Gameboy Development Forum

Discussion about software development for the old-school Gameboys, ranging from the "Gray brick" to Gameboy Color
(Launched in 2008)

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#1 2021-05-03 14:22:39

robinfaury
New member
Registered: 2021-05-03
Posts: 2

How to create a GameBoy Color (gbc) cartridge from scratch in 2021

Hi everyone!

First, I'm really happy to discover this forum. I wasn't expect to find an active forum about this kind of old stuff.

I developed a little gbc game for a game jam and it was super fun and I love the way that developer need to know their stuff before codding (memory space, addressing, etc...). And I discover the switch bank feature and I use it. Of course, I'm thinking now on a physical cartridge of this game.

You need to know that I have no knowledge in electronics (I did once VHDL).
But I red a lot (including this thread: https://gbdev.gg8.se/forums/viewtopic.php?id=618) before starting this thread and this is my state of the art (please correct me if I'm wrong).

In 2021, if I want to create a full featured cartridge (8M ROM, 128K RAM, battery), I need:
- a memory chip for the ROM (EEPROM? FRAM?). I'm not sure to catch the difference.
- a RAM chip
- a battery
- a MBC5
- a PCB for a gameboy format (I can start with this one I guess: https://shop.insidegadgets.com/product/ … ebug-cart/)

So I'm looking for thus answers:
- Is there a DIY article about building this kind of cart?
- Do I need specific knowledge? Or can I just buy some chip and put them together?
- Is there a nice book to start electronic (something like electronic for dummies but more dedicated to chip interfacing)
- Is MBC5 chip available? (it sound there is no production today)
- Why gameboy flash carts are so expensive while chip are not?
- Do you have good reference for all chips listed?
- How can I have a custom PCB?
- Is there a software to design PCB?
- Is there a good reference for a soldering iron that suite this purpose? (I told you, I'm a software developer ^^)

I'm not looking into an detailed answers here but more into references. I know I need to learn before but I'm not certain to know where to start.

Thanks!

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#2 2021-05-04 15:48:25

Tauwasser
Member
Registered: 2010-10-23
Posts: 156

Re: How to create a GameBoy Color (gbc) cartridge from scratch in 2021

Hi and welcome to GameBoy Development big_smile

I like the enthusiasm you show with wanting to get things started and your own game on the road, but you have to appreciate that it's a wide and varied set of tasks you need to complete in building your own custom GameBoy cartridge from scratch and without even moderate knowledge of electronics this will be hard!
I encourage you to maybe scale down a little, e.g. there was only one 8 MiB game released for GameBoy color ever, and instead build on top other people's work big_smile
You could start out using gekkio's excellent repository of various GameBoy development-(and-research)-related hardware here: https://github.com/Gekkio/gb-hardware

You might find the GB-CART32K-A or GB-CART256K-A good starting points for your endeavors! Once you get your own software on the GameBoy actually running you might look into branching off of those designs and maybe adding a RAM chip etc.
gekkio also published a number of documents related to this GameBoy research on his website and/or github page, like the GameBoy Complete Technical Reference, see https://github.com/Gekkio/gb-ctr, which should be a good starting point for you.

As for soldering, personally I prefer JBC soldering irons, but they are a bit on the expensive side. You might want to give cheap Ersa soldering irons a look or maybe go for the classic Weller soldering irons as they are readily available.
You won't find Memory Bank Controllers (MBCs) freely available. The one that are used in reproduction come off of donor cartridges so their supply is limited. People use CPLDs or even (fast) microcontrollers instead.
I documented some of the early MBCs along with VHDL descriptions of some of these over at my wiki if you're interested. And finally... why is everything so expensive? Because a lot of time, sweat and tears go into making these flash cartridges and the production runs are relatively tiny wink So be prepared big_smile

cYa,

Tauwasser

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#3 2021-05-06 03:09:19

robinfaury
New member
Registered: 2021-05-03
Posts: 2

Re: How to create a GameBoy Color (gbc) cartridge from scratch in 2021

Hi Tauwasser!

Thanks for this answer smile
I take a look on the GB-CART256K-A and it sounds great to start. If I well understand, 256K allow me to have 8 banks.

Correct me if I'm wrong but I need:
- 3 resistor 10k Ohm (R1, R2, R3)  for example (CMP2010-FX-1002ELF)
- 1 resistor 47k Ohm (R4) for example (RCC120647K0FKEA)
- 5 capacitor 1uF (C1, C2, C3, C5, C8) for example (C0805X105K8RAC7210)
- 5 capacitor 0.1uF (C4, C6, C7, C9, C10) for example (C1210C104K5HACAUTO)
- 1 LC4032ZE (U1) for example (LC4032ZE-5TN48I)
- 1 MIC5370 (U2) for example (MIC5370-M4YMT-TR)
- 1 SST39SF020A (U3) for example (SST39SF020A-55-4I-NHE)
- 1 PCB

I find this website https://jlcpcb.com/ and it sound great to create the PCB. I see ENIG sound be chosen instead of HASL. I don't catch why.

I do not understand, how I can send my gbc file in the microchip. Any pointer about that?

Thanks again for all those pointer!
Robin

Last edited by robinfaury (2021-05-07 14:38:25)

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