All roads lead to China

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My Fellow Retronions

It has been a bit radio silent for a while over here at Chez SFP, so for those who want the quick-fire update and skip the entire story, check it:

  • The rough CAD designs were finished by our Serbian development team, and look good!
  • The engineer and I are working on extra features of the SFP Arcade Shield SFP
  • A new connection for case production has been established with a French-Chinese science team
  • This connection will:
    • Use a prototype, mockups and CAD design to give us a cost estimate
    • Develop soft-molding tools to produce 100 cases
    • Produce packaging with original artwork
    • Manage assembly and testing of the units (cost-permitting)

The pre-order announcement date is still not known, it will be announced when the complete per-unit cost has been estimated.

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The Life Fantastic
So, what’s been going on? I haven’t been posting a lot because my personal life has gotten very busy indeed. We got a little boy this summer named Dax and parenthood is pretty heavy. Not difficult per se, but very time-intensive. Additionally, I’ve entered the last half year of my PhD and things are speeding up – deadlines are mounting and the pressure to publish is increasing. Many of my friends have abandoned a career in academia, going into technology startups and I gotta tell you… it’s tempting. Anyway, that’s not the point; you wanna know what’s happening with the STARFORCE PI, right?!

The STARFORCE PI
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts & blogs, the difficulty lies in finding a good solution to produce 100 cases. For 1 case you can go the route of 3D-printing, for 1000+ cases you can go the route of injection molding tools intended for mass-production. Of course the first is good for prototyping, and the latter is our final goal, but in the meantime we were left finding a good solution, and this was tough.

But! We were able to find a producer in Shenzhen, China. We got in touch with a French-Chinese tech collective over there, and they were very interested!

We should be able to present some concept structure of the case design soon. In parallel, I’ve been discussing with our engineer to see if we can include some cool options discovered on arcade & engineering forums, and if these ideas can be implemented by our engineer in a cost-effective Arcade Shield PCB, we’ll have a very merry X-mas indeed. SO! We’ve been quiet, but we’ve not been sitting still – hang in there folks. Additionally, I’ve been working on a new console build after the STARFORCE NEO… it’s a good one.

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The Sega Star Drive
My latest console creation is gonna be a killer, built around my childhood console, the Sega Genesis. It’s not completely wired up yet and it still looks rough, but it should be impressive! I’ve been working on it for quite a few months, so as a teaser I’ll share the control panel. It’s made to accept pretty much every video feed, so all consoles can pretty much work on this monster system.

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Q&A
You’ve got questions? Totally understandable, drop us a line at info@starforcepi.com under the header ‘Q&A’ and I’ll be sure to get back soon. Alternatively, the blog, twitter and facebook are good options. Game On!

 

Console & Arcade Gaming!

let’s see what this baby can do… 

Now with an upgraded magnification window, making your 5″ VGA screen near 7″ of monstrous arcade gameplay! Let’s see how some of my favorite Konami, Capcom and SNK classics respond to premium Seimitsu button mashing with razersharp videoplayback!

After the top video featuring Arcade-only Games, we cover Console Gaming on the STARFORCE PI! With 23 games from different consoles that look great on the large magnified window,and work flawlessly with different controllers, in 2 player mode, and even on an HD monitor!

That’ll be the last teaser video I make on the STARFORCE PI – the next video will be on pre-ordering and producing details, so stay tuned!

Feedback Matters…

…and listening benefits us greatly!

The fresnel lens window was something that I had all but abandoned in the last SFP video, but you guys really encouraged me to find another solution, and so here we are with a really awesome huge screen, covering almost the entire window! It’s also made me revisit the Arcade Shield (the connectivity board between the RasPi and controls/power/video/etc) to jam more arcade-true features into it. A video comparing the latest SFP videoplayback and emulation with the SFNeo is on its way, but for the time being: check out the significant video playback upgrade in pictures.

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I know it’s slow-going, sorry for that, we’re all working full-time jobs and have families. We want to make sure we get all the important parts right and have very clear production agreements before we take pre-orders. This particular unit is being shipped to the production company in Serbia we’re working with for a design update and a new rough CAD design which will be used for the production estimate. Once we have this final estimate, we will calculate the per-unit production price, negotiate contracts with vendors and start the pre-order campaign.

Finding Fresnel & Tate

We’re moving into a more ambitious territory with our SFP, seeying whether we can increase the features we pack into it, without increasing the cost. Something we’re certainly pursuing is the possibility of Magnification and Tate (vertical screen orientation):

FRESNEL MAGNIFICATION

Some of the more interesting arcade cabinets had a protective window that also acted like a magnifying lens. These were Fresnel lenses, and they support a large aperture and short focal length, without having the mass and thickness of a conventional lens. It was a feature that would blow up smaller displays to an impressive size, and gave a very distinct viewing behavior. It was something present in the original version of the SFP prototype, appropriated from the original Grandstand Star Force tabletop, and it’s something we wanted to add to the SFP. The effect with the little screen is most impressive, but does cause poor viewing angles and is difficult to produce from scratch. Luckily, we have found a lens producer in China that can make these lenses from different materials, in different sizes! So we’re waiting for a few samples of different focal lengths from them to see the best fitting magnification for the SFP.

TATE MODE

A lot of the shoot’mups had vertically orientated monitors, also know as Tate in japanese. These games are generally distorted when played in conventional horizontal orientation (Yoko), so for those dedicated shmupjunkies out there, we’ve designed the internal screen mount inside the SFP in such a way that you can orientate and fix between vertical/horizontal orientation.

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These features could be considered as details, but the best arcade experience lies in recreating those details as much as possible. We hope you agree 🙂

UPDATE 22/06/2016

Looks like Magnification is back on the menu, boys! I found a very good lens grinder in China that can cut 2mm acrylic fresnel lenses to size and in volume! I’ll install one into the SFP this week and check the effects, he sent me 3 samples with different focal lengths, so now I’ll check which ones work the best and show you the result!

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New Videoscreen & Switchable Button Plates!

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Let’s Kick it into TURBO!

We’re adding a big videoscreen upgrade to the STARFORCE PI, from 4.2 inch 16:9 aspect ratio at 320×240 resolution, to a vivid 5 inch 4:3 aspect ratio screen with 640×480 resolution! Also, we’re adding  a Switchable Button Plate system so users can customize their own button configuration, supporting up to 6x Arcade Buttons. Check the video to see it in action!

I had to look all over China to find a 4:3 aspect ratio 5″ VGA screen, but finally found one manufacturer still doing these! With the increased screen size, the magnified window wasn’t really needed anymore and, eventhough it was a cool effect, it caused some pretty lousy viewing angles. It was also difficult to find a cost-effective way to produce these windows. So we changed it for a simple flat transparant window to protect the screen and keep the sunken arcade effect. It’s easily changed when damaged, and colored, tinted or even glass windows are possible.

This is also the case for the transparant plastic button plate, which will be a simple rectangle shape, allowing user to make their own version, with custom marquees beneath it.

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Pretty cool right? Give us some feedback on what you think! I know it’s still a little rough looking, but this SFP version was directed at functional upgrades more than anything, the final version will be a lot more polished.

Find more on the STARFORCE PI development on this blog, and on social media:
fb: http://www.facebook.com/starforcepi
tw: http://www.twitter.com/starforcepi

SFP pre-update

This week I’ll finish the latest and greatest iteration of the SFP, with some new changes that I want to implement in the final case design. I’ve been going back and forth with the CAD design team, and we need to simplify our needs a little to keep cost down, so we can add solid brand components. It’s gonna be spiffy, I’ll be sure to upload another video outlining the changes this weekend.

In the meanwhile, I’ve started ordering components for my next project. I won’t reveal too much, but it will blow you away, nothing like the SFP or SFNeo, built entirely around the brand that I grew up with: SEGA! Also, it’s gonna have one of THESE badboys:

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ArcadeForge SLG-in-a-Box

… you can’t tell, but that is a bad-ass, expensive piece of hardware – and I’m gonna rip it apart!