M Series project - March Update
It’s been a while since the last update on the M Series program, and we’ve made significant progress on development, so we’d like to share what we've been working on with you.
Firstly, deep testing with the Raspberry Pi 2 platform has really cemented that it is the correct choice; we’ve tested and found more than 20 emulators that deliver a great experience and we will support by default. Among this set are a good spread of systems, from the 1970s till the 1990s, including both classic computers and consoles. It is a proverbial museum of video game history on your desktop. We believe we will ship one of the best bang-for-buck retro gaming machines.
Much to our surprise on February 29 the Raspberry Pi foundation announced availability of the Raspberry Pi 3, which adds some great features that have us very excited: onboard WiFi and Bluetooth; but best of all a 20% increase in CPU performance which will open up additional emulators that ran just a bit too slow on the RPi2. We have gotten a couple of RPi3 boards in the lab and are testing everything from emulator compatitibillity, to power draw, to heat output, to boot times. The preliminary results are very promising, although we have to make some changes to accomodate the new machine - overall it’s small changes for big benefits. We are extremely excited - It’s not often you see such performance gains for almost no extra cost.
One area we’ve been putting a lot of time into is controllers. In the last update we said that the system would allow you to use USB based controllers out of the box; but we wanted to find a really great wireless controller solution. After significant testing and tweaking we’ve cleared the Xbox 360 controller for use. All you need to do is plug in a third-party USB receiver for the Xbox 360 controller (such as the ZettaGuard) into the M with the power off, then power up the console and it just works! We had previously wanted to also clear the PlayStation 3 controller, but the lack of Bluetooth blocked that effort. However, with RPi3 we are going to reopen that investigation – wish us luck!
Previously we had shared that the M series is a modular concept that consists of a computing core which you could attach to several Sleeves, such as desktop arcade, traditional TV side console, portable, etc. to fit your gaming needs and control how much you spend on the system. This modularity required a lot of thought on the industrial design aspects of the program, so a lot of our time has been spent on physical and structural design. After thinking through dozens of concepts, we have locked on the design for the central compute housing (which we call the M0 core). It is an asymmetrically partitioned disk, which will attach to the Sleeve through an off-center transverse axis. Although we selected the shape for largely practical reasons (such as space and material conservation), we love the extremely unusual and yet retro science fiction look that it gives the machine. The M0 core will ship with a console Sleeve that will stand the M0 core vertically for use next to your TV. We’ve gone for a minimalist, industrial feel for that Sleeve, to accentuate the arcing lines of the M0 core and make a true conversation piece for your game room. We will share some other Sleeve ideas as time goes on, starting with a desktop arcade Sleeve inspired by our G series.
We are currently targeting the Seattle Retro Gaming Expo 2016 for the first public showing of the M series. We hope you’ll be able to join us to have a look at the internals and try the machine hands on. As with our G series, each M machine will be hand-built and tested in our garage in Bellevue, Washington.