The Man Behind The Amazing Raspberry Pi Nin10do
I started my quest to build a Raspberry Pi gaming console, which has me routinely questing online for news and information. Recently I came across the absolutely gorgeous retro game console build Nin10do by YouTube user TheDanielSpies. I had to know more, contacted him and he agreed to answer some questions you’ll find after the break. I was really surprised to find out what his profession, motivations and interests were, as just watching his videos had me thinking he must work in IT.
A technical and artistic beauty that is about as professional a build as any console on the market. This baby has a professionally designed case with all side and opening dimensions carefully measured. The Raspberry Pi Nin10do’s power and USB-port lights are responsive, the system can power down with informative light patterns and there’s a motorized lid that opens and closes at the touch of a button. It really looks like something you’d find on the store shelf, but inside is just as impressive. Wires are painstakingly measured, stripped, crimped and bundled. Powerboards are carefully placed and solidly seated. And TheDanielSpies has fully documented everything – providing schematics, instructions and a set of tutorial videos that you can watch as he assembles this lovely little retro gaming box.
ZF: Why did you decide to make a Retro Game Console? Why did you decide on using a Raspberry Pi?
TDS: The Nin10do was a project I came up with end of 2014. I wanted to start learning how to program in Python so I could integrate a Raspberry Pi in complex magic acts. -I am a professional magician in daily life- The Raspberry Pi would be great for starting special music or sound effects, operating small smoke machines or even electromagnets. After I mastered the basics (servo’s led’s etc) it was time to build something as a practice project. It had to include as [many] different skills as possible like CAT drawing, 3d printing, mechanical engineering, programming and electronics. Then I saw guys on Youtube using their Raspberry Pi to emulate classic games on their tv. The idea was born. I would design a custom game console that could be printed in 3D, used the GPIO possibilities of the Raspberry Pi and could run all the cool classic games on a HD tv. I made some rules for myself to make sure the project would help me learn as much as possible.
A few rules included: The Nin10do must look like a firm professional game console – The Nin10do must run my Python script in the background but NOT sacrifice any speed or usability – The Nin10do must have a option to be turned on and off without damaging the software or de SD-Card and the cover must not damage itself if for some reason it is opened twice by the stepper motor.
ZF: Did you consider other hardware before?
TDS: No. The Pi was cheap so I could afford to make some mistakes (haha) and Python is very easy to learn.
ZF:Your videos are amazingly well produced and are great to watch, even if someone doesn’t use them as instructions. What made you decide to put so much time and effort into the videos?
TDS: Thanks! I leaned how to use Adobe Premiere and After Effects more then 10 years ago. Making some new video’s is always a great practice. And it is just fun to do!
ZF: Your case design is impressive. Why did you settle on this “Nin10do” hack? Is it a hack? Did you have other designs that didn’t work out do to complications or limitations with the Raspberry Pi?
TDS: The original idea was to build the Pi in an old NES case. But because the Pi is so small it looked silly. I thought that I could make an upgraded version specially designed for this idea. Plus it was a great way to incorporate 3d printing in a project.
ZF: Did you write any of your own software, or is everything run on Retro Pie?
TDS: The complete system runs on a Raspian Wheezy install with Retropie on it. I just wrote a Python script that runs in the background and operates the automatic cover and the 4 USB indicator LED’s. The script will also close the cover when you shutdown the system. The script is uploaded on Github, it works great.
ZF: Do you build and sell these to people?
TDS:Yes but I am not sure if I will continue this in the future. It takes a huge amount of effort and time for each piece.
I receive many fun emails from all over the world. Just like fanmail. It is really awesome. Many people want to buy a Nin10do so they can play all their old school games again in the living room. Unfortunately because of the rather high material costs and the large amount of time it takes to (hand)build an Nin10do they are not very cheap. At the moment a custom build Nin10do costs more then a PS4 or XBox one. So it is only interesting for a very small group of fans.
ZF: Do you have any plans for building a new Raspberry Pi Retro console, or any other consoles, in the future?
TDS: I have some very fun ideas yes! Building a new game console is not one of them because I can play all my games on the Nin10do. I might design a new version though for the Nin10do. Maybe add an extra USB port in the back for easy access if you want to insert a Wifi dongle or so. Also maybe put a small transparent window on the top so you can see inside. Also I am investigating ways to create a wireless NES or SNES controller haha.
ZF: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer all these questions.