Analogue, the boutique maker of retro consoles, has made a tradition of posting announcements until today, October 16. First was the Super NT, the company’s FPGA-based Super Nintendo clone, in 2017; then the Mega SG, its Sega Genesis clone, in 2018; the Analogue Pocket still unreleased in 2019; the equally unreleased TurboGrafx 16 clone, the Duo, in 2020, which brings us to this year’s announcement that, for the first time, it is not hardware.
AnalogueOS is the underlying software that will run the upcoming Pocket and Duo, and other “future” consoles, the company says. (And no, existing analog consoles “are not planned to be updated with AnalogueOS at this time,” they tell us). In addition to a very welcome visual update, which should better align the company’s excellent hardware design with its software experience, come some really significant enhancements, most notably “save states.”
Save statuses are a staple of software emulators, allowing players to forego any built-in save features that exist in a game and immediately record their progress at any time, and can be instantly resumed. Anyone familiar with the traditional solution (leaving the game console on indefinitely) has appreciated this emulation feature. It has also been a feature largely absent from FPGA-based hardware emulation, outside of a handful of MiSTer cores.
“Thanks to Kevtris,” Christopher Taber of Analogue told Polygon, referring to Kevin Horton, its Director of FPGA Development. “It’s more than just being complex, but it’s doubly difficult to do this reliably, let alone in physical cartridges. As far as I know, we are the first to develop the technology to instantly capture and load saved states during gameplay onto physical cartridges. “
These save statuses can also be shared with other Pocket users. It can also be shared with other Pocket users: screenshots and playlists. The screenshots are self explanatory, but the playlists are new. “When you create a playlist, it will generate a file on your SD card and you can share this file with other users,” says Taber. “Just take it out of your SD card and put it on another Pocket user’s SD card and they instantly have access to your playlist in their pocket.”
The playlist functionality is a new database that Analogue calls Library. “It’s built around a new level of standardization, in terms of game title standardization, franchise, publisher and developer organization, depth of review, and more,” says Taber. “It is being carefully selected by experts and researchers along with collectors with access to complete sets. The ultimate goal of Library is to be the ultimate academic database for the entire history of video games.
“The library will take full advantage of the proprietary technology developed by Analogue to read the physical game cartridges and detect as much information as possible on the game cartridge until review (eg The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening has 18 different versions, regionally and reviews within each). Many of these versions / revisions have differences from the game art and graphics, text changes, bug fixes, and other quirks. You can walk into a game store, plug the game into your pocket to read the cartridge and find out exactly what revision it is and all its details. “
In addition to the new features coming to AnalogueOS, Taber shared additional FPGA information for Pocket developers. “Pocket has been expressly built with the optimal hardware to make development and migration pre-existing [FPGA] cores of a breeze. Standard development boards are not designed for this exact purpose; they are expensive, require tons of plug-ins, a difficult technical setup for most users, and limitations that cannot be ideally solved (ie different types of RAM) without building something exactly for this purpose from scratch, ”notes Taber. , clearly pointing to the DIY approach of the MiSTer platform and the immense core library. “You can expect to see practically all third-party FPGA cores in Pocket.
“For the non-developer end user, it is as simple as placing an FPGA core in Pocket and it will be served by our library and database offering an unparalleled experience.” That experience will obviously work on the Pocket Laptop screen, but it will also work on HDTV screens via the optional Dock and on CRTs that use Analogue’s existing DAC product.
While AnalogueOS sounds exciting, the Pocket was announced two years ago and was delayed again until December. There are still a lot of frustrated prospective buyers who missed a pre-order window for units that haven’t shipped yet.
“More pockets will be back in stock and will ship shortly after pre-orders ship,” says Taber. “Trust me, we are doing our best to keep them in stock. COVID has done no one any favors, but we have done our best to produce as much as possible and continue to do so. ”