This was another great year for RetroOnyx. Additional batches of Virtual Boy (VB) HyperFlash32 (HF32) eInk flashcarts went out, VB AC/DC adapters were created and shipped, VB rumble was put into production, VB BlueRetro was born, and Virtual WarZone was created. I also continued to ship existing products like Hyperboy, Wonderswan battery packs, and VB/Dreamcast/Wonderswan cables. Overall another very busy year. A big thank you to everyone who supported RetroOynx in its second official year of existence. I'll go into more detail and thought below on these major items that happened in 2022.
HyperFlash32 Batch 3, 4, and 5
HyperFlash32 continued to be a big project this year. It's amazing how the interest in this flash cart keeps going. I finished shipping batch 3, batch 4 is just past 50% shipoed, and batch 5 preorders went live in December. I also continued to tweak HF32 where it made sense. Laser etched covers are becoming the standard aluminum cover design towards the end of batch 4. I even played with some white and red SLS frames for highly quality frame options. An example red SLS HF32 is shown below.
Electrical material shortages were a big deal this year and that limited the number of HF32 units I could originally offer in batch 4. Then a few more parts (~25 sets) became available and so I added to batch 4 as a batch 4+. Going into batch 5 preorders, I'll be redesigning the internals of HF32 slightly to design out old parts and also to make assembly easier. Externally batch 5 will look and operate identical to past HF32 batches. Laser etched black and red covers will be standard and I've found some more BWR eInk displays. HF32 Batch 5 should start shipping in May after design updates are made and assembled printed circuit boards (PCB) are received. HyperFlash32 has shipped more than I ever expected and will be continuing into 2023 at a minimum. HF32 batch 5 preorders are still open as of the writing of this article: https://www.retroonyx.com/product-page/virtual-boy1
VB AC/DC Packs
VB AC/DC adapters went into production this year. Not something I originally intended to build but pricing for original adapters went over $100 this year on eBay. I also thought it would be a good entry way into the housing design for VB rumble and a VB battery pack. It turned out that was especially true for VB rumble. It also allowed me to experiment with laser etched covers that would carry forward into rumble. I even played with colored versions of the VB adapters housings like the red SLS one shown on the left below. Game themed covers also started with the VB AC/DC adapter design.
Some of the early cover plates are shown below, including a bare black option. These are standard options for VB rumble now. I can also offer these for VB AC/DC adapter customers, if there's interest.
VB AC/DC adapters can be ordered here: https://www.retroonyx.com/product-page/virtual-boy-ac-dc-adapter
Virtual Boy rumble packs were refined from the early prototype design of 2021 and went into production in 2022. The design improved from the prototypes of last year to reduce the cable count, act as an AC/DC adapter, add LED light pipes for status, added a USB-C developer port, and included game themed laser etched covers. This units are starting to ship now towards the end of December of 2022. A bit behind schedule but they are better than ever.
VB rumble adds haptic feedback to games such as Formula V and my new Virtual WarZone tank game. It's an exciting new addition to custom Virtual Boy games and I look forward to what people do with it in the future. Games currently supported are listed on the product page: https://www.retroonyx.com/product-page/virtual-boy-rumble-pack
I decided this year to drop my SNES to VB active adapter project and go with BlueRetro instead. A customer put me on this idea and this is where I learned of DarthCloud and his excellent work on BlueRetro adapters based on ESP32. I decided to create one for the Virtual Boy and it's starting to ship end of December 2022. This design also helped me take my design skills a bit further by introducing laser etched graphics directly on Onyx 3D prints. The results are fantastic and even have a RetroOnyx color theme.
VB BlueRetro has LED light pipes for power and boot status, as well as versions for both consoles and original VBs. BlueRetro compatibility with popular Bluetooth controllers makes this an exciting product. You can order VB BlueRetro adapters here: https://www.retroonyx.com/product-page/virtual-boy-blueretro-adapter
Virtual WarZone is a game that I funded to be developed this year. I've long wanted to see a wireframe tank game on Virtual Boy. The VUEngine team did the development work and I couldn't be happier with how it turned out. WarZone supports VB rumble and a link cable for 2 player action (not at the same time due to using the EXT port for both).
WarZone contains all the latest optimizations and tweaks from the hard work of the VUEngine team. There is a complete in box (CIB) on preorder in 2022, along with cart only options, and even a ROM only option for HF32/HB owners. A 32Mbit PCB is in design now, box art is complete, the CIB manual is being worked, and the game is in final QA. I'm really proud to get this out to the VB community in 2023. The CIB or cart only can be ordered here: https://www.retroonyx.com/product-page/virtual-warzone-cib
Virtual WarZone is my first test to see how new games are perceived by the VB community. So far orders have been pretty low but I'll order some extras to see where it goes. If sales improve, then I may fund additional games in the future.
Last but not least, a huge thank you to my Patreon supporters! We had a few hardware give-a-ways this year that I hope give back to my Patreon community. It's a great place to put the cutting edge of what I'm thinking and to get feedback from supporters. I'll continue 2023 with more give-a-ways like VB rumble packs and VB BlueRetro adapters. We'll so what new things 2023 also brings! If you care to support my work via Patreon, you can find my page here: https://www.patreon.com/RetroOnyx
Some Closing Thoughts and Looking Forward to 2023
A lot of fun and exciting work happened this year. In addition to the major items above, shipping continued with HyperBoy, Wonderswan battery packs, and cables of all kinds. My laser etching for products significantly improved this past year and I brought multijet 3D prints to more products, which significantly improved their look and surface finish. I even have a new printer coming this week to play with multicolor support for products. My first idea is a two tone red/black HF32 frame that mimics the VB itself.
There are products like VB rumble and VB BlueRetro that were planned in 2021 and completed design wise in 2021. I'm very happy with how those turned out. There are a few items that I didn't get to this year. I didn't get to the VB battery pack, although much of the ground work has been laid by VB rumble and VB AC/DC adapter work. However, I may not do a VB battery pack because volumes are likely to be far too low. Although I moved forward with VB rumble and VB BlueRetro this year, those sales also weren't really strong enough to justify the design efforts. A VB battery pack will be even more expensive to build and I don't think it will have the sales to support the design effort. I haven't completed written it off but it seems unlikely in 2023. If you follow RetroOnyx and my design conversations on Discord, you know there's always that possibility that I get a bug in my brain about VB battery packs and do it anyway.
The big one that didn't get done in 2022 was the VB multicart that I hoped to do. Material shortages in 2021 and 2022 made sourcing parts for the design too difficult (same problem with Wonderswan mulitcart). I have a VB multicart design in mind that can use currently available parts, but I haven't started the bulk of the work yet. I'd like to say I'll do it in 2023 but I'll have to see how the year goes. A VB mutlicart will take multiple people about a year in free time to complete. It's a big under taking. I not-so-secretly wait for someone else to step in and build a VB multicart but it hasn't happened yet. I'll see how 2023 goes. I do have thirty full 2.8" color eInk panels that I really want to use in some prototypes...
I'm finishing off the year shipping as many HF32 batch 4 units out as I can. I'll start some VB rumble and VB BlueRetro builds, as well. I have been designing and shipping retro gaming products for 8 years now. Two years as RetroOnyx.com. Just when I think there's no more left to do, it continues. I am deeply thankful to everyone in the VB, Dreamcast, Wonderswan, and Patreon/Discord communities for their support and look forward to a productive 2023.