So it may have taken a great deal longer to complete than anticipated, but my latest N64 Portable Commission has been completed and is getting ready to make it’s trip to “The Land Down Under”. The Hesline 64 is by far the most complete unit I’ve done to date as far as N64p’s are concerned and I’m very pleased with the final outcome…I actually don’t want to part with it, but alas, it must go to the one who paid for it.

Of course, though I’ve done many of these at this point, there’s always at least one problem that I run into with every build and this one was no different. But of course, because this was an European PAL region system, I had to import the N64 itself to for the build and of course, it was going to be the one thing I fried during the process. That caused many hours of frustration and an extra expense due to having to import another board from the UK. Thankfully a modding buddy of mine under the lid of ElectroModder from the UK was kind enough to source a couple boards and tear them down so the shipping was minimal to get them over here.

As I said before though, this is the most complete unit I’ve done to date as it utilizes almost all the features that one can cram into a portable and applied a lot of new building techniques which include using all custom PCBs for the buttons as well as a custom controller board and audio amp. The inclusion of a Breakout Board that is connected via HDMI cable also allows for the user to both Play and Charge the system at the same time as well as incorporate full Multi-Player functionality which I’d never done before.

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Technical Junk

Specs:
• Original PAL N64 Mother Board, Trimmed w/Expansion Pak
• 5″ 4:3 TFT Composite Display
• 2 – 25mm, 32Ohm Speakers
• 2 – 3.7V 5000mAh Li/Po Batteries in Series for 7.4V Output, 4 to 5hr Battery Life
• Hardwired Original Memory Card/Controller Pak
• Custom N64 Controller Board by RDC
• Custom Switchable Audio Amp for Speakers/Phones by RDC
• Custom 3.3V Regulator PCB by RDC
• Custom Tact Switch PCBs by RDC
• 5 Part 3D Printed Enclosure
• 1 – 5mm Barrel Pin Connector for Wall Power
• 1 – 2.5mm Barrel Pin Connector for Battery Charger
• HDMI Jack for Play/Charge and Multi-Player features using included Breakout Box.
• External Breakout Box includes a 12V, 2Ah DC Adapter for wall power and a 7.4v Smart Charger for the Li/Po batteries used in the handheld. It also houses the three other player ports so full multi-player gaming is possible. Lastly, there is an A/V output on the back of the box for standard RCA video out to a TV for full sized TV game play.

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The A/V, Play&Charge and Multi-Player Breakout Box

 

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I went with an HDMI connection because the number of pins they have by default in a small footprint. Also, the data speeds these cables are designed to handle are much faster than anything this will put out and the shielding provided in the cable makes interference very minimal for the travel length of the cord. I also used three lines each for the wall and battery power because a single line wouldn’t cut it for the amount of draw it’s pulling.

 

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An example of the amazing work that RDC does, essentially this a full N64 control board on a 1″ x 1.5″ footprint. This makes the whole process of placement and wiring so much easier, even if the trade off is stripping an original controller and swapping the components to this board. Wiring is so much easier now and the space saving is huge.

But yes, the build process is shown in the video’s slide show as well as explained in full detail afterwards. It’s a pretty long video but there was a lot to cover on this and I like to be as detailed as possible. This will probably also be the last commission I do for awhile as I have a few other projects I’ve been working on for awhile now that I really want to get off my desk. Time is also super limited these days which has been pretty much the norm, but if things free up a bit, than I might start taking more.

Hope you enjoy, this has been a fun and challenging project but I think it came out beautifully!

Also, please check out the Build Log over on the Bit Build Forums!

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Doom

It’s no real secret that since the beginning days of First Person Shooters like the original Wolfenstein 3D, I’ve been a fan and have watched them evolve over the years and see how they seemingly push the boundaries to our tech limits of the time. And my love for these games has exploited a consistent weakness of mine when it comes to wanting the full experience these games have to offer.

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In 1993, at the ripe old age of 11, the original Doom came out to some extreme reviews that put it as a game changer for all First Person Shooters, and the hype was right. Nothing had ever been seen like this at the time and everyone wanted to get in on it. However, the age of personal computing and the full access to the Internet was still years away, even having a computer with enough power to run the game was asking quite a bit. For the longest time I had to resort to my friends, grandmother’s computer to play it. Eventually we did get a PC, but our first one wasn’t until 1997 (our first computer was a Mac) and by that time, the Doom glory had faded, though Doom II and Final Doom had made appearances and I think Doom II was the first game I played on our first PC. One could also argue that I was the reason we got the PC because of situations like this one, just wanting to play a game that I couldn’t anywhere else.

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Then, in 2004, at the age of 22, the biggest remake to any video game franchise at the time was coming out! Doom 3 was promised to be the most advanced FPS of the past decade and for all accounts, Doom 3 remains to be one of my all time favorite games ever. But…all that excitement and next generation power required something that I yet again, did not have the ability to run. Starting college that year, I had bought myself a decent HP lap top for classes at the time, which only had integrated graphics and audio, which for the most part was fine. However, Doom 3’s specs for back in the day were astronomical, Requiring a P4 processor, a 256MB video card, 1 Gig of RAM and 2.2GB of Hard Disk Space, and also required Windows XP or 2000 to run. Cell phones from 4 years ago made those specs look archaic, but back then that required a beast of a machine to run. So again, I was going to have to resort to a friends machine or I could do something about it…and finally, at 22 years old, I could! This is where the trend started to get expensive and no other game can ever say it cost me over $2000 to play & own because the purchase of a copy of Doom 3 for $49.99 ended up tacking on a Dell P4 XPS Gen 3 tower with a Nvidia 6800 256MB Graphics card, and 19″ Flat Panel Display. I had finally found my “BEAST” of a machine, but the financial drain of a college student was tough and though I told no one, I actually bought most of this system with a student loan refund check…sorry mom.  The rest was paid for by selling my old laptop…

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So fast forward another 12 years and Doom 2016 has shown it’s gritty teeth in an all new re-boot of the classic Doom experience. Shedding the skin of the 2004 Survival Horror take to the franchise, 2016 brings the whole run and gun of thousands against one game play into the 21st century. And so far, my experience has been very positive, but again at the time of purchase, my system was under powered and so begins the trend again of upgrading my gear just to be able to play the latest Doom title to the fullest. This is why I’m glad my wife doesn’t read my blog posts all the way through.

The Cost of Perfection

Though now almost 34 and being able to get higher quality and more powerful hardware has been easier, I still did not have the “beast” of a machine I needed to run Doom 2016 to the quality and frame rate it was meant to be played at. However, this time, the investment to get to this point was reduced from a full PC tower set-up to simply a new Graphics card and new 4K monitor.

The Nvidia GTX 1070

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The little brother to Nvidia’s GTX 1080, the 1070 is a powerhouse in it’s own right, rocking 8GBs of DDR5 Memory and is the most power GPU I’ve ever owned. As you can see, this thing makes the 2GB Nvidia GTX 750TI that came stock with my XPS 8700 a couple years ago look like a babies toy. And for all accounts, as far as today’s demand for GPU power are concerned, it really is. I’m not going to do a full review or get into the detailed specs, but though the GTX 750TI would run Doom smoothly, you could certainly tell it was straining to keep above 30 frames while only on High Quality graphics settings. But after putting in the 1070 and updating the drivers, the difference was instantly clear. At 1080p, the frame rate was well above 60FPS with all options maxed. Things were going to get better though, as the final upgrade was the addition of a new 27″ 4K Monitor that took this experience right over the top!

The P2715Q 27″ Ultra 4K Monitor

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Arriving last night, I hooked this bad boy up and once again felt like Christmas! This was my first monitor upgrade in 3 years and coupled with the new video card, my PC gaming and 3D Modeling capabilities have been given a huge boost! I was instantly amazed at the smooth quality the combination of the two provided, even for a game as demanding as Doom.

Actual game footage taken with my cell phone.

Actual game footage take with my cell phone.

All in all I’m very please with how these upgrades have taken the gaming experience up a a few levels and it’s that the release of a Doom game is the catalyst in taking the jump into higher, more powerful machines. Though it does cost me a bit of coin to experience, I think of them as capital improvements as well and for what this kind of tech would have cost just a couple years ago, patience has saved me a lot when getting me to a set-up I am happy with.

So it really didn’t take too long to find the short comings of my first A/V test box that I did a couple weeks ago. Though it worked well and had a lot of good features for using a variety of different input methods, what it didn’t do was what I needed it for with the project at hand. The system I’m currently working on is a PAL Nintendo 64, which means the system was made for a region that has a 50 hertz cycle. Well, we in the US use 60 hertz and if the screen that you are using is looking for 60, it’s not gonna work out too well. Basically, the screen didn’t have an auto switch from PAL to NTSC.

On top of this, the only input the first tester had for composite required an RCA jack, which meant you had to terminate the test leads to even use it. Again, another pain. So it seemed a new solution was needed, and this one is a great deal simpler than the original and is much more conducive to my work space and projects.

Utilizing a 3.5″ TFT display, this screen has an auto PAL/NTSC switch which recognizes what region mode it’s in and makes the change accordingly. This still uses RCA inputs for those situations that would benefit from having them, but the primary Input method is now a 4-pin screw terminal. This makes testing much easier and faster as there is no longer a need to terminate the leads. So less is a great deal more in this case and I’m happy with the second version as well!

As for my commission, this weekend was very productive, getting the back half of the cases painted and sealed and almost getting the breakout box’s design complete. As stated before, this is going to be the most complete N64 project I’ve ever done and most likely the most beautiful. The case work including the 3D print time is probably pushing 30 hours, but it looks sharp! Very happy with it so far and I’ll post some more pics as I get them. But for now, here’s a couple 3D renders of the BOB. More updates soon!

Hesline BOB Render 1

Hesline BOB Render 2

Last night I finished off a small side project that I’ve been wanting to do for awhile. Though not a complex project or visually remarkable, this new tool will help out a lot in the future as I dive into new systems and try new things with the old. So yes, I basically just made myself a 3D Printed TV to mount on the wall in front of my work bench.

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The screen itself is a 5.6″ 4:3 Ratio 480p screen which plays nicely with older consoles and since older is what I’m usually working on, it seemed the logical choice. (plus I that’s all I had to work with anyway). A good benefit though is this can take VGA and HDMI input as well as composite so there’s a wide range of possible uses for this. The bummer though is this screen board did not have audio output, so anything HDMI will be a pain to test audio with. However, there is an L&R input for composite or VGA (or anything audio for that matter) to goes to one of RDC’s original SmaIIamp boards, which in turn power the speakers. I had to add a 5V step down reg though as the reg on the screen had 1.3V, 3.3V and 12V…pretty useless as far powering an amp that requires 5V to run. Oh well, had a few spares kicking around to I used one of them up.

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20160604_091150So again, all in all, not a very complicated project but hopefully a useful one. This took probably 3 hours to design, 8 hours to print and 4 hours to wire & assemble and has probably $120 worth of parts and materials. So all in all, not that bad…could have bought one for cheaper I’m sure, but where’s the fun in that?

Next, an update on my current N64 Commission. It’s moving along, though a bit slower due to the above project as the test box was/is needed for the systems completion. The front half is just about complete though, but I decided that the tact switch board for the screen and audio controls needed to be made into a real PCB as well and those are currently at the fab shop getting produced.

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Now the back halves need the same loving attention. Currently they are sitting on my desk covered in filler that needs to be sanded, refilled, sanded, primed, sanded primed, painted and clear coated…with a few more sanding in there somewhere. But yeah, that’s where things stand right now and I hope to start work on this again very shortly. Thanks for checking in!

 

Wow, almost 3 months without a post! Sorry guys! On top of the usual “Life” excuse, I’ve been extremely busy at work in the basement on several projects and being slightly overwhelmed in the process if I must say so myself. But things are good. Last month I finished off the N64 Kit I’d been working on and sent it on its merry way to Dubai. This had been the project the furthest away I’d ever shipped, until last week when I took on a full N64p commission to a buyer in the Land Down Under. So yes, I’m now in the works of a portable commission that will be headed for Australia once completed. I know I’ve said it before, but the Internet is an amazing thing that allows people from all corners of the planet to see and even better, commission, my work and there’s a fair bit of pride a feel for these requests.

On the subject of pride, the very first STL (3D Model) that I made available for download a few months ago has turned itself into a finished project and I gotta say that I’m very impressed and excited by the outcome! A fellow modder under the cap of [The Mod Shop] asked me several months ago if I had shared the STL files for my latest N64p at the time. I’d never really shared any files before, not necessarily because I was worried about being ripped off, but mostly because every case I’ve ever done was designed specifically for certain components. Sharing a file meant that whoever downloaded it would have to find pretty much exactly what I used to make it work and to me that seemed like a headache of constant email inquires on how I did this, or what did I use for that. But with this one, I figured what the hell. Let’s see if it survives when thrown into the wolf pit.

Well, not only did it survive, but [Mod Shop] took it a step further, utilizing some of the same parts that I used [thanks to RDC] as well as adding some aesthetic qualities that I have yet to try, like vinyl decals. The results are impressive and I would recommend taking a look into his craftsmanship!

Anyway, check out the video below and in the near future, I’ll be making some pretty big updates and announcements, should I find the time to actually devote to completing them!

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This is turning into a very busy start to 2016 and I’m loving every moment of it! On top of the Geneboy 3 that I’m currently working on, I took on a new project that I’ve technically not done before. As the title implies, I’m in the process of putting together an all inclusive kit for a portable N64 similar to my most resent N64 that was sent to the UK. However, this is an another amazing fact, that this will be shipping off to Dubai when it’s complete. A world wide reach is a pretty amazing thing to have access to these days and it’s opening up some pretty neat opportunities as far as a modding market is concerned.

Anyway, that being said, this kit is will have everything the buyer needs to build a fully functional N64p. It won’t be finished or polished like a full blown system would be, that will be up to the buyer to complete, but all the hardware will be included and for things like the audio amp that needs to be populated with components, they will be pre-done so all they have to do is wire it up.

However, this means that Guide for this particular system will need to be made and though most of the wiring and general N64 knowledge is out there, knowing how to apply it to this kit will be essential in the future if more kit orders come through. So that’s in the making as well. Very busy times it seems, but every little bit helps in building the shop up a bit more.