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Retro Pie + Raspberry Pi +DIY



What is “Retro Gaming”?

Commonly referred by the gaming community, ‘retro’ gaming is the love or appreciation of video games and their respective consoles more than two generations old. For example, the “16-bit” console generation of the early 90’s (like Nintendo’s Super NES) is succeeded by four video game generations; Nintendo 64 >Gamecube>Wii>Wii U making the Super NES a retro console.

Current Commercial Products

The vast majority of retro video games are out of print and no longer being published. Hardware for these game has been discontinued and left behind as they are replaced with the more powerful, updated game consoles.. This leaves the retro community with a hunger to play the classics of yesteryear and subsequently adds value and demand for games and systems no longer available in the market. The demand that cannot be met with the finite production of video games left in the market is satisfied by means of playing games on modern systems via emulation. The main video game industry (Sega, Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft) has been a late adopter of emulation as the it relies heavily on multiple factors; broadband server infrastructure, licensing, system cross-compatibility and developer royalty agreements for games no-longer in print. Not to mention studios and developers that are no longer in business.Sega and Ninendo are the bigger adopters of emulation (Vitual Console, Compilation disks) as both own their internally developed IPs.  

What is Emulation?

Emulation allows more capable processors to mimic older hardware architectures in software. Retro game consoles can be emulated in software with a substantially more powerful system than the hardware being emulated. The Raspberry Pi, is a great candidate for this task, as it’s 700MHz processor is between 40x and 700x more powerful than retro game consoles from the early 1990’s to late 1970’s. The Raspberry Pi community has made this Linux system a prime contender for emulation.

Computer Architecture

Best to get a book on this. It's a 'lengthy' topic :)

The Raspberry Pi

There are three important pieces to getting your Raspberry Pi emulating the classic games you own. These pieces are the Raspberry Pi (computer), an SD card (memory), the RetroPie Operating System, an input device (game controller) and an output device (HDMI monitor).


For the hardware, we will be using a Raspberry Pi Model B+, a single board Linux computer with a 700MHz Broadcom processor at its core. 

The Raspberry Pi features some capable hardware in a tiny package, with a tiny price to match. The 700MHz Broadcom (BCM2835 ARM) processor is a heart of the this board, paired with a capable 512MB of RAM. Connect your mouse, keyboard, monitor and SD card into your RPi (Raspberry Pi).  Your SD cards were pre-installed with RetroPie v2.3, a open-source community project of programmers and retro-gaming enthusiasts for emulating retro games on the RPi computer. You can find the download link for the current version of RetroPie at petrockblock.com.


The Image

Let’s discuss the steps for “mounting” a OS to an SD card for your Raspberry Pi.

You will need Win32DiskImager (Needed to write the EXT file format with a Windows (FAT) file system).

Once you have the imaged downloaded, unzip it. You will now have a .img file. Open Win32DiskImager.

1) Select the image (img file) you want to write to the SD card.
2) Select the device/ drive letter, (this is the USB SD card reader with SD card plugged in). Make absolutely sure this the correct drive letter. If you have an external HDD plugged in and select it accidently, all its data will be forever lost if you continue.
3) Click "Write". Unplug the device when it's complete. You now have a bootable SD card for your Raspberry Pi!

Hands On Raspberry Pi

Plug in the power to you RPi. You will see the raspberry Pi Boot into Emulationstation.

With your RPi powered on and booted, you will be prompted to configure an input device like your keyboard. Do this now. For this class we are going to use the following for navigation (you can change this at a later time):


Keyboard Key   Function

Up (Arrow)........ Up

Down (Arrow).... Down

Left (Arrow)....... Left

Right (Arrow)..... Right

Enter ..................Start/Menu

R Shift ................Select

A  ........................Accept

B ........................Back


You should be able to navigate left and right between the emulators that are shown. What you are seeing now is called a “front end” or a fancy GUI to launch the emulators pre-installed on the backbone of the operating system (Rasbian). Emulation Station simply lets the user select any emulator + game on the Pi and opens it with a clean menu selection- much easier than navigating the directories of Rasbian to launch each emulator. “Where are the other systems?” The other emulators only populate when there is a rom file in their respective folder. We will add more roms files (a.k.a. games) later.




Well, those are the basics. Check out my videos and FAQs that lead to more advanced topics. And if you want answers to all your questions, see the forums at petrockblock.com

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