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About GameStation

Closer view of the system and accessories.

Closer view of the system and accessories.

Full view of the system and accessories.

Angle shot of the XGS Micro unit alone.

Close up shot of the XGS Micro.

The XGameStation Micro Edition (XGS ME) Video Game System development kit. XGameStation is retro-inspired educational video game console designed specifically for both hardware and software hackers. The system is powered by an 80 MIP RISC processor, has direct raster controlled graphics, 3-channel sound, built in programmer, and is capable of outputting both NTSC and PAL composite video. Additionally, to round out the retro-roots of the XGS, it's directly compatible with vintage Atari 2600 joysticks as well as custom-designed game pads.

What is the XGameStation Micro Edition Kit?

The XGameStation is the world's first video game system development kit designed for education. The kit comes with an assembled XGameStation console, a controller, all necessary cables, 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 firmware and low-level software is 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.

However, to truly understand what the XGameStation is, one must first understand where the XGameStation came from. 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.

A History of Hobbyist Game Development

Before 1994, the idea of walking into a bookstore and seeing entire shelves of books on real-time graphics and game programming was almost unheard of. The very techniques and sciences driving the games that were already making billions of dollars for the Ataris and Nintendos of the world were still well-guarded secrets. That all changed, however, with the release of Tricks of the Game Programming Gurus by computer scientist Andre' LaMothe, and within only a few years, an entirely new genre of technical books had seemingly taken over the world.

For the next ten years, LaMothe continued his assault on the world of game programming books, firing a salvo of best-sellers that blew the lid off the previously black art. In fact, the aptly titled Black Art of 3D Game Programming hit stores in the fall of 1995 and raised the bar to uncharted heights once again. Never before had real-time 3D graphics and the fundamentals of game design been fused in such accessible harmony, allowing an entire generation of 3D game programmers to rise up and inherit the earth. Four years later, as the 20th century closed, Tricks of the Windows Game Programming Gurus launched a third blitzkrieg on the sales charts and brought the advanced, hardware accelerated universe of 32-bit Windows and DirectX to the masses. Legions of programmers who swore they would never leave the now antiquated MS-DOS platform found themselves full-fledged Windows junkies, and a second Pandora's box was opened.

Today, LaMothe is in the process of passing the torch to a new breed of game programming authors as the series editor of the industry-leading Premier Press Game Development series. With over 60+ books to his credit, the subject of game programming has never been more thoroughly documented. And, with the recent release of Tricks of the 3D Game Programming Gurus: Advanced 3D Graphics and Rasterization, a 2000-page masterwork conquering the complete landscape of modern, real-time 3D graphics, it would seem as if the end of the road has been reached.

But there exists another, uncharted path...

From Software to Hardware

Less than two decades ago, game programming was not for the faint of heart. Memory, speed, and even the sophistication of a programmer's tools were stone-age to say the least. Those who persevered, however, were responsible for some of the greatest feats in programming history. In 32 kilobytes on machines with clock speeds of under 1 MHz, the game programmers of yesteryear created classic video games with perfectly tuned mechanics and unbelievable details. Using hacks and tricks that modern-day professors and engineers might scoff at, they routinely did the impossible and gave early gamers every reason to stay glued to their joysticks.

Today, while the quality and overall grandeur of games has increased a thousand fold, game programmers are no longer forced to take on the ruthless, roughneck persona of their predecessors. A single API call can invoke thousand-line algorithms and bleeding edge hardware functions to complete tasks and generate effects that would cause an Atari programmer circa 1982 to faint. However, with this power has come an unfortunate desensitizing that has branded the code of many modern programmers as inefficient, poorly organized and generally oblivious to the concepts of genuine optimization and tuning.

But technology only moves forward, so if the programmers of today can't go back to the past, why not bring the past to them? Enter the XGameStation, a complete hardware platform developed exclusively for the purpose of educating a new generation of hardware and software hackers in the nitty-gritty, low-level world of hardcore game development. Combining modern technology with the rock-solid design philosophies of the past, XGameStation brings together the best ideas of history's most prolific hardware like the Commodore 64, Apple II, Atari 800 and more to create a tight integration of past, present and future.

The XGameStation Micro Edition is, first and foremost, a do-it-yourself video game system. While the kit comes with a fully assembled console, the designs and techniques for building your own versions are included and exhaustively described in the form of the accompanying eBook, written by LaMothe himself. Also covered in extensive detail are all layers of the system software, resulting in the world's first fully documented video game system for public development and hacking. From transistors to firmware to platforms and power-ups, you'll learn first-hand how everything works. Build it, break it, hack it, tweak it, demolish it, or turn it into something completely different. The XGameStation Micro Edition is the ultimate hacker playground. And with direct NTSC/PAL TV output and compatibility with vintage Atari joysticks built right in, it still feels like a traditional game console.

Fun Following Function

XGameStation Micro Edition isn't just the ultimate hands-on game development learning experience, however. Its emphasis lies just as squarely on fun as it does on education, and will deliver a more satisfying sense of accomplishment than today's game programming environments could ever dream of. In the days of systems like the Apple II, programmers of all levels could start and finish projects in the time it takes modern day programmers to simply set up a call to an API. The hundreds of lines spent initializing DirectX these days is the code equivalent of an entire Breakout or Lunar Lander clone in 1983! Whether you were a seasoned pro or a budding neophyte, the platforms of that bygone era meant immediate results and immediate fun. When was the last time you put graphics on the screen in a few lines of tight code? Wouldn't it be great if you could poll for player input by reading a few bytes from the right port? On the XGameStation Micro Edition, this is the norm, not the exception.

Endless Applications

The XGameStation Micro Edition isn't just about games, it's about everything else too. With an extensive line of Expansion Module Kits being developed all the time, the system can be enhanced in incredible ways, from driving simple prototyping boards to controlling robots. With a little savvy, patience and effort, the XGameStation Micro Edition can become anything you want. And with a flourishing community of software and hardware hackers centralized right here at www.XGameStation.com, the world of the XGameStation product line is truly limitless and just getting started.

The XGameStation Kit Includes:

XGameStation Micro Edition Unit Featuring:

Single board "open space" design with socketed ICs for ease of access and modding.

8-Bit Ubicom SX52 "SuperPic" processor with 4Kx12 FLASH ROM, 262 bytes of register RAM running at 80 MIPS.

128K x 8 - 15ns External SRAM.

Direct Raster Control Graphics Architecture with programmable color burst (NTSC/PAL) phase modulation support allowing pixel level control over the video stream.

Supports any NTSC/PAL video format via changing color burst oscillators and software control.

3-Channel Polyphonic FM synthesis with full envelope control and asynchronous playback.

30-Pin I/O Expansion Port exposing the major buses, power, and I/O for add-ons and experimentation.

Duel 9-PIN Vintage Atari 2600 Joystick I/O Controller Ports with extra I/O lines and power.

Single RS232 5V compatible serial port.

PC-PS2 6-Pin Mini-DIN Compatible Keyboard/Mouse Port.

Built in On-Board Programmer with Ubicom SX20 (potential for multiprocessing) slave that connects to parallel port.

Majority of ICs and Oscillator chips are all socketed for removal and modifications.

Support Hardware:

Parallel cable for programming the unit.

Composite video/audio cable.

Power Adaptor (either US or European style).

Single Vintage Atari Compatible Joystick (while supplies last), or official XGS controller gamepad.

"Build and Program Your Own Video Game Console" eBook by Andre' LaMothe, covering such topics as:

Boolean algebra and its relationship to digital engineering.

Basic electronics and semiconductor theory.

Schematic entry.

Electronic simulation.

Combinational and Sequential Digital Logic.

General computer architecture.

Programmable devices.

Microprocessors and memory interfacing.

Principals and practices of input and output.

Graphics and TV video generation/output.

Basic Printed Circuit Board (PCB) design.

The design of the XGameStation Micro Edition.

The design and implementation kernel software and drivers.

The design and implementation of the graphics, sound, input and system APIs.

Much, much more!

"Tricks of the Windows Game Programming Gurus - 1st Edition"
eBook copy by Andre' LaMothe

One of the best selling books on game development in the world for the PC platform, although, all the material is not directly applicable to the XGS, many of the concepts of game development such as algorithm design, state machines, artificial intelligence, graphics techniques, etc. are all applicable to XGS Micro game development as well.

"Beginning Assembly Language Programming for the SX" eBook by Parallax Corporation.

Dozens of white papers, application notes, and tutorials on the SX processor, support hardware, and the XGS Micro Edition itself.

The Software

XGS Micro Edition Development Studio supporting assembly language programming (debugging support planned for future).

Free tools and utilities for the XGS Micro Edition.

Custom graphics, sound and input APIs.

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