Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Release blues and Quizard 1.7

Saturday I released CD-i Emulator 0.5.3-beta1. That was a big milestone for me.

The Internet didn't seem to feel that way. There was some interest but it was nothing compared to five years ago when the first version came out. Oh well...

Sunday a "disc activity" indicator was suggested by a MESS tester. It seemed cool so I added it by coloring the background of the "disc activity" textbox:

blue = reading TOC data
red = reading CD-audio data (mode 0)
yellow = reading CD-ROM data (mode 1)
green = reading CD-i data (mode 2)

I also wrote a proof-of-concept compatibility report table page for the web site so that I could view the reports entered, so far by a single user only (except myself). It needs more work, I won't tell you the URL yet :-)

A few days ago the MESS CD-i programmer requested help in figuring out why the Quizard 1.7 game didn't work and I provided some serial port help. In the process we deduced that the 1993-vintage 68070 datasheets on the Internet all have some of the UART command bits wrong. But I found a few datasheets dated April 1991 which have it right (and so does my 68070 User Manual, luckily, which is dated November 1991). With this fixed in MESS, both emulators produced the same effect: some loading activity and then remaining at a black screen.

Now, Quizard is one of those rare CD-i titles that require external hardware, in this case the so-called "CD-i Jamma" board that interfaces a CD-i player to the industry-standard (at one time) arcade enclosure interface. Bas wrote about this board in his Interactive Dreams blog here and here.

Part of the external interface is a "security" option that causes the game not to run unless the proper hardware is present, and this is what was causing Quizard to remain at a black screen.

Although it is certainly possible in principle to emulate the external board, including its security features, I was in the midst of releasing CD-i Emulator so I let it go for some time.

But today Just Deserts/Harmony/MooglyGuy (the main MESS CD-i developer) posted details about how to "patch" Quizard to avoid the security check and he also posted sufficient details to allow emulation of the arcade case buttons. So I dove in...

It took me an hour or two to create a special "quizard" device for CD-i Emulator that patches Quizard as needed and connects to the serial port to give the CD-i title the communications that it wants. For now I simply intercept PC keyboard digits 0 to 9 and pass them to Quizard as "button" information.

It works alright: Quizard plays its leader and starts "attract" mode and I can even play a game!

The following movie shows only the leader, however:

Note also the green flashing disc activity indicator!

1 comment:

  1. Just wanted to say that at least *some* of the internet is still hanging on the progress of CD-i Emu. There's a tonne of old memories for a lot of people that are simply too much trouble -- in some cases impossible -- to resurrect on a lot of old hardware, and you're the only thing standing between the resurrection of those memories and losing them forever. I for one am really grateful you're doing this.

    I can understand that you might feel a little underwhelmed by the reception of this version, but look at it from the perspective of a lot of your audience. There's been a long time between releases, and while you might have solved a lot of technical problems, most people are likely only judging it by, "does it play Burn Cycle yet?" Harsh maybe, but the way of the world, and as the old games do start lighting up you'll find people are as interested as they ever were, they've just been lurking while you weave your magic. It's all good stuff, dude -- thank you.