16 Oct 2012, 15:02

Playing 1980s games on your Raspberry Pi and remembering Mike Singleton


#“Playing 1980s games on your Raspberry Pi and remembering Mike Singleton”

This post was going to be just an up-to-date summary of many other articles out there on this subject. With the rapid rate of change in the RPi world, even very recent guides have proven to be unusable quite quickly.

However I’d first like to remember Mike Singleton who died last week. I didn’t know his name until today when I read this lovely piece about him. But what I did know about was Lords of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge. Those two adventure games dominated that category on the ZX Spectrum in the mid-80s. Mike was still creating new games until very recently. It’s just another reminder of how important the 1980s UK home computer scene has been to the current gaming industry. In memory of Mike, I’m playing Lords of Midnight from the start again this evening on the Raspberry Pi. RIP.

The Raspberry Pi makes a brilliant base for old-school game emulation, just as it does for XBMC. You literally just need it, a USB joystick, maybe a wireless dongle, a TV and you are in business. I’ve been very tempted to double-sided-sticky-tape one to the side of the TV without a case, it’s that small. I’m currently using an ancient 14” Philips portable CRT to get the full retro effect, including blinding flickering.

Atari 2600

OK, I have to admit my rose-tinted spectacle were on overdrive here. The Atari 2600 Pacman in my head was actually thearcadeversion. The real thing is pretty awful. This console was a bit before my time and the main thing I remember about it were the completely unusable joysticks. But if you want to re-live that horror, then it’s really very simple.

Grab all the Atari 2600 ROMs from one of many sites. They are tiny so the download takes no time at all.

Then install the Stella emulator:

sudo apt-get install stella
Then just run stella inside X Windows. More details here.

MAME Arcade

MAME seems to have been around forever. It enables you to play old arcade games on a wide variety of machines. I remember using it on my brother-in-law’s Atari 520ST in the 90s.

So it’s no surprise it works well on the Raspberry Pi. Compiling from source apparently takes forever and some of the binaries from this summer don’t work on the latest Debian release. Howeverthis latest compiled version of Advance MAME by Shea Silverman runs perfectly on the latest Debian.

Download it to your home directory, then

unzip mameBin.zip
sudo chmod 777 /dev/fb0

Put your roms into ~/mame/share/advance/rom/

cd mame/bin/

Edit the config file
nano ~/.advance/advmame.rc
to include the proper display configuration

For HDMI try:

device_video_clock 5 - 50 / 15.62 / 50 ; 5 - 50 / 15.73 / 60
For NTSC TVs try:
device_video_clock 5 - 50 / 15.73 / 60
For Composite PAL TVs:
device_video_clock 5 - 50 / 15.62 / 50 ; 5 - 50 / 15.73 / 60
Then run MAME with the name of the game e.g. pacman or zaxxon.

I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to source their own legal ROMs.

 cd mame/bin/
./advmame gamename

ZX Spectrum

Installing the Fuse emulator is now trivial to do:
sudo apt-get install fuse-emulator-common fuse-emulator-utils spectrum-roms
Then grab your favourite games from World of Spectrum and run fuse inside X Windows. More details here. And Lords of Midnight here.

There are ton of other emulators out there, at various levels of usability. Our eldest has already been asking about SNES.


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