2013 was a year full of promises for the Pandora – there was a plethora of excellent software releases (including Drastic, for one), and a lot of activity all around. While 2014 was very much under the sign of the upcoming Pyra, things have nevertheless progressed nicely on Pandora as well. Let’s come back on some major events and releases.
Forgive me if the list is far from exhaustive… in case I missed something major, please remind me again in the comments! Here goes…
- Minecraft: I’m not a Minecraft gamer myself, but PtitSeb managed to make it run on the Pandora in 2014 after years of people trying without success, or people waiting for Notch to make good on his promise. It certainly does not run as fast as one would like, but it still does and it’s somewhat playable. Just the fact that it was possible is great in itself.
- Java Games: Minecraft is one of them, but PtitSeb managed to find a way to package Java games to run in full screen on Pandora too. Now we have Gods and the excellent Super Cars III which run perfectly in full screen just like native games.
- Starcraft: I may be talking a lot about PtitSeb since he is one of the most prolific devs on the machine, but Notaz is to credit as well for his excellent port of Starcraft, done without the source code, by binary translation. A superb feat and an excellent game brought to the portable world.
- Alive and Kicking Compo: while I was co-organizing it with ED, I did not know what to expect in terms of productions. There was lots of good stuff, including FlashEnv from Crowriot to play flash games in full screen without a browser, Pandora Nano Lemmings from _wb_ as a cool recreation of the original puzzle game.
- New Firmwares: Notaz has done an awesome job in bringing new updates to the firmware to get system libraries closer to more recent versions. We got Python 2.7 support earlier in the year, and many more updates in the recent 1.71 firmware. It’s likely that this will make some additional ports possible in the coming months.
- PPSSPP: While it’s not a Pandora creation per se, this emulator has significantly improved over the year and made it possible to play many PSP games that did not run as well before. You won’t get full speed across the whole spectrum of games, but it’s nevertheless impressive to see what has been achieved since the beginning.
- GLshim: in 2013 Ptitseb used to do a lot of ports by hand (modifying OpenGL code to OpenGLES) but in 2014 he did tons of ports using GLshim and even participating in its development together with Lunixbochs. It has been used as much in 2D games as 3D games and is still being actively worked on for increased compatibility.
- C4A: while it had ups and downs this year (several server outages), it has been a great year for C4A since Ziz developed his fusilli client to support offline play. Many devs continued their support for the system and provided more opportunities to compete online in the community. And PandoraLive played some role as well to help focus on a couple of games every month with the ongoing C4A monthly competitions.
- ZDoom: one of the ports that has been greatly improved throughout the year. PtitSeb went out of his way to provide additional support for multiple engines (including GZDoom), further optimization and compatibility (with OpenAL support via a ZDoom fork) for maximum enjoyment. If I had to mention another one, Oolite would certainly be it – it went through a great number of iterations as well to get to a better level on Pandora, both performance and controls-wise.
- TinyGLES: this was Lunixbochs’ surprise in 2014, a new library written to interpret some OpenGLES functions directly in software instead or relying on the Pandora hardware, for additional speed. The port of Uplink was just too slow and would not have been playable unless TinyGLES were used. It’s still early but no doubt that TinyGLES should help bring either new ports or significant performance improvements for some games using OpenGLES.
- ExaGear: while it did not bear any real fruits YET in 2014, this fast interpreter of x86 code to ARM was released a couple of months back and makes it possible to run some Linux x86 applications or even Windows applications through Wine. Not really a good option for gaming at this stage (2D/3D Hardware acceleration is not supported with the current version), but it’s something to keep an eye on as it develops.
- XBMC: Another quality port from PtitSeb, opening tons of opportunities on the Pandora in terms of media access and playback. Now it’s probably due for an update since the latest version is out, and named Kodi (such a crappy name, but we’ll have to live with it).
The year end would have been sweet if the Aluminium cases had been delivered as expected, but it seems like the members who supported the project will have to wait for 2 months(TM) before they can get their hands on it. Pre-ordering is not something that has been working too well in our circle, unfortunately. I was also a little disappointed to see the lack of DSP usage after bsp provided some tools on how to use it on Pandora and Notaz included it in the firmware. Let’s hope that all this work on the DSP will not go to waste and at least inspire a few experiments.
While 2015 will probably see the Pyra come to light, there is still a lot we can expect from the Pandora and thanks to numerous developers still active on the platform, it’s far from dying yet – its hardware certainly ages, but new ideas come and go on how to further push the performance of the machine (with Texture Streaming, for one, as seen in Cannonball) and this shows how far an open platform can go when talented people gather on it.