BREADBOX is a retro computer simulator program.
Available on Steam Early Access.
The Breadbox aims to be an immersive and visual user experience of retro computers in a realistic simulation.
Design and development principles
- Emphasize the aesthetics and original design of retro computers and peripherals.
- Deliver immersive first-person view experience, with animated objects and mechanics, visual hardware, and authentic sounds.
- Provide fully working computers, with fluent emulator integration.
- A realistic simulation of real-life interactions.
The principles function as guidelines for the project, and while many current features are early adaptations, additional work is necessary to approach these objectives more closely.
One of the key benefits of a retro computer simulator is that it preserves the original way of using these computers. This is important because it allows users who don't have these old computers to experience the same software and hardware they were originally intended to use. By simulating the original environment of these computers, users can explore the same user interfaces, applications, and games that were available at the time, providing a more authentic and immersive experience.
It's also quite essential to do this project while you can still find working vintage computers and people who know how to operate them. It's much easier to create a realistic simulator now when you can validate the functionalities with real computers and peripherals. Different actions for preserving past computer culture have already been taken, and that is just great! But it looks like there is no simulator-based solution that emphasizes the visuals of 8-bit-era computers and lets you see what you are actually using.
More reasons why the simulation might matter
- Using a simulator or emulator, keeps your real hardware unharmed.
- When you prefer to experience the look & feel of the retro hardware, but you don't have any.
- You can have a virtual collection of retro computers.
- You may give presentations and lessons on ways how to use retro computers without the real hardware.
This is going to be quite a massive project and in reality, it will never be fully finished. There will always be some computer model, additional peripheral, software feature or technical detail which is not yet implemented. Hence, the project will be developed dynamically and iteratively, additional features and models will be added piece by piece. Dynamic nature means also, that the speed of the progress is heavily affected by the public support.
- Development of Early access version
- Beta testing
- Release of Early access version
- Maturing product (small development, bugfixes) <- current state
- Transition to 'Full' release version
- Continual release iterations with additional models and features
Computer models included in current version
- Commodore PET-2001-8
- Commodore VIC-20
- Commodore 64
State of visual look
The most relevant 3D-objects, like computers, disk-drives, etc, are modelled in excellent quality. Some smaller objects e.g. PET IEEE-488 cable plug is just a mockup. Missing details, mockups and other low quality models will be done in some point.
Visual effects in the scenes, e.g. lighting, shadows, materials, are still in early state. Some may think, that it is already very good, and yes, we are also quite happy with it. But expect more improvements on this area, we aim for the photorealistic look!
State of emulation
Emulator is an independent component, which handles the computer emulation part. In the end, the quality of the emulation depends on the current state of the emulator in use. In addition to that, there are also many features in the emulator, which are not supported in Breadbox integration. Some features that are relevant to simulation may be added later.
Works just perfectly. Obviously, it will not be as fast as plain emulator, but a common user won't see any latency. Most gamers or other kind of heavy users will use a real machine or an emulator anyway. And still, you can play any game with Breabox just fine. So in our perspective, the current latency is insignificant, but this is surely an area that needs to be constantly monitored.
State of user experience
User interface of the simulation is basically done as a First Person view. User is stationary in front of the virtual desk with some relevant devices and objects on the table. Actions are done by point and click method.
There are alternative ways to create the user experience. The current approach was chosen because it will give user a good control over all actions. It's also a convenient approach for a small development team or a single developer. We hope to prototype alternative approaches in the future. In the mean time we keep improving the current implementation.
State of realistic simulation
The simulator is designed to closely simulate real world activities with computers, peripherals and related items.
Current focus is on basic usage, like powering up and using the machinery, attaching different kind of media, floppy disks, tapes and cartridges. All of this is already working very well, but there is still a lot to improve.
Lots of features related to this area, like 360 view, cable handling, monitor controls, are postponed to future releases.
Monitor CRT shader
CRT shader is another early state version. It gives some look and feel of scanlines and pixels, but yeah, expect more later on.
Overall, creating a retro computer simulator is a challenging but rewarding project that requires resources and support to really get it going.
With sufficient support for this project, it is possible to create this valuable product for getting to know the history and use of old computers.
So if the project interests you, buy it to support its further development.