This portable console changes the way games are made as you and the Internet community are its sole software provider.
Yearning to make games is something a lot of gamers have thought about at least once in their lives. If you’re someone who plays games and feels like you’ve got an idea that would make a great game or that you could make a bad game better, chances are that you’ve at least thought about making a game.
These days, programming has become a lot easier to learn, too. With more computers and education around, anyone can really pick up a programming language, a book, some text on the web, and get stuck into learning how to code an application. Video games are no exception to the rule and the home-made game programming scene better known as “homebrew” has become an area of vital importance to many people looking to find a way to make their software dream a reality.
Today we’re looking at the GP2x, a device from South Korea’s Gamepark Holdings. The GP2x is labeled as an open-source gaming device. This differs from your standard gaming device as you usually don’t have an open-source operating system running on it to do with it what you will. The GP2x runs a version of Linux and as a result, pretty much anything that Linux can run could essentially run on the GP2x (hardware permitting, of course). This makes the GP2x an open slather in regards to how you can program it: the world is your oyster and whatever language that can run on Linux is essentially what you could program in.
The GP2x has some interesting hardware features too. The unit operates on 2 AA batteries, runs on 2 ARM 200 MHz processors, has a 320×240 screen that can send a TV a feed of 720×480, and features a USB port, a headphone jack, a TV out jack, and an SD slot capable of extending the memory to 4 GB. The console also works as a portable media device with the GP2x supporting Divx, Xvid, Ogg, and Mp3 formats among other things.
But for those who might be swayed by the amount that this thing seems capable of, know what you might be stepping into. While the GP2x is a game device, there aren’t a whole lot of games that exist or work on it as of yet. Because the device is marketed solely as an open-source system and because the company doesn’t exactly promote it as a video game system in the way that Sony or Nintendo would do with theirs, what you end up getting is a video game system with a homebrew following as well as the occasional professional-quality release.
If you do a little bit of research, you can easily find out that there is quite a fair amount of software being developed for the GP2x. From tools to home-made games to game & system emulators, you can easily find something for the GP2x. But what you will find is unlikely to satiate many of the gaming market. Since the system is all about being homebrew, all but a handful of titles will be the sort of thing that most people would just simply shrug their shoulders at.
Now believe it or not, this device does have competition. The Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP can each be modified to be a homebrew device. In each of those cases, both consoles have the available hardware to make the game more than just a 2d experience whereas the GP2x does not. The GP2x tends to be strictly a 2d device although some conversions have shown that 3d can run on it. Still, with the modifications, either the Nintendo DS or the Sony PSP may be more up your alley in what they can do technologically with your programming skills. This is all semantics in the end because the devices in question are very different. Whereas the Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP are both portable gaming devices, I have trouble putting the Gamepark GP2x in that same category.
I’d like to think of the GP2x as more of a media player running a Linux operating system that allows you to actually be in control of what the unit is and will be capable of. With that in mind, you can begin to see some of the great features of the unit. For instance, the sound quality is pretty good, especially in comparison with something like the DS. The video quality isn’t bad either and unlike the PSP, you don’t have to look at UMD’s. The whole idea that it runs on Linux means that you can change what sort of operating system it runs on. You could even essentially build a server out of your GP2x if you felt the need to.
As usual with any device, there are a few flaws. The unit doesn’t seem to be impressive structurally and you’d probably expect it to break if it took a light knock. Because of this, try not to endanger its life in any way. It’s light-weight and doesn’t feel bad, but it doesn’t feel like it would survive a whole lot. The button layout is very odd and if you’ve come from any of the portable consoles like the DS or the PSP, you’ll find the ABXY button layout very jarring since the button positioning is out of alignment with everything else.
Strangely, the unit also seems to reset all settings every time you turn it on. As such, every time you power it up, the volume brings itself back to its highest setting, whatever core setting you changed last time will revert back to its default factory setting, and any high scores saved into the system and not on the SD card will be erased. It seems like it might have been an oversight on the part of Gamepark Holdings to not make this console behave like what other devices in the same league do with memory, but that’s just the way it is.
Problems like that stop this console from feeling more than a home-made console. It’s not a bad thing, mind you, it’s just that unless you’re someone who feels a certain familiarity with computers or programming, you probably aren’t someone who will take an interest in the GP2x.
- Great for people who want to program games
- It works pretty well as a music and video player
- Lack of a 3d processor prevents it from really going as far as it could
- Build quality isn’t all that fantastic
- Button layout is odd
- System always resets back to default settings when turned on
Product: Gamepark Holdings GP2x
Vendor: Tunza Enterprise Group