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Analogue OS – Explore video game history (analogue.co)
88 points by Unai 42 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 65 comments

Analogue’s marketing is infuriating the retro gaming community more and more. Their products are nice but they always take a lot of time to deliver their products, even before the covid. Their marketing is always misleading, talking about « no emulation » although it is some kind emulation of the systems. It is better than software emulation as it allows better accuracy and far less input lag, but it is emulation through FPGA.

I’m quite interested in the Pocket, but if you want to jump in FPGA emulation of old computers, consoles and arcades, I’d recommend the MiSTer project which is open source, delivers constantly, do not use shitty marketing terms, has a great community and allows to play a lot of old systems already.

I don't know why but I've never heard of Analogue and their website made me irrationally angry and irritated. I don't know if it was the verbiage or the unclear communication about exactly it is, but it was immediate.

It's the pretentious SV-esque marketing speak that's unbearable, and funnier because they are targeting a niche audience (interested in playing/preserving retro games) who would have absolutely none of that crap.

Seriously, how absolutely out of touch you have to be from the retro gaming audience to create this kind of thing....

So I came into the comments having never heard of these people, and from the comments I was expecting something bad. But actually I had the opposite experience when I then opened the OP link.

They are making something that is similar to a GameBoy Color, but built on an FPGA, and which lets you play games from a few different consoles.

I grew up with GBC, N64, PS1 and PS2. My first console was the GBC. I played N64 and PS1 at friends houses, and got a PS2 of my own when that came out.

Now and then I use emulation and revisit some old favorites. And I’ve also bought a couple of old consoles second hand to play on those in the past.

A while ago, at the beginning of the pandemic, I bought a Nintendo New 3DS XL second hand with the intention of also trying emulation on it. Ended up only playing actual DS and 3DS games, and not doing emulation. Then sold it.

Not sure I'd want this thing, and can’t afford it at the moment anyways.

But the website did a good job of catching my interest. And if I was in the market for a handheld gaming system, this page would be enough for me to begin looking into it further.

And my point is, there may be more people out there than you realize who are interested in a little bit of retro gaming now and then who will respond similarly positively to that page as what I did.

Yes not everyone who would purchase a retro console or updated FPGA clone like the Analogue Pocket is a “retro gamer”.

Sure the MiSTer exists but not everyone wants a project not matter how simple it is.

Now and then I use emulation and revisit some old favorites. And I’ve also bought a couple of old consoles second hand to play on those in the past

You are assisting his point by indicating you are not part of the retro gaming audience and you like the page. Personally I will reserve judgment until there are hardware reviews but everything about that page is a "marketing department is in charge of our company" red flag.

To be fair, being angry is basic state of mind in many gaming communities. Gamer getting angry is default reaction in quite a few gaming subcultures.

Not all of them and not everyone, but it is not remarkable that gamers got angry.

I'll never forget witnessing the beginning of the development of PSIO: a complete CDROM Emulator for the PSX that aimed to provide the ability to boot games off a SD card. At the time in the early 2010s it was considered a far reaching project. The creators took so much abuse for years because so many in the "community" thought it was vaporware and damn these people for even trying. One of the creators was a high school student who took the time to learn low level FPGA coding, board layout and software dev so he could contribute to a lot of the core codebase. Eventually they actually launched and the product works! Now they get crap for other things that are equally silly(ex. Firmware downloads require inputting account, different firmwares for different revisions, not focusing on stupid things like Mem card backups in favor of bug fixes). It also made me think, man I never want to get into a gaming related business. These are the types of customers no self respecting business would want to deal with.

I make software for the space industry and get attacked on things I can and will call utterly silly. Before that I wrote invoicing applications, and that was far worse.

My question is: are there places where people don't scream at you for silly reasons? (and do any of those places need a competent C++ programmer?)

At Antithesis we are pretty calm and working on very interesting stuff. (You would have to relocate to the DC metro area, though.)

Well the most vocal are always those riding on their emotions, like anger. For every angry gamer theres a larger group who couldn't give a s***. Nor is any of this limited to gaming. People will get angry about any form of entertainment, whether its a remake of a cult fav movie, a band changing their sound, you name it there is someone whinging about it. All that anger fuels the net, driving up those ad clicks with divisive headlines so they can fill those rotten comment sections.

They make it pretty damn clear that they are using FPGA chips to accelerate rather than software emulation.

The linked page is littered in headlines that focus on “FPGA”

Criticizing Analogue for saying "no emulation" is a bit unfair. Everyone knows that emulation colloquially means "software emulation." It's really just finding the smallest thing on which to attack them, while seemingly claiming a legitimate basis for that attack.

Every company has to do marketing. Marketing is part of the equation for success. If Analogue has bad marketing you probably wouldn't even know about them. There are hundreds of obscure retro hardware projects that are still yet unknown. It seems you are just penalizing them for making an effort at being successful.

The reality is that Analogue makes quality products and sell them at a reasonable price. People get mad at them because their production capacity is low. Try building a hardware company yourself with a niche market, then tell me how easy it is to do inventory management. It's not their fault their products are so good that there is huge demand for them in the secondary market. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. That really shows there is an unfair bias against them.

By the way, I really like the MiSTer project but it does not support hardware cartridges. Analogue does. When MiSTer supports real media then it will be a viable alternative. For now it doesn't and Analogue fills that niche.

I have no idea where the idea that emulation means "software emulation" comes from. Emulation just means "to imitate another system". People aren't getting mad because they can't get one -- I don't want one. They get mad because they act like FPGAs are magic fairy dust, when really it's all code, just at different levels. They aren't fully simulating the chips down to the gate level -- that would be "no emulation", but would also violate copyright so that isn't how it works.

Using FPGA doesn't make the emulation fundamentally better -- there has been various bugs found on the SNES emulation of the Analogue. They get fixed of course.

> Emulation just means "to imitate another system"

Ah yes, I've heard this numerous times. Suddenly when it comes to criticizing Analogue, all the specific context around the term "emulation" in computing is conveniently ignored. It's a totally general word! Let's just ignore the 40 years or more of computing jargon around it.

> Using FPGA doesn't make the emulation fundamentally better

Actually it does. You can run legacy software with zero-latency and cycle-accuracy at a fraction of the cost and power required than you would be able to if you used software to emulate the underlying system. BSNES requires a 3Ghz ~$300 dollar CPU to run games accurately, using FPGAs you can do the same at a fraction of the cost and clock speed. Not to mention, there will always be some latency with a software technique. Please don't counter this argument by questioning the meaning of "better."

Who are all the people who were calling hardware 'emulagion' something different? The reason we (or at least I) didn't use "emulate" for hardware was because people weren't using FPGAs for emulation. We don't need new names for everything when done on an FPGA, when it is still (whatever you want to call it ...simulating?), as opposed to a pure gate-by-gate recreation, which Analogue isn't, which is obvious from its simulation errors, which are often similar to those that appear on traditional emulators like bsnes.

Yes, I agree FPGAs let you use much lower power requirements than a PC, but what I disagree with is, at the moment, the accuracy of the experience is better than a high spec PC running bsnes.

The authors of bsnes and analogue even agreed with this in the past, sharing I formation about how to increase accuracy in both directions.

I can't understand your first paragraph, which is apparently arguing that hardware emulation is not emulation? I don't think there is any historical support for limiting use of the term emulation to only software, or excluding their fpga approach, 40 years or otherwise. Analogue appears to be trying to change the definition, or more charitably, didn't know they were using the word wrong in their marketing.

What I suspect it comes down to is that marketing around the idea "emulation is bad and we don't use it" is easier than having to communicate the nuance that their type of emulation is better.

The exploitation of ambiguity and painting-over of nuance by marketing folks is to me just another one of many ways that marketing practices harm broader society.

A similar situation was when Zoom was trying to exploit ambiguity around the meaning of end to end encryption to support their invalid but nice-sounding claim that they used it. In that case the misunderstanding could lead to bigger problems than just annoying some people & causing argument.

I have a Mega SG. After years of suffering with dodgy Sega Genesis/Mega Drive emulation I now have a system that is damn near perfect, even better than the real thing in many ways. If software emulation could have given me this, great. But it’s never been able to come close.

These are upsides with FPGA emulation. Downside is that verilog devs are scarce and developing these cores are hard, so emulation quality sometimes suffer as a result. But I guess this is only a problem depending on the systems Analogue is primarily targeting.

> Emulation just means "to imitate another system".

Is an AMD CPU an Intel "emulator"?

If one piece of hardware aims to be compatible with another, pre-existing piece of hardware, I wouldn't call it an emulator. Maybe an implementation.

Sure there can be bugs, and a very advanced software emulator may have better compatibility than a less advanced hardware implementation. But a hardware implementation is fundamentally functioning much more similarly to how the original hardware functioned. Parallel logic gates are quite a different programming paradigm than sequential software.

Yes, I agree an AMD chip isn't an Intel emulator.

However, if we were imagining an intel CPU inside a console like a Super Nintendo or Megadrive, then an "AMD CPU" wouldn't be good enough -- lots of games require bug compatability of undocumented instructions, and exact behaviour in terms of memory access, instruction execution (including how partial instruction execution effects memory + registers).

People at Analogue aren't just making something which implements the same instruction set, they have to implement exact behaviour in all ways.

Nowadays people don't write games which require that level of compatability, which is why (mostly) games work on both Intel + AMD.

It also specifies “fpga eliminates many of the problems with software emulation” on the website posted here

Gamer yells at screen, more at 11

I really want to second this. We wouldn't say ASIC wifi chips are "emulating wifi"... What is the real difference between an ASIC and an FPGA... Write once vs write many?

WiFi is a spec, with different implementations, they don't emulate each other.

I can find various references to "emulating" soundblaster cards with an FPGA, which feels more applicable.

"The Library of Alexandria of video games" is not the title of the page nor does it appear on the page at all. Per the HN submission guidelines: please use the original title, unless it is misleading or linkbait; don't editorialize.

It’s hilarious reading the negative comments here because it’s completely out of sync with the way Analogue’s audience perceives them.

They’re seen as a high quality, craftsmanship driven shop. Their current consoles offer extremely high fidelity emulation. There’s an attention to detail that’s to the point where original hardware quirks, limitations of accessories are maintained. You can go pretty deep with the way the color palette, the pixel shapes, and the scanlines are rendered. Their current OS (for thw NT and such) feels like a file manager that could run on an NES. It’s ok. To see them invest into making it more capable, and more versatile is a great thing. You can’t get this level of service with a SNES Mini or a NES Mini. This is exciting!

Yes, it's quite interesting seeing all the negative feedback. To be honest, I don't quite understand it.

I've purchased both the Super Nt and Mega Sg and have been extremely pleased with them. They're extremely high quality and strike a great balance between providing an authentic experience for the console while being reasonable to use with a modern TV. And to be blunt, aren't even an unreasonable price when compared to the alternatives for making the original hardware usable with similar fidelity and features.

> To be honest, I don't quite understand it.

It's gamers. That is all there is to it. The entire gaming community is rotten to the core. Don't ever put yourself in a position where you have gamers as customers.

Hardware quirk preservation have always been a MAJOR focus of emulators since they existed. Almost every console emulator has been iterated on by millions of people to produce emulation as accurately as possible.

The FPGA part is a really weird focus to me. From what I understand their emulation systems don't run as many games glitch free, as they don't have the same man power to recreate all of that in FPGA.

You can't copy out raw game consoles schematics into into it, you need to have an FPGA programmer re-make it and make sure every rom runs against it.

If anything, this shoots their "scholarly" claim in the foot from the start.

Rendering mode shaders usually require a bit of setup, but it's also been around for years. I think around 2005 is the first I heard of a good CRT shader that imitated pixel shapes, color signal blur, monitor curvature, etc.

I guess my main argument is, I could make a RetroPi in a few hours with every emulator, and every rom, and meet all of the marketing criteria with better settings. Including better compatibility.

Assuming they're trying to advertise to my market, why would I pay 50x the cost for an inferior product? Why wouldn't they start from where emulation enthusiasts currently are instead of way behind?

> I guess my main argument is, I could make a RetroPi in a few hours with every emulator, and every rom, and meet all of the marketing criteria with better settings. Including better compatibility.

> Assuming they're trying to advertise to my market, why would I pay 50x the cost for an inferior product? Why wouldn't they start from where emulation enthusiasts currently are instead of way behind?

If you're happy with RetroPi then Analogue's products simply aren't for you.

Being able to use my original controllers, accessories, cartridges directly (not just dumping the rom) is important to me. Having a big Street Fighter II cartridge sticking out, two controllers right there, and simply pushing the power button to immediately get into that game is important to me. It strikes up conversations and leads to impromptu gameplay in a way that a RetroPi or something similar likely doesn't.

For me and my friends, "let's play contra" doesn't take longer than maybe 10 seconds from intention to the start screen.

I have a retro pi that lives always connected to my tv for impromptu play like you describe.

The Analogue OS doesn't say if it supports TV output or controllers besides

> OS is designed to connect seamlessly to virtually every 8BitDo Bluetooth, 2.4g and next gen controller. Wired and wireless. With button mapping on a controller by controller, system by system basis.

I attached two cheap USB NES adapters to it, allowing NES controllers of all kinds to be plugged in.

It works perfect for contra, battle toads, tetris, whatever, and feels extrememly close to native form my experience (which is impressive to me, as I used to play competitive NES tetris, which requires 1 or 2 frame input windows for some techniques)

EDIT: And TBH if that format is best for you, why not just spend your money on a real console instead? It'll definitely be cheaper and will ALWAYS boot faster than anything else you can buy.

> For me and my friends, "let's play contra" doesn't take longer than maybe 10 seconds from intention to the start screen.

But how would they know you have Contra and think to play it? The presence of a physical cartridge or recognizable console sparks the spontaneity. I think Analogue's consoles do this in a way that RetroPi does not.

> The Analogue OS doesn't say if it supports TV output or controllers

To be clear, I'm not talking exclusively about Analogue OS or the Analogue Pocket, but their other existing products the Mega Sg and Super Nt.

> And TBH if that format is best for you, why not just spend your money on a real console instead? It'll definitely be cheaper and will ALWAYS boot faster than anything else you can buy.

Unfortunately this isn't the case. Especially given the recent retro gaming boom inflating prices. You also have to consider that retro consoles are borderline unusable on modern TVs (even if they have composite input) and you'll need to purchase a quality upscaler (or hardware mod), which can run anywhere from $80 to $500 depending on what you get. If you don't mind having a CRT you can go that route too, but nice CRTs are also quite expensive. Then if you're interested in playing ROMs that's unlockable via a jailbreak on the Super Nt vs paying $80 - $200 for a flash cartridge.

So here's what I want:

1) Play on a modern TV via HDMI

2) Play original cartridges directly

3) Native support for original controller hardware

4) Support for additional accessories that worked on original hardware

5) The option to play ROMs if a particular game is inaccessible physically

The Super Nt/Mega Sg provide all of these things at a much cheaper price than trying to get the equivalent on original hardware.

Your solution wouldn’t play real cartridges and cards for SG-1000, Mark III, Master System, Genesis and Game Gear without a lot of work, and it wouldn’t look good on my shelf either.

Let's see their claim again.

> Designed to be the definitive, scholarly operating system for playing and experiencing the entire medium.

I don't think they're being truthful here if this is really the case.

A definitive system wouldn't be a black box with little way to fix or upgrade it once the company goes away. It should be a practical device with lots of cheap, interchangeable ports (that are dumb plugs or simple boards) you rip roms with (for preservation) and attach controllers to.

Then you can load your roms onto a more stylish/temporary device for the shelf.

I also think it's silly saying "the entire medium" before that's actually true. I really doubt they'll get around to writing FPGA designs for every system.

Is there even external monitor and controller port support? Am I only limited to the entire medium of handheld/snes controller type games?

Unless I'm mis-understanding, this just seems like another emulation handheld in an already flooded market, marketing itself the idea it's for "history". Even though it does the same thing as any other handheld.

EDIT: Also to add, while it's great to have cart support, you can easily just get a rom ripper and do that. Consoles like the Retron exists with multiple cartridge ports, and all it does is rip the rom like any device, then emulates it.

Yeah, I don't understand this marketing at all. "Scholarly"-what? It's a... nicer front end for their products?

The appeal of the product for me that it's an extremely well made, nice looking Genesis with HDMI and retains peripheral compatibility. It is in my mind an unofficial "Model 4 Genesis". I don't mind that it isn't a MiSTer and that I can't modify it further - to me I suppose it's like a fancy new record player. I like to physically take carts down off my shelf, look at the labels, plug them in and play them.

There's a lot of stuff out there that's just absolute junk in comparison, like the Retron you mentioned. Cheap plastic, tight cartridge ports that feel like they're causing damage, dodgy emulation.

I may build something like a MiSTer eventually but it will serve a different purpose.

Fully agree with you!

I only mentioned the retron because it's in a similar category. But it's seriously terrible, having used one.

The only good portable emulators imo have really been other devices but repurposed. Like a tablet/phone + bluetooth controller, or something like an NVidia Shield.

Every other piece of plastic junk... well yeah, they work, but their emulators are generally jank with emulation glitches. And you generally can't update them like internet connected devices.

So if you ignore the marketing (and the lack of 6 face buttons for genesis games ;) ) this would be really nice device for that.

And I agree with the carts. Maybe it's nostalgia, or a yearning for a physical medium, but there's nothing like a shelf of media imo.

I used to be very into cassettes, splicing together mixtapes from other tapes, radio, computer, etc. in 2017. It's very pleasant putting a tape in the deck for work music.

If they can get their marketing straightened out, and the FPGA method gets a lot of mileage, I can see this being a really nice device.

Analogue is the company that trademarked the term "FPGA": https://tmsearch.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4801:1t...

And then claim that it is some kind of magical panacea for all emulation problems: https://twitter.com/analogue/status/1449389710065946628

Which of course is wildly misleading. It's just marketing.

The patent you linked says "NO CLAIM IS MADE TO THE EXCLUSIVE RIGHT TO USE "FPGA" APART FROM THE MARK AS SHOWN". From what I understand, that is just a trademark for the logo showing "FPGA" within their square design.

The tweet you linked is promoting their newest product, so of course it's marketing it as something fantastic. FPGA emulation isn't a miracle, but it does provide some benefits over software emulation. I find it hard to believe that people would be misled into thinking this is some scholarly source of information.

No it's not. It's just another hardware commercial grab that relies on using the real current version of Library of Alexandria - Thepiratebay.org

There's no vendor that could afford license fees to copy every game, from say, the NES, SNES, Atari, Commodore, etc. The rights are either untracable, unpurchasable, or exorbitantly priced.

It's also why Ready Player One book was so awesome, and why the movie was a pale joke... Even with Spielberg as the big name directing, there was absolutely no way to afford every right mentioned in the book. - Do you think that even the 1st quest, a D&D campaign, would be licensed reasonably by WoTC/Hasbro? And, well, it wasn't.

According to the website:

"Analogue Pocket does not play copyrighted rom files, it plays legacy game cartridges via the cartridge slot. To play a game in Library you will need to insert the game cartridge to play it."

I do not understand why you restated what I said, as if I was somehow wrong.

It appears that you're saying the Analogue is piggybacking on piracy, but from what I can tell they don't want you pirating games on their consoles.

A Library of Alexandria with no books due to copyright issues inside it is hardly a library lol

Why couldn't this startup focus on this aspect instead of making retropi interfaces?

I would not recommend Analogue at all, they deliver half baked products that fail to deliver what they promised and give non-answer when contacting support.

When they announced the NT mini noir restock, they announced it would have support for sega genesis through the jailbreak so I bought it on that basis. But when the jailbreak (which is not released directly by an "independent" party that has access to the internals and all the information needed to release them), the sega genesis support had a very weird mapping making it impossible to play most games correctly (the c button is mapped to the select button on the genesis controller from 8bitdo). Me and a few people complained to support who despite promises of looking into it did nothing at all.

If it was opensource, I could just fix it but right now I have a very expensive console that only does half of what it promised.

Indeed. The Super NT (which I own) was billed as a perfect, “reference-grade”, 100% accurate Super Nintendo clone, but it had for years - and in some cases continues to have, after many firmware updates with months of silence from the company in between - various compatibility bugs, big and small, even with hugely popular games like Chrono Trigger.

Their products are good, but not exceptional, and every other aspect of the company (ordering, shipping, support, communication) is infuriating. I suspect that they make their products in short supply more out an aim of cultivating an air of exclusivity than because of actual supply chain limitations. Describing their mediocre emulator front end as a “library of Alexandria” for scholarly video game preservation is hyperbolic to the point of being offense to the people who actually have committed themselves to game preservation. It’s ridiculous.

It is not "Library of Alexandria of video games" - I felt deceived after visiting the page. It is a Steamdeck for old games. The link should be changed especially as the HN rules suggest to edit out clickbaits, not to add them.

Compare and contrast with actual collections:

- https://archive.org/details/classicpcgames

- https://archive.org/details/softwarelibrary_msdos_games/

Wow that’s hard to read. Here’s an article about the subject: https://www.theverge.com/2021/10/16/22722412/analogue-pocket...

It's like the webpage version of the S8 GoT battle. No photons were harmed in the making of this product, cause none were involved.

Talking about “Library of Alexandria of video games”, I wonder how much video games were lost forever after Underground Gamer was shut down. Without the easy access, these games won't get as much publicity as before and crazy projects like documenting every single PC-88 game in English (kudos to Oleg) become much harder.

The damage caused by these copyright monopolists cannot be calculated. The fall of what.cd was a pretty big hit too...

It is still mystery to me that no followed in the foot steps of underground gamer to this day.

MiSTER hits a similar beat, just with less marketing.

Also way more open. MiSTer is all about openness, preservation and access to technology.

Analogue's about making money. Nothing more, nothing less.

I own a DE10-NANO, the development kit powering the MiSTER project, as well as both the Super Nt and Mega Sg.

I agree that there's a lot in common, but I think the two projects target vastly different audiences.

The MiSTER project has a broader scope, and aims to preserve legacy hardware, including games, but also older computer hardware. It's much more geared towards hobbyists or tinkerers as you'll have to buy various hardware extensions to have the right setup for the console you're actually interested in playing. That being said, the MiSTER project never aims to truly be a "replacement" for any of the consoles it supports. Things like reading the console's native media or native controllers aren't really goals of the project.

Analogue's consoles on the other hand are meant to be drop in replacements for the original hardware, just re-imagined for today. They have the original controller ports, cartridge slots, support for original expansion hardware, etc. They're highly polished, and targeted at solving a specific use-case. The biggest problem the Analogue consoles solve is hooking up to modern TVs. I see them as an alternative to purchasing a CRT, upscalers, or modding original hardware, all of which can quickly ring up a bill equal to or more expensive than one of Analogue's consoles.

for playing on the couch sure, but handheld? It’s a no go.

The text leaves a lot to be desired.

It seems to be an OS designed to interact with FPGA chips.

Whats not explained is why this is better than using other OSs for the same goal, and why this is definitively better than using software emulation (which seems fine to me as an outisder for anything ive wanted in this space).

This is the information i need to decide if it can be 'definitive' and 'conclusive' compared to other options which is their stated design goal.

'Library of alexandria' is another red herring of copy text. A library is about providing access to information, which AFAIK the data (games here) are available in lots of places already

> are available in lots of places already

The same is true about the 'Library of Alexandria'

Why call it "AnalogueOS" if it is digital?

Because Analogue is the name of the company. And they are named like this because they claim to do real execution (and not emulation) of games through FPGA chips and not through emulators.

"FPGA" (field programmable gate array) chips are still digital.

I thought that Analogue required the cartridge to play these old games?

How does that work with this concept of playlists and stuff?

They do (unless you use the jailbreak firmware for their devices, which is made by the same guy that makes the official firmware under some cockamamie plausible deniability scheme) -- but that's what makes it weird that they would emphasize this incredibly stupid playlist/library function. Since on the official firmware you'll have to swap carts anyway, what difference does it make that you have a "playlist"?

is there any indication of whether you can capture video off an analogue pocket? from what I can tell you need to buy the dock (which is out of stock) and capture hdmi?

As fas as we know, yes, you would need the dock.

Now, if you could actually get the Pocket...

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