David Haywood's Homepage
MAME work and other stuff

I still have a pulse

December 16, 2014 Haze Categories: General News. 3 Comments

I’ll admit, it’s been rather dead here as of late, and I’ve not even got around to doing the writuep of interesting bits in the last release yet.

Rest assured I’ll cover things eventually, I’ve just been a little overwhelmed with other things, including trying to put together a yearly summary etc.

A couple of cool things have been going on, but mostly in the MESS territory with hap and Sean Riddle working on the emulation of a number of MCU based systems, including several non-video toys / components of toys (including a device that from what I understand of the commit comments came as part of a board game?) I’ve covered progress on some non-video systems here before, and that work follows in similar footsteps, requiring full decap work, and even new CPU cores to emulate the games. I’m not sure they have such a wide appeal as emulation of traditional systems and arcade games but personally I find it really interesting to see things like the classic 1970s Milton Bradley ‘Simon’ toy running in our emulator with the artwork system representing the lights.

I’m also currently working on something that probably isn’t going to have a massive amount of appeal, but has required me to write a new CPU core from scratch, also time consuming work. I’ll write more about that if / when it does something, because for now I’m still working on the disassembler (which is 95% complete) after which I’ll start implementing the opcodes and see where the code goes. I suspect it’s going to be an interesting journey because despite the apparently simplicity of the device involved the CPU actually runs at a relatively high clock and might force me to explore how our recompilers work after I’ve done the interpretor core if I’m going to get it running at a good speed.

One thing that did catch my attention was the recent progress on the ‘Gamate’ handheld, for a long time there had been no dumps available for the system, nor a bios rom, nor was it clear how the cartridges could be dumped. Recently that changed, and a submission that included work from PeT (I thought he’d retired from MESS development years ago) brought the system to a much better state, with a dump of the bios, a software list full of cartridge dumps, and playable emulation for a decent part of the dumped library. It’s an obscure handheld, and in all honesty most of the games aren’t actually very good, but I was very happy to see progress being made with the emulation, a lot of what we do these days is exploring curiosities, and that’s definitely one of them.

The progress etabeta has been making with some disk formats is more important than it would first seem too as it allows further testing and exploration of the software library for a number of Japanese systems using those file formats, often for copy protected disks.

So yes, I’m still here, I’m still alive, and I’m still working on things, but there really isn’t much visible progress to report in either side of the project that is likely to excite the majority, but if you look closely you’ll find a few things!

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November 27, 2014 Haze Categories: General News. 6 Comments

When system11 picked up Super Duck he also picked up an undumped SemiCom game, Cute Fighter.

Cute Fighter is often listed as the world release of SD Fighters, but it was obvious from the pictures of the board that it was something more. SD Fighters runs on an older 68000 based SemiCom platform, the Cute Fighter board was a 68020 based board, the same as Dream World and Rolling Crush.

Emulation followed the usual steps for a SemiCom game with the protection data extracted etc. giving us the following screens.

Cute Fighter Cute Fighter
Cute Fighter Cute Fighter
Cute Fighter Cute Fighter
Cute Fighter Cute Fighter
Cute Fighter Cute Fighter
Cute Fighter Cute Fighter

As you can see, there are more characters than SD Fighters, and the stages are different. The game is clearly intended as a sequel rather than simply a clone/ alt release. Unfortunately the sound has really suffered, and feels unfinshed, one of the M6295 chips seems to be only used for female hit sounds, and the game doesn’t even play sounds for the round announcements etc. The 68020 hardware also lacks the YM2151 of the older hardware so all the music is simply looped samples. The game also appears to lack any kind of scoring system, unusual for an arcade game.

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UME 0.156

November 26, 2014 Haze Categories: General News. 11 Comments

UME (logo by JackC)
UME is the complete/combined version of the MAME / MESS project.

Official whatsnew texts for (MAME, MESS) provide full details of what has changed since 0.155.

This is the first release built since the official source repository was moved to GitHub, it is based on the official ‘mame0156′ tagged version (or in GIT hash version nonsense, ebeaa953a3a6ae98842b4a169bc95e5f3c673d8c )

UME 0.156 Windows binaries – 32-bit, 64-bit and all tools
(source matches official mamedev.org source distribution, here for completeness)

Other Binaries (if you don’t know what these are you don’t need them)
MAME/MESS split 0.156 Windows binaries – 32-bit, 64-bit and all tools

Points of Interest

-will write it later

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November 26, 2014 Haze Categories: General News. 7 Comments

It’s no great secret that the majority of Comad’s games are just hacks of something else, and when system11 picked up a Comad ‘Super Duck’ board on eBay, with no ingame screenshots, my initial feeling was that this would be no difference.

When the board arrived and was dumped by system11 I was in for a surprise however, this was actually one of the few original Comad titles, up there with Pushman and Bouncing Balls. The hardware was clearly derived from a similar base as those two titles, but had some significant differences, the main one being that instead of 1 large ROM based tilemap (fixed layout) it had 2 RAM based background tiles. Working out the format of those tilemaps (the page layout, tile size etc.) took a little while, and again proved to be somewhat related to the original ROM based tilemap in that the tiles were 32×32 pixels, and the whole thing was arranged as pages, but the subtle differences took some ironing out.

The palette also took some work, it uses an unusual format xRGBRRRRGGGGBBBB format where the group of 3 bits at the top are the most significant bits of the palette data, the xRGBRRRRGGGGBBBB format in MAME uses them as the least significant.

Sound etc. was easy enough, basically the same as Zero Zone etc. but with added sample banking.

It’s a fairly simple maze game where you need to collect a set number of items from the maze to progress. Every few levels there is a boss level, the first one being an octopus. You can collect power-ups which allow your character to release some gas to stun the enemies. Various other bonus items exist. Another interesting point is that this appears to be one of the few Comad games with no adult content, assuming it doesn’t come later at least.

Super Duck Super Duck

Super Duck Super Duck

Super Duck Super Duck

Super Duck Super Duck

Super Duck Super Duck

Another previously unknown game saved for the ages..

*edit* It was pointed out on Mameworld that the game looks a lot like ‘Hell Out’ for which we have a Comad flyer. The tile roms do indeed contain a logo for ‘Hell Out’ but there is no way to make the set we have use that as a title, I thought it might be a message for when you complete the game, but based on the flyer evidence it’s probably a clone of this.

Super Duck

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Tiny Alien Invaders

November 18, 2014 Haze Categories: General News. 13 Comments

Thanks to CPZ the site theme is now looking more like it used to look before and feels like home once again. In the meantime there have been a couple of new developments, but the one that caught my eye most was the discovery of a unique Space Invaders variant called ‘Alien Invader’

An external contributor ‘Seth Soffer’ discovered a Space Invaders game running on a tiny bartop cabinet using a 6502 CPU. He provided the following pictures, and a rom dump.

Alien Invaders
Alien Invaders Alien Invaders

There are a few things that stand out here, first of all the 6502 CPU, meaning it’s definitely not running Taito Space Invaders code, that used an 8080 CPU. Second of all, the cabinet, it’s tiny, as is the display (which is black and white with a colour overlay attached to the screen)

The manufacturer of this unit is unknown, we’re told the PCB is etched with ‘Forbes’ so that’s our best guess. When it was manufactured is also unknown, externally it manages to look almost like some retro-contemporary item, but chances are it’s not much newer than the original Space Invaders.

Emulation also highlighted something else that you can maybe tell from the original photos. The screen resolution is very low, 128×128 pixels, something you’d associate more with a handheld device than an arcade machine. I did some of the emulation work, although the game jumped off into the weeds as soon as you generated an interrupt, Mariusz Wojcieszek noted that by simply returning in such a situation the game would run fine, so it’s possibly some kind of protection (Kale speculates that it’s a PROM) Maybe there is some other purpose to jumping there, like the address bus bits signalling some other hardware, I’m not sure. We could probably do with some clear PCB pictures to see what’s there to either confirm or rule out various theories.

The sound isn’t emulated, again we don’t know what generates it at this stage, could be discrete like the original Space Invaders, but without further PCB images I really don’t know.

Unlike Taito’s Minivader (which was actually just a cabinet test board) I think this was intended as a full ‘for arcade use’ game, the tiny resolution actually makes it more of a Mini-vader than Mini-vader itself tho :-) The game plays well and is a respectable effort to file with the other odd releases based on Space Invaders using unexpected hardware. (I think the only other one with a 6502 is ‘Attack UFO’ but that again is very different hardware, AFAIK based on similar hardware to the Commodore home systems)

Anyway, here are some screenshots of Alien Invaders running, the colour overlay positions are guessed based on the screenshots

Alien Invader Alien Invader Alien Invader Alien Invader

Alien Invader Alien Invader Alien Invader Alien Invader

Thanks again to Seth Soffer for this contribution, and if you’re reading, more PCB info / high res pictures would really be appreciated :-)

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Site Layout

November 8, 2014 Haze Categories: General News. 51 Comments

In response to the security issues a few things were updated here, including the site theme, which I was unable to update before because the site was using an older version of PHP. It does however appear that the new version of this theme looks nothing like the old version, and doesn’t really work properly with some things on the site. So far I haven’t actually found a single layout I like as much as the older one here, which was neat and unintrusive when it came to the style and layout of my pages (even if the new one is probably more technically correct from a CSS usage / enforcing CSS usage point of view)

As a result I’m going to end up having to do a bit of CSS hacking until I have something I’m happy with again, and also figure out a way to stop it only showing previews of posts (I’ve got WP set to display full text, but it seems to ignore that)

In other words, please be patient while I get everything looking like it should ;-)

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