The Prototype Flash Cartridge Programmer Is Now Working

I know a lot of you have been asking for screenshots and more information, and I will be able to reveal the software in the not-too-distant future, but today I’m going to show you a different part of the system, and that’s the cartridge programmer. This ties into one of the coolest features of Retro Game Builder, and that’s the ability to save your game to a physical cartridge that you can play on an actual Super Nintendo.

The prototype cartridge flasher

I’ve been working with Nick over at thepoorstudenthobbyist.com, and he makes the PCBs for the cartridges as well as some amazing, in-depth tutorials on how to use them. However, the process is kind of involved and requires some soldering, which I know is not for everyone. And since Retro Game Builder is meant to be accessible to beginners, I wanted to find a way to program these directly through the cartridge slot. So we figured out the necessary design changes, he sent me some new boards, and I built the programmer you see here.

Just to be clear, I won’t be shipping it like this, with the wires and everything. This is just a prototype, but it does allow me to demonstrate how it works and also how easy it is to use. All you do is plug in the cartridge, making sure that it’s facing the correct way. Then check to see that the USB cable is plugged into your computer. Prepare your file, press F5, and it starts to write the data. It takes a few minutes to copy, and you can tell it’s doing the transfer because you can see the LED blinking on the board.

SNES cartridge with test pattern loaded

When it’s done, you remove the cartridge from the programmer, put it into your console and power it on. And that’s literally all there is to it! The flash memory is re-writable, so this is going to be great for testing your games on real hardware, and you’ll be able to use it to make copies of your completed games as well, if you decide you want to sell or distribute them.

As of today, the programming utility is text-based. Again, this is only a proof-of-concept, and the release version will be graphical and fully integrated. But it is functional, and at this point I just need to work on refinement and turning it into a finished product.

I’ve been testing the cartridge with something called “240p Test Suite“. It’s free and open source if you want to check it out. But do be aware that the finished programmer won’t be able to save or copy existing commercial games. This is only for the games you make with Retro Game Builder.

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