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Retro game emulation on Android phones

I haven’t done a blog in a few days and also, these apps (and youtube channels) are all along the same lines so I’ll group them together. One of the reasons I am doing this is so that it challenges me to find new apps and videos, if I clear through the ones I already know as quickly as possible, then it’ll give me the challenge of finding new ones. I’ve ended up writing so much for apps and youtube recommendations, I make them each in to their own blog posts this time.

Reicast, vDS, RetroArch, Mame

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.reicast.emulator&hl=en_GB&gl=US, https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.icorewwwi.vDS&hl=en_GB&gl=US, https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.retroarch&hl=en_GB&gl=US, , https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.seleuco.mame4droid&hl=en_GB&gl=US

These 4 apps are emulators for a whole bunch of games consoles and arcade games machines. I like retro games, probably more for nostalgia than anything else.

I grew up with a Mega Drive, my friends also had NES, SNES, Gameboy that I got to play now and again. My dad had an Atari VCS and I remember playing Asteroids, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong and Solaris when I was really young. Memorable holidays when I was young was to Butlins holiday camp and I remember playing arcade games New Zealand Story and Super Space Invaders 91.

The first games I had on the Mega Drive were Twin Cobra, Truxton and Revenge of Shinobi. I never realised it at the time, but Santa actually got me a Japanese Mega Drive, so not only did the games have the Japanese names on screen, but the boxes for the games were also in Japanese. I remember especially looking at the box for Truxton (Tatsujin, which means ‘expert’ in Japanese) looking at the weird box art (the final boss) and the Japanese text, wondering what it said.

Years later when I first got online, one of the first things I discovered was Nesticle, a NES emulator. I downloaded Super Mario 2 on some random Geocities website. I remember being utterly amazed that a video game that I remember playing and loving when I was really young could then be magically transported through this phone line extension cord and then it sitting there on my computer screen.

Later on this became an adventure of finding new old games to play. I got through quite a few Nintendo games, probably because I had a Mega Drive and saw all these games my friends had and played at their houses but never actually got to play seriously or complete. Zelda 2, Super Mario 2, Super Mario World, Zelda link to the past, Zelda Links Awakening, Megaman games.

I remember my friends making fun when I upgraded my Cyrix 200MX computer with no graphics card up to a proper computer in 2000, an AMD Thunderbird with GeForce 2GTS graphics card, one of the higher tiered machines, everyone said I would do nothing except play retro games on it! This new computer allowed me to play some of the new games, like Quake 3, CS, 3D racing games. I did play them for a bit, but I’ll be honest, they were right, I did prefer playing the older games and ended up going back to them, replaying some of the RPGs, such as Mario RPG, Breath of Fire 2, Chrono Trigger. I think I got even more into these games after playing and completing Final Fantasy 7 on Playstation.

It’s not so much about the games themselves any more to me. Years later and now we have mobile phones that have insane amounts of processing power, portability and connectivity. By all means, there’s the moments of nostalgia at the old games, as well as the fun of trying a game that I might have missed out on, but now it’s just the fact that it’s even possible to have all of these experiences accessible at any time. On a device that could potentially cost no more than the price of a single games console, instantaneously. My most recent apps I’ve tried have been Reicast (Dreamcast) and vDS (DS) emulators and played a couple of minutes on each. Previously, I was used to the games being of the early to mid 90s, but now the emulation technology is moving forward even into Dreamcast and DS era, I’m still surprised at how things are still advancing even now. My phone is a 2019 Samsung A70 (A decent enough phone, but not flagship) and from a technical point of view plays everything with no noticeable dropped frames or compromised sound quality. I’ve tried up to consoles like N64, DS and Dreamcast.

The biggest disadvantage really is that using on-screen controls just doesn’t cut it for a lot of these games. You really need a controller to get a good experience out of the games. At home, I connect a PS4 controller to my phone with bluetooth which works, but I wouldn’t normally be taking a PS4 controller out and about with me. I’ve tried in the past with a mini Bluetooth controller but I’ve found the quality of the controller (buttons and latency) to be somewhat lacking, so the experience just isn’t quite there. On screen controls are passible playing simple things like arcade games with just a couple of buttons, or a NES game, but SNES games and beyond are just unusable. Having to press shoulder buttons or even the Z button on an N64 emulation is just impossible. So it really comes down to how much convenience I want vs how much I’m willing to put up with in order to have a decent experience.

I also got MAME for the Amazon Firestick, so I can even connect the PS4 controller to that and play some of the lower end games, such as Truxton on Megadrive, Space Invaders on Atari VCS and Super Space Invaders 91 on MAME. Performance was good enough but controller lag is noticeable. At the start it was unusable, but after tweaking the settings I got it to a usable enough level. Its nice enough to play now and again, especially for the cost investment, but sadly that lag prevents a 100% authentic experience and really inflicts times playing more challenging moments of games like in Shmups Twin Cobra and Truxton.

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How to Retire by 35

TLDR; The way to retire earlier than usual retirement age is to build up a personal financial portfolio that pays you enough to pay for your outgoings. Lean FIRE is the concept of maximising passive income and minimising outgoings as much as possible. I managed this by age by piling up my savings into a flat that’s rented out, and now mortgage free. I also scaled down my expenditures by moving out of expensive London and back into my Dad’s house. A few years ago, I would have regarded this as a massive step back in the progression of my life, but now I’m happy with it.

More than a few people have expressed interest to me in being able to stop working, either altogether or just to get a bit more free time in order to do the things they want. Something other than their job that seemingly consumes their entire lives. Either by having to work crazy hours, or so stressful that they can’t think of anything aside from work in their free time. And usually when they hear my story there’s always at least a couple of things they find desirable for themselves or at the very least, somewhat entertaining.

By far the biggest impact on my daily life has been the decision to stop working full time and work on ways of living without the need of a regular job. The ‘grand-vision’ seems to continually change and evolve over time. Also by reading up on other people’s opinions and actions it’s helped me to craft my own vision of what I’d like for myself.

Certainly the path so far has certainly had its twists and turns, with countless roadblocks and seemingly insurmountable challenges. 

Something that I’d like to accomplish is to be able to show other people that it is definitely possible to make changes they want, and that in fact it’s far more possible than they expect. It’s not a skill I feel I have at this point but it’s becoming apparent to me that when I’m writing that that’s an outcome that I’d like to achieve. 

I watched a Jordan Peterson lecture clip the other day which seemed quite agreeable to me. Instead of attaining the high goal or achievement, It might not be on a person’s radar at all. Instead, the goal is simply not to be in misery. Instead of deciding how to upgrade to that new Audi R8 from your current Ford Focus, the goal might be how to afford the bus fare to get to the supermarket and then how to be able to afford to feed a family of 4 on food stamps. Whilst I can’t quite say I’ve lived a life quite that meagre, the premise of feeling like you’ve ended up in the bottom of a pit with no discernible way to get out is definitely a regular experience I managed to find myself in! And the path of getting out is often never the one I thought it would be, or what people told me when I asked for help or advice.

So instead of framing ‘Being retired at 35’ as an end goal after a series of deliberate and successful positive steps, it might be worthwhile to spend some time looking at the mistakes and traps I fell into, got out of, and then try my best not to fall into again in order to not have to work again.

I get comments from people saying that they would love to not have a job as well, but then list off their barriers in their own lives. I must say that 9 times out of 10, they do have pretty convincing arguments that mean that they couldn’t just give up their job. Things like having kids, a mortgage to pay off, debts to pay, having to keep their CV current. I’ve actually had a recruiter tell me that it was dangerous to leave big gaps in your CV.

In his book Unscripted (definitely a recommended read), MJ Demarco talks about people being ‘In Deep’ – That is, they are stuck in the throes of what the majority would call ‘being a responsible adult’ Whereby a full time stressful job is absolutely necessary to maintain the current lifestyle for yourself and dependants, and the alternative to having a job and paying for these necessities would be worse than not having them.

Some of the specific issues people complained to me about (or I have had the very same complaints)

  • Job is boring or stressful (or stressful because it’s boring)
  • Can’t give up the job because bills, mortgage or loans
  • Can’t give up career because it would throw away years of time studying and working
  • Can’t stop working now because the job market is poor
  • Can’t get a job doing what I want because the job market is poor
  • Missing out on other opportunities because of the current job
  • Can’t seem to catch a break
  • The job used to be good, but just keeps on getting more and more stressful
  • Want to go travelling, but can’t because job
  • Want to get out of the city, but can’t because of the job they’re doing now or can’t find a job in the place
  • Family commitments have trapped someone in a situation they don’t want to be in
  • Don’t know what to do next (i.e. what to do after school)
  • Didn’t know what to do after school, and fell into situation or job they now know they don’t want to be in!

Broadly speaking, I see 2 major reasons why these sorts of things happen, In my case and others:

  • Not taking care of personal finances or facing financial disaster
  • Not aware of or seriously considering other options there are to take

I think I was born with the curse (or gift, possibly) of never being able to put up with frustrations. The good side to that is that whenever problems exist, it’s developed a mindset in me that I always feel strongly to solve that problem. And that works so long as the problem has a solution. The problem is that not all problems have solutions, so inevitably I end up with a problem that can’t be solved, and that’s frustrating! As a result, I’ve jumped around a few different situations, places and jobs. Luckily the years of dealing with frustrating situations has taught me patterns to deal with the daily grind, culminating in 2019 with the recognition that I was pretty close to never having to work again, unless by choice.

By the time I was made redundant from my job in 2018, I had built up enough of a savings portfolio to be able to live off the income generated from it. This was largely due to the rental income of my flat back in my hometown, whose mortgage I had paid off a couple of years before, and the compound interest of a savings portfolio.

It still wasn’t enough to live in London, as rental prices were just too high, But by the end of 2019 I had resolved to move out of London and back to my dad’s house in my hometown.

Some might see that as a massive step backwards. And I guess in some ways it is. It’s leaving a massive gap in my CV, giving up my personal space and moving out of a big city. And I’m no longer living with my wife, and I’m now back in my bedroom that I grew up in!

But in other ways its the best decision I ever made. And it’s only just the start. Not working for a full year now has shown me that there is a whole world of opportunity out there, without the financial restrictions I had before.

In some ways it’s actually a harder life, because no-one is there to provide a structure of what to do every day, I have to create that myself. If I choose to lie in bed all day and watch Netflix, then I get to do so. And I’m loving it. Or if I want to write a blog that no-one will read, then I get to do that too!

The great thing about this is that the activities I do are less bound by the financial requirements they were in the past. In 2013 I started making apps for studying languages and then shifted into Plants Dictionaries. The Plants thing was the more financially successful line, but I hate gardening, so I spend less time on them. I stopped feeling guilty about playing PlayStation, watching TV or otherwise ‘wasting my time’ by doing ‘non-productive’ activities.

As luck would have it, my old classmate asked me to help out on a software project of his in Japan, so I’m now doing some part-time work doing project work remotely. Which has actually worked out extremely well, given the pandemic and Lockdown state of the world. I can do a little paid work, limiting the exposure of daily work-grind frustrations and still have the freedom to do what I want, which may include doing nothing, if I want to.

App Recommendation

AppSales – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.tsapps.appsales&hl=en_GB&gl=US

This app lists temporarily reduced price and free apps on Android. I use this in conjunction with the Google Rewards App in order to get premium apps for free or cheap, and very seldom paying with my own money.

There’s wishlists and different lists for New sales, Free, and HIghlights. I go through all the lists every few days to see if there’s anything that takes my fancy.

It’s a fun way to get new app recommendations, and generally speaking you can be assured of slightly higher quality than free apps. The major difference I’ve found is that paid-for apps tend not to be crammed with ads and In-app purchases. This is particularly true of games, where it seems to be the norm with games now to have ads between every level and every time you die.

Youtube Channel Recommendation

Japanese Ammo With Misa –  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBSyd8tXJoEJKIXfrwkPdbA

I actually met Misa in real life! The first interaction I ever had was when my friend asked me to go to a London meetup where she was hosting a fan meetup in a park in London. Maybe 20 people or so were there. Quite a diverse group of people. It was my first time to meet an actual youtuber! I think at the time she had around 80 thousand subscribers, now it’s something like 300k.

Afterwards I looked up the channel. It’s a Japanese learning channel with a bunch of beginner level videos at the start but then moving on to interesting points of Japanese language. I’m not sure you could use the channel solely to learn Japanese, (I studied initially with classes in Uni) but what’s good is that there are videos talking about points that come up in casual fluent speaking that would never really come up in textbooks. Of course, by living in Japan and speaking Japanese and having the right friends who would take the time to explain small points. But it’s quite entertaining and informative in a relaxed manner if learning up conversational Japanese is your thing

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