One Console To Rule Them All

[Bacteria] retro console modder extraordinaire, is back at it with a rather massive project. “Unity”(originally Dubbed Alpha Omega), this will be a single unit that can play games from 20 different console systems. It will run from one power supply, have one video output, and strangely enough, one controller.

[Chris Downing] was nice enough to tip us off to a video of the Unity controller in action.  The controller isn’t quite as bulky as we would have assumed with the extensive list of consoles it has to support, but that could be, in part, due to the fact that you actually swap out the brains for the controller for each system’s compatibility.

Unless we missed something in the extensive thread, the following game systems have already been assimilated:

Sega SMS – done, not added into system yet
Nintendo NES – done, not added into system yet
Mattel Intellivision
Nintendo GameCube (and GBA via GBA Player)
Amiga CD32
Philips CD-i
Playstation 2 (also plays Playstation 1 games)

with these remaining on the list:

SNK NeoGeo
Sega MegaDrive
Amstrad GX4000
Nintendo 64
Sega Saturn
Sega DreamCast
Nintendo SNES
NEC TurboGrafx/PC Engine
Atari 7800 (also plays Atari 2600 games)
Atari Jaguar

30 thoughts on “One Console To Rule Them All

  1. Incredible work from a hardware perspective, very impressive.

    From a practicality perspective though, what will this accomplish that my home theater PC loaded with emulators and a $50 wireless game pad can’t?

    Right now I can launch five different emulators (SNES, N64, Gensis, etc) from XBMC using an add-on and my TV remote, play them with the game pad, and switch back seamlessly, all of which took minimal effort to set up…

    1. There’s just something about a game pushing electrons through the real silicon, the real, old-fashioned, REAL circuits, that were the best they could do at the time. Emulators are somehow heartless, tho they’re a great way to play games on consoles you don’t have, the real thing is always better. Also “Because he can”!

    2. I’ve actually been building a machine I call “The Panopticade.” Every game made for every console and handheld from the Magnavox Odyssey to the PS2/GCN/Xbox/Dreamcast generation as well as the Wii (Since it’s so easy to emulate). I’d like to eventually get all arcade (MAME) games working as well.

      An Xbox 360 controller works pretty much universally for all games, and of course the Wiimote/Sensor bar for the Wii. The exceptions are games that required very specific control hardware like lightguns (The Wiimote works for some of these) or R.O.B.

      The biggest feat is the amount of storage required. So far I’m up to 7 terabytes and I imagine the final requirement will be something like 11 or 12.

  2. I don’t imagine he chose this project because the effort to set it up was minimal. In fact I can’t think of any PRACTICAL reasons to do this at all. What a masochist. Lol :D brilliant setup though.

  3. Original games consoles play games exactly as designed, emulators don’t – even staunch supporters of emulators when pushed, concede that emulators don’t play all games properly, you get slowdowns, frameskips, pauses, crackly audio, graphical glitches and other effects. You cannot get better than original hardware, those who only play emulators will not understand the difference; with the best of intentions.

    1. In theory you are right, assuming you get the ‘correct’ original that plays all the games for that console, and that the games are not region locked. In reality, many of the emulators for old consoles are far better, offering features like upscaling and 16:9 output. He is doing this for the pleasure of doing it, and probably will not use it very much once it is done. Oh, and I think you might be forgetting just how bad the originals played…there was crackling audio and artifacts on most of these systems when they were new.

    2. The FPGA implementations of consoles are awesome, but at their heart, they too are emulators. They are also more error-prone than their software-borne cousins and are more difficult to troubleshoot (and create per-game patches to improve compatibility).

      1. Cliff, you have no idea what you are talking about. FPGAs are nothing like software or software emulation. Working with an FPGA is the same as working with discrete logic chips, only in a more convenient package. The reason you have to patch software emulators is because the emulator writers have no clue about real hardware. When was the last time you patched your NES console before playing a game?

  4. I love the controller with the vacuum form plastic and all. I’ve been wanting to do something like that for awhile.

    Couldn’t you put the interface on the system-side? Have it switch to each interface mechanically with a switch/multiplex. So when you select which system to pick, it also switches to that interface.

  5. The maximum amount of wires in a cable is 8 plus ground, the amount of buttons and controls on a controller is more than that on most of them, so there are 2 x 8PDT switches at the console side, one for audio/video and connections; the other for the controller switching, there was no other way.

    1. The SNES / NES / Playstation / etc all managed to send plenty of button data down 4 wires, including +v and gnd. In the NES’s case, just a simple shift-register in the pad. For more complex pads, use a microcontroller. Should just be a matter of a chip in the pad, reading the inputs and sending them down a synchronous serial line, and another chip in the console, sending the control data to whichever console.

  6. In regards to practicality, there is always an easier way true. Emulators have come a long way granted, but as one puts, you don’t have to go through all the challenges which really defeats the point when it comes to modding as a hobby. This is an engineering marvel when it comes to home based mods and systems and there will be many hours of pride played through this system when complete! Nice work!

    1. Right Caleb, all I did was push the reblog button and wrote a comment intended to be posted on my site. I had no idea that it left a footprint in the comments sections of the blog you reblog. Sorry about that.

  7. Very nice work Bac! Your soldering/machining skills make me jealous :) Keep up the good work and hope all your loved ones enjoy some better health this summer! I’m back to reading the rest of the log.

    1. The Saturn, Dreamcast, and PS2 have never been perfectly emulated as far as I know. Even N64 emulation isn’t perfect, so going that route wouldn’t yield the same results. Also, it wouldn’t be this awesome. If I had the money, I’d love to buy a version that played 3rd through sixth gen (NES – Xbox/GCN) w/ Composite and S-Video out (Component would be great but hard to fit in).

  8. Here’s a somewhat harder but more ideal gamepad in my opinion. Use an arduino to get the button presses/analog input and then reading the data from the SD Card, send the data to the machine via USB cable which is hooked to all the machines control ports. Sure it would be more work, but it would allow for a smaller controller than using the NES game cards.

  9. This control is near the perfection to emulate all game systems till PS2/Xbox/Wii generation. Just lacks two buttons besides the four buttons at right to get full N64 emulation. And the analogic nubs, I’d put them under the num buttons, and these a little upper.

  10. This control is near the perfection to emulate all game systems till PS2/Xbox/Wii generation. Just lacks two buttons besides the four buttons at right to get full N64 emulation. And the analogic nubs, I’d put them under the num buttons, and these a little upper.

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