Could This Be The Answer?

With all these hardware consoles you get a sense that there could be an easier solution. This answer would be in this case one single personal computer connected to the 4K telly with a single HDMI cord. It would take only one HDMI port. This isn’t a hallucination. There already are several computers available for this task. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the power that one modern PC today holds can handle almost any gaming console emulator from NES to PS4.

You would need one PC. This would cost something from 300 euros to several thousands of euros. You would also need a controller. I prefer Xbox Series S/X controller when it comes to emulator gaming. If you would like to change a controller between systems you would need to assign keys over and over again. You could be able to make a profile for every controller of every system. However it would be easier to play all systems with only one controller.

The first thing you need with this kind of setup is a reliable Linux operating system dedicated to emulation. At first it seems I would choose Lakka OS. It is a nice emulator that allows you to run several different emulators of different gaming systems. After setting up you don’t need to actually unplug your controller or get to your keyboard at all. So, I prefer Lakka OS. There are other operating systems available, like Retropie, Recalbox and Batocera. The last mentioned can be run from inserted USB stick without any other kind of installation.

If you want to play emulated games on systems like GameCube, PS2, original Xbox and Sega Dreamcast, you will need a powerful computer. I would say that you need more than a Raspberry Pi 4 can provide. I am not going to give you detailed specifications here. We can of course check what are the recommended requirements for an emulator like PCSX2. We can get to a conclusion that you would need at least 8 GB of RAM and a GPU with something like 4 GB of VRAM and capability to run DirectX 11 or OpenGL 4.5. Well, what about the processor? The processor would need to support AVX2, have a rating of 2600 and have four cores with or without hyper threading.

This kind of an emulation station could be your solution to this very interesting question. As prices of games are ricing this would make your wallet heavier at least for a while and enable you to play lots of retro game content. There is of course also the question about breaking every copyright law that exists. This is a difficult matter. Let’s just say that it is not legal to load hundreds of games from internet for free. While this is illegal there seems to be very few choices. You can pay hundreds of euros of games that cannot or are very hard to rip to ROM file and play with your emulator. Some emulators need also the BIOS of the system they are emulating.

Nintendo has been busy bringing its retro content available for those that have an online Nintendo account. You can probably figure how popular retro games currently are. It must be stated that it would be nice, for us game hobbyists, to be able to somehow get our hands to this content for a reasonable price. Playing original games on original hardware is becoming more and more expensive. And it must be said that game consoles don’t last for several decades and must be at some point at least repaired.

SteamOS – An Alternative to Windows

For a long period of time Windows has dominated the scene of playing games with a PC. There is always an alternative and that is Linux. If you have played video games on your personal computer you have most likely stumbled on Steam. It is Valve’s, yes, the company that brought Half-Life to us, brilliant piece of software turned as a game shop application for buying and installing and also maintaining your library of PC games.

There are of course other ways to get your favorite games delivered to you. I have to mention Good Old Games or GOG.com. Some of you might still be buying physical copies of games. You know, those optical discs. They might be CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays or even 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. That is if you even have some sort of an optical drive in your personal computer.

Windows was my choice when I bought my desktop computer almost two years ago. I thought that for the way I use my PC it would be perfect. I have to mention that if you don’t get Windows on the system you are buying you are going to have to pay a lot to get it. I just checked the price of just the operating system Windows 11 and it was 145 euros. That all is just for the operating system.

Linux on the other side is free. It is also open source. What this means is that anyone can participate in making Linux better. I find this kind of comparison between Linux and Windows to be very interesting. In my current job I have had the pleasure to work a bit with PowerShell. This is a deep topic and I am going to just scratch its surface a bit. But let’s say that Linux is open and Windows is closed for what it comes to modifying the code that lies beneath the surface of the operating system.

But what about SteamOS? I can tell you that it is a Linux based operating system. It is free. And it has Steam installed on it. But what is that? I can already hear you talking about how Windows games aren’t compatible with Linux? Well, actually, now they are. Do you know what is “wine”? Let me, again, explain this a bit  further.

Wine is a tool that basically let’s you run software applications that were meant to be launched and run on Windows on Linux. This involves a lot of fiddling with settings and probably some deeper understanding about how software is commonly run on any platform or operating system. But the main point is that it indeed is possible to work with a game or application this way.

Now, when I made my decision of what is going to be my personal computers operating system, I thought a bit how am I going to use the computer. I wanted a machine that could be able to produce some documents so having office tools was important. I also wanted to be able to program on it. This actually works fine in both Linux and Windows. I am also a hobbyist musician as you may recall so it was important that my DAW would work and also that all my VST instruments and effects would be available. And last but not least, as I had a powerful device already, I wanted to be able to play latest PC games on this computer.

What was my choice? It was Windows. If I would have had to install and buy my operating system separately this would have meant that I would have had to buy a Windows license for 145 euros. The alternative would have been to install some Linux distro. Since SteamOS is currently free why not download it? It supports all of the games right?

Valve has had some success as it has brought a working market place and also a place for your gaming library for you the gamer. If you think about also Steam Deck you can clearly understand what is going on right here. Steam Deck is a very good and practical handheld gaming device. And it supports also Steam. I have been using Steam since I got my PC and that was about two years ago.

But would I go and trade my current and working system to SteamOS? I have to say that I am not right now yet ready for it. I am too concerned that I won’t have an opportunity to use my computer to other matters that aren’t about playing games. But I can say it is tempting. I have thought about testing SteamOS and maybe I will install it on some older PC someday.

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.

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