MiSTer FPGA (computer/console/arcade hardware simulation)

Discussion in 'Retro & Arcade' started by elvis, Oct 14, 2018.

  1. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    Splitting off from the original MIST FPGA thread, as it's a different product, there's a growing community around a product titled the "MiSTer".

    What is it? Short version: it's open source hardware and software that can quite accurately (not 100%, but getting better by the day) simulate a huge range of retro computers, consoles and even arcade PCBs. Similar in goal to many of the software emulators we all know and love, but using new techniques to simulate in hardware, eliminating much of the lag that software emulators produce on lower-end hardware.

    Similar techniques are used by the commercial Analogue Nt Mini and Analogue Super Nt, built by the amazing Kevtris. MiSTer aims to be community driven and open source.

    Wiki/documentation here, including the huge list of "cores" (simulated hardware):
    https://github.com/MiSTer-devel/Main_MiSTer/wiki

    Many of the cores even support original hardware (keyboards, mice, joysticks, etc) attached to the device, helping to really simulate an authentic feel.

    The basics are:
    * A DE-10 Nano development board, which itself consists of a Cyclone V FPGA which is the basis for the hardware simulation, and along side it an ARM CPU similar to a Raspberry Pi that can be used for offload stuff like mounting network shares of core code, virtual disks, virtual tapes, ROMs, etc, dealing with IO boards, etc.
    * An IO board with both HDMI digital out as well as a DE-15 socket that can do almost any analogue signal you want (15KHz/240p RGBS, 31KHz/480p/RGBHV/VGA, YPbPr component, and resolutions from 240p up to 1080p) using line-doubling techniques (similar to the OSSC and RetroTink-2X) for lag-free upscaling, and addon effects like scanlines to make a PC VGA monitor look very similar to a much more expensive PVM/BVM style monitor for older low-res systems, all with aspect ratio correction for 16:9 and 4:3 monitors
    * An SDRAM board required for most of the cores to work

    Price is very reasonable, with the main board coming in at USD$130, and with the necessary addons pushing the total package to around AUD$250-300 depending on postage. Many vendors sell the necessary hardware, so waiting on stock from a single vendor should hopefully not be a problem.

    ROM curator and arcade collector "Smokemonster" (will be familiar to anyone who uses Krikzz Everdrive products) did a lengthy Twitch stream on the product, and has edited that down to a 14 minute video with almost everything you need at time of writing to get started. His focus is mostly Japanese home computers, consoles and arcades:

     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2018
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  2. OP
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    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    Another Smokemonster video:

    "Showing off MiSTer FPGA Cores: Atari 2600, NES, PC Engine, TurboGrafx-16, SuperGrafx, Amiga, C16, ColecoVision, Sega Genesis, Mega Drive, MSX/MSX2/3, ZX Spectrum, Vector-06C, & Classic Arcade."



    More videos, including a repost of flain 's post from the other thread:

    Atari ST:


    Atari 800XL:


    Commodore 64:
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2018
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  3. power

    power Member

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    I've been watching a few of these over the weekend and i must say it's pretty exciting stuff, will be interested if it all gels.
     
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    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    Genuinely feels, to me at least, like the early days of MAME.

    A lot of this work is cumulative, being ported from independent FPGA projects elsewhere. It's a great example of how much can be achieved when clever, like-minded folk work together.

    And let's not forget either that MAME is (a) open source, and (b) serves as excellent technical documentation for the inner workings of A LOT of hardware. While it's not a trivial task to take MAME's software definition of hardware and migrate that to some sort of HDL, it's still excellent reference for people without having to go back to endlessly probing real hardware.

    MAME seems to get unfair criticism on all sides - people complaining it's not accurate enough on one side, and people complaining that it doesn't sacrifice quality for speed on the other side. I'm very happy the MAME team stuck to their guns all these years, and equally happy that they've recently changed their license to the GPL, making it easier for projects like these to use it as reference.

    Consider that

    (a) this is less than a year old
    (b) we already have many working systems to this level
    (c) FPGA technology itself is starting to show some serious growth

    It's quite exciting times ahead.
     
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  5. flain

    flain Member

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    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    New IO board in development, named the "LL Cool Joy":
    http://retrorgb.com/mister-ll-cool-joy-ultra-low-latency-controller-board-update.html

    Low-latency IO board that allows connection of, hopefully, any real, native controller ever made.

    Has:
    * 6x USB for any modern style controller
    * 2x DB15 for Neo Geo and other common arcade controller hacks
    * 2x DB9 for heaps of systems (Amiga, Atari, Megadrive, Master System, etc)
    * 2x RJ45 which is common now for people making cheap pin-connectors for other consoles that had custom connectors (already plenty of these available via projects like the Toodles MC Cthulhu project popular in the arcade fighting game community)

    Additionally, news that long time Neo Geo hardware documentation expert Furrtek is considering making a custom expansion board that will allow him to get Neo Geo working on the MiSTer. Early days yet, but very interesting:

     
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  7. flain

    flain Member

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    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    This is why I love open source hardware and software. All of these little side projects just add to how great this thing will be.

    I was considering buying one of these consolised MVS units from China, going through the effort of fixing up the voltages, buying a crazy expensive Darksoft MVS cartridge, etc, etc. Not any more!
     
  9. flain

    flain Member

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    I'm really loving the Atari ST videos coming out from the new MiSTer core

    When i was a young kid i pestered my parents almost everyday to get an Amiga, being from a poorer family they got me an Atari ST (after years of pestering). I was initially pretty dissapointed but quickly loved the thing (like the next day lol).

    Something noteworthy of the Atari ST core is it apparently has a cycle accurate 68000 core. More accurate than the other 2 cores that were already out. It's known in the emulation circles that to emulate an Atari ST takes more accuracy in the 68k CPU than other systems to get stuff to appear on screen. So While a Megadrive core can run games the same 68000 core wouldn't be able to even display something on the Atari ST. This makes the Atari ST core quite a big deal. The author is discussing open sourcing the core and if you follow the forums is looking at what license to release it under (he is apparently not a fan of GPL). Apparently the author used the same methods Kevtris uses (logic analyser + more) but also used chip decapping pics to structure the layout of his core.

    Also people who have the MIST are asking him to port the core to MIST, so yeah that is a big deal :). (MIST = Minimig Atari ST basically named after 2 cores)
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2018
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    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    I sincerely hope he does. While I understand the whole "I put in the work, it's mine" idea, there are far more people who can benefit from this going open source. Especially if that core can be re-used in other projects to offer a higher quality simulation. The M68K was a hugely popular chip for a lot of reasons, and there are hundreds of computers, consoles and arcade boards that all utilise it for various functions.

    And as far as disliking the GPL goes, that's fine. MIT, BSD, Apache, various Creative Commons licenses and many others all offer "more freedom" than the GPL (including the freedom to take away someone else's freedom, if that's philosophically/grammatically important to you). And none of those are incompatible with a project like MiSTer.
     
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    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    This thing even has a PC/486 core. Seriously incredible little machine.





     
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  12. flain

    flain Member

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    I did some further reading on getting one of these. I ordered the DE10 nano from Terasic yesterday and today found someone to sell me the IO Board + SDRAM pre-assembled. ETA on the SDRAM will be at least a month most likely (he needs to assemble and post once he gets the parts).

    Also minor correction on your post Elvis - the HDMI port is actually on the DE10 nano so you don't need the IO board for HDMI out. The IO board does have a secondary SD card slot though that currently only the Sharp X68000 core requires and has VGA and separate audio out if you don't want HDMI. Some people also get the IO board because of the fan it has to cool the FPGA.

    There are some good cores you can use without any add on boards (ie just the DE10 nano board on its own) - PC Engine, Megadrive, most of the current arcade cores and a bunch of other systems.

    Here is the Terasic page for the main board: https://www.terasic.com.tw/cgi-bin/page/archive.pl?Language=English&No=1046
    If you have a uni student card you get $20USD off the price.

    It would be good if someone with solder skills in Australia decides to put the expansion boards together. I had a look at doing one and all the parts need to be ordered in large quantities. eg, for the SDRAM board you can buy the PCBs in lots of 20, costing only a few $. Same goes for most of the other parts but then you need to solder the SDRAM to the board and it's pretty tiny. There is youtube videos of using a "solder sweep" method. About halfway through watching solder videos i decided id just track someone down to sell me one and cough up the shipping fees :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2018
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    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    Ah, I did not realise that. I'll update the OP later today.

    I saw RetroRGB did some lag testing out of the MiSTer:
    https://twitter.com/RetroRGB/status/1058093654554894336

    From his testing, HDMI adds 2 frames of lag compared to analogue out, currently. By all accounts this can be fixed up in future code/builds.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2018
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  14. flain

    flain Member

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    I wonder if he has the MiSTer framebuffer on (it's on by default). You can turn it off apparently but then your display needs to support the non standard hdmi signal (which is what OSSC does). I'm running a non standard signal on my neogeo build and luckily my display accepts it ok but i'm not so sure how TVs will fare.

    The Nt Mini solved this by slowing down the core to match a common refresh, so it looses 1 second for every 10 minutes which sounds like a good solution to me.
     
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    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    Yeah I think that's the best way to do it. And it's ultimately all something that can be selected per user, like Analogue offer in their options menu.

    Given that most of us in AU spent our childhoods playing shitty PAL releases that were 17% slower than our NTSC friends, changing games to 60.00 FPS exactly (instead of the weird +/-0.03Hz or whatever is the variance of the SNES) for display compatibility, I think, is perfectly valid.

    "Speedrunners" are a small market compared to folks who just want something that's fairly accurate, doesn't have 2+ frames of lag, and is easier to purchase and maintain than an original 20+ year old console. And they can set "perfect accuracy" if they want to, anyway.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2018
  16. Vanne

    Vanne Member

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    Hey guys , really loving this thread.. is there anyway we can do a group buy for this?
     
  17. flain

    flain Member

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    The main DE10 nano board from Terasic i don't think we could, but the add on boards we probably could. The main boards are easy to get anyway, i ordered mine on the weekend and I've got FedEX tracking saying it will be delivered tomorrow!

    The addon boards are a different story as these are assembled by hand by people in the MiSTer community. Anyone is welcome to build them and how to do it and where to get parts is well documented. There is a good thread here on it http://www.atari-forum.com/viewtopic.php?f=117&t=32232

    We could possibly find someone willing to make a large batch for us and ship them all over in one bunch, main savings would be on shipping costs. Alternatively if someone here in Oz wanted to make the addon boards the parts are very cheap, it's more a labor intensive thing, but might not be bad for someone who is skilled at that kind of thing. After reading up on it I'm pretty sure i could do one but it would take me a lot longer than someone well practiced in doing that sort of thing (like a lot longer lol).
     
  18. OP
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    elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    Yeah I can't see any substantial savings in a group buy. And the last time I ordered one of those it cost me a bunch, so I'm happy to just buy my own.

    Current plan for me is to jump on the MiSTer bandwagon for my birthday present in March.
     
  19. jeremybh1

    jeremybh1 Member

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    Two frames of HDMI lag ... I sure hope they can tweak that as I prefer to use my existing HDMI to VGA gear. I 'invested' in HDFury and literally can't fault their gear and currently use one with a Rapsberry Pi with SNES NTSC 240p timings to an Extron 203 -> PVM. It's a very high quality DAC and sync processing unit which I trust a little more than a IO board DAC. I'll wait until a SNES core is out that supports cheats and save states as effortlessly as Retroarch does on Pi.
     
  20. flain

    flain Member

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    So the same as a framemeister :)

    However as mentioned you can set vsync_adjust=1 in the mister ini and it will behave more like an OSSC and output at whatever the original console does. The only issue is weather or not your TV will accept the frequency. Most TVs that support higher refresh are more tolerant ie for the NES core you need a TV that does more than 60hz because the NES is actually 60.098 which is slightly too high for a lot of TVs.

    Apart from that, even if they do adjust some of the MiSTer cores you will still be at the mercy of the TVs own input lag, but i guess we can just use rtings to shop for TVs with the lowest lag.
     

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