It has been another strong year for RetroOnyx and shipping product. This year HyperFlash32 batch 5 shipped out, HF32 batch 6 started shipping, HyperBoy had its second batch shipped, a new 32Mbit VB game PCB was built, Virtual WarZone ROMs & CIBs shipped, I shipped out all remaining stock of VB BlueRetro, VB rumble units went out, I continued my experiments in laser etching and 3D printing, put VB battery packs on preorder, continued my hunt for ever better eInk panels, released Virtual Boy 3D scans to Patreon, and played with VB wireless controller ideas. This year was all about building and shipping!
HyperFlash32 Batch 5 and 6
HyperFlash32 is the project that just keeps going. As I type this, I'm also programming test ROMs into the remaining batch 6 carts. Batch 5 finished shipping earlier in the year and batch 6 is now at 25% shipped. The rest of the units should ship out within the next month or so. Batch 6 is my fastest shipped batch yet. First units started shipping within 2 months of preorders and the last units should go out within 4-5 months or preorders. That's significantly better than the year plus lead times of past years. This was possible due to some design changes that made assembly significantly easier.
I was big on two tone frames this year with the majority of batch 5/6 black cover, BWR screen units going out with two tone red/black frames. I did the same for some black cover BW units, as well as a few special BWY units. You can see those below. These are the pinnacle of my HF32 design. I'm really proud of how they turned out.
Batch 5 saw several modifications to the HF32 design. The first was to move the USB serial port TRX/RCX LEDs. These moved to the frame edge (previously glowing through the eyes of the rear panel logo). Internally some connectors were tweaked for better connections and the haptic chip was moved to the middle PCB. The stack height between the back PCB and middle PCB was also reduced by 0.5mm. All of these things were done to make assembly easier.
Will there be another batch is the question I get frequently. Batch 6 was a half sized batch and was only possible because my PCB vendor found some more nvSRAM chips. The chips I used have long been out of production and supply has finally dried up. To continue making HF32 flash carts I would need to move HF32 (and HyperBoy) to battery packed SRAM (which my new 32Mbit cart uses). BWR screens are also EOL but towards the end of 2023 I've found another vendor that is willing to make more. So could we see a batch 7... possibly with some more design changes. Part of me wants to move on to other projects but I'm also hesitant to let HF32 die if interest is still there. So if you're looking for one, please put in a stock request on the product page. I cannot promise another batch but I also never thought I'd be doing a batch 6.
HyperBoy Batch 2
HyperBoy had enough interest this year to trigger a batch 2. A big reason for this was that Stone Age Gamer started carrying my HB flash cart on their HyperBoy product page. This was a big move of RetroOnyx products from my own site to a company more widely known for flashcarts. I look forward to having SAG carry more RetroOnyx products as time moves on. They've been great to work with.
Other than that, there were minor changes to HyperBoy in batch 2. HyperBoy had a stack height change like HF32 to reduce the standoff height by 0.5mm. Although this may sound like not much, it allows a thicker stronger PCB and eases manufacturing pains. Externally HB looks the same as its always has with aluminum laser etched panels. You can find more information on HyperBoy here.
I'm also always eternally grateful to PlanetVB member Thunderstruck. He's long been writing code for VB and often works in the background on many projects, including mine. Thunderstruck wrote the firmware for HB, as well as developed the HyperBoy flasher program that allows you to flash the cart. You can support Thunderstruck via his Patreon page here.
Virtual WarZone & New 32Mbit VB PCB
My new Virtual Boy game Virtual WarZone finished development in early 2023. This game was developed for me by Jorge and the VUEngine team. PlanetVB member Mumphy designed the manual and box art. RetroOnyx was responsible for funding development, building a new 32Mbit PCB, as well as building and shipping the overall product. PlanetVB members KR155E and VirtousRage also helped out and are credited in the game manual. Overall it was a success and I highly enjoyed the project. The game supports my VB rumble packs as well as my VB link cables. Batch 1 of CIBs have all shipped and I even did a small batch 2. I'm also gearing up for a potential 3rd batch of CIBs.
Will RetroOnyx do another VB game... possibly. It was a great experience as usual and I liked working with the team. Please support the VUEngine team and their up and coming Formula V game, if you want to see more games for VB in the future.
VB Rumble Units Shipped Out
The end of 2022 saw the start of VB rumble shipments and I finished them all in 2023. This is another product I'm proud of. It started off as a joke of sorts in the PlanetVB Discord and evolved into a real device. Thunderstruck wrote all the firmware for the VB rumble pack. You can find the product page for VB rumble here. Currently rumble supported VB titles are: Virtual WarZone, Formula V, FishBone, Capitán Sevilla Demo, and a Red Alarm rough concept via a patch.
Smaller but Significant Items
There are a few other smaller but significant things that happened throughout the year as well. I shipped all remaining VB BlueRetro units and sold out of batch 1 units. I think we'll see more VB BlueRetro units when I design a VB wireless controller kit. I also teased some VB battery pack work again this year again. I even put up preorders here, but we didn't hit enough critical mass. I haven't completely abandoned VB battery packs yet but they're now slow rolling. I do have lots of eInk panels and battery cells that I need to figure out what to do with...
I also continued my usual experiments in 3D printing and laser etching. I post most of this type of work on my Patreon page. I've also kept my eyes on the eInk space as usual and had BWRY sample 2.7" panels sent to me just a few weeks ago. This could lead to 4 color eInk panels for HF32 as well as a new supplier of BWR panels. I even released 3D models of the VB unit along with controller models on my Patreon page. Last but not least, I've toyed with the idea of a VB wireless controller kit a number of times this year and still have it on the list for the future.
Last but not least, I want to again thank my Patreon supporters. All of your support goes back into Virtual Boy projects and I enjoy the feedback you give on VB ideas and projects. I plan to continue my Patreon page into 2024 and will do more giveaways as products become available. The first one I have planned for 2024 is a special edition BWRY HF32. If anyone else cares to support me and my work, you can find my Patreon page here. Stay tuned!
Looking Forward to 2024
Overall another busy year. Going into 2024, I'm highly appreciative of the amazing VB community and my Patreon supporters. It's hard to believe that this all keeps moving forward. I released my first VB product, the VB link cable, back in 2017. Things have rapidly grown each year since then.
This year I look forward to doing FPGA designs for multicarts, doing some sort of VB wireless controller project, possibly surprise releasing a VB battery pack (why not...), and continuing the build and support of my previous products. I've learned a great deal again this year about designs and shipping product. All of these valuable lessons from the past 6-7 years help create that RetroOnyx flare.
Happy New Year to everyone!