Retro Arcade Games on Android

Discussion in 'Android Tablet Games' started by OffWorld, Nov 6, 2010.

  1. OffWorld

    OffWorld Junior Member

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    If you like old school arcade games see if "TigerArcade" will work on your tablet. It is an Android port of the MAME arcade emulator and is free in the Market. However, much like the regular versions of MAME you have to find exactly the right game roms (for those who've never used MAME before, roms are usually dumped for specific versions of the emulator and they aren't always backwards compatible, so you often have to hunt for a rom dump that matches your emulator version. That's usually trial and error because even if you know what MAME version you're running [I have no idea which version Tiger Arcade was built upon] the rom files don't typically include compatibility information).

    The "Help" file for the emulator has a list of roms known to work with it (but that doesn't mean they'll necessarily run on YOUR Android device), but no links to download them. You'll have to search for them yourself, there is some info at the developer's web site, a number of emulation web sites that can point you to roms, and a few freely available roms at the main MAME web site. I'm not going to get into the legal issues surrounding the roms other than to say it's your responsibility to know what they are where you live.

    Once you acquire some rom files, keep them zipped and put them on your SD card. The emulator will scan for them there (instructions say in a "mameroms" or "roms" folder, but since it scans they just need to be on the SD card - I think they can also be in /nand). If they don't show up in the game list at all or are sluggishly using too much memory you may need to "align" them to the DSA standard and then see if they show up - realize that just because a rom shows in the game list doesn't mean it's playable.

    I found the sound during gameplay is VERY choppy (it drops out every time I hit the virtual controller pad overlaid on the screen). This is a common problem with emulators it seems.

    It does a good job of stretching/scaling the game to fill the screen and runs nicely given how much the tablet's specs exceed the original arcade hardware. However, when you expand the game parts of it are under your controller in landscape mode. Thankfully there are settings to run it in portrait mode and where to position the virtual controller. Since my tablet is rooted I can also adjust the LCD density to a low number which means the virtual controller takes up less of the screen.

    On my Haipad M701-R it can output your gaming action to HDMI and you can still use the touch screen as a controller. Unlike when you output a video to HDMI, the touch screen on the tablet doesn't go blank. If I turned the game sound on it came through the HDMI to the television, but it also comes through the tablet speaker. I found plugging in the headphones worked well to silence the tinny tablet speaker, but as I mentioned the sound during gameplay is very choppy.

    In theory the remote control should work as a controller, but it doesn't fully work (the DPAD buttons are assigned as controls, but ignores them. The other "hardware buttons" like "Search," "Volume Up," "Volume Down," etc., however DO actually send control signals to the game. Darn, so close to having a wireless game controller for this too!

    You can turn off the "virtual controller" overlaid on the screen and use a key assignments (yes, it will accept hardware buttons on the device itself, but most of these tablets - having touchscreens - don't have many buttons). I plugged in a USB keyboard which works well for controlling the games. What that means is, even though nobody seems to have found a game controller that works with my tablet, I could buy a cheap USB keyboard, tear it apart for the (usually very tiny circuit board) keyboard controller, and wire my own buttons to it to build myself an Android-compatible gamepad.

    There are also emulators for NES, SNES, C64, and Atari you may want to check out. I think these old-school emulators are probably the best bet for gaming action on these low-end Android tablets.
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2010
  2. OffWorld

    OffWorld Junior Member

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    In my op I mentioned maybe having to "align" the zip files to the DSA standard used on Android. Without going into a deep explanation of what DSA is and what alignment is or how it works, suffice it to say it is a method of compressing files for Android that can help reduce memory overhead (which can help speed up the games) and is a required part of distributing Android apk files (which are really just zip archives). Anyway, you may be wondering how you go about this "aligning" business so here's how you do it.

    If you've downloaded the Android SDK you've got the program to do this. It's in your "tools" folder and is called "zipalign" (imagine that!). Open a console/terminal and cd to your tools folder and run the zipalign program as follows (this is for Mac or Linux, for Windows it would be zipalign.exe).

    First confirm whether or not the zip file even NEEDS to be aligned in the first place by typing the following, assuming your games are in a folder named "roms":

    Code:
    ./zipalign -c -v 4 [I]path_to[/I]/roms/existing.zip
    If it says it's anything other than ok you'll need to align it by typing the following, but MAME games can be picky about you renaming the zip archive so it's best to keep the exact same name - except zipalign won't let you have an input and output with the same name to the same location! So create an "output" folder and send your output files there and once you're done move it to your tablet's SD card "roms" folder:

    Code:
    ./zipalign -f -v 4 [I]path_to[/I]/roms/infile.zip /output/outfile.zip
    Flags: -f : overwrite existing outfile.zip | -v : verbose output | -c : confirm the alignment of the given file

    Again, just because the zip file is "aligned" though is no guarantee the rom will work with Tiger Arcade or anything other than the specific version of MAME for which the rom was originally dumped and you usually have no way of knowing which one that was. Yes, it's very annoying.

    (attaching a copy of the zipalign tool from the Android SDK for Mac if you don't want to download the entire SDK. The Tiger Arcade developer has the Windows version - zipalign.exe - available at his site).
     

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    Last edited: Nov 6, 2010
  3. OffWorld

    OffWorld Junior Member

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    Anyone have one of the Retrolink USB game controllers that look like the old NES/SNES gamepad? The manufacturer (Innex) claims the controllers don't need any drivers on Mac or Windows - and according to the Ubuntu forums Linux is supported as well. That implies it is recognized as some kind of native input device like a keyboard or mouse, but I'm not sure of that. I don't own a Retrolink gamepad, but if it does connect as a generic input device there's a good chance it would be recognized by an Android tablet.

    Before I go buy one, though, I was wondering if anyone already has one they can connect and see if it works or not?

    Otherwise my backup plan is to see if any of my friends has an old original controller I can hack and connect up the buttons to a cheap USB keyboard controller board.
     
  4. probbiethe1

    probbiethe1 Super Moderator Staff Member

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    just making sure you know that wii remotes can be connected to android devices through bluetooth that's what most people use for emulators. I didn't read all of your posts so I don't know what tablet you have but if you do have bluetooth you should look into that
     
  5. OffWorld

    OffWorld Junior Member

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    @probbiethe1 - nope, no bluetooth on my tablet, which is why I'm focusing on USB, but it hasn't recognized any of the USB game controllers I've plugged into it so far - seems pretty limited to mice and keyboards for input devices.
     
  6. probbiethe1

    probbiethe1 Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes tablets are limited to what they can run through usb but your ideas sound great and I will see what I can find out for you
     
  7. LS650

    LS650 Junior Member

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    I have an old Atari 2600 with a large collection of games. When I saw the Ataroid app I was very excited - but after trying it out I am disappointed. The emulator works well, but you really need a physical controller: touch screen inputs just don't work well with most of these old games.
     
  8. OffWorld

    OffWorld Junior Member

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    At some point I probably will still either get the NES/SNES retro USB controller (if someone confirms it works on Android), or hack a keyboard and controller and make one myself. Until then, though, I just ordered a new tablet case that comes with a USB keyboard.
     
  9. strider_mt2k

    strider_mt2k Junior Member

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    Awesome thread!
    I'm a fan of console emulation, and would love to get SOME kind of a controller working. Our tablets certainly have what it takes to run them! :D
     
  10. OffWorld

    OffWorld Junior Member

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    I now have that case with the integrated mini-keyboard. For TigerArcade (the Android version of MAME) and SNESoid it works brilliantly for controlling the games. Hope they improve the sound on TigerArcade though, it's so choppy I tend to disable it in the settings.

    However, it would still be cool if someone found a usb game controller that worked too!
     
  11. strider_mt2k

    strider_mt2k Junior Member

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    Okay I dug an SNES-copy USB controller out of my hardware archive (junk drawer) and unfortunately it's not a model that is supported, (if indeed any are).

    I did pull the trigger and order one of those keyboard/cases. That looks like the perfect accessory.

    Getting some of my favorites from various consoles working well on my M701-R would be a nice addition!

    (At this point you can simply assume and ONGOING level of thanks for your continued efforts with our tab.) :D
     
  12. OffWorld

    OffWorld Junior Member

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    On the M701-R for Commodore 64 games I'd only recommend the "Frodo" port (that's Frodo, not Froyo!). Mobile64 works, but Frodo works better.

    I haven't had any luck getting the VICE apk to work (which is a shame because it's arguably the best C64 emulator there is), I suspect it won't work because it uses SDL. I can't get the Qemu port, which also uses SDL, to work either. They launch, blank the screen, and quit. I know for VICE on my Linux box I needed to install the SDL libraries first. I found some references to an SDL lib port for Android on Google, but no APK to install (unless it needs to be compiled into the kernel or something).

    Update: I found the website of the person who ported libSDL and compiled the VICE app. They have a bunch of other games individually ported. I tried "Alien Blaster" and it actually DOES run. Badly. But it runs. So it seems apps using libSDL can actually, technically, run on this tablet and the other SDL apps must have some other reason they crash.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2010
  13. strider_mt2k

    strider_mt2k Junior Member

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    How has that keyboard/case been working out for you?

    I'm beginning to think I might try to merge a USB number pad with a gamepad to achieve a solution.

    I fear my Pandawill order has been lost or waylaid so I don't have mine yet, and probably won't for a while.
     
  14. OffWorld

    OffWorld Junior Member

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    Building a custom controller is actually pretty straight forward. You find a USB keyboard that works (you can probably find one for less that $5 if you don't happen to have an old one on hand or one someone will just give you since it doesn't matter if all the keys even work). Once you've verified the tablet will recognize it, pull it apart. The controller board is usually a tiny separate circuit board (and even if it's not you might be able to just cut that section off with a Dremel). Then you just map out which circuit traces correspond to which key input you want to use and solder wires to them. Solder the other end of the wires to switches (either real arcade joysticks and buttons or to the wires or contact points inside a gamepad). This is essentially how people who build their own arcade cabinets make controllers for MAME and the like - Google and you'll find build guides. The main difference for tablet use is that we probably don't WANT real arcade controls because they're too bulky, so wiring up the keyboard controller to a gamepad makes more sense.
     
  15. strider_mt2k

    strider_mt2k Junior Member

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    You pegged it!
    I definitely have the hardware laying around, it's just a matter of pulling all the stuff out.
    Now that you mention it that might be a cool project for my breaks at work too.
    I'll let you all know if/when it happens.

    Sent from my Haipad M701-R using Android Tablet Forum App.
     

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