It’s taken longer than we hoped, but the first major software update for the Analogue Pocket is finally here. It’s still in beta, so it’s not all set yet, but you’ll at least get a taste of the company’s vision for its fledgling operating system. The beta includes a preview of the “Reference” library, vastly improved saves, and most importantly, a look at how third-party developers can use the Pocket to emulate consoles beyond those already in place.
Analog operating system 1.1
“Memories,” as Analogue calls save states, is still not complete, but you can still save a respectable 128 different game states, which is a huge improvement over the minimal offering at launch (one slot for just one game total). You can create saves for any game, be it that physical cartridge or any “.pocket” GB Studio files you have (like Deadeus). The save method is the same as before (Up+Analog button) and you can get a list of saves while playing with Down+Analog button. If you’d rather start immediately from the last save point, you can also enable that in the options (instead of choosing from a list).
What you can’t do is update the last save while playing (remember “save slots” in most emulators). Each new save will be a separate file and you will manage them individually. You’ll be presented in a long list showing the platform for the game you were playing (Game Boy, Game Gear, etc.), the title of the game, and the date/time it was saved.
At the moment you can bring up reminders from the main menu (before you load a game), but if you select a save that corresponds to the cartridge in the slot it won’t take you directly there (it’s grayed out), you have to load the game first. Analogue says saves/memories will soon have a screenshot and will be sortable in a number of ways to make the experience much smoother in the full September release.
What wasn’t included in the operating system at all at launch was the “Library” feature. All we knew was that it had the lofty goal of being a complete reference throughout gaming history. In it you will see graphics for titles along with the company that made the game, for what platform, year and even what region or version you put in the cartridge slot. In today’s beta, the library is more of a splash screen before the game loads. Analogue says you can even add your own image to a game in the library, but again expect that in the final version.
All the modules I tested had the correct details with a screenshot, but the information is limited (no indication of what year or version of the game I have, etc.). Of course, we’re excited to see how this scales once it’s fully integrated, but for now it’s a pleasant stop on the road to gaming. It’s worth noting that as is it only applies to cartridges and not titles launching from the GB Studio division (like the aforementioned Deadeus, a full game that Analogue made available for the Pocket at launch ).
More conveniently, Analogue has added support for more third-party controllers when playing through the TV via the dock. To be fair, while the officially supported list was short at launch (three 8Bitdo models plus the PS4 and Switch controllers), many more worked. From this version the number of supported 8Bitdo controllers increases to 15 and PS5 owners can now also use their DualSense if they wish.
One of the more interesting features of the Pocket at launch was the presence of a spare FPGA chip. Analogue’s hardware doesn’t use software emulation, but instead uses a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) to emulate hardware-level consoles with cores — instructions to the FPGA that configure it to mimic a specific system. Analogue promised that others would be able to develop cores for the Pocket and today we see the first example of that.
A core for the PDP-1 was developed for the Pocket, allowing you to play one of the very first video games — space war! – from 1962. As you can imagine, the game is very simple and doesn’t really weigh the Pocket down, but it’s a fitting first example for a console looking to celebrate the history of gaming. And that should really just be the start of something more exciting as other developers – which can be anyone – come on board.
What’s even more surprising is that all of the Pocket’s hardware appears to be open to developers. Initially it was thought that the Pocket’s main FPGA would be kept for Analogue and the less powerful secondary FPGA would be there to tinker with. But the company’s founder, Christopher Taber, confirmed to Engadget that “developers will be able to implement fully decentralized cores as far as they can push Pocket’s hardware … roughly to the 32-bit generation.”
Best of all, we might not even have to wait very long to see what’s coming. “Many third-party developers have had their hands on openFPGA for some time, and you can expect a plethora of new amazing things to be publicly released by them shortly on/after July 29,” Taber told Engadget, before stating, “We it’s not f***ing around with it.”
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https://www.engadget.com/analogue-pocket-openfpga-firmware-update-beta-pdp1-spacewar-150038571.html?src=rss Analogue’s big Pocket update is (kinda) here