All carts are sent. Sorry if you arrived too late !
Long time no see ! Thank you for still keeping an eye on my blog
As the title suggests, I have some USB dev cart available for sale.
Quantity is an amazing three cartridges, but hopefully it should be enough to satisfy the Saturn homebrew developers in the need of such kind of item.
USB dev cart trio
These carts use more or less the same design as original version by antime, which is not bad for a project launched in 2012, i.e. one decade ago.
This batch of cartridges was assembled basically in order to get rid of the small stock of electronic components specific to USB dev cart I was still keeping for several years.
Because of that and also the fact I'm now really low on Action Replay shells (I still have a couple of black shells, but I keep them as a souvenir), this is the very last occasion to get an USB dev cart using Action Replay shell and design similar to the original one from 2012.
If after that I really need to assemble new USB dev cart, this will probably use a 3D-printed shell and all discrete logic would be packed into a CPLD, but to be honest, there's no plan to assemble more USB dev carts in a near or middle-term future.
Because of limited quantity, ordering is done by posting a comment with the color (white or black) of the
cartridge you want to purchase. Apart from the color, please don't forget to indicate
your email in the appropriate field when writing the comment so that I
can contact you back to continue the ordering of the cartridge.
to be selected for the ordering of a cartridge is "first-come
first-served" so if all three cartridges are reserved, then you're free to post a comment anyway (it's free, I don't beg for your personal information, and sometimes I even reply to comments) but unfortunately this won't grant you a ticket to order an USB dev cart.
(If you really need one but arrived too late, then please drop me an email and explain me why you need an USB dev cart)
Pricing for one cartridge is as indicated below :
- USB dev cart (x1) : USD 65
- Shipping to USA or Europe : JPY 2400 = USD 18
- Total : USD 83
Shipping method is EMS, whose availability is "random" : if there isn't Buk missile system between your country and Japan, and also if your country is not closed because of a pandemic then you have a chance to be eligible for parcels being delivered by EMS from Japan ... but don't be too optimistic and please check the EMS availability page in order to be sure that delivery can be done.
If EMS is not available, then B-plan is surface mail which takes around three months to arrive and cost more or less the same as EMS. This expensive and slow shipping method sounds like a fraud but it's a thing (by the past I send cartridges via surface mail, and their owners are now happy to play Saturn games), and this will be an unique occasion for your cartridge to enjoy a cruise in the middle of all the oceans of this planet without any tracking information being updated during that period.
Modern shipping is fast, scanned, tracked and always connected like the average salaryman on a business trip, but on the other hand surface mail is like enjoying a digital detox during a 100 days cruise and making ties with other parcel friends in the meanwhile. The more I write about surface mail the more I am jealous about it and want to retire my work of IT, take a backpack and enjoy to be alive
As a consequence, shipping fee to USA for one cartridge will change from 2400 Yens now to 3900 Yens on next month.
Back in 2015, the cost to send one cartridge was 1200 Yens (roughly USD 10), and then EMS discretely "revised" it to 1500 Yens on June 2016, and then the lowest weight range was "revised" from 300 grams to 500 grams and consequently shipping fee jumped to 2000 Yens.
In 10 years, shipping fee to send one cartridge tripled ... I wished the same performance boost for my salary but I miserably failed. Dear EMS, you won the race and congratulate you for that.
Trivia about EMS price chart : did you know that price changes according to the language the price chart page is displayed ?
EMS price chart in Japanese.
Fun fact : total shipping fees to send 5300 Saturn cartridges
Proudly fixed by myself to adjust language barrier
I suppose that the folks behind EMS have a special excuse to justify that ... maybe because of the cost it required to translate the page, or more probably because pricing is decided by throwing darts on a calendar, then multiplying all numbers being hit until getting a result higher than previous one.
If this guess is right, then maybe the person in charge of deciding the price to put on Japanese page hit 6, 25 and 26 (6*25*26 = 3900) and that the the person in charge of deciding the price to put on English page hit 5, 25 and 28 (5*25*28 = 3500). Each respective darts were quite close but unfortunately both prices don't match
Written by cafealpha 20 comments
TL;DR : Gamer's Cartridge are no longer available. It's not an end of the project but if back for sale, it will likely to be in limited quantity.
This is to announce that Gamer's Cartridge are out of stock for an undefined period of time. That may look sudden, but I was scheduling this transition for around one year ... and kept it confidential until now to avoid an eventual rush of orders, or people purchasing my cartridges just for stocking "in case of" or for speculation without actually playing with their Saturn.
The reason(s) why
Why are Gamer's Cartridge out of stock ? First, this is for the simple reason that I don't have any Action Replay shell for assembling new carts : my friend who supplied shells stopped provisioning from wholesale supplier around one year ago.
So I bought all the remaining stock from that friend, and that stock kept me busy this year in manufacturing and selling last batches Gamer's Cartridge.
Now that my Action shells storage facility (which is maybe a bit pedantic term to speak about a couple of shoes box ) is empty and that I found the time and motivation to write this article, it's time to officially put Gamer's Cartridge project on pause.
That pause may be temporary or the last one ... I honestly don't know how the project will evolve, but what's sure is that it won't be available back in short term and in the case it shall become available back, this will be in limited quantities.
Another reason for Gamer's Cartridge being out of stock is the decline of public interest toward it : back on initial release in 2016, Gamer's Cartridge was relatively popular because its unique "virtual" memory cartridge feature. At that time, Action Replay flashed with Pseudo Saturn Kai was a standard to play Saturn games but unfortunately this solution didn't featured cartridge backup memory, so that Gamer's Cartridge was here to fill this gap.
But I clearly felt the recent rise of "all-in-one" red cartridges because time until each Gamer's Cartridge batch is sold became longer by longer from the beginning of this year, from "few hours" in 2016, it became "several days" recently
As of Gamer's Cartridge main developer and manufacturer my opinion is a bit biased, but I consider Gamer's Cartridge a better solution than the red cart because backup memory capacity is larger, access to Saturn floppy disk device is emulated, and also because save data contents can be easily backed up to modern media. But on the other hand, as expansion 1MB/4MB RAM isn't available and that Gamer's Cartridge are hand made by one dude during its free time, maybe customers were more in confidence in the red cart because it mass produced, or a bit cheaper, or more convenient because it's "all-in-one". Who knows.
Also, the approaching public release of Satisfier project will certainly make possible the backup of cartridge memory contents to SD card, also provide the ability to dump Saturn BIOS there too. This overlaps few of the few remaining "Gamer's Cartridge exclusive" features.
Last remaining "sales point" of Gamer's Cartridge is to offer a *reliable* in-game save data support : all the other backup memory cartridges (including Sega official ones !) are prone to corrupt save data when not correctly inserted.
This was improved with Gamer's Cartridge, which shows an error message on startup (without botching any user data) if not correctly inserted. If Pseudo Saturn Kai boots then save data are saved in a reliable way
But as typical user don't care about data reliability, there soon will be no more room left for Gamer's Cartridge in the portfolio of retro gaming devices for Saturn.
Whatever it may be, it's stupid to continue Gamer's Cartridge manufacturing if I struggle to sell theses. Maybe aggressive marketing or promoting my projects here and there on social media would had made a difference, but that's clearly not the path I want for my projects : I don't do that for a living and don't want to influence potential customers just to increase my pocket momey. If it interests someone then that's cool, but on the other case I won't force anybody to buy my homemade stuff and rather shall temporarily close the store and go on other projects.
Cartridges order page, before status being set to "out of stock"
Life-prolonging treatments for Gamer's Cartridge ?
There are some solutions to continue Gamer's Cartridge manufacturing a bit, but as the "life-prolonging" title suggest, theses are flawed and/or limited and I will explain you why.
Supplying shells from another source ? That may be a viable solution, but honestly I didn't examined it in depth : that's a significant amount of time to ask several places about my project, my needs, etc etc ... without any guarantee to get something at the end. Well, I may think about this solution someday but right now I prefer to dedicate my free time to projects other than writing tons of emails
Supplying shells from wholesale manufacturer such as EMS ? Big manufacturer have the advantage to (usually) be stable on the long term and to offer broken prices ... but the advantages stop here. On the other side it requires a commitment on my side to buy in large quantities, hence to manufacture Gamer's Cartridge in large quantities, and finally to sell in large quantities.
This "large quantity" point is clearly not what I want for my project : for me, Saturn is just an hobby which I don't want to be a source of stress (what should I do with remaining stock of unsold carts, electronic parts and shells if by example Gamer's Cartridge would be "3rd party copied" and that all customers prefer to purchase that because it's $20 cheaper ?), and I consider this was a wise choice to do such kind "limited manufacturing" because at some point Gamer's Cartridge lost interest from public. To give an idea of magnitude between my projects and mass produced ones, unit used for mass-produced things is probably (I don't know in details) around "large cardboard", or "palette". On my side, the until is "shoes box"
Cartridges without shells ? That's a big no : if that's to then hear that the quality of my carts is shabby I prefer to leave here on a good impression. Additionally, if that's to also hear that because of the lack of shell my cartridges have to be put on discount that's another NO too. Prices of my carts are decided after a long work of research and introspection () so I don't want to hear any kind of price reduction after that. If you want a cheap cartridge, the red "all-in-one" cart is all for you.
Providing shell from customer' space Action Replay ? No thanks. I have better things to do than waiting for your spare Action Replay, to mount a Gamer's Cartride inside (which includes to drill and cut the shell etc) and then stick your favorite label on it As indicated above, ideal quantity for my cartridge projects is "shoes box" : I prepare a batch of cartridges from a shoes box of parts to another shoes box of "ready to sell" carts. Doing individual manufacturing for only one user just fulfills the personal interest of that user but except that it completely counter-productive ...
Open Source ? That's completely NO : open sourcing Gamer's Cartridge project would yield around $20 price cut on user side. On my side, it would yield to the disappearing of pocket money to challenge in more complex projects.
I don't have anything against open source, but I'm completely against the ones that beg open sourcing just for their personal own interest, i.e. saving more or less 20 bucks in the case of Gamer's Cartridge. Maybe that's quick money saved for them, but on the other hand that's also innovation in new Saturn projects being destroyed : I certainly wouldn't had pushed Pseudo Saturn Kai development so far (for example around cheat codes and Rhea/Phoebe disc image selection support) if in the meanwhile of the development 3rd party manufacturers would had made profits from my hardware projects.
DIY Kit ? That's more or less same as open source solution : it's just a simplistic solution to satisfy one's personal interest. Additionally, it's a source of troubles in the case that DIY Gamer's Cartridge doesn't works : is it caused by electronic parts (= my responsibility) or soldering and assembly (= user's responsibility) ? In the case of "one man show project" as I'm doing, everything is simpler because I'm responsible of everything when a problem happens
3D Printed Shells ? It's an interesting solution, but this requires to use a completely new manufacturing process for me, with all the related matters (verifying solidity, tweaking shape, selecting appropriate color and base materials etc) ... and all the unexpected problems too : from my own experience, there are high chances of being stuck into unexpected problems when challenging in something new
To give an idea of my apprehension regarding 3D printed shells, let's take a look on Pyra portable laptop development : project started several years ago and now electronic and firmware/OS side of the project seems stable. It's however not released yet because of ... unexpected problems regarding shell manufacturing.
That's not a critic about Pyra project (in fact, I'm following it with admiration), but just an example to detail how bad development can be delayed when you're trying new process or new project.
And for theses reasons above (of extra design, tweaks and risks) as well as in regard of the limited public interest into Gamer's Cartridge this is probably not a good way to do. This would however make sense on a new hardware project.
BTW, I do have some spare 3D shells, but at theses were a generous present to me from their creator theses are not for sale and consequently it's not worth asking if I could sell a Gamer's Cartridge with theses shells.
Official memory cartridge shells ?
Very first Gamer's Cartridge assembled back in 2016 were using shells from official memory cartridge, so this is a good "B-plan solution" to continue manufacturing of Gamer's Cartridge. And on the good side, gathering some used memory cartridges would be the occasion to dump and share the saves eventually left by previous users on theses cartridges
This however needs some tuning on PCB, because status LEDs of theses very first Gamer's Cartridges are currently positioned in the area reserved for cartridge label.
And unlike 3D printed shells, the solidity and other mechanic small details around those official memory cartridge shells should not be a problem, but overall state may be a bit questionable : upper half of the cartridge may be yellow, previous label may be a mess to remove etc. I personally don't care such kind of "retro Gamer's Cartridges" might look not "pristine as new", because as the project name suggests I want my cartridges to be used for playing rather than collecting, but I'm concerned if cartridges don't sell well ... let's wait and see if that's a reasonable solution or not.
Regrets about Gamer's Cartridge
This kind of farewell article traditionally features a "this point should had be done better etc", but I don't have any regrets around Gamer's Cartridge development !!! When releasing Gamer's Cartridge, I thought the project would last for half a year and then be cloned or overtaken by a more competitive (widely available/more features/cheaper : maximum two choices possible), but this project actually lasted for more than three years This was an occasion to meet many people who then became good friends (more details in the "Thanks" sections below) and/or gave extensive help around Pseudo Saturn Kai development. Without them, the limits Pseudo Saturn Kai wouldn't had been pushed that far
This wasn't an occasion for me to become rich, and this was as expected ! Making big cash from retro gaming project requires mass production, which I'm not interested in because for me, Gamer's Cartridge was just a toy and the activity to develop and manufacture theses was just an hobby.
I don't think it's good to go over that toy/hobby limit, because if an hobby becomes a business, it's no longer an hobby
This wasn't an occasion to become famous too : I wasn't approached by famous personalities from social networks about Gamer's Cartridge (nor about Pseudo Saturn Kai too), but everything is well like that as rather than hype I simply want to contribute to a better public interest on homebrew development and Saturn in general.
Many project proudly show feedback from their happy customers, and now it's time to announce stock and production shortage, I realize something similar wasn't available for Gamer's Cartridge !
"All-in-one" cartridge customer feedbacks
As listing feedback from hapy customers is too mainstrean, let's show feedback from users who didn't purchased Gamer's Cartridge
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
(After explaining over several emails that Gamer's Cartridge isn't an EverDrive and giving links to Saturn ODE project in the case this fits better potential customer's needs)
"Thanks for your time"
→ You're welcome, and thank you for teaching me this expression to decline something in a clever manner It will now take a place of choice in my library of useful English expressions.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
(After detailing about Gamer's Cartridge features and disclaimer)
"I see. I bought an USB Data Link instead."
→ Well, that's better than not replying to my email after ordering a cartridge : at least I don't need to reserve this cartridge during several days for nothing
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
"Will you release DIY kits ?"
→ NO! PCBs are publicly available, and appropriate MAX3000A CPLD can be found on ebay so that you can assemble everything by yourself. CPLD firmware isn't available, but please have fun in re-implementing Gamer's Cartridge logic inside. I learned VHDL like that.
(Note : feedbacks displayed above are the result of several individual feedbacks mixed together, so that general trend about Gamer's Cartridge is discribed, and anonymity of their authors is preserved)
(In alphabetical order, so that nobody won't claim because they are upper or lower than someone else)
- antime, for USB dev cart development, which was used as basis for Gamer's Cartridge
- Baraka, for the fancy Dezaemon 2 themed labels for Gamer's Cartridge - Darius, for providing my first modded Saturn on which I started homebrew development on - Deunan, for providing the good ODEs. Those helped a lot during devlopment of Pseudo Saturn Kai. - Dezaemon DB (IGK), for keeping Dezaemon community active during all theses years - privateye for all the help around Pseudo Saturn Kai, Gamer's Cartridge and also for motivating me to make Pseudo Saturn Kai even better on every beta build :) - Stac for numerous beta testing help during Gamer's Cartridge early development stage - vbt, for all his contributions to Saturn homebrew community
I wish Saturn community a bright future with Satisfier and "all-in-one" red cartridges. The first project shall bring ability to export saves to SD card, also contribute to homebrew games development as also shall feature a nice disk image selection menu someday too. The second project shall bring a an affordable and convenient cartridge support for "all" Saturn games.
On my side, as I now have additional free time from the pause in Gamer's Cartridge manufacturing I would like to focus on the development of old frozen projects.
As usual, I won't communicate about any ETA, development cost nor even what it is about until things are working well enough : that will be less pressure on my side, and less frustration on your side
Written by cafealpha 5 comments
This article is not about my own development experience, but from my friend XRider. Thanks a lot to him for the good work and the permission to share his pictures
First, what is a X-Terminator cartridge ? It is a Saturn flash cartridge which provides the following features : - 1MB expansion RAM - Backup memory - Ability to play import games - Cheat codes - Ability to search cheat codes by using standalone "X-Assist" unit
X-Terminator cartridge and X-Assist Image taken from SegaRetro
X-Assist is particularly convenient because unlike Action Replay cartridges, it doesn't requires connection to a PC : it is true that connection to a PC provides more features (such as memory access, program upload, etc), but as "connection to PC" basically means "software support will be dropped someday", a standalone unit is a real treasure For example, do you remember that Action Replay cartridges initially had DB25 connector ? This was for connecting the cartridge to PC via the -sold separately- Comms Link board, whose used now obsolete ISA port, and consequently not supported on nowadays PCs and/or OS. There are some alternate solutions for connecting Action Replay to PC, whose major one is USB Data Link, but unfortunately it doesn't provides any software support for advanced features such as cheat codes search and testing. So if you want to search cheat codes for your favorite game, X-Terminator is a good choice ! ... Okay, the user interface is in Japanese, but that's just a detail : after 200 or 300 hours learning about it, it shouldn't cause any problems
On the other hands, the major limitations are probably the lack of 4MB expansion RAM support, and using flash ROM for storing backup save data (which on the long term may brick the cartridge), but for a cartridge developed more than 20 years ago, theses limitations are quite honorable
So, once upon a time, XRider found a X-Terminator cartridge. It was a cheap auction, but on the other hand the cartridge didn't boot anymore, and the X-Assist unit wasn't included
Normal people would add this cartridge to their collection or put it on display as a decorating vintage objet Other people with engineering and electronics education background would put it on their "to repair someday" cardboard, and don't touch it for the next 20 years because they are busy with other projects or work, or real life, or all of theses at once
But XRider is none of them. XRider owns soldering tools. And knows how to use them. And really wants to fix this marvelous cartridge
So, let's try to fix the cartridge ! The first step would be to start with the most common problem, which is broken flash ROM. In my opinion, this is the most difficult step, because it requires to desolder two chips for a total of 64 pins ! I personally can't do this because of lack of appropriate tools, so the alternate desoldering way I would had used would be to ... use a nipper and cut each pins
Fortunately, XRider likes work well done, so theses chips were removed in a clean way
X-Terminator cartridge, with flash ROM chips removed. Additionally, all capacitors are removed too : that's the occasion or never to replace them
Next step is a bit optional, and is about to dump removed flash ROM chips with flash ROM dumper device. This is the best way to verify if failure is due to corrupted flash ROM chips, and if still in working condition, this at least would be an occasion to dump the cartridge's firmware
Flash ROM chip on dumper device.
Dump is full of 0xFF bytes ... unless a miracle happens, theses flash ROM chips are no longer functioning But, this comforts us regarding initial supposition of broken flash ROM chips causing cartridge not booting
Just in case of, let's verify PCB traces around flash ROM chips while theses are removed : this takes only 5 minutes to check, and it would be frustrating to find that cartridge was not working because of broken trace after soldering new flash ROM chips
PCB traces : just requires a light source strong enough to be seen
What to do next ? Maybe use PLCC sockets so that future replacement of flash ROM chips would be easier ! That's a couple of weeks to wait for the postman, but worth the wait
PCB with PLCC32 sockets soldered
And then, simply replace the flash ROM chips
Next generation is here !
PCB with new flash ROM chips. Additionally, new capacitors are populated
One last step remaining ! Flash ROM is mounted, but ROM itself needs to be set up with X-Terminator firmware. The simplest way to do this is to use Pseudo Saturn Kai flasher utility : it obviously allows to install Pseudo Saturn Kai, but also several other legacy firmwares in the case someone would want to revert to initial firmware after trying Pseudo Saturn Kai.
Just select the ROM version you want to install, and follow on-screen instructions
Flashing in progress ! Will it work after that ?!
Yeehaw !!! It boot fine, mission done Let's try with Metal Slug ... Metal Slug works too ! So it seems there's no need to replace RAM chips
Everything finished ? No, there is a side quest remaining Among the couple of X-Terminator cartridges XRider owns, one X-Assist (pad and LCD unit used to search cheat codes) is missing. One X-Assist available ? And another one missing ? No problem : let's reverse engineer the first one and DIY the second one
The X-Assist features two PCBs : one for connection interfacing and pad, and another one for LCD, as pictured below.
X-Assist pad/interfacing board X-Assist LCD board
The LCD board is incredibly complex, but since it was manufactured as a whole and can still be purchased on auctions or second-hand market nowadays, there's no real interest to build it from scratch ! And I personally wouldn't try : that seems too much complex
So remaining is pad and interfacing board : fortunately it uses standard components and not any Gate Array Logic-ish components that would need to be reverse-engineered too. Simply speaking, it's like assembling LEGOs Multi-meter, a LCD board, electronic breadboard, a bunch of wires, few electronic components ... is there something missing ? Yes ! A LOT of motivation !!
X-Assist DIY prototype, in all its glory
It's so beautiful it deserves another picture !
Let's try for real ! Of course, after verifying any eventual short-circuit with a multi-meter No short-circuit ? It's then ready for the "first-lighting ceremony" (火入れ式), as it is nicknamed in my neighboring ... I don't know if that's a common expression in Japan or anywhere else, but I like its naming anyway
No sparks ? No smoke ? That looks good
At first glance, that seems working ! Let's try cheat codes search feature in order to be 100% sure ...
Search unit not found ?!
Arg, it was too early to sing victory X-Assist seems not being correctly detected by X-Terminator cartridge ... Since text could be sent to the LCD, let's assume nearly everything is working correctly, and that a small detail is causing this trouble ... after some head-scratching, XRider found what's wrong : a Zener diode that initially looked useless was used to return some ACK to X-Terminator cartridge when looking for its connection !
The X-Assist screen after adding the Zener diode : code search memory could be captured !
65535 candidate codes ?! I'm not sure if correct cheat code could be found this time, but at least the DIY X-Assist unit works correctly now
Additional informations are available in French on Darius forums :
Written by cafealpha 4 comments
More than 11 years ago (from winter 2005 ?), I had a "donate" page stating something like "send your money and I will make cool things for Saturn on my free time".
During there 11 years, I received 15 US dollars.
And within theses 15 US dollars, I declined 10 because they were generously donated in exchange of "future help" in making a game for Saturn.
So that's something like 45 cents per year, which is also around 3.8 cents per month. I didn't checked in details, but that should be something like one Skittles per week. Not one bag of Skittles, but one bloody skittles. Per. Week
Fortunately, this era now ends, because I officially announce that I changed my donation system from "send your money and I will make cool things for Saturn on my free time" to "Send everything except money, and I will make cool things for Saturn on my free time. And even if you don't donate anything, I will make cool things for Saturn on my free time anyway." More details can be found on my donate page
And to make it clear : the motivation to change donation system is not related to money : I just spoke about money received so far in order to write something funny in my blog
I make Saturn things for fun, and not for money. As some examples, I started to design rev2f PCB in hospital room from one week after undergoing cancer surgery, and Virtual Memory Cartridge add-on for Pseudo Saturn Kai was developed and tested during my post surgery chemotherapy. Theses helped a lot to think about something else than medical things during theses times. I don't say that Kicad and gcc are a cure for cancer (), but theses were very good help however.
And to make it clearer : yes, I sell Saturn cartridges, but no I don't make a living from selling theses. I'm not even sure I produce enough carts in order to pay every-day's breakfast from cartridges sales benefits