The Raspberry Pi is a tiny, cheap computer with the design intention of being for kids to learn real computer and programming skills (as opposed to just learning how to use an office suite of applications). Kudos to the Raspberry Pi Foundation for their continuing efforts to bring back computer science to schools.
After all, it was due to the availability of affordable, programmable computers in the 1980s that allowed kids then to get into making things with computers. Programming games, art and music. Being creative. The talent this fostered in Britain was immense. I believe the Raspberry Pi and it’s ilk will be the key to inspiring the next generation of talent.
As well as being a powerful tool for educational purposes—due to it’s programmable nature—the Raspberry Pi (sometimes referred to as RPi) is also an incredibly versatile box of wonders. The community that has sprung up around it has seized the opportunity of this common platform to develop new, and port exisiting applications and variants of the Linux Operating System.
A New Year’s resolution of mine was to find a use for my RPi. Well, I can happily report that I now have. Enter Raspbmc, “a minimal Linux distribution based on Debian that brings XBMC to your Raspberry Pi.” XBMC is “an award-winning free and open source (GPL) software media player and entertainment hub for digital media.” The installation proved to be a simple and ejoyable experience. Thankfully, this hassle-free installation and interaction with the Linux ecosystem is becoming more common (two steps to install rather than 27).
default RPi Linux distribution (sic - Operating System), Raspbian Wheezy (I have not yet found the story behind the name “Wheezy”) comes with a fully-featured desktop environment which is imminently usable and tastes just like Windows and Mac OS X; office suites, image editors, the whole gamut. All free and open source.
My setup is an original Raspberry Pi Model B with 256Mb RAM; it now ships with 512Mb for the same price (~£35). As it comes without a case, I later bought a rather groovy Pimoroni PiBow case (£12.95).
Note, the RPi doesn’t come with it’s own power supply. You have to supply a 5v micro-USB connection with at least 0.7mA. I started out using an old Samsung mobile phone charger, but have since switched to a Masterplug SRGDU62PW USB Charging Surge Protected 2m Extension Lead Power Block with 6 Sockets and a funky orange micro-USB cable.
In addition to a power supply, you’ll need an HDMI cable, an ethernet cable (to connnect to your internet router), and an SD card to hold the operating system and software. Which paves the route to RPi nirvana:
- Raspberry Pi Model B
- Power supply (5v, rated to at least 0.7mA, micro-USB)
- HDMI cable
- SD card (8Gb or more recommended)
- Ethernet cable
- USB mouse and keyboard
- (optional) USB hub to expand on the two existing USB ports
- (optional) bluetooth USB dongle (for couch-surfing)
- (optional) wi-fi USB dongle (for your RPis all over the house)
I use separate memory cards for each distribution. Currently: - Chameleon for retro emulation - Raspbmc for media centre - Raspbian Wheezy for learning more about Linux and maybe someday programming a game.
There is an Amazon affiliate link below if you don’t already own one and want to remedy that. Honesty policy: I get a little cash if you buy through this, which I will undoubtedly spend buying more gadgetry. Thank you if you use it.
—Robocop [1987, Film] & Starship Troopers [1997, Film] (both directed by Paul Verhoeven), and now Eve: Dust 514 [2011-2013 PS3 game], (in reference to interactive news feeds and tutorial videos respectively)
Whenever this memorable quote pops up I am simultaneously perplexed by it’s awkward phrasing and intrigued by the broadness of the question out-of-context.
Entering the world EVE: Dust 514 for the first time tonight, I was pleasantly surprised by this nod to two of my favourite sci-fi films.
This piece is intended as a homage to games in general, a discussion of my experiences with gaming platforms, and a proclamation of my love for gaming, speaking as a rapacious appreciator of this wonderful interactive art form. This is not a controversial PC Vs. Consoles opinion piece. That would be an utter waste of time and energy. The main points I shall put forward are:
- The best single-player games are timeless and yield inestimable value to appreciative gamers.
- To enjoy today’s cutting-edge PC games as their designers intended is expensive.
- Delaying your gratification a few years could save you a fortune. Patience is also, I’m reliably informed, a heavenly virtue. Of course, there is nothing wrong with having the money to spend on a killer gaming rig now…
- Though you can enjoy PC gaming masterpieces such as Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth  or Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines  today with a relatively inexpensive gaming machine.
It has been seven years since I owned a capable beast; that story is told elsewhere. High-end gaming PCs are like racehorses: even the finest are retired after only a handful of years. In the aughties, they were incredibly expensive both to buy and to maintain.
Costly, not just in money, but in time. You could spend £1,000 and a year later, your machine would struggle to play the latest games as they were intended to be seen. A three year-old powerhouse from 2003 would struggle to keep up with the games of 2006. Some expensive transplant surgery would be needed:
‘Let’s see. We’ll need a new Graphics Card, and ooo… a bit more RAM. Oh, that graphics card is going to need a bigger power supply, and then your motherboard will be the bottleneck. Hmm, the CPU you currently have is a different socket from the motherboard you plan on getting. The case is nice though; you can keep that.’
With consoles, like the Sony PlayStation 3 or the Microsoft Xbox 360, we have a platform that has a longer modern life, with the most recent (seventh) console generation set to last at least eight years with no mandatory hardware upgrades required. Excepting replacement of the whole console due to unfortunate but not uncommon catastrophic failure, the cost of maintenance in pounds and hours is negligible.
For me, this isn’t a case of owning a PC or a console. You can have a horse and pony, donkeys, chickens, turtles, and any other animal or beast. If you have the room for it, can afford it, and will give it the love, care and attention it deserves, then you should have it, else you should set it free. Having a loft full of aged animals [read - decrepit computer hardware] is maybe not good for you, or for them. Minimalism be damned; for posterity these cherished pieces still hold personal, sentimental value to the geeks who grew up with them. It is a love that cannot be emulated.
Albeit it can be emulated, some of the time. Getting a hold of the original joypad and via a USB adapter, most Windows and *nix systems support programs that allow nostalgic trips to the best old games, and classics missed first-time round.
A computer is required then, but how expensive does it need to be? Well, what are you going to use it for? Today’s cutting-edge games require today’s cutting-edge hardware (to be played as intended). Whereas games of five, ten, fifteen, twenty years ago don’t. Highly capable hardware will set you back £700 to £3,000 (you could probably get something pretty amazing on the price/performance curve somewhere in-between).
Older games and games consoles can be had for a fraction of the price at wondrous flea markets like eBay. The point I’m getting to is this: what do today’s cutting-edge games offer that games of yesteryear do not? Apart from the obvious improved graphics, sound and scope, the main difference I feel in today’s best games is the influence and refinement from past effort. They are informed by their forebears. Only in the best examples the gameplay has evolved and past foibles and poor decisions mitigated; by standing on the shoulders of giants.
However, the excellence of new games does not preclude the timelessness of any past treasures. There are lifetimes of sublime gaming experiences to be had from the body of games that have already been released. Like other forms of entertainment, you will never have the time to enjoy them all. To pick wisely, there is a world of enlightened people who have enjoyed certain games a great deal, and felt compelled to reach out and tell others. For this Retro Gamer magazine is an ideal source of nostalgic ambience to read as you comb eBay and the like for old computer games and systems.
There are plenty of standalone masterpieces, and the timeless ones will always be available to us in the future. I knew this when I ducked out of the PC arms race in 2006, just as MMORPGs like EVE: Online and World of Warcraft were coming to the fore. Social online games such as these are outwith the scope of this piece though. Here I am a proponent only of offline gems such as the life-changing Final Fantasy VII.
Moving forward with this logic, spending a modest amount on a gaming PC, a current generation console, and older consoles today would allow all the treasures of the recent era all the way back to the dawn of the computing age to be played. This logic further permits that around £500 every four years would allow you to have amazing gaming experiences now, equivalent to spending £2,000 every year or two to stay on the bleeding edge of technology.
Most modern games are multi-platform and though the graphics may not be as good on the Xbox 360 as they are on a Water-cooled GTX 51200 3570k blue-LED Horsey i9, the experience and gameplay may be not be diminished at all by the inferior graphics. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Happy gaming.
An RPG well ahead of it‘s time, and with a hilarious intro that Brian Fargo surely had a good hand in; this is a game that growing up I always wanted to play.
It slipped by me in the nineties and the aughties, but after recently purchasing Total Annihallation from Good Old Games and subsequently having trouble installing on Windows XP via VirtualBox for Mac OS X, I thought I would browse the rest of their catalogue.
Lo and behold, I found Stonekeep amongst many other treasures that I will be revisiting soon: winter is coming. A little bit of jiggery pokery with the wonderful DOSBox encased within the gorgeous Mac front-end GUI application, Boxer (app) by Alun Bestor; and I was up and running.