Fancy A Brew?

   21/03/2007 at 10:11       Richard Horne       30 COMMENTS.
 - 
As the range and quality of DS homebrew devices continues to grow and improve, Nintendo's dual screen console is fast becoming the bedroom coder's machine of choice. And as programmers get to grips with the intricacies of coding for the DS' touchscreen and dual screens, they're fast producing lots of inventive and unique content.

And so I decided to check out some of the more popular and legal homebrew games and applications available for the suitably kitted out DS. Of course these devices can also be used for more nefarious purposes but increasingly, programmers are finding really intriguing and curious uses for the DS, which I'll hopefully be highlghting the best of below.

As there is such a wide range of homebrew devices available, it would be impossible for me to outline the compatibility of these applications with each type of device, however most of the websites below do show compatability tables which should indicate your relative chances of success.

DS Doom.

http://dsdoom.devkitpro.org

DS Doom was the first homebrew title I played in my research for this article and was, surprisingly enough, very easy to actually get working. It has to be said that it's an excellent true to the original port, is well worth a download and feels particularly at home on the DS as the smaller sized screen doesn't render the graphics into as brown and ugly a mess as a large TV does.

It's also possible to setup multiplayer games using wifi and a extra application prboom_server which can be downloaded from the site.

Sadly the game does not yet feature touchscreen controls or the famous Doom sound track but both are features that will hopefully be added in the not too distant future. Incidentally there's also a working port of the similar but lesser known PC FPS classic Hexen which can also be downloaded from here.


Screenshots and video:








SCUMMVM DS

http://scummvm.drunkencoders.com

SCUMMVM was originally developed for the PC in order to run LucasArts adventure games. The newly converted DS version however, supports full touchscreen controls and what is fast becoming the home of the text adventure after the successes of the Phoenix Wright titles and Hotel Dusk, is now playing host to a lot of forgotten classics such as Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max Hit The Road, Beneath a Steel Sky and the Simon the Sorcerer games.

The DS versions obviously lack the CD Audio speech of the originals and while MP3 playback of the voice files is supported, it's far from working perfectly. However, sound issues aside, the games remain very much playable and addictive, and as tough as old nails.Though it's also worth mentioning that while the SCUMMVM DS application is free to download and perfectly legal to use, acquiring the actual games to play on the other hand, is yet another grey area in the whole ROM and abandoware debate.


Screenshots and video:







Comic Book DS (CBDS)

http://gnese.free.fr/NDS/ComicBookDS/?language=en

Comic Book DS as the name suggests, allows you to view Comic Book files on your DS, much like you'd view PDF files in Adobe Acrobat. Featuring full touch-screen support for scrolling around the comics and for zooming in and out of images, the application makes the DS even more of a handy companion for long journeys or commutes. And while it's obvious that the application is hardly revolutionary, the fact that NBC have been releasing CBDS compatible comics alongside the hugely popular series Heroes (comics which further flesh out the story of each episode) means there's a very real and essential use for the application.

CBDS files can be downloaded from here. Or alternatively any document or scan can be converted into the CBDS format meaning the application is not limited simply to comics.


Screenshots and video:






DSPEC

http://dspec.eighttwelve.co.uk

DSPEC is a homebrew Sinclair Spectrum Emulator which features a perfect 1:1 pixel ratio that essentially means that Spectrum games are visually at least, emulated and translated perfectly onto the DS' top screen. With the usual touch-screen support and a full Spectrum Keyboard displayed on the lower screen, this useful application allows you to experience the games from days gone by in those 8 garish colours all over again.

Screenshots:






Okiwi

http://okiwi.blogspot.com/

Okiwi is quite simply a free alternative to Nintendo and Opera's DS internet Browser. In Alpha stage at present and far from being complete, it is hoped that Okiwi will eventually perform pretty much all of Opera's functions or at least the bare minimums you'd expect from a browser and is another fine example of just how dedicated and skilled, home coders can be.

Screenshots:





Nitrotracker

http://nitrotracker.tobw.net/

Nitrotracker is a "Fast Tracker II Style Tracker" which apparently means it's a piece of software used for sequencing music and for arranging samples along a timeline across several monophonic channels. Using the onscreen keyboard (of the musical variety) it's possible to compose your own melodies. It's also possible to record your own samples using the DS' microphone. And rather impressively Nitro Tracker also now supports the controlling of a midi keyboard on your PC over wifi.

Screenshots and Video:







So in conclusion then, DS Pass Me kits and flash cards are not all about pirating commerical DS games and there is in fact an enthusiastic and creative scene of programmers and developers all interested in creating unique and fun DS content. And as development costs and requirements continue to spiral out of reach of the lone coder or smaller team, perhaps the DS is the perfect tool for creating those compact but fun Indie titles that seem to be so prevalent in the current videogame zeitgeist. On the above evidence that's certainly the case.
User Comments:

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Blerk - on 21/03/2007 at 13:21 wrote:
 
The Speccy had 16 colours, n00b! :-)
 

HairyArse - on 21/03/2007 at 13:28 wrote:
 
Yeah but could it display 16 simultaneously? And actually according the Wiki (yes I know, I know) it could only display 8 colours but with two different levels of brightness for each colour so actually we're both right.
 

Blerk - on 21/03/2007 at 13:33 wrote:
 
Yes, it could display all of its colours at the same time.

Wiki is right for once, though - you essentially got bright and non-bright versions of all the colours. Even black! :-)

Nice read, btw. If I ever got a DS it'd be for this stuff, not for smelly DS games.
 

peej - on 21/03/2007 at 13:43 wrote:
 
Wow, I had no idea there was so much available. That version of Doom was running rather nicely. And the best thing about this stuff is it doesn't knacker your DS's usual functionality if it's just cart-based, you can just whack out the carts and put a normal one in.

Peej
 

WOPR - on 21/03/2007 at 13:45 wrote:
 
SpeccyDS is another good one, and works on the R4 unlike DSpec which can't see any roms.
 

HairyArse - on 21/03/2007 at 13:45 wrote:
 
There were tons of other things I could have added to this but I'll keep them for a part 2 someday.
 

Stevas - on 21/03/2007 at 13:51 wrote:
 
Question: is it possible to set up a wifi Doom game if only I have the actual game?
 

Stevas - on 21/03/2007 at 13:55 wrote:
 
Nice article, by the way, dude.
 

peej - on 21/03/2007 at 13:55 wrote:
 
Any sign of a C64 emulator yet?

That could well tip me right over the edge..

Peej
 

HairyArse - on 21/03/2007 at 13:59 wrote:
 
Peej there is a C64 emulator which I tried and got working but the games played really slowly so I didn't bother adding that one to the piece.

Stevas - Good question and I honestly don't know the answer.
 

Alastair - on 21/03/2007 at 14:41 wrote:
 
Nice article.
What would be nice, perhaps in part 2, would be to mention what to do to sort yourself out with a flash cart. I'm kind of interested, but don't know where to start....
 

WOPR - on 21/03/2007 at 15:23 wrote:
 
I got my R4 from mrmodchips, as did Stevas I believe. My micro SD card came from Amazon (under a tenner for a 1gb card).
 

CrispyXUK - on 21/03/2007 at 15:46 wrote:
 
Scummvm DS is great
 

Dr.Haggard - on 21/03/2007 at 15:56 wrote:
 
Oh my, Doom and Hexen on my DS! I was already considering ordering an R4 but that's sealed it.

Superb article Hairy.
 

pauleyc - on 21/03/2007 at 16:15 wrote:
 
Excellent article, the videos are a nice touch. I am particularly impressed by ScummVM. Even the music works...

I'm with Alastair, a second part about the required hardware (other than a DS ;) might be very useful.
 

peej - on 21/03/2007 at 17:08 wrote:
 
Can I make a rather cheeky suggestion for an addition to your otherwise superb article Boss?

Can you stick a wee set of links to a "shopping list" to places that sell exactly what the average useless punter (read: Me) would need to get this all up and running and tickety boo (hardware wise, you've done a cracking job with the software links etc)

Peej
 

Alastair - on 21/03/2007 at 17:33 wrote:
 
'Ere! That's what I said, just with different words!
 

HairyArse - on 21/03/2007 at 18:36 wrote:
 
Good idea Peej and Al. Though surely we could just provide this information in the comments section?

I bought my kit from http://cheapmod.net
 

peej - on 21/03/2007 at 19:52 wrote:
 
Cheers Mr Hairyarse sir, I think I'll be looking into this...

Peej
 

Manuel Garcia - on 21/03/2007 at 19:52 wrote:
 
Excellent article Hairy.

I saw a flashcart of some variant that had 8gb built in memory and fitted into the proper DS cart slot before, anyone know the name of it off-hand?

I'd love to pick one up but I dont like the fact that most of them stick out of the gba slot.

EDIT: forget all that, just found it :)
 

quedex - on 21/03/2007 at 20:16 wrote:
 
Am I right in assuming that you need something to hack the DS slot to play DS homebrew, and a different device to fit in the GBA slot if you want to play GBA homebrew?
 

TriodeBliss - on 21/03/2007 at 21:36 wrote:
 
Great stuff, Hairy.

It's a shame C64 emulation isn't up to much at the moment; it's a much better fit for the DS than the PSP.
 

HairyArse - on 21/03/2007 at 21:42 wrote:
 
There may be an alternative C64 emulator that I'm unaware of. For example the first Speccie emulator I found only had half the features of the DSPEC emulator.
 

TriodeBliss - on 21/03/2007 at 22:16 wrote:
 
FrodoDS is the only one I've had any luck with.
The promising thing is that it's regularly updated (last updates were in Feb), so it should get there eventually.
 

WOPR - on 22/03/2007 at 09:13 wrote:
 
quedex yer you're right, however the R4 can launch a cart in the GBA slot which I believe removes the need for a passkey thingy? Or something.
 

WOPR - on 22/03/2007 at 09:14 wrote:
 
I got my R4 from here:

http://www.mrmodchips.co.uk/catalog/

Official site is here:

http://r4ds.net/
 

FairgroundTown - on 26/03/2007 at 18:11 wrote:
 
Does the speccy emulator allow you to map keys to the ds buttons/ pad?
 

HairyArse - on 27/03/2007 at 16:46 wrote:
 
That's a good question to which I have no answer. :(
 

Carrybagma - on 06/04/2007 at 04:08 wrote:
 
Hey - nice article Mr. Hairyarse. Helpful comments too. Still think someone should do a hardware article though - the pros and cons of what's out there, rather than a review-like job.
 

HairyArse - on 17/12/2007 at 17:37 wrote:
 
Bumped for all the new R4 owners.
 


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