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Why the love for Retropie?

by casterofdreams Thu Sep 06, 2018 7:24 am

Hi folks,

I was having a conversation with a buddy of mine who shares a passion for retro gaming and we got into bit of a debate as to why a Retropie setup is preferred as a gaming machine.

He eluded to lower cost, pride of building something (if you don’t buy a prebuilt one), flexibility, and so on.

The thing is, I don’t buy it. I have an Nvidia Shield TV. That’s what I use for my retro gaming goodness. I have it paired with Retroarch, Dolphin, and PPSSPP. With its processor, I can play up to GameCube with the system outputting to 1080p. It has ports of 7th generation games from an official marketplace. I have a 1TB HDD attached and I have access to a crap ton of controller options. Yes it costs more money to setup but I get so much more.

I’m no Retropie expert so I’ll ask the community: what makes the Retropie seem more popular?
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Re: Why the love for Retropie?

by Flake Thu Sep 06, 2018 9:15 am

Coincidentally, I just fired up my Retropie for the first time in a while last night to play some SNK Gals Fighters on a big screen TV.

Two factors - cost and ease of use. A decent raspberry pi plus enclosure and memory can be purchased in kit form for less than $50.

Ease of use - retropie is actually an OS that sits on top of the raspberry pi hardware. The entire thing is installed on a small memory card allowing you to instantly convert the raspberry pi into a different configuration or use by just popping a micro sd card in and out. Retropie actually uses all of the emulation software you referenced but has a really nice and functional front end via emulation station.

The one that I have is a few years old now and I set it up back when I knew next to nothing about Linux - it does HDMI out, has enough horsepower to run PSX and PSP games with no hitching or slowdown and supports 1st party licensed or branded controllers and arcade sticks. Mine is a little box, roughly 3 inches x 4 inches x 2 inches that can turn any TV in my house into an X-Men vs Street Fighter machine with the flip of a switch.
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Re: Why the love for Retropie?

by fastbilly1 Thu Sep 06, 2018 10:04 am

It is the current equivalent to setting up Mame in the early 2000s. It is complicated enough that people who have heard about it, think it is incredible that you made something.

That said, if you made a retropie setup and are super proud of it, good on you. Enjoy it. The most important part is that you are playing the games.
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Re: Why the love for Retropie?

by casterofdreams Thu Sep 06, 2018 10:14 am

At $50 for a kit that’s 1/4 the price for a complete Nvidia Shield set. So I see that price is a factor.

See I didn’t quite know how powerful Pi’s are. Can you get one to play GameCube and Dreamcast games? The Shield has quite the amount of power on the account that it runs full copies of Borderlands 2 / Pre-Sequel (under 1080p output - 4K is a resource hog and shows everything down).

I’ve done a little bit of research after the fact. It sounds like one of those “different strokes for different folks” in the sense that one can get similar results or outcomes going either way. Retropie for flexibility and cost and Shield for ease of it all ready to go out of the box with minimal setup and wider range of games it can play. There is no wrong system.

Another question: can you upgrade your Pi overtime? Add more ram? More powerful processor?
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Re: Why the love for Retropie?

by isiolia Thu Sep 06, 2018 10:46 am

I think the underlying theme is simplicity.

Like a modded X-Box or Wii, RetroPie is a consistent, known option that'll be mentioned by name. In turn, while it does support some other hardware now, predominately, RetroPie is there as a preconfigured image for the most popular single board computers on the market. Buy a short list of inexpensive, readily-available parts, follow some very simple instructions, and you get something that works very well for the fairly negligible cost and effort required. Makes it a quick, easy solution that many people will be happy with.

That said, I don't think you're wrong in pointing out that there are better options around. It's possible to get a far more powerful PC for cheap (or free!), but that entails more variables than buying a Pi. There are a ton of options for software, but it might require actually setting it up yourself. For some folks, that'd be fine, if not necessary to get things how they like, but they'll likely end up spending a lot more time and effort on it.
It's not even necessarily a matter of buying bigger, more powerful hardware...there are other single board computers and the like out there, or other options for emulation software on a Pi. RetroPie is just really the easy thing to point to.

With regard to upgrading a, you can't upgrade them in that way. There do tend to be additional modules available, or USB devices people might add, but the core CPU/RAM/etc is all soldered on. However, the core board tends to have an MSRP of $35 or so, with stuff like the Zero being $ if/when they come out with a new version, it's not a big ask to just buy the new one.
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Re: Why the love for Retropie?

by ElkinFencer10 Thu Sep 06, 2018 10:57 am

I just ordered my first RetroPie on flake's recommendation, so I'll chime in next week once I've had some time with it, but the kicker for me was the balance of cost and convenience. A Shield might stronger and more convenient out of the box, but the Pie is a lot cheaper, and I know that it's a good, proven option for retro emulation.
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Re: Why the love for Retropie?

by Tanooki Thu Sep 06, 2018 11:29 am

For me there are two equal reasons i have no love for it.
- A royal pain to setup, install, configure and tweak to get what you want from it
- It's a ROM box, doesn't feel right and I don't mean my controller. I have no personal 'value' in it so I'd shuffle, use a few days, and forget so it's a waste.

That said I could see loving a very refined version someone setup just to do a smaller specific set of things for ONE system (or one plus a subsystem like if you did a GB/GBC thing.) Perhaps if you only made a Neo-Geo barcade style box looking like a mini big red wannabe that just worked like the original that would be fine. Swiss army that sucker, not so good, ADHD gamer issue in waiting there.

I've learned over years of rom peddling/hacking, having a massive collection and going in a downward spiral to where I am - less IS more.
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Re: Why the love for Retropie?

by Anapan Fri Feb 22, 2019 9:02 am

Previously, it was the same as others - put roms in, emulator plays them scaled up to your LCD. You'd do well to avoid it's underpowered ARM CPU and crap GPU in favor of an abandoned ancient laptop with a dead battery, but a decent Nvidia Mobile GPU, a PSP, Your phone, but pair a bluetooth controller, or best case scenario, someone's grandma's abandoned wii-fit and a chinese 3rd party component cable to set up on a CRT to get real 240P better than all your old console's output for damn-near free.

I can agree on all the negatives everyone's got so-far.
I'll list the low points here off the top of my head:

A 10 year old PC can easily do better
The analog audio is crap - a handful of surface mount transistors, resistors and capacitors do a bad job of proper d-a circuits - the audio hurts brains.
It's an ARM CPU - it can't play anything past 4th gen consoles any good, and doesn't have enough power to even do most MAME games properly.
Off the shelf it can only output composite 320x240 or HD fixed-resolution HDMI.

Now the reason I think it actually matters now:
Watch the VIDEO
Actually the experience - no fakery just bad cinematography and crap TV speakers here...

It uses modified retropie profiles per-core to achieve 1:1 15khz video for all the old consoles and all the mame games as well.
Even when a rom comes up that is unrecognised and therefore a perfect video mode cannot be forced, it simply forces 1920x(whatever) to minimise shimmering and fake a perfect video mode with a best-case substitution.
It will force games that don't fit into SD progressive modes (like vertical mame games forced to horizontal viewing) to either scale or crop (your choice every time until you force one decision).
The analog audio doesn't suck, but a few days ago there was a new revision that improves it (actually sounds great on my older model - didn't have a complaint)
I haven't tried a lot of PS1 games yet, but it does play the ones I tried just fine, no problems yet.

I fully endorse this. It's actually fully set up and works great out of the box unlike every system I've been messing with to force 15khz RGB into up to this point.
It's not as good as a PC, but easily beats a modified Original Xbox which is a pain to force out of interlaced modes.
It's a good deal compared to any other solution as far as rom compatibility goes.

I'm not going to abandon my old solutions to get games running perfectly on CRTs, I still prefer the better control and customization and all that a CRT Emudriver hacked video card in a PC with an Intel core I chip provides, but compared to anything you can just buy and plug roms into and then plug into to a CRT, this is amazing! It's cheap and easy and outputs perfect video for almost every game. If you wanted upscaled video you'd already have an Android device or modified (or VC) Gen 6+ console plugged into a flat screen HD TV.
This will on startup accept any USB controller and configure the emulators to accept its input.
Not love, but acceptance into my hardware solutions for sure.

I hear from the author that he is now working on a jamma plug'n'play solution. Follow his twitter for updates on that.
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Re: Why the love for Retropie?

by Gunstar Green Fri Feb 22, 2019 2:58 pm

Because people like having a cute little box they can hold in their hand with tons of games on it.

Yeah, if you're more into the retro gaming scene you're going to either prefer authentic hardware or have more powerful devices but I think for a lot of people Retropies are the perfect low cost, small form-factor "good enough" solution.
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