A lot of things are in the works, now. It’s difficult to keep juggling all the balls, but today I am finally announcing a cool new initiative to bring you a higher quality case for the Neo Pocket LinkMasta.
Thanks to a partnership with 7400 Circuits, we are now able to have a box made exactly for the Neo Geo Pocket USB LinkMasta. Isn’t it pretty? We are quite proud of it.
All new orders will now include this new 3D printed case enclosing the LinkMasta USB device. If you are an existing owner of a Neo Pocket Flash Masta kit, and you want these new clothes for your LinkMasta, you can purchase one at the 7400 Circuits Shop (http://www.7400circuits.com/shop/). There were a few 3D printed cases that were sent out before we landed on this exact design. If you received one of those, you should know who you are, and, if you want a new red case as shown here, please get ahold of me. You should have my email address from your order, or use the contact form.
To provide a little more information to anyone that’s curious, 7400 Circuits is a new company that I am a partner of. The case was designed there (with my input). I don’t know what the future holds, but we may see 7400 Circuits helping out more with the flash cart stuff that I do here. I don’t expect that this will change anything from your standpoint, but I thought that you might be interested since it’s the first time that “7400” name has been mentioned here.
On a bit of a whim today, I decided to offer a little holiday cheer and try to bring some Neo Geo love to the season. We have been working on building a bunch of Flash Masta + Linkmasta bundles, and there are close to 20 that are ready to purchase. I can’t offer anything like a half price deal, but I just did the math on the sale price which comes out to be 12% off. And, people always ask how much it will cost to ship to them overseas, but I charge the same $10 shipping for everyone, so don’t worry about any additional shipping cost.
UPDATE: The holidays (and this sale along with them) have come and gone.
I’m expecting this sale price to be available until about mid-January or until I run out of the current stock of bundles and parts. If you have been contemplating getting one of these bundles, I think now is the perfect time to get one.
I also want to mention that I have GBA cartridges still available. There has been a little more interest in these recently, but I still have plenty. As part of the New Year’s sale, if you are already purchasing a NGPC bundle, I will add 1 or 2 GBA cartridges to your order for just $6 each with no additional shipping cost (just the $10 for the bundle). That means that you can get the whole NGPC bundle (Flash Masta cartridge plus USB Linkmasta) plus two GBA carts for less than the normal cost of just the NGPC bundle.
The GBA carts work like this. You make your purchase, and then I will contact you via email (which I do with all purchases anyway). You reply to that email, and attach the GBA ROM file(s) you want me to put on your cartridges. It’s pretty simple. You just have to keep the files less than or equal to 128-megabits (which is the same as 16-megabytes), because the cartridges are only 128-megabit each. Don’t worry, I’m very willing to help you out with this process via email, so feel free to ask me questions there about what might work well or examples of other things people have had me put on their cartridges.
Please keep in mind that shipping may be slow during the holiday season, and my time may be sporadic coming up through this time. I pride myself in keeping good contact via email, so you will be informed how things are going. I just don’t want anyone to be surprised if they expect things to arrive before Christmas (which may already be too late unless you want to pay extra for some expedited shipping).
Have a Merry Christmas or a joyous ______ (for those of you that don’t celebrate Christmas) and a Happy New Year!
Lately, I’ve been very busy coding on a new iOS/Android title. I was really hoping that it might be released before Christmas, but it looks like it will take more time than that to get out on the app stores. That is a little disappointing, but it’s for the best. I’m excited about the game, because I’m into collectible card gaming. You may have noticed that I like a game called Cardfighters’ Clash. Maybe you’ve heard of it. 🙂
So, the game I’m working is on something of a collectible card game. I hesitate a bit to call it a CCG or a TCG, but it definitely has aspects of card collecting and deck building. It’s not what you might think of as a traditional CCG title, but I think it will appeal to card gamers. I am hoping that it has enough of that to be exciting to even the hardcore trading card players while also having enough casual action to draw in crowds that may not even recognize its deckbuilding and collecting elements.
I really want to show you guys some video and/or screenshots, but I’m working with some other people that don’t want it shown until the artwork is complete. You know how first impressions are, so I guess you’ll just have to wait a bit longer. Maybe in a month, I can convince them to show off a bit.
In the title of this post, I mention that I have a couple NGPC bundles available. That is true. If you go to http://www.flashmasta.com/purchase/, I have 2 right now, but I’m waiting for some parts to make more. Lately, I’ve just been putting one or two bundles together for people that ask for them via email. It’s been tough making time to get multiples ready, so I’ve just been working on them when people specifically request them.
However, I am just ordering parts that should give me the ability to pump out 25-50 units. I’d really like to get ahead of the curve again, so maybe in a couple weeks I’ll be able to assemble a lot of bundles and put them up for sale.
Last, but definitely not least, I updated the Cardfighters’ Clash 2 English site with some info about a new patch. That’s what the graphic I posted above is from. If you’re into CFC2, you might want to check that out! It hadn’t been updated in forever.
Things have been going pretty quickly here in the real world. I have 3 daughters that just started school on August 26th. They’ve been in school for 10 days now, and I think that they’ve been released early for 6 of them. I am really not used to that, and I don’t know if it’s more common here or if it’s rare and coincidental that we just moved here. At any rate, it’s been hot out, and I don’t think it’s hotter than I’m used to, but I guess most of the schools don’t have air conditioning. What does that have to do with Flashmasta.com? I don’t know. It’s just an illustration of my busy life.
I’m trying to lure my brother-in-law into this Flashmasta stuff. We’ve been talking, and he really wants to redesign my PCBs. So, we’ve started on that project, and it’s partially why I haven’t been making much for new carts and linkers lately. I do have some Linkmasta USB devices built and some cartridges that need some work still, but I am pretty low on PCBs. I haven’t reordered, because I have been expecting to rework the layout. So, I think that’s happening, and maybe I can reorder new Flash Masta cartridge PCBs in a week or so. I don’t think you, as an end user, will notice any improvements, but I am hoping that the redesign helps reduct the production time/effort.
The main thing I’ve been busy with lately (other than remodeling and normal family matters) is my mobile/tablet game. I have been putting a lot of time into this lately, and things are going well. Just yesterday I heard that some of the guys from the group I’m working with got to view a test build and are rather impressed with the state of the game. I can only hope that translates into gamers playing it once it comes out, but the limited few people that have seen it seem to think it’ll do well. I am not really ready to discuss specifics in a public forum, but I may be able to show a video of the game running on a private basis. If you’re really interested, leave a comment here and I may reply by email.
I don’t know if there’s any other big happenings over the last month. I guess I felt like it had been longer than that since my last post, but I guess it’s good that it’s been only a month. Please keep in touch. You know I like to interact with you all, so let me know what’s going on in your life/hobbies/etc.
And in case you wanted to know what the fox says (and hadn’t already seen the latest viral craze),
Here in the US, tomorrow is our independence day. I hope all of you are independent, so I wish you all a happy independence day.
It’s crazy to me that it has been 1 month since I posted last. It seems like just yesterday that I was leaving my job and moving toward my goal of being more independent, myself. These last weeks have been a whirlwind, and I don’t expect this storm to let up anytime soon. Here’s a quick update.
As far as NGPC stuff goes, I soldered up 10 NGPC Flash Carts. 3 of them worked right off the bat. I paired them with some Linkmasta units I had ready, and put them up for sale. They sold fairly quickly.
I also sent off 6 GBA flash carts to Adrian in Canada. He sent me a picture of ’em, and you should see that to the right. If you are interested in something like this, definitely get ahold of me. If you’ve missed it in the past, here’s a post about these. http://www.freeplaytech.com/blank-gba-cartridges-gameboy-advance-flash-carts/ I’ll definitely work with you if you want multiple carts.
The other 7 NGPC Flash Masta cartridges need some further testing and resoldering. Based on past experience, I would guess that maybe 3 or 4 of these will be pretty simple fixes. The others will have some sort of oddity to track down.
I still have some Linkmasta USB devices ready, but I’m not sure that I have 7, so I’ll have to check that out when I get some time.
As far as my “independent” work situation goes, it’s been working out well. I have been learning a lot about mobile game development, and I have a pretty clear plan for my game porting project. Even though the project is a 2D game, I expect to be implementing it using a 3D engine. The learning process here has been interesting, and I expect to get to some actual building in the coming month.
As far as my relocation to a new state goes, that’s progressing, too. Just a few days ago, we accepted an offer from someone to buy our house. They want a very quick sale, because they are selling their house and need somewhere to live. We have agreed to close on July 25th. Today there will be an inspection of our house, so I’m crossing my fingers that they don’t surprise me. The house is only 11 years old, though, so there shouldn’t be anything to find.
I really do want to keep conversing with all you guys, but it’s hard during this big live transition. Please keep in touch by commenting, emailing, or posting on the http://forum.freeplaytech.com/ forum. I’ll do my best to reply!
EDIT: At the end of the day (June 3), I now have 3 bundles available for purchase at http://www.flashmasta.com/purchase/. Just note that they may not ship immediately due to me being frequently out of town in the upcoming weeks.
First of all, I’ll give you guys a bit of an update on what’s been happening over the last couple weeks. There were some things that I had mentioned were in my plans for leaving my job and starting my self-run business/life. Here are a few items that have changed. I will write more about this sort of stuff at www.EdMandy.com.
We put our house for sale on the market. We have probably averaged around 1 showing per day over the last week and a half. I think that’s pretty good. We got one offer that was a low-ball deal from some sort of investment group. I think they have some automated system that sends out offers just to see if they get any interest. I don’t think they even looked at the house. Other than that, we’ve had some good feedback, but no real offers.
I started working on the iOS game. So far, my effort has been directed at getting it to compile on my Windows 7 laptop and then installing Windows 7 under VirtualBox on my Macbook. It has taken a significant effort to do these things well, but I feel like it’s working properly now. Oh, the game I’m working on already exists on Windows. I will be bringing it to iPad and iPhone.
This week, my 2 oldest daughters have their last day of school on Thursday. On Friday, we will drive to Wisconsin to attend a wedding. We should get back on Monday and then maybe leave for Rapid City the next day. It will be a lot of driving. I hope to get a good amount of work done even though I won’t be at home. This will be a good test of my location-independence. Again, if you’re interested in this stuff, EdMandy.com might have more info for you.
As far as the Neo Pocket Flash Masta project goes, I’ve been soldering all day today. Over the past months, a friend of mine had been doing a lot of the soldering for me. Since I left my job, I figure that it’s best for me to take over this task again. It’s a long process, but you can see a part of the hot plate soldering method I used. I’m sorry that I didn’t narrate the video, but you may find it interesting, anyway.
After that’s all done, I go over every part with a soldering iron under a magnifying glass. I find that it’s better to just do this, because the chances are VERY high that I’ll have to do it anyway. It’s easier to do them all at once than try to debug ’em one at a time and then go over the parts that “seem” like they need more work.
I just got done with the iron soldering, and now I will need to program each cartridge. Once that is done, I will need to test each cartridge. I’m hoping that over half work right away. 8/10 would be excellent. Then I have to try to debug and resolder the ones that don’t work.
Once all 10 work, then I’ll get to making Linkmasta USB devices to pair with the cartridges. If I wasn’t going out of town, I’d say I should have 10 bundles ready for purchase in a week or so. As it stands now, that MAY be doable, but it’s more likely to be 3 weeks just do to being gone.
There’s not a whole lot to say about this. Over the weekend, I was finishing up a bunch of Linkmasta USB devices for some Neo Geo Pocket Flash Masta bundles. I recorded some video of me soldering ’em. It’s like 30min of watching me solder and ramble on. I figured I should post it, so maybe someone will find it interesting in some way. 😀
Did that title get your attention? Are you all ready to read about how to cut forum users with a laser? Well, it’s actually 2 separate issues: Laser Cutting & Forum Users.
In the last week, the forum has had an influx of new user registrations. This sounds good, but with it came a bunch of forum SPAM. Upon further investigation, I think there was a new exploit to get around one of the anti-bot security measures I had in place. After (hopefully) patching the hole, I ended up cutting a BUNCH of forum users (not with a laser).
If you are a legit user and find that you lost your account, PLEASE register again. I may have inadvertently cut some real users. I’m very sorry if I accidentally removed your account.
Last week, I paid a visit to a company that specializes in plastics to talk about getting these cuts done more professionally. Unfortunately, they said that they couldn’t do both cuts with their laser. However, they should be able to do the top NGPC cartridge socket.
This is not going to be cheap. It will cost me significantly bit more than what I am currently doing. I don’t know if it’s sustainable, due to the costs involved. The main reason I decided to do it for now is just to learn about the process, so I’m chalking the cost up to education. I am having them cut 25 case tops, and I will check out the quality and make a determination if it’s worth it to proceed this way in the future or not.
One think this may mean is that any purchases made in the next week or so may be delayed as I wait for the laser cutting process to be done. I think it will be worth the wait, though. If you want to be first in line to get a bundle with a laser cut case top, head over to the NGPC flash devkit purchase page.
Today a new owner of the NGPC Flash Masta & Linkmasta bundle emailed me with a question about backing up Neo Geo Pocket savegame data. In particular, he was asking why the software won’t backup only the save-game data when you are using a flash cartridge. If you’ve never tried it, the Linkmasta software will allow you to backup the savegame data from an official cartridge, but it won’t do it when it detects a flash cartridge. To backup the savegame data on a NGPC flash cart, you need to backup the entire (usually 32mbit) cartridge.
To understand this, first of all, it’s important to understand that the NGPC does not have separate savegame “SRAM” and game data “ROM” memory. This is a common misconception, because many systems had this architecture. What the NGPC has is flash memory that is used to store both game and savegame data.
In official games, the game data is protected so the NGPC can not write over the actual game ROM. However, you can write to every official NGPC cartridge. To do it, you’d have to write to an unprotected area of the cartridge memory, and this is typically where the savegame data would live.
What happens when you want to backup the savegame data from an official cartridge is that the Linkmasta uses some low-level routines to talk directly to the flash memory chip and ask about the protection status of each block. Whenever it encounters an unprotected block, it assumes that is where savegame data lives (or could possibly live) and backs it up. It saves this in the NeoPop savegame format which is the closest thing we have to a standard for this.
The problem arises when you try to employ this technique on a flash cart. The flash cart is 100% unprotected. The Linkmasta has no way to know which blocks contain savegame data and which ones contain game code/data. It could make guesses, but they would not be 100% accurate. The only way to be sure that you backup all of the savegame data is to backup ALL of the data on the cart (savegame plus game data).
I have thought about this before, and there is another way that the Linkmasta could (most likely) determine what data is savegame related. There could be another function to backup changes in the cart. This would probably be slightly different than the NeoPop savegame format. What you would do is to write a ROM file to the Neo Geo Pocket Flash Masta cart. Then, you would play it and save your progress. If you wanted to backup changes, you would (in theory) hit the “save changes” button. The software would then ask you to supply the ROM file used to create the cartridge. Then, it would compare, byte by byte, the contents of the file against the contents of the cartridge. Whenever it encountered a mismatch, it would save this to a savegame backup file. It would be like using the verify feature and saving a “diff”.
So, now that I’ve laid this out, I wonder if anyone is interested in implementing it. I am spending most of my time lately working on building bundles and researching and designing a WonderSwan cartridge. In the past, I have talked about making the NeoLinkmasta software open-source. I would be interested in hearing from anyone that would want to work on adding features like this. Do you have other ideas? If so, contact me. I just haven’t gotten around to “opening” the source, but I’m definitely interested in discussing this with coders.