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Raspberry Pi Handheld Gaming
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Laminar
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Oct 20, 2020, 11:51 AM
 
I'm kicking off a project here that should be pretty fun. Wife mentioned getting a Switch for the 7 year old for Christmas. Between the cost of the console (and low availability), controllers, and games, I balked pretty hard, being used to $5 Steam games.

I have a Raspberry Pi 4B lying around that I got last Christmas. I set it up as a possible car dashboard running the tuning software I use for my race car, and I also set it up with Steam Link to stream games from the basement computer, but it hadn't really found a good permanent use. I loaded up RetroPie and threw on a few games - TMNT and Kirby for SNES, Pokemon Stadium and Zelda for N64, Pokemon Emerald for GBA. Kid loved it.



So now to make it portable. I just ordered a few things:

This 5" HDMI screen with built in audio This saves me from having to buy and implement an I2S DAC and amplifier and speakers and volume buttons.

This telescopic controller. I wanted a Switch-style control setup with the screen in the middle. It's Bluetooth, but I'm hoping I can use it in a wired mode so I don't have to worry about charging and battery life. TBD on that one.

This UPS/battery board with a 10,000mAH battery pack. It handles power management and can power the Pi through the battery or directly via a charger. The big ol' battery pack should give many hours of playtime. If it turns out to be too heavy or cumbersome, I may have to downsize at the expense of a little battery life. We'll see.

All of that stuff is on the way now. Once it gets here, I'll hook it all up and see how it goes. If I like it, I'll probably design and 3D print a case to hold the display and boards. I'll need to give access to the volume buttons on the back of the screen, plus I want the power/battery LEDs visible somehow as well. Should be interesting. Figuring up startup/shutdown may also be a challenge. It's not fun for him if it doesn't work and I have to spend forever fiddling with it, so making it foolproof is always the goal.

Kid's birthday is Dec. 7th. If I don't hit that deadline, it'll be a Christmas present.
     
subego
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Oct 20, 2020, 12:10 PM
 
Awesome!

Though, in defense of the Switch, the controllers it comes with are way better than they have any right to be.
     
Laminar  (op)
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Oct 20, 2020, 12:26 PM
 
The Switch would definitely be the absolute foolproof route. This thing, just sitting on the table, managed to stop playing GBA games, so more fiddling will be required. My hope is to document my steps to fully functional and them image the SD card in its known good state. Worst case, I can just re-image a new SD card and run it. I'll just need to see what I have to do to save game data.
     
subego
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Oct 20, 2020, 12:29 PM
 
Ooooh, yeah. Losing the saves would be a huge drag.
     
andi*pandi
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Oct 20, 2020, 04:30 PM
 
That's very nifty. We have a raspberry pi sitting around somewhere.
     
subego
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Oct 20, 2020, 05:08 PM
 
Originally Posted by andi*pandi View Post
That's very nifty. We have a raspberry pi sitting around somewhere.
I got one for video playback at live shows, but then the band fell apart so I never used it.
     
reader50
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Oct 20, 2020, 06:46 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
I got one for video playback at live shows, but then the band fell apart so I never used it.
Dang. I'd wondered what happened with the dream recording studio. Did you convert it into a movie studio? Change the recording room into a green-screen room?
     
subego
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Oct 20, 2020, 07:54 PM
 
Originally Posted by reader50 View Post
Dang. I'd wondered what happened with the dream recording studio. Did you convert it into a movie studio? Change the recording room into a green-screen room?
It was in the band leader’s basement, and he sold the house. Most of the gear is storage, ready to come back out if I can get a good room for it. Right now, all the space I have available is in video production mode.
     
Jawbone54
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Oct 21, 2020, 12:31 PM
 
That's awesome. Definitely update us on further developments.

I'm planning to get a Raspberry Pi 4 for my 8-year-old. He's developed a real interest in classic games — especially the SNES era.
     
andi*pandi
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Oct 21, 2020, 12:38 PM
 
Did you find any good tutorials or instructions?
     
Laminar  (op)
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Oct 21, 2020, 04:48 PM
 
I used RetroPie, their installation instructions are easy to follow, and they have a "wizard" that basically creates the SD card image for you. The setup seems pretty smart, it can recognize my wired XBox 360 controllers and use them for setup.

https://retropie.org.uk/docs/First-Installation/
     
Laminar  (op)
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Oct 22, 2020, 08:21 AM
 
Screen came!



It has built-in standoffs to mount the Pi, it gets power and touch controls over USB and video and audio over HDMI, using printed circuit u-shaped hard adapters. And it orients the Pi with the header pins facing out so I can use other add-ons without issue. No cables required, plug and go. This was $60 vs. the cheaper 5" screens in the $30-40 price range, but they all required external power, external audio amplification, captured the header pins, or extra cables. Very happy with it.









I was able to use my existing install of RetroPie, just edited the config.txt file using the instructions included with the screen.

Controller arrives today, my friend with the 3D printer offered to dig the printer out and help.
     
andi*pandi
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Oct 22, 2020, 08:37 AM
 
cool!
     
Laminar  (op)
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Oct 23, 2020, 01:53 PM
 
Got the controller last night - it has three modes, iOS direct play, Android direct play, and something else. None of them seemed to work when I tried to control via USB directly. There are rumors about the controller being capable of USB play using an "On The Go" cable. Maybe the generic cable I used didn't qualify?

Also couldn't get it to work over bluetooth, though the controller seemed to link once and wouldn't ever enter re-pair mode, also I didn't follow any sort of instructions on pairing with the RPi, so I should probably go read about the right way to do it. Kid got out of bed and came downstairs while I was working on it, had to shove the controller up my shirt so he wouldn't see.

The only annoying part is that some of the GUI elements require a controller to move, and some require a keyboard, so I have to use both to navigate all of the menus.
     
ghporter
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Oct 24, 2020, 01:51 PM
 
I was wondering “how can you run games on a Raspberry Pi, since mine is kinda slow.” Then I looked at all the specs. I have a Pi Zero W, which has only 512M of RAM, while the 4B starts at 2Gig and goes up to 8Gig. So....

Now I want to get a 4B and see what I can do with it that is too slow on my Zero...

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
Laminar  (op)
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Oct 26, 2020, 08:54 AM
 
Fiddled around with the controller some more. I have it paired via Bluetooth and recognized as an input device, but when I try to auto configure it, it thinks that every button is Button0 and gets mad at me. I spent a lot of time messing with custom config files and the like to no avail. I may have to rethink my strategy here and go with something wired that presents itself as a natively supported controller. This may mean changing my form factor to where the screen is mounted on top of the controller. My only hesitation there is putting the weight of the screen, cpu, and battery up high would be taxing on the wrists, where the Switch-style form factor keeps everything centered. We'll see.
     
   
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