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Prometheus

Note: This is a write-up of a fake console, not all details will make sense in a real R&D setting.

 

What is it?

Project Prometheus is a theoretical fantasy console with no real programming or engineering knowledge behind it. It is a creativity excersice I like to indulge in once in a while because we all have fantasies and this one is mine. The entire concept of Project Prometheus is so distorted because there are so many influences always changing many of the aspects that nothing is ever concrete. This page is my attempt to finally set-in the ideas in the hopes that it brings me peace of mind.

 


 

Origins - Optional Read

Around the time I got the Nvidia Shield Portable, I was looking for an all-in-one portable emulation and gaming solution. Many of the games I played on the Shield Portable were on emulators. Mostly, I revisited my favorites such as Sled Storm and Jet Moto 2. As I played them, I tried to visualize them as remakes for the Nvidia Shield Tegra 4 hardware. When I discovered Riptide GP on the Google PlayStore, the gameplay felt similar to Sled Storm and Jet Moto 2 which only served to further fuel my wishes to see remakes or remasters of these games. Every time I would play classic games, I found myself obsessed wishing someone would remake these games with better visuals while retaining the classic feeling. There were games that came out years later which attempted to recapture the essense of some classic games such as The Mean Greens which revolved around plastic soldiers fighting for dominance of a dinner table. There was also Road Redemption that was about speeding through highways and rooftops while knocking or killing enemies using a combination of melee weapons and firearms. Both games were great and managed to satisfy my needs for a classic series being revisited.

 

Following my ventures with the Nvidia Shield Portable, I purchased a Raspberry Pi 3B+ several years later to use with my CRT for emulation. Playing games on it made me wonder if a similar low-powered PC could be retrofitted as a legitimate budget console for which people could develop or port indie games to. As I thought about it, I wondered what kind of games would be made for it and what kind of peripherals would be feasible taking into consideration that I would like this to be a budget console.

 

Recently, the MiSTer FPGA has inspired new ideas for Project Prometheus which I have implemented below. Knowing that there is a very cheap way to do actual hardware prototyping has sent me further down this rabbit hole.

 


 

Foundations/Hardware Design Stuff

“Prototyping” the overall hardware architecture is always at odds between what I want and what it is intended to be. I was initially set on Project Prometheus hardware being based on the Tegra 4 because it is very capable, even today if it were still in use. When it was announced that the Nintendo Switch would be powered by a Tegra X1 processor, it seemed exactly what I was looking for. That is, until I realized that there are still no offerings for the true old school gaming demographic, because everything currently available is tied to a DRM service and caters to modern gamers. The low price of the Raspberry Pi 3B+, native composite output, and small size convinced me that similar hardware or just the form factor will be much more viable for this fake console. It also depended on whether my dream console would require any expensive features (such as Direct Wi-Fi or USB 3.0, not to mention possibly having to pay royalties or licensing fees to use patented technologies). Essentially, this is a souped up micro PC that is comparable to the Tegra 4 APU on the for factor of a typical Raspberry Pi.

 

You might ask: If this is a fantasy console, why not just make it ultra powerful? Personally, having theoretical performance and graphical limitations really stimulates my imagination.

 

Wanting to establish the smallest possible footprint, the enclosure I visualized for Project Prometheus is something similar in dimensions to the PC Engine or even the PC Engine Mini. Since this fantasy console is primarily meant to target analog display users, I will be implementing a dedicated analog-out port which can be wired up for CVSB, S-Video, Component, and VGA. For digital display users, there will also be a digital-out port in the form of HDMI which will effectively offer dual video output. The benefit of this will allow the user to play on their analog display and capture gameplay through the digital-out, or provide a point of reference for how much lag their digital display might have. When it comes to input interfaces, I definitely want four USB ports on the front to make it neater to have four controllers connected. In the rear would be additional USB ports for auxilliary inputs like a mouse and keyboard for game development/debugging. Something that is really important to me is sound. It would be cool if it was cheap to add an FPGA that could be reconfigured to behave like any soundchip you want, but if in real life pricing it adds too much manufacturing costs, I'll settle for software implementations of popular soundchips and possibly offer an FPGA add-on. Otherwise, I would really love to make a push for OPUS being the standard audio format for games being developed on the Prometheus as it performs way better than other lossy formats while saving you tons of space. Another effort for saving space is to standardize the use of CHDs as the primary distribution format and encouraging devs to stay within the typical CD-ROM/700MB range but not exceed the DVD/4GB range for the total size of their game. I'd like for there to be at least 128GB of built-in flash memory which might not sound like a lot but that is why I wanna keep game sizes constrained. One feature I am not entire sure how I would like to approach is networking. Do I want to offer LAN or online multiplayer? or will I simply provide ethernet and Wi-Fi for acquiring/transferring games and updates?

 

Deciding if the Prometheus should employ my own controller design or allowing any DirectInput and XInput compliant USB controller to be used is tricky. If I had to use my own OEM design, it would definitely be a 6-button controller with four shoulder buttons and a dpad. The lack rumble and analog triggers would allow for a more compact controller design allowing for a sturdier build. If I had to draw inspiration, a lot of it would closely be designed to be as close as possible to Sony's PS1 SCPH-1080 controller with some elements from the Sega Genesis Arcade Pad. I'm not sure about including analog sticks in my OEM controller but if it is implemented, the face buttons would be reduced to 4 and I want to copy the Xbox Core Controller analog sticks with the symmetrical PlayStation placements and triggers as they are the most precise inputs I have ever used.

 

Given the inspirations and hardware limitations, the games I imagine being developed for the Prometheus are inspired by what wasn't fully possible on 4th and 5th gen consoles including the Dreamcast, mostly steady 60FPS at standard definition resolutions [240p/480i] with no slowdown.

 

When it comes to 2D graphics, I will push for games that might have been released on NeoGeo, CPS, and also the PC Engine and Sega Genesis.
 example:
 -Samurai Shodown V Special [NeoGeo MVS/AES]
 -Blazing Star [NeoGeo MVS/AES]
 -Progear [CPS2]
 -Dungeons & Dragons : Shadow over Mystara [CPS2]
 -Street Fighter III 3rd Strike [CPS3]
 -Soldier Blade [PC Engine]
 -Bomberman 94' [PC Engine]
 -New Adventure Island [PC Engine]
 -Contra: Hard Corps. [Sega Genesis]
 -Ranger-X [Sega Genesis]
 -MUSHA [Sega Genesis]

 

At the low-end spectrum of 3D graphics, I'd like to see games that resemble the graphics of PlayStation-based arcade hardware or Sega Model 2/2A CRX.
 example:
 -Street Fighter EX2 Plus [Capcom Sony ZN-2]
 -Fighting Layer [Namco System 12]
 -Chaos Heat [Taito G-NET System]
 -Virtua Fighter 2 [Sega Model 2A CRX]
 -Daytona USA [Sega Model 2]
 -Dynamite Cop [Sega Model 2C CRX]

 

At the high end, NAOMI and NAOMI 2 graphics are the goal here.
 example:
 -Cannon Spike [NAOMI]
 -Spawn: In The Demon's Hand [NAOMI]
 -Zombie Revenge [NAOMI]
 -Spikers Battle [NAOMI GD-ROM]
 -Virtua Fighter 4 Final Tuned [NAOMI 2]

 

These examples are just to give you an idea of the graphics I'd like to present on the Prometheus. The actual games won't exclusively cater to the arcade style game demographic. Since the Prometheus hardware is heavily inspired by the Tegra 4, the real life APU on it's own can do much better than the examples I provided. I like to believe that there should be some overhead in order to ensure that games are optimized to maintain a steady 60FPS mostly for action oriented games.

 

Here are some games that demonstrate what the real Tegra 4 is capable of:
 -DEAD TRIGGER 2
 -Zombie Driver
 -Carie Blood Mansion
 -Shadowgun [Tegra 3]

 


 

The General Idea

Project Prometheus is primarily aimed at old school gaming enthusiasts who want to see a modern platform designed specifically for 240p/480i gaming. I don't believe in using proprietary business models or including aggressive DRM, especially since this console would be extremely niche if it existed in the first place. Players will be free to use their own USB accessories on the Prometheus console as well as use Prometheus accessories on their own USB compliant devices.

 

When it comes to game distribution, the console will include a standard digital store, but I would also like for there to be a desktop manager and web-browser downloads. GOG and Itch.io have demonstrated that DRM-free releases can still be profitable. The way Bitmap Bureau and Morphcat Games handled the Xeno Crisis and Micro Mages releases, respectively, just reinforces my belief that DRM has no place in the gaming market; if you make a really good product, people are more than willing to support it.

 

Because my favorite consoles are the PC Engine and Genesis, I want to particularly cater to fans of arcade style games. Other genres, such as visual novels on PC-98, SNES RPGs, 3D action games on PS1, and so on, will undoubtedly have a place. Something else I contemplated was seeing modern indie games like Cuphead ported to the Prometheus, the Henteko Doujin catalog (Gigantic Army, WOLFLAME, Armed Seven), not to mention several games on old school consoles that were held back by hardware limitations. Commissioning games from D3 Publisher in their famous low budget style would also be awesome!

 

Top Game Ideas

 


 

Would you purchase this console if it were real? What kinds of games would you like to see developed or ported to it?

 

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