Discussion and Development of a 'MiSTer 2.0' Modular Hardware Platform

Discussion of developmental aspects of the MiSTer Project.
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multisystem
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Re: Discussion and Development of a 'MiSTer 2.0' Modular Hardware Platform

Unread post by multisystem »

meepowl wrote: Thu Jan 19, 2023 10:52 pm

I'm new to the forum and my first reaction to reading this discussion was to think how refreshing it is to see something relatively controversial being discussed almost entirely without rancour. It's a pleasant change from some other retro communities out there.

There's clearly a bit of scepticism from some about this being raised by the multisystem team. I take the point but having bought one for one of my MiSTer setups I really don't think it's the sort of thing you'd get into selling if you weren't committed to MiSTer or were principally seeking to make money. I think the obvious way to short circuit this issue though would be to make it an article of faith that any new iteration of MiSTer was built around a commercially available development board (as was proposed). That way no entity can have undue influence on the project.

That said, I'd have thought the most serious, and at times controversial, downside of the MiSTer implementation is the limitation of attaching SDRAM via GPIO? Do we not run into the same issue with the proposed Trion board, or any other dev board?

The original post said that there's work to do to dive into the toolchain. I'd see that as as big a priority as finding a board with the right performance:price profile. I just spent two days solid getting Quartus 17 running on Ubuntu. It's not the worst thing I've ever used for development but it's also a world away from the sorts of tools I use at work or for other personal projects. It would be nice to see a lower barrier to getting involved in MiSTer development (the development work itself should be the hard bit). This is especially important if there ever were to be a push beyond fourth-gen: we'll need more people working in parallel.

Finally, purely personally, I like the idea of an offshoot of the project using simpler dev boards to implement one system at a time. At the other end of the spectrum, I also like the idea of something which would allow more hardware tinkering, whether that's cartridges or peripherals or any other sort of addon. Not because it's needed, just because it's fun.

Thanks so much for the feedback. It's always difficult to try reaching out to any community, I'll try to give a little more background just in case it makes a difference to how we may be perceived and what our intentions are.

We (Heber) are not a large company, we are a team of 16, but have a 39 year history of developing and manufacturing electronics for gaming markets worldwide, using FPGA based technology in many of our designs over the years. We also have a significant number of people in the company who like and enjoy gaming & retro technology. We (Heber) are part of the Multisystem team that includes support from Neil (RMCRetro) and The Retro Group.

We are always open with our plans, we initially developed the Multisystem I/O board and for the last 2 years have manufactured these to a high quality using branded components and ISO9001:2015 manufacturing methods directly in the UK. I personally designed the open-source 3D printed Multisystem enclosure and we print these here too. These products are never going to be the lowest possible cost, but we are proud of quality, support and all the team here and most importantly we all enjoy doing it. This year (2023) we will get to the point where the initial investment in the design, development, test tooling and set-up costs will just start to break-even. Last year we employed another engineer to work on further product developments, some of these are Multisystem and Retro Gaming. We are investing in people, ideas and Yes, we would very much like to design and manufacture products, electronics and retro gaming tech for an interested customer base/market, This is exactly what we do, it's no secret.

We are willing to invest what could be a further £150k or more in new projects/developments this year, it would be nice if we can continue to recover costs and breaking even at some years in the future. Not looking for any guarantee, it's always a risk doing any new development, we just don't want to go the opposite direction to the community, rather work together and end up with something really neat that people want.

We have also helped enable two museums to start and grow over the last 3 years, RMCRetro's classic computer and gaming history museum is now in the same building as us and we have all jointly enabled a classic Arcade museum (Arcade Archive) on the bottom floor of our building.

I/We will always be open and try to answer any questions, concerns or try to collaborate on ideas to the best of our abilities, both commercial and technical that anyone has. We are not asking for anything, just trying to slowly build some trust in a project we really enjoy being part of. That's it, that's the plan.

Richard.

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Re: Discussion and Development of a 'MiSTer 2.0' Modular Hardware Platform

Unread post by multisystem »

ericgus09 wrote: Fri Jan 20, 2023 4:35 am

These talks come up about once a year and the all end the same way.. once people realize the actual "cost" to make a Mister 2.0 .. the project usually dies and fades away.. I suspect the same will happen here.

We really understand the cost and it'll take time and effort, but I do hope we can build a momentum of desire and interest in doing something.

How does anything get moving in an 'adhocracy' community - interesting ideas and enough support to make it happen.

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Re: Discussion and Development of a 'MiSTer 2.0' Modular Hardware Platform

Unread post by siffland »

I am all about new hardware. I got my first DE-10 in 2018 and have enjoyed the project. I support as many developers as I can on Patreon as well.

Here are a few shortcomings I personally have about the current MiSTer.

1). The menu system. Just to be clear, this one I have no issues with it. I like simple and fast (i have also done UNIX/Linux administration for over 2 decades, so i live on the cli). However My wife and when i have friends over and the kids, they struggle a bit. If i pop on the raspberry pi with retroarch, they can do everything. Perhaps new hardware could help with that (But i would agree it would have to be able to boot real fast like the current MiSTer).

2). No USB 3 or ability to connect a drive internally besides USB2. SD cards suck, 10 years of using raspberry pi's has taught me that. I minimize writes and still have odd failures. Having a faster way to connect drives would be great, especially with PSX and Saturn. Most peoiple will say just use network sharing, but there are silly things like the refusal to add NFS to the kernel. I do not understand this on any level. I dislike samba shares. We can argue that is a personal issue. This is not hardware, but the refusal to add it when issues are open on github is strange.

3). Limitations. On the PSX core you can have accurate sound with 2 RAM modules or analog out. This is not a huge deal to me and I cannot tell the difference but another board may be able to overcome limitations like this (and perhaps other unknown limitations). The option to allow this would be swell. Ensuring the new board has a lot of future proofing built in (like the awesome useless port on the bottom of the NES, haha). Please do not get hung up with the 2 RAM sticks point for the PSX core here, that was just an example of a possible limitation.

4). Formfactor. I have 2 MiSTer's, one on a multisystem, the other on an IronClad board. This makes them a lot easier to find a decent case. The issue i have with the misterstack (which i used to roll) is it is really light and easy to knock over and with ports on all sides can be a bit strange to get set up and look good in the living room. Having an industry standard single board with a mATX or other standard form factor would be sweet and make cases more accessible without needing a second board to plug the de-10 into.

5). Ability to use real carts. Yes this is controversial, but some of us like this. I will concede this is probably not even feasible with what Multisystem is proposing without it being an abomination like the retron consoles.

6). Open source, open standards. Everything open source (we wish). The build process, even using a RiscV chip instead of arm perhaps. This is a pipe dream, but as much as possible. I do understand a company has to be able to make R&D back though, so maybe opensource designs after X years or after making so much money back.

I will admit these are probably personal or impossible and can all be argued. However that is some of what I would like to see in a custom FPGA based board for retro gaming above what the MiSTer does.

Also in the back of my mind I think about all the cores being ported to the pocket. I do have an Analogue NT and noir and pocket and would be untruthful if I said i didn't like them. But Analogue as a company, does everyone really trust them, how about their communications skills with the community? The pocket, aside from not running all the cores (of course they have a rudimentary PSX core running, but who knows to what extent), with its dock is somewhat close to replacing the MiSTer. To me it lacks good controller support and video processing and I do not like having to dock something (my switch has not left its dock in over 2 years, i could live with a consolidated switch ;) ).

Could a company like Multisystem who is actively trying to work with the community to see what they want and if something better could be built be worse? I personally can imagine Analogue, with the popularity of the pocket and openFPGA building the exact system Multisystem is talking about, cornering the market and not listening to the community. They already have the cores in place and more are being ported by the day.

Anyway there are my thoughts, maybe useless, maybe not. Just stuff to think about. In the meantime I am still happy with my MiSTer and all the peripherals I have with it and will still support as much as i can on Patreon. And if it does not change I will still be happy.

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Re: Discussion and Development of a 'MiSTer 2.0' Modular Hardware Platform

Unread post by antibolo »

The way I see it, the only major drawback of the DE-10 Nano as a MiSTer target is its HDMI 1.x port. A board with a HDMI port capable of 4K would be great for enabling scaler output to 4K, which seems to me that is the only aspect where MiSTer feels lacking.

(With that said I'm not sure about how much extra load it would put on the FPGA to do 4K scaling, and if that would still be feasable? That might still be the bottleneck even with a more powerful HDMI port.)

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Re: Discussion and Development of a 'MiSTer 2.0' Modular Hardware Platform

Unread post by redsteakraw »

When looking at any new platform you need to look at features, price and availability / support cycle. Right now the DE-10 nano is lacking some extra GPIO but has a very cheap price and a long support cycle and is generally available(current world situation withstanding). So What I see any alternative so far may have the extra GPIO but is way more expensive and will be a gamble support wise as who knows when it will be discontinued. The proposed board here does not check enough of the boxes and doesn't realistically give a decent amount of extra features for the cost and could put the project in jeopardy if it is discontinued. Right now the DE-10 nano works and it works well I would rather wait for further advancements in the fpga market to go to a further board. What I would rather see is side projects using MiSTer cores to port to cheaper FPGAs for a clone system projects and taking the cores and possibly making hardware asics based on the cores to replace crappy chinese asics like those NES or genesis on a chip that are just awful. I would rather see the community branch out and use this platform to create new things than a drop in replacement for the DE-10 nano because realistically it won't be able to hold more advanced cores than the Playstation or Saturn we have now. We are at the limit tech wise.

So my advice it to build something around the Speed Tang go cheaper and with better designs and make portables, or uniquely designed games systems or clone consoles and push the FPGA systems in a different direction using established cores on the MiSTer as your starting point. When the tech improves then we can go and talk about a MiSTer 2.0. Best of wishes on this journey I just respectfully don't think this is the time yet to go forward with this proposal.

Fear is the mind killer!
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Re: Discussion and Development of a 'MiSTer 2.0' Modular Hardware Platform

Unread post by ericgus09 »

multisystem wrote: Fri Jan 20, 2023 9:58 am
ericgus09 wrote: Fri Jan 20, 2023 4:35 am

These talks come up about once a year and the all end the same way.. once people realize the actual "cost" to make a Mister 2.0 .. the project usually dies and fades away.. I suspect the same will happen here.

How does anything get moving in an 'adhocracy' community - interesting ideas and enough support to make it happen.

To answer that its easy, someone actually "does it" .. that usually ends any "discussion" .. :D

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