The Homemade Video Game Project! - HVGP01 Priorities Listing
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6/25/06

I Hate Playing Games at Arcades

     After a very, very long absence from my local video arcade, I took a tour of it this afternoon.  As before, the place was stark.  Only about 8 or 9 people there (with five actually playing games).  I came to realize why video arcades are becoming a thing of the past as I tried my hand at a game of Daytona 2.  First of all, with all the blaring noise of the other machines, I could not concentrate on the audible cues of the car I was driving (I was using the manual transmission).  Second of all, there was something sticky on the gas pedal, which was a major annoyance as I was trying to power slide.  Third, I constantly lost my "feel" for the game because I was so self-conscious about someone looking over my shoulder and actually seeing how poorly I was racing.  Fourth, I couldn't help but wonder where the hands of the last person who played the game had been before handling the steering wheel and shift knob.  Fifth, at one point I got caught up in daydream about how much better the experience of playing games at home are.  With that said, I still think that going to an arcade is a good thing for me once in a while.  Every time I leave an arcade, I come away with more inspiration to work on my system.  Just the joy of watching someone get challenged by something I created was well worth the hour and 2 tokens I spent there. 

     Although video arcades are a dying breed, I hope that somehow the owners of the establishments will creatively find ways of bringing more people in.  This seems to be an insurmountable task considering the fact that home consoles are becoming now technically on par (or even more advanced) than the arcade machines.  I know of some arcades that have tried to host tournaments with greater or lesser success, but there must be some other answer to this dilemma.  Although this isn't a new idea, maybe it should be tried to a greater extent by console makers and arcade game manufacturers.  Instead of having arcades full of games that consumers will eventually play at home.  Use the arcade as a test market for video  software and hardware while having some forum for input from those who actually play the product.  In other words, in my ideal "world", gamers should be playing the Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii now at their local arcades and somehow be able to communicate their feelings about the hardware design and the games they are playing.  Although the actual game systems would not be in the form of of the consumer product (just imagine people running off with those remote control pads), there are effective ways that what the person plays in the arcade will not be that different from what they will be able to buy five months to a year at home.  This way the consumer will feel more connected to the product and the console makers will have a better grip on the expectations of consumers.

Games Are Being Primed

     This past weekend, I started some initial work on the first game that I hope to complete on my system.  As mentioned awhile back, I was planning a Contra type game, but I decided (with the suggestion from Greg on the "Others Projects" page) to first make a simple game that would appeal to as many people as possible so that more people can appreciate the time and effort I put into this "little" project.  So it will be a platform adventure, but the "engine" I will develop will be used also for the military combat game.  While I was penning out the game, I referenced the OS I have in progress in my mind, and thought the ways that I could make the hardware perform the tasks necessary and routines.  There are a few things that I am able to do right now with what I have, there are others that I will not be sure about until the entire system is in working order, but there are others that I may need to make a "work-around" or not include in the game.
Reck Howard
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5/25/06

Rome Was Not Built in a Day!

     As I spend more time working on the GamePrime, I am gaining an appreciation for the work that goes into creating a consumer level game system.  Many years ago, I was one of those who complained when spec sheets for upcoming systems were revised and companies would not release performance benchmarks.  Now as I am working on this system, I am trying my darndest to make the system meet my own expectations.  As humble as they may be, I am getting more and more used to the idea that I am going to have to have to lower my expectations as far as applications are concerned, at least initially after the system is completed.  Just like most programmable hardware, with time the performance yields will improve.

     The 12th revision seems to be one that will "stick".  I finally am getting some basic routines to work!  Other things that I am trying to improve are the system's monitor and the Graphics Interface.  I refuse to make a projection of when I am going finish because things in my life have become too unpredictable.  But as they say, "Rome was not built in a day".

Reck Howard
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3/09/06

Developments

     There hasn't been an update to this site for awhile because of various issues involving some of the issues mentioned in the last update as well as one involving the GamePrime itself.  For those who are concerned, I haven't stopped working on the system, although I still cannot devote as much time to it as I would like.  At this time I have devoted most of my game system development time on creating the OS.  I am currently in the 12th (that's right 12th) revision but I am optimistic that I can eventually make a program that is efficient, reliable and fast enough to run games the way I want.

     All references to the former VGPX have been removed.  It was a very ambitious project that I was developing when I had the time, but things changed and I couldn't carry on with it.  Once I relaunch this website simultaneously with the "reveal" of the completed GamePrime System, there will be a page called the "history closet" with information about the development of the system as well as pictures of hardware that has canned, revised or developed (this will include the VGPX).  Also, the "Other's Projects" page has some changes and revisions. 

Reck Howard
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10/27/05

Where Things are at and Where Things Stand

     It's been a long time since I have written for this site and I have much to tell... some good news some bad news.  First off, I need to explain why this site hasn't been updated in such a long time (almost eight months to be exact).  Because of my job situation, I had to relocate and that process put a big dent in my plans.  The work has been at a standstill for over six months so reacquainting myself with the unit and the OS development so far is manageable, but challenging.  Overall, even though I have completed my moving process I cannot spend as much time as I would like on my unique hobby, not only because of my job, but also my family and social obligations.

     There is a newer version of the XGamestation called the XGamestation Pico Edition, essentially it is a simplified version of the XGamestation Micro.  With an 80 MHz microcontroller and the ability to run ported games from the Micro Edition the $60 price tag makes it a steel!  After much though I decided that the offering by Ray Lamoth is a more substantial offering than the VGPX or the GamePrime ever could be.  So even the plans for a tutorial will be shelved indefinitely. 

Reck Howard
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02/28/05

Carrying On

     I've worked on a lot of things that frustrated me, but I don't think I have done so many "retries" on anything (maybe when I was first learned to walk) as I have on the Operating System for my game system.  I'm holding on though and I never gave up hope... I just stepped away from that work for awhile and worked on shrinking components.  Last week, I finally went back to it and I hope this will be the final build.  If not, I will still carry on and do a "retry" until I get it right.  One request, please don't send any suggestions.  I know someone who is into computer programming and he couldn't help me because everything from the ground up is being developed by me.  Maybe if I worked with someone from the start, things would much easier, but then again, I could not make the claim that I did it totally "My Way", so the frustration and lost hair is a good trade off in my book.

     Enough about that!  I just got some more information from Nick Yateau about his system.  If you are interested just check the Other's Projects page.


Reck Howard
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01/13/05

New Year's Announcements!

     December was almost an impossible month to get a lot things related to the GamePrime done.  With family events, shopping and all other holiday related tasks, very little time was devoted to finishing the OS for the system.  Now with a clearer schedule, I hope to finally end this chapter of the development so that I can finally get some serious work done on an playable game.  Aside from that Other's Projects page has updates concerning systems that other people are building from scratch.

Reck Howard
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11/08/04

Great Things this Month!

     It's been awhile since my last update, there have been a few hold-ups (but all of them are not necessarily bad).  First of all, I have been spending an enormous amount of time developing the Operating System for the GamePrime.  So far I've scrapped two almost finished builds, but I think that I am currently working on the final build.  Due to my work on the software end of things, the hardware end of things hasn't been getting much attention, but once the OS is finished, I can continue work on shrinking the components to a reasonable size and finally working on the outer shell.  Another thing that I cannot forget is the games!  I have three games on the drawing board at this moment and I am very excited about it.  I plan on making my first game a side scrolling military shooter similar to the classic Contra games.

     If you check the "Other's Projects" page, you will find a new specs sheet for Tim's system and a new entry from Volkmar Knefler.  Additionally you will find a "status report" on Greg's Grasshopper Project.  My interview with Darren Solie has been put on hold because he failed to reply to my last set of questions.  When I get them, I will post them ASAP.  Hopefully, he is just too busy to check his email and nothing has gone wrong in his life.

Reck Howard
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8/31/04

The Specs Are Here!

     Last month I promised "a few nice surprises", well, I have to admit I was a bit distracted by the Summer Games.  Despite the U.S.' serious failures in track and basketball, we still ended up with more medals than any other country!  Anyway, one of the "surprises" is below .  Finally the specs sheet is here as well as the new logo!  I also planned on interviewing others who are working on their own game systems.  One of those interviews (conducted through email correspondences) is almost finished.  It packs a few insights that can be helpful to all who are thinking about making a game system.

GamePrime Specs & Logo

*This might possibly be reduced by the time the project is completed.

     In other news, the XGamestation is available to order for $199.  It will be interesting to see how well this revolutionary product sells and if there are any spin-offs from it (XGS games for download, remote-group game development through internet, etc.).  On a sad note; Acclaim, like the 3DO company is officially dead. 
Reck Howard
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7/27/04

Begging to Differ

     Once the new site is up, I will separate things into more categories.  I will have one section for my takes on the latest news in gaming consoles and another I will have for responses to those comments.  The reason why I am posting my response to certain ones is to prevent myself from receiving emails with the same objection.  I've received three responses to my "Xbox Next to Nothing?" entry a few days ago; one comes from Tony G.  He writes:

Hey Reck, do your research!  Not only do you simply pass over the Genesis example as a "rare occurrence" but you also ignored the very system that revolutionized console gaming in the first place.  It is a system I am sure you have -- unless you are too young to remember.  I am talking about the little wonder that Nolan Bushnell created called the Atari VCS.

From an informed gamer,
Tony

First of all, I do own the same Atari that I got when I was still in elementary school and I still play it!  Second, the VCS was a revolutionary game system because it was a game console that could play cartridge based games that were actually fun.  Unlike the Fairchild Channel F that was released in 1976 (two years before the VCS) that could play cartridge based games that were not fun. 

Reck Howard
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7/24/04

Minor Update

     I decided to drop work on the language until the motherboard is working the way I want it to.  I should have approached the idea this way from the beginning.  It just doesn't make sense to create an operating system before the hardware is completed.  Besides that, everything else is going O.K.   You may want to keep checking this site for the next couple weeks, I am planning a few nice surprises.

     Another good note is that there is another person who wrote to me who has already began work on his system.  So far, it is the most advanced, so you may want to click over to the "Other's Projects" page to get an idea of what he is working on. 

Reck Howard
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7/24/04

Xbox Next to Nothing?

     Although Microsoft has consistently refused to comment on rumors centered around their Xbox Next, there seems to be strong indications from developers and component vendors that there may be some truth to what “facts” are being revealed about the system by magazines and web sites.  Although Microsoft has not denied or confirmed the rumors that are spreading, this essay is present a theory on what I think the company should not do if they want to be more successful this time around. 

Mistake #1:  Launching Their System First As a Means of “Grabbing the Market”

    This seems like a great idea, but history has proven (when closely examined) that this rarely is a successful plan.  Actually, being there is a higher likelihood of success if the system is the second or third one to hit the streets.  Many point to the Sega Genesis as a prime example but that case was really an exception to the rule (although that system was a failure in Japan, being outsold by both the Super Famicon and the PC Engine). 

     There is a clear disadvantage to releasing hardware a year ahead of all major competitors, when those competitors can 1up their systems in a few places to get an easy technical edge.  “But wasn’t the PS2 released before the Xbox and GameCube systems?” – Yes, but what some people forget is that Sony’s second entry into the console market came a year after the much highly praise Sega Dreamcast (which failed and almost crippled the company).  And if someone thinks of apply the same idea to the Playstation One, I suggest they look into buying some old video game magazines through ebay and realize that the Playstation ended up on top of a heap of 32 bit and 64 bit systems from well established companies like Panasonic, Goldstar, Sega and Atari. 

    Besides the Genesis, the NES is the only other example of hitting the market first and being successful, but even in this case there were other major factors that made it such a successful product.  The NES’s technical leapfrog over the Atari 7800’s (hardware that had been shelved for over 2 years before being released) and strict/unfair software policies that hurt the Master System from Sega (a technically superior system) gave more of an advantage in the market than its sheer release date. 

Mistake #2:  No Backward Compatibility and No Hard Drive

     With Microsoft’s new chip vendors (Intel and Nvidia have been abandoned), the new hardware will likely not be backward compatible with Xbox software.  This will not leave a “hook” for current Xbox owners to upgrade to the Xbox Next, but make them more inclined to “shop around”.  Brand loyalty will weakened if the hardware will be released (2005?) just as the Xbox’s life cycle will be ending prematurely, making Xbox owners bitter that they cannot play the games they like so much on the newer hardware when PS3 owners will have the advantage of being able to play PS2 games. 

     This brings me to the next point; Xbox owners love their hard dives.  They have become accustomed to not having to buy memory cards.  This may be too bitter a pill for them to swallow if they cannot use custom sound tracks with their games or download software updates without the need to fiddle with the hardware (take this card out, put this one in, label it, etc.).  Even if the hard drive in the new system is not 8 Gigabytes (only about half of which is used up on most Xbox’s anyway), Microsoft should at least provide something within the hardware to download a decent amount of data and save some games.  The only way that using memory cards won’t hurt the Xbox Next’s chance at being successful is if the cards have two things:  First, cheap (no more than $30) and second, high capacity (at least 1 Gig).

Mistake #3:  No Hardware Bragging Points

    There are no arguments over which of the three current game systems is technically superior.  With a built-in hard drive and technology that probably will never be maxed-out (especially if the next system is launched in 2005), the Xbox is the clear winner from a hardware point-of-view.  Even diehard PS2 fans rely on the strong software and DVD playback as their trump card (GameCube people just say “We’ve got Mario and Zelda”).   While its technology did not make the Xbox more successful than the PS2, it is something that should continue to be Microsoft’s trump card.  Consumers will know what to expect as diehard Xbox owners will want to continue to support a company that they stuck by.  Also “second system” PS2 owners who later purchased the Xbox after a few price drops will feel more inclined to taking a “wait and see” attitude if Microsoft makes sure that it has hardware that the other competitors cannot touch.  If the company follows “first to hit the market approach”*, there will be a clamor of praise of the Xbox Next, it may even achieve the “Gadget of the Year” award from Time magazine, just like Sega’s Dreamcast did two years before the system was discontinued as the PS2 took the world by storm. 

     I don’t pretend to be an expert; this is simply my opinion.  I have nothing against Microsoft, Infinium Labs or any other company that produces video games.  I think Microsoft did a great job with the Xbox.  For a software company to have some level of success in venturing out into the world of video game consoles is something to be applauded.  Unfortunately, the wisdom that Sony gained by slowly entering the market (remember Sony Soft games for the Genesis and Super Nintendo?) that paid off for them does not seem to be present in the offices at Microsoft. 

My next essay will be rant about how Nintendo is taking too big a risk with their very existence as a company.


*Unfortunately, this “rumor” is likely true.  Recently one company insider admitted “we hope it will be the next Genesis”.

Reck Howard
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7/13/04

Updates and Phantom's Potential Failure

    The FAQ has been updated and I have decided to include a time-line on the HVGP01 on this web site once the project is completed.

    For those who are familiar with this website, my feelings about the upcoming Phantom console are no mystery.  Just in case you are not a regular visitor to my web site, from the beginning, I have been very negative about Infinium Labs’ stab at the next generation of video game consoles.  Since E3, my opinion has changed about it – a little.  Its price point is something that will turn heads ($30 a month or starting at $300 for full ownership of the system) as well as the idea of the convenience of having online games “on demand”.  The specs (while they have been reduced recently) are still greater than the current consoles available, but there still seems to be some fundamental problems with the system’s prospects and Infinium Labs’ business model.

     First of all, there still are not many major titles that will be available and some of the games are simply antiquated (not in terms of quality, just simply 12 year-old titles like Street Fighter II Turbo).  One would think that a heavily PC based hardware would be ideal for bringing PC titles to the TV, but the problem is the fact that the $30 a month or the $300 console will only get you a “basic” selection of games to play online while “premium” titles will cost a bit extra to be downloaded onto the console.  Even though this idea seems to be cost efficient (no packaging or shipping costs), third parties simply are not yet willing to show much confidence in Infinium Labs’ new concept in game delivery.

     Second of all, the company is not that well known and the console gamer does not like to take chances with a start up company, especially one that has a different distribution model (the console will be purchasable through the internet only).  If gamers cannot see the hardware in action at a nearby retailer, they are less likely to buy the product, no matter how good the specs may be.  This is one of the reasons why the Zodiac from Tapwave has not achieved a decent level of market penetration even though it is technically far superior than the Gameboy Advance SP (add to this the fact that Tapwave, like Infinium Labs is not a well known company among gamers)*.

     A third factor that is not in favor of Infinium Labs is the fact that the nature of the Phantom limits its own potential audience because most console gamers do not play online console games.  While this is constantly changing, it is doubtful that the majority of console gamers will play games via online services – most will continue to use their PC’s for that.  It is true that online gaming will be a significant source of income for the major console manufacturers, but their bread and butter (at least for one more generation of consoles) will be young people who either cannot afford to have broadband hookups for games or who’s parents are not willing to make such an investment for their kid’s recreational activities.  Among adults who like to play online, they are more likely to stick to using the PC because that format will always have a technical advantage over consoles (simply because they can be upgraded).

    The final factor working against the Phantom is the future competition.  With the three major competitors preparing for an all-out war, the Phantom might get lost in the shuffle.  At the same time, the DISCover console is going to offer the ideal format for playing PC games through the television with the possibility of being able to play any PC game (either downloaded or on CD) whether online or offline and play DVD’s as well.

     I could name a few more factors that are working against Infinium Labs, but that would take up too much time and space on this web site.  While there are many great ideas about the Phantom console that will impress the public, it will eventually be the console that stirs a lot of interest, but not be able to translate into dollars what will be enough to support a business structure that looses money with purchase of each console.

Since this essay was a bit exhaustive, my thoughts about the potential failure of the Xbox Next, why Nintendo should become a third party software developer and the eminent crash of the game console market will be posted in the near future.

*Tapwave recently made a deal with CompUSA to distribute their handheld.  This could be the key entry point for the company’s handheld to receive the type of public exposure that might convince other retailers to sell the product as a worthy alternative to the PSP.
 

Reck Howard
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6/22/04

It’s Been Awhile!

     In my FAQ on this web site, I stated that there would be monthly updates (at a minimum) unless some tragedy happened.  Well, it has been more than a month and some of you may be wondering what happened.  First of all, I apologize for the delay, but there was a problem that occurred.  This time, it had nothing to do with the hardware of the GamePrime - it was a virus.  The infection occurred one day when at work, I decided to use some of my break time to add some more text to the tutorial.  I believe that the computer at work had the virus.  The diskette that I was using contained not only the tutorial, but most of the other vital documents concerning the project.  From there when I went home, I unknowingly infected my hard drive when I updated my files.  The next day when I went to add some more data, I found that everything was ruined because the antivirus program that I was using was scheduled for scanning two days later.  So I decided to run a scan on the hard drive and the diskette which resulted in the removal of the virus, but the damage could not be repaired.  All the files were rendered “unreadable”.  These “unreadable” files included key hardware data, the new web site design, the text for the tutorial (which was about 80% complete) and even some game code and concepts for future games.

     Instead of getting frustrated and kicking the dog, I rolled up my sleeves and got back to the drawing board (my PC) and tried to recall and rewrite the information.  As I worked on that I did give a copy of the botched files to a friend of mine who informed me today that he was able to render all the files readable!!  As a token of my appreciation for his work, I am going to make a system for him.  Great job John!

     Things are going to return to normal and I can now focus more on hardware and every now and then update this site.  I will rant a bit more about the Phantom and the Xbox Next later this week.
 

Reck Howard
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4/28/04

Delays and Other News

     Later next week, the FAQ will be updated.  The additions and changes to be made on that page including a new projected time for completion of the system.  I know... I know, I ripped on Infinium Labs for the delays and lack of information on the Phantom (which I still think will fail miserably), but I am not producing a consumer level product (like them) and I don't have an entire team of specialists working on the GamePrime with me.  I am not making excuses though, this project is tougher than I originally thought.

  If you plan on making your own system, don't be afraid to dive into the work, others already have (as mentioned in my previous update) and let me know about it so that I can put some information on the site about your work.
 

Reck Howard
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4/11/04

Happy Easter

     I am proud to announce that there is a new name for my project!  Formally called the GameKey, the HVGP01 is now given the name GamePrime!  Aside from this, there really isn't anything new to announce from me.  Even though I am struggling with a few issues in the hardware, the outlook is still a good one, and I am very confident that the project will be completed before the summer.

     Another bit of news is that there have been two people who have emailed me about their projects.  After some communications, both sound very serious and promising and they made a committment to keep me updated about their progress.  In turn, I will devote a page to "Others' Projects" as a platform to display their works (as well as links to their websites in the future, if any).

Reck Howard
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3/14/04

Sounds Good!

     Going back to the drawing board in looking for a new name of the HVGP01, I have narrowed it down to three choices and will announce my final decision later this week.  Of course this time I am making sure the new name has not already been used.  The issues with the sound board (mentioned on the 12/14 update) have been resolved, so now I am working on other problems with the components and the processor speed.  On another note, I still haven't figured out the problem with the monitor (mentioned in the 2/16 update), but I have to continue to get this project finished.  If worst comes to worst, I might simply go back to using a similar set-up like the Adventurevision System even though it is less efficient and more bulky.

Reck Howard
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2/16/04

Bad, Bad News

     The HVGP01 (known as the GameKey) is going to have to receive a new name.  Apparently there is a program being developed with the same name, using the same letter casing, so to be original I am going to drop the name GameKey.  The new name of the system will be announced in the near future.  On top of that bit of news, I am going through a serious problem with the display apparatus.  This was one of the problems that I mentioned on the 12/16/04 update.  The real issue back then (as it is now) was not the GIC, but really the monitor itself and this recent discovery has set me on what I fear will be a very arduous, stressful search and retooling the this component.

     On the more positive side, others have been emailing me about their projects.  I am always glad to hear from others, so if you are working on a hardware modification or a homemade game system and would like me to place a link on this site, feel free to let me know.

Reck Howard
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1/21/04

      The problems (mentioned in the 12/14 entry) are slowly being understood.  One of the issues deals with the speed of the processor.   The 22 sequential impulses are a bit more than the other components can handle, so I have to fix the problem by using one of two strategies.  Either I lower the output of the MIRU or modify the motherboard to handle a greater output.  I will try to opt of the latter because I won't be satisfied with anything less that 22 SIPS (this is my terminology, see the FAQ for details).

     On a different note, my criticism about the Phantom console continues.  Now that it seems to be a reality (with a March 31st street date), those who are willing to pony up the projected $300 to $400 for the "always online device" can look forward to playing Fun with Numbers and for the advanced gamer there is the option of playing the  over 10 year-old Street Fighter II Turbo.  Wow!  Sounds about as promising as the Xbox.... sorry, I mean the Phillips CDi.

Reck Howard
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1/03/04

Happy New Year!

     As you may have guessed, I've been very busy with holiday travel and events.  I am solving the problems mentioned in the previous entry one-by-one (I will explain in greater detail in a future entry) and I have updated the FAQ.
 

Reck Howard
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12/14/03

Hardware Problems!!

     I feel like a school counselor trying to break up a fight between four stubborn students.  Isolated, each component of the motherboard works great, but when I put them together, they each do unexpected things (or they don't work at all).  Even if I connect them in series with other power consuming devices (e.g. lights, motors, etc.), they work fine.  But when I put them together, for some strange reason, the processor runs inconsistently and stops sporadically.  The GIC (Graphics Interface Component) interprets every command as a single pixel in the left display field.  Until recently the sound generator let out a constant hiss.  Figuring out these issues has taken away time from developing other things for the system (e.g. software components, development kit, etc.).  The projected early winter completion is out of the question at this time, but I am still confident that these things can be worked through.  There are a few more solution strategies that I am planning to try before I rework the entire motherboard.

     On another note, I will be adding more information to the FAQ later this week.  Also, I have been unable to send a reply to an email from "Matt" from some strange reason.  All I get is a return from the MAILER-DAEMON.  So Matt, if you are reading this, the answer to your questions will be added to the FAQ.
 

Reck Howard
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12/2/03

Technical FAQ added!  But now I've run into some hardware problems.  I will explain later

Reck Howard
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11/25/03

Broken Promise

     The FAQ promised on the last journal entry is finally here, but late for number of reasons.  My apologies to all who visit this web site.  The work on the GameKey is going very well and soon (once I work through a few technical issues with my computer and camera) you will be able to see the actual system being developed.  In the meantime the belated FAQ is finally up, so enjoy and email any questions that you would like to see added.  Next Tuesday, the technical information FAQ will be added.

Reck Howard
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11/10/03

GameKey

     Above is the logo that I will use for the Gamekey System that I am currently working on.  The prototype model should be finished soon and I will post a picture of it as a formal unveiling.  For now, this link is to a picture of the original sketch of the unit.  It closely resembles the prototype that I am working on, although there are a few things that have changed.  As you may have noticed, there is only one port for the controller.  This is a sacrifice that I had to make due to the limitations of the hardware.   For the GameKey's successor, I will include two player capabilities.

     The FAQ will be uploaded next Tuesday (11/17), so if you have any pressing questions that you would like to see included don't waste any time in emailing them to me.

Reck Howard
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11/03/03

Limitation Frustrations

     While the HVGP01 has been a challenging project, its limitations have been a point of frustration for me.  Several times, I have been ready to throw the work away and work on something "more substantial", or simply juice up a few components.  But in the end patience prevails.  I am so thoroughly convinced that the humble approach is the best road for now because through it I have already started developing newer ideas on how to get the most out of the system.  More power is not always the best solution.  Also the work on the HVGP01's successor is being augmented through my discoveries.

     The FAQ is almost ready and the site design is nearly finished, but at this time I am not ready to divulge any new details on the progress of the unit.  On Monday (11/10/03) I will post a sketch of the GameKey and make a few other updates.

Reck Howard
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11/01/03

The System Has a Name!

     I am proud to announce that the HVGP01 (Homemade Video Game Project 1) has been given a name.  After much deliberation and thought, I decided to name the unit the GameKey.  I chose this name because I hope that it will be the launching pad for greater and similar projects from myself and others!

Reck Howard
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9/16/03

Shrinking Things

     The work on improving the MIRU28 is coming along quite well.  The current design us about the size of 5.25 inch floppy disk and is about as thick as a deck of cards.  I think that I will be able to decrease it by about 75%.  Also, I have discovered two ways of achieving this without hindering its performance at all.  I might be able to make it even smaller, but I do not plan on taking too much more time on down sizing the component.  That might be for a future project!  While the processor does produce some heat, it is not enough to overheat, so I can avoid using a cumbersome cooling fan.

     Lately, I have been working with a friend of mine who wants to help me improve this website (from a design standpoint).  He has some great ideas, but progress is being made slowly because of my time constraints, but there is a lot planned for the near future.  The site will have a more professional look and new features such as faqs and screen shots.  So far I have received quite a few questions that will be part of the faq, but if there are any questions that you would like to see addressed on the faq,  feel free to drop me a line and ask away.  The faq will probably be uploaded before the site receives its facelift depending on the number of questions I get.

Reck Howard
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9/09/03

Facing Reality

     I expect a lot in terms of the work I do in creating the HVGP01, but the results might be one of those "eye of the beholder" type observations.  After working through some graphic designs for the system on my PC, I thought to myself, "This is really UGLY!"  The thought "The RCA Studio II could do better looking sprites that this."  Then I looked up a few Studio II screen shots on the net and that previous observation was totally eradicated.  Then the nuance dawned on me, "This in MY creation!  MY work!  MY pride!" and the enthusiasm for my first homemade video game system was rekindled.  With that aside, the next system will blow the smithereens out of the Studio II and the Channel F and it will certainly rival the revered Atari 2600!

Reck Howard
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8/24/03

Processor Benchmarks and Motherboard Name

      Well the processor benchmarks are here, but before you judge them, there are a few things to keep in mind.  They are not set in stone and they are not purely raw numbers.  A “raw” number or benchmark is the capability of a piece of hardware specifically working one function (e.g. floating point operations).  A few years ago, when the PS2 was being touted, Sony claimed that it could run over 70,000,000 polygons per second, but that number really was not a true one because it could only generate such a high count if there were no game routines, no graphic effects turned on, etc. - just flat shaded, one color polygons.  The numbers that I give are true numbers in the sense that they do take into account all the functions of the system running a game

     The name of the custom processor that the HVGP01 will use is called the MIRU28 (short for Magnetic, Impulse, Reactor, Unit).  The number “28” indicates the pin count on the processor.  This unit being custom made is my creation.  It cannot be bought off the shelf and it runs by a different principle than most processors.  The unit can perform up to 22 - four bit sequential operations per second and this does not change with any secondary functions.  The processor can only perform operations with one character sprite at a time, but this can be worked around through some creative programming.  The name of the custom language that I am developing is called 4Square.  This language is the only one that can be used with my system and it will likely be the language that will be used on all of my preceding projects.  These numbers are subject to change only if I decide to increase the performance ratios.  From my standpoint, I am more than impressed with its speed and capability.

     The name of the motherboard will be FIDO-1.  It will include RAM, the graphics interface, control interface, sound generator, media interface and other components.  I will reveal more about what it can do and how it will utilize the MIRU28 in weeks to come.  For now I will work on some “issues” with the processor, there is some room for improvement in terms of its heat generation, size and its versatility.

P.S.  I was not very impressed with the Phantom unveiling last Sunday.  Although I have not “unveiled” a working model of my system yet, I do have a right to gripe about Infinium Labs because they promised an unveiling on a specific date and did not deliver, nor have they offered any apology or explanation for not doing so.  On top of that there was not any indication that they had made any progress on completing the unit.  From what was shone on the video, one might easily conclude that they don’t even have the hardware in the breadboard stage yet (compare this to the XGamestation that has pics of the prototype chipsets).  I am not claiming that the Phantom is vaporware, but I do believe that Infinium can do a better job at informing the public and releasing information on their hardware.  Hopefully, they will deliver in November (as they promise).

Reck Howard
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8/11/03

Great News for Game Development

     Now there will be an open format for game development sooner that most had initially anticipated.  Andre LaMoth’s upcoming XGamestation is in development.  The system can be programmed with simple BASIC to more complex languages such as Assembly, so practically anyone can make games for it.  The unit will come with programming manuals, the hardware itself and a flash memory card (for games) for about $100. There are actual pics of the hardware and other details on their web site.  I am personally very interested in this unit, but the work on the HVGP01 and its successor are my top game building priorities!

Reck Howard
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8/10/03

A personal Message and Upcoming Benchmarks

     I can remember recalling the many, many delays involved with the launch of the Nintendo 64 System.  The public waited with great expectation for the system that would change gaming forever only to be awestruck at a handful of A+ titles, a bulky drive that had less than 5% of the "success" of the NES disk drive and technical promises (some of which came from people outside of Nintendo) that were never delivered.  Well, my system, while not even being in the same ballpark as the N64, let alone the Atari 2600 is still very special to me and in a sense - revolutionary.  I have not found a single person who has tried to do what I am doing.  Modifying an existing game system like shrinking a NES into a handheld system is an excellent achievement, but creating a game system from scratch, out of garbage is something that is taking and is going to take a lot of work - especially considering the fact that I have practically no technical training (please do not construe this as a direct comparison).  So I freely admit that the system will not be completed as early as I had originally expected*, but I am sticking to it all the way through and I invite you to continue to be there as a post my progress.

     Getting back to the nitty-gritty of the work, the custom-made processor will be going through "benchmark" tests to reveal its true capabilities.  I will not simply post what calculations tell me because what's on paper might not be a reflection of reality (think back and consider the promises of real time reflections, 600,000 polygons per second and 60 frames per second for the N64).  A real test of the actual component working is the only way to accurately confirm the numbers and expectations. So in celebration of the "unveiling" of the Phantom console (rumor says that this is scheduled for midnight, August 17th), I will reveal the name of the motherboard and the benchmarks of the processor on August 24 (even if the Phantom rumor is true or not).

*Originally I was hoping to have the unit finished by late summer, but now I am “projecting” a mid to late fall completion.  This is partially due to the change of the display set-up (see the previous journal entry for details).  This will be followed by another more powerful system shortly after.

Reck Howard
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7/24/03

Mirror No More

     The progress of the HVGP01 has taken a somewhat different direction.  After working with the spinning mirror design similar to the classic Adventurevision system, I decided to abandon it.  It simply was inadequate on many levels.  First, there is too much distortion at different angles.  I want everyone to see the bloody thing in action, not just the player.  This is very important because I am developing some games to handle more than one player.  Second of all, the design is too bulky.  Thirdly, the frame rate won't be decent unless I increase the power demand, which in turn will cause more wear on the motor (for spinning the mirror).

     Now what do I do for a display?  Well, I am now working on a totally different model that is simple, but more efficient and ergonomic than the spinning mirror.  This design is all that I would want in a display and no matter what angle the screen is viewed, there will be little distortion.  The new design which scans images is capable of generating 20 to 30 frames per second (the details about this component I won't reveal due to the possibility of getting an eventual patent for it)!

Reck Howard
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5/11/03

A Game System Stepping Stone

     The progress of the HVGP01 has slowed down a bit due to important family affairs and issues at my job.  Overall, I am pleased with the progress so far, but I am not holding to a strict schedule because I need to use the time to explore as I work on each component, every programming detail and design concept so that my next project will really be impressive.  What I plan on is just scratching the surface with the HVGP01 once I complete it.  Although the next system will be more powerful, it will take less time to build.  Most of my time is being spent on problem solving and hammering out issues that involve the basic things needed to make a game system work (e.g. getting an image to project on the screen, making it animate, etc.).  The next project will essentially be an HVGP01 on steroids - both systems having pretty much the same components, but different specs.

     So far I have found that the work has been a very beneficial endeavor for me.  I have not gotten too caught up in the functionality of the work so far but have found my primary satisfaction in simply working on such a challenging project.  Finding new things to do with materials readily available makes my mind boggle.  For example, a plastic screw-on bottle top makes a great paddle control and I have found four other great uses for this garbage that I now plan on using in the HVGP01.  I have also discovered something that I can do with a discarded sun tan lotion bottle, but that is for a future project.  I will take an inventory of all the parts that I had to buy so that I can give a price range on the next update.

     Thank you for visiting and keep in touch for future updates to the "Journal"!

Reck Howard
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4/22/03

Opening Tech Doors

Dear Visitors,

     Working on a project like this actually opens the mind to new ideas.  I am not sure if this is the way that hardware developers generally work, but I have stumbled on a few things ideas that will help me to make the HVGP01 even better.  The code work is coming along very well and it is turning out to be simpler than I first expected.  Also there are a few more developments that I must comment on.  First is that I have found a very easy way to make a color display.  Although it won't be integrated into the first incarnation of the HVGP01, a fully compatible color version will follow soon afterward.  Also the size of the system will be significantly smaller than I had first imagined.  I have also come up with a few hardware "tricks" for a processor that will enable it to perform a varied number of tasks, but I want to tinker with it more to expand it even further (so this aspect will not be part of the HVGP01 at all).

     One last thing that I would like to mention is the fact that the name of the system has been narrowed down to three choices.  I will reveal it the name when the complete "bread board" design is fully functional and I have a "reasonable" conceptual drawing of the system exterior.

     Thank you for visiting and keep in touch for future updates to the "Journal"!

Reck Howard
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4/12/03 Entry

More Code Work and a Surprise

Dear Visitors,

     Finally I get a chance this week to get some work done on the HVGP01!  So far I have done quite a bit if paper work, but this weekend I will have a chance to get more of it done – most of it will be focused on software development.  Today I will put the final touches on the graphics language.  It is really important to have this aspect of the development very concise and not leave a stone unturned or a possibility of something coming up that is unforeseen.  Next week I hope to get the routine language completed, which is actually more complicated than the graphics language.  Not only do I have to take into account every comprehensible variable, but I also have to keep in mind the limits of the hardware and the possibility of logical conflicts.  With all the thinkable wrinkles ironed out, the actual hardware itself can (and probably will) pose challenges that are unexpected.  To lessen the chances of running into tedious complications with the actual hardware, I will be using and developing diagnostics equipment to work the wrinkles out.

     Hopefully within the next couple weeks (because I do get some vacation time the week after Easter), I will be doing some major work on the actual hardware.  My goal is be finished with the preliminary game data and graphics code before then.  As far as the supplies and equipment necessary, I practically have everything I need to complete the project – which brings up another issue about the HVGP01 that may come as a surprise to many people.  I have personally taken on the challenge to make an environmentally correct entertainment system.  As far as I know, my project will be the FIRST homemade video game systems made out of recycled materials that most people discard everyday.  

     Thank you for visiting and keep in touch for future updates to the "Journal"!

Reck Howard


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4/09/03 Entry

Dear Visitor,

     Greetings to all those web surfers who have found (or may have stumbled upon) this simple web site!  This is the first entry of many that will “chronicle” my progress on the construction of the HVGP01 (Homemade Video Game System 1).  I have a lot planned for the site so that you can keep up with my progress. Along with the updates on this journal, I will continually add more pages to this site that will include technical information on my progress (some diagrams) and I will upload some jpegs of this “work in progress”, and give details on the successes and snares that I meet along the way.

     For some the HVGP01 may seem like a simple project, but for me it is like a milestone.  Over the past several years I have researched how video game systems and computers work, but have never built anything of this caliber.  Currently, I have many ideas on how to create a better piece of hardware, but by starting with a humble, B&W system, I can finish it within a relatively short period of time and also gain a better understanding on building projects of this nature which will in turn enable me to create more powerful and efficient systems in the future.

     Besides projects like the HVGP01 (Yes,  I am working on other projects!), I have other things to do in life, like a job, family, etc. so the time that I put into journalizing my progress on the web will be well spent.  As far as emails, I must warn visitors that I don’t plan on becoming “glued” to email interactions.  So please do not email me questions asking for in-depth technical information – I simply won’t respond.  Most of the technical details that I have on this site are all the technical details that I want to reveal or have the time to reveal.  Of course, as time progresses I will include much more information on the web as I make progress.

     Thank you for visiting and keep in touch for future updates to the "Journal"!

Reck Howard
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