Game Pie Advance now known as Freeplay Zero (by Freeplaytech)

Hey everyone. As you might know, we’re working on launching a Kickstarter campaign very soon. Part of that effort has been a “rebranding” of this project. I really liked the name Game Pie Advance, but as we move forward, this project needs to stand on its own.

You may already know that Freeplaytech is a name that we’ve used in the past (like Twitter @Freeplaytech), but it had not previously been tied to any particular product line. Now what you know of as the Game Pie Advance (GPA) will become known as the Freeplay Zero, because it is built around the Raspberry Pi Zero. In this way, I guess that the Freeplay Zero will be the first piece of “Freeplay Tech.”

For now, this Game Pie Advance site will still exist. The new Freeplaytech website will become a landing page to support the Kickstarter campaign. If you signed up here to get news, your email address will be added to the new site’s email list. Just think of it like we are moving to a new home. The stuff we’re doing has outgrown our old GPA house, so we’re moving it over to Freeplaytech.com.

I hope it’s not too confusing.

By the way, I keep mentioning the Kickstarter, but I haven’t yet mentioned WHEN it will launch. I know it’s surprisingly soon, but I think we are (fingers crossed) hoping to launch on May 15th. Of course, that might get pushed back, but I’m going to really try to get everything ready by then.

Update: I knew that when I finally said (out loud) the day we’re targeting, something would happen. I have 3 birthdays and a mother’s day in the next 4 days, and the guy helping with video production is also swamped. I hope we can hit the 22nd, now. We still have a lot to do between now and then, so it’s probably for the best. I just hate the wait.

GPA Now Available Built-To-Order

If you are one of the people that like the idea of the Game Pie Advance, but don’t quite feel comfortable buildin your own, we have great news. Our friends at Retro Modding (retromodding.com) are now selling a limited number of built-to-order GPA retro gaming consoles. These are based on our GPA v2.1 kits. Before you ask, no, we have not been building units for them while everyone else is left waiting. In fact, Retro Modding helped with the pre-order of v2.1 kits just like everyone else involved with that pre-order did.

If you just want to head over to their website and see what their built-to-order GPA is all about, try this link.
Build to order Game Pie Advance

I guess this makes Retro Modding the new official value-added re-seller of GPA. If you don’t know about retromodding.com, I suggest that you check out this video to see some of their handiwork.

They have a lot of options to consider, so read it all over. Basically, you get to choose exactly what the GPA will look like, and then they build it up for you. We’ve recently done some tests on the batteries they are including, and we have seen a single cell last over 2.5 hours. They are building in two of these cells, which should give you over 5 hours of RetroPie gaming on a full charge.

In other news, we have been working hard on getting things ready for the upcoming Kickstarter campaign. If you didn’t know that we’re planning to run a Kickstarter, please check out this post about our retro gaming Kickstarter.

We still have some surprises in store for you guys. Our main Kickstarter goal is to really ramp up production of our GPA kits, but we also have some other cool news to come. I really think it will be worth the wait. I just hope we can get our message out to everyone that would like a kit of their own. As always, we appreciate every time you guys share our news. Let us know if you do, so we can read along.

Kickstarter, Coming Soon

I know that we’ve been telling a lot of you to sign up for out news notifications at http://gamepieadvance.com/subscribe/. We have been getting a lot of interest in the Game Pie Advance (GPA) project lately. While that is really awesome, the problem is that we’ve been working behind the scenes on a lot of different aspects of this whole project. That means we’re not currently soldering up circuit boards and shipping things out, so we also aren’t currently selling GPA kits. In the meantime, we’ve just been suggesting that people subscribe for notifications, because we know that there is news on the horizon. Well, even though we aren’t ready to publish much for details, the time has come to tell you that we are working on a Kickstarter campaign.

If you haven’t been following along this entire time, you might not know how this project has gone up until now, so here’s a quick recap. We had this crazy idea that people wanted to build their own retro gaming handhelds, but some of them might not want to cobble together a rat’s nest of wires and components. We also had this crazy idea that people might want to do their retro gaming on something that looked like a retro console. We put those ideas together to make the Game Pie Advance. To prove that our design worked, we built some working units and auctioned them off, but our intention was to sell DIY kits. We then sold around 25 DIY kits based around that initial design.

GPA DIY v2.1 kit
After we built about 30 units+kits, we decided that we needed to add some features, so we moved on to the v2.0 board. We ran our own very limited presale/preorder on our website. This second version proved to work very well, but it needed a few tweaks, so we did the same thing again for v2.1. Many people have now built GPA DIY kits, and you can see some of their results on the showcase page.

Pre-Shipping Test
Up until now, we have done all of the soldering and assembly on our own with our own equipment. To take this project to the next level, we need to change our process. We can’t be spending our time constantly soldering, testing, shipping, etc. We need to move toward mass production. We need to outsource our assembly. That’s where Kickstarter comes in.

GPA v2.1 Boards Ready To Ship
Not only do we need to outsource our assembly process, but we also have some ideas for the future of this project and how it’s designed and built. We still want to keep this as a DIY project. We just need your help to take it to the next level.

At the moment, we are planning to launch our Kickstarter campaign next month (May). Things are already going slower than I have wanted. I wish we could be shipping GPA DIY kits to everyone that’s been asking for one. I really want to do this Kickstarter ASAP, but I know there are details to work out if we want to do it properly. I need to calm down a bit and get it done right.

Translucent Orange GPA by “Zach”
I know this news post is light on specifics, but I hope that it gives you an understanding that we are working hard to move this project forward in a very beneficial way. Just know that we are making progress, and there will be more DIY kits in the near future.

In the meantime, can we ask you a favor? Can you share this post with your friends on social media? Can you share it in any forums you frequent? If you are part of a makerspace group or are attending any sort of retro gaming convention, can you mention it to people there?

http://gamepieadvance.com/2017/04/13/kickstarter-coming-soon/

If you are someone that has already built a GPA kit, can you post photos of it and link to this news article?

Customized GPA by “Sixbras”
If you haven’t already subscribed here to get our notifications, please go here and sign up.
http://gamepieadvance.com/subscribe/
That way, when we post news, you will be on the list to receive it in your email. If you want to get your hands on a kit ASAP, this is the way to get notified about Kickstarter news, which is important because the campaign will likely have some good “early bird” limited rewards.

We want you to know that we really appreciate your support. This project has already been very enjoyable and rewarding. Personally, I love hearing about the results people have had up to this point, and I want to share that experience with as many people as possible. Let’s make that happen!

GPA v2.1 Available For Limited Purchase

We just opened presales for a limited batch of “v2.1” DIY kits. They are available at http://www.flashmasta.com/product/preorder-game-pie-advance-gpa-diy-kit_v2-1/.

By the way, if you haven’t seen it, I recently uploaded a video showing a full build of a yellow Game Pie Advance. I don’t show the soldering in the video, because I wasn’t near the iron, but there is pretty minimal soldering involved. I also took some extra time to explain things, because I was on camera. I guess that might even out, so a full build could take about 1 hour 15 minutes.

For this v2.1, we are doing a small revision to the previous (v2.0) kit, but you (as a builder) probably won’t even notice the differences. They are mainly small changes to the positioning of parts and improving some of circuit board layout to make them easier to assemble. In fact, we just today sent off the new design to the circuit board manufacturer. If all goes well, I expect that we would ship out the v2.1 preorders in mid-March.

For anyone that doesn’t feel the desire to build their own GPA, I believe that RetroModding.com will be selling pre-built units. If you’re interested in that, please hit them up on their website or Twitter @retromoddingcom and ask them if you can get a pre-built unit.

Finally, if you are one of the people that got in on one of our previous limited runs of the Game Pie Advance, please share your build photos/videos/blogs with us. You can do that here in the comments, on the forum at http://forum.freeplaytech.com/forum-24.html, or via email/Twitter (@FreeplayTech).

The Circuit Boards Have Arrived

GPA v2 PCBs
The new circuit boards for the GPA version 2 have arrived. As a quick side-note, if you don’t know what a Game Pie Advance (GPA) is, think of a PiGRRL or PiBoy that fits inside of a Game Boy Advance (GBA) housing. Basically, the GPA lets you put a Raspberry Pi Zero inside your retro handheld.

Back to the news!

We have received the shipment of GPA PCBs, and are currently soldering some up for testing. I just wanted to give you a quick report that the few we’ve tested seem to be working well.

As you may be able to see in the first photo, one circuit board has some extra pieces attached. These pieces have been detached from one of the 2 PCBs shown. One of the pieces is the sub-PCB for the X/Y buttons and another is a guide for drilling holes for your X/Y buttons. The resulting holes (with X/Y buttons fitted) are shown to the left. We’ll discuss this a bit more once we’ve done a bit more building/testing.

For now, the plan is to run a few of these boards through some charge/discharge cycles. We will also build up a couple full working GPA units (shell and all). I expect the next post to have some photos (and maybe video) of those builds.

We’ve also discovered that a bunch of the speakers we purchased are basically worthless. Even in a single shipment, we received 2 different kinds of speakers, and one style is acceptable and the other sounds horrible. I’ve ordered some new speakers, and I hope they arrive quickly. I hope that’s the only real issue, as it’s an easy one to fix (in theory).

This Christmas and New Years break stuff has thrown off the schedule a bit, but we’ll try hard to start getting some of these shipped next week if possible.

GPA Battery Testing and PCB Shipping

5h 10min of Playtime in Testing
We’ve been doing a bunch of battery testing lately, and I have some very promising results to share with you guys. I have 2 main options to recommend, but if you want details of other tests, you can head over to this forum post to get them (http://forum.freeplaytech.com/thread-4418.html).

Our test setup was a Game Pie Advance (GPA) v1 PCB modified to use the Adafruit PowerBoost 1000c circuit. This setup charges the batteries and boosts them up to 5v to power the Pi. We boot up the GPA, select a GBA ROM, and let it sit (full volume) in attract mode until the GPA dies. I think it’s actually fairly real-world, as it’s running the GBA emulator the entire time.

Sanyo UR14500P 840mAh
The first recommendation is the Sanyo UR14500 cells. The best part of these batteries is that they will fit right into your Game Pie Advance’s AA compartment. We would be using the cells in parallel, so you’ll have to do a little tweak to get them to work, but we have that planned out already. When the boards are ready, we’ll show you how to do that. You can get cheap 14500 cells (which we had been using previously). On eBay you can find them marked 2300mAh or 2500mAh, but it’s a lie. The cheap ones would last about 1.5 hours. These UR14500 are rated at 840mAh (which is likely true) and 2 of them in parallel ran for almost 3.5 hours. If you want to do the least amount of shell modding and you like the ability to easily swap batteries, I think this is the solution for you.

1200mAh Li-po Battery
If you don’t care about switching batteries on the go, and modding the shell isn’t an issue for you, you may want to consider these “1200mAh Li-po” batteries we found on eBay. I have not tried modifying a shell to fit these, yet, but (as shown in the photos) it should be a pretty close fit. I think you can stack 2 of them if you cut out most of the AA compartment. The battery’s width and length should fit. Stacking 2 of them will be a bit snug, so the height may not work (but I think it will). In testing, 2 of these cells in parallel lasted a whopping 5 hours and 10 minutes.

When we get some of the new PCBs in and assembled, I plan to test a stack of 2 of the 1200mAh flat pack cells. Speaking of getting PCBs in, we were informed that the new design should be shipping today. If that’s true, I would expect to receive them in 7-10 days. We have the other parts that we expect to need already here, as a shipment of parts just arrived today.

I would say that puts us at assembling a small set of test boards in about 10 days from now (if all goes well). If they work fine (which will take a few days to determine), then we can start building up units for you guys. If they don’t, then we need to (ideally) find a way to modify the circuit without building a new PCB. We already built in some fallback plans for that sort of thing, but we won’t speculate further until we can test.


They Fit Lengthwise

A Tight Fit

They’re Pushing It Heightwise

Things are looking good. Have a Happy Holiday Season and a Merry Christmas (if that’s your thing)!

Game Pie Advance DIY v2 Design Complete and Parts Ordered (featuring X/Y button option and charging circuit)

X and Y button option added to v2
Thanks to each of you that have preordered v2 of the Game Pie Advance kit, we have been able to order new circuit boards and parts to build up the kits.

For any of you that haven’t pre-ordered, the place to do so is here: http://www.flashmasta.com/product/game-pie-advance-diy-kit-v2/





Some cool new features were added (as compared to v1 of the PCB). As you can see in the renderings, we have added the X/Y button option as a small sub-PCB. I mentioned earlier that these buttons will not look and feel the same as the A/B buttons, but I know that including them was a big deal for many of you. When we receive these circuit boards from the fabricator, they will come with X/Y board attached. If everything goes as planned, adding X/Y buttons will be fairly straightforward. The sub-PCB will connect with 4 solder points that will also keep it in place. We have also designed a “jig” board that (we hope) will serve as a guide for drilling holes on the face of the GBA shell. This will remain untested until we receive the boards (hopefully in 2 weeks), but I have very high hopes that this X/Y solution will work well.

As for the battery mod, we have some nice options in store there, too. We built in a charging circuit that should work with most 3.7v lithium cells. We’ve been testing this (wired up by hand), and I have had the GPA running for nearly 3h 44m with 2 600mah cells in parallel. A single 500mah Adafruit cell (https://www.adafruit.com/products/1578) lasted 1h 05m, but you could easily fit 2 of them in the AA compartment. We have (just today) ordered a few other batteries to test with, but I feel confident that 3+ hours (maybe even 4+) is well within grasp.

As mentioned, v2 now runs off of 3.7v cells. The previous model used 2 14500 batteries in series (which would be around 7.4-8v). To accommodate this, we have also changed the battery configuration to allow you to run (and charge) 14500 cells in parallel. To do this, a builder will need to run an additional wire, but it should give good results and allow you to easily swap batteries on the go (if you carried a couple extra 14500 batteries with you).

We’re excited about getting all these new features ready so quickly, but we’re also cautious about over-promising. If all goes as planned, we should have blank boards in 2 weeks from now. Then we need to test to be sure they work as planned (while the rest of the parts arrive), and we will also celebrate Christmas with loved ones while we’re waiting for parts to arrive.

I think that this could be 4 weeks on the optimistic side and 8+ weeks if things don’t go well. During this time, we will still take some pre-orders if you want to get in on that. I have recently set the “stock” of the Game Pie Advance v2 to limit the number of pre-orders that we will accept from here on out.

GPA DIY v2 Pre-Sale Now Open: Operators Are Standing By

One of the Game Pie Advance (GPA) units that was sold on eBay
One of the Game Pie Advance (GPA) units sold on eBay
I hope this is the moment you are waiting for. The Game Pie Advance v2 is now available to purchase as a preorder product.

PREORDER IT NOW: Game Pie Advance GPA DIY Kit v2

As you may have read (in my previous post), we were considering offering a pre-order process for these kits. Without that, things just go way too slowly. We can only order a small bundle of parts, we take a while to build them up, and then we send them out. In that scenario, we don’t have time to add new features, and we the units are only available in very limited batches. What we’ve heard from you guys is that we all would like that to change, so let’s “kickstart” this process!

For those of you that already know what's going on.
For those of you that already know what’s going on, click here to buy it now.
As a bit of a recap (for most of you), the Game Pie Advance is a kit that allows you to combine your Raspberry Pi Zero with RetroPie and fit it all inside a GBA shell for maximum portability and retrotastic style points.

You supply a Raspberry Pi Zero, a GBA shell, some batteries, and a little bit of skill. You combine that with the GPA DIY kit, and you have a fun retro portable. As this is a pre-order, we do not yet have the new (v2) circuit boards produced. That’s what we need your help for. We do, however, have some photos of the first version that we can show you, so you can get an idea of how it works.

Please read through the rest of this website if you want to know more. Please go to the Game Pie Advance v2 preorder page if you’d like to order one. If you have any further questions, please leave a comment below.

Preorders and Other GPA Developments

GPA DIY Kit
GPA DIY Kit

Currently there are around 25 Game Pie Advance units (kits or fully-functional systems) out in the wild (like this GPA over at PiTendo).  Things are going well so far.  Our goal was to get some units out there in the hands of some makers and see how they work out.  I feel like the response has been positive thus far.

So, what’s the next step?  Of course we want to build more DIY kits, so you can build more working systems.  I think we need some help with that, though, and that’s where my big question comes in.

Should we open up pre-orders of these kits?

Here’s what I’m thinking.  We do our own mini kickstarter sort of thing.  I would put up a pre-order product at FlashMasta.com, and we’d try to get as many sales as we could in say 10 days.  Then, we’d try to move as quickly as possible to use that money to buy PCBs, LCDs, and all the other components.

There wouldn’t be a specific goal of raising a certain amount of funds.  We would definitely still go ahead and make kits no matter the outcome.  The big deal here is immediacy.  The more we have to work with (in terms of both money and excited participants), the faster we can move to expedite production, shipping, and our assembly.

This next batch would likely have the ability to charge your batteries (via micro USB). We are already prototyping and testing that feature. We have also come up with a solution to allow users to add X/Y tactile buttons. These modifications to the design are already proven, but they have not been incorporated into a circuit board. I must say up front that, if we add these features, there is some risk that we would find problems requiring another redesign. Since we are only changing a small portion of the design, I feel like this risk is small, but it could set us back a month or so if we needed to redesign and reorder circuit boards.

Leave a comment here if you think the pre-order idea is a good plan, and please tell your friends.  The more people that are involved and excited, the better we can focus resources.

The pre-order product would be very similar to the previous one (which you can see here), and it would be that same price ($79.95 USD).

If you want to be part of the pre-order, please tell us that very explicitly in your comment below.

Working GPA Units Available & DIY Kits In Preparation

Fully Functional GPA’s For Sale

Jump To DIY Kits
I have 2 GPA units available right now. The plan was to list these on eBay, but I’m running out of time before I leave. I’ll be traveling for almost 3 weeks starting Tuesday, so I figured I’d toss these 2 units up on this site and see if they sell by Monday. If they do, I can ship them out on Monday. If they don’t, then I will likely list them on eBay when I return. If both of these sell, I will try to edit this page ASAP and remove the purchase information.  On Monday, I will likely edit the page and remove all remaining PayPal links.

CURRENTLY UNAVAILABLE
This is the Glacier GPA that’s for sale. I like that you can somewhat see the circuitry through the translucent shell, but you can also see some of the case mods that were made. In particular, you can see them on the back of the console. See the second photo for what that looks like.

img_4239

img_4240


SOLD
This is the Purple GPA that’s for sale.

img_4241

img_4242


Other than the shells, both of these are the same as what I listed on eBay previously. Below I will paste the text from the recent eBay sale.

GPA DIY Kits

I also mentioned that I’ve been working on the DIY kits. I feel like I’m not ready to ship these, so I’m really hesitant to put them up for sale before I leave town. However, if you are really itching to get one ASAP, the kit will come with 1 (mostly) populated circuit board, 1 LCD panel, and a couple pin headers. To use this kit, you will need to supply a Raspberry Pi Zero, a GBA shell (with all the buttons and rubber pads), and a GBA speaker. You will also need to supply some Xacto and/or Dremel skills to prepare the shell and a some minor soldering to place the pin header on your Pi Zero. I actually have the GBA speakers coming, but I don’t think they’ll arrive before I have to leave town.

$79.95 + $5 (worldwide shipping)






img_4235

img_4233


The following information has been pasted from
http://www.ebay.com/itm/322249504667
and relates to the 2 fully assembled GPA units.

If the screen seems scratched in the photos, that’s only because it still has the protective film on it.

The “Game Pie Advance” is a project we are working on to install a Raspberry Pi Zero inside of a Nintendo Game Boy Advance (GBA) shell. This auction is for one of the working models that we’ve created. We are selling this on eBay to gauge interest and raise funds to continue this project.

This is a fully working Linux computer running inside of a GBA shell. It is currently running the RetroPie Linux distribution on an included 16GB MicroSD card. Please see https://retropie.org.uk/ for more information about RetroPie.  You can plug in a USB hub with a keyboard, mouse, network adapter, etc.  You can also plug in a HDMI monitor to this and play on a larger screen.

I believe that, even though this unit is fully functional, the best candidate as a buyer for this auction would be someone familiar with Linux or RetroPie. It is fairly simple and intuitive to add games and features to this system, but this is not yet at the level of an off-the-shelf game console. If that is what you are looking for, I suggest getting yourself an actual Game Boy Advance. 🙂 Basically, what I’m saying here, is “Please expect to tinker with this.” If you’re not comfortable tinkering with Linux or Raspberry Pi machines, then this may not be for you. However, if you still just want to financially support this project and have a fun time playing some games, then maybe this machine is perfect for you!

I am setting a “Buy It Now” price of $299, because the first GPA unit sold for $302 on a 10-day auction (http://www.ebay.com/itm/322231541500).  I will also consider offers, so please make any offer you feel is fair.

If you are not located in the US, please look into the eBay Global Shipping Program (http://pages.ebay.com/help/sell/shipping-globally.html).

This unit runs off of USB power or batteries.  If you want to run this machine from batteries, it requires 2 14500 batteries.  IT DOES NOT USE AA BATTERIES!  The 14500 batteries are lithium rechargeables that are the same size as AA.  I plan to include 4 14500 batteries plus a charger with this sale.

Please see these videos of a couple different Game Pie Advance units in action:

As an engineer, I feel the need to discuss potential deficiencies.  I don’t want any bidder to be surprised, so here goes.

  • The MicroSD card on the Raspberry Pi Zero is in a place that is not readily accessible.
    • To remove the SD card, you must open the case.  I will include a tri-wing screwdriver, so you can open the shell.
    • If you were so inclined, you could hook the MicroSD card up on an extension ribbon cable and place it in a more accessible location.
  • To boot the Game Pie Advance, you must hold the power “button” in the on position until the LED comes on.  Then Linux will take over and you can let go.
  • While booting, the built-in screen is blank for quite a while.  The HDMI has video immediately.
  • This does not have X and Y buttons.  I did not want to modify the outside of the shell, so only the original GBA controls are present.  There is a header to solder extra controls to if you wanted to add features like X/Y buttons.
  • The 14500 battery life is only about 1.5 hours in our testing.
    • When the batteries get low, the audio usually cuts out and then the system will just die.
    • You can usually plug in the Pi to a MicroUSB power source to keep it running.
    • Another option would be to use a USB power cell (like people use to charge their phone on the go) and just plug it into the Pi’s MicroUSB socket.
    • If you are a modder/hacker type, you could easily mod this to use a different battery.  One of our design decisions was to keep the AA battery compartment, so we chose batteries that fit inside of it.
  • Even though this uses 14500 batteries that are rechargeable, it does not charge them.  You may want extra batteries or to just run this from a USB power source.
  • There is some diagonal tearing on the screen at times.  This is most apparent when a menu or game fades in/out.