- Apr 29, 2020
It's been a long ride building this Gboy but I am so thrilled to have finally finished it! My goal with this build is to aim for a portable that could be as close as possible to something that Nintendo could have made. The kit is from the last batch of kits that Gunnar put on sale at the end of 2021. I'll go over the different aspects of this bad boy:
The shell, buttons, lens and gold sticker
Wii portables often lack a lens which is something that I've always found a bit odd. I found this lens that fits perfectly in a DMG-styled cutout. Unfortunately I have no 3D modeling skills so I sent one lens to Curtis (a member from the BitBuilt and Shank Discord servers) who was kind enough to modify the shell to fit the lens. The rest of the shell as well as the buttons are untouched from Gman's original files. I ordered the print from PCBWay:
- Shell: Standard White Material (UTR 8360) with Pantone 188 C spray painting (I found the Famicom color tone on this website).
- Buttons: Standard White Material (UTR 8360) with black spray painting.
- Total price: $ 239.56
For the DS Lite buttons and membranes, I salvaged them from a broken DS Lite I bought online. From the different mods I made on Gameboy consoles, I've come to trust only OEM membranes as they have the best feeling and responsiveness. I took the opportunity to reshell the DS Lite as well.
All buttons work great but I have a small issue with the D-Pad horizontal axis (left and right). You have to insist more for them to register properly. From what I've read I'm not the first person to have this problem and it seems the 3D model is slightly off on that part of the design.
For the golden sticker, I designed it myself on Inkscape using available .svg files of the Nintendo and Famicom logo, and extracting the front face from Curtis' 3D model. I am attaching the file to this post. I then sent the design to be printed and cut by a local print shop on gold vinyl. I have some spares I am willing to give away as long as you pay for shipping (I am based in France though so it might be cheaper to have it printed close to you than me sending you my spares). I also have the original .svg file if anyone wants it, but the PDF should be enough for your print shop. It has to be printed at the size provided by the PDF, it fits like a glove.
Power management, scratching vias, using GCVideo
I didn't take as many pictures as I wanted of the inside but here's a look at it:
The stack of Wii mobo, AVE-HDMI, LCD driver board and plastic bracket meant I could no longer fully close the Gboy. I modified the bracket to that the driver board sits directly behind the LCD and that made enough room to make everything fit.
Initially powered by a PMSv1, I somehow fried it during initial testing of the fully built Gboy. Ever since I wired power on the PMSv1 there was a high-pitched noise coming out of it so I suspect that it might have been defective. In any case, a very generous French member of the Discord server, Lao-Chao, was kind enough to sell me a RVL-PMS-2 he wasn't using at retail price! That really saved this build, thanks a lot again!
I've gained my soldering experience mainly from Gameboy modding. For the Wii what I found the hardest was working with vias. This is the technique I am now using to properly solder to vias, in case it might be of help to someone who's also having trouble. The thing is to be very patient and go slowly to avoid seriously damaging the vias:
Regarding the LED, you can't really use the included LED with the RVL-PMS-2 as it just does not fit in the shell. For another Game Boy mod I'm doing (a DMGC for those in the know) I bought some SMD WS2812 LEDs (these ones) and used them in place of the original Gboy LED. I used the original LED PCB to jank the LED inside: the footprint is not big enough to cover the 4 pins of the new LED. Here's what the first iteration of it looked like, on the right you have a diagram of how I ended up doing it for those who want to keep the LED PCB (one wire instead of two in my first attempt):
Now the most interesting part IMO, the choice of video output, here's a diagram that summarizes my vision on the different video options for the Wii. This part is often overlooked but it's a rather complex point with no easy solution:
Basically every system has its benefits and drawbacks. What I soon found out is that the VGA patches (which are made by @Aurelio) are great but some GC games just won't boot because they are not compatible with progressive scan, will output an image at 480i (interlaced) and that specifically is not compatible with all LCD driver boards (feel free to correct me if this is wrong). I wanted to have a system with no compromises on what games I could play, unfortunately the RVL_DD has been out of stock since end of 2020 and I wanted to move forward with my build. I thus settled with a GCVideo system for maximum compatibility and best image quality, and bought an AVE-HDMI from Electron-Shepherd. Mine was the previous iteration on a normal PCB, not flex. For the screen, I used the famous Wisecoco 3.5" IPS screen that you can grab here.
For the AVE-HDMI install, I removed the AVE_RVL with hot air from the Wii, used magnet wire according to the provided diagrams. On the screen board PCB, I removed the HDMI connector and replaced it with a 19-pin FFC connector. Regarding the AVE-HDMI board, as I am not using audio over HDMI, I didn't wire ADATA, LRCK neither BCLK. I had seen that @vipe_202 also didn't do it on his Zelda Partybox. However after wiring everything I didn't get an image. Initially I thought there was an issue with the PCB, so I sent back the board to Electron-Shepherd to test it and turns out it was working perfectly. I got the board back and after testing it turns out you have to have BCLK wired for GCVideo to properly initialize. This is only true since GCVideo firmware version 3.1 (maybe 3.0). As I said these technical points are tough to nail down and I only found out because as I was testing my board I saw that it would output an image only if I put my thumb on the PCB where the BCLK pad was. I also looked at GCVideo's source code on github and noticed that Ingo had changed how it initializes, now requiring the BLCK line to be wired.
Regarding video output, the way GCVideo works means by default GC games are letterboxed and most Wii games as well. Some games will have black borders on all sides (as Super Mario Sunshine), while others only on the left and right side (like Wind Waker). This depends on the original resolution at which the game outputs (getting technical), unfortunately none of the GC games output an image at 720 pixels width (which is what this screen's width is at). I only recently found out a workaround for this: Nintendont has a "Screen Width" option that lets you change the width to 720, meaning I can get a full image on some GC games. I have to test this setting on all my games. This is where RVL_DD is better than a GCVideo solution: it integrates a scaler that will deliver a fully-sized image. Frankly the letterboxing does not bother me that much, and now that I know that there's a possible software fix it means that only a few GC games will be letterboxed. For Wii games, I don't know if Hiidra could force an output of 720 pixels width. All that being said: the quality of the image on this IPS screen is just fantastic!! I couldn't compare with VGA patches, but according to @thedrew (see here) it looks better.
Another bummer is that it seems that GCVideo is not compatible with GC+2.0 as of now. GCVideo has an OSD and brightness control which I can't access because of this issue. Hopefully it could be fixed one way or another in the future.
Sorry for the contrast but the screen was left with the brightness set quite high, and I can't change it unless I open up the Gboy again. I also shot a video showcasing how the Gboy works with GCVideo: it takes a bit of time to initialize and when you launch games it drops frames everytime there is a screen resolution change. Once you're playing though it's top notch!
The main advantage of the Gboy is its form factor that is based on the DMG. That allows me to use original accessories such as DMG travel bags to keep my Gboy stored along with its Anker charger: it just feels right.
Improvements I would like to see on the Gboy
While the Gboy kit has been discontinued and seems to have been set aside by Gunnar, fellow member @Dustin Fisher has redesigned the PCBs and shell to fit the newer 4LayerTech PCBs meaning you can still build a Gboy in 2023: https://bitbuilt.net/forums/index.php?threads/g-boy-pcb-files.5054/post-55947.
In case someone more talented than me is interested in improving the Gboy to make it even closer to the original DMG design, here is a list of improvements that would be very welcome:
- Modify the D-Pad's footprint: perhaps by using one from the several Game boy Macro models out there, to get it to work perfectly well.
- Power switch: accomodate a power switch similar to the original DMG design, like this one: https://www.digikey.com/en/products/detail/e-switch/EG2215/101764. The Ashida already uses a similar switch so it's entirely feasible.
- Audio wheel: thanks to the new U-AMP 2 design you can directly wire an analogue wheel for volume control. It would be great to be able to use a replacement part of the original DMG audio wheel like this one: RetroGameRepairShop's DMG audio wheel replacement. This would be a welcome addition so that we don't have to open the map in Prime everytime we want to change the volume.
- Brightness contrast wheel (rocker): This one would be more involved. For direct control of the LCD screen board, @CrazyGadget made a control PCB that you have to wire to GC+2.0. This allows you to control the screen's OSD with the Gboy's controls. However, it would be great to be able to navigate the OSD through separate buttons. This navigation switch would be perfect: up and down rocker with a center button. For GCVideo, a custom board and firmware would need to be made to accomodate the use of this switch to navigate the OSD. Hopefully, if the RVL_DD ever comes back it could incorporate this for easy brightness level change.
- Laminated screen: the latest IPS mods for Gameboy consoles try to incorporate laminated LCDs and those look really incredible. Fortunately there is a 3.5" laminated panel that is available to buy: https://www.myretrogamecase.com/col...-cm3-640x480-oca-laminated-screen-display-1-1 . @MP3 was working on a portable that uses it and it just feels perfect: MP3's 3-Wii. This would need another shell modification to make it fit.
- Injection molded shell: I know this is expensive as hell and sounds totally undoable. However the Gboy is a tight enough shell that price-wise it could make sense. Let's assume the mold price is at $10k with a MOQ of 1000 units. I paid $240 for mine, and would be ready to pay $100 for an injection molded shell. I am willing to bet I can find 99 other buyers of the injection molded shell at $100, altogether we already cover the cost of the mold (break even) and that's just for 100 units of the MOQ. Sell the remaining 900 units at $100 (albeit at a slower pace) and you'll have made a good investment (of course these are broad numbers but you get the idea). Too often people disregard injection molded projects as too expensive but we never see quotations from different factories to really give it a serious thought. I know the 3D model is meant for 3D printing and not for injection molding but factories have engineers that can help with working on the model itself, everything is possible at a cost. Well it's just me wishful thinking but I know I would be ready to donate for this purpose.
- (Not Gboy specific but Wii portable in general) A flex PCB to cover all Wii soldering points: to make assembly easier it would be awesome to have some kind of flex PCB that grabs all the Wii soldering points and provides FFC connectors to the various daughter boards: power management, USB, controls.
One more thing
I am remaking the Gamecube intro animation as a Wii .dol. The final objective is to integrate it to RVLoader to have it displayed when you turn on the Wii portable. I am nearly done with it, I just have to sync audio properly and work on the big translucent cube's texturing. The code allows me to do whatever I want with the animation such as change colors, change the text, change speed etc. I am not sure it can be integrated into RVLoader since I am using GRRLib and that might be a no-go but it's a fun project.
I need help on the texturing so if you're familiar with GX functions or GRRLib please get in touch!
(Disregard the framerate, Youtube messed that up)
A big thanks
Bitbuilt must be one of the nicest communities I know so a big thanks to the community for everything!
In particular these people have been of great help in this journey:
- @Gman : for the Gboy design and audio troubleshooting
- Curtis: for the shell modification to fit the lens
- Lao-Chao/Fred: for the RVL-PMS-2 sold at retail price, you're a life savior!
- @BocuD: at one point I contemplated making a custom RTD266x firmware to scale the image to full screen. However knowing that it can be done on the software side I didn't pursue this further, thanks for the input though!
- @SparkleBear: general wiring guidance
- @YveltalGriffin: troubleshooting and motivation
- @Aurelio: RVLoader usage and overall questions
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