Analog’s highly anticipated Pocket retro slot machine comes with more than just sleek design and the ability to play lots of classic games. The device will be the first with AnalogueOS on, an attempt to make it, founder Chris Taber calls “the Library of Alexandria of video games.”
In fact, he called it “fantastic fuckme Library of Alexandria, “which gives you an idea of how excited he is about it. Look, retro games are a weird place – there’s a lot of information out there, but few sources are exhaustive, and many are decidedly retro.
Depending on the information you want, you can find it in a wiki dedicated to a game or system, a bulletin board frequented by old 8-bit gaming devs, a hex file used to modify a ROM, even a discontinued book. The history and versions of a game as well as ephemera like manuals, reviews and technical documentation can be scattered a dozen places.
The goal of AnalogueOS is to cure and present as much of this information as possible, as close to the games themselves as possible.
“At its heart, AnalogueOS is designed to explore and celebrate the entire history of the video game. Designed to be the ultimate, scientific operating system for playing and experiencing the entire medium. Our vision is total, absolute,” Taber said. “And yes, AnalogueOS will be on all future analog systems.”
Starting with the OS will be a flexible and expandable way to play and track your games. If you have dozens of games for GameBoy, Game Gear, Lynx and so on, you can definitely just hit one and play. But Pocket is meant to be a showcase, not just the best way to play these games (though it almost certainly will be).
Photo credits: Analog
Therefore, each game will be embellished with box art, screenshots, publisher and other metadata, all in an organized way so that one day you can say “What Sunsoft games do I have?” and just browse them. Or if you are curious about one in particular, say Blaster Master: Enemy Below, you can browse data regarding that title, its revisions and changes, sequels and prequels, guides and screenshots.
Not all data will be available right from bats, as the database is still under construction, but Taber confirmed that the intention – and Analog is the type of obsessive business to follow up – is to integrate as much of this as users choose. Since most of this data is text, it can be easily integrated directly into the operating system with minimal storage costs. “You stick a game cartridge in and it will be able to read exactly what game it is,” he said.
For collectors looking for a specific region or revision of a game – rare cartridges used in contests, illegal distributions, promotions and so on – this information can be confirmed in seconds now. Find something interesting at a real estate sale? Throw it in your pocket and find out exactly what version of the game it is-garden variety or find for once in a lifetime?
Box art, which is more extensive, can be downloaded by users from sets that devs are already working on. People who move in retro game circles already know the type of easy work involved in scanning your library and bringing only the necessary images. (There are copyright considerations here, so the company needs to be careful about what it delivers.)
Photo credits: Analog
The pocket makes it possible to use save-states on cartridge-based games, a huge boon for players who prefer to get as close to the original hardware and software as possible. Analog is pronounced in its preference for FPGA-based cores that mimic the original chips over software-based emulation, and it is certainly a difficult process to be able to load a game and hardware mode into this architecture.
The OS will track your game by hour and day, and you can even create your own “playlists” to share with others (provided they have the games to follow). And there are changes in quality of life like redesign controllers, Bluetooth controller support and so on.
Ultimately, as you can see, Analog wants to make its hardware not just the best way to play retro games on modern hardware (like HD TV, which old consoles were not designed for), but also a complete resource for history and collects data about the games themselves. It is ambitious, and although some may point out that such resources already exist, they are scattered and fragmented. If Analogue can successfully combine all this information in one place and make it available where players are – in front of the game – it can help the company go from luxury to a must-have in the retro gaming world.