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Development Hardware

This page aims in showing all the material that is available for developers that made a contract with Nintendo and those buying the tools from SN Systems. Tools, libraries, manuals etc. which are needed for actual development are in the development section of the site. This page simply displays the tools and hardware and how they basically fit together, for people looking at full devlopment suites and tools please look in the development section.

The most important site regarding home development is (and will always be) Dextrose. Take a look at their site, you won't be disappointed by the work made from their coders.

The first important thing to say about development tools is their diversity. I will talk about the development "environment" that is made by both Nintendo 64 and 64 DD, as it's more complete and it's what people really want to know. There are 2 different development models and tools; one suited for development on Silicon Graphics' IRIX os and that is simply referred to as "Nintendo 64 Development Unit" and one for developing on a simple PC with Windows that is referred to as "Partner-N Nintendo 64 Development Unit" (3d party developers I think). Every piece of these kits is numbered, and companies losing parts or spreading stuff around pay huge amount of money.

Here is the main differences for both in a practical schema (basing on the Official Nintendo 64 Introductory Manual and other info), so you can see how all these pieces of hardware fit together. Remember, this is only for people who want to have a look at the tools, it has almost nothing to do with real development.

IRIX Nintendo 64 Development
Windows Partner-N Nintendo 64 Development
This development model involves an Indy Workstation with an internal add-on board that is basically a Nintendo 64 with some differences. It is able to run Nintendo 64 games at full speed without using additional resources from the computer and benefits for direct editing files of the game and changing setting without the need to flash an empty cart each time. In 2 words, having everything on the same machine is very handy; especially if it uses the same architecture.

The complete kit consists of 6 cds for IRIX filled with libraries, demos, software, drivers for the /dev/u64 and reference manuals.

Click here for pics.

This kit instead consists of an ISA add-on card (year 1995) for PCs with an IDE like connector coming out from the back of it. The game is developed on the computer and then is sent with the software to a special card that has empty memory on it, and is treated by the Nintendo 64 as a normal cart.This kit is made of an ISA card, IDE-like cable to connect to the Partner-N card, 6 cds with libraries, software, demos, drivers, compiling tools and a Nintendo 64 with modified bios to accept and succesfully boot the Partner-N card.

Click here for pics.

Debugging
Partner-N Debugging
For debugging purposes, there's no need for an extra Nintendo 64 unit like the other model but simply the add-on card.
Debugging is done while the Nintendo 64 is running through the connection on the Prtner-N 64 cart.

 

There's another unofficial development kit based on the GNU tools and some proprietary stuff from SN Systems, a company that sells development kits for various other consoles. Click here to see a cached copy of the page. It is made of an internal ISA SCSI adapter for pcs, cables and some GNU software compiled for Windows.

Click here for pics. (N/A)

Development-Use 64 DD

Development is done like for the normal Nintendo 64. Special software takes advantage for the Memory Expansion Pak and hardware functions and devices present on the 64 DD main board. Debugging can be done only by connecting the 64 DD to a Nintendo 64 to run the games. Note that the drive can be emulated to avoid unnecessarily waiting each time to rewrite a 64 DD blank disk. The unit itself it's a bit different from a standard 64 DD: the built-in rom inside the consumer use 64 DD which is called DDROM (read for info on it in the Hardware section) is not present in the 64 DD.To access font and wave data in the same way it is accessed in DDROM on a consumer-use drive, you need the 64DD system's IPLROM cassette. The same contents stored in the DDROM of the consumer-use drive are stored on the board of this IPLROM cassette. The special development-use IPL is located and used from an ordinary ROM cartridge address. This is different from the address in DDROM but has no effect on development. Extra functions in the cassette are provided for debugging and writing blank disks in the drive. Please note, that as is stated on the manual, no ordinary games can be played in the drive, it does accept only development "Blue disks", otherwise the unit could be damaged.

As you can see they're almost the same on the outside

Development kit for the DD consisted of a 64 DD unit with a blue border on the drive, 6 blank disks (in a nice nylon Zip-like case), a data disk used for development, cartridge adpaters, IPL cart and extra software.

Click here for pics.

Debugging with the 64 DD emulator
The 64DD emulator is available as a development environment that does not use the 64DD. Whenever changes are made to the program during normal debugging, it is necessary to overwrite the disk, and this takes time. With the emulator, files on the hard disk can be executed and their operation checked without having to do a write operation, which signifcantly cuts back on debugging time.

Since the emulator is only an approximation of the 64DD, a development 64DD drive should be used when doing debugging related to the physical operation of the 64DD.

Debugging With the Development-Use 64DD

Booting From the Disk (the game is made only of disks)

When a game is comprised only of disks, the IPL written in DDROM is used for booting the game from the disk. This is called a disk boot.

When debugging with the N64 Control Deck, the special development-use IPL (file name ipl4rom) is written to the flash cassette for use. When the program is developed with Partner-N64, resetdd is executed in the Partner-N64 command window in order to transfer the development-use IPL into emulation ROM.

Debugging
Debugging

Booting From the Game Pak (the game is made of both cart and disks)

If, on the other hand, the game is comprised of disks and a Game Pak, the ROM cartridge is booted first because it has priority. After that, data is read from the disk and possibly also written to the disk as the game progresses and the occasion demands. For a Game Pak boot, the application program is used instead of the special development-use IPL.

When debugging with the N64 Control Deck, the part of the game that is on the Game Pak is written to the flash cassette. When the program is developed with Partner-N64, the Game Pak part of the game is transferred to Partner-N64's emulation ROM and then executed.

Debugging
Debugging