almost a year and a half ago, so it's been a little while since I've tinkered with a Raspberry Pi, but thanks to my brother's Pi failing (the SD card failed and I didn't think to back it up, so I recreated the system from scratch) I've jumped back into the world of tinkering with this device. I had to dig up some source files and remind myself of all the tweaks I did for the system to make it special, such as customizing the load screen as it boots, the custom script to make a safe power on and off and even getting the separate LED to light up at appropriate times took some brain scratching. Thankfully, I was able to step through everything and get it back up and running. I was even able to craft a video loading screen to replace the static image version. It just further fueled my desire to break back into playing with these versatile little boards.

My own RetroPie powered Piboard sits in the living room as my retro machine and I love it. I may start tweaking it some more to see what other systems I can get running on it (Had a hard time getting any kind of good performance from N64 emulators) or see what else it can do. I've also considered seeing how much work it would be to set one up as a security camera, feeding directly into our network. Maybe even a network attached storage device as a project?

I'm feeling inspired!


Saturday, February 08, 2020

Wake, Watch, Wonder

*Below I try my best not to give away anything that wouldn't be in a general synopsis. But as always, be mindful if you like to read a book with little knowledge of it's contents.
Robert Sawyer is quickly gaining my appreciation for his ideas and worlds he crafts. A Canadian author with work that I first got to experience with his stand alone MindScan. A novel where a terminal man decides to clone his consciousness to an Android body in order to avoid death, who then needs to deal with his left behind biological body who is taking hostages and claiming he never agreed to the process. The read was quite an interesting one with great ideas on the legal concerns over such an situation.

Later I was shocked at how much I enjoyed his Neanderthal Parallax series in which a parallel universe where Neanderthal humans evolved to be the dominate species on earth. Two scientists attempting a different procedure end up ripping a hole into another universe (ours) that the main character is then pulled through. The story of this character finding his way in our world is quite an interesting one, the first book, in my opinion being the strongest is followed by two others that explores the ideas of technology and lifestyles and how it differs between each universe.

Which leads me into the latest series of books from this author that I'm currently finishing. The WWW series as it were, follows a 16 year old blind Canadian girl whom is given her sight back with an experimental piece of technology that also just so happens to allow her to see a visualized view of the internet. This view brings to her a being who has emerged online and is eager to learn who he is in the world. What plays out is an incredibly interesting series which I'm glad to announce stays strong beyond the first book. Here's hoping it finishes strong!

Interestingly enough, there's word that a TV series maybe in the works (though the post is a year old now and no new news on that front yet) based on this series, which may be kind of neat. I do wonder, however, if it may fit better into the mini series category or even a well thought out movie. Regardless, it would be nice to see this world explore further.

With nearly 7 books of his under my belt, I feel as though I can easily continue with any of his books/series and likely enjoy them. Looking forward to more from him.