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General Discussion / Retrode - Windows Batch Launcher for Steam
« Last post by mistermorcus on 11/Dec/2019 05:23:44 AM »
This first part of the post may get a little wordy, so anyone looking for the goods should skip the first paragraph.

I had been hoping over the years someone would release something that made the Retrode into a retro game player.  The Seedi Windows beta project kind of did this but it was not compatible with the plugin adapters.  My project started out as something for myself, but I realized other people out there may want something similar.  I wanted to be able to launch the Retrode with any of my available plugins using Steam.  Additionally, I wanted to have my save files from the cartridge to automatically be loaded when I launch an emulator and sync to back to the cartridge.  My life has gotten busier with my daughter just being born, which means that I have less time to play games in my game room, so I am restricted to my living room where my PC running Steam is located and not abandon the family.  But this way, when I do have time I can just take my cartridges and still play them on my consoles, which saves a lot of time when it just works.

First things first:  If you choose to try and make any of these scripts work, please know that I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR LOST DATA.  I would strongly recommend making a backup of anything you decide to test with prior to using any of the scripts here.

It is also important to know that you will have to modify these scripts to work with your setup, I would not consider this a project for a novice. Additionally you will also have to setup the emulators and folder structures on your system.  I tried to simplify it as much as I could but hopefully someone smarter than me could come along with a better solution than my scripts!!

I know most people may not have a use for this since a lot of people are using a Raspberry Pi or something similar to launch emulators these days, but I still use a Windows PC and have more experience scripting as a Windows user.  The batch file that I have attached is written using basic Windows batch file commands that I have gathered from various places. I am definitely not an expert but I was able to cobble this all together to make it work for my situation.

I have modified this a few times but I will describe the general work flow of what this batch file does.

1.   Determines the Drive Letter of the Retrode by the volume name
   a.   This is important because I would not want to check for random drive letters and work in the wrong directories.

2.   Make a New Permanent Save backup with timestamp every time the Retrode is launched.
   a.   This may make your Save directory that you choose a little cluttered, but I decided that making extra copies of precious save data was more important in this case.

3.   Make a Permanent backup of the Rom if it does not already exist

4.   Launch Emulator for the given Rom extension
   a.   This version of my script does not handle Turbografx titles since I do not have a plugin for it, but you could easily add it. I just have not tested it in Mednafen.

5.   Mednafen
   a.   I have two instances on my personal setup for Mednafen since I wanted to have a version that saved the save files to the Retrode, and a version that did not. The reason I needed this was because the Retrode does not currently transfer the saves for GBA games.  In this case I wanted to be able to launch and play GBA games and save the game locally on my PC.  The other plugins will launch and handle the saves just fine, however you have to modify the config file in mednafen to save the SRM file in the same directory as the launched rom file.
   b.   Something else to note, is that when I am done playing a game, I save yet another SRM backup to the save directory. I do this for two reasons
     i.   I want to make sure I have my latest save file backed up
     ii.   If I decided I wanted to play this off of my cartridge, I have a save file to use for it. This save file is in the Save directory and does not have a timestamp on it.

6.   N64 Save Handling
   a.   This is the most complicated aspect of this. The other save files are natively supported in a given format in Mednafen, but that is not the case for the N64!! For Mempack and EEP save files no conversion is necessary, however due to the way Mempack files are available in the Retrode and the way that emulators use them, I have to account for the file names and handle them differently.  SRA and FLA files have to be save swapped in order to use them in an emulator.  The process involves copying the file to your local save directory, save swapping them and then renaming them.
   b.   The other aspect to this was that I needed to find an N64 emulator with high enough compatibility to make this worthwhile, and to also be able to accept command line arguments.  I found the last free version of Mupen64Plus-GUI which has worked really well for me.  The issue however is that the save files that it outputs use the standard Rom naming conventions.  Fortunately this can be overwritten in the ini file.  Provided that you know what all of the Rom names are for a given N64 game, you can change each rom version in the INI file to use your save file name which makes this process much easier.  It would be nice if we had a full list of these filenames that the Retrode produces, but I am not aware of one.
   c.   Since we have to copy the save file to the PC to work in the emaultor, we have to find the most recent save file modified by the emulator.  If however that save file is a mempack file, I found that Mupen64plus-gui saves it as a 128kb file, which will not fit on the retrode. In this case I use a program called Trunc.exe to chop the file down at exactly 32kb which theoretically was just empty space.  If it was an fla or sra file we have to save swap it yet again.  Then the files get copied back to the Retrode.

I converted this batch file to an exe with a Bat to Exe converter and launch it through Steam.  If you use Mednafen the way I do, then I would recommend using a gamepad in Steam to set your controls, since it binds keys to the device that you use making it more difficult to swap controllers. If you use a Steam profile then you can swap gamepads on the fly.  It is also helpful to have a separate profile in the Mupen64Plus-GUI this way since it natively only has support for one profile, and I like to have separate profiles for FPS games. 

I attached my batch file as a txt file just in case antivirus tried to quarantine it, so just rename the extension back to .bat.  I am not sure what the rules are on providing any of the tools or emulators that I am using. They are all free versions so I might be able to link to them if permitted. The saveswap is a python program recommended in another post here in the N64 save topic. Trunc is a program that at this point am not sure where I found it.

I realize this isn’t a full guide since it requires you to learn and setup the command line emulators yourself, but I can hopefully answer some of those questions if this post actually generates any interest.  Just wanting to share something back to the community and would like to see more projects like this in the future.

*EDIT* By happenstance I just tried to launch an n64 game and realized it did not work, but still copied a blank file as a permanent save backup. I have fixed this in the updated version to check for a valid rom extension otherwise it will now exit.  In my case it failed because I had recently updated my Retrode firmware and the file extension changed to the .v64 format and I was using .n64.  This issue would also have happened if the retrode was unable to read your cartridge.
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Support / Re: N64 with SRAM lose save files after disconnecting.
« Last post by BKong on 05/Dec/2019 07:59:06 PM »
Lost SRAM save data is usually due to old (weak) batteries. The low battery voltage will cause problems even if the battery isn't completely dead.

Do the problem carts still have the original battery?

Yes. Didn't really occur to me that the batteries could be weak enough to cause problems but still strong enough to hold a save in normal situations. Looks like it's time to learn how to solder.

Thank you for the reply.
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Support / Re: Help with N64 roms
« Last post by ssokolow on 05/Dec/2019 04:28:37 PM »
I just used the Retrode to back up my N64 games and am having issues with 2 ROMS.

Destruction Derby 64 which essentially crashes Project64 and Virtual Pro Wrestling 64 which seems to load up (audio) but Project64 stays black screen.

Any ideas on how to solve these issues?

Always check your ROM dumps against the hashes on DAT-o-MATIC. The Retrode isn't capable of doing its own verification that data was read correctly, so it won't warn you if dirty contacts on your cartridges resulted in a bad dump.

(And, because it reads them more quickly than a real game console, it's more sensitive to dirty contacts causing noisy connections.)

Once you've checked them against the hashes, you'll know whether the problem is the ROM or the emulator.
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Support / Re: Can't eject Retrode from PC (Windows 7)
« Last post by ssokolow on 05/Dec/2019 04:24:20 PM »
Whenever I finish using my Retrode I try to eject it (just like any other USB device) using either the USB icon by the Windows clock or by right-clicking the mapped unit and selecting "Eject", however, it fails anyway. "Error ejecting RETRODE (E)" is shown.

Is that normal? I'm making sure the led is not blinking when I pull the cable but it feels unsafe doing that nonetheless, I'm afraid I could corrupt something.

Sorry I took so long to respond to this. I saw your post just as I was preparing for bed and then the open tab got lost under a pile of others before I got to it.

To answer your question, it should be normal. The same thing happens on Linux for me. Try using "Safely Remove" and see if that works differently.

(On Linux, "Safely Remove" is accomplished by "unmounting" a filesystem while "Ejecting" is unmounting and then asking the device to eject the tray/media. The Retrode firmware has a bug in how it announces itself to the OS, so it claims to be ejectable but then returns an error when the OS asks it to eject.)
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General Discussion / Re: PC Engine/Turbografx plug in?
« Last post by Retrofan on 27/Nov/2019 02:34:57 PM »
Regarding the Tennokoe Bank's SRAM, Chris Covell mentioned the following on the PC Engine forums:
Quote
Here's the Tennokoe Bank SRAM reading method, by the way:

Write #$68 to $0000 in bank $68. Then write 0 to $0000 in bank $78, then write #$73 to $0000 in bank $78 three times.
You can now map in bank $40 into, eg. $8000 and read up to $9FFF.

I hope this helps if there's an intention to make the SRAM readable/writeable with the Retrode with future firmware revisions. To those who don't know, the Tennokoe Bank card acts as a long-term backup method for savegames stored on the CD-ROM² system's and PC Engine Duo's internal SRAM. Since the system's SRAM is short-term capacitor backed and the Tennokoe bank card's SRAM is battery backed, they will only last for a certain time period. It could be handy to transfer savegames from the card to the PC and vice versa.
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Support / Re: N64 with SRAM lose save files after disconnecting.
« Last post by skaman on 26/Nov/2019 09:57:20 PM »
N64 save support has been tested by a lot of people.

Lost SRAM save data is usually due to old (weak) batteries. The low battery voltage will cause problems even if the battery isn't completely dead.

Do the problem carts still have the original battery?

If yes, then I'd dump the SRAM as soon as possible before the data is gone.  Replace the battery and write the save file back to the cart.

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General Discussion / Re: PC Engine/Turbografx plug in?
« Last post by Retrofan on 26/Nov/2019 08:18:14 PM »
I did the upgrade to Retrode firmware v0.26a beta today, and guess what: It werkz!







The Retrode also recognizes the Low Cost Flash HuCard by gamingenterprisesinc.com:
http://www.gamingenterprisesinc.com/Flash_HuCard/

I also tried the Tennokoe Bank card. The ROM can be dumped, though there's no access to its SRAM.
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General Discussion / Re: Game Gear SMS Plugin Question
« Last post by blue22 on 25/Nov/2019 05:23:36 PM »
I'd like to vote for this, too! Like the PC Engine/TG16 dumper, I'd pay about $29.99 for it!
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General Discussion / Re: PC Engine/Turbografx plug in?
« Last post by blue22 on 25/Nov/2019 05:20:16 PM »
If you did a small scale production on these (like the kazzo dumper) I would buy one!!!!!


I'd pay about $29.99 to $39.99 for it! So get to producing it (pretty please)!!!!!
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General Discussion / Re: PC Engine/Turbografx plug in?
« Last post by Retrofan on 24/Nov/2019 08:54:59 PM »
I had a nice chat with skaman via PM and decided to go for ordering his PCB as well as the Tototek HuCard slot - trying to mate them at my own risk.





Skaman's PCB as it arrived.



The Tototek Hucard slot.


Top


Underside. The mounting pins are in a different alignment than the original HuCard slot. No suprise here, since the Tototek slot is meant for use with their own dumper PCB.



Side view at the mounting pins. These do not carry any electrical connection to the HuCard interface pins.



I had to drill skaman's PCB to clear the Tototek slot mounting pins. Then I scraped the solder mask from the surface surrounding the pin holes to uncover the copper underneath. I mounted the slot onto the PCB and distributed a generous amount of solder to the mounting pins. Since the copper forms a large heat sink connected to the ground pin, having a soldering station with high thermal capacity and an extra wide tip in the handpiece helps a lot. I went for a Weller WS-81 with a WSP 80 handpiece.




Then I soldered the rest of the interface pins and tested them against the PCB's pins usind a DMM. Some pins are assigned in a different way than found in AaronE's wiring schematic:
https://www.retrode.org/plug-in-adapters/   




Blazing Lazers HuCard test-fit






And there you have it, the HuCard plugin adaptor for the Retrode. Merrily dumping your HuCard ROMs to any device you'd like to by USB mass storage protocol. Make sure to put the whole adapter thing with the HuCard slot facing to the Retrode's backside in the SNES slot, and set the voltage switch to 5 V. Also, upgrade the Retrode's firmware to at least v0.26a - I didn't do it yet, d'oh! Too bad FLIP refuses to do the upgrade on Windows 10, so I need to make up for it tomorrow at a Windows 7 machine at work.

Modifying a stock SNES cart shell to hold the plugin adaptor is on my to do list as well.
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