We (Mostly) Built a Tiny Retro Gaming Console!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

As an anniversary present to one another, Wesley and I bought a Raspberry Pi 2. We werent' sure what we wanted to do with it at first, not surprising given the ridiculous versatility of the little board. People have used the Pi 2 to control their stereos, made smart beer fridges out of it, even made functioning phones from them. While all of those projects sound awesome, they were also a touch daunting. What did we settle on instead? What else, but a retro gaming machine.
The Retropie is the gold standard for Raspberry Pi gaming devices. Equipped with a complex array of emulators from DOSBox to SCUMMVM, among so very many others, the RetroPie allows you to play many old school games with a surprisingly minimal amount of effort, which really is best for us. Not because we are lazy people, but because were rather uncomfortable with any project that required work that might break the Raspberry Pi.

We've built computers and have a functional amount of experience with programming but we are still timid, hobbit-like folk when it comes to our own we games . We researched the RetroPie Project and found it to be an interesting introductory task that would teach us a great deal about setting up a board without downplaying the Retro Pie or being too simple and unambitious with our first project.

The basic instructions were easy enough to follow. We downloaded the necessary software onto a drive and transferred it to the Raspberry Pi, then began our great search for roms for our numerous and finicky emulators. I discovered roms for tons of different systems from equally numerous sources both above and below our arbitrarily selected line of legality. 

In the end, we added only a few games to our retro gaming machine. We are still troubleshooting a few issues, but have played a few older games like Quake 3 Arena and Zork. We have a number of other games that we have tried and failed to load. These machines are capable of storing a surprisingly large library of games, though at the moment we are only able to play a few. Most of the N64 games we attempt to load will play sound regularly but display little more than a black screen.

Our own difficulties aside, the interface for the RetroPie 2 is surprisingly useful and intuitive. Each emulator is arranged into a large list from which you select the game you wish to play. Once a game is selected and loaded, the system doesn't give many more detailed instructions for follow. Instead, you are left to launch the game and play to your heart's content. Assuming it loads correctly

We are still learning the intricacies of the Raspberry Pi. There are still a number of games and systems that refuse to load in the list despite having been downloaded and installed to AUX drive. As we tinker and tweak more about our little machine, I am sure that we will be eager to report on the state of our device. Expect more info soon.