Freeform Friday

Cheapsk8 Console:
Hardware

Since I'm wanting things to have a retro feel one would think I'd have to slave myself to retro mechanics. While that is largely true there's lots of variation on each genre plus any inevetable twists I want to try introducing. Oh and there's the whole idea that I want to avoid the more annoying mechanic faults outside of situational jokes.

I need to back up just a few tics and try defining the console this 'game' would be played on. Since I'm not intending on any live action shots to pop up it shouldn't be relavent. However from the standpoint of tryingto define the control layout and thus how the game itself would work it actually is very important to define.

Maybe some of this can be later reorganized into a fake history if I can build momentum and interest. Be interesting and more than a bit fun to build a fake fan site




There's no need to get into chip architecture really, though to be honest the idea of building a mockup is more than a little tempting. Foolish, but tempting. With my current and occasional fixation on keyboard enclosed computers I figure the Torix 68300 should be one of those. Controller ports in the front for more consol'y type games, plugins in the back for TV, Power, Addons, and such.

Controllers would be very SNES feeling, though wit ha few differences. Eight way D-pad as opposed to the + on the left side. Four buttons on the right. The top actually has four shoulder buttons, but arranged different than on the playstation pad. R1 and L1 are on the outer edge, and a second button on the inside curl would be R2/L2. Think of it as splitting the SNES L/R buttons in half and making each half its own button. Start button between the d-pad and butto ncluster, and slightly above the start button is an exit button (sometimes called a menue key since in later hardware revisions it brought up a full options menue as opposed to simply exiting the game.)

Games would be loaded by two disk deal kindof like the old apple ][e only both disks would be the more compact 1.44 ones that were fairly common up until the floppy drive died at the end of the ninties. Why two disk slots? One for your game, which would be set to read only (and without transplanting the disk's insides to a new disk unwriteable by the user) and Disk 2 would hold user data, scores, any mods he wanted loaded up, and such.

Copyright protection is simple. In addition to propritary file formats and a disk that's read only I don't see problems in havingsome propritary read speed for the data. of course since i want the second disk slot to accept standard floppies I'm not sure, maybe have that drive use standard heads and the other using some propritary setup.

Of course what happens if the game disk gets mangled all to everything either elecronically or physically (such as being sat on, tossed somewhere then something heavy tossed on top, dog chewed it up, and so on.) What then? I like the idea of each game comingwith a return envelope already addressed and padded so defective disks could be returned for a replacement. Even making the end user pay postage i"m not sure how that would work out in a real world setting. Maybe having an identification number stamped on the disk, on the inside of the envelope, and on the piece of the packaging that needs to be mailed in so the end user can't buy a copy used then get a new copy. Maybe overthinking that part, but if I had an even moderately successful console company I'd want to make it as painless as possible for end users to be supported.

Also extending into the 'if I were in charge of a console business' thread let's explore my reasoning behind making the User Disk use standard formats for everything but the game data. The console itself is a keyboard based unit with control ports. Gee, that reminds me of the commador PCs. Well Not quite but similar idea there. Sure it's going to cost a little bit more, but the marketing would be an entry level computer, and would even come with a form of BASIC in addition to a game disk. Sure the non-game bits of software would be stripped down compared to what's commerically avalible (not having a harddrive to install stuff to would be something of a limiting factor there.) However it would save in formats that could be opened by PC/DOS applications. Why? Kid might want to do his homework on the thing and print out at school, assuming of course little timmy's school had computers. A more realistic scenerio would be gearing the whole thing to a somewhat older audiance. Say high school students and people just getting into colledge. Not a full blown powerhouse PC, but it would work close enough that you could get away wit hwriting your term paper if you needed to.

Plus there's another reason. Several games, at least this is the thought process in my head, would support user generated content. Late 80's/Early 90's was a time of Usenet, so you'd get communities sprouting up around the tools (both PC and console based) to create these things, as well as the mod files themselves. It makes sense in it's own way. Give somebody a game and if it's good enough they'll keep playing it to try finding al lthe little nooks and crannies. Give somebody a way to add onto an old favorate and that game suddenly has an infinitely longer lifespan. Look at Doom. No. Seriously look at it. The game's been out since 1993 and is STILL getting new user content even after close to seventeen years. Granted that's no gurentee that a game or platform will survive, but I say give the end user the tools and see what they come up with. Might even find employees that way.

On one final note here let's see what there is to see in the future of this company that never existed. Sales of the 68300 peak by '91. Even though sales never get to the point of rivaling the Big Two in America there's enough of a following to keep from going broke for a few more years. Minor console revisions are released in '92 and '94 to accomidate better graphics and better internals. Unfortunately CheapSk8 simply can't make the jump to the 32 bit era. talking heads blaim clinging to backwards compatability enforcing bloat on the hardware that kept costs just high enough that profits just weren't where they needed to be. Others blaim the company's outright refusal to embrace CDs as a storage media.

The latter is eventually proven wrong when plans were released in 2003, after the company closes its doors permenently, revealing that the '96 revision would have replaced the game disk with a CD drive in addition to even beefier hardware that would have allowed it to keep pace with Sony's Playstation without resorting to difficult to code for architecture like the Saturn as well as preliminary notes for a modem attachment. This ends up leading to a debate that's still going on in some circles on whether the Penguin would have saved the company's hardware devision because while it was a step up from earlier iterations there was some doubt over just what it would have been capible of.

Unfortunately by '96 investors were tripping over themselves to get out, developers had moved to other platforms, and the only people that seemed to keep following Cheapsk8 were the diehards. This is one of the few instances where a company managed to go out of business, but not be so far in the red that everything got parted off to the highest bidder. In the Grand Tradition of Atari, and later Sega, CheapSk8 decided to refocus what assets were left into the software business in late '99. At first this amounted to releasing select titles from their library for the PC along with the emulation software to run them. However as more developers were contacted this snowballed first into releasing their entire catolog and even new titles for this new virtual platform. Again they weren't going to make headlines, but they'd managed to keep their heads just enough above water to keep in business.

At first their insistance of programming for their emulated hardware was seen as a joke. After all why would gamers want to play games from a decade before but the doubters were proven wrong when versions of their virtual machine were released first for Mac, then as a free download for linux along with making the interpreter free for all platforms with much rejoicing had by the Internet at large. Sadly Bad news follows Good there in the company going bankrupt in '03. Their legacy lives on in the legal free distribution of the bulk of it's library and the release of all source documents both for the games and for the hardware.

There are rumors that the hardware the Penguin virtual machine emulates is being built both as a way to silence critics stating that with Emulation they had somehow 'cheated' and made the newer released games capible of things that wouldn't be possible with the physical console it was supposed to have been made for and as a grand prize for best user created game. Contest deadline ends December 31st 2010. Hardware to be built.... nobody's sure, though there are renders floating around the 'net.
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