Presenting The Ultimate Emulation System – The RetroPie!

Salutations! Welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee!

Today, we’ll be talking about a wild addition to my gaming repertoire; the RetroPie! I’ll also mention the controllers that I’ve equipped onto this versatile, little system. So, without further ado, let’s begin.


What is a RetroPie?

RetroPie is an OS that can be loaded onto a Raspberry Pi – basically an inexpensive microcomputer – and transforms it into a retro gaming emulation machine! RetroPie can be loaded as its own OS or it can be overlaid on top of an existing full OS. In my case, I loaded it up on a Raspberry Pi.

20180429_105010

To put one of these bad boys together, you’ll need the following:

  • A working computer to download the software, games, and the like.
  • A Raspberry Pi 3 (Model B or higher is recommended)
  • A power source for the Pi (must be rated at 2.5 amps)
  • a Micro SD card (16 GB minimum, but I use a 32 GB card)
  • A USB-capable controller or keyboard
  • A 16 GB minimum USB stick (I recommend getting a fresh stick, but reformatting an old one works too)
  • A Micro SD to USB adapter
  • An HDMI Cable
  • A HDMI compatible screen
  • A case (completely optional, but good to have nevertheless)

Installing RetroPie on the Pi computer is not too difficult to do – just follow the steps listed here.

Pro tip: once the software is written onto the MicroSD card, your computer may tell you that it can’t read the device and will recommend to format it. DO NOT FORMAT IT! Just remove it once the writing process is complete and insert the SD card into the Pi. This happened to me a couple of times until I figured that out.


What Games Does RetroPie Play?

In a nutshell, practically all generations of consoles and games up to and including the original PlayStation. There are emulators that can play beyond that system, but the Pi isn’t powerful enough for them to work properly.

In general, a majority of games are compatible with the emulators on the system. In other words, I’ve yet to find a game that doesn’t play perfectly on here.

There are also some homebrew games and ports available to play, such as Duke Nukem and Doom. These can be found through the Manage Packages option on the main RetroPie menu.

Getting the games into the Pi is as simple as inserting a fresh/formatted USB stick into the Pi and taking it out after it creates all the directories on the stick, which usually takes a few minutes. Next you insert the stick into a computer, copy your games into the respective console folders and put the stick back into the Pi. If all goes well, you should see a list of systems appear on the main menu of the RetroPie interface, which will contain the games.

Options and RetroArch

Once you launch a game, you can access a list of options that allow you to modify the screen resolution to fit your screen or change the default emulator for the game, among others. This is done by pressing any button before the emulator starts.

RetroArch is a front end that’s accessed while the emulator is running and provides options to save and load states, modify control configurations and adjust settings. The default command to access this menu (assuming you’re using an SNES controller) is Select + X.


What about Controllers?

Thanks to the Pi’s Bluetooth capabilities, you can easily use wireless controllers to play your favourite classic games! While you can connect PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and Xbox controllers to the system, I find that the perfect controllers to use are the ones by 8bitdo.

I have the SNES30 (or the SN30) Bluetooth controller and it’s a BLAST to use! The controller feels exactly like the Super Nintendo controller, down to its weight, the feel of the buttons and grip.

20180429_105018

The setup is a bit of a chore, but once it’s all done, you just turn on the system and the controller and you’re good to go!

If wired is what you’re looking for, you can use a USB wired controller or, if you have some classic controllers lying around, a USB to (insert console here) converter also works great!


Where Can I Get All This Stuff!?

Luckily, you can get a complete Raspberry Pi kit on Amazon for a relatively modest price. Either check Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

As for the case, there are plenty to choose from! There are even some cases that look like classic consoles of yore! The one I used is this one – the transparent, seven-layer construction is stylish, it comes with plenty of heat sinks and it has a fan that you can connect to the Pi’s GPIO board to keep the unit cool. It’s very useful!

Amazon also has a plethora of controller options available. You can also find wireless controllers, including the popular 8bitdo controllers, at any electronic big-box store or gaming stores, like Best Buy (CA) or GameStop/EB Games for example.

As for games, well emulation is still a very gray area in legal terms. I won’t tell you where you where explicitly you can find any, but Google is your best friend in that regard.


So, there you have it. All the tools you need to build your very own retro arcade system! Whether you’re looking to play the finest offerings of retro gaming for the first time or the millionth time, the RetroPie is probably the best option available, in my opinion.

With another edition concluded, this has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, off to play some Mega Man X on my own RetroPie setup and reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

The Games with Coffee Guide to Last-minute Christmas Shopping!

Another day, another edition of “Games with Coffee,” and what a great edition it will be! As of today, Christmas is a little less than a week away: are you ready for it? Or have you run right out of ideas for what to get for your favourite gamer? Or perhaps you’ve put Christmas shopping to the very last minute and don’t know where to start?

Well, God rest thee merry gentlepeople, because I got you covered! Below are a few ideas that you can either quickly run to the store and pick up, if you’re up north here in good ‘ole Canada, or order online: chances are, you’ll be able to get all of the below by Christmas (barring a few additional charges for expedited shipping). I’ll have plenty of links available to access, so no worries. So, keep that itchy trigger finger ready on your mouse and let’s make some magic happen!


Game Ideas

Well besides the obvious items on a gamer’s Christmas list (new systems, latest popular games, everything Nintendo, etc.), here’s an idea for you: how about trying something a little outside of the norm?

Stardew Valley, Axiom Verge, Cave Story+ and Shovel Knight are excellent choices to buy: all four are great games with retro-inspired graphics, poignant storylines, excellent controls and are available on all current generation systems, with the exception of Cave Story+. Check below on where you can find these games:

Stardew Valley:

Shovel Knight:

Axiom Verge:

Cave Story+


Gaming Apparel and Accessories

Graphic T-shirts: for the individual who loves to show off what they love.

Who among us used to hate getting clothes for Christmas? Well, with these selection of men’s, women’s and kid’s game culture T-shirts, your favourite person will hate you a little less this year.*

*Results may vary.

Men’s T-shirts:

Women’s T-shirts:

Kid’s T-shirts:

Ugly Sweaters: for the gamer who wants to rock this year’s Christmas party.

Ugly Sweaters are all the rage these days! Why not get something that reflects your favourite person’s gaming passion? Whether it’s Mario, Sonic or any of gaming’s famous faces, you’ll definitely have some heads turning at your next Christmas gathering! Here’s a few examples:

Satchels, Bags, Cardigans and Scarves: for the lady with a love for fashion and a passion for gaming.

If you’re looking for a great gift for an even greater gal in your life that enjoys gaming, check out these choice selections from EB Games (Canada) and ThinkGeek (everywhere else):

These aren’t limited to just gift-giving alone; ladies, in the words of an almighty master: Treat yo’ selves!


Toys and Games

Nerf Rival Guns: for the individuals who dreams of LARPing a Call of Duty scenario with their good friends.

With a variety of guns available, free-for-alls have never been so much fun! There are plenty of guns available, bit my personal favourite is the Artemis – a shotgun. Check em out!

Funko Pop’s, Nendoroids and Amiibo figures: for the consummate collector.

It figures that figures would be a great gift to give! From the highly collectible Funko Pop’s, to the picture perfect and adorable Nendoroids, to Amiibos that combine collectibility with function, there are plenty of options available! Now, there are too many for me to link, but check the stores; there’s bound to be plenty available!

Board Games: for those looking to game offscreen.

Want to bring the family together without resorting to playing Mario Kart? How about a few board games? Some of gaming’s biggest names have been associated with board game classics, like “The Legend of Zelda” Monopoly and Clue. Others, like Mega Man, have their own board games and there are even some video game inspired tabletop and card games, like Boss Monster. Finally, games like Settlers of Catan are a perfect gift for those who enjoy games like Civilization.

MegaConstrux Pokemon: for the kid or kid at heart.

If you’re kid’s like any other kid, they have vivid imaginations, a desire to build anything their minds can conjure up and a love for all things Pokemon. How do you combine the three? Easy: get them a Pokemon they can build themselves! MegaConstrux has several Pokemon related figures kids will go nuts over, especially Charizard and Gyarados! Heck, I’m a grown man and I want those for myself!

A Raspberry Pi, a Pi Case and the SNES30 Bluetooth Controller: for those who enjoy retro gaming as much as they love building things from scratch.

Ah, the good ol’ Raspberry Pi, giving you the ability to access all the games you used to play as a kid in a device the side of a credit card. If you got a tinkerer on your list who also loves dropping rounds of Super Street Fighter II Turbo on the SNES, then this one’s for you!

For gift ideas, I would go with the CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 kit, available on Amazon; it has everything one would need to get started. Alternatively, if you have time and resources to spare, you can buy the board, a case and an SD card and really personalize it for the recipient. I highly recommend the Smraza case, again from Amazon: it’s a case divided into seven layers that comes with two heat sinks, a fan to plug into the GPIO on the Pi and a power supply with an on/off button! It’s a great little package!

But you can’t just the Pi and not get controllers? PS4 and Xbox One controllers work with Retropie, but if you want to give that real old-school feel, I recommend the 8bitdo SNES30 Bluetooth Controller. Easy to set up and use, this is the controller of choice to delve into old-school gaming! Here’s where you can find it:


Stocking Stuffers and Other Small Gifts

Books: for those who appreciate a great story on and off screen.

This might sound odd, but books are an awesome gift to give. I say this because some of the best presents I got, besides video games, were books. I’ve gushed many times about the Mistborn series, it’s perfect for those who are obsessed with RPG’s, magic systems and a deep, immersive world full of lore and legend.

Another book I recommend is Red Rising, a science fiction/fantasy set on a colonized Mars. This might sound a bit spoilerish, but I feel that the story is somewhat analogous to God of War, with Kratos’ struggles for revenge, mixed in with undertones of power and politics a la Games of Thrones. My description doesn’t really do it justice, but fans of the God of War series may enjoy it.

Finally, Ready Player One is the perfect book to give a gamer, either young or old. The younger generation will appreciate the plucky protagonist’s journey from rags to riches, while the older ones from the late 80’s and below will fall in love with the heavy retro gaming and pop culture influences that are scattered throughout the book.

Gaming Ornaments: for those who want to combine Christmas with Gaming.

Ornaments make for great stocking stuffers! Check out a few here:

Journals and Notebooks: for those who want to write the story to the next big blockbuster game.

I got this Legend of Zelda journal as a present from my wife and I’ve yet to stop writing in it. In fact, I picked up a second one for my birthday this year. There are plenty of others available, check out below:

Gift Cards: for when you’re truly stuck on what to buy this year.

If all else fails, there’s nothing wrong with giving a PSN, Xbox Live or Nintendo e-Shop gift card. Unlike most other gift cards, the receiver will definitely appreciate it. Bonus if you get them a year-long subscription to PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold: you’ll be appreciated all year round!

If they’re a mobile game lover, an iTunes or Google Play gift card will also go a long way!

Coffee Mugs: for those who literally want to have their Games with Coffee.*

Didja see what I did there? Didja? Eh, I digress, coffee mugs make for excellent stocking stuffers: they’re statement pieces tailored to that person’s particularly favourite game or series and they can drink coffee out of it! Win-win. Here’s some examples:


And that’s that! Hope this helps with your last minute shopping. Today (at least up here in Canada) is the last day you can order online for it to reach before Christmas! (Additional shipping charges will be required…). So get cracking!

As for the next edition, I’ll catch up with you all near the end of the year, where I’ll talk about my Quest status in “The Year In Review.” Of course, I’ll be working on a few Espresso Shot Reviews, which will come in the new year, along with something else. What that is, you’ll have to stay tuned to find out!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and hoping you’re spending equal time with loved ones and cherished games this holiday season, this is Ryan from “Games with Coffee”, reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing.

The Hcman Gaming Keyboard: An Inexpensively Reliable Mechanical Keyboard!

Hey everyone, welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” Continuing where I left off with the G502 Proteus Spectrum Mouse, I’d like to talk about my next acquisition: a mechanical gaming keyboard! This thing ain’t no Razer, or a Logitech Gaming Keyboard by any means, but it lights up, has that special, clicky mechanical feel, has various configuration options and all for a fraction of the price of the more high end keyboards available! This is the Hcman (HOW do you pronounce that?!) Mechanical Gaming Keyboard!

20171028_170554


Backstory

I have an ASUS Transformer laptop. It was the perfect unit to type stories and blog posts on due to it being compact, lightweight and easy to use. Well, it used to be perfect because only a few months ago, my keyboard dock started to fritz out on me and I lost the ability to type the ‘C’ and ‘S’ keys! I looked up solutions, applied BIOS updates and generally mashed the keys to force it to work once more, but it was no use: the keys were toast and are currently not working at all. So I had to find a new solution.

I first tried a wireless keyboard with a USB input. Things were going good for the first month until it ultimately crapped out on me. Anything I connected the USB reciever into – laptop, Raspberry Pi, etc. – the device couldn’t recognize the keyboard, so it became a useless paperweight that I bought for about $20…

Learning from my mistake, I decided to get a gaming keyboard with mechanical switches. They’re durable, the back light makes it easy to work in the dark and the clicking sounds they make were oddly satisfying to me. I didn’t have the scratch to plonk down for a high end keyboard, but I also didn’t want to cheap out either. After doing my research on Amazon, I settled on the Hcman keyboard, which (and I may be biased here) was an amazing purchase!


The Keyboard

For a roughly $40 keyboard, the quality is not that bad. The top has a sandblasted aluminum finish, with the company’s logo milled onto the surface between the arrow and page up/down key areas. It gives it a nice, upscale look. The bottom is plastic with rubber pads on the corners to keep it from moving when on a surface. r Each row has its own coloured back light; from top to bottom, orange, white, green, violet, blue and red.

20171216_104415_HDR

Look at those colours!

The keyboard actually quite compact: measuring in at about 14″ long by 5″ wide (355 mm x 127 mm for the metric folks). There’s no number pad on this board, hence why it’s smaller in size compared to other keyboards. There are a total of 87 keys on the board.

They keyboard has an anti-ghosting or NKRO (N-key rollover) feature, which allows a user to press multiple keys at once; perfect for gamers who need to press multiple keys to accomplish various actions.

The keys have a nice, clicky feel to them and look extremely durable. They’re a bit noisy, but I feel in a state of zen whenever I type on it. The noise, however, may annoy others around you; My wife hates whenever I use it and she complains that it’s always too loud.

The keycaps can be replaced, thanks to the included key removal tool, so it’s easy to customize the keyboard to however you like.

20171028_170806

I think the coolest part about this keyboard is the multiple lighting effects! There are nine in total, including pulsating, wave, scrolling and ripple, among others. Another neat feature included on the board is the capability to customize your key back lights for various games! There’s a built in RTS (real time strategy) and FPS (first person shooter) configuration, which lights up only the keys that you would use for those games, but there are three additional profiles that can be reprogrammed to suit your specific game. For instance, I have one specifically tailored to Path of Exile and another for emulation. Customizing the board is extremely simple; select the empty profile by hitting FN + 1, 2 or 3, hit FN +Esc to start recording, type the keys that you use for the game you’re playing and then hit FN + Esc to end the recording and save it to the board!

Performance-wise, I’m very pleased with it. The keys are very responsive and connecting it to my laptop was incredibly easy; just plug in the braided USB cable and you’re set!   I’ve put it through its paces by writing posts and my fanfic and I’ve had no problems doing either. If you’re a writer or enjoy writing, I recommend that you pick up a mechanical keyboard over all others. There’s even a back light setting specifically tailored for the office. It doesn’t do anything for the noise however…

I think the only complaint I have about this keyboard is how people complain how noisy it is. I love the sounds myself, but again, the noise may drive others crazy… Others may not like the fact that the number pad is not included with the unit, but I personally don’t miss it.


Right now, you can pick it up on Amazon for $39.99 CAD with free shipping, which I think is a great price for a mechanical gaming keyboard. If you’re looking for a great gift this Christmas, either for your favourite mature, distinguished gamer, or for yourself (because you gotta treat yourself at times!), I highly recommend this.

Stay tuned for the next edition coming very soon: Christmas is next week and if you’re looking for some last minute gaming gift ideas for your favourite person, then I have a few ideas for you!

Once again, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing. See you next time!

 

The Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum: Great for Gaming and For the Consummate Professional!

Good day and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” Holiday season is upon us, so now’s the time to finalize your Christmas shopping! However, if you’re looking for a gift that your special someone can use both for the gaming and professional worlds, then look no further than the Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum RGB Tunable Mouse!

20171028_162348_HDR.jpg

I got this mouse when I started my last position as a mechanical engineering designer, and it was perfect for the job! With incredible tracking accuracy thanks to its advanced optic sensors, the G502 is extremely precise, whether you’re battling for online supremacy, or using computer aided design (CAD) software to create world changing designs or products.

The mouse can be calibrated for multiple surfaces and has the option of setting up to five different DPI settings, from the lowest, where the pointer moves like a snail, to the highest where it moves quickly across screens with but the lightest of touches. This fast movement is great for project managers, engineers or architects who read large Gantt charts, schedules, drawings and project spreadsheets.

The G502 has a great, molded ergonomic feel to it and feels comfortable in my right hand. It comes with six 3.6g metal weights that can be installed on the bottom of the mouse (just remove the bottom plate) to adjust the weight to your needs.

20171028_162726.jpg

The G502 has eleven keys that can be programmed with custom command macros, like setting the DPI or CTRL-C, or keystrokes in a specific sequence. This is highly useful for when you want to use common keyboard shortcuts or commands in programs like AutoCAD with one hand, which can really help improve efficiency at work. Additionally, if you program one of the keys as a G-Shift, you increase the amount of programmable keys to almost double! This is because when you hold down the G-Shift key and press another key on the mouse, it executes a different macro or command. It’s an extremely useful function.

The scroll wheel also has multiple speeds: a toggle switch on top of the mouse allows for speedy or precise scrolling. Great for when you need to scroll through maps or online documents.

In order to program the mouse, you’ll need the Logitech Gaming Software. It’s an easy to use tool that helps with setting surface calibration, DPI settings, key command allocation and even RGB colour options. The logo and DPI setting indicator can change colour depending on the settings, which is really cool! The mouse holds up to three different profiles which is great if you play different types of games, or if you used a variety of programs for work purposes.

The G502 Proteus Spectrum Mouse is available for purchase through the Logitech website. It’s currently selling for $119.99 with free shipping. So if you’re thinking of getting a gaming mouse, whether for work or play, this is the one I recommend the most!


Stay tuned, because tomorrow, I’ll be talking about an inexpensive mechanical keyboard that I recently picked up and fell in love with! It’s a great gift to give to your favourite mature, distinguished gamer for Christmas! And speaking of the holidays, I’ll be sharing a few gaming-themed ideas that I’m sure will level up your gift-giving game! Keep an eye out for it!

Once again, this has been Ryan from “Games with Coffee,” reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!