NES VRC6 mod with CV3/Akumajou Densetsu cart

Gyromite

Gyromite

So this all started with reading about how gyromites occasionally containing famicom converters. Due to early supply constraints during the NA release, the first run of gyromite carts all contained these funky little adaptor, which allowed them to resell famicom gyromite in the US. So I tracked down my gryomite cart, felt it was clearly super heavy and cracked it open.

Gyromite, disconnected from the FC converter

Gyromite, disconnected from the FC converter

The inside of Gyromite, with FC converter

The inside of Gyromite, with FC converter

A converter! Hooray! So immediately I decided I wanted to make my self an Akumajou Densetsu cart. CV3 is my favorite castlevania, and I much prefer the Japanese version to the US version (mostly due to the music, but also because I hate level based damage scaling). So I went and google and found this cute mod. Now I REALLY needed to make that cart. So I ordered an Akumajou Densetsu famicom cart and began planning out the rest of the mod. I didn’t wanna do the wire-out-of-cart mod — that’s cute but kinda ugly. So I began researching how I’d do the console mod. Turns out there are like a million small variations on how to do this, so that took me forever to work out.
Also had to take the time to do my version of the cover. Callan’s nice looking and was the basis for mine, but certain elements, like weirdly cropped art and the logo didn’t work for me. Since there was no good scans of the CV3 splash art, I had to sorta rebuild the logo. In the end, I did the label with photo paper and some glue. Worked much better than the ‘label’ method. Label method gets the label thickness right, but lacks the clarity of a nice print.

Akumajou Densetsu with my custom logo

Akumajou Densetsu with my custom logo

I cannot explain how much hell this was to get out of that fucking case

I cannot explain how much hell this was to get out of that fucking case

Anyways eventually I got all my components and decided my course of action. One source of confusion for this mod was the resistors. Resistors are required to balance the audio of the VRC6 with the NES, else the VRC instruments will overpower everything. Most recommend 47k resistors, but other recommendations, especially with famicom carts, went up to 100k resistors. So instead I just got a 100k pot. There were also several different unused pins you could use on the nes for this mod and I decided to use the same one as the powerpak. I doubt I’ll be buying a 120$ powerpak any time soon, but hey, best to be careful. Then I could also adjust the volume accordingly.

The annoying thing with the powerpak pin is it required me to wrap a wire around the converter. It also sucked because that pin was harder to solder without interfering with the contacts. Worked out fine in the end. The internal mod on the NES was much simplier. The NES has extended audio capables, but they were only made to work through the expansion port on the bottom of the NES. Soldering the pot between expansion port 9 (the expansion music min) and port 3 (audio out) was all that was needed to get the mod working. The pins didn’t take solder well, so it was a bit of a pain, but working on those pins felt less risky, so it wasn’t that big a deal.

Connecting to pin 54 on the other side

Connecting to pin 54 on the other side

Connecting to pin 45

Connecting to pin 45

Pin 3 and Pin 9, with the pot through the front. Just need a nice dial now.

Pin 3 and Pin 9, with the pot through the front. Just need a nice dial now.


Anyways here’s a little peak at the mod. Sorry for the poor quality and rotated video. I’ll probably stream the game tomorrow.

On “Being a Hardcore Gamer”

I’ve been seeing this pop up from time to time in twitch chats I hang out recently “Oh they play Call of Duty like a casual”, “Oh consoles are for the casual market”, “Oh I’m not casual, I play Dark Souls” or whatever. There are two components here that bother me. First is that there is an overly large focus on the “What” rather than the “How”. Secondly the whole thing is stupid to begin with (but we’ll get that).

Being a hardcore gamer is treated more of being part of a group than being a mode of playing. People talk about “What” they play to determine there status. This isn’t being “hardcore” this is like fashion in highschool. “Oh I’m not like those popular kids, I where band shirts and am hella edgy”. Playing on a PC doesn’t make you a “hardcore gamer”. I know many people who would describe themselves as relatively casual gamers who are HUGE tech enthusiasts. They want to achieve the best looking games at the best framerates, but their playing is, admittedly, casual. I know people who were hardcore into Call of Duty, playing it with a super competitive mindset. In fact, I can’t see anything casual at all about playing a multiplayer shooter. Hell I know people who are crazy sick at bejeweled. Telling me what you play, on what platform, tells me very little about you as a gamer outside of your tastes. I want to hear about HOW you play. It’s about how you use play to express your self.

The whole ‘hardcore/casual’ dichotomy is stupid because it isn’t binary. It isn’t a ladder. It’s barely even a spectrum. If you appreciate how we play differently, it no longer becomes about being fundamentally “better” than some other kind of gamer. It’s hard to try and keep up that dichotomy when you know how far the rabbit hole goes. Most of the people I see complaining about I can look at go “Hardcore? You’re all casual. Behold my works and despair” but I also know how feeble and insignificant my accomplishments are compared to others I know. The only thing I know is we’re all passionate about games and we are often passionate about them differently. For example, skill wise, I’d say I’m pretty damn accomplished, but how many games do I actually play? Not to many. My friend Rachel jokes that I don’t even actual LIKE videogames. On the other hand there are people with less hand eye coordination than me who are just up on the whole videogame zeitgeist. They play everything (possibly quite well!) and are passionate about new releases and discussing them. Who am I compared to them? Some old grouch who’s really good at some old games. That’s an entirely different axis completely than “people, skill wise, are better than me”. Some people measure stuff totally different. For me, my gut interpretation of MMOs is that they’re kinda ‘casual’ in some strange way that only makes sense in my dumb head, but that is CLEARLY not the case and for many people the coordination and dedication required to excel at an MMO is the greatest thing in games. Any TBS game puts me to sleep, but for many, the games I like are for impatient ADD people!

So there is basically no standard for anything here. We can’t even agree on what are the most worthwhile skills. We can’t possibly make a pecking order out of all this. It’s literally the geek hierarchy thing

Please stop misusing “Freedom of Speech” and “Censorship”

I can’t believe that I’m writing a blog post where the two driving forces at Duck Dynasty and Bravely Default, but here we are.

So some weeks ago, some old dude on some A&E show made some homophobic comments in an interview. Due to Duck Dyantsy’s absurd popularity, this made a whole lot of people on facebook really mad. A common sentiment was “But this is America! What about FREEDOM OF SPEECH!” or whatever. Freedom of Speech, coming up over and over again. I almost feel embarrassed writing about this, because I feel like it should be ridiculously obvious, but it isn’t. I’ve even seen it come up in many intelligent circles, with even one… quite well known game designer and writer who’s forum I used to post on a lot. “We can’t ban people on this forum, this forum supports free speech” (unsurprisingly that did not work out). Needless to say, this is not how freedom of speech works (and this serves as a perfect intro to censorship talk).

Freedom of Speech (in the US at least) protects you from the Government. Protection from other people would infringe on those peoples freedom of speech. If you say something that offends me, it is my right to be offended. If you work for me and hold opinions I find offensive it is my right to not employ you. If this wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t need non-discrimination laws. No where in the idea of Freedom of Speech was the intent that you shouldn’t be judged by society for your shitty opinions. The idea is that you should not fear the Government (a ‘more powerful’ entity) and legal repercussions for saying things. Your friends might disown you, but you won’t end up for prison for saying shit (… well, maybe not so much anymore, but you know what I mean). Where this idea that saying something gave you a magical shield is beyond me. I dunno about you, but I don’t know if I want “Freedom to be a douchebag without any social ramifications” as a basic right. Just sayin’.

So now there is this Bravely Default shit. People are complaining about censorship left and right. Also lets just ignore the whole fact that people are complaining about not getting under aged girls in thongs. Plenty of people are arguing about that and I’ll leave that to them….

So unlike the Freedom of Speech thing — they’re right. It is censorship. The issue is people don’t seem to realize the difference between self inflicted censorship and government enforced censorship. When a smug tumblr 14 year old sends someone a nasty Ask about Bravely Default to someone, declaring “I don’t believe in censorship”, what don’t they believe in? “I read 1984, I know how scary censorship can be!” Even if that has nothing to do with a company modifying it’s own content. Do they not believe that I, the owner and content creator of my own work, shouldn’t change it? Fuck you. You don’t even know all the things that got ‘censored’ before these games were even released. Is that still censorship? Do you still care and not believe in it? What gives you the right? They are treating two hugely different concepts as one and applying the gravitas of government control to a taste choice made by content creators with their own content.

You can COMPLAIN about changes (HELLO STAR WARS), or you can complain about the reasons for the changes if you really want, but to act like they’re doing something inherently bad or immoral by modifying their content is absurd and selfish. In a sense, you’re attempting to ‘censor’ the desires of the creators. You’re not against censorship — you don’t understand what it even is. You’re just against not getting the thing you wanted and are now crying about it.

I’ve actually had friends ask me why I was ‘censoring’ myself with changes I’ve made to unfinished games, which to me raised a lot of questions. Should I not account for taste or my audience at all? Should I always go with my first impulses? Am I never allowed to change my mind? Is making shit sexy or violent a ziptie where I can take clothes off (and limbs) but never put more on? If you accidentally offend some people and want to change something, is changing it to make them feel better somehow bad? How? Shouldn’t it be the content creator’s call?

By complaining about ‘censorship’ in a context like this, you are not taking a moral high ground or defending any sort of noble idea. You are being selfish and demanding and saying “but I want THAT thing over there instead”! Square-enix is not your government. They cannot infringe on your rights. They were not forced to make the changes they made. No ones freedom of expression is being infringed. Perhaps you can argue that somewhere in the company, someone is upset that they have to change away from the old outfits, but there are people on any game design team sad about TONS of changes. That, again, is not censorship. That’s making a project with a team of people.

So please, people, stop saying this type of shit. At best you come off at clueless and at worst, you seem selfish. If you really want to complain, there are a million better ways to go about it. I complain about design decisions in games all the time. It’s not hard.