Gaming with Raspberry Pi

So I have this old Raspberry Pi 1 that I got back in about 2011. While it has many uses I haven’t utilized it in a while. What makes this interesting for the readers of this blog is that it can be used for retro gaming. While it is not able to run decently games that have 3D graphics it is perfectly good for playing retro video games like SNES games to give an example. Newer Raspberry Pis are capable of running some more advanced games that have 3D graphics. It is also not a bad choice to pick up a NVIDIA Shield if you are interested in emulated retro gaming and you want to be able to run games with 3D graphics. Shield can even run some Sega Dreamcast with Sony PlayStation games. If you want to be able to run PS2 games I think this is not, at least yet, your way to go.

So we have this Raspberry Pi 1. It has many ways that you can connect different equipment to it. It has two slots for USB. The connections are white which tells us that they are of type USB 2.0. This doesn’t affect us so much. The connections could be colored blue that only tells that they would be a bit more advanced and more effective in transmitting data through them. But for a USB controller or even Bluetooth dongle would work with USB 2.0s just fine. You can even expand these USB slots with an USB hub. It can provide you more USB slots.

If you don’t want to sacrifice one USB slot for Wi-Fi dongle you can connect your Raspberry Pi to your network and internet with an Ethernet connection. There’s no Wi-Fi built in the first Raspberry Pi but some newer models also have this feature included. So you might want to consider buying for example Raspberry Pi 4 instead of the first release. The first release also only supports SD memory card up to 32 GB. While this is just enough to support playing retro games, it might be too small for some uses. There is HDMI connection which delivers the sound and the picture from the computer to the display. There’s also a slot for video output and a small slot, actually a mini-plug connection, for audio output. Raspberry Pi also needs a power input that is provided with 5V micro USB connection. You can probably use your old smart phone’s cable for this, that is you have one available.

You get that Raspberry Pi needs a memory card  and a power cable to work. You will also need a keyboard, maybe even a mouse, a cable for Ethernet and an HDMI cable. That’s just for setting up. You have to install yourself a good operating system. For gaming I would go with RetroPie or Lakka OS.

Here’s some links:

https://retropie.org.uk/ and https://www.lakka.tv/

There are many ways that you can get the image file to your memory card. You can probably read some deeper instructions from those links that are above this text. It depends on your host operating system but I know that you are able to make the installation with Windows and Linux PCs.

After getting the software installed you need to fiddle around a bit with the settings. You can usually just connect your game pad and configure the controls. After that you only need to use the Raspberry Pi with your controller. You need to transfer the roms to your device also. This can be done in several ways. You can for example transfer them to USB stick or you can transfer them from your local network. I am not getting to this since this blog post is not actually a tutorial. I am only discussing about the possibilities and I am trying to give you a clear picture for what it is like to get your old, dusted, Raspberry Pi to work for you as a gaming device.

I really think that this is all about this subject. You can run your SNES, NES, Mega Drive/Genesis, Master System, DOS and Atari 2600 games like this (just to mention some of the most popular systems). I would recommend for your game pad Logitech’s or a USB SNES pad although there are plenty of possibilities. Some controllers might not work so don’t try to plug your PS4 controller in as it won’t probably work and would need some fiddling.

Do you necessarily need Windows to play PC games?

Linux as an operating system of personal computers has been competing to this day against Microsoft’s Windows. Linux has advantages. First of all it’s free and mostly open source. So anyone with a decent knowledge about programming and computers and operating systems has an opportunity to learn and even modify this system. But is Linux capable of running the latest games? To this question I am trying to answer in this blog post.

Windows has a large support as an operating system that delivers reliability. It can run latest PC games and it is an answer to many electronic music producers as Linux currently doesn’t fully support VST instruments or many sequencer applications like, for example, FL Studio. Linux has some free music production apps. like Ardour, but to get your software and hardware to run decently is to my own experience a bit difficult.

Windows is not free. Windows still supports many hardware drivers that are important when running newest PC games. Take graphics processing units for example. Most of the GPU´s are supported. You have to pay for Windows. Usually you get the new Windows with a computer that you purchase. Usually you also get the update to a newer version when it is released. Still sometimes you might have an old computer and you don’t want to spend about 150 euros for only getting the newest operating system. Then Linux definitely is a good choice.

There is a war going on between Linux and Windows. It has been this way for decades. While Linux is supported by heavy users, technology nerds and programmers Windows is still holding on to it’s position as the default personal computer operating system. Of course there are also Mac users. So this also messes up the picture a bit. I definitely like to use Linux for programming if I can make a free choice. This is because it is more secure and it doesn’t need necessarily a virus protection application. It also has more opportunities to get deeper into technology of computer. You get to work with command line and the apps are mainly free and open source. You also get more updates and get to tweak your system a bit more.

You can get Windows games working with Linux. Older games certainly can be run through DOSBox, if they are DOS games, and through Wine, if they are Windows games. There has been a discussion goin on how clearly are Steam games running on Linux. There seems to be a certain distinction between Windows and Linux games that I am not so clear about. The software seems to be in question. I cannot reply to this question fully and I admit that. But it is an interesting point.

So if you plan to play the newest games my answer to you is – get a computer that runs Windows. That is to make sure that you have the latest drivers and have yourself the full support from hardware manufacturers and game developers. Since we are moving more and more towards digital markets when purchasing games it is also important that you have Steam or GOG.com or some other place to buy yourself games for your PC. This is how the situation seems to be. Linux has it’s own supporters and you have to keep in mind that Linux has it’s native games that run only on Linux. So to conclude – Linux is developing and it might be possible that it makes a takeover in the future but currently you will have to use Windows.

The Ultimate Incompatibility (of Old Windows Games)

I have games. I mean, I have lots of games. Old games, new games, interesting games, rare games, big box games, err…PC games? Yes.  I have lots of PC games. How can you play old PC games? With a PC? Yes. But what is your operating system? What is your graphics card? Processor? Do you actually have today a SSD instead of HDD and does it really matter?

The point here is that you were, earlier, playing these games with a computer that had maybe Windows 98, Windows XP or MS-DOS. Now it is 2021. The standard in Windows is Windows 10. It was only while ago when Windows 7 lost its support from Microsoft. Hardware does evolve. Operating systems keep developing. There are many changes. PC is a strong standard but its weakness is that old games that you were able to play earlier don’t necessarily work anymore.

You can have an old PlayStation or NES. You can then play these games with this device. And the strength of consoles compared to PC is just that. They can deliver games and playing them is reliable. This might have something to do with the traditional mentality of computer gamers. It used to be a good thing that your PC was fast. So basically we are having games as physical copies lying around in corners. I have made tens or maybe even hundreds of purchases from flee markets. Many times the game finally ended up not working on my Windows 10.

One solution for this is setting up an old computer that is running some old operating system. I haven’t tried this trick. Some games are so popular that there are fan-made patches that enable you to play the game. If your game is compatible with DOS you can always download DOSBox. You can also try to run your games on some virtual machine that has the right operating system. Steam is full of old games that are available for purchase. They work. That’s what you pay for.

So operating systems change. So does the hardware. So drivers play a big role in this game of games. We are forced to update our devices. You have to buy a new phone in say two to three years. Computers might last a bit longer but you can’t play latest games with a pc that is five years old. At least if you don’t update it anyhow. This problem is also visible on PlayStation and even Xbox. Basically the problem is that some old games are just so good that some gamers still want to play them.

Why aren’t there better emulators for old PC games? And this applies most to Windows 98 and XP era. There would even be some commercially interesting ideas about this subject. Would you pay for a retro console or software that you could play your old retro style games?

Solution for playing games on a smart phone

Smart phones are today very powerful devices. They are able to run many applications and it’s common to view video material and also to play games on these devices. There still do exist some problems. The touch screen of any modern mobile device including tablets is not the best way to control for example the main character of a platformer. There is a solution and I am going to introduce it to you my dear readers.

iPega is a chinese company that has brought an innovative solution for playing games on mobile devices available for consumers world wide. It is basically a small gamepad that uses Bluetooth technology to transfer players inputs and commands to the device. It has a battery included that can be charged with basic micro-USB charger. The battery lasts for long enough and if you want to make sure that it doesn’t shut down in a vital moment you can plug your gamepad to charger. You can do this to your phone also if you are conserned about how long will its battery last.

This gamepads model is PG 9017 S. There are many different models available. They don’t cost so much. I remember buying my gamepad for just under 30 euros. It uses Bluetooth, so you have to pair it with your phone and also connect to it. This happens by pressing two buttons for couple of seconds. There are different modes so you might have to test which mode to use for the connection. The gamepad has nice amount of buttons. It has axis-button, X, Y, A, B buttons and select and start buttons and two shoulder buttons on left and right. It also has two thumb buttons. It can signal the user when battery is starting to run low. The user can attach this controller with some kind of a clip. So the phone goes on top of this mechanical system placed horizontally. The clip is strong and it doesn’t allow the phone to slip out or move at all.

I haven’t any serious issues with this product. It’s a cool gamepad that you can take on a trip too as its battery doesn’t require so much power. You can install some emulators and transfer some ROMs to your device. Be aware of your phones memory capacity as ROMs can take some space. You can even buy a memory card if your phone is compatible. Just remember the thumb rule – if you don’t own the game don’t copy it. That’s illegal. But you can really have fun with this kind of a setup. You can for example play games of consoles like NES, SNES, Mega Drive or even Nintendo DS. Earlier gaming consoles don’t require so much from your hardware but when we are talking about more modern systems, such as PSP emulators, there might be some system requirements that you will have to take in consideration.

How Halo changed gaming?

First game of Halo series was released in 2001 for Microsofts Xbox console and also on PC. Gamers all over the world had already seen some amazing first person shooters that were made for PC. It was thougt back then that you just couldn’t make such realsitic and accurate shooting game for console since it didn’t even have a mouse on it. Halo changed this situation totally. It was the first really, I mean really, good first person shooter game and the first one that could be played with gamepads that had only thumb sticks.

After the release of Halo there were many to follow its path. Suddenly you just could do it. You could play FPS game with your gaming console instead of your regular PC setup where you had to have keyboard and mouse. We had already witnessed many games that were more than playable on consoles. The first PlayStation had many genres of games. It had racing games, like Gran Turismo, it had fighting games, like Tekken series. Metal Gear Solid was very good on PS1. Who didn’t like to play Tony Hawks Pro Skater? I remember everyone liked it. The point here is that we really had these games that were played on PC and some games that we only played on consoles.

There might be some debate on how you feed your reactions to the system you are playing on. There has to be a streering wheel for a driving game. You have to have joystick for Street Fighter. You can only play FPS with a mouse and a keyboard on professional level eSports. But I think some games are best, and there’s lots of them, played with a good gamepad. I haven’t even tried to compete seriously but it makes sense that you have to have a controller that is capable to sense your reactions effectively. This varies as games are very different. You could play Colin McRae Rally 1 or 2.0 and Gran Turismo with a gamepad. You still wouldn’t seriously try to compete with this method of control. But the point here, once again, is that Halo brought some difference to this matter. FPS games were now able to be played with a gamepad. And theres still exists games that are at their best when played with a gamepad.

I personally just love games that are designed mainly to be played with a gamepad. That has something, propably, to do with that I played lots of Mega Drive and PlayStation as I was growing up. That was the beginning. I was used to play these kinds of games. I didn’t play so much PC back then. Nowadays you can even play real time strategy games with a gamepad. That was once thought to be impossible. Would you play for example Populous, a strategy game released in the end of 1980s, with your Mega Drive or with your PC if you had to choose? I would go for the PC version and I think so would many other gamers. But now you can consider any game to be played with a gamepad. And that’s where we are going. Gamepads have evolved and they will keep evolving. Take a look at Mega Drives gamepad. Then take a look at PS4 gamepad. Now you can see the difference. So, this is how Halo brought this whole FPS genre, and maybe some other genres also, to consoles.

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