While 3GHz consoles are being unveiled and multi-million dollar game productions are announced, CEO and Chief Scientist of Nurve Networks LLC, Andre' LaMothe has different plans, a little less mainstream and definitely more low-tech but just as promising for the future of gaming. In an interview to GameGossip.com he revealed his plan to bring game development to the masses. His weapon in order to achieve that is the XGameStation Video Game System development kit. The kit comes with an assembled XGameStation console, a blank, ready-to-use game cartridge, a CD containing all system software and tools necessary to develop for the system, and of course, an extensive eBook that explains how the system was designed and how it works from the ground up. Everything from basic digital logic to computer engineering to circuit board design to operating system kernels and APIs are covered, in precise detail. Never before has such a mammoth collection of knowledge, insight and practical techniques for both hardware and software been concentrated in a single place, with such an accessible entry level. This kit is aimed at everyone from seasoned engineers to absolute electronics newbies.
Yes but what is it?
Like all revolutionary ideas, the XGameStation is equal parts fantasy and reality. On the one hand, it addresses a real problem that has existed for years-- that no hobbyist game programmer or hardware hacker has a unified, inexpensive platform they can actually build, take apart, and own exclusively. On the other hand, it will power a next-generation synergy of hardware, software, imagination and creativity of unparalleled proportions.
Read on to find out what Andre' LaMothe himself had to say about this to GameGossip.com while for those of you that need more detail there is a detailed IRC chat transcript available if you follow the download tab above.
[[The GameGossip.com Interview]]
GameGossip: Where did the idea for the XGameStation come from? Why make a console for the hobbyist rather than the seasoned professional?
Andre' LaMothe: I personally have had a fascination with both hardware graphics and software graphics my whole life. However, writing books about embedded computers etc. wasn't feasible due to the technology barriers in the past. Now there are technologies available, so that anyone can get the tools they need to build hardware and even have PCBs made. This along with the fact that game development with pure software has lost its way have been the culminating factors motivating me to finally start re-directing my efforts to teaching hardware rather software only. And as far as seasoned professionals, 99% of all game developers at EA, Activision, etc. probably have never built a computer from TTL chips, so I think that they will find something of interest as well.
GG: What are the key features of the XGameStation? What do you get when you purchase the XGameStation kit to develop games?
AL: The system will be based on a 16-bit processor, probably the Motorola 68HCS12. Additionally, the sound system will be similar to the Sega master system, Atari ST which used an AY-3-8912 - FM synthesis. Memory will be varied, but imagine an old 8-bit machine, 64K of code space most likely. Graphics will be along the lines of a NES or Atari 800/C64/Apple II. And finally there will be an expansion port to interface all kinds of cool upgrades. The system will also have PSX like interfaces ports and will use the controllers natively. As far as what you get, the XGS comes with the system hardware itself, pre-assembled, one FLASH memory game cartridge an eBook on developing and programming the XGS. Built in BASIC, and all the cables and power supplies you need to get started. It is a complete "kit", open it, plug it into the TV and an AC outlet, connect a PS2 style keyboard and you are up in running in BASIC. If you want to create more complete programs in C/C++ or ASM then you will use the Tool chain we provide on a Windows PC, write the code, compile, and download to the XGS with a simple serial cable to program the cartridge.
GG: A few friends and I want to make a game for the XGameStation - what is the process we will have to go through to make this happen?
AL: Just hard work. But, you will fire up the assembler or C/C++ compiler write the game, make calls to my API, compile or assembly, download to the cartridge and press START. Or forget all that and do it in XGS BASIC right on the system.
GG: When the XGameStation is released will there be any games to play at launch, or will gamers have to wait until other people create games before they can play anything?
AL: Since the system isn't for "gamers" per se, so we aren't worrying about making games at launch, however, as soon as the first prototypes are available I will send them to key developers and see what they can come up for simple games to launch with. The thing to remember is this system isn't about making crazy games to do that use an XBox or PS2. This system is about learning every single aspect of building a game console and then writing games for it, and building more advanced systems yourself. This is like my book "Windows Game Programming for Dummies", but for hardware. This is the first step only, there will be others...
GG: XGameStation supports C/C++, assembly, and the XGameStation version of BASIC. Will prospective developers have to have their own compilers and debuggers to write code for it, or is there a "lite" version of a compiler/debugger included in the software development kit?
AL: There will be free assemblers and the GNU compiler, however, I STRONGLY advise serious developers to buy a more complete compiler from Metrowerks or ImageCraft (if I go with the 68HCS12). They both have incredible tools for that particular processor. However, to keep costs down I am just going to use what's available "open source" otherwise the price would increase at least USD 500 to license tools per unit!