A full half year after its intended January release date, a beta for the highly anticipated 1.1 release of the operating system that powers the Analogue Pocket is finally out. While it comes with support for additional controllers while docked, the Memories feature which stores savestates, and the openFPGA feature (which promises support for new consoles via third-party core development), the beta doesn’t include all of the expected features.
Notably absent is the full Library feature which populates game data when you insert a cartridge, and the screenshot feature which will also populate your save files under Memories. Less officially, but perhaps of most interest to Pocket owners, it’s unclear if this AnalogueOS 1.1 milestone has been what’s holding up the long-awaited jailbreak which, following all previous Analogue products, promises to replicate the built-in functionality while adding support for sideloading ROM files.
Upon release, the Pocket supported just a handful of 8BitDo controllers, along with the Switch Pro and PlayStation 4 DualShock 4 controller. The new 1.1 beta brings with it support for a host of new 8BitDo controllers, along with support for the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller. Notably absent is support for any Xbox controller. We’ve asked Analogue whether support for Xbox controllers is still planned.
The Memories feature works as promised. While the original Pocket release had support for savestates — D-pad up or down plus the Analogue button would save or restore a state while in game — it wasn’t possible to save those and move between games. Now, the Memories features, accessible from the home screen, can store up to 128 savestates for Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, and Game Gear games. Analogue’s press materials say, “In the near future, Memories will evolve to features that display each Save State with a screenshot showing exactly where you were in game when the Save State was captured along side sorting options to view Save States organized with your preference.”
The Library feature makes an appearance here, but it’s only half-baked. When you insert a cartridge, it sure enough loads up the game’s title, system, developer, publisher and more on the Game Detail screen. But it’s not possible to peruse your games, or all games available on a console, or make playlists — all features originally intended to be included. Again, Analogue promises additional development here: “In the near future, Library will evolve to a reference level database to play, explore and share. A scholarly cataloging of the entirety of video game history. You will be able to search and explore through its full breadth; system by system, game by game, region by region, developer by developer, publisher by publisher, revision by revision.”
And lastly, the so-called openFPGA component of the Pocket, intended to allow third-party developers access to create additional cores beyond the console’s built-in handheld cores, launches with a core recreating one of the very first video games ever made: 1962’s Spacewar! for the legendary PDP-1 computer. The core will be distributed directly by its author, Spacemen3. Analogue’s Chris Taber told Polygon to expect more third-party cores today, while notable MiSTer core developer Jose Tejada polled his Patreon supporters to gauge appetite for porting his cores to the Pocket. There is some debate on the merits of porting these open-source efforts to a platform monetized by a private company, as spelled out here by RetroRGB founder Bob.
An FPGA dev just posted a poll on their Patreon account, asking if we thought they should port their cores to the @analogue pocket. While I'm always learning and evolving my opinions, after almost 20 years of being in hardware dev, my opinion is split, but very strong... pic.twitter.com/1tn4LRKvAb— Bob from RetroRGB (@RetroRGB) July 26, 2022
While we wait and see which cores might be launching on Pocket today, Taber tells us that Analogue has “received a few thousand applications” to its developer program, and should be getting access to a “proper development documentation section” of its site today. When asked if he anticipates MiSTer cores being ported to Pocket, Taber said, “Due to Pocket being purposefully designed for FPGA development of video game hardware it will be able to support virtually every third-party core out there, even when you compare the LE [logic element] differences between something like the [MiSTer’s] DE10-Nano.”