Tag Archives: inspiration

RetroPie Project

This month I managed to complete a project I’ve wanted to do for quite some time. I picked up a Raspberry Pi back in February, installed RetroPie and was enjoying it just hooked up to my TV with my old Xbox 360 Hori EX2 Joystick.

I had seen various projects online involving fitting a Raspberry Pi into an existing, or specially built, arcade stick enclosure. This way you have a portable system that just hooks up to power and a screen, and you’re ready to play. Having worked a little bit with customising a stick for my PS4 previously, I figured I’d give it a go.

In deciding on a colour scheme, I was inspired by this classic Namco Playstation Arcade Stick. I am pleased with how mine has turned out.

Components used:

  • 6x fire buttons – Went with the screw in version of the same buttons I used in my PS4 stick. SANWA OBSN-30 Screw in buttons
  • Start and credit feed buttons – These are the smaller buttons at the top. Although I usually prefer SANWA parts, I went with Seimitsu for these because I wanted the translucent yellow. SEIMITSU PS-14-DN-K 24MM Screw in buttons
  • 2x Side buttons – spare originals taken from my Venom PS4 stick, decent enough for function buttons and I like that being a darker colour they look unobtrusive.
  • Ball Top Joystick – Again I went with the same stick I used in my PS4 one, have been very happy with that. SANWA JLF-TP-8YT Ball Top Joystick
  • USB encoder – I got this from Amazon, mostly because I wanted it next day. Seems pretty good so far. Reyann Zero Delay Arcade USB Encoder *
  • Enclosure – Out of stock at my supplier of choice, so I imported one from China. It’s the same as this, with two extra button holes in the side. BLACK EMPTY FIGHT STICK CASE
  • 64gb flash drive – Got this one based on size and speed, but I’ve since learned it runs hot, will need to keep an eye on that. SanDisk Ultra Fit 64GB *
  • Wireless keyboard and mouse – Had these already, the USB receiver for it is tiny, so it’s very convenient to keep installed.
  • Panel mount ports – I just grabbed short extension leads for USB, Micro USB and HDMI from eBay. Only the USB one has proper panel screw fittings, I figure I’ll just glue them in place.

*These are affiliate links to Amazon, where I will earn commission if you click through and make a purchase

Installation

I originally had the power and HDMI cables plugged directly into the Pi, routed through small holes in the rear of the case. However I wanted to be able to easily detach the cables for storage, so decided to mount power and HDMI ports to the case, along with a USB port for hooking up a second controller. Unfortunately I’m impatient; rather than order some decent attachments for my dremel I only had the couple that came with it. I ended up using a small drill bit to cut the holes, which is why they look hideous. I’m going to glue the ports in place more neatly later, so I’ll tidy the holes up at the same time.

I did briefly look into building the enclosure myself (or getting my Dad involved), but found these pre-cut boxes were so cheap that it wasn’t worth the effort. Almost didn’t get the one with the side button holes, glad I did though, it’s quite nice to have them for hot keys etc.

The RetroPie software is installed on a 16GB SD card, then it’s setup to load roms from the 64GB USB drive. I find this setup preferable to using a larger SD card. Flash drives seem less prone to data corruption as well as being cheaper and generally easier to work with. Now it’s all set up though, I just use WiFi if I want to add any games or change anything I can’t do from within the RetroPie software.

We’re done, for now…

On the whole it was quite straight forward, and gives me confidence for possible future projects. I’ve also got a Pi Zero W from my birthday that I’m still deciding what to do with…

A Brave New Home

I have finally taken the plunge and forked out for a domain and some web-hosting. Hopefully you’ll now be reading this on my new home at liberaljoon.com where I am advert free.

I expect there will be some teething issues, as the migration is only 60% automated and the rest is me fiddling away, but I hope you’ll stick around. Both of you.

Ta-da!

Finally getting the Arcade Stick I deserve…

I recently undertook a minor project to acquire a new arcade stick and mod it with SANWA arcade components. This is something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while, but has always been held up by costs or the need for additional tools for the processes involved.

I still have 2x Dreamcast Agetec sticks that I would like to adapt, but the need to widen the holes for buttons and cut spacing for changing the PCB etc has enabled my natural tendency towards procrastination.  However, a desire to replace my current 6 button Xbox 360 stick & cronusmax combo with a new 8 button model for my PS4 sent me to Google.

My current stick next to my friend's fightpad

A little research found that this “budget” stick from venom was fairly well regarded, and even better all of the parts are compatible with standard SANWA arcade components.  As a bonus, it even has easily replaceable art. The stick itself I picked up from my local GAME, it was pretty much the same price as everywhere online, and I had a bunch of trade-in credit that made it extra cheap. The Venom PS4 arcade stick is available from Amazon here, note this is an affiliate link which will earn me commission if you purchase.

The Venom StickAs it comes...

There are various guides for this mod around, but I found this one most useful.  I used Arcade World UK for all the components, and purchased these:

Those lovely new components!

Some people also suggest getting an octagonal gate, but once I found out what they were talking about, I decided I was happy with the standard square one…

Street Fighter V was the primary motivation for getting involved in this, and I decided straight away that I would be going for a “Ken” theme.  I found this artwork online that someone else had shared to use for now. I have asked a friend to look at maybe making a new custom design for me, so hopefully I’ll be changing to something new later.  Cutting the artwork wasn’t as bad as expected, I had it printed onto A3 and with patience and a decent blade it was pretty painless:

Cutting artwork

Changing the components over and fitting the art was all straight-forward, no messing at all!

Opened, before changes Buttons popped! Fitting the art beneath the plexi Installing the new buttons

I am really pleased with the results, and very much enjoying using the controller online.  I intend to re-purpose at least the original buttons from the Venom Stick, putting them into one of the Dreamcast sticks once I get my hands on a dremel…

Ta-da!

Backlogs and the pile of shame

I think whatever direction your hobbies take you, if it involves consuming media you’ll be familiar with the concept of a backlog or “pile of shame”.  Over the past couple of years I made decent headway into my reading backlog, and am going to attempt to apply the same process to my gaming pile of shame.  If I thought about it too much I expect I’d also have a sizeable backlog of of films and TV shows to tackle, but let’s skip that for now…

At the start of 2014 I was setting some goals for the year, one of which was to return to reading for pleasure. I had been neglecting this as a hobby, but notably not cutting back on buying books… I discovered Good Reads and their annual reading challenge, and set myself a modest target of 20 books for the year.  Once I joined the site I  added my pile of shame to it, a pretty easy process of scanning barcodes. Next I created a shelf on there called “2014” and selected 20 books from my backlog that I thought I might like to read that year.  I didn’t force myself to stick rigidly to the list, but it was definitely helpful to have that narrower field to choose from when picking the next book to read. Obviously other books turned up during the year demanding immediate attention, but by the end of the year I had read 22 books, 13 of which were from my backlog, hurrah!

Come 2015 I started my new list with a revised target of 30 books, and started the 2015 shelf with the remaining unread titles from my 2014 one.  I had learned some lessons too. A nice balance of fiction and non-fiction is good, and also make sure the ratio of light reads to hefty tomes is considered.  (I wasn’t ready to tackle The Idiot and Crime & Punishment in the same year.) I blitzed the challenge in 2015 reading 50 books, although this was boosted by spending 5 months commuting for 2 hours a day, and took another 22 books out of the backlog. I’m now under way with a new challenge for 2016, although I kept the target at 30 books as I no longer commute.  I am confident that I’ve made the process into a habit, and am happy with the balance of new and backlog books I’m reading.

During this time I had started to wonder if I could take the same approach to my videogames. Thanks to my multi-platform lifestyle the gaming pile of shame is even bigger than my reading one ever was. There are a number of gaming equivalents to Good Reads, but with varying success in their implementation.  Backloggery was the first I tried, and although it seems to be popular I just didn’t get on with it.  At the end of 2015 I discovered Grouvee, which had the great first step of allowing me to import my Steam library which houses the vast majority of my games.  I manually added games from other platforms and then tinkered with the data.  I spent some time filtering out the games I’d already played, games I have no desire to play (bundle fodder) and those I dip into but don’t really have a point of completion (mostly multiplayer titles) to refine a ‘sensible’ backlog shelf of around 200 games. I have begun applying the same process I used for Good Reads and produced a 2016 shelf. I’m pretty terrible for games tourism and rarely finish games, so I am hopeful that this approach will help me focus.  I am also aware that the ‘cult of the new’ is likely to affect me more with games than it did with books, so I expect to be playing more new games through the year than going back to older ones, so I am only aiming to complete 10 games from the backlog and not setting any overall target.

Other things I’ve taken on board to help me get this under control:

  • It took a while to stick, but I’ve been repeatedly telling myself that it is okay to stop playing games I’m not enjoying. For many I expect this seems obvious, but you’d be surprised.  I might come back to them later, but I felt a definite sense of relief abandoning my games in progress on Fallout 3, Skyrim and the Last of Us.  All games I still think I’m supposed to really like, but I simply wasn’t enjoying.  I may come back to them when I’m in a different mindset, but if I do I’ll start again from scratch.
  • I’ve decided to start a small games journal for logging games as I complete them.  It’s unlikely to amount to anything I’ll share with anyone else, unless a particular game inspires me to write a blog post, but I think it’ll help motivate me to progress.

In case you’re interested, these are the current books for 2016. I’ve got 22 lined up so far.

My 10 games for 2016 on Grouvee are here, this includes finally replaying MYST, but this time the Masterpiece Edition of realMYST (versus the one I originally played through back on Windows 95) and also I really want to crack the 1cc on Space Giraffe now it’s Backwards Compatible with the Xbox One, and obtain the Long Neck Long March achievement for beating the game on one credit.  The rest are games I either have started at some point but never quite finished despite enjoying them or games I’ve always meant to play but never quite got round to.

I do wonder what other people do in order to reduce their piles of shame.

Wish me luck!

Forgive me WordPress, for I have sinned…

… it’s been three months since my last blog post.

Who knew it was actually the difficult sixth post that was so challenging?

As it happens I have 4 or 5 different posts half-written now, not quite happy with any of them and keep drifting onto something else.  Amusingly one of them is about my gaming backlog, and my tendency to only play a bit of a game and then move on.  Always intending to return but rarely ever doing it.  Perhaps I have a wider problem than just with gaming…

There have been some legitimate distractions however, along with busy times at work and the ongoing studying referred to in a previous post, I have even found time to play some games!

I do find it difficult (read impossible) to focus on writing for fun when there are college and workplace deadlines demanding my attention.  Today though I have finished my most recent assignment whilst sitting on the beach, and as I’m here I feel like writing more.

It’s amazing the difference the right setting makes to inspiration.  I should probably do all my writing for college sat on the beach.  Figures I’ll realise that 9 months into a 10 month course…  If I’ve learned anything from my brief blogging experience, it’s that I’m much more able to string words together with a pen and paper, than I am when staring at a word processor.

Anyway, an experiment.  While I have the weather for it, I shall endeavour to finish off my ‘in progress’ posts over the next few weeks, alongside drafting my final college assignment of the year, from my spot on the beach.  The only issue is finding an alternative venue with a similar inspirational level, for when it’s raining!